Letter: Were they Bronte by accident of accent?

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The Independent Online
Sir: It is probable, but not certain, that the father of the novelists changed his name from Brunty to Bronte, in honour of Nelson, as J. Holden tells us (Letters, 23 March). There are those who hold it had always been Bronte, which in his native County Down would have been pronounced almost identically.

Nor is it known whether the name, in either case, has a Celtic or a Huguenot origin.

And whence come the diaeresis? I like to believe that the person began by adding an acute accent (Bronte) to indicate that the final vowel should be pronounced; and that when he sent a book of his poems to be printed, the German keyboard had no French accents and the typesetter substituted an umlaut on the title page - which Patrick liked so much that he adopted it. What other explanation is possible when there is no other such use of the diaeresis in English?

Bronte is, of course, the Greek word for thunder, an appropriate name for the town on the foothills of Etna from which Nelson took his dukedom.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN KILBRACKEN

House of Lords

London, SW1

24 March

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