muckefuck: (zhongkui)
It would be nice one of these days to have a conversation about given names online that doesn't turn into a slanging match. It's easy to see how this happens, though. There aren't many things more personal than a personal name, so expressing strong opinions about them is bound to get people's dander up. This is particularly true when there are parents in the mix. Criticising their decision of what to name their offspring--however obliquely--is tantamount to calling them a bad parent. Who wouldn't get defensive at that? But what really sets things off is the inability of some participants to acknowledge the effects of racism, classism, and other societal imbalances in defining their tastes. They believe they're expressing a pure aesthetic judgment--as if it were ever possible to stand outside of society and do that about anything, let alone something as culturally-bound as names.

I think I've mentioned before that I come from an extremely conservative name-giving tradition. In fact, I can sum it up as TANNN: "There Are No New Names". They don't have to be drawn from either the Bible or the Calendar of the Saints--famous non-Christian historical figures are free game, too, as are literary inventions of the Western literary canon. What's not on, however, is "making up your own names", especially when this entails inventing a novel spelling for an established name. It's a moot question at this point how much this prejudice is motivated by cultural inertia and how much is a component of a bourgeois imperative to demonstrate that we are Not Like Those Other People.

I'm less fascinated by these issues, however, than I am about the ability of people to believe they're making autonomous choices which are uniquely expressive of their personal circumstances when there are clear societal trends in baby-naming and always have been. Is it really pure coincidence that the "old family name" you chose to bestow perfectly fits the "trochee ending in /ən/" pattern that is overwhelmingly popular for American boys right now? I think Bourdieu would have a thing or two to say about that.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Speaking of names, a FB Friend (and RL friend) linked to this affecting first-person essay about growing up in the USA with an "ethnic" name. As someone with an extremely rare surname (less than ten bearers in the entire country), I can relate. There's not a sound in mine that isn't a part of any English-speaker's repertoire and the spelling is a close to "phonetic" as anything ever comes in English orthography, yet people mangle it constantly.

Of course, as a linguist, I simply couldn't overlook this part:
On the radio I hear a story about a tribe in some remote, rural place that has no name for the color blue. They do not know what the color blue is. It has no name so it does not exist. It does not exist because it has no name.
I presume here she's talking about the Himba of Namibia. The reason I presume this is that if you Google "tribe can't see blue" you get lots of hits for references to Debi Roberson's pioneering longitudinal study which not only subjected colour perception among the Himba to a series of the tests but repeated these tests regularly among a cohort of children as they grew up and some began attending school, comparing the results to those of a control group back home in England. As a result, we now have data which demonstrate not only that colour perception is language-dependent but that the two are learned in tandem.

Tasbeeh Herwees' claim about them "not know[ing] what the color blue is" is, of course, bullshit. You don't need to have a specific word for "the colour of a cloudless daytime sky" to recognise that it is not the same colour as a fresh acacia leaf any more than you need to have a specific word for the taste of a young coconut to know that it isn't the same as the taste of a ripe mango. The Himba have two basic terms, zoozu and burou (both referring to cool dark colours), which encompass those shades which we would label "blue". But these are not the only words they have at their disposal when it comes to describing the colour of something, just as we're not limited to calling something only "blue", "green", or "purple".

