Sunday, April 23, 2006

The name game

A little about names...

My co-workers and I, last Friday, thought of lunching out at a buffet place. Over lunch, I guess fueled by the really good taste of the food, our conversation moved over to the interestingly silly but factual stuff about names!

Scandinavian Sons...

In the real past, the Scandinavians had a particular way their sons got their names. They had their first name, given to them by their parents, and their last name was their father's name with a suffix 'son' added to mark the relationship and association. So if Peter had a son whom he named John, John's full name would automatically be 'John Peterson'. Likewise, if John's son was George, he would be George Johnson. And so on the names peacefully hung around until Scandinavia had to go to war.

The military addressed their men with their lastnames. And so if the leader wanted to talk to a particular Anderson, about 20 of them sprung up! They quickly decided to patch up the naming convention. So each person was asked to choose two totally different objects of nature and combine them to form their last name. So they picked mountains and clouds, rivers and flowers and so on, in the local dialect, and the permutations were many. Interestingly, this method stuck on and to this day, thats how the Scandinavians name their sons!

Irishmen...

At this juncture, our Irish coworker pitched in his 2 cents of the name game. But err.. yours truly was so obsessed about getting his second share of food that I carelessly missed the first part of the Irish story. Nevertheless, I did arrive to catch the last fact - that Irishmen did/do name their lastname with respect to their occupation. So you have John Shepherds, Adam Shoemakers, Thomas Cooks, etc...

Well, I knew a little about names too. Names of the type McGraw or MacMillan mean 'son of' Graw of son of Millan. But I don't remember - was this an American or an Australian style? I didn't dare ask, as I might have been offending the two Americans with us :-) Whatever it be, naming has been a subtle yet historically interesting procedure, sans nations, thanks to which we have the many jokes today.

3 comments:

Mithra said...

It works like that for the "Daughters" of Scandinavia too. I met several ****Dottirs in Reykavik & Copenhagen :-)

Girish said...

Ah, thanks Mithra, I was curious to find out how the 'daughters' were named too :)

clash said...

I always Wondered abt this.. Now i have the answer.. kewl post!!