Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What's in a name?

Lovely wife has an ancestor named Hatevil (hate-evil) Nutter who, besides being a nutter, was an instigator of the infamous whipping of the three Quaker women 1n 1662. We've often thought what an odd name he had and wondered what his parents were thinking. I mean, why not Be-a-good-boy-and-stop-whipping-the-Quakers Nutter?

Today, reading David Hackett Fischer's fascinating Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, I came across this paragraph that may explain it. It's in the section describing the naming customs of New England Puritans, most of whom came from East Anglia in Britian. But a few of them came from Sussex, and they had different customs. He writes:

A great many English Puritans lived in Sussex, for example, but only about 1 percent of New England's immigrants came from that county. Sussex Puritans made heavy use of hortatory names such as Be-Courteous Cole (in the Parish of Pevensey), Safely-on-high Snat (Uckfield), Fight-the-good-fight-of-faith White (Ewhurst), Small-hope Biggs (Rye), Humiliation Scratcher (Westham), Kill-sin Pemble (also Westham), and Mortifie Hicks (Hailsham). A classic example was an unfortunate young woman named ffly fornication Bull of Hailsham, Sussex, who was made pregnant in the shop of a yeoman improbably called Goodman Woodman.
Sounds like the Nutters may have Sussexers (say that three times real fast), no?

But the East Anglians weren't exactly eccentricity-free themselves.

The East Anglia Puritans in New England gave virtually all of their children Biblical names. Few biblical names failed to be bestowed upon one New England baby or another. Some parents cultivated a spirit of scriptural uniqueness. One unfortunate child was named Mahershalalhasbaz, the longest name in the bible. Another, the son of Bostonian Samuel Pond, was baptized Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin Pond. There is evidence that parents sometimes shut their eyes, opened the good book and pointed to a word at random, with results such as Notwithstanding Griswold and Maybe Barnes.

What a world.

Your friend,

Every-living-thing-that-creepeth L.

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