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Ashkenazic Surnames
Posted: 26 December 2013 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]
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An article on a topic that usually isn’t covered when surname origins are discussed.

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Posted: 26 December 2013 07:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Fun but unreliable:

In Yiddish or German, it would be “son” or “sohn” or “er.” In most Slavic languages like Polish or Russian, it would be “wich” or “witz.”

In Polish it’s -(o)wicz (often winding up as “wich” or “witz"), but in Russian it’s -ov or -in.

Berliner, Berlinsky — from Berlin

It may sometimes be from Berlin, but usually (like Baer, Berkin, Berkovich, and Berman) it’s from the Yiddish word for ‘bear.’

Gordon — from Grodno, Lithuania or from the Russian word gorodin, for townsman

In the first place, how many Jewish Gordons are there? Does he mean Grodin?  In the second place, there is no “Russian word gorodin”; the Russian word for townsman is gorozhanin.

Rappoport — from Porto, Italy

It may or may not be; in any case, if it is, it’s Porto Mantovano (the theory being that it comes from a rabbi Meshulam Kuti Rappa Cohen-Tsedek from that Lombard town who lived in Mainz around 1450).  Another theory is that it’s from “rebe do Porto,” a rabbi from Porto or Oporto in Portugal.  There are other theories as well.

Rothenberg — from then town of the red fortress in Germany

That’s a weird way of putting things; what he means to say is that it’s from any of a number of places named Rothenberg, from German Rot(en)berg ‘red mountain.’

Wallach—from Bloch, derived from the Polish word for foreigner

What a mess.  There is no Polish word for foreigner that sounds anything like “Bloch,” and Wallach is not from Bloch, it’s from Middle High German walhe or walch ‘foreigner (from a Romance country),’ probably a nickname for someone from Italy. It can also be a habitational name from Wallach, a place near Wesel.

This guy has done the typical journalist thing of picking up any shiny object lying around and handing it to you to admire, without bothering his head about accuracy.  So if you find any intriguing etymologies on the linked page, for G-d’s sake double-check them elsewhere.

Edit to add a couple more items:

Altshul/Althshuler — associated with the old synagogue in Prague

Why Prague in particular?  There were lots of “old synagogues” in Jewish Eastern Europe.

Lieb means “lion” in Yiddish

For “lieb” read “leib.”

[ Edited: 26 December 2013 07:30 AM by languagehat ]
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Posted: 26 December 2013 02:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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As a side note: the word Wallach seems to be related to Walloon and Welsh.

EDIT: word, not world

[ Edited: 27 December 2013 03:19 AM by OP Tipping ]
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Posted: 26 December 2013 03:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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And Vlach and many other terms; see this Wikipedia article.

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Posted: 27 December 2013 01:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Lots of fun indeed, and lots of good stuff, mingled with enough dubious material (lh has pointed out some of it) to disqualify the author as “erudite”. But I think he knows far too much to be stigmatized as a “journalist”.

One glaring error: “Dreyfus” is, of course, a surname peculiar to the Jews of the Isle of Man, where they have been tripods of the community ever since the Lost Ten Tribes arrived there.

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Posted: 27 December 2013 06:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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But I think he knows far too much to be stigmatized as a “journalist”.

Journalists are not ignorant (the good ones), they tend to know a surprising amount about a surprisingly wide array of things.  What distinguishes them is their lack of concern for accuracy outside of the limited sphere in which they are taught to value it: who said what about the latest hot news, and what their ages and addresses are.  They have (professionally) no interest in the truth value of what people say.  If Scientist X says mankind’s energy problems can be solved by cold fusion, they dash to report it, knowing it will be prominently featured; if Scientist Y then says cold fusion is a crock of hooey, they dash to report that, too: controversy!  They have neither the time nor the inclination to try and figure out for themselves what exactly cold fusion is and whether it’s plausible.  For “cold fusion” you can substitute the language of crows or Neanderthals, or the origins of Ashkenazic surnames; the point is the same.  If it’s bright and shiny, you run with it.

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Posted: 27 December 2013 07:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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but in Russian it’s -ov or -in.

Forgive me, LH, I am pretty ignorant when it comes to Russian, but I thought -vich meant “son of”, as in Ivan Denisovich.

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Posted: 27 December 2013 03:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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e.g. Paul I’s name was Pavel Petrovich Romanov because his father was Peter.
His son was Alexander Pavlovich Romanov, etc.

However, these patronymics are not really akin to family names. The family name was Romanov.

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Posted: 27 December 2013 04:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Hey, are the suffixes in British place names such as Lutwyche, Norwich etc related to that Slavic suffix?

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Posted: 27 December 2013 04:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Not in the case of Norwich. Evidently the “wich” is from “wic” which means settlement.

From: http://users.trytel.com/~tristan/towns/norwich1.html

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Posted: 27 December 2013 05:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I am pretty ignorant when it comes to Russian, but I thought -vich meant “son of”, as in Ivan Denisovich.

As OP says, that makes patronymics, not family names (neither -vich nor -ov/-in means ‘son of’ literally), but I should have acknowledged that the suffix exists in Russian, so thanks for pointing it out.

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Posted: 30 December 2013 05:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Tat-ta-ra-taaaa! Here comes the cavilry!

I don’t know why the writer of that article uses the term “Ashkenazic”.  “Ashkenazi” seems to me to be quite sufficient. “Ashkenazi” can serve as either noun or adjective, to mean [originally] “German” (Ashkenaz is an ancient Hebrew word for Germany). I wouldn’t say “Ashkenazic Jews”, any more than I’d say “Germanic Jews” or “Italic Jews” or “Israelic Jews”.

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Posted: 18 January 2014 10:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Over the years, I’ve come across various articles, or more likely sweeping statements, about the origin of Eastern European Jewish surnames. They are always very colourful, often contradict each other and are rarely backed by anything more than anecdotal evidence.

As for Altschuler: this http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1335-altschul-altschuler-altschueler explains why it is associated with Prague (and incidentally refutes the statement that all Jews adopted surnames quite late in history).

Incidentally, have we done the Ellis Island name changing myth here or at the old place? I feel sure we must have done, but I can’t recall the thread.

[ Edited: 18 January 2014 03:56 PM by kurwamac ]
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Posted: 18 January 2014 12:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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As for Altschuler: this http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1335-altschul-altschuler-altschueler explains why it is associated with Prague

Thanks, that was a very interesting read!

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Posted: 18 January 2014 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Incidentally, have we done the Ellis Island name changing myth here or at the old place? I feel sure we must have done, but I can’t recall the thread.

I did in in Word Myths. I don’t recall a thread on it though.

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Posted: 21 January 2014 08:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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This article takes Muraskin’s article on Jewish surnames to task.

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