When I pointed this out in the ensuing discussion, I was told it didn't have anything to do with her point. I disagree. I can't be the only one who sees some irony in illustrating a plaint about thoughtless people not getting your name right with a reference to "a tribe in some remote, rural place" and not mentioning their name. Yeah, she only heard it on the radio in passing. But I've just illustrated how trivial it would've been to look it up. But then other readers could've done what I have and looked up the reference to find how she'd badly misrepresented the situation to add punch to a poignant observation. Her emotional truth is more important than the lived experiences of actual people.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Today I found out about something called "Ogasawara Mixed Language", which is a mash-up of English and Japanese spoken on what we call the Bonin Islands (from an earlier reading of Japanese 無人 "no people") and which are locally known as the Ogasawara Archipelago (小笠原群島). The sociolinguistic history of the islands is fascinating, it being one of the few places where an English-based creole has been subjected to sustained superstratal influence from a non-European language and the only officially Japanese-speaking part of the world where the majority of the population speak a non-Japonic language. That leads to interesting situations like this:
In many cases, a single individual has possessed four legal names in the span of his or her life. A case in point is Able Savory. He was born Sēborē Ēburu (in katakana セーボレーエーブル), was forced to change his name to Sebori Eichi (in kanji, 瀬堀栄一) at the start of the war, and used Able Savory (in the Roman alphabet) during the Navy Era. After the 1968 reversion, he reverted to his wartime kanji family name, but used the katakana "first name" given to him at birth, resulting in the name Sebori Ēburu [瀬堀エーブル]. In the 1980s, when some of the Savory clan changed their surname back to the katakana Sēborē, he decided four names in one lifetime were enough and retained the kanji surname.
The source is Daniel Long's English on the Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands (Durham, 2007) and it expect it to yield plenty more curious tidbits before I'm done with it.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Angotomidi--where they fornicate with sprats
And you think your hometown has an embarrassing name!
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I had Ewan McColl's love letter to Salford going through my head so I decide to see if I could Irish it. The chorus came easily (at least in Munster Irish, where salach is pronounced in one syllable), but I found I had to rework the other lines when the literal translations of "gasworks croft" and "factory wall" proved too much of a mouthful:
Casadh mo ghrá orm / le hais thigh na mbocht
Taibhríodh dom / cois an chanáilín
Phógainn mo chroí / i bhfothrach
Seana-bhaile slach / Seana-bhaile slach
I wondered if I hadn't been the first to try this, so I Googled "Seanbhaile Salach" (the standard spelling) to see what turned up. And, indeed, it did find this very literal version. But it also found this. Yes, there is a townland in County Clare (just west of the M18 where it crosses into Co. Galway) called "Dirty Old Town". That has to be the most demoralised chamber of commerce in all of the Rebel Province.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Quoygrew (Westray, Orkney, UK)

Quoygrew is a Viking Age archaeological site that was continuously inhabited up until 1937. According to what I can find online (i.e. this PDF in Norwegian) the local pronunciation is /ˈkwaigroː/. The first element descends from Old Norse kví "[cattle] enclosure" and is found in other placenames such as Quoyloo and Cumlaquoy. The second element is more obscure, representing either ON grjót "rubble" or grǫf "grave".
muckefuck: (Default)
Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchacevič ze Schluderpacheru
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May. 7th, 2012 03:45 pm

Nom du jour

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Krugman thinks the election of François Hollande is a triumph for France; The Economist believes it is a disaster. I don't really care either way. The candidate that really captured my imagine was Jean-Luc Mélenchon, but not for his politics. It was his name, which immediately brought to mind Melanchthon, the Protestant theologian who decided to Graecise Schwartzerdt. Despite appearances, however, Mélenchon isn't Greek at all but supposedly a corruption of "Belinchón", the name of a hamlet in Cuenca. His paternal grandfather migrated to Oran from Murcia and married another Spaniard. His maternal grandfather was Valencian and married an Italian, but his parents fled Algeria for Morocco and he ended up being born in Tangiers and then named for a Starfleet captain.
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Some time ago, a Facebook Friend changed his middle name to "Mazeppa". I'm not even sure when he did it because it only registered for me after I'd been reading Doctor Zhivago. There's a reference in there to Ivan Mazeppa, a 17th-century Cossack hetman whose name became anathema. Literally. As late as Pasternak's time, "mazepenets" was still in use as a pejorative term for someone opposed to central authority.

