Composing Music

I started writing melodies and songs when I was about this age, just as all the other babies do.

Some babies don’t stop singing songs and painting pictures. They remain babies in this sense (and perhaps in other senses as well) all their lives, whether they move onto piano stools or hold an instrument in their hands.

Writing about writing music is strange because we all played music long before we evolved rules for making music.

Art cannot be explained, but technique can, so I’ll talk a bit about the technique of composing music.

First comes rhythm. That happens when your heart starts beating. If I had it all to do over again, I would have played drums for a couple of years right at the beginning, say, when I was six or seven. I bought my own drum kit after reading reviews on websites like and it was one of the best things I’ve ever bought.

If you play guitar, try muting the guitar strings with your fingering hand and and playing all kinds of rhythms with you strumming hand. This way you’ll concentrate on the rhythm alone. When you get something good going, start playing a few notes or chords in that rhythm. Maybe look into getting some dj equipment to mix your sounds together, creating something unique through your music.

Melody is mysterious and sacred. There are rules for writing melodies and they are good, but the best melodies come from somewhere inside you. They are almost like a gift.

Sing it first. You should be able to sing any melody that you write. Melodies should sound inevitable. A melody is like a line in drawing. Very simple but it is the foundation to everything.

Every time I take a long walk, there is a song that goes with me. My feet hit the ground and that is the basic rhythm. Then, a melody comes out of me whether I want it to or not. That is the theme of my walk. This melody is so obsessive that sometimes I want to run away from it, so I do. I invent a second melody. It is worth noting here that fugue means “flight.”

As I walk, I improvise a countermelody that is busier than the first melody. One of these melodies comments on the other, sometimes in a spirited and witty fashion, sometimes plodding along. I hear both melodies together even though I am “writing” them (imagining them) sequentially.

The sound of your feet walking along the ground can be subdivided by two, three, five, six, seven, anything. You don’t have to stick to 4/4 or 3/4. If you’re willing to wait long enough, your feet will beat out an 11/8 tempo, if you want them too. I wrote a song called Godzilla of Love in 11/8 while I was out walking.

The first melody that comes to me on a walk can be derivative, childish, or an outright imitation of someone else’s song, but the counterpoint, the second melody that goes with the first, is more often original, even eccentric, odd, uninhibited, fugacious.

Before the walk is over, I try the counter melody in every style I can think of.

Go ahead, make a melody of ten, twenty notes, I’ll wait. Some rules for melody making: stepwise motion is good with occasional leaps. Mainly, though, just be loose and natural. Don’t worry about whether it’s original or not. That part will take care of itself.

Another rule is to keep the melody human. Try to have the entire range of the melody within a tenth, that is, an octave and a third. You don’t want to write to the extremes of a voice, or any other instrument for that matter. Good to have everyone comfortable. Especially the singer. If the singer or the instruments want to get wild, good, but give them a melody, a coherent, structured frame for their elaborations.

I can sing this range, and probably most people have a range of more than a tenth, but a vocal in a nice, easy compass will often sound the best and most natural. If you are writing for someone else, try to work well within her range, so she is comfortable and happy. Keep it to an octave and a third.

Find out the strengths of your singer and accent her best ideas.

When we started Big Brother, I was playing a lot of Bach and the above composition appealed to me. Herr Bach used this motif (the first five notes) in many places in his music. I put it in G minor and used it as the organizing theme for Summertime, along with an idea I got from Nina Simone about weaving classical lines through a popular tune. (She did it on another Gershwin tune, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To.)

A friend showed me this minor descending line which I put in the root of the chord and transposed it to G minor and that was the rhythm part for Summertime, all of which worked well with Janis Joplin’s amazingly beautiful voice.

There are melodies everywhere. I was once in a post office in Moscow writing postcards home and people would walk through a gate to get to the back of the counter.

When the rusty gate swung slowly to and fro, its creaking played something like this, a blues melody of maybe six notes, rich in texture because of the wood in the gate. When the gate sung back into its original position, it played the melody backwards.

Once you have the original melody in mind, the second melody can be found intuitively, or by the rules, or by a combination of the two.

There are many rules for setting a second melody against the first, and many people have spent a lifetime organizing, clarifying and understanding these principles which came to be called polyphony or counterpoint.

If the second melody is closely parallel to the first, it is usually called a harmony part. It makes a series of chords with the first melody. Here the voices are moving closely together, mostly in thirds and sixths, which are inverted thirds.

Here the soprano, alto, tenor and bass are moving much more freely in relation to each other.

Here they imitate each other as if they were echoes.

Remember singing Row, Row, Row, Your Boat while the other side of the room sang the same tune but starting when you reached the second line? This is called a round or a catch. It’s a very simple form of counterpoint.

Sophisticated examples of the round are called canons, fugues, inventions.

Finding the second melody to go with the first can be done intuitively, with a great deal of study, or, ideally, intuitively and with study.

In the early jazz groups in New Orleans, everyone in the band played “lead,” that is, each person played a melody, and all the solos worked together beautifully, because the band agreed on the chord changes before they began. The chord changes were the organizing principle. Every body knew the tune and the harmony and they played their variations on the tune all at the same time.

Let’s say you agreed to do a piece of music where the chord changes were C E7 F F#dim C/G A7 D7 G7 with, say, two beats per chord change. Each musician could play a solo in this framework, a solo that took account of these harmonies, and if they all played their solos at the same time, this would be a natural counterpoint, as in early jazz around 1910 in New Orleans. This is a glorious sound, happy and free and more than a little giddy.

In the music of J.S. Bach and Palestrina there are many voices singing different melodies and counterpoint was the technique for learning how to do this, a technique that could take years of delightful study to master. In this style, it seemed as if the different voices moving against each other create the harmony (the chords) as an afterthought rather than having the chords dictate the boundaries of the melody as they do in jazz and rock and roll. It’s a kind of reverse freedom from the New Orleans style.

Sixteenth century polyphony took the same approach as early jazz only backwards. Instead of the chords creating the harmony, the individual voices created the chords. Depends which way you look at it. Vertical or horizontal. You’re looking at the same phenomenon, but vertically or horizonatally? Improvising musicians answer this question more or less subconsciously every time they play. Is the melody line more important or is the chord matrix more important? What will guide the music more, the melody or the harmony?

The difference between harmony and counterpoint is whether you perceive the two or more voices as vertical (harmony) or horizontal (counterpoint).

Monophony, then, is one melody, simple. Homophony is a melody supported by chords, which are, in effect, many voices working in parallel. It is probably homophony that we hear most often, especially when we listen to popular music. Polyphony is two more or less independent melodies played together.

Counterpoint is polyphony, two or more different melodies played at the same time. This is a very potent technique, especially in popular music where it is rare.

One of the first records I owned was by Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker. They did a lot of contrapuntal playing, two truly independent melodies played against each other. The effect was beautiful, especially with a baritone saxophone and a trumpet with such different ranges and textures.

King Oliver hired a very young Louis Armstrong for his group and they did a lot of playing in thirds, incredibly swift playing. They also played counterpoint when they soloed together.

So, then, the idea is come up with a beautiful easy to sing melody and then set another melody against it.

An often used approach is to make the first main melody a soprano part and then to put the the counter melody in the bass.

Then the idea is to thicken each melody part with “inside” harmonies for the alto and tenor voices.

In a symphony orchestra, this will often mean that the violins have the first melody, the basses, way down below, the second, and other instruments will fill out the space between, but, of course, any combination of instruments can perform any of these functions. This is a matter of arranging and orchestration.


Say you have this chord (C, E, Bb, D# and Gb), a C7b5#9 chord: In the strings, this could be the bass viol playing C, the ‘cello playing E, the viola playing Bb, second violin playing D# and the first violin playing a Gb. Any family of instruments, the strings, the woodwinds, the brass can play this set of tones, or all of them could play it. Who plays what is called orchestration. How they play it and where they pass it off to another family of instruments in the orchestra could be called arranging. All of this together is composing for a large group of musicians, an orchestra.

Explore the rhythms. Try a lot of different times for the melodies, 4/4, 3/4, 2/4, 6/8, 5/4.

Begin the meldoy right on beat one, then try it entering before the first beat, then try beginning it in the middle of the measure. Where the melody enters can make a big difference.

Let’s say you have a decent melody played by a soprano instrument, and, then, for the basses, you have a good counter melody. Now, you have to give the inside voices something decent to play. This can be a challenge.

