62 Comments

  1. As for how James is related to all those other forms that have been mentioned, the all come from the Biblical name we think of as Jacob. In Greek it was Iakobos, in Latin Iacobus and later Jacobus. Then the Italians started writing it as Giacopo. Somehow that came to be pronounced and then written as Giacomo. In English, that eventually evolved into James.

  2. Thanks, Olivier and DemetriosX!

    The part of this that I always have trouble with (don’t see the similarities) is the “last mile” connecting the Jakob / Iago forms to James — your mention of Giacomo helps!

    The part that I always like is the rebracketing that Olivier refers to. Just as “an orange” or “an apron” come from mis-identifying the initial n- of “napron” and “norange” [compare modern Spanish “naranja”], in the development of Diego there was a rebracketing in the opposite direction, with that initial dental-alveolar D- having been “peeled off” as it were from the end of “Sant'”.

    There’s another way to answer the question of “How do we know Diego and James are equivalent?” which is not quite a trick-question but does take seeing it a different way. Without tracing the history or the steps, just point to (early) translations of a common ancient text into those modern languages, where the name comes up for a “character” who matches. This would generally be done with the Christian books of the New Testament — the three “synoptic Gospels” and the Acts all name apparently two different disciples James. (However, this may give “Santiago”and not fully modern “Diego”.)

    Thus, at http://thegospelinspanish.com/read.php?book=GIS&chap=14 [and scroll down to “NAMES IN THE SCRIPTURES (Los nombres en las escrituras)”] they list

    Jacob… Jacobo
    James… Santiago, (Jacobo)

  3. @Kilby: re my
    And “Australian” — and “again.” And now I’m going to bed.
    O.K., “to bed” — I was just trolling you with that one.

    I had intended the second sentence to read: And now I’m going to bde.

    Unfortunately, in my sleepy condition I accidentally spelled “bed” correctly and thus incorrectly, destroying the intended, if admittedly feeble, joke.

  4. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but since we’re on the topic of names and talking about married names and changing names, here goes.

    I am of white European extraction (with the pasty skin to prove it). Mrs.SingaporeBill is ethnic Chinese. In Canada, my homeland, it is still fairly common (and used to be overwhelmingly common) that the wife would adopt the surname of the husband. So, for the sake of example, if my surname were “Jones”, the expectation of many is that, after marriage, my spouse would be Mrs.SingaporeBill Jones.

    In Chinese culture, it is not the case that the wife takes the husband’s surname. I don’t say last name because the traditional order in Chinese is surname followed by personal name. My wife, like many in the region, also has an English personal name that precedes her surname. So, for example, if my wife’s surname before marriage was “Lim” (common among Chinese in Southeast Asia) her full name is EnglishPersonalName Lim ChinesePersonalName. After marriage it would be unchanged.

    HOWEVER (and this is the odd part), she would be referred to as “Madame Jones” when people talked about her because she would be the matriarch of our household. So “Madame Jones” would be like a title but not her legal name. All forms, passports, bank accounts, etc., would still be EnglishPersonalName Lim ChinesePersonalName.

    Needless to say, few organizations have name fields that correctly and properly allow her full name to be recorded and used. So, she usually goes by EnglishPersonalName Lim in daily life.

  5. I knew a Jewish kid in college who was named “Israel” by his parents, at least as far as his official Jewish name went, but they didn’t want people calling him “Izzy” so they gave him the name “Elliot” as his legal name. Apparently the risk of people calling him “Elly” did not occur to them.

  6. I guess I was familiar with there being a celebrity comedian called Shelley Berman, that I didn’t notice until much later that Shelley and Shelly are way more often female names.

  7. Mitch, Shelly (for a man) is just the common nickname for Sheldon. Two of my father’s friends were called Shelly.

  8. As a baseball-card-collecting kid, I was always amused by the “girls’ names” sported by Nellie Fox and Minnie Minoso.

    Mrs. Shrug’s first name, in the shortened form she informally goes by, is gender-ambigious, but the spelling she prefers is more frequently used by males than females, so she tends to get a lot of cold calls and chairty pleas and such addressed to “Mr. —“)

  9. Once before when something like this tangent came up, I mentioned two famous men first-named Lynn. One was the football player Lynn Swann. The other, I’m sorry to now have to call the late Lynn Harrell, an internationally-known cellist, from the Chicago area, who died a couple weeks ago, age 76. He was a fun and gracious guest on the local classical radio WFMT, putting together a playlist and chatting with the broadcasters.

    Here is a link to his performance in the Dvořák concerto, unfortunately not video of the performance. https://youtu.be/FVWeEa0QG8E

  10. I have, surprise, a Jewish last name as my maiden name (We’ll use Cohen for discussion). Due to husband’s family name having been anglicized when his paternal grandfather became a US Citizen (with the removal of ini from the end of the surname) he has a “English” sounding surname (making no sense as there is no Smithini) we will use Smith for his surname because if I have to type “surname”, “maiden name” over and over I will go messuggah.

    I started using Meryl A. Cohen Smith after we got married, intending to later change it just Smith something which has never happened. I currently am – depending on what and where my name is being used – Meryl A. Cohen, Meryl A. Smith, or Meryl A. Cohen Smith and even sometimes, to deal with the whims of computer software, Meryl A.Cohen-Smith or Meryl A. CohenSmith. Sometimes the initial A is there and sometimes it is not. (in the 18th century to make life even more fun I am Anne Everyman (pronounced Everah mon).

    When I was applying for a passport it was the mid 1970s. We were concerned about plane hijackings – to put it simply – where Jewish people were being sorted out. So I went with Meryl A.Smith. My driver’s license is Cohen-Smith, M (actual name is a bit longer and there was no room for Meryl on license or many credit cards). I have only used my passport to go on 2 trips to Canada after all these years and sometimes for second ID in odd situations.

    I have never had a problem with this.

    Until IRS decided that all tax preparers should take an exam to be licensed to prepare returns. I am not a CPA, attorney or enrolled agent so I had to take the exam. The exams were to be given at a third party company that is in the business of giving job related exams. My name on my ID had to exactly match the name on my professional’s account with IRS. But that was Meryl Cohen Smith. Neither my driver’s license or passport matched. It took me so long to find out what to do and to do it (easy – duh! change the name on my IRS professional account) that the mandate to take the test was ruled illegal. But since I did not take that test,every year I have to take classes from a private company (at my cost of course) instead.

    Why not change to his name right away when we got married? The woman ahead of me in line at Macys had done that – on her license and not her credit card – she could not show matching ID as she was in the middle of changing. So I changed to the double name intending “when everything evened off” after the change to then change to “Smith” but never had a chance to do so – because 40 years passed like 2 months.

    Oh, and the A in Meryl A may or may not refer to my middle name – it is also his real surname initial. I have never been sure which name I intended it to be.

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