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Little Nemo
05-08-2009, 12:06 PM
For some reason this question popped into my brain last night while I was in bed trying to get to sleep. And like any rational person my next thought was "Well, I guess I'll post it on SDMB tomorrow."

Iceland and Russia both have naming systems that used the father's name as part of the child's name. In Iceland, you have a name like Olafur Grimsson - a man named Olaf whose father was named Grim. In Russia, you have a name like Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev - a man named Dmitry whose father was named Anatoly.

So what happens if the child is an orphan or illegitimate child whose father is unknown? Do they just make up a father's name for him to use or is there some generic alternative?

Rhythmdvl
05-08-2009, 12:29 PM
Per my Russian wife: they make something up based on a person of importance in the child's life (e.g., adopting father, orphanoriam director, mother's father), but it's really up to the people filling out the forms -- whoever is giving the first name got to decide that, too.

Polycarp
05-08-2009, 01:22 PM
I do remember that illegitimate children with unknown father were at one time given a matronymic (Sven Ingridsson, Dmitry Natalievich Medvedev where Dnitry is Nataliya Medvedeva's illegitimate son). I suspect this custom is long out of date, but offer the information for what it's worth historically.

Giles
05-08-2009, 01:35 PM
The Wikipedia article on Icelandic names has a section on Matronymic naming as a choice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_name#Matronymic_naming_as_a_choice), where it suggests that it can be used for various reasons apart from the father being unknown. For example, Dagur Berg■ˇruson Eggertsson is named after both of his parents.

WormTheRed
05-08-2009, 02:48 PM
Polycarp and Giles are both correct with regards to Iceland. If the father is "unknown", the kid gets the mother's name.

If it's a complete orphan, I honestly can't say.

Nava
05-08-2009, 03:51 PM
Last year we were at the local Epiphany Eve parade (january 5th), in a town in Spain; kindergarten children taught by one of my friends were part of the parade. Someone asked "where did y'all get that one, so blonde?" "oh, her name is Katryn Nataliovna :D" "ah, an import... Russian?" "Ukranian."

Unknown or irresponsible father, we don't know and don't care; the patronimic for that kid is her matronimic. (And has been changed to protect the innocent, eh)

gigi
05-08-2009, 04:34 PM
orphanoriam

What was it on The Simpsons about -arium making anything more fun?

Sofis
05-08-2009, 07:57 PM
The Wikipedia article on Icelandic names has a section on Matronymic naming as a choice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_name#Matronymic_naming_as_a_choice), where it suggests that it can be used for various reasons apart from the father being unknown. For example, Dagur Berg■ˇruson Eggertsson is named after both of his parents.

Historically, one other such reason was if the mother was of a higher status than the father, for example Svend Estridsen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweyn_II_of_Denmark), a king of Denmark, whose mother was a princess (or, at least, the daughter of a king - I'm not sure the term "princess" was used in Denmark at the time) while his father was an earl.

Frodo
05-08-2009, 08:38 PM
In the north Snow, in other places Flowers, Rivers...

Mississippienne
05-08-2009, 08:42 PM
There's a nifty livejournal community called little_details with lots of information on Russian naming practices. This exact question was asked, and the Russians and Russian-speakers replied that the child's name would vary depending on the time period and circumstances.

Someone on little_details asked if an orphan might be named after a saint, but according to the Russian posters, if the child were born during the Soviet period this would be unlikely. A foundling in the Soviet period might have been named Vladimir Ilyich Neizvestny (Neizvestny means "unknown").

If the child's father was unknown, the mother's patronymic might be passed down to her child (eg. Vladimir Ivanovich Sidorov, illegitimate son of Maria Ivanova Sidorova).

Little Nemo
05-08-2009, 08:49 PM
I realize illegitimacy isn't as big a deal as it once was and I don't know if there's any stigma attached to it in Iceland or Russia. But I'm surprised by the use of matronymics as a substitute for patronymics for that reason alone. If you're an American named John Smith nobody's going to know your parents' marital status from that. But if you're Olaf Ingridson or Ivan Katerinovich your name essentially identifies you for life as a child whose father wasn't in the picture.

Hypnagogic Jerk
05-08-2009, 10:16 PM
To expand the question, I know that Spaniards and people from some other Spanish-influenced countries get both their mother and father's last names. What is done when one of the parents is unknown? Do they just get the other parent's last names transferred to them -- basically Mississippienne's example? I see Nava's been here, presumably she knows.

