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Re: "Cowan" and patronymics generally

At 11:12 3/4/98, John Cowan wrote:
>Andrew Ferreir yscrifef:
>What's the story with patronymic surnames?  My somewhat half-arsed
>notion is that the Brithenig patronymic prefix is "eil" < "ffeil",
>tracking the Welsh use of "ap" < "map".

Ye-e-s - I find it difficult to imagine [f] being dropped. I assume it's
not so much the /m/ of /map/ which is dropped as the /v/ of /vap/, since
initial /v/ is not uncommonly dropped.  Voiced fricatives have a habit of
disappearing as anyone trying to follow Andalucian Spanish will very soon

>Or did the Romano-British simply scuttle their naming system
>in toto in favor of the Latin one?  (I hope not.)

The old Roman system disappeared entirely.  I imagine the Romano-British,
once they became Christianized, followed the rest of early Christendom,
i.e. were give a name at baptism.  The use of inherited surnames was a
later medieval development whereby nicknames became inherited thus making
it slightly easier to tell one John from another in the village! (John
seems throughout the centuries to have maintained itself as one of the most
widely used names.)

These nicknames varied, some were patronymics (e.g. Johnson, Thomspon), but
others referred to trade (e.g. Smith, Carter, Wainwright) and color of
complexion, hair or whatever (e.g. Brown, White, Black and even Green; and
Welsh gives us "Gough" <-- Goch = red); some referred to locality (e.g.
Atwell, Bywater, Underhill) and the origin of some surnames, e.g. Gotobed
(Yes, pronounced 'go to bed') are lost in the midst of time.  I imagine the
same richness of surnames are found among the Kemr.  (Andrew: Did the Kemr
aristocracy use the Norman prefix 'fitz' to surname their bastards?)

>> Sort of a mishmash of Latinate names and other borrowings.
>But it looks good!  Onomasty is always full of oddities.

Indeed it is - and a mishmash is _exactly_ what one would expect!


Written in Net English        Humor not necessarily marked