Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #51  
Old 05-19-2018, 11:56 AM
burpo the wonder mutt's Avatar
burpo the wonder mutt burpo the wonder mutt is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: NE Florida
Posts: 21,962
I bough to the master!
  #52  
Old 05-19-2018, 12:19 PM
Nathanial Nathanial is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 1
Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
I think it's unwarranted to assume that how common a name is now is a guide to how common it was in the past. After all, at the time English surnames developed, farmer was overwhelmingly more common as an occupation than smith, but now Smith is far more common than Farmer.
I remember this coming up when we were taught about the “professions as last names” things in school— why aren’t more people named Farmer, something that must have been one of the most common occupations?

The explanation given was that “Farmer” as an occupation didn’t denote someone who raised crops or cattle, but actually something more like a tax collector, and therefore not a super common position.
  #53  
Old 05-19-2018, 01:19 PM
Colibri's Avatar
Colibri Colibri is offline
SD Curator of Critters
Moderator
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Panama
Posts: 39,994
Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
There are a couple of things at work here. One is that over time, surnames undergo a "random walk" in terms of commonness. Just on the basis of chance, people with the name Smith may have a lot more children than those with the name Farmer. Simply due to random processes, one name can become much more common as time goes on while others may die out.
This is known as a Galton-Watson process. The link shows how some branches of a tree can die out while others become very common strictly due to random processes. (This said, there are problems applying this to surnames, since new surnames may be created or adopted, and others discarded, and this may depend on the character of the name rather than random factors.)

Last edited by Colibri; 05-19-2018 at 01:19 PM.
  #54  
Old 05-19-2018, 01:38 PM
John Mace's Avatar
John Mace John Mace is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: South Bay
Posts: 84,526
With "farmer", you're also going to find that when surnames were becoming common in England, a good number of people doing farm work were serfs. And as serfs, they did whatever the Manor Lord needed to have done on the property, even if farming tasks took up the most time. "Farming" might not even have been considered a profession, since it's what most people did. Calling someone "Tom the Farmer" didn't tell you much of anything about him.

OTOH, if you're name is Jack Bauer, everyone knows you're no farmer, but you're the most bad-ass guy in the neighborhood. (Bauer = farmer in German.)
  #55  
Old 05-19-2018, 01:44 PM
Colibri's Avatar
Colibri Colibri is offline
SD Curator of Critters
Moderator
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Panama
Posts: 39,994
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
OTOH, if you're name is Jack Bauer, everyone knows you're no farmer, but you're the most bad-ass guy in the neighborhood. (Bauer = farmer in German.)
Which is related to boor, originally a peasant or farmer, which became synonymous with a rude and uncultured person. Likewise, the South African Boers take their name from the Dutch word for farmer.
  #56  
Old 05-19-2018, 01:46 PM
Riemann's Avatar
Riemann Riemann is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Santa Fe, NM, USA
Posts: 5,337
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacquernagy View Post
Everyone with the last name "Knight" can't literally have been actual knights...
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrDibble View Post
One has more prestige as an occupation, no doubt - shoemakers made shoes, cobblers just fixed them....
And if surnames representing prestige professions are overrepresented in the population, it may not be just that people tend to exaggerate their status. It might be because men with genuine high social status had an unusually large number of offspring who inherited the name. When surnames pass down the male line, their inheritance follows the same pattern as the Y chromosome. So the process could be analogous on a less extensive scale to the fact that about 8% of men across a huge swathe of Asia have a similar Y chromosome, putatively that of Genghis Khan.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descen...n#DNA_evidence

Last edited by Riemann; 05-19-2018 at 01:46 PM.
  #57  
Old 05-19-2018, 01:51 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Here
Posts: 13,335
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
This guy, Phillip Sherman, is my 8-th great grandfather, and if you look at his signature on the Portsmouth Compact, he spells it "Shearman" which tells you about the ancestral occupation.

He's got about a bazillion descendants, including the Bushes of presidential fame, so I'm not giving anything away about myself.
Respect!

FWIW, my great grandfather was not allowed to have a legal surname, just Son of Abraham from That Shithole Stetl Somewhere. In my immigrant family (I'm first generation American) and most everyone else's, a sort of respect was always shown to "A Real Yenkee"--any Jew actually born here, comfortable in the culture, and purified of all old-world problems.

You are as real as it gets. (Plus I looked up the Portsmouth Contract.)

ETA: On the other hand I'm not named Cohen--a professional title-- ("Priest") and its variations. Then I could put on dog.)

Last edited by Leo Bloom; 05-19-2018 at 01:54 PM.
  #58  
Old 05-19-2018, 02:27 PM
John Mace's Avatar
John Mace John Mace is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: South Bay
Posts: 84,526
If it's any consolation, he was, like most of the first English settlers in Rhode Island, a refugees from the Massachusetts colony, kicked out for not toeing the Puritan religious line. I guess they should be thankful they weren't hung as witches.
  #59  
Old 05-19-2018, 05:59 PM
Johanna's Avatar
Johanna Johanna is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Altered States of America
Posts: 12,749
Eisenhower = iron hewer, literally, going by Germanic cognates.