You want to enrich the lives of second violinists, viola players, and second chairs everywhere, by writing some fun things in the middle, that won’t, however, upstage the soprano melody and the other idea in the bass.

It’s a good idea to know how to play every instrument, at least a little, and that way you will be acquainted with each player’s strengths and weaknesses.

There are families of instruments, often with the same fingerings, but in different sizes, so this puts them in different keys.

The violin is the soprano string instrument, agile, capable of playing quick passages and she often carries the melody.

The violin’s range is four octaves, although it might be good at first not to use the top octave.

Stay in this three octave range at first. The violin player can use natural and artificial harmonics, and these are fun to write and play.

The viola is the alto voice of the strings and, indeed, music for the viola is written in the alto clef. Artificial and natural harmonics are available for all stringed instruments.

That bottom note is sound of the third fret, fifth string of the guitar, an octave below middle C.

The ‘cello is the tenor voice of the strings. The name ‘cello is an abbreviated form of violoncello. This is an expressive and beautiful instrument.

The guitar and the trombone are also tenor instruments and are quite close in range to the ‘cello.

A ‘cellist learns to read three clefs and so does someone who writes music for her.

The double bass (bass viol, string bass, upright bass, bass fiddle, doghouse bass, contrabass, standup bass, bull fiddle) is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2. The double bass is a standard member of the string section of the orchestra and smaller string ensembles.

Notice that the bass strings are the same as the four lowest strings of the guitar (E,A,D,G) but an octave lower. The guitar is a transposing instrument in that its music is written an octave higher than it actually sounds. The bass range sounds an octave lower than it is written.

Thus, the string family has its soprano, alto, tenor and bass instruments.

Most of the other instrument families in the orchestra have their separate ranges also.

Many of these are transposing instruments because of their different sizes. When they play their C, it is not the C that a piano plays. When the Eb alto saxophone plays a C, the sound you hear is Eb. This is because people wanted to keep the same names for the same fingerings on instruments of different sizes.

The guitar is an instrument ‘in C,’ that is, when it plays a C, that C sounds the same as the piano C. It’s a “real” C. In my first band, I had two saxophone players, an alto and a tenor. One of the first questions they asked me was, “What key is the guitar in?” This was a very surprising question to me, so I answered, “I don’t know, it must be in E, because there are a lot of Es on it.” After some going back and forth, we realized that the guitar is a concert instrument and thus in C.

When the guitar plays a C, that is a real C, but the guitar is a transposing instrument in that the music for it is written an octave higher than it sounds.

The best place to see a few members of the guitar family is in a mariachi band. I see a requinto, a guitarrón and of course a tenor guitar, which is the main one we know.

This is a charango from Bolivia.

The charango has several tunings or afinaciones. (Afinado is in tune. Desafinado is out of tune.)

When I was 18, I played a silver Eb clarinet, which has always been used in military bands, but was brought into the concert orchestra at the beginning of the 20th cenntury. Berlioz was probably the first to use it. Schoenberg, Varèse and Berg also wrote for the Eb clarinet, which has a hard, biting quality.

The Eb clarinet is written a minor third lower than it sounds.

I have played in a few clarinet ensembles and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

The clarinet has a large range and sounds beautiful in its lower (chalumeau) register which is woody and rich, and, in fact, sounds quite a bit like that old gate in the post office in Moscow.

I once played the bass clarinet in a wind ensemble as a kind of a stand in for the basset horn on a Mozart piece.

This was actually the music that Salieri was somewhat unethically perusing in Amadeus. when Mozart’s wife Costanze was delightedly eating the tettarelle di Venere that Salieri had offered her as a bribe.

Tettarelle di Venere means tits of Venus and they must have been delicious because Stanzi was completely distracted.

The bass clarinet is written in the treble clef a major 9th higher than it sounds, and it is a strong bass in the woodwind group. The lower octave is full and rich and the bass clarinet is often used as a solo instrument. It can be doubled with the ‘cello or bass to provide strong clarity to a bass line.

The flute in C needs to have a nice quiet background for its lower and middle registers.

However, the high register is strong, clear and brilliant.

The alto flute is the next extension downward of the C flute after the flûte d’amour. It is characterized by its distinct, mellow tone in the lower portion of its range. It is a transposing instrument in G and, like the piccolo and bass flute, uses the same fingerings as the C flute. The tube of the alto flute is considerably thicker and longer than a C flute and requires more breath from the player. This gives it a greater dynamic presence in the bottom octave and a half of its range.

The high register of the alto flute is not really needed, but the low register has a better quality than the regular C flute.

The oboe, a double reed instrument of the woodwind family, is a descendant of the medieval shawm, which sounded remarkably similar. Oboes are the sopranos of the woodwind family and are a double reed instrument made from a wooden tube roughly 60 cm long, with metal keys, a conical bore and flared bell. The oboe sound is produced by blowing into the (double) reed and vibrating a column of air. The sound is piercing and otherworldly. The oboe was called the hautbois (haut [“high, loud”] and bois [“wood, woodwind”]) in the time of Händel, and this is still the best name for it. Before the advent of electrictronic devices, the oboe was the one who gave the A to the orchestra for tuning.

The oboe is a melody instrument and doesn’t sound well playing inner voices of chords, because it has that penetrating, individual voice. The best range for the oboe melody is a D below the staff to a Bb a line above. Don’t give the oboist a lot to do. The player has to breathe more often than those who play other instruments, probably because s/he is blowing into that double reed.

The English horn (cor anglais) is a large oboe used mainly for expressive solo passages.

The lower octave and a half of the English horn sounds the best and it goes well with violas, ‘celli and the lower clarinets.

This is a double reed instrument. The music is written in the bass clef except for very high notes which are written in the tenor.

The bassoon is the bass of the woodwind family but it is a good melody instrument which almost always makes me feel giggly for some reason. I love the sound.

Bassoons and clarinets are a good blend. Two bassoons and two French horns sound good also. All three registers, low, middle and upper, are good.

Contrabassoon is very low like the bass viol and it sounds an octave lower than written.

The main function of the contrabassoon is to strengthen the bass line.

The point here is that the contrabassoon needs a simple part with plenty of rests. The best use is for ensemble playing.

There are many kinds of trumpets in many different keys, but the one most used today is in Bb.

Double and triple tonguing are not difficult for the trumpets, but don’t have them do it for a long time.

Music for trumpet is written one step higher than it actually sounds.

The trombone is also in Bb and it is a tenor instrument.

Music for the trombone is written mostly in the bass clef and sounds as written.

If you’re going to write music for the trombone, it might be a good idea to play the instrument yourself or to have a friend who does because there are places where it is not good to write wide skips into and out of (like the 7th position, for example, especially from there into the 1st position).

Three trombones sound well as a unit.

The bass trombone in G is notated in the bass clef and sounds as written.

As the name indicates, humans originally used to blow on the actual horns of animals before starting to emulate them in metal.

This original usage is still retained in the Shofar, ram’s horn, which has an important role in Jewish religious ritual.

Early metal horns were less complex than modern horns, consisting of brass tubes with a slightly flared opening (the bell) wound around a few times. These early “hunting” horns were originally played on a hunt, often while mounted, and the sound they produced was called a recheat. Change of pitch was effected entirely by the lips (the horn not being equipped with valves until the 19th century). Without valves, only the notes within the harmonic series are available. The horn was used, among other reasons, to call hounds on a hunt and created a sound most like a human voice, but carried much farther.

The horn (also known as the corno and French horn) is a brass instrument made of about 12–13 feet (3.7–4.0 m) of tubing wrapped into a coil with a flared bell. A musician who plays the horn is called a horn player (or less frequently, a hornist). In informal use, “horn” refers to nearly any wind instrument with a flared exit for the sound.

Descended from the natural horn, the instrument is often informally known as a Horn in F or French horn. However, this is technically incorrect since the instrument is not French in origin, but German.

Therefore, the International Horn Society has recommended since 1971 that the instrument be simply called the horn. French horn is still the most commonly used name for the instrument in the United States.

Pitch is controlled through the adjustment of lip tension in the mouthpiece and the operation of valves by the left hand, which route the air into extra tubing. Most horns have lever-operated rotary valves, but some, especially older horns, use piston valves (similar to a trumpet’s) and the Vienna horn uses double-piston valves, or pumpenvalves.

