What's in a surname? Ask the doctor

I am glad to welcome back Dr Vernon Monicker, the well-known expert on the origin of surnames, who is going to answer all your questions on nomenclature. All yours, Vern!

I recently saw the classic film "The Lost Weekend" on television, which as you will remember is the film made by Billy Wilder about an alcoholic writer and his suffering, and it got me to thinking seriously about things ...

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: I am not really qualified to talk about medical matters such as alcohol addiction. Although I call myself doctor, I am no more a real doctor than other people who call themselves doctor such as Mawhinney and Paisley...

No, I wasn't going to talk about the alcoholism side of things. I was just mystified by the name of the lead actor, Ray Milland. Have you any idea where it comes from?

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: I believe it is short for Raymond.

I was thinking of the surname Milland. Would it be a corruption of the Italian place name Milan?

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: Unlikely, considering that the Italian place name is Milano and there is no "d" on the end.

Yes, wise guy, but there is in German. The German word for Milan is "Mailand", which may have given the surname "Milland".

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: Unlikely, Mr Show-off. Far more likely that Milland is a shortened form of "Mill hand". Don't forget that many surnames refer to the occupation of the ancestor. It is sometimes said that any football team or government cabinet will contain the names of at least two occupations in it.

Said by whom?

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: By me, actually.

Go on then, give me the names of two occupations in the English football team!

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: Alan Shearer.

Go on!

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: David Seaman.

Oh, very clever. Any more?

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: Certainly. Des Walker. Matt Le Tissier...

They're not occupations!

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: Certainly they are. Walker was the name given to the man who trampled the cloth in cloth-making, and "tissier" is an old Jersey French dialect word for "weaver". Extraordinary, really, that three people who have recently been in the England football team should have names connected with the cloth trade.

Make it easier to change the team strip!

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: No doubt.

All right, what about government cabinets? Anyone with an occupational handle in the cabinet?

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: Clarke. Gummer. Major... Of course, it used to be more striking when both main party leaders had occupational names. Smith and Thatcher. But even today there is another party leader with an occupational name.

Oh yeah? What kind of work does an ashdown do, then?

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: I was thinking of a man called Goldsmith, actually. Who has recently been joined by a man called Gardiner. All names of jobs...

To change the subject a bit, I noticed that James Dellingpole in "The Spectator" recently said that as his name began with a "De-", it was probably Norman in origin. Any truth in that?

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: If there was a place in Normandy called Lingpole, it might be true. Some old Norman names do begin with "De-", like Delaware, but I think you would be hard pushed to find Norman origins for Delfont, Denmark and Dexter.

Marmaduke Hussey has an old Norman name, by the way, which comes from the Norman place La Houssaye. And there is a place in Normandy called Venables, so I expect that Terry Venables's forebears came across with the Conqueror, probably on a free transfer.

Is the name Norman St John Stevas a genuine Norman name?

Dr Vernon Monicker writes: The name is authentic enough, but I believe that the man himself is completely made up.

Dr Vernon Monicker will be back soon, so keep those queries rolling in!

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Provisioning Specialist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Provisioning Specialist is required to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Apprenticeships

£10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an outstanding opportunity for 1...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Support Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Support Engineer is required to join a well-...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Administrator - Swedish Speaking

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum