Re: Questioning the theory of surnames #general
In a message dated 7/30/2007 11:39:35 A.M. Central Daylight Time,
<< Could it be that Jews possibly accepted some kind of unwritten surnames -
like a nickname - prior to the 1800 date? Could it be that these surnames
are much more casual than we think - that people just chose them because
they sounded nice, cool, or exotic, regardless of where they lived or what
they did? >>
==Yes, you're correct, many Ashkenasi families had eke (supplementary) names
before they were imposed by law. It was a means of telling one Yitzhaq ben
Avraham >from all the other Yitzhaq ben Avrahams.
==You got Gross and Klein (Big and small); Lang and Kurz (long and short);
Schwartz and Roth and Weiss (black/red/white [haired]). You had Schneider,
Schmidt, Becker, Fleischman (tailor, smith, baker, butcher). It's probably quite
similar to a system you use in the family, on the job, or at the synagogue to
distinguish one person or family >from another.
==Then you got the topological name--after a geographic location. Low or
high on the hill, by the Red Barn or the wooden bridge, or the newcomer >from
Warsaw or Vienna or Berlin. Note that no one was generally named after the town
in which he is currently living--otherwise everyone in the town or village
would have the same name, which would defeat the purpose. Local people have a
thing about strangers moving in (not just a Jewish thing; I've noticed it to be
very strong among Gentiles in England and the highlands of Scotland.
"They''re not really >from here, you know; they moved here less than 120 years ago
from Tewksbury (or Drumnadrochit)."==Note, though, that someone surnamed London is probably not >from England
but descended >from a teacher (Heb. "Lamdan"); sometime, the London actually gets
embellished as "Englander."
==And, of course, Jews were known by their patronymics, often carried down
for a few generations.
==These eke-names were usually decided on by the neighbors in the village or
the congregation, and were not chosen by their owners. When Jews were
required to take names, the majority continued using their customary eke names (a
nickname = an eke name). If they didn't have one, the patronym was familiar
and useful. Sometimes the name was too simple, or too "Jewish." That was easy,
add a syllable or two. So Ber became Bernstein or Bernholtz, or Berlin.
Mendel became Mandelbaum or Mandeltort. Feld became Feldman, Feldstein,
Grossfeld, Hochfeld . . . .
==The sources of surnames have been discussed, explored and archived
hundreds of time in Jewishgen. It's worth looking up those archives to understand
how it all worked.
MODERATOR NOTE: As suggested by Micheal, have a look at the
Jewishgen InfoFiles related to Jewish naming practices