My recent post on what surnames tell you attracted an unusual amount of interest. I reproduce one interesting email in particular below:
Hungarians have a patriarchal system with names which works in a different fashion to Russia, Iceland etc. The only people in Hungary this impacts on is the wife in a married couple. It's a very old system untouched by feminism or PC.

To give you an example, I will use the current French President's surname which is Hungarian in origin. If Mr Sarkozy was living in Hungary with his wife, his wife's official name would be Sarkozy Nikolasne. Notice that the first name of the wife is not even mentioned. It literaly translates to Nikolas Sarkozy's woman.

Married women over there use their regular first names in every day life -- for mail and documents etc. Another curious one in Hungary is the word for wife: "Feleseg" which translates to "Other Half" in English. "Fele"means "Half".

In Australia too we used to have a system something like that. Official letters to my mother, for instance, would be addressed to "Mrs F.E. Ray", although her Christian name was "Margaret". The initials were my father's. Even as a kid I thought that was pretty silly. I think the custom is totally extinct now.

Another reader wanted me to give a list of translations for Ashkenazi names so that he could look himself up. Below are the common ones that I could think of:

Adler eagle
Bettelheim begging home
Blankfield white field
Blumenthal flower valley
Ehrenfeld honour field
Ehrlich honest
Einstein one stone (testicle)
Eisenstein iron stone
Finkelstein sparkling stone (gem)
Friedman peace man
Goldberg gold mountain
Goldmann gold man
Goldstein gold stone
Hoffmann hope man
Klein small
Kren horseradish
Lowenstein lion stone
Nadelmann needle man
Perlmutter pearl mother
Roth red
Rothapfel red apple
Rosen roses
Rosenbloom rose flower
Rosenstrauss rose bouquet
Rosenthal rose valley
Rothschild red shield
Seligman blessed man
Silbermann silver man
Spiegel mirror
Stein stone
Vogel bird
Waldstein forest stone
Weinstein wine stone
Wiesengrund meadow land (maybe meadow ground)

Some of the names above may not be exclusively Jewish but most are (or were).

Posted by John Ray

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