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#51
Old 05-19-2018, 11:56 AM
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I bough to the master!
#52
Old 05-19-2018, 12:19 PM
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin the Martian View Post
And another:

Clark from clerk
The Brits even now pronounce "clerk" as "clark."
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#64
Old 05-20-2018, 03:53 AM
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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
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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
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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 Today, 04:12 AM
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Yep - try telling Ice-T he's feminine...
#68
Old Today, 04:40 AM
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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 Today, 05:00 AM
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Could be a variation of Seiler -- a ropemaker.
#70
Old Today, 05:25 AM
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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.
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