What was it on The Simpsons about -arium making anything more fun?
I don't remember The Simpsons doing this, but Futurama's Leela does come from an "Orphanarium".

Erdosain
05-08-2009, 11:08 PM
I don't remember The Simpsons doing this, but Futurama's Leela does come from an "Orphanarium".

I believe gigi is referring to this episode (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_Little_Wiggy):

Lisa: What a whimsical building. Who says science can't be fun?
Bart: Me. I smell a museum.
Homer: Yeah, good things don't end with -eum. They end with -mania. Or -teria.
-- "This Little Wiggy"

flodnak
05-09-2009, 02:05 AM
But if you're Olaf Ingridson or Ivan Katerinovich your name essentially identifies you for life as a child whose father wasn't in the picture.Not so in the case of Olaf Ingridsson; at one time that would have been true, but not today. His parents may have had any number of personal reasons for choosing a matronymic over a patronymic.

Nava
05-09-2009, 02:46 AM
To expand the question, I know that Spaniards and people from some other Spanish-influenced countries get both their mother and father's last names. What is done when one of the parents is unknown? Do they just get the other parent's last names transferred to them -- basically Mississippienne's example? I see Nava's been here, presumably she knows.

If both parents are unknown, they'd often be given a saint's name (often including the "santo") or a lastname meaning foundling (Expˇsito). Other common sources for saint's-names-as-lastnames was people named after a town which in turn was named after a saint (Santo Domingo de la Calzada for example, someone who moved from there to another town could end up with the lastname Santodomingo) or converted Jews.

If the father is unknown or irresponsible, usually the kid would just get his mother's lastnames. We only use those first two, normally, but you inherit the whole row (my dad knew his first 32 lastnames by heart, I only reach 8 because the maternal side of my family didn't bother remember further). So a kid whose father wasn't willing to hand down the inheritance of lastnames wouldn't have paternal lastnames to interlock with the maternal ones.

A cousin of mine has an illegitimate child, not because he wasn't interested in marrying the mother, but because the mother was the kind of woman who give welfare recipients the world over a bad name. Grandmother was crying when she heard she'd just become an "unmarried great-grandmother," but when she heard that it was the woman who didn't want to marry and was refusing to let my cousin give his lastname to the kidlette in order to get welfare (as a single mother she could claim it, but not if the father was known and living with her... as was the true case) - boy it's a good thing France stands between Spain and Germany, cos she went from being in tears to being on the warpath. That kid, who's German, got her mother's lastname.

Broomstick
05-09-2009, 06:06 AM
A few people seem to be assuming an orphan's parentage would somehow be unknown. Well, if Thor Odinson's father dies when little Thor is 8 Thor would still have the patronymic Odinson. His father is still known, just deceased. If the kid is an orphan and the father unknown, well, he'd have his mother's name, right?

The only time it's really an issue is if the kid is abandoned as an infant.

Annie-Xmas
05-09-2009, 07:35 AM
At the end of Dr. Zhivago, Yuri & Lara's daughter Tania was given a surname meaning "Fatherless." The locals turned it into "Out-of-Turn," which apparently is very similar to their word for Fatherless.

sailor
05-09-2009, 08:19 AM
We only use those first two, normally, but you inherit the whole row (my dad knew his first 32 lastnames by heart, I only reach 8 because the maternal side of my family didn't bother remember further). Let us not perpetuate erroneous stereotypes. You "inherit the whole row" just like anyone else in any other culture "inherits the whole row". No more and no less. Legally it is of no significance. In Spain your legal name is composed of (1) Given name, (2) first family name and (3) second family name. Each can be simple or compound. Legally that is exactly the structure of the name and there is no more names. But also no less as I am reminded every time I try to use only my first family name. Spanish people have a thing for bureaucracy like no other and you *have* to give your full name, ID number etc and then you *have* to sign some forms saying you give that information voluntarily and you acknowledge whan can and cannot be done with it etc. And that is just for buying a stick of gum. If you want a filling in your right hind tooth you need even more papers. The amount of bureaucracy in Spain is just surreal.

But, getting back to names, the first family name is customarily, but not always, the father's first family name and the second family name is customarily but not always the mother's first family name. There are plenty of instances of people using the mother's name first or other combinations.

