If you'd ask me I'd say I would normally vaguely file Iceland under Europe, but clearly I haven't internalised that because I know about Icelandic patronymics but didn't mention it there.Very good article, @Thande .
Though one comment, I'm not sure whether you would normally consider Iceland to be part of Europe (I do, but this may be a geographical bias), but I'd feel remiss if I didn't bring up that if it is, Iceland still doesn't use surnames by default even now.
I wonder when that started, it seems like it's related to having very long names but it might also be to do with repetitive names in generations.I do find it fascinating exactly which cultures tend towards the 'initial.initial.surname' approach- you see it on the Indian Subcontinent a lot as well.
That's because those names can be pretty long ("Vishwanath Pratap" is pretty long, but "V. P." is not) and also because in those cases as the middle name is a mere appendage of the first name it would make more sense to shorten it through initializing. There are many cases where names are not shortened like that (like with Narendra Modi, who is never called N. D. Modi), and that's because the middle name is not an appendage of the first name but something else (in this case a patronymic).I do find it fascinating exactly which cultures tend towards the 'initial.initial.surname' approach- you see it on the Indian Subcontinent a lot as well.
To be fair to the springfield example, picking a random place name would give a fairly common chance of a surname its just it pick one which is clearly a compound descripting placename.Good article, though I'm a bit disappointed that you didn't bring up one of my favourite real life examples which illustrated just how absurd some names can sound to a native speaker. There is this animé called Negima! Magister Negi Magi that is, well, it's a harem animé quite transparently inspired by Harry Potter. (Don't let the term harem manga fool you though, it's not hentai. Harem manga is just a particular genre of manga that features a single male character surrounded by nothing but female characters with your standard 'and troubles ensue'.)
Anyway, so the main character of this series is a British boy wizard, who attended a magical school in Wales and his name is--wait for it!--Negi Springfield. Why Negi? I dunno. There was something about the combination of the syllables that just sounded western to the author, I suppose. Why Springfield? Well, it's a place name appearing on maps of Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia, Ireland, etc... that's got to mean it would be a believable surname, right?
Oda Eiichiro, the best-selling mangaka of Japan, is also rather notorious for not quite having understood how Western naming conventions work, and for always treating western first names as if they were family names (because family names come first in Japan). Hence, a female character by the name of Charlotte Linlin, for instance, has children by the name of Charlotte Katakuri (male), Charlotte Perospero (male), Charlotte Mont-d'Or (male), and Charlotte Opera (male).
Of course, you can't really blame him. From his point of view, there is nothing about the sounds that make up Charlotte that would make him conclude that it's a female personal name.
It's interesting to contrast this with how place-based surnames developed in England; they were usually given to identify someone who'd moved from a small village to a big town (it'd be rare for someone to move from London elsewhere in such a way that being from London would be their defining characteristic). So there are loads of people in Anglophone countries with the names of tiny villages, but hardly anyone with surnames like London or York.Fascinating article. Thanks @Thande
I discovered a few years ago that surnames weren't used in the Netherlands until Napoleonic times when they were required by the French occupiers, which is why there are so many Dutch people with surnames like 'van Voorthuizen' which just means 'from Voorthuizen' - basically when people had to come up with a surname, they just stated where they were from. In some cases the 'van' was later dropped, but there's no consistency I've seen behind when one family dropped the 'van' and another didn't.
More to the point, Eleanor would also have been the name on the hundred-year old cross-monument located in Cheapside. Which I would have thought is a reasonable location for a lower class sex worker to be familiar with considering it was one of the major markets.Of course people like me who choose their own names (late 19th century NZ social reformer, mid 20th century Liberal-Labour politician, early 21st century actress) will be a pain in the arse for future name historians. See 14th century Londoner Eleanor Rykener, who is either the first documented trans woman in English history, or else the fictional satirical invention of smug court clerks, depending on which historian you agree with. An argument for the latter point is that, for all its modern connotations with a blanket "medieval" period, "Eleanor" would have been a woefully obscure and anachronistic name in the 1390s, associated with long dead foreign queens, and not a name you'd realistically expect to be chosen by a lower class sex worker. The obvious counter argument to that is well, have you met any trans women?
Literally where she learned the trade and was subsequently arrested, which is the reason she survives (albeit obscured until very recently) in the historical record. I did not know that, but it's an awesome bit of background data if we do follow the hypothesis of her taking a name from what was known to her. Thank you, that might be really useful for a project I'm planning.More to the point, Eleanor would also have been the name on the hundred-year old cross-monument located in Cheapside. Which I would have thought is a reasonable location for a lower class sex worker to be familiar with considering it was one of the major markets.
I mean if we take this to the logical conclusion, I wouldn't be surprised if 'Eleanor' was a common nickname for any sex worker in the market at that point either.Literally where she learned the trade and was subsequently arrested, which is the reason she survives (albeit obscured until very recently) in the historical record. I did not know that, but it's an awesome bit of background data if we do follow the hypothesis of her taking a name from what was known to her. Thank you, that might be really useful for a project I'm planning.