www.whyville.net Jan 18, 2009 Weekly Issue

Guest Writer

The Nitty Gritty of Names

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Hello, Whyvillians!

I was first prompted to do this article when my friend randomly asked me after our exam the other day, "Where do names come from?" Confused, I answered, "What do you mean?" She continued, "Well . . . I was thinking . . . why aren't we just called 'book' or 'pencil'?"

That stumped me for a bit. Then after I thought about it for a while, I came up with a possible answer, but of course I had no idea if it was correct or not. I thought, well, names have meanings don't they? Maybe they're a random word in another language. So, like any other time I'm stumped on something, I Googled it!

Before we dig into the real question, concerning first names, I'd like to share a bit of information I came across about surnames.

First, let's take the surname Lincoln - from the late, great, American President Abraham. At first glance, it says that Lincoln was an English city. But then the question arises, where did that name come from? Lincoln literally means, "one from the lake colony". It is derived from the Welsh (which is in the UK for all of our geographically-impaired) element 'lynn', which means "lake or pool", and the Latin element 'colonia' meaning - you guessed it - "colony".

So, "lake or pool" + "colony" = "one from the lake colony" and, 'lynn' + 'colonia' = Lincoln!

Still with me?

Of course, I could go further into that and find out where the Latin and Welsh words come from, but I don't want to lose anyone and you get the basic idea.

Let's try another, easier one.

I won't go into as much details with these names (because I still have the first names to cover!) but are there any Smith's or Miller's out there? Have you ever thought that those sound oddly similar to occupations? Well, that's where they come from!

A 'Smith' was a person who worked metal (blacksmith sound familiar, anyone?), just as a 'Miller' was a person who grinded grain.

Now that you're probably getting the hang of this, what do you think the surname Johnson means? Break it down ? it's a compound name. "John" and "son" . . . Oh duh! It's the son of John.

Okay, we're done with surnames - over and done with. Now we're moving to the first names.

As I had guessed, most of the names that I looked up, even in different origins, were either one ordinary name, or a combination of names! Here are some random ones:

Gordon - (Celtic) - Hill
Blair - (Celtic) - Spear
Keith - (Celtic) - Wood
Tracey - (French) - Road
Mia - (French) - Mine (How would you like to be named mine?)
Daisy - (English) - Surprisingly, it's not the flower. It means "Day's Eye".
Emma - (Germanic) - Universal
Raymond - (Germanic) - Wise
Lynn - (Germanic) - Cascade

So, how you like to be called 'wood' or 'spear' as a name? We may think it is weird to be named 'book', but it may be because we don't really know what our name means. Maybe one of your names really means 'book'! There are a few exceptions, but usually our names aren't English words. Why do you think that is? If people thousands of years ago could name their children random words in their own language, why don't we that often? Is it just because those names have been passed down through generations? Ah, well . . . that is a different question entirely and I'm straying from the topic. I hope you learned something about names today. If I didn't touch on your name, I apologize, but hey, Google is just waiting for your fingers to type in your name!

*DID YOU KNOW: Dolphins also have 'names'? It has been proven that there is a specific call that they use to differentiate themselves and call others. Sounds kind of like humans, doesn't it?


Author's Note: Sources:
http://www.krysstal.com/wo rdname.html


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