As the Holidays approach, which are serious, I thought I should get into a lighter subject for this edition.  So I will discuss something that has always intrigued me: where do many of our last names come from?  In doing some research I found that many come from the first names of people’s fathers, prior locations where our ancestors lived, or their occupations.  For example, when many immigrants years ago came to our country and were asked their names they said they were the son of John, Carl, Robin, Niel or Peter.  Hence they became Johnson, Carlson or Robinson, or some used “sen” which became Nielsen or Petersen.  It is the same thing for people of Spanish decent because in Spanish the word “ez” means son of.  Hence Alvarez, Benitez, Cortez, Dominguez, Gonzalez and Jimenez.  Similarly, in Arabic the word “bin” and in Hebrew the word “ben” and in Britain the letter “O” with an apostrophe all mean son of, as do “ski” for Polish and “ov”  or “vitch” for Russians.  And many people with ancestors in Britain have the last name of York, London or Kent because that was the city where their ancestors lived.  Others were named after the locations  where their ancestors lived, such as Hill, Meadow, Lake or Rivers, and this is also true of many of Japanese ancestry who, for example, have the last names of Tanaka, which means dweller in the middle of rice fields (“Ta”) or Yamaguchi because their ancestors lived at an entrance to the mountains.

The color of an ancestor’s hair also gave rise to last names, such as Brown, Black, Gray or White.  (Have you ever heard of someone with the last name of Red, Yellow or Orange?  By the way, Gray is the American spelling of the last name, and Grey is the English spelling.)  And then there are many people named for the occupations of an ancestor, such as Farmer, Miller, Smith, Fletcher (I didn’t know this before, but that is the occupation of attaching feathers on an arrow.) or Fuller, who thickened and cleaned coarse cloth by pounding it.  Finally my research showed me that the feminine name of Baker is Baxter, of Brewer is Brewster and of Weaver is Webster.  Isn’t life interesting?!  (And if you have other tidbits about names, please pass them back to me.)  In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

Suggestion for the week: If you are ever caught sleeping on the job, slowly raise your head and say “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) Superior Court of Orange County, California 2012 Libertarian Candidate for Vice President

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