Re: Why Various Spellings of A Family Name #names

Ittai Hershman

With all these anecdotes about historical change, I'll just relate a contemporary example: my own given name.  I am named after a biblical hero character in 2 Samuel.  My parents gave me the spelling in Hebrew as it appears in the Masoretic text (אתי) and in English as it appears in the King James Version (Ittai).  Decades later, this became a very popular name in Israel.  

As a contemporary name in Israel, it is spelled with an added written Yud (איתי) to disambiguate it from the name Etty; and, in English, there are many permutations (e.g. Itay, Itai, Ittay) that one can see on Facebook.  For official purposes in Israel, using the Masoretic Hebrew spelling of my name would be swimming uphill, so fI use the Israeli convention for identification purposes there.  But, I use the Masoretic Hebrew spelling for myself.

Likewise, of course, there are various spelling permutations of each of my family surnames.  Borders and languages were crossed, sometimes written alphabets were crossed, and cultural conventions applied.  So, contractions, translations, and spelling changes; not to mention sometimes the invention of new names altogether, are part of what makes our immigration stories interesting, it seems to me.

Ittai Hershman
New York City

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