Miriam and Emma #general

Judith Romney Wegner

I too am curious about "Miriam." My great grandmother always was known as
"Emma." I have located an immigrant passenger record of a "Miriam" which
looks like it could be my great grandmother. Does anybody know if Emma was
short for Miriam?????
Thanks. --Steve Slesinger
I see two possibilities here:

The first hypothesis is that your grandmother was actually referring to
her mother not as "Emma" but as "Imma" -- which is Hebrew for "Mummy"
(and is routinely used as such in modern Israel). Some Diaspora Jewish
children are taught to do this today, and no doubt even in your
grandmother's day some children were taught to call their parents by the
Hebrew titles Abba and Imma rather than by the Yiddish titles Tate and

The second hypothesis, of course, is that your ggm Miriam did actually call
herself Emma; but if so, since she is listed as Miriam on the passenger
record, she must have adopted the name Emma because she (or her parents?)
had deliberately picked Emma as a secular name to use in place of Miriam in
America. (Some women in my own family considered the name Miriam to be
"too Jewish-sounding" and preferred to call themselves by a secular
alternative like "Minnie") But it would not be correct to think of Emma
as in any literal sense "short for" Miriam -- it would have been simply
an arbitrary choice by your ggm or her parents.

Judith Romney Wegner

PS I hope everyone noticed that I carefully avoided calling this a
"Soundex" with quotes (as I did in an earlier response, when I really
meant simply a "sound-alike"). My thanks to Carol Skydell for pointing
out in the Digest that one really should not use this technical concept in
such a loose fashion. I didn't mean to mislead, and in any case I
promise never to do it again!

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