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!

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism