Funny family names

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Levike
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Funny family names

Postby Levike » 2013-06-26, 19:46

Please write some weird or funny family names that exist in your language?

And please be so kind to translate them. :)

For Romanian:

Vacăgrasă = fat cow
Păsărică = vagina
Joacă-Bine = plays well
Brânzescu = cheese
Last edited by Levike on 2013-06-26, 20:48, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Funny family names

Postby linguoboy » 2013-06-26, 20:17

Levente.Maier wrote:Joacă-Bine = good player
Brânzescu = cheese

What makes these "funny"? Metonymic occupational surnames are dime-a-dozen in Europe. Everywhere people keep dairy livestock, you'll find names that translate as "cheese" and "milk".

In the USA, a lot of "funny names" are perfectly reasonable in their language of origin, but become unintentionally hilarious in translation. Hell is German for "light" and therefore a reasonably common descriptive surname in German-speaking countries, but it used to cause a lot of consternation here back when "hell" was still considered a strong swear. The common Cantonese surname Ho (何) used to be completely innocuous until the word ho (originally an AAVE pronunciation of whore) became widely known.

Occasionally the opposite happens. I knew a woman surnamed "Kussmaul" (probably derived from Slovak kosmulja "gooseberry"), a name that sounds slightly odd in English but not otherwise remarkable. But in German it looks like a mashup of the elements Kuss "kiss" and Maul "gob", and was the cause of much hilarity while she was living there.
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Re: Funny family names

Postby MacAnFhíodóir » 2013-06-28, 0:01

[flag]ga[/flag] The quite common Irish surname ''O' Sullivan'' is an anglicised form of the old Irish name ''O'Suileabhain'' which in turn is believed to come from the Irish word ''súil'' and ''amháin'' meaning ''eye'' and ''one'' respectively. Maybe cyclopes did exist after all... :hmm:
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Re: Funny family names

Postby linguoboy » 2013-06-28, 0:37

MacAnFhíodóir wrote:[flag]ga[/flag] The quite common Irish surname ''O' Sullivan'' is an anglicised form of the old Irish name ''O'Suileabhain'' which in turn is believed to come from the Irish word ''súil'' and ''amháin'' meaning ''eye'' and ''one'' respectively. Maybe cyclopes did exist after all... :hmm:

Source? Woulfe derives it from súil + dubh plus the common diminutive suffix -án. So not "one-eye" but "black-eye".

The Scottish surnames Campbell and Cameron, however, do mean "crooked mouth" and "crooked nose", respectively.
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Re: Funny family names

Postby MacAnFhíodóir » 2013-06-28, 1:55

linguoboy wrote: Source? Woulfe derives it from súil + dubh plus the common diminutive suffix -án. So not "one-eye" but "black-eye".


I must admit, my source for this message was merely my own knowledge, acquired at some stage over the years, but I only stated that it was believed to be so. Upon searching the internet for the origin and meaning of the name, two inter-debatable meanings seem to pop up quite a lot: ''one eye'' and ''hawk-eyed''. We should be open to all interpretations though, the origin of these names can no longer be determined fully, unfortunately. Personally, I think that ''one eye'' seems the more likely candidate, from a phonetic point of view.
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Re: Funny family names

Postby linguoboy » 2013-06-28, 2:53

MacAnFhíodóir wrote:Personally, I think that ''one eye'' seems the more likely candidate, from a phonetic point of view.

Really? Why? In earlier Irish, mh represented a nasal semivowel ([w̃]) which caused nasalisation of preceding vowels. This actually led to phonemic nasalisation in Munster dialect (e.g. amhras [ˈə̃ũɾˠəsˠ] "doubt" contrasting with abhras [ˈəuɾˠəsˠ] "yarn"). Ó Súileabháin is a Munster surname, but as far as I know, there's no evidence of variants with nasalisation either in speech or spelling.
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Re: Funny family names

Postby MacAnFhíodóir » 2013-06-28, 3:20

I was simply referring to the fact that in my opinion, ''O' Súileabháin'' is phonetically closer to ''súil'' and ''amháin/abháin'' than ''súil'' and ''dubh-án''. Your explanation, and knowledge, though very interesting, don't really allow me to see clearly why ''súil'' and ''dubh-án'' are more likely.
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Re: Funny family names

Postby linguoboy » 2013-06-28, 4:06

MacAnFhíodóir wrote:I was simply referring to the fact that in my opinion, ''O' Súileabháin'' is phonetically closer to ''súil'' and ''amháin/abháin'' than ''súil'' and ''dubh-án''. Your explanation, and knowledge, though very interesting, don't really allow me to see clearly why ''súil'' and ''dubh-án'' are more likely.

Where's the difficulty? Lateral assimilation of /d/ in the cluster /ld/ is a common process, e.g. ON Raginald > Raghnall. Short unstressed vowels get reduced to [ə] in the modern language, often spelled a once their etymology is forgotten, e.g. Old Irish Muirgus ("sea-choice") > Mod. Ir. Muirgheas or Muiris. Moreover, we have a clear parallel in the surname Ó Donnabháin. "Brown Blackie" (donn + dubhán) is the conventional etymology; what sense would "brown only" make?

