August 10, 2009

What's In a Name

A few weeks ago, I posted about surnames doubling as first names--common in the South among other places.

Never one to read the end of the book to see what is going to happen, I surprised myself and skipped around in my Word-of-the-Day calendar. I ran across the word "fletcher" which had a fascinating meaning:

On of a number of English words that once commonly referred to occupations but are now better known as surnames, “fletcher” comes from the Anglo-French noun fleche, meaning “arrow.” (Our verb “to fletch” can mean “to furnish [an arrow] with a feather.”) Other names for occupations that are now used as surnames include “cooper,” a person who makes or repairs wooden casks or tubs; “collier,” a coal miner; “chandler,” a person who makes candles; “sawyer,” a person who saws wood; and “wainwright,” a person who makes wagons. Of course, there are names such as Baker, Carpenter, and Miller whose origins are more or less self-explanatory.  

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