The publication of a piece announcing the engagement of a certain Miss Wild Rose to a Mr. Bull (cross my heart) started it all. My interest in names that is. It struck me that some parents have a lot to answer for when it comes to choosing their offspring's first names.
Thereafter, a casual browse through my then local telephone directory, (not recommended by those who like a more traditional beginning, middle and end to their reading matter) revealed such surprise surnames as: Brokenbra, Jelley, Gotobed, Bagel, Freelove, and Loos, just for starters. Really!
Fuelled by the discovery of such unusual surnames, I poked through some of the tomes in the library and was amazed at the wealth of material and diversity of the subject
There were hereditary names, locative, topographical and occupational surnames; surnames derived from personal names and nicknames; some meanings clearer than others. Take Straightbarrel (14th C.) – it may refer to a special form of cask, or an oddly-shaped gentleman, or there again it may not...It is open to conjecture.
Was Stringfellow originally a Strongfellow? Did the first Mr. Dikeman maintain or dig ditches? Was the earliest Mr. Chauntrell a bell-ringer, or a singer?
Many modern forenames too have a long history. Vincent was known as both forename and surname in the 13th century; Walter was introduced to England by the Normans at the time of the Conquest, and Sharon is a biblical place-name adapted as a forename by the English Puritans. Originally a male name, since 1945, it has been used as a female name. Serena (calm, serene) was documented in 1761, Joyce and Joy were known way back in 1199, and Anne has been a popular name in France. Germany, Italy, Spain (often Ana) and England for many centuries.
Anyone appreciative of succinctness would applaud the surname '0' (no writer's cramp when signing signatures); there are ten (now maybe more) such surnames in the Brussels telephone directory it seems. And, while on brevity, how about U NU – the name of an ex Burmese Prime Minister
Laffan, Cryan and Smylan all attended Clongowes Wood college in Ireland, and a vicar in Southport used to answer the telephone 'Hello, Heaven here!" A Mrs. Salt and a Miss Pepper were assistants in a food store, while the names Crow, Parrot, Rook, Peacock and Condor belonged to the staff of the Royal Society for the Protection of birds (specially recruited?)
A Mr Argument was once appointed Justice of the Peace in Cheshire; and Argue & Phibbs are names of a firm of solicitors. A brewery in Tadcaster employed a Miss Glass and a Mr. Bottle, while a Mr. Booza managed a Carlisle wine and spirits store. The arm of coincidence is a long one!
In the USA, Mr. & Mrs. Pigg called their son Ure, and, as if that were not enough, his middle name begins with an 'A'...Now a successful restaurateur in Oregon, he has risen above his initial embarrassment and claims to be proud of his name! Do you suppose Ima Rose Bush and Cigar Stubbs took kindly to their 'handles'? Both are products of the eccentricities of American parents; as are Mac Aroni and Cherry Pie. As for checking the derivatives of names in Spain, what with a wife's maiden surname being included by law, double trouble there!