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Old 07-03-2000, 04:41 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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Why is it that, although it's hard to put your finger on it,
that Anglo-American names are different from English names?
We do share a lot of names like Smith and Brown, but there are other names that seem peculiarly English, like Idle, Cleese, Scales (from the old Monty Python/Fawlty Towers gang). Or some of the characters' names on Fawlty Towers.
Presumuably meant to represent the essence of the English middle class were such folks as Mr. Leeman, the man who died in the night; Mr. Walt, the alleged wine expert; and Mr. Twitchen, one of Torquay's leading Rotarians. One suspects that this last name was chosen for reasons of plot, but still the fact remains...I have never known of any American,
either real or imagined, with any of the names I have mentioned.

Is it a class phenomenon? Were those of us who came over
here such low-class people as to account for it? There
may be some logical basis for that idea...if our Anglo forbears had been fat and happy in the mother country, then
why would they bother leaving?
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Old 07-03-2000, 05:20 PM
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I think you’re probably on the right lines. The States was always seen as the land of opportunity so why leave if you have that already – unless you’re also repressed and/or in danger (and many European nations have been partial to scape-goating minority groups through the centuries).

Have to say I never heard of anyone else called Cleese and I’m from the old world (Scales, I have though)

The only other thing I can think of is the old story of the immigration officials on Ellis Island. When the ships came in carrying Europe’s huddled and shoeless there was an almighty rush to get them through as quickly as possible. If the official didn’t understand them when they gave their name, they often got an abbreviated or anglo-fied version. Of course, the immigration documentation was the only thing they had that was ‘official’ so very many immigrants went with the new ID.
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Old 07-03-2000, 05:33 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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But I don't think Ellis Island is terribly applicable in the
case of old-stock Anglo Americans, mostly because Ellis
Island wasn't there yet.
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Old 07-03-2000, 07:20 PM
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Have you tried looking in directories like switchboard.com or infospace.com to see often some of these names appear in the U.S.?

Some of the names that get used in British scripts are concocted? Also, the names could be uncommon in the UK and no one in that family ever emigrated to the States.

Someone who was English or Irish wouldn't have had their names changed by US immigration officials. Situations like that usually sprung up in the case of Eastern European names. Normally, the Immigration officials would be English or Irish to begin with.

Ellis Island wasn't used as an immigration facility for a very long period. Mainly the 1890s and early 20th century. It's only about 20-25 years. However, it's the most famous place and was used during a period when there was a lot of immigration to the US.
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Old 07-03-2000, 07:47 PM
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Somebody whoosh me if this was a put-on, but John Cleese claimed that his actual surname was Cheese. He went into a long story about his Father getting a lot of jibes about that name as a soldier in WWI (Cheese was a fine name in the little village where the family lived, he claimed).
Long story short, Cleese says his Dad became so selfconscience of the name that he had it changed.
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Old 07-03-2000, 08:16 PM
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"Cheese" does appear in the Dictionary of Surnames. It's a variation of (surprise) Cheeseman. In German, it would be Kassman (with an umlaut over the first a). Ashkenazic Jews would use Keizman. The French would use Chasier, etc.

Cleese doesn't appear in the book under any heading.

Checking another name in the OP, "Twitchen" is a variant of Titchener which means "one who lives at a crossroads.:
  #7  
Old 07-03-2000, 08:58 PM
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What about Smokes-too-much?

Or Zambezi for that matter.
  #8  
Old 07-04-2000, 04:58 AM
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Quote:
What about Smokes-too-much?
Or Luxury-Yacht (pron. "throat wobbler mangrove"), or Creosote?

My WAG is that:

1. The names in Fawlty Towers (like Basil Fawlty), although they were not purely concocted like some of the Monty Python names, were nonetheless chosen for their comedy value rather than being a representative sample of British surnames.

2. The early English settlers in North America tended to be drawn disproportionately from certain parts of the the country (the Midlands and South-West), certain religious groups (non-conformists) and certain soci-economic groups (lower-middle class, for want of a better descriptor).