A horn without valves is known as a natural horn, changing pitch along the natural harmonics of the instrument or by actually building new sections, called crooks, into the instrument. As you might imagine this is a very slow process and is usually done at the beginning of the piece, or during longish interludes.

Three valves control the flow of air in the single horn, which is tuned to F or less commonly B?. The more common double horn has a fourth valve, usually operated by the thumb, which routes the air to one set of tubing tuned to F or another tuned to B?.

Triple horns with five valves are also made, tuned in F, B?, and a descant E? or F. Also common are descant doubles, which typically provide B? and Alto F branches. This configuration provides a high-range horn while avoiding the additional complexity and weight of a triple.

The bass clef is used for the lower register of the horn and the treble clef for the upper.

These instruments fall into the soprano, alto, tenor and bass ranges. They can be the voices for chords and those chords can change in harmony.

For hundreds of years, in the era of what is known as common practice (1600-1900 CE), chords in music tended to move in fourths and fifths.

That is, if you were dealing with a C chord, the most likely place it was going was to an F chord. In the key of C, here is a very well traveled road of harmony: C F Bdim Em Am Dm G7 C. You see? This is up four notes (or down five notes) every chord change. This is still a very strong pull in music. It’s called the circle of fifths. Much miusic is still being written with these chord changes up four notes or down five. This motion is usually taught in chapter one of the harmony books.

For three hundred years or so, chords tended to move COUNTERclockwise around this circle. They still very often move in this motion.

Then came the twentieth century and chords started to go anywhere they wanted. C could go to C# and then to D#. C could go to F#, an interval that was called diabolus in musica (the devil in music) for centuries. In Big Brother we do a song called It’s Cool that uses C to F# as an organizing principle.

The world grew smaller because of radio and recording and we all heard non Western music that sometimes seemed to have no chords, or chords that didn’t move in a circle of fifths at all.

The piano with its ease of playing, say, a C13#5b9 chord gave way to the guitar which was much more comfortable with a basic C chord or a C7 chord, and because this chord was simple, it had a power that the more complicated harmony did not. Most painters will tell you that a primary color will have an impact that eludes a blended hue. Both primary and blended have their place, of course, but by 1900 in classical (serious) music and by 1960 in popular music a need was felt for simple, basic harmonies. So in simple terms, piano sheet music paved the way for new harmonies and tunes to emerge.

Chords began to be built in fourths and fifths rather than in thirds.

Because we were listening to folk music and folk blues, we began to think modally. In the song Down On Me, the chord changes are D C G A, which has nothing to do with the circle of fifths, and the “dominant” chord in this progression, which would have been A not so long ago, was now C.

We began to hear and play songs like this. Here, as in Down On Me, the “dominant” chord, instead of being an A7, as it was for Mozart, is a C chord.

Harmonies (chord progressions) became extremely simple or nonexistent. This is almost a basso ostinato (obstinate bass) part in that the bass plays the same figure for a long time. We began to play long pieces, such as Hall of the Mountain King that had one chord, E minor, or, really, E modal. Over this E sound, we would play a melody in any scale, really, but very often in something like E F G A B C D E. In classical harmony this would be a Phrygian mode, but we didn’t think of it that way, and would just as often play a G# as a G natural or a Bb instead of a B natural. This was not planned, but instinctively felt.

Bass lines rather than guitar/piano chords began to organize such ideas as G Bb C G Bb Db C G Bb C Bb G G.

This progression, which seemed to be in every other song in the 1950s, and now too, fell out of use in the 1960s. When I was eighteen, I called these chords The Fabulous Four although I thought of them as C A minor F and G. Doo Wop chords.

In the 60s, we were just as likely, more likely, to play these which we would have called C Ab Bb F .

These harmonies aren’t based on the major scale as C A minor F and G are. They are modal or based on minor (Aeolian, Phrygian, Mixolydian) modes.

Recognize this? Definitely mixolydian mode. Dumbed down a little bit for the beginner. For a long time, every guitar player knew this riff.

This song by Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer (Jack Hammer?) used the minor and major modes together.

Often there was no third at all in the rhythm parts which often sounded like a jack hammer.

The bridge (what the Beatles called the “middle”) of the tunes often went into a different time signature.

We could look into this further, but it might be time to make up some music of your own.

Try something different.

Thank you for being here and I’ll see you next week.


Clerisy Heresy

Clerisy:  German clerisei   Latin clericia    Educated people as a group,  scholars.

“After the Revolution, a learned body, or clerisy as such, gradually disappeared.”           Samuel Coleridge   1834

Nova is new and no va is “it doesn’t go,” so you might want a Nova but you don’t want it to no va. This is not a trivial consideration if you are trying to sell cars in South America.

Because of snowfall, for a few weeks each year K-2 is taller than Mount Everest.

The D in D-day stands for “day.”  The French for D-day is J-jour.      Peter Albin was born on D-day.

The earliest document in Latin in a woman’s handwriting is an invitation to a birthday party from the first century CE.  This was found in either Hadrian’s or Antonine’s wall, I can’t remember which.  Hadrian’s, I think.

The most common given name in the world is Mohammed.

Drinking water after eating reduces the acid in your mouth by 61%.  You ever get the feeling that they just make these statistics up as they go along?

The McDonald’s at the Skydome in Toronto is the only one in the world that sells hot dogs.

Canadians don’t pronounce the second ‘t’ in Toronto.   This is one of the tests they use in spy movies.

The citrus soda 7-Up was created in 1929. 7 was selected because the original containers held seven ounces. “Up” told you which way the bubbles go.

In Denmark, they found out that Carlsberg lager tastes best at 510 to 520 cycles per second. Let’s see, A is 440, so that would make it… hmmm, let me think about that.

Australian chemist John Macadamia discovered the Macadamia nut, probably because he was one.

Awww, no, really?  Eating raw onions is good for unblocking a stuffed nose.

Pomology is the study of fruit. Once in Ravenna, I wanted to ask for the red fruit behind the counter and said, “Poma?”  ”Mela,” she said, not unkindly. Well, it’s pomme in French.

Adam and Eve might have eaten an apricot. More plentiful there near Baghdad where they lived.

Somebody alert the Who:   There are more brown M&Ms in plain M&Ms than in peanut M&Ms.

Two million different combinations of sandwiches can be created from a Subway menu.  I stick with one, Veggie Delight, or whatever you call it. Elise and I split a foot long, and make of that what you will. Lots of mayonnaise and mustard on whole wheat.

Jung and easily Freudened:  Fortune cookies were invented in America by Charles Jung in 1918.

An army travels on its stomach:  Almost 425, 000 hot dogs and buns and 160,000 hamburgers and cheeseburgers were served at Woodstock ’99.

Passing wind?   Astronauts are not allowed to eat beans before they go into space because passing wind in a space suit damages it.

My friend Andrew Perrins should know this:  Worcestershire sauce is basically anchovy ketchup.

Because it feels so good when I stop:   In every deck of cards, the King of Hearts is sticking his sword through his head. That’s why he is often called the Suicide King.

Beats the hell out of In God We Trust:   A penny made in 1727 was the first to bear the words United States of America. It was also inscribed “Mind your own business.”

Also dicey for doing business in South America… Colgate in Spanish means “go hang yourself.”

Something to remember when you’re tuning your alto saxophone:      Most toilets flush in Eb.

Jeans were named after Genova, Italia, and denims were named after de Nîmes. And we in Big Brother and the Holding Company just did interviews at our old house in Lagunitas, which is now owned by the very gracious heirs to the everybody wearing copper studded trousers enterprise.

If done perfectly, any Rubik’s Cube combination can be solved in seventeen turns.

Camera shutter speed B stands for “bulb.”

Oops!   The Ramses brand condom is named after the great Pharaoh Ramses II, who fathered more than 160 children.

I must be in the other 32%:   According to a market research survey, 68% of consumers who receive junk mail actually open the envelopes.

I am so sorry to see her go:   In Alaska, it is illegal to shoot at a moose from the window of an airplane or other flying vehicle.

The Midwaste:  In Indiana, it is illegal to ride on any public transportation for at least thirty minutes after eating garlic.

Well, who says they’re wrong?   Sumerians thought that the liver made blood and the heart was the center of thought.

The things that happen in Okinawa:   In 1281, the Mongol army of Kublai Khan tried to invade Japan but they were ravaged by a hurricane/typhoon that destroyed their fleet. This typhoon was called “divine wind,” (KamiKaze) by the Japanese.

