I’m a word-aholic and like to muse frequently on the origins of words and their meanings.
One thing I like to play with from the three-pound lump of tofu between my ears is the origin of people’s surnames.
I must interject here how it surprises me that most Americans do not know the meaning of the word “surname,” using instead the term “last name.” I remember being instructed to use the word surname when I was in elementary school and have rarely heard it since.
So many English surnames are based on professions or skills. Because way back when people spoke Middle English they did not have family names, they were referred to by their profession. Ergo, John Carpenter, Jack Baker, Etc.
Not to mention, Butler, Butcher, Farmer, Chandler, Spencer (There’s an interesting story here), Faulkner, Porter, Turner (What did the Turner turn, one wonders?), King, Earl, Duke, Dyer, Prince, Priest, Bishop, Doctor, Nurse, Tanner, Weaver, Webb, Webster and so many more. Such as: Bookbinder, Brewer, Thatcher, Cheeseman , Cook, Hunter, and Miller.
Do you have any others to add?
And then there’s a huge list of surnames based upon animals. First the birds:
Bird, Robin, Partridge, Nightingale, Wren, Peacock, Hawke, Partridge, Swan, Finch, Parrot, Condor (just joking), Dove, Pigeon, Sparrow and Starling. And then there’s Swift, and Crow. What else?
Now for the mammals:
Fox, Lyon ( Okay, the spelling changed but it’s still a lion), Wolf, Beaver, Lamb, Horse, Bear, Bullock, Lamb.
And the fish: Fish, Pollock, Pike, Spratt, Haddock, Bass, Troutt.
If you can think of any others to add to this list– without resorting to Wikipedia or an online search, please– let me know.
If you respond, I will tell you a story about my surname, which will probably surprise you.