My buddy, however, is not exactly a Russophile. As far as I know, he's not into history at all. So the identification always puzzled me. When I finally remembered to ask him about it, it was his turn to look puzzled. Of course it had nothing to do with Ukraine's long history of resistance; it was a reference to the eponymous character ("The stripper who bumps it with a trumpet") in the musical Gypsy.

So now we were left wondering what connexion, if any, there could possibly be between a historical Cossack and a Broadway vaudevillian. The answer (as it so often is in such cases) is Byron. His poem based on a fictionalised account of the early life of Ivan Mazeppa is centred around a depiction of him strapped naked to a wild horse a punishment for diddling the wife of a Polish count. Naturally, this inspired a dramatisation in Paris featuring a young woman playing the role of Mazeppa, a show widely copied in the UK and America. By the time Gypsy appeared over a century later, the original inspiration was obscure, so the primary associations of "Mazeppa" were with burlesque acts.
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C'mon Wingo
Dallas police detective quoted in this article (which helpfully indicates that her given name is "pronounced Simone").
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Evelyn Mary Stapleton-Bretherton Fürstin Blücher von Wahlstatt
This was an example in a production meeting and one of my colleagues responded immediately with, "It's Frau Blücher!" She moved back to England after the war styling herself "Evelyn, Princess Blücher" and I like to imagine her going around like Hyacinth Bucket insisting "It's 'blue-SHAY!'".

Honorable mention: Général Marie Joseph Félix Édouard Hardÿ de Périni. (Your eyes do not deceive you; yes, that is a diaeresis over the y. Snaps to him for having the confidence to wear the "Marie" up front instead of burying it in the middle of the string of forenames like most Frenchmen.)
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muckefuck: (Default)
I'm beginning to adjust to [livejournal.com profile] monshu working from home on Fridays (kind of a test run for what he'd like to be doing in retirement). It helps that I'm finally accepting the fact that this means he really is WORKING, only at home. It's not like when he does some work on the weekends. On Fridays, he may or may not get a nap in, and you can't count on him having any more time to put into preparing dinner than he would on any ordinary workday. This past Friday, in fact, he was pushing a deadline, so we ended up just going out for Thai.

Most of the stuff he does bores me silly (and him, too, half the time--at least to go by his kvetches) but occasionally there's a gem. He said something offhand about doing a book on "Scottish saints" so I had to take a look for myself. The chief subject of it was Adomnán of Iona, who despite the sobriquet was probably a native of West Donegal. Naturally, this is the Old Irish form of his name, so lenition of the medial consonants is not show; the modern form is Adhamhnán.

Looking at that, I was stumped how to pronounce it. In general, the rules are fairly straightforward. But here two of them conflict: adh(a) usually represents /ai/, but amh(a) is /au/ (historically /ãũ/, contrasting with abh(a), which wasn't nasalised). It can't be both; Irish doesn't allow contiguous long vowels or diphthongs within a morpheme. I figured one would win out over the other, but which?

Neither.

I forgot that there's an alternative pronunciation of adha found predominately (if not solely) in names. Donnchadha, for instance, is pronounced with final /uː/, not final /ai/. (Thus the anglicised version "Donahue".) This /uː/ swallows up what comes after it so what you end up with is /uːnaːn/. I would give this final stress in the Munster fashion, but as he's a Donegal man, perhaps it would be more fitting to apply Ulster rules and say ['uːn̪ˠan̪ˠ] instead.

I guess this should've been obvious from the common anglicisation of his name, i.e. "Eunan". But these can be so idiosyncratic that I never know how far to trust them. I mean, why eu? Any English-speaker is going to look at that and immediately think /juː/ Why not "Oona" to match Úna? I can't help suspecting some sort of Scottish plot.
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Thaddeus Gentry
Bonus: His drill-sergeant headstyle (bald pate, white crew cut, peppery toothbrush stache).
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Bhuel Buss
I don't know how he pronounces his given name, but of course all I see is the common Irish transcription of "well".
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Clyde Chew Glascock
(Didn't think that name could get worse, did you?)
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