Re: Occupational Surnames
- From: "Don Moody" <dpmoody@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2007 19:32:17 +0100
"Liz" <pandora@xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
Roy Stockdill wrote:
I suspect it probably does reflect the number who followed these
occupations in the Middle Ages, However, the reason there are far
more Smiths than any other name is because there were a number of
different types of Smith - blacksmiths, goldsmiths, tinsmiths,
whitesmiths, silversmiths, etc.
Worth factoring in are the number of gypsies who used the name
Smith. As they had a very cavalier attitude towards the quaint
concept of only one surname for life it has been suggested that they
often took up the name Smith *because* it was common. 'Not me guv.
Some other dude (called John Smith) did it.' At least thirty or so
of the Smiths in the 1881 census were my ancestral Smiths .... who
cannot be traced back before the 1850s under that name with any
Liz (Greenwich UK)
Oh la! So utterly ladylike. I would have expected the answer 'Aint us
guv. Only go' Smiffs ere. Nuvver bloke dun i'.'
As for shoemakers and cordwainers, they are different trades!
But the lunacy of tying names to trades is on view in very large
letters in Newton Abbot Market. Above one permanent stall is the
legend 'BAKER THE BUTCHER' and above the nearby bakery is SHAUL, and
of course shawls can be bought from yet another stall.
More than one Taylor was a tyler. Smithfield was a place without
smiths, but had lots of butchers - the skilled ones being in the
market and the not so skilled being in operating theatres at Barts.
Then there are the names that don't translate. Signor Baccala can
hardly call his daughter Miss Salt Cod, especially as she happens to
be a ballet dancer.
And the names which have been rendered incomprehensible outside a
small locality. There are parts of the world where Coon is not a
derogatory term for a gentleman of colour but indicates that the
person's ancestor was a cowman. That a living Coon is a retired
Headmaster didn't justify a new name for the new trade.
Looking forward, those who associate names with trades are presumably
going to change their name to Programmer or Media-Studier or Gofer or
something equally preposterous.
Surely the correct attitude to names was enunciated by Karl Marx long
ago. That a name is of itself meaningless. Any other arbitrary
collection of symbols will do as well as an identifier. All that is
required is common agreement on what identifier is used for which
thing. It doesn't actually matter if the butcher is called Baker.
Given that the small change of doing genealogy is that people can and
will choose and alter their names for any reason or none, it is a
mystery why anybody takes a name as a constant and meaningful.
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