So much for malpractice suits:   Surgeons in ancient Egypt who lost a patient during an operation had their hands cut off.

What about bees?   Romans believed that birds mated on 14 February.

Hey, mama was American:   Winston Churchill was born in a ladies’ room during a dance.

People in their 20s are going to ask, what is that?   Kotex were first manufactured as bandages during World War II.

So, THAT’S why:   When the Titanic sank, there were seventy-five hundred pounds of ham onboard.

Robert E. Lee was the only person to be graduated from West Point without a single demerit.

They made them way before that:   Evidence of shoemaking  exists as early as 10,000 BCE.

Los flamencos:   The Spanish Inquisition once condemned the entire Netherlands to death for heresy.

So, why is there no Saint Euripides?     Euripides was the first person on record to denounce slavery.

Taphyphobia, fear of the tomb,  all the Victorians had it. The fear of being buried alive. This was the reason for the graveyard shift. They wanted to make sure someone was there all the time… just in case.

Makes me think of my mother:   Het Wilhelmus, the national anthem of the Netherlands, is an acrostichon, the first letters of each of the fifteen verses represent the name Willem Van Nassov.   The Netherlands and the United States both have anthems that do not mention their countries’ names.

The highest motorway in England is the M62 Liverpool to Hull. It reaches 1,221 feet above sea level over the Saddleworth Moor.

We’ll see:  The Hoover Dam was built to last two thousand years. The concrete in it will not even be fully cured for another five hundred years.

Now, if we could only get Sarah to do that:   The University of Alaska stretches across four time zones.

And the town of Blaine has five letters. Think about that:   If you divide the Great Pyramid’s perimeter by two times its height, you get pi to the fifteenth digit.

Sigh of Relief department:   Three Mile Island is only 2.5 miles long.

America, fuck yeah!   Central Park is nearly twice the size of Monaco.

Maine is the toothpick capital of the world.

If you lived in a monastery, these hours would be important to you:   matins, lauds, prime, tierce, sext, nones, vespers and compline.

Oh, yeah?  There’s one in Italy that has a vial of the Blessed Mother’s milk:   A temple in Sri Lanka is dedicated to one of the Buddha’s teeth.

Ain’t life grand?   The three most valuable brand names on earth are Marlboro, Coca-Cola and Budweiser.

You sure it’s not more? What about Congress?    Organized crime is estimated to account for 10% of the United States’ national income.

Baseball’s home plate is seventeen inches wide.

Soccer is played in more countries than any other sport.

You have a better idea?  Ben Hogan’s reply to a question about how to improve one’s game:  Hit the ball closer to the hole.

Boxing rings used to be round.

A hockey puck is one inch thick.


Oh, come on, you can do better than that.   The only bone not broken so far during any ski accident is the one located in the inner ear.

Leonardo da Vinci invented the scissors, and they were probably left handed since he was.

Something I’ve always wondered about…  An inch of snow falling evenly on one acre of ground equals about 2,715 gallons of water.

You’d think that would damage his space suit.   Buzz Aldrin was the first man to pee his pants on the moon.

You can add this to that 55 limit:   Earth is traveling through space at 660,000 miles per hour.

They are seriously underestimating the singularity:   Experts at Intel say that microprocessor speed will double every eighteen months for at least ten years.

Vegetarian alert:    The Venus Flytrap can eat a whole cheeseburger.

It takes one fifteen to twenty year old tree to produce seven hundred paper grocery bags.

The electron is the fastest thing in the world.  That’s what the U.S. Bureau of Standards says anyway.

Iron nails cannot be used in oak because the acid in the wood corrodes them.

A jiffy is an actual unit of time: 1/100th of a second.

A baby bat is called a pup.

Every single hamster in the United States comes from a single litter captured in Syria in 1930.

The male fox mates for life and if the female dies he remains single for the rest of his life.

The female fox, however, is differently constructed. If her mate dies,  she finds a new one.

Eighty percent of the creatures on this planet have six legs.

The male gypsy moth can smell the virgin female gypsy moth from eight miles away.

Mosquitos are attracted to people who have recently eaten bananas.

Toads don’t have teeth, but frogs do.

A newly hatched crocodile is three times as large as the egg from which it has emerged.

Snakes can digest bones and teeth, but not fur or hair.

A group of finches is called a charm, and right now there is a charm outside my window.

Difficult for a pig to see a charm of finches. It is physically impossible for swine to look up at the sky.

Dinosaurs lived on earth seventy-five times longer than humans have so far.

The Latin name for moose is alces alces.

That cat around your house can hold her tail vertical while she walks, but wild cats can’t.

The killer whale isn’t a whale at all. It’s the largest member of the dolphin family.

Priorities:   The eyes of some birds weigh more than their brains, and their feathers can weigh more than their bones.

The male bellbird of Central and South America makes a clanging sound like a bell which can be heard from miles away. The loudest bird in the world.

Albatrosses can sleep even when they’re flying.

The great horned owl can turn its head 270 degrees.

There are more species of fish than mammals, reptiles and birds combined.

Tuna swim nine miles an hour forever, really. They never stop because if they stop they suffocate. They need water moving past their gills. A fifteen year old tuna has probably traveled a million miles in her lifetime.

Dolphins jump out of the water to conserve energy. Easier moving through air than water.

A shark doesn’t even have to be born to be dangerous. An ichthyologist was bitten by a sand tiger shark embryo while he was examining its pregnant mother.

Makes sense:   A male sea lion can have more than one hundred wives and often goes months without sleeping.

There is no record of a nonrabid wolf attack on a human.

A male Indian elephant waits until he’s twenty-one before he starts fooling around with a female elephant.

That part of the horse’s foot between the fetlock and the hoof is called the pastern.

Know what a geep is?  A cross between a goat and a sheep.

Camel’s milk does not curdle.

An armadillo can walk underwater.

What’s the definition of an optimist?   A guitar player with a mortgage.

How do you make a chain saw sound like an electric guitar?          Add vibrato.    (That’s a D chord, by the way. They must be going to the bridge.)

Americans spend more than $5.4 billion on their pets each year.  That can’t be true. We spend more than that at our house alone.

Cows in India have a Bill of Rights.

Hope the air conditioner works.  It would take more than 150 years to drive a car to the sun.

Hey, I just did that.  Two out of five husbands tell their wives daily that they love them.

Sweden has the least number of murders annually.

Sadistics, I mean, statistics:   More than 50% of Americans believe in the devil, and about 5% claim to have talked to her personally.

It wasn’t for me:  the safest age of life is ten years old.

22,000 checks will be deducted from the wrong bank account in the next hour.

George Washington had to borrow money to go to his own inauguration.

Senator Eagleton alert:   Abraham Lincoln had a nervous breakdown in 1836.

Gerald Ford was once a male model.

Mutti, ich bin zuhause!   Ronald Reagan once wore a Nazi uniform while acting in a film.

Leon Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico with an ice pick.

Louis XIV bathed once a year, whether he needed it or not, and he had a thousand wigs, including a special “tubby wig” for bath time.  No, no, I just made that up.

Catherine de Medici was the first woman in Europe to use tobacco. She took it in a mixture of snuff.

All of Queen Anne’s seventeen children died before she did.

Van Gogh did it to his left ear.  His Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear shows the right one bandaged because he was looking in a mirror to do the painting.

Napoleon did his battle planning in a sandbox and he was afraid of cats, who were probably doing some sandbox planning of their own.

Marco Polo was born on the Croatian island of Korcula.  We saw these beautiful islands when we traveled to Mostar in Bosnia.

Louis Armstrong and Telly Savalas died on their birthdays.

Roseanne Barr used to be the opening act for Julio Iglesias.

That’s because they practiced:  The Beatles performed their first U.S. concert at Carnegie Hall.

Gandhi took dance and music lessons in his late teens.

The song “I’m a Cranky Old Yank in a Clanky Old Tank on the Streets of Yokohama with my Honolulu Mama Doin’ Those Beat-O, Beat-O Flat-On-My-Seat-O, Hirohito Blues” was written by Hoagy Carmichael.

The tango originated as a dance between two men for partnering practice.

Samuel Beckett’s play Breath was first performed in April 1970. The play lasts thirty seconds and has no actors or dialogue.

And who better? Cheryl Ladd played both the singing and talking voice of Josie in the 1970s Saturday morning cartoon Josie and the Pussycats.

