JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Uri and Shraga WERE Phoebuses! #general


Judith Romney Wegner
 

Warren Blatt claims that many of the Harkavy's "English" equivalents to
Yiddish names came right out of his head and bore no relationship to
real-life practices. However, Warren's list of examples >from Harkavy
contained at least one case (and perhaps more) of "one of these things is
not like the others." So which was the odd man (or odd men!) out?

Warren said: > for "Uri" and "Shraga", he [Harkavy] suggests "Phoebus"<

_In actual historical fact_ Uri and Shraga _are_ directly connected with
Phoebus. It was not uncommon in the middle ages for an Uri ora Shraga (both
names connote light or torch or flame or shining) to be called Phoebus
(meaning "Shining One"). There was a famous 18th-century printer of Hebrew
books called Uri Phoebus ben Aaron Ha-Levi). In time, Phoebus became
yiddishized to "Feibush/Feivish/Feivel." So "Shraga Feivel" -- a common
combination-- is simply a yiddish version of Shraga Phoebus.

Warren further stated:
In my study of Hebrew and English given names on over 10,000
tombstones in early 20th-century landsmanshaft cemeteries in
New York and Boston, NONE of these name pairs appeared!
Well, maybe no Shraga Phoebus as such , but I bet you found a few Shraga
Feivels -- which is really the same thing, as explained above.

Furthermore, the other examples >from Harkavy struck me as quite plausible
-- even if some took a little figuring out (for instance, Shprintza =
Hope because Shprintza is a yiddish form of Esperanza!) Almost all the
examples were girls' names. Unlike Jewish boys, who (no matter where they
were born) would usually receive a traditional Hebrew/Jewish name at the
bris, we find throughout Jewish history that girls born in countries where
Jews mixed with the population and spoke local languages (e.g. Greek or
Latin in the Hellenistic age, Arabic in the heyday of medieval Islam, and
Italian in the Renaissance) often have female names belonging to that
culture. A medieval Italian Ashkenazi could easily name his/her daughter
"Dulcia" to correspond with the Yiddish name Sissel; and as names often
get passed down the generations, I have actually met a Dulcie whose Jewish
name was Sissel! I think we should avoid focusing narrowly on the
practices of 19th- century East European Jewish immigrants, as though their
practices somehow represent the norm and all others are anomalies!

Judith Romney Wegner
jrw@brown.edu

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