What’s in a name?

Hi everyone. Hope you are all well and ready for what autumn and winter has in store for all of us.

I love discovering the meaning or origins of names.  For example, “Melanie” is Greek, a goddess who mourned all winter for the return of spring. As I was born in April, it fits. I love spring. My middle name is “Anne,” which means “grace.” Mom and Dad messed up on that one, as I am far from being graceful. “Schertz: is a European name (most believe it is German, but it was passed around). The area from which my family hails from is currently part of France, though it has been part of Germany and Switzerland at different times in history. “Schertz” is actually of Jewish (though it has been many many generations since our family line has been Jewish). It also means “jokester.” That name is appropriate for us, as my family has always used humor as a coping mechanism. And yes, growing up, we received lots of teasing over the name Schertz. Was called “Mel T Shirts” frequently. I always joked that I was never “shirtless”. Also, I joked that we should name kids “Flannel Night Schertz” or “Dress Schertz.”

On most websites, I go by “D’Arcy” in Utah. After I began writing, my mother shared with me that we do have a family line that were D’Arcy, which in Irish, and means “dark haired” or “descendants of the dark.”

I find it interesting to look at locations included in JAFF stories. One of the weirdest ones is “Rotten Row.” Why is it that a location named Rotten Row could be the place to go to be seen in high society? Such a name, in my opinion, would conjure a place that is filled with cutthroats and murderers. It should be a horrible place to be. In the late 1600’s, it was frequently a place of robberies, as it’s location between Kensington Palace and Whitehall. In 1690, the King ordered 300 oil lamps lit along the road to make it safer. Can you imagine how long and how many people it would take to light that many oil lamps each night? I wonder why they didn’t change the name after it became safer and was a place that was frequented by high society.

Let’s see from where the name “Vauxhall” came. Probably not what you would think. The name was after a medieval manor, “Fox Hall”, which became well known as the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. Not going even to discuss any snide innuendos about the a Fox Hall being a pleasure garden.

“Drury Lane” was named for Sir Thomas Drury. He had a house there during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. It was a fashionable street until the 1700’s. The first theater opened on Drury Lane in the mid 1600’s. In the 1700’s, the street was a rowdy place.

How about “Picadilly”? It is believed to be named after Pickadilly Hall, which was a house belonging to a tailor who made a special type of lace collar called “piccaill,” believed to be named for the Spanish word for punctured. I know when I hear the name, lace is not the first thing that comes to mind.

“Hyde Park” was from the Manor of Hyde, which was the northeast subdivision of the manor of Eia. This related to possibly Saxon origin, meaning “a unit of land.”

Let’s look at “Mayfair.” It was named for the May Fair which was held every year at Great Brookfield during the first fortnight of May. The fair was held there from the 16th century until the reign of King George I. It was in the 1660’s that building began in Mayfair, as a way of being rid of the questionable element of the area.

“Grosvenor” is another name that I was curious about. It began with Sir Thomas Grosvenor, 3rd Baronet, married Mary Davies, heiress to part of the Manor of  Ebury, in 1677. He was given 500 acres in the Mayfair area.

For those who believed “Cheapside” was a horrible place, the name means “market place.” Really horrible. Originally it had nothing to do with the more modern meaning of “cheap” as being low priced or low quality. It was only in the 1700’s that people began turning up their noses at the name.

Then there is “Bond Street,” which was named after Sir Thomas Bond, who had developed the area.

So, I recommend that when you hear a name that strikes you odd, take a moment to find out more about where the name came from and what it means. It will amaze you to learn more of why things were given such names.

Have a wonderful day and we will see you again soon.

7 responses to “What’s in a name?”

  1. Amanda Kai Avatar
    Amanda Kai

    Fascinating article! I’ve always been interested in names and their meanings. I love your sense of humor regarding your last name. There are a lot worse nicknames than “T-Shirts” out there (in fact, I think it’s kinda cute!)

  2. Riana Everly Avatar

    I love learning about where place names come from. There’s always a history lesson there, and I do love history! Thank for this fun article.
    BTW, Schertz is related to the ‘scherzo,’ one of my favourite musical forms. It’s light and bubbly – the laugh of a musical joke. 😀

  3. Regina Jeffers Avatar

    In choosing names for many of my characters, I, generally, research something of the origin. “Aoife” in His Irish Eve is so named for it means “Eve,” and the hero’s name is Adam. Get it. “Effa Mayer” in The Heartless Earl is named for her “stubbornness.” Effa in German holds those qualities. Etc. Etc. Etc. My mother’s family wanted had quite a few names picked out for me, but she named me “Regina” for not only does it mean “Queen,” but also because she was quite enthralled by the young Princess Elizabeth and knew just as Prince Charles recently became “Charles Rex,” with Rex being Latin for “King,” Elizabeth would one day sign her official documents “Elizabeth R.” The R stands for Regina, meaning Queen. Growing up, there were very few children named “Regina.” Nowadays, not so much.

  4. Susan Kaye Avatar

    I think your article proves that gentrification has been going on for quite some time. I think the reason location names goes like this: “I live on Rotten Row, you know where all that dodgy stuff happened.” The newbies aren’t the sort who would ever actually hang out in a low part of town so this gives them street cred.

  5. Glory Avatar

    Thank you for the lesson in names, I have wondered about some of them but never took the time to look into them.

  6. cindie snyder Avatar
    cindie snyder

    Good post! It’s fun to learn what names mean and where they come from. It was neat to learn what some of those familiar names mean. Love the cutie in the pic with you he/she looks comfortable sitting there with you!lol

  7. Gianna Thomas Avatar
    Gianna Thomas

    Interesting post, Melanie, and I especially enjoyed learning that you have a family line named D’Arcy. How appropriate for a P&P variation author. I also enjoy your books. They always have a different spin to them.

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