Mickey Mouse is a Scorpio.

The second unit films movie shots that do not require the presence of actors.

OK, well, all right, then, see you next week.

I was not at Woodstock, but I might as well have been since I wouldn’t have remembered it anyway.



Names are fascinating.  They are capsules of history and drama. Everyone has a name and every name has a meaning. Some names have many meanings. If you’re interested, you can even find your surname meaning at sites like

You will notice, in the meanings of the names below, that the phrasing sounds “Native American.”  That is because Yankees, confronted by unpronounceable Native American names,  translated almost all of them, and so the nomenclature sounds very basic, but all names sound very basic when translated.

To the Romans, this man would be Nero Falco. We don’t know how his name sounded to his own people. The settlers called him Black Hawk, which is English for Nero Falco. Hear God Man sounds Native American, doesn’t it?  It’s Sam Andrew. How about Rock River Lake Color?  That’s Ishikawa Akane, a Japanese name. Wolfway LoveGod?  Wolfgang Amadeus. Pedro Aguilar is rock eagle, and so it goes.

Lee is the most frequently heard family name (surname) on Earth, because it is very common in China (where it is the second most popular name) and also well known in the West (Robert E. Lee),  although Lee East and Lee West have different meanings.

If someone says, “It’s just a name,” meaning it’s just a sound, s/he hasn’t considered the matter enough. A name is never “just a name.”

Li (?)

The word “name” comes from Old English nama; related to Old High German and Sanskrit ????? (naamas), Latin nomen, and Greek ????? (onoma), possibly from the Proto Indo European (PIE) *nomn.

Adam       Hebrew: ?????      Arabic: ???

In the Old Testament, the names of individuals are meaningful, just as they are everywhere else.  Adam is named after the “earth” (Adamah) from which he was created, and his name has come to mean man in the Semitic languages.

Arabic: ???????   ?Ibr?h?m       Abraham  

A change of name indicates a change of status. For example, the patriarch Abram and his wife Sarai were renamed Abraham and Sarah when they were told they would be the father and mother of many nations (Genesis 17:4, 17:15). Simon was renamed Peter when he was given the Keys of Heaven (Matthew 16).  Saul became Paul on his way to lawyering for Christ.

Solomon meant peace, and the king with that name was the first whose reign was without warfare.

Jews in the Torah did not have surnames which were passed from generation to generation but instead used patronymics, that is, they were typically known as the child of their father. For example: ??? ?? ??? (David ben Yishay) meaning, David son of Jesse. Sons used their fathers’ first names as their own surnames, as is still done by most Muslims today. The “ben” in Jewish names is replaced by “bin” or “ibn” for Muslim males, “binte”, “binti” or “ibnu” for females. Sometimes names include “Al-”, “Ali-”, “-allah”, “-lah/-llah” or “-ullah” meaning “a servant to God” or “God’s servant.”

Onomastics is  the study of proper names of all kinds and the origins of names. The word is from Greek: “???????????” (onomastikos), “of or belonging to naming” from “?????,” name. Toponymy or toponomastics, the study of place names, is one of the principal branches of onomastics. Anthroponomastics is the study of personal names.

Japanese names (?????? nihonjin no shimei) consist of the surname, followed by a given name. Middle names are not generally used. The name above is Yamada Taro.  Yamada is the surname (family name) and the four characters mean mountain rice field  great son, although Japanese don’t think of the meaning of the name that way, just as we do not think of the meanings of John and Smith when we say John Smith.

Japanese names are usually written in kanji, as they are here. There are usually, but not always, two characters for the surname which comes first and two characters for the given name.

Japanese names are often written in kanji, which are characters of Chinese origin. The kanji for a name may have a variety of possible Japanese pronunciations, but parents might use one of the other writing systems such as hiragana or katakana, or even romaji, our alphabet, when giving a birth name to their newborn child.


Male names often end in -r? (? ”son”, but also ? ”clear, bright”; e.g. “Ichiro”) or -ta (? ”great, thick”; e.g. “Kenta”), or contain ichi (? ”first [son]“; e.g. “Ken’ichi”), kazu (also written with ? “first [son]“, along with several other possible characters; e.g. “Kazuhiro”), ji (? ”second [son]” or ? ”next”; e.g. “Jiro”), or dai (? ”great, large”; e.g. “Daiichi”).

The female name Akane (???, ???) is the Japanese word for madder (?, AkaneRubia cordifloria) and is associated with red (from the red dye made from its roots). I love to use this color when I paint.

Female names often end in -ko (? child “Aiko”) or -mi (? ”beauty”; e.g. “Yumi”), although many modern Japanese women no longer use -ko which they see as a diminution.


Other popular endings for female names include -ka (? ”scent, perfume” or ? ”flower”; e.g. “Reika”) and -na (?, or ?, meaning greens; e.g. “Haruna”).

Abigail’s name means  ”my father is joy”  (Hebrew)  ??????????

Adina:   ???????? (‘adina’)   slender, delicate

Aguilar:    El apellido Aguilar proviene de la palabra con que se designa al αguila. Aguilar comes from a word that means eagle.

Tiene el mismo origen que Aguiar.  Maybe Aguiar came first. At any rate, both from aquila, Latin, eagle.

Albert:    From the Germanic name Adalbert, which was composed of  adal ”noble” and beraht ”bright.” The Normans introduced it into England, where it replaced its near Anglo Saxon relative Ζπelbeorht.

Albin:  Le prιnom ancien Albinus est inspirι du terme latin albus qui signifie “blanc”.   Aubin (the same name as Albin) fut un prιnom assez rιpandu dans la France rurale d’avant la Rιvolution. Il est ensuite devenu rare mais a retrouvι vie depuis les annιes 1980. Albin comes from albus white and is also from and related to Albanus, Alban.

Alexander:  ??????????    ”defending men” from Greek ????? (alexo) ”to defend, help” and ???? (aner) ”man” (genitive ??????).

Alfred:   alf  supernatural being  elf   rad, red  wise, counsel  (Rathaus  Ratskeller).  The Rathaus is the central building in every German town and is the city hall. The Ratskeller is down in the basement (cellar) where food and drink are served. The red in Alfred is the same as rat, rad, red. Reden is speak. Kein Wort reden. Don’t say a word.

Allen:  Variants are Allen, Alain.   In Breton, Alan is a colloquial term for a fox and may originally have meant “deer”, making it cognate with Old Welsh alan.  The Irish form of the name may be a diminutive of a word meaning “rock”. For example, the modern Irish ailνn means “little rock”.  The Alans were an Indo Iranian people who lived north of the Caucasus Mountains in what is today Russia.  According to historian Bernard Bachrach, the Alans settled in parts of what is today France, including Brittany, in the early Middle Ages.

Alma:   Latin almus, which means “kind”, “fostering”, or “nourishing, most familiar from its use in the term alma mater which means “fostering mother.” Alma in Spanish is soul, and it is one of those words like programa, artista, mano, which are contrary to rules of gender.  El alma, el dia, el programa, el artista, la mano. These are tricky for the beginning Spanish learner. In French, la main. This is because manuus in Latin is a fourth declension feminine noun. It looks masculine, but it’s feminine. Also la mano in Italian.

Alvin, Alvina:   elf  friend; noble friend. From the elements ‘aelf’  meaning elf, supernatural being + ‘aethel’ meaning noble, honorable + ‘wine’ meaning friend. The first name is derived from both the old forms Aelfwine (Old English) and Aethelwine (Old English), which gave rise to the forms Alwin or Alewyn after the Norman Conquest.

Andrew:   (Greek) man   ???????, which was derived from ???? (aner) ”man” (genitive ?????? andros ”of a man”). Andrew was the first apostle mentioned in the New Testament. He was the brother of Peter. Both of these names are Greek, and Andrew’s real Aramaic name is not known.

The surname Andrew was one of the earliest settler names in America, Anthony Andrew being recorded in the first listings for the state of Virginia in 1623. The very first recorded spelling of the family name anywhere, is probably that of William Andreu, which was dated 1237, in the ancient charters of the county of Buckinghamshire, England, in the year 1237.

Anna:  Form of Channah Hannah

Anthea:   feminine form of Antaeus, son of Poseidon.   Can also be derived from the Greek for flowery blossom, as my friend Anthea wrote:  Greek literal meaning flowering.. to flower.. ?????, ?????, ???????, – ????? a goddess AnThea – flowering goddess?