Again, if the second element were Old Irish amáin, would expect to find phonetic variants with nasalisation and the spelling mh. Where are they? How many Ghits do you get for "Ó Súileamháin"? Fittingly, one: an amateur newsletter where pops up in the mouth of a drunk in a shaggy-dog joke. As far as I can see, the "one-eye" explanation is a popular etymology with nothing to support it.
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Re: Funny family names

Postby Hoogstwaarschijnlijk » 2013-06-28, 8:43

linguoboy wrote:
Levente.Maier wrote:Joacă-Bine = good player
Brânzescu = cheese

What makes these "funny"? Metonymic occupational surnames are dime-a-dozen in Europe. Everywhere people keep dairy livestock, you'll find names that translate as "cheese" and "milk".

Well, I did find it funny when I was 12 and discovered the name of 'Patricia Kaas' in my French textbook. (Kaas is cheese in Dutch.)

We've had such a thread before... Classics are names like Naaktgeboren (Born naked).

Nowadays people mostly focus on the combination of names, there's a sort of competition each year. You can find them here: http://www.alletop10lijstjes.nl/10-raar ... haamnamen/

For example: Annabelle Blaas (bellenblaas means the soap where you can blow bubbles with), Connie Comen (sounds like: kon niet komen, couldn't come) and Bennie Dood (sounds like: ben niet dood, aren't dead).
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Re: Funny family names

Postby MacAnFhíodóir » 2013-06-28, 13:29

linguoboy wrote:
MacAnFhíodóir wrote:I was simply referring to the fact that in my opinion, ''O' Súileabháin'' is phonetically closer to ''súil'' and ''amháin/abháin'' than ''súil'' and ''dubh-án''. Your explanation, and knowledge, though very interesting, don't really allow me to see clearly why ''súil'' and ''dubh-án'' are more likely.

Where's the difficulty? Lateral assimilation of /d/ in the cluster /ld/ is a common process, e.g. ON Raginald > Raghnall. Short unstressed vowels get reduced to [ə] in the modern language, often spelled a once their etymology is forgotten, e.g. Old Irish Muirgus ("sea-choice") > Mod. Ir. Muirgheas or Muiris. Moreover, we have a clear parallel in the surname Ó Donnabháin. "Brown Blackie" (donn + dubhán) is the conventional etymology; what sense would "brown only" make?

Again, if the second element were Old Irish amáin, would expect to find phonetic variants with nasalisation and the spelling mh. Where are they? How many Ghits do you get for "Ó Súileamháin"? Fittingly, one: an amateur newsletter where pops up in the mouth of a drunk in a shaggy-dog joke. As far as I can see, the "one-eye" explanation is a popular etymology with nothing to support it.


Very well. When posting this I wasn't looking for a debate about it though, especially because I stressed that my original reply was only believed to be true, just like your interpretation of the whole thing is also believed to be true. I think when Levente.Maier posted this, she wanted a humorous (which I found her original four Romanian surnames to be), lighthearted discussion, not a debate on the origins of Irish names which can no longer be traced. Personally, I still prefer ''one eye''.
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Re: Funny family names

Postby MacAnFhíodóir » 2013-06-28, 13:36

Hoogstwaarschijnlijk wrote:Nowadays people mostly focus on the combination of names, there's a sort of competition each year. You can find them here: http://www.alletop10lijstjes.nl/10-raar ... haamnamen/


:rotfl: Héél erg bedankt hiervoor, ontzettend grappig.
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Re: Funny family names

Postby linguoboy » 2013-06-28, 15:02

MacAnFhíodóir wrote:Very well. When posting this I wasn't looking for a debate about it though, especially because I stressed that my original reply was only believed to be true, just like your interpretation of the whole thing is also believed to be true.

Not all beliefs are equal. Some are better supported than others. I'm always interested in having mine challenged, but that requires reviewing the evidence behind them. When you posted, I was hoping you were privy to some interesting evidence that had hitherto escaped my notice and which might prompt me to reevaluate my beliefs. There was no need for you to "debate" me; that was your choice.

MacAnFhíodóir wrote:I think when Levente.Maier posted this, she wanted a humorous (which I found her original four Romanian surnames to be), lighthearted discussion, not a debate on the origins of Irish names which can no longer be traced. Personally, I still prefer ''one eye''.

And I prefer to believe things based on their likelihood of actually being true. I'm very dull that way.

There are plenty of interesting and amusing Irish name etymologies which are well supported by the existing evidence. If I have some time this evening, I'll post some.
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Re: Funny family names

Postby mōdgethanc » 2013-06-28, 17:19

not a debate on the origins of Irish names which can no longer be traced
According to what linguoboy is saying, they can be traced, and the etymology you gave isn't supported. As the great economist Keynes once said, "When the facts change, I change my mind".
Personally, I still prefer ''one eye''.
Some people prefer to believe that aliens built the pyramids, but they're still cranks.

