Monday, December 07, 2009

when names suggest words...


i recently acquired this small 6 panel brochure for c. henry adams "bureau of patronymics and patronomatology", published in 1886. adams' brochure offers "to the public" his services, to "furnish the etymological meaning of family or proper surnames." he offers the following illustration of how it works:

oliver: crowned with olives - peace.

wendell: dutch wandelaar - a traveler.

holmes: grassy plains, or meadow lands.

i have no idea if the connected words are rooted in etymology or games of word association, but the results, at least in holmes' case, are quite beautiful.

much of my own writing has danced around similar intuitive tendencies, such as the book of swedish poetry i translated into english using the sound and spelling of the swedish to suggest english equivalents... where a word like "dikter" (which sounds like diction), becomes the word "spoken".

adams charged a dollar for the rendering of a surname, and fifty cents for each christian name. quite a bit of money at the time.

the brochure ends with a testimonial from w.t.a. sprague..."i am perfectly delighted with the rendering of my name by you."

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Blogger Leora Lutz said...

mmmm. the idea of suggestion is an interesting one...and etymology is fascinating. if i remember correctly, in dutch, the word for
"sew" is the same as "woman".
my name(s) mean "light".

11:51 AM  

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