Antea is the Italian version of Anthea.

Anthony:   Marcus Antonius, the general (Shakespeare’s Marc Antony), said that his name came from Anthon,  son of Hercules.

Antonia:     Derived from the Latin Antonius, an old Roman family name of unknown etymology, probably dating from the Etruscans.  origin of the name was Anthon, son of Hercules.

ossibly m

Aristotle:  ???????????   ’excellent purpose’. Derived from aristos meaning ‘best, excellent’ ; telos meaning ‘purpose’.

Arnold:   Old High German Arenwald,  ”having the strength of an eagle,” from arn ”eagle”  + wald ”power.” The phrase Oy gewald is related to this name. Hφhere gewald is Yiddish for an act of providence.

Arthur:   could be derived from the Roman nomen gentile Artorius, possibly of Etruscan origin. King Arthur’s name only appears as Arthur, or Arturus, in early Latin Arthurian texts, never as Art?rius (although Classical Latin Art?rius became Arturius in some Vulgar Latin dialects).

Arthur could also be derived from a Brittonic patronym *Arto-r?g-ios (the root of which, *arto-r?g- ”bear-king” is to be found in the Old Irish personal name Art-ri) via a Latinized form Art?rius.

Yet another possible etymology of Arthur could be from the Latin Arcturus, Greek ?????????, the brightest star in the constellation Boφtes, near Ursa Major or the Great Bear, ultimately from ?????? (arktos), “bear” + ????? (ouros), “watcher, guardian”.

Barak:      ?????? (Hebrew)    lightning

Barbara:  ????????  foreign  She is the patron of architects, geologists, stonemasons and artillerymen.  The Greeks thought that non Greeks sounded as if they were saying “bar bar” over and over, so they called them ????????.

Barry:   English form of the Irish names Bareth (short for Fionnbharrth), de Barra, Barrath, Barenth, Barold, Bearrach or Finbarr. The Irish meaning is spear. Also, a nickname for Bartholemew, Baruch.

Bartholemew:   ????????????  Greek form of an Aramaic name Talmai meaning “son of.”   In the New Testament Bartholomew is the byname of an apostle also known as Nathaniel.

Benjamin:   The Hebrew word ben (ben) son, and the Hebrew noun yamin (yamin), meaning right hand or right side, but with many connotations. The right hand was seen as the seat of one’s power. When facing east, the right hand is on the south, so Yemen means Southland.  The name Benjamin means Son Of The Right Hand (meaning, Son Of Strength; Son Of The South).

Berg:   Mountain   From Middle English bergh, berg, from Old English berg, beorg (“mountain, hill”), from Proto-Germanic *berghaz, from Proto-Indo-European *b?erg? (“height”). Cognate with Dutch berg, German Berg, Swedish berg, and Russian ????? (bιreg).

Bjorn:   Bear  From Old Norse bj?rn (“bear”), from Proto-Germanic *bernuz, northern form of Proto-Germanic *berτ, probably from Proto-Indo-European *b?er- (“brown, shining”).

Bridget:  Celtic/Irish from the noun brνgh, meaning “power, strength, vigor, virtue”. There was a tribe in England/Ireland called the Brigantes and Bridget is thought to come from this name also. The name was so popular for Irish girls that Biddy (nickname for Bridget) was used as a slang term for an Irish girl in English speaking countries. I have often heard “old biddy” but did not realize that it was Bridget or even Irish.

Bruce:    Norman surname, which originated in Britain with Robert de Bruis, a baron listed in the Domesday Book. His son, a friend of David I, king of Scotland, was granted by that king the lordship of Annandale (1124), and David’s son, Robert, founded the Scottish House of Bruce.

Bullis:     (Cambridgeshire):  Middle English bulehus ‘bull house’, from bul(l)e, bol(l)e ‘bull’ + h(o)us ‘house’.    Latvian: nickname or metonymic occupational name from bullis ‘bull’.

Burkhardt  The name is first found in Swabia  (Burkhard, Burkhart, Burckhardt, Burket and Burkett):  from an Indo European root bhergh  (high) hill and hill-fort and descendant words relating to city.  Burg (city in Old Saxon, Old High German and Old French) evolved into “borough.”  This word is present in such names as Barrow, Strasbourg, Statesboro and Freiburg. A caution here: burg is city and berg is mountain. They are easily confused.  The second Indo European element in Burkhardt is kar (hard, hardy, bold, strong).  In German, this element is often spelled hart, hard, hardt.  Thus, Burkhardt can mean a citadel on a hill, or a strong inhabitant of a hill city. Remember the Martin Luther hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, which was often reworked by J.S. Bach? In German this is Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.

Carla:  from the Old English ceorl meaning “man,” “freeman” in turn from  Hari army, warrior. The Indo European root is *karlaz meaning “free man

Carmi:   ????????   vine  (Hebrew)  This is the English form of Hebrew karmiy, a “vinedresser,” or “my vineyard.”  The word can also mean “gardener

Cayman:    1570s, from Portuguese or Spanish caiman, from a Carib word, or perhaps from a Congo African word applied to the reptiles in the new world by African slaves. The name appears to be one of those like anaconda and bom, boma, which the Portuguese or Spaniards very early caught up in one part of the world, and naturalized in another.

Chad:  modernized form of the Old English given name “Ceadda”, influenced by the Welsh word “cad” meaning “battle.”  The word “cad” in the perjorative sense comes from Italian cattivo, bad, and has nothing to do with Chad, who is one of the great guitar players.

Charles:  Germanic *karlaz meaning “free man”, which survives in English as churl (< Old English ?eorl). In the form Charles, the initial spelling ch- corresponds to the palatalization of the Latin group ca- in Central French and the final -s to the former subjective case (le cas sujet) of masculine words in Old French (< Latin -us). The root meaning of Karl is “old man”, from Indo-European *?er-, where the ? is a palatal consonant, meaning “to rub; to be old; grain.”

Cheryl:    English version of Cherie or Cher which in turn is the French form of the Latin Cara, which means ‘dear.’  ”Whore” also came from cara, which is what the Roman soldiers called prostitutes.

Chessι:     Un nom de famille qui reprιsente un nom de localitι d’origine, nom de hameau landes et a du dιsigner l’originaire de cette localitι.    Ralph Chessι, 1900-1991 (the little boy in the sailor suit on the far right), was the patriarch of a large creative family. As his son Bruce writes, Ralph was a Renaissance man in the grandest sense with diverse interests in the arts: theatre, sculpture, puppetry, painting, writing and music.

Joseph Alexander Chessι was born in 1802. He married (or lived with) a slave named Justine Olivier in 1830 and subsequently moved to New Orleans. On the census records all the Chessιs were listed as black.

A Chessι arrived with Bienville in 1698 at the mouth of the Mississippi. Bienville was the one responsible for the original survey to determine where the city of New Orleans would be located. The ship’s manifest has a Michael Chessι listed as a freebooter (pirate).

Chet:   (Latin castra) means fortress or camp. It is an uncommon name of English origin, and originated as a surname to identify people from the city of Chester, England.

Chloe:    (also ChloλCloeChlφe, ChloιClowyKloeKhloeKhloλKhloιKloι or Kloλ), a first or given name for girls, especially popular in the United Kingdom. The name comes from the Greek ????, meaning “young green shoot” and is one of the many names of the Greek goddess Demeter.

Christopher:   (sometimes Kristoffer or Kristopher) is the English version of a Europe-wide name derived from the Greek ??????????? (Christσpheros). The constituent parts are ??????? (Christσs), “Christ”, and ?????? (phιrein), “bear”: the “Christ bearer.”

Both Kris and Kristofferson are Scandinavian variants of Christopher.

Kristina can be the feminine form of ???????.

Clarke:   an English surname, ultimately derived from the Latin clericus meaning “scribe”, “secretary” or a scholar within a religious order, referring to someone who was educated. Clark, Clarke evolved from “clerk”. First records of the name are found in 12th century England. The name has many variants. Still today, clerk is pronounced clark in Britain.

Cleo:    Greek prefix often translated to mean ‘pride’, ‘fame’ or ‘glory’. Also Clio.

Conrad:         Derived from Germanic elements kuoni ”brave” and rad ”counsel”.

Cynthia:    ??????, Kynthνa, from Mount Cynthus on the island of Delos.  Cynthia was originally an epithet of the Greek goddess of the moon, Artemis, who was sometimes called “Cynthia” because, according to legend, the goddess was born on Mount Cynthus.