This would be likely to lead to some surnames being over-represented and some under-represented. Add in confounding factors, like the fact that a number of English-sounding US names are effectively made up or deliberately adopted (Mel Brooks, Danny Kaye) and you get a totally different profile of "English" surnames in the US from in England.
  #9  
Old 07-05-2000, 10:27 AM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by TomH
Quote:
What about Smokes-too-much?
Or Luxury-Yacht (pron. "throat wobbler mangrove"), or Creosote?

My WAG is that:

1. The names in Fawlty Towers (like Basil Fawlty), although they were not purely concocted like some of the Monty Python names, were nonetheless chosen for their comedy value rather than being a representative sample of British surnames.

2. The early English settlers in North America tended to be drawn disproportionately from certain parts of the the country (the Midlands and South-West), certain religious groups (non-conformists) and certain soci-economic groups (lower-middle class, for want of a better descriptor).

This would be likely to lead to some surnames being over-represented and some under-represented. Add in confounding factors, like the fact that a number of English-sounding US names are effectively made up or deliberately adopted (Mel Brooks, Danny Kaye) and you get a totally different profile of "English" surnames in the US from in England.
Actually I thought of these possibilities myself, later on.
We would seem to have gotten a lot of Welsh folks over here,
as "Jones" is the name of the family that we Americans proverbially strive to keep up with. Are not most common names ending in -s Welsh--Jenkins, Williams, and so on?

If we do have a preponderance of Welsh names, then perhaps
merely being in a coastal region was also a factor, which
combined with the ones mentioned above, might have made
it easier or more desirable to emigrate.
  #10  
Old 07-06-2000, 05:15 AM
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We strive to keep up with the Jonses as well. I beleive it's the most common surname in Britain, closely followed by Williams.

You're right about the "—s" ending being predominantly Welsh: Jones, Williams, Davies, Jenkins, Morris, Griffiths, etc. are all Welsh names. I think it's the Welsh equivalent of the English (and Scandinavian) "—son" and the Scottish "Mac—".

It's odd, though, that Welsh surnames should predominate so strongly both here and in the US, given that England and Scotland are both more populous.

Perhaps it's because there is less variety of surnames in Wales. My guess is that a random sample of, say, 50 English or Scottish people would contain few people with the same surname, whereas a similar sample of Welshmen would contain a lot of Joneses, Davieses and Williamses.
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Old 07-06-2000, 09:49 AM
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I'm a Jones, and a Welsh-American. Jones and Williams are the two most common surnames in Wales. Weird that this comes up now, 2 weeks ago I was all set to post a question on the origin of the name Jones, but then I found the answer. It's from an early Welsh version of the name 'John'. So I believe TomH is correct, instead of saying "Thom's son"(Thomson), the Welsh would just say "Thom's".
  #12  
Old 07-06-2000, 10:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by TomH
Quote:
What about Smokes-too-much?
Or Luxury-Yacht (pron. "throat wobbler mangrove"), or Creosote?

Or my favorites, Mr. Neutron and Mrs S-C-U-M?
  #13  
Old 07-06-2000, 10:47 AM
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Yet another WAG:

I also expect that anyone living in the original thirteen colonies with an 'upper-crust' sounding name was either a loyalist that went to Canada after the revolution, or started going by another name to avoid the stigma of appearing to be an aristocrat. The early U.S. didn't kill off everyone that seemed noble (like the French did later), but they were often less than friendly to them.
  #14  
Old 07-06-2000, 10:55 AM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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And actually, in America names like Jenkins or Williams sound vaguely "black".


Oddly enough, though these names are by no means exclusively or predominently borne by African Americans, still we often
seem to meet African Americans with those names. There is
definitely a notion that A.A's have slightly different names. Eddie Murphy himself, when doing his famous send-up of the "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" children's TV show, changed the name to "Mr. Robinson", because he must have thought it sounded more black.

Since traditionally black people's names came from the Southern U.S., is it possible that Welsh emigrants concentrated, to some extent, below the Mason Dixon line?
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Old 07-06-2000, 10:57 AM
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The Hijack king comes again!