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Re: Funny family names

Postby MacAnFhíodóir » 2013-06-28, 19:28

mōdgethanc wrote:
not a debate on the origins of Irish names which can no longer be traced
According to what linguoboy is saying, they can be traced, and the etymology you gave isn't supported. As the great economist Keynes once said, "When the facts change, I change my mind".
Personally, I still prefer ''one eye''.
Some people prefer to believe that aliens built the pyramids, but they're still cranks.


I never supported the etymology I gave, I said it was believed to be so. The origins can't be fully traced, that's why there is still so much uncertainty about whether the name came from ''one eye'' ''hawk-eyed'' or ''black-eyed''. Linguoboy's explanation of the phonetics of it all certainly does make a lot of sense, ''black-eyed'' therefore could be a more likely candidate.

When I said I prefer ''one eye'', I meant that I would like to think that that is the origin of the name as I find that meaning more amusing. I find your comparison between my opinion on this and the ''cranks'' who believe aliens built the pyramids disrespectful and offensive.
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Re: Funny family names

Postby johnklepac » 2013-06-28, 21:59

MacAnFhíodóir wrote:I never supported the etymology I gave, I said it was believed to be so. The origins can't be fully traced, that's why there is still so much uncertainty about whether the name came from ''one eye'' ''hawk-eyed'' or ''black-eyed''. Linguoboy's explanation of the phonetics of it all certainly does make a lot of sense, ''black-eyed'' therefore could be a more likely candidate.

When I said I prefer ''one eye'', I meant that I would like to think that that is the origin of the name as I find that meaning more amusing. I find your comparison between my opinion on this and the ''cranks'' who believe aliens built the pyramids disrespectful and offensive.

Inb4 "you're right; it's disrespectful and offensive to those cranks."

Barring the difference in historical evidence, "one eye" does make comparable sense to "hawk-eyed" and "black-eyed"; the former could easily have come from, say, someone who had his/her eye gouged out in an accident or lost it from disease.

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Re: Funny family names

Postby linguoboy » 2013-06-28, 22:16

johnklepac wrote:Barring the difference in historical evidence, "one eye" does make comparable sense to "hawk-eyed" and "black-eyed"; the former could easily have come from, say, someone who had his/her eye gouged out in an accident or lost it from disease.

The thing is, Old Irish had a lexicalised expression for "one-eyed person" and it wasn't *súil amháin, it was cáech or (with the suffix noted above ) cáechán [Mod. caoch "(pur)blind", caochán "mole"]. And the name Ó Caocháin (anglicised Keehan or Keaghan) does exist.

So not only can I not find any evidence that Ó Súileabháin means "one-eyed", I can't find any that the expression súil amháin has ever been used in Irish with the meaning of "one eye" or "one-eyed". Even in the modern language you'd say leathshúil "half-eye" because eyes are one of those objects like (like ears or shoes) which are thought of as coming naturally in pairs.

In other words, this is exactly the kind of false etymology that someone with no actual working knowledge of the Irish language or Irish surnames (or etymology or historical linguistics) would come up with. So to see it presented as somehow equally plausible as other alternatives is just painful to me.
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Re: Funny family names

Postby johnklepac » 2013-06-28, 22:26

linguoboy wrote:In other words, this is exactly the kind of false etymology that someone with no actual working knowledge of the Irish language or Irish surnames (or etymology or historical linguistics) would come up with. So to see it presented as somehow equally plausible as other alternatives is just painful to me.

Well, that's what I am. I agree with you about the importance of actual evidence; I just don't fault MacAnFhíodóir for buying into this association at first sight.

Edit: managed to lose a "]"
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Re: Funny family names

Postby linguoboy » 2013-06-28, 22:28

johnklepac wrote:Well, that's what I am. I agree with you about the importance of actual evidence; I just don't fault MacAnFhíodóir for buying into this association at first sight.

Fair play to you, then. Those of us in the evidenced-based community think a little differently.

Here are some fun traditional Irish surnames, courtesy of Woulfe:

Ó Mughróin--descendent of Mughrón "slave-seal" [as in the sea mammal]
Ó hOrcáin--descendent of Orcán "piggy"
Gránda "ugly"
Ó Fuathmharáin--descendent of a hateful guy
Ó Leathlobhair--descendent of a half leper(!)
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Re: Funny family names

Postby MillMaths » 2013-12-09, 11:04

Levente wrote:Vacăgrasă = fat cow

Could this be from the Biblical “fatted calf” (killed on the return of the prodigal son)? Luke 15:23–30. :hmm:

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Re: Funny family names

Postby Levo » 2013-12-13, 2:32

Pff, where should I start?
At "Suck-er" (Szopós), or the pretty common "Fat" (Kövér)? Note that Hungarian family names come before the given ones, so these adjectives sound more "speaking".

Not for us though, but maybe for Indo-Europeans it can sound funny that many family names in Hungary are nation-words. Like "German Oszkár" (Német Oszkár), or "Russian Kornélia" (Orosz Kornélia - I had a classmate with this name), "Slovak Gábor" (Slovak Gábor - another mate from university, etc...) and we have a bunch of those nation-names...


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