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William=>Bill
Posted: 21 February 2011 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]
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My apologies if this has been discussed before.  I am curious how “Bill” became short for “William”.  A little googling indicated that “Bill” came about in the 19th century, and one page said it was from an Irish pronunciation, but gave no details.

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Posted: 21 February 2011 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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We did do that and while we were at it, we also did Bob for Robert, Dick for Richard and some others I think. Unfortunately the EZboard forum seems to be no longer functioning. Maybe Dave can fix the Forums Archive link?

Edit: the forum appears to be still there but you should first search for “Wordorigins” in the Yuku opening page. Still couldn’t find the thread, but I do remember we discussed this.

[ Edited: 21 February 2011 12:58 PM by Dutchtoo ]
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Posted: 21 February 2011 04:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Names are a specialized field and I don’t have any resources on them. I don’t know of any regular sound changes that would account for a /w/ to /b/ shift. But there is an old sense of billy, dating to the 16th century, meaning “fellow, mate.” This may have been the original, and it came to be adopted as a pet name for William because of the <-ill>. And the name Bill is older than the 19th century; that’s only when it began to be more popular that Will.

I have no control whatsoever over the Yuku site. It is what it is and I can’t change it. I’m surprised it’s even still in existence. If it’s a question of specific links from the current Wordorigins site to the Yuku site being broken, email me the specific ones. I can fix those links so they point to the right place, so long as that place still exists.

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Posted: 22 February 2011 05:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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There are also the obsolete Dodge for Roger and, I believe, Dob for Robin.  There’s something going on there, and it would be nice to see a scholarly take on it.

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Posted: 22 February 2011 05:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Changing the initial seems to be a regular thing with diminutives of English names, though, because there’s also:

Hodge and Hob for Roger and Robert
Polly from Mary (via Molly)
Peggy from Margaret (via Meg)

then there’s Nancy from Anne, and Ned from Edward.

(Mind you, all these seem obvious compared to how the heck the Spanish manage to get Paco and Paquita out of Francisco and Francisca.)

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Posted: 22 February 2011 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Changing the initial seems to be a regular thing with diminutives of English names,

It does, indeed:

Noll from Oliver
Nell from dunno what (Helen? Eleanor?)

Francisco>Pancho>Paco
Francisca>Pancha>Panchita (dim.)>Paquita (are these so much wilder than some of the English ones?)

“Dobbin” is, I believe, a rather archaic pet name for a horse.

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Posted: 22 February 2011 03:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Noll from Oliver
Nell from dunno what (Helen? Eleanor?)

Likely these arose from metathesis of the terminal /n/ from mine; IIRC that’s thought to be the origin of Ned: mine Ed ==> my Ned.

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Posted: 22 February 2011 04:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The Straight Dope has a good explanation for Dick/Richard which also includes information on how some other nicknames have come about.

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Posted: 22 February 2011 07:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Likely these arose from metathesis of the terminal /n/ from mine; IIRC that’s thought to be the origin of Ned: mine Ed ==> my Ned.
---

Why do you say this is likely?

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Posted: 22 February 2011 09:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Because it’s an established pattern for the introduction of an /n/ at the beginning of other words and names.

Edit: I should have said metanalysis rather than metathesis.

[ Edited: 22 February 2011 09:49 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 22 February 2011 11:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Thanks for the tip, Doc. I never met a nalysis before today. The wikipedia article was very interesting. Now I see why an immature newt is called “an eft”
stumbles back to the drinks cupboard for a nother

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Posted: 23 February 2011 05:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Because it’s an established pattern for the introduction of an /n/ at the beginning of other words and names.

---

Yeah?  I’ve never heard of it in relation to “mine” before. Only “an”.

EDIT: and “mine Ed” seems a conspicously unnatural thing to say.

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Posted: 23 February 2011 09:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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"My {name of person}” is a pretty common idiom, I think even more common in Britain, for referring to one’s spouse or child [edit: or sweetheart].  Perhaps you are unaware that “my” is a shortened form of “mine”, with the longer form originally used exclusively, and then for a period of time before words beginning with vowel sounds (and sometimes /h/, cf. “a” and “an") before being displaced totally by the short form in front of all words (and leaving “mine” as the pronoun form, of course).

This pattern is still seen in the English of the King James Bible, e.g., “The Lord is my shepherd ... Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies”.

edit:typo

[ Edited: 23 February 2011 01:00 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 23 February 2011 11:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Dr. Techie - 22 February 2011 03:27 PM

Noll from Oliver
Nell from dunno what (Helen? Eleanor?)

Likely these arose from metathesis of the terminal /n/ from mine; IIRC that’s thought to be the origin of Ned: mine Ed ==> my Ned.

Umm, but that doesn’t explain “Ted”.

There’s also an interesting (well, I think so) split between those nicknames that gave rise to common surnames - eg Dixon, Hodgson, Jackson, Robinson, Wilson, Harrison – and those that didn’t: no Tedson or Nedson, no Bilson (or very few, compared to Wilson), no (or very few) Jimsons, no Halsons, no Bertsons …

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Posted: 23 February 2011 11:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Umm, but that doesn’t explain “Ted”.

No, I wasn’t proposing metanalysis as a Theory of Every Nickname.  Though if I were, I could suggest that people who liked Ed called him mine Ed > Ned, and those who disliked him might call him that Ed > Ted. ;)

Look, I didn’t just pull my original suggestion out of my ass.  Here, for example, is a passage from Chapter 2, “Junctural Metanalysis in Middle English” of Homer’s winged words: the evolution of early Greek epic diction in the light of oral theory by Steve Reece (Brill, 2009). (accessible through Googlebooks, at least in the US)

Some words created through metanalysis, then, do survive as biforms of various sorts alongside their etymologically ‘legitimate’ progenitors.... In this category should probably be included the common metanalysis of the combination of an endearing possessive myn/mine and a proper name beginning with a vowel: myn Edward > Ned, myn Eliza > Nell, myn Anne > Nan (Nancy), and myn Oliver > Nol.

[ Edited: 23 February 2011 12:09 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 23 February 2011 04:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Well there you go. Thanks.

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