Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Last, but Not Least

By Martin M. Bodek


Printer Friendly Version

Email this article



http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | My name is Martin Bodek and I am a philologoholic. I am particularly fascinated by names, specifically by surnames. They reveal a story, a history, a migration tale. First names are of interest too, but they reveal only a parental aesthetic, not a potential centuries-old genealogy. As well, books on first names are ubiquitous, while books on surnames are more difficult to find. Hence I find them to be more prized and the effort of locating rare ones even more rewarding.


JewishWorldReview.com has offered to parlay my interest in the subject into a forum whereby I could make the subject (more) interesting for others.


My goal would be to entertain and enlighten myself and others and eventually to graduate my linguistic skills to the level of my idols, William Safire of The New York Times and Philologos of The Forward.


Before I deign to believe I belong in the same category as the above luminaries, I'll start here at JewishWorldReview.com and see what happens.


I therefore invite any person with a last name to please e-mail me with said surname and as much family history as possible.


Before you do so, an overview of my present linguistic skills is necessary to place my helpfulness to you in context. I speak English and Yiddish, understand Hebrew and German, can read the Cyrillic alphabet and have a rudimentary understanding of Spanish. I intend, in the near future, to attain fluency in more languages as my interest in onomastics deepens.


I also intend to make this column a brew that is four parts scholarly and one part humorous. This will balance my personality, which I consider to be four parts humor and one part scholar.


A brief overview of surname categories is also necessary to showcase what will be seen in this column. There are four general categories, plus one named for my personal predilection for puns:


1. Patronymic - names that are derived from the father's given name. For example, Jacobson (English, son of Jacob), Ivanov (Russian, son of Ivan) and McDonald (Scottish, son of Donald). Additional patronymic prefixes and suffixes include the Hebrew "Ben," the Arabic "Ibn" or "Bin," the French "Fitz-," the Dutch "Van," The Polish "-owicz," the Czech "-ovic," the Hungarian "-ovics," the Romanian "-ovici," the German "-owitz," the Iranian "-zadeh" or "-ian," the Italian "-i," the Spanish "-ez" and many others.


Matronymics - or names derived from a mother's last name - are included in this category. Some examples are Rifkin (derived from Rebecca), Helguson (Icelandic, son of Helga) and D'Ignazia (Italian, son of Ignazia).


2. Locational - names that are derived from a person or family's locale. Some names in this category pinpoint the exact location in question, such as Norman (French, from Normandy), Frankel (German, from Frankfurt) and Toledano (Spanish, from Toledo). Other locational names are more vague, such as Atwood (nice, but at which wood?), Overhill (great, but which hill?) and Brooks (lovely, care to narrow it down?).


3. Occupational - names that are derived from professions, such as Melamed (Hebrew, teacher), Schneider (German, cutter or tailor) and Abulafia (Arabic, doctor).


4. Descriptive - this is also known as the nickname category. It includes all personal identifiers, which themselves can be broken down into three general categories of my design (note that this subset is not always complimentary!):


i. Physical features - Gross (German, big), Shorter (English, shorter), Tawil (Arabic, long or tall), Rossi (Italian, redhead), Campbell (Scottish, crooked mouth), Gore (French, idle - don't tell Al!) and Kapinos (Polish, drip nose). ii. Dispositions - Gay (English/French, cheerful), Sauer (German, austere) and Lovejoy (English, Happy). iii. Status - Bauer (German, peasant or common citizen), Lackland (English, one lacking land or a home) and Richman (English, wealthy person).


5. Miscenameous - this category, of my invention, includes surnames that fit squarely into any of the categories above, but stand out either for their uniqueness or unflattering nature.


Acronyms are a class of surnames believed to be entirely unique to the Hebrew language. This is because vowels are not needed for consonants to sound sensible, for the most part, when strung together. The name Katz is actually an acronym of "kohen tzedek" (righteous priest), requiring only the letters kuf and tzadi for full pronunciation.


The names Bril (Ben Reb Yehuda Leib - son of Reb Yehuda Leib) and Shalit (sheyichyeh leorech yomim tovim - may he live many long, good days) are further examples of this naming convention.


Unflattering names are the most entertaining for me, and it is no coincidence that I have saved the best for last. This category includes the last three mentioned in my "physical feature" category above, to which can be added Kennedy (Irish, misshapen head), Caporaso (Italian, bald head), Schiller (German, cross-eyed), Potvin (French, a region in France, but also believed to describe a bribe-taker) and Trognon (French, apple core, but slang for something unmentionable).


Two particular names that have always piqued my interest are Ausfresser and Lustbader.


I can't figure out a way to make Ausfresser flattering. The direct translation from German seems to be "thorough pigouter". If we break up (what might be) the compound surname into two words, we'll have the common "Aus" prefix which usually denotes an Austrian lineage and "pigouter". He's a pig all right, the only question is if he's Austrian or thorough (the stereotype would tell you those are synonymous anyway).


Lustbader is a fascinating compound as well. "Bader" means "bath attendant" in German, a job not usually associated with glamour. It seems though, that a descendant of the original Bader was not satisfied with his "job description" but perhaps wanted to keep the name intact for genealogical consistency, so he added "lust" - which is German for "happy" - to the name and wound up surnamed "happy bath attendant."


Riotous.


So without further ado, please e-mail your last name, and as much family history as possible, to onsurnames@gmail.com. I in turn pledge to do my best research and to publish my findings here. If your inquiry does not appear in a future column, it is probably because of a backlog or because your name requires extensive research.


Remember please, that I am merely a fledgling in this field and should be regarded as having intern status. I will make errors, but I will endeavor to publish the researched corrections and improve my craft.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment by clicking here.

Martin Bodek is not a professional surname onomastician, but he plays one for this column (and hopes to parlay it into a career). He is still researching the actual origins of his own last name. It is either Hebrew for "search" and implies an introspective sort, or occupational for "ritual slaughter inspector." It might also be from the German surname "Bodeker" which means a cooper, or barrel maker.

© 2009, Martin M. Bodek