Dale:  Old English dζl ”dale, valley, gorge,” from Proto Germanic *dalan ”valley” (Old Saxon, Dutch, Gothic dal, Old Norse dalr, Old High German tal, German Tal ”valley”), from Indo European *dhel- ”a hollow.”  This name reflects the lasting Norse influence in north of England. A Neanderthal was someone from the Neander valley in Germany.

Daniel:    ??????????   ??????  The first part of the name Daniel comes from the Hebrew verb din (din), meaning to judge, contend, plead. The second part is el (El)the abbreviated form of Elohim God.  God is my judge.  God rules me.  Danilo is one way to say Daniel in Spanish.

Darby:  derived from Old Norse djϊr (“deer”), and the suffix bύr (“farm”/”settlement”). The oldest recorded surname dates to the period of 1160 – 1182 in Lincolnshire. The English city Derby is pronounced darby.

Dario, Darius:   Latin D?r?usD?r?us, Greek ???????, Aramaic drwšdrywš, Elamite Da-ri-ya-(h)u-(ϊ-)iš, Akkadian Da-(a-)ri-muš, Egyptian tr(w)štrjwšintr(w)šintrjwš, Lycian Ρtarijeus-, and Old Persian D?rayauš, are short forms of  D?rayavauš, composed of D?raya- [hold] + va(h)u- [good], meaning “holding firm the good”. My friend Dario is Italian from Belluno. Ciro (Cyrus) is also an often used Italian name.

Deborah:  ?????????    bee  (Hebrew)   D’vorah was a heroine and prophetess in the Book of Judges.

Diane   (pronounced with long ‘?’ and ‘?’) is an adjectival form developed from an ancient *divios, corresponding to later ‘divus’, ‘dius’, as in Dius Fidius, Dea Dia and in the neuter form dium meaning the sky. The name Diane is rooted in Indoeuropean *d(e)y(e)w, meaning bright sky or daylight, from which also derived the name of Vedic god Dyaus and the Latin deus, (god) and dies (day, daylight).

On the Tablets of Pylos a theonym ????? is supposed as referring to Diana, a deity precursor of Artemis.

The ancient Latin writers Varro and Cicero considered the etymology of D??na as allied to that of dies and connected to the shining of the Moon.

Dionysius:  ????????   ????????   ?????????      The dio- element has been associated since antiquity with Zeus (genitive Dios). The earliest attested form of the name is Mycenaean Greek di-wo-nu-so, written in Linear B syllabic script, presumably for /Diwo(h)n?sos/, found on two tablets at Mycenaean Pylos and dated to the 12th or 13th century BCE.

The second element -n?sos is associated with Mount Nysa, the birthplace of the god in Greek mythology, where he was nursed by nymphs (the Nysiads) but according to Pherecydes of Syros, n?sa was an archaic word for “tree.” Dionysus had been with the Greeks and their predecessors a long time, and yet always retained the feel of something alien. Variants include Dennis, Denis, Dion, Dionisio, Denison, Denny, Tennyson, Tyson.

Dennis:   Greek and English origin, a “follower of Dionysius.”

Django:    I awake.    (Romani language nickname of Jean Reinhardt.)  Django gave himself this name when he was quite young.

Donna:   The word donna in Italian means woman. The materfamilias, the woman who was in charge of her Roman household was called the domina. This word came down into the Romance languages. In French it is dame, in Spanish dueρa and in Italian donna. The name has the idea of house (domus) and so is familiar and eternal. Dominus, the lord of the house, is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *dem- (house).  Dom in French, don in Spanish. In Church, we used to say Dominus vobiscum, Lord (go) with you. The response was Et cum spiritu tuo. And with thy spirit.

Dorothy:    ???????  ????? (d?ron), “gift” + ????, god.   Notice that Dorothy and Theodore are really the same name with the basic elements reversed.

Dupuis   This name can mean “from the well, at the well”  The Latin for well is “puteus.” It occurs, of course, in many languages. Names like Poggio, Dupuis, Atwell, Poηo, Inoue (Japanese), Pozzo, Pozo all connote someone who lived near a well.

Edmond:   Old English Eadmund, from ?ad (“prosperity”) + mund (“protection”).

Edward:    Old English Eadweard,  ”prosperity-guard,” from ead ”wealth, prosperity” + weard ”guardian.”

Edd:    e?d (“rich”)      He’ll think that’s rich.

Elise  ???????????  ????????  Elisheva  Russian E???a?e?a   My God is abundance.  My God is an oath.  Elizabeth, Elisabeth, Bettina, Betty, Tetty, Isabel, Isabella, Lisa, Elsie, Elsa, Liese, Lilli, Lillian, Lilliane.   Elise can be a German variant transcription of Alice, but, more often, Elise is a contraction of Elizabeth (English, Greek, and Hebrew).

Liz and Elise both have the same name etymologically speaking.

Emily is the English form of the Latin Aemilia. The name is derived from the Roman clan name Aemilius, one of the five ruling clans of Rome descended from Mamercus Aemilios. Mamercus was given the surname of Aemilios for his eloquence and refinement. Numa Pompilius, the second King of Rome, named his fourth son Mamercus Aemilios and the great lineage of the Aemilios clan was from him.  In the English-speaking world Emily was not common until after the German House of Hanover came to the British throne in the 18th century; the princess Amelia Sophia (1711-1786) was commonly known as Emily in English, even though Amelia is an unrelated name.

Engrid or Ingrid is Old Norse. The first element ING refers to a Germanic god of fertility, who was also known as Ingui or Yngvi. The second element could be ‘fridr’ (peace, beautiful, fair) or ‘rida’ (to ride). Thus the name can mean Ing’s beauty or Ing’s ride. The name was first used in the 13th century, but English speakers took it up only from the mid 19th century.

Esther:    ?????     star  (Persian)  Ishtar    Hester

Eugene:   ??????? (eugen?s), “noble”, literally “well-born”, from ?? (eu), “well” and ????? (genos), “race, stock, kin”.   French Eugθne, from Latin Eugenius.

Eunice:   ??????     good victory

Eve   In Sanskrit the meaning of the name Eva (???) is “one who gives life”.  In Hebrew ??? (?awwah, often anglicized as Chava) means  life or living one.

Ezio:    Aetius (Latin) and Aλtios (Greek) are older forms of Ezio. The name is derived from Aλtius, a Roman family of Etruscan origin, and Aλstios, Greek name from  aietos (‘eagle’). Flavius Aλtius was a 5th-century Roman general who defeated Attila the Hun at the battle of Chalon.

Farhat:  used predominantly in the Turkish language, and it is derived from Persian and Turkish origins. From Turkish roots, its meaning is joy, bliss, happiness.

Finola:   In Gaelic  and Irish, the name Finola is a variant of Fenella: white shoulder, blonde.   

Fletcher:   ”arrow-maker,” early 14th century (as a surname attested from 1203), from Old French flechier, from fleche ”arrow,” probably from Frankish *fliugica (Old Low German fliuca, Middle Dutch vliecke). One meaning of fledger, still today in English, is someone who puts the feathers on arrows.

Fougeirol:   une commune franηaise, situιe dans le dιpartement de la Haute-Saτne et la rιgion Franche-Comptι.  Ses habitants sont appelιs les Fougerollais.  Une fougθre is French for a fern, so there may be a connection there.

Frida, Frederick:    frid  peace, beauty    ric   power, ruler, Reich

Gabriela, Gabrielle, Gabriel:   comes from the verb gabar (gabar), meaning to prevail, be mighty, have strength. The noun gabar (geber) means man. The word geber can be found in modern Israel on doors of men’s bathrooms.

The second part of the name Gabrielle is el (El), the abbreviated form of Elohim, Elohim, God.

George:    from the Greek name ???????? (Georgios) which was derived from the Greek word ??????? (georgos) meaning “farmer, earthworker”, itself derived from the elements ?? (ge) ”earth” and ????? (ergon) ”work.”  Yuri in Russian. Jordi in Catalan. Jψrgen (Danish), Jerzy, Jurek (Polish).

Gerard:    ger, gar   spear     hard   hardy, brave

German:    Spanish for Herman.   The name can also be one of relationship, and derive from the pre 8th century Old French word “germain”, meaning cousin or person of the same stock. Another possible origin is that people with the name were originally ‘spear-men’ engaged as mercenaries by different monarchs throughout Europe.  The derivation here being from the German word “geri” meaning spear plus “man(n)”, meaning one skilled in its use.