-ster is related to Sanskrit strī, 'woman'.

Natalie Merchant, no relation to Ismail Merchant. Natalie's father came from Sicily with the original name Mercante (same meaning).
  #60  
Old 05-19-2018, 08:19 PM
california jobcase california jobcase is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: S. GA
Posts: 3,091
Quote:
Originally Posted by ftg View Post
Others:

Faulkner from falconer.
...

Languages, and spellings, evolve. Get used to it.
Falconer to Faulkner, Fortner, Folkner, Forkner, Falk (at least- there may be more)
  #61  
Old 05-20-2018, 02:04 AM
Shakester's Avatar
Shakester Shakester is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 2,987
I feel the need to mention that the -ster at the end of my user name does not make me female. I was feeling shaky that day and that's the variation I found that wasn't taken. If it was easy to change it to something more meaningful, I'd change it.
  #62  
Old 05-20-2018, 02:09 AM
Nava Nava is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Hey! I'm located! WOOOOW!
Posts: 39,165
You can ask the mods for a change of name; there's several people who changed them for different reasons, and even one who changed his and changed it back.
  #63  
Old 05-20-2018, 02:18 AM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
Elephant Whisperer
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Posts: 39,806
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin the Martian View Post
And another:

Clark from clerk
The Brits even now pronounce "clerk" as "clark."
__________________
Everything happens for a reason. But sometimes the reason is you are stupid and make bad decisions.
  #64  
Old 05-20-2018, 03:53 AM
Shakester's Avatar
Shakester Shakester is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 2,987
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
You can ask the mods for a change of name; there's several people who changed them for different reasons, and even one who changed his and changed it back.
Still probably more effort than it's worth. It doesn't bother me that much.
  #65  
Old 05-20-2018, 07:58 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: U.S.A.
Posts: 33,806
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shakester View Post
I feel the need to mention that the -ster at the end of my user name does not make me female. I was feeling shaky that day and that's the variation I found that wasn't taken. If it was easy to change it to something more meaningful, I'd change it.
The “-ster” was originally grammatically feminine but it hasn’t meant that the holder is a woman for many centuries. So you have nothing to worry about. Check the etymonline link I posted before.
  #66  
Old 05-20-2018, 08:25 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: SW Side, Chicago
Posts: 44,850
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shakester View Post
I feel the need to mention that the -ster at the end of my user name does not make me female. I was feeling shaky that day and that's the variation I found that wasn't taken. If it was easy to change it to something more meaningful, I'd change it.
I had never even thought of -ster indicating female. Now, if were -ess or -ette, that's a different story. Interesting to hear that it does etymologically go back to a feminine ending, though. These days, I just think of it as in words like "hipster" or "gangster" or "mobster." No feminine connotations at all. Off the top of my head, the only -ster word I could think of that is explicitly feminine is "spinster."
  #67  
Old 05-22-2018, 04:12 AM
MrDibble's Avatar
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cape Town, South Africa &
Posts: 23,485
Yep - try telling Ice-T he's feminine...
  #68  
Old 05-22-2018, 04:40 AM
RivkahChaya's Avatar
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 9,924
Saylor is a really common name in Indiana. Is it derived from "Sailor"? I never thought about it being like Taylor/Tailor before-- I always assumed it probably came from "Seller," as in like, a cashier in a store in the pre-cash register days. Or maybe an itinerant merchant of some kind.

Anyone know where that name comes from? How old is it? I know lots of people from this area with that name, but I've never met someone who lives in a coastal area with it, which is another reason it might not come from "Sailor," albeit, people do move a lot.
  #69  
Old 05-22-2018, 05:00 AM
kk fusion kk fusion is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 433
Could be a variation of Seiler -- a ropemaker.
  #70  
Old 05-22-2018, 05:25 AM
UDS UDS is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Australia
Posts: 8,263
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathanial View Post
I remember this coming up when we were taught about the “professions as last names” things in school— why aren’t more people named Farmer, something that must have been one of the most common occupations?
Because there's not much point in giving someone a name based on a characteristic which he shares with a large proportion of his community; you want to name him after a distinctive characteristic. So you only get called "John the farmer" if the fact that you are a farmer is at least somewhat remarkable. If you are surrounded by farmers you'll find you get called "red-haired John", or "left-handed John" or whatever.
  #71  
Old 05-22-2018, 04:10 PM
Mister Rik Mister Rik is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: The bunghole of WA
Posts: 12,422
Quote:
Originally Posted by excavating (for a mind) View Post
A few more
Eisenhower from Iron Worker
Wainwright from Wagon Builder
Boatwright from Boat Builder
Hooker from, uh..., Fisherman. Yeah, that's it!
Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Or a crochetist.
"Hooker" is (or was) also a job description in logging, as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacquernagy View Post
And anyway it's more badass to be named after a mace.
Martel?

