Category Archive 'Onomastics'

08 Feb 2020

Important to Know

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I’m an inquisitive person, and I take a particular interest in Onomastics, the study of the origin of names.

This year, we’ve got a contender for the democrat party’s nomination for the presidency named “Peter Buttigieg.”

It seems to me that everyone ought to be muttering under his breath: “What in hell kind of name is Buttigieg?”

Why! he’s Maltese.

His father, Joseph Buttigieg, immigrated to the US from Malta in the late 1970s, and should never have been let into the country in the first place, since he was the classic example of Russell Kirk’s “spoilt priest,” a seminary drop-out who became a Marxist and whose major academic achievement was a translation of the Prison Notebooks of the odious Antonio Gramsci, advocate of communist conquest of the West via the systematic subversion of the culture via a “Long March Through the Institutions,” produced while marching personally through the University of Notre Dame.

As to the etymology of Buttigieg, and the question of that family’s historical social status, good old Wikipedia has the answer:

Buttigieg (Maltese: ButtiÄ¡ieÄ¡) is a Maltese surname, derived from Sicilian Arabic أبو الدجاج Abu-l-dajāj [Bu-dajaj], meaning chicken owner or poulterer (literally, “father of chickens”).

Arabic? Who knew that Maltese people had Arabic names? I thought they had avoided conquest by the Moors. Not so, apparently. It turns out that the Muslim converts of North Africa conquered Malta circa 800 A.D. Malta was reconquered in 1091, and re-Christianized, by the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. Consequently, Malta is the only part of Europe speaking a Semitic language. (!)

So the next time any conservative happens to be present at a speech by the former Mayor of South Bend, I recommend playing aloud the soundtrack of:

Who knows? There may well be a profound atavistic response.


Note that Buttigieg originates as a Sicilian Arabic name.

Facing torture while being interrogated as to the whereabouts of his son, Dennis Hopper’s character, in “True Romance” (1993), insults, and unbearably provokes his captor, by commenting on the Arabic Conquest of Sicily, and thus at the intentional cost of his own life, stylishly one ups his captor, and avoids giving up his son in a scene written by Quentin Tarrantino.

07 Oct 2013

Most Popular Newborn Names in Europe

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Hat tip to Ratak Mondosico.

18 Sep 2013

A Boy Named Humiliation

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A Puritan Family

Joseph Norwood, at Slate, admires the religiously enthusiastic Onomastic customs of Puritan New England.

My personal favorite Puritan name is If Christ Had Not Died For Thy Sins Thou Shouldst Be Damned Forever Barebones.

Even after these kinds of expressive of over-the-top religious sentiments personal names went out of fashion, Puritan New Englanders still continued naming their children, right up into the early 20th Century, in colorful and distinctive ways. I actually used to know a Reverdy Whitlock. But my favorite new era Puritan name, dating from the late 18th century, would have to be Epaphroditus Champion.

05 Jun 2013

American Anthronomastics Revisited

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On the female front: I expect the popularity of Jane Austen explains the rise of Emma. Sophia is a lot more problematic, though similar in period quality. Exactly why Ava is doing so well in Vermont is seriously intriguing.

On the male front: At least Jared and Justin have faded, but Jacob is still hanging in there in popularity in a few states. Jaydon?!? What is Florida’s major malfunction? The other big question is where the heck did Mason come from?

Could be worse, though, Mohammed is not on top in any state.

Big Think:

Maybe you’ve never heard of Emmaland or Sophialand, but if you’re reading this in the United States, there’s a better than 90% chance that you live in either one of these two curious nations.

The former is made up of the 31 states where ‘Emma’ was the most popular baby name for girls in 2012. In spite of that institutional majority, another girl’s name proved more popular nationwide. ‘Sophia’ also came out ahead in 16 states, including America’s three most populous ones.

Last year, a total of 20,791 Emmas were born in the United States. The size of that cohort was only surpassed by the 22,158 Sophias added to the US population in 2012. Together, both names came out on top in 47 of the 50 states. The exceptions were Florida, where baby girls were most likely to be named Isabella (#3 nationwide); Idaho, where new parents preferred Olivia for their girls (#4 overall); and Vermont, where new parents favoured Ava for their newborn daughters (#5 in the national ranking).

Few aspects of anthrophonomastics are as eagerly discussed as the names people give their children. Perhaps because few acts are as simultaneously intimate and public: the name you give your child reveals something of the hopes and ambitions you have for your progeny, not to mention the tastes and traditions you inherited from your forebears.

In the last half century, baby-naming has become a lot more agonising. Until the mid-20th century, the popularity of baby names was less prone to variation and fluctuation. Fitting in was a greater priority than standing out: if you weren’t named after a family member of a previous generation (often your godfather and/or godmother), you were still most likely stuck with a name from a canonical list of biblical and classical names.

24 Jul 2012

Ivanhoe Gap Persists

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Bayeaux Tapestry: battle of Hastings

Steve Sailor, doubtless ruefully, quotes an article from last year by Richard Savill.

In Britain, there is still a small but measurable difference in social metrics between people on different sides of the Ivanhoe gap after nearly a millennium. From The Telegraph in 2011:

    People with Norman names wealthier than other Britons

    People with “Norman” surnames like Darcy and Mandeville are still wealthier than the general population 1,000 years after their descendants conquered Britain, according to a study into social progress.

    Research shows that the descendants of people who in 1858 had “rich” surnames such as Percy and Glanville, indicating they were descended from the French nobility, are still substantially wealthier in 2011 than those with traditionally “poor” or artisanal surnames.

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

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