This refers to the way things are now. Historically there were no set rules and people used family names, place names, or whatever they fancied.

So a kid whose father wasn't willing to hand down the inheritance of lastnames wouldn't have paternal lastnames to interlock with the maternal ones. I am not sure what this means or how a father "hands down" the inheritance of last names. I am sure this is quite a complex legal issue but these days it's not like a father can easily disappear if the mother insists on his obligations. But traditionally, yes, the child would just be given the mother's last names.

Little Nemo
05-09-2009, 11:40 AM
A few people seem to be assuming an orphan's parentage would somehow be unknown. Well, if Thor Odinson's father dies when little Thor is 8 Thor would still have the patronymic Odinson. His father is still known, just deceased. If the kid is an orphan and the father unknown, well, he'd have his mother's name, right?

The only time it's really an issue is if the kid is abandoned as an infant.I didn't want to get bogged down in details. I figured it would be obvious from the context of the question that I was asking about children whose parents were unknown.

mbh
05-09-2009, 12:48 PM
In place of "orphan", substitute "foundling".

Guinastasia
05-09-2009, 01:49 PM
At the end of Dr. Zhivago, Yuri & Lara's daughter Tania was given a surname meaning "Fatherless." The locals turned it into "Out-of-Turn," which apparently is very similar to their word for Fatherless.

Surnames aren't the issue -- patronyms are.

In Russia, your middle name is your father's name plus ovich or evich if you're male, ovna or evna if you're female. So it's not her last name that's the big deal -- obviously, they don't know that she should be Tanya Yurievna "Fatherless". So what's her patronym?


For example, my Russian professor's father's name was Alexei, so he was Igor Alexievich (Last Name). My name is Kathleen Sutter, and my father's name is William. In Russian, that would be Ekaterina Vasillievna Sutter.

Kyla
05-09-2009, 02:21 PM
Bulgarians also have patronyms as their middle name (it's a little different from the Russian style, though, they tack on -ov for makes and -ova for females) and I once asked my counterpart what you'd use as a middle name if the father of the child ran off, or was an unfit parent or something. She thought about it and finally admitted she didn't know. She'd never heard of anyone using anything but a patronym. (Bulgarians were weirded out by the idea that not everyone does this...that my parents just picked a middle name at random for me was crazy. BTW, non-Slavic Bulgarians, like the ethnic Turks and Roma just use their father's name without the -ov or -ova as their patronym.)

I don't think it comes up very often.

Rhythmdvl
05-09-2009, 05:10 PM
IIRC, a rather famous literature foundling in France was dropped off on Quasimodo's day, and took his name from that.


And speaking of famous literary, I had dear Leela in mind (though do remember that Simpsons episode).

Mississippienne
05-09-2009, 05:55 PM
IIRC, a rather famous literature foundling in France was dropped off on Quasimodo's day, and took his name from that.

That's not really relevant though because the French don't use patronyms.

I did find a book called Across Russia: from the Baltic to the Danube (1892) by Charles Augustus Stoddard, editor of the New York Observer. There's a chapter in which he describes visiting Vospitatelny Dom, the foundling hospital of Moscow. He describes seeing the infants (whom he proclaims are as well-cared for as "infants of respectable parentage anywhere") and claims the hospital took in 1,200 infants a month.

According to Stoddard, the mothers came to the hospital's waiting-room with their baby, or send a female friend to surrender it. There they were asked (by nurses or a priest? Stoddard doesn't say) "Has the child been baptized?" and if so, "By what name?" They registered the child under it's baptismal name if given one. If not, the next morning the priest would baptize the baby with the name of the saint who's day it was on the Russian calendar. The priest then gave his own name for the child's patronymic: So a child baptized by a priest named Mikhail on St. Kyrill's Day would be baptized Kyrill Mikhailovich.

Pyper
05-09-2009, 07:51 PM
But also no less as I am reminded every time I try to use only my first family name. Spanish people have a thing for bureaucracy like no other and you *have* to give your full name, ID number etc and then you *have* to sign some forms saying you give that information voluntarily and you acknowledge whan can and cannot be done with it etc.

Tell me about it. I am American, and I use my father's last name, as most of us do. I attended university in Spain, and endured no small amount of confusion and strange looks when I turned in forms with the space for second last name left blank. I could have tacked my mother's last name on there, but I was afraid that I would then have to endure confusion with the American university system when I tried to transfer my grades.

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