I'm apparently named for a deity. "Osborne" from the Old Norse "Asbjørn", literally "god bear" - it refers to the cave bear, which was worshiped as a deity by some primitive cultures.
__________________
"I am an endless barrel of exposition!

But yeah, I'm done."
(El Goonish Shive)
  #72  
Old 05-22-2018, 04:28 PM
cochrane cochrane is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: The Nekkid Pueblo
Posts: 20,739
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Rik View Post
I'm apparently named for a deity. "Osborne" from the Old Norse "Asbjørn", literally "god bear" - it refers to the cave bear, which was worshiped as a deity by some primitive cultures.
That's a good description of Ozzy. Yes, I know he spells it Osbourne with a "u".
  #73  
Old 05-22-2018, 06:24 PM
Mister Rik Mister Rik is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: The bunghole of WA
Posts: 12,422
Quote:
Originally Posted by cochrane View Post
That's a good description of Ozzy. Yes, I know he spells it Osbourne with a "u".
Osborne, Osbourne, Osborn, Osburn, etc., all the same name with the same derivation. "Asbjørn" was apparently pronounced "OOS-bern", more or less.
__________________
"I am an endless barrel of exposition!

But yeah, I'm done."
(El Goonish Shive)
  #74  
Old 05-23-2018, 01:13 AM
MarvinKitFox MarvinKitFox is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 119
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacquernagy View Post
But all the other "occupational" names are spelled with the current spelling. Smith, Baker, Carpenter, Barber, Weaver, and so on.
Smythe? Clark? or many many many more.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacquernagy View Post
But I've never met, or even read about, anyone with the last name "Tailor." It's always "Taylor" with a Y.
Because you haven't been out, much. Just in the US there are 1274 registered with "Tailor" as surname. Worldwide, 40000 or so.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacquernagy View Post
Why?
Lack of education/imagination by the OP
  #75  
Old 05-23-2018, 11:49 AM
Moris Moris is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Mediterranean shores
Posts: 120
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacquernagy View Post
Other somewhat tangential occupational-name questions:

Are these kind of names common in non-European cultures?
I don't know about non-European cultures, but they're common in other European cultures. For example, Kovač/Kovach/Kovacs means blacksmith and it's common in Hungarian and some Slavic languages.
  #76  
Old 05-23-2018, 12:09 PM
Colibri's Avatar
Colibri Colibri is offline
SD Curator of Critters
Moderator
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Panama
Posts: 39,994
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarvinKitFox View Post
Because you haven't been out, much.

...


Lack of education/imagination by the OP
Moderator Note

Let's refrain from insulting remarks directed at other posters. No warning issued, but don't do this again.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator
  #77  
Old 05-24-2018, 09:47 AM
ftg's Avatar
ftg ftg is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Not the PNW :-(
Posts: 17,439
Another quite famous one, esp. in Scotland: Stewart/Stuart meaning Steward.

* According to Wikipedia, the "w" got replaced by "u" to prevent their French allies from pronouncing it "Stevart".
  #78  
Old 05-24-2018, 06:08 PM
Lazy Lazy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Toronto
Posts: 184
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacquernagy View Post
Other somewhat tangential occupational-name questions:

Everyone with the last name "Knight" can't literally have been actual knights, because you can't just be born as a knight, you have to earn that title, so who was the first to adopt that name? Some poser?
I think it is unlikely that most (or perhaps even any) of the people who adopted "Knight" as a surname were actually knights. People at that level of society, if they didn't have a surname already, were likely to use the name of the place where their main piece of property was located. It is more likely that the original adopters were associated with knights in a more indirect way: a servant of one, a bastard of one, an actor who regularly portrayed one in a traveling show. Some surnames are even thought to have originated as put downs ("Mayor" for someone who was bossy, for example.)
  #79  
Old 05-25-2018, 08:48 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 48,800
I recently read a book on James Taylor. His ancestry is Scottish, and the name was originally spelled "Tailyeor." However, none of his ancestors seem to have been tailors.
  #80  
Old 05-25-2018, 11:08 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Here
Posts: 13,335
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarvinKitFox View Post
Smythe? Clark? or many many many more...
Don't forget Psmith, the multi-talented character who, confoundingly enough considering OP, was a bank clerk at one point. (The "P" is pronounced as in "ptarmigan.")
  #81  
Old 05-25-2018, 11:17 AM
Lance Turbo Lance Turbo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Asheville, NC
Posts: 2,914
Schneider (surname)

Quote:
Schneider (German for "tailor", literally "someone who cuts," from the verb schneiden "to cut") is a very common surname in Germany.[1] Alternate spellings include: Schnieder, Snyder, Snider, Sneider, Schnyder, Znaider,[2] Schnaider, Schneiter, Shneider, Sneijder (Dutch), Snither (English), Snyman (Afrikaans), Schnider (Swiss German), Sznajder (Polish), Szneider, Snaider.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:34 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017