10 October 2007

Names, names and more names

WARNING: This post contains "research" done at 5 AM.

Yesterday I was very happy because I finally found names for my Batavian characters (well, two of them at least, plus their fathers because they always have to introduce themselves as 'X son of Y'). My MC will be Imerix son of Servofredus, a name I very much stole from a gravestone, found in Croatia. Well, that thing is from the first century AD and the real Imerix son of Servofredus was a Batavian, so that's all very nice and historically correct.
For my other Batavian I picked a name from the Dutch name list; Ingomar son of a guy who hasn't got a name yet. The name Ingomar is from 690, quite early, but once I started writing a plot outline I found that it didn't work. The name doesn't fit the character at all. My character needs a name with the letter 'f' in it, and preferably an 'a' too, somewhere in the beginning. However, I couldn't find any names on the name list that I like and that fit the character.

I don't want an MC called Bob. The characters called Bob are the not-so-important ones (except Bob the Frisian who became too important for his own good).

So I did what any insomniac would do: nighttime research. I had at my disposal... Copies of Tacitus' works (Annals of Imperial Rome and The Histories, mainly); essays on Germanic names from that name list; a name book older than myself (Voornamen, by dr. J van der Schaar); the book Ethnic Identity and Imperial Power, the Batavians in the early Roman Empire, by Nico Roymans; and my mind (which is a very scary thing at 5 AM).

I went through those books and wrote down all the (Latinised) Germanic names I could find. Then, with the help of the name list and the name book, I tried to reconstruct the real, non-latinised names.


Also difficult. I don't speak old Germanic. Then there's the problem of the time difference. The Latinised names are mostly from the first century AD. The names from the name list are from 523-1150, with very many from the later period. I know virtually nothing about language changes along the Rhine during this period, but I know a good deal about what happened in Scandinavia. Proto-Norse was spoken from about 200-600 AD, and this evolved into various Old Norse dialects. The Proto-Norse name StainawarijaR "evolved" into the Old Norse Steinarr (in modern Norwegian it's Steinar). The changes took place over a period of about 300 years - a period known in Norwegian as 'synkopetida', the age of syncope.

300 years isn't very much, and I don't even want to think about how much how much old Germanic might've changed during the first millennium AD.

But I'll get to the point and show you what I've come up with. You're allowed to cry, tear your hair out, burst out laughing and/or anything else.

Germanic names had two elements, so I've tried to find two for each name, plus list the meaning. Starting with the easiest names:

Segimerus: sig + mar (victory + fame)

Segimundes: sig + mund (victory + protector)

Inguiomerus: ing + mar (Ingwio (a god) + fame). Which is basically the name Ingomar I thought about using for my character. I'll call his father that instead, I think.

Segestes: First element is still sig (victory). For the last one I went to my name book and found an entry gis(el) which had two meanings. 1) Child of noble birth, prisoner of war, hostage (compare the Norwegian gissel); and 2) Spear (Germanic *gaiza), arrow (Lombardian gisil).
I'm leaning towards option 2 because Victory-spear sounds much cooler than Victory-hostage.
EDIT: Stuff you miss at 5 AM one night usually comes to you at 4.17 AM the next night. The second element is more likely to be the Germanic *gastiz, meaning 'guest, stranger'.

Chariovalda: gard + wald (protector + power/forest), or ger + wald (spear + forest)

Arminius: Could be her + man (army + man) or irmin (great) + something

Maroboduus: mar + bad (fame/horse + combat). My name book gives me *bheudh, meaning 'to command, to order', and also says that Maroboduus might mean something like 'commander of the horses'.

Mallovendus: madel + win. 'madel', according to my name book, should be compared to the Gothic 'mathl' (gathering place) and 'mathljan' (to speak). So the meaning of Mallovendus would be something like speak/gathering place + friend. Or speak/gathering place + Vandal, if the second element is 'wendil'.

Catualda: god + wald (good + power/forest). I had another first element from my name book but I can't find it, and I can't understand my notes either (illegible handwriting, lol). It had something to do with 'speak'.

Actumerus: ag + mar (sword edge + man). According to the almighty name book, 'ag' comes from the Germanic 'agjô'. Still means sword edge.

(it's okay Gabriele, you can stop crying, I'm done with butchering your characters' names ;) At least I hope so)

Gannascus: Gund + asc (battle + (spear/ship made of) ash) And I don't care if 'asc' was not used as a second element.

Brinno: Not even going to attempt this one. Bloody Cananefates. Could be something to do with 'bern' (bear/brave warrior), the colour brown, or 'brunjô' (breastplate). Or maybe it's an ancient form of Bob.

Verax: wer + ric (protection + rich/mighty/king). Yeah, it's Verax, not Verix, but I don't care. Maybe he was such a git that nobody cared about spelling his name correctly.

(Can you tell I was becoming tired at this point?)

I have some names from inscriptions as well, starting with a Batavian:

Vihirmas: wich + mar (combat + fame). Maybe. I had serious trouble with this guy. First element could also be 'wacchar', meaning 'wakeful, alert, robust'.

Imerix: ing + ric (Ingwio + rich/mighty/king), or irmin + ric (the god Irmin/mighty + rich/mighty/king). That last one would kinda be a double meaning (though I must admit, Mighty-mighty would be a rather fun name. Very suitable for a Batavian *grins*). Maybe the first element is 'heime' (home) or 'helm' (protector).

Servofredus: I'm guessing the second element is 'frid' (peace, protection). The first element could be related to the Gothic word 'sarwa', meaning weapon. Though that could make the meaning very weird, Weapon-peace. Maybe the Batavians had a sense of humour.

And last but not least, a Baetasian name, taken from a gravestone:
Annauso: My first guess was 'annoying sod' (I had a Baetasian called Annauso last year, and he was an annoying sod) *ahem* The first element could be 'ans' (god), the second erm... 'ward' (protection, peace), maybe?

[/"Research" done at 5 AM]

And all because my character needs a name with an 'f'. I have a few more, but there my "research" is even worse. I might've missed some very obvious ones (hey, it was 5 AM!), so I'll keep looking through my precious name book.

And get some sleep. I have to work tomorrow.


Gabriele C. said...

Lol, you didn't butcher them, your analysis of name elements is pretty good.

Herman as version of Arminius is now discarded, it was probably something like Irmanamer.

Celedë Anthaas said...

Glad to know I didn't make a complete mess of it. Who knows, maybe physics is easier at 5 AM as well...

Irmanamer sounds cooler than Herman anyway :)