Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Olde English Surnames

When I was a kid grown Jewish men had names like Irving and Morris and Seymour, names that have subsequently fallen into decades of disuse. My stepfather's name was Seymour, though he preferred to be called Sy.

When I was about seven I asked Sy where the name Seymour came from.

"It's an old English surname," he told me.

I thought he was pulling my leg. You see, I had never heard that fancy word for "last name" before. So, thinking of Lancelot and Galahad, and unable to imagine a Jew in shining armor, I said, "You're kidding! There was no Sir Seymour!"


Blogger Richard said...

My great-uncles and grandfathers had names like that, as well as Murray, Herbert, Sidney and Jerome. I wondered why they all had been given surnames of English nobility and have never been able to find out.

Apparently their own fathers thought they were superior to their own too-Jewish names; my great-grandfathers had names like Jacob and Max and Harry that for some reason little boys have now.

And my father and only uncle hated being stuck what they called their "weird" names: Matthew and Daniel.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

P.S. My mother used to insist that nobody named Peter could be Jewish.

7:50 AM  

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