Quote:
I think it's the Welsh equivalent of the English (and
Scandinavian) "—son" and the Scottish "Mac—".
The Welsh equivalent of the Scandanavian/English -"sen/son" and the Scottish/Irish "Mac-/Mc" is "ap" as in Llewllan apGryffydd (Lewellan son of Griffith), the famous Welsh patriot (the Welsh equivalent of Robert Bruce, met the same fate as William Wallace, however, at around the same time). It is much more likely that the "-s" meaning of "son of" is a Welsh adaptation of the English "-son" meaning the same, rather than a native Cymraeg word meaning "son of" (which it isn't).
  #16  
Old 07-06-2000, 01:17 PM
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You're right, jayron. I meant Welsh "of the place", not the Welsh language.

Mind you, if I'd been asked who the Welsh equivalent of Robert the Bruce was, I'd have said Owain Glyndwr.
  #17  
Old 07-06-2000, 02:22 PM
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Quote:
Mind you, if I'd been asked who the Welsh equivalent of Robert the Bruce was, I'd have said Owain Glyndwr.
And you'd be just as correct. There is no reason that Wales, at two different times, could not have had two different patriots. It's just that Llewllan ap Gryffydd might be a better claimant as an analogy for Robert Bruce since a) he ruled at the time of Edward I and b) he had established his own power through a ruthless conslodiation of power by eliminating rivals (Bruce's own elimination of John "The Red" Comyn). Glyndwr's role as a patriot is significant, though his own life story less mimicks that of Bruce than does LLewllan ap Gryffydd. And I'll admit I was being nitpicky over the whole English-speaking-Welsh-naming system and the Cymraeg-speaking-Welsh-naming system.
  #18  
Old 07-06-2000, 02:26 PM
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Re: And actually, in America names like Jenkins or Williams sound vaguely


Quote:
Originally posted by javaman
Oddly enough, though these names are by no means exclusively or predominently borne by African Americans, still we often
seem to meet African Americans with those names. There is
definitely a notion that A.A's have slightly different names. Eddie Murphy himself, when doing his famous send-up of the "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" children's TV show, changed the name to "Mr. Robinson", because he must have thought it sounded more black.

Since traditionally black people's names came from the Southern U.S., is it possible that Welsh emigrants concentrated, to some extent, below the Mason Dixon line?
A lot of Welsh people emigrated to Patagonia and thereabouts, which is SOuth America, so that may favour the southern area theory - perhaps (in the earlier days of colonisation) they didn't want to emigrate to a British run North, when they were already repressed at home by the same people?
Oh & (not wishing to be more awkward than usual!) I thought that Smith was most common English surname...
Fi.
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Old 07-07-2000, 05:33 AM
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Thanks for the clarification, jayron. I was thinking more about the place that Glyndwr has in modern Welsh folklore being comparable to Robert the Bruce than the historical facts, but you are quite right about those.

Quote:
A lot of Welsh people emigrated to Patagonia and thereabouts
IIRC, the British Government still provides some kind of financial support for Welsh language teaching in South America.

Quote:
I thought that Smith was most common English surname
You're right. According to the Office for National Statistics, the top ten surnames in England are:

1 SMITH
2 JONES
3 WILLIAMS
4 TAYLOR
5 BROWN
6 DAVIES
7 EVANS
8 WILSON
9 THOMAS
10 JOHNSON

I think that when you include Wales, Jones and Williams go up to 1 and 2 and Smith drops down to 3, but I can't find a cite for this.

The most common surname + forename combinations in Britain (again from the ONS) are:

David Jones — Margaret Smith
David Smith — Margaret Jones
John Smith — Susan Smith
David Williams — Susan Jones
Michael Smith — Mary Smith
  #20  
Old 07-07-2000, 08:59 AM
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Slightly tangential but in the same area are pronounciations. Being 'half and haff'and thereby almost fluent in both Enlgish and American, I'm very curious about the twists of pronounciation the English often put on personal and place names. For example Ralph Fiennes does not pronounce his name the way an American would upon reading it for the first time. Or how about the proper name St. John pronounced Sinjin. And so on, up to and including, of course, the above mentiond Mr Luxury Yacht.
I'm not even going to get into place names here, but will instead await your opinions.
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