Gudrun:   run  secret   rune

Guy:   Norman French form of WIDO. (Italian Guido)  The Normans introduced the name Guy to England, where it was common until the time of Guy Fawkes (1570-1606) when it virtually disappeared and is only now returning.

Haas:   Old Dutch *haso, from Proto-Germanic *hasτ and Jewish (Ashkenazic):  Hase ‘hare’, hence a nickname for a swift runner or a timorous or confused person, but in some cases perhaps a habitational name from a house distinguished by the sign of a hare. As a Jewish name it can also be an ornamental name or one of names selected at random from vocabulary words by government officials when surnames became compulsory.

Hart:   Old English heorot ”hart, stag, male deer,” from Proto-Germanic *herut- (cf. Old Saxon hirot, Old Frisian and Dutch hert ”stag, deer,” Old High German hiruz, Old Norse hjφrtr, German Hirsch ”deer, stag, hart”), perhaps from the Proto Indo European root *ker- ”horn.”  (Cyrillic spelling ????)    Now this word hart denotes a male red deer after its fifth year. The hind is the female.   Roger Hert appears in the Pipe Rolls of Norfolk in the year 1166, and Simon le Hert is noted in the tax rolls known as the ‘Feet of Fines’ for the county of Kent in 1194. One of the earliest settlers in the New World was John Hart, who embarked from the Port of London, aboard the ship “Phillip”, bound for Virginia in June 1635.  The first recorded spelling of the family name Hart is shown to be that of Aelfric Hort, which was dated circa 1060, in the “Olde English Byname Register”, Hampshire, during the reign of King Edward, known as “The Confessor”, 1040 – 1066.

Heather, Heidi is  from the English/German (die Heide) word for the variety of small shrubs with pink or white flowers which commonly grow in rocky areas. It is derived from Middle English hather. Heath is a male version.  Heather is also a color, a light purple shade with a hint of grey.

Heidi is also a German diminutive of Adelheid. Heid is a noun maker in German. For example,  Adel is noble and Adelheit is nobility.  Pagus is the Latin word for district and it refers to a non city environment, the country. So, a paganus, a rural dweller, was not civilized and was a pagan.  Similarly, with someone who lived on the heath, there was a sense of not having city ways and thus the person was a heathen. Thus, pagan is Latin and heathen is Germanic.

Herman:    her    army, warrior     Herzog      Arminius

Holly:    the name of the plant, from the Old English word holen.

 Hoekstra is a Frisian name that means “from the hook” or “from the corner”.  Frisian is the language spoken in Friesland, a province of the Netherlands.  Comprised of the northwestern portion of the Netherlands mainland, along with a major portion of the Frisian Islands (a chain which extends from the Netherlands into Germany), this province is populated by an ethnic people whose language and customs are more closely related to the English than the Dutch.  

The Hoekstras may have lived at a crossroads (corner, hook) or that their ancestors originated from the Hoek of Holland.  The suffix “-stra” is Frisian, and is used in place of the Dutch prefix “van,” meaning from or of.  ”Hookster” might be an English equivalent of Hoekstra.

Homs:   (Arabic: ????  ?im?), previously Emesa (Greek: ?????, Emesa), a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governate. It is 501 metres (1,644 ft) above sea level and is located 162 kilometres (101 mi) north of Damascus. Located on the Orontes River, Homs is also the central link between the interior cities and the Mediterranean coast.

Houston:   Hugh’s town, a habitational name from a place near Glasgow, so called from the genitive case of the medieval French given name “Hugh”, from the Germanic element “hug”, meaning “heart, mind”, or “spirit.”

The second element of the name Houston comes from Middle English (1200 -1500) “tune, toun”, settlement, village, derived from the Old English pre 7th Century “tun”, enclosure, settlement. Town might be the oldest word in the English language.

Howard:  of Middle English origin, the first part of Howard can come from the same root as Houston, that is, “hug,” heart, mind, spirit,” added to hard, hardy, bold, strong.  Yet another derivation is haward, high guardian.

Huget:  from an Old High German word related to hugu “mind, soul, thought.”

Irene:   ?? ????? Irene ?????????? ??? ?? ???????? Irene, ?? ????? ???????? ????????? ??? ????????? ??????.  The name Irene is derived from the Latin Irene and was written ?????? in Greek. ?????? is the goddess of peace.  ????????? means peaceful.

Jacob:    ???????    ???????  The English names Jacob and James derive from the same source, with James coming from Latin Iacomus, a later variant of Iacobus. In England, Jacob was mainly regarded as a Jewish name during the Middle Ages, and the variant James was used among Christians. The name means”heel” (in the Genesis narrative, Jacob was born grasping Esau’s heel and later bought/stole (?) Esau’s birthright. Jacob can also therefore mean supplanter.). Jacob came into general use as a Christian name after the Protestant Reformation.  Coby, Coos, Jake, Jack, San Diego, Iago, Santiago, all are variants of Jacob. The time when James I came to the throne of England from Scotland, where he was James VI, is called the Jacobean Period to distinguish that time from the Elizabethan which came before and the Hanoverian which came after.

Janis:   Sanskrit has a word janis that means “a woman,” but Janis is usually thought to be derived from John:  Latin Iohannes, from New Testament Greek ???????, contraction from Hebrew ???????? (Johanan) J???n?n, perhaps from a former ?????????? (Yehochanan) J?hτ??n?n, meaning “God is gracious”.

Jennifer:   Welsh Gwenhwyvar (Guinevere), from gwen ”fair, white” + (g)wyf ”smooth, yielding.”  Espinosa, Espinoza, her surname, means thorny from Latin spina.

Jill:   Latin  sweetheart or youthful.

Jill was used as a short form of the female given names Jillian and Gillian, and now it is often an independent name.

Joel     jo  Yahweh, Jehovah     el   god

John:   The first element is jah, which is the abbreviated form of the appellative YHWH, which in turn is YHWH, the Name of the Lord.  The second part of the name comes from the verb hanan (hanan) meaning be gracious, pity, beseech, implore.    Yahweh Has Been Gracious.   Yahweh Is Gracious.    The Lord Graciously Gave.

Joseph:  The name can be translated from Hebrew ???? ?????? Yihoh Lhosif as signifying “YHWH (Yahweh) will increase/add”.  Biblical son of Jacob and Rachel, from Late Latin Joseph, Josephus, from Greek Ioseph, from Hebrew Yoseph (also Yehoseph, cf. Ps. lxxxi:6) “adds, increases,” causative of yasaph ”he added.”

Julie, Julia:   Latinate feminine form of the name Julius. Julius was a Roman family, derived from a founder Julus, the son of Aeneas and Creusa in Roman mythology, although the name’s etymology may possibly derive from Greek ?????? ”downy-haired, bearded” or alternatively from the name of the Roman god Jupiter, Jove (adjective Iovilios, Iovilius).

Julius:     Latin Iulius, name of a Roman gens, perhaps a contraction of *Iovilios ”pertaining to or descended from Jove.”

Karen:   medieval variant of Katharina, Catherine.   ’Katharos’ which means pure. The name evolved as a Scandinavian form of Katharina. It could also be derived from the phonetically similar Latin word ’carus’ (dear).

Kate:    short form of Katherine, from Latin, French, English, and Welsh origins. The name literally means either ‘pure’ or ‘blessed. The Greek word “Catharsis” is from the same root.

Knight:   Old English  cniht (“boy” or “servant”), cognate of the German word Knecht (“servant, bondsman”). This meaning, of unknown origin, is common among West Germanic languages (Old Frisian kniucht, Dutch knecht, Danishknζgt, Swedish knekt, Norwegian knekt, Middle High German kneht, all meaning “boy, youth, lad”, as well as German Knecht ”servant, bondsman, vassal”). Anglo-Saxon cniht had no particular connection to horsemanship, referring to any servant. A r?dcniht (meaning “riding-servant”) was a servant delivering messages or patrolling coastlines on horseback. Old English cnihth?d (“knighthood”) had the meaning of adolescence (period between childhood and maturity) by 1300.

Kurt:         Low German short form of Conrad.  Derived from the Germanic elements kuoni ”brave” and rad ”counsel”. Kurt is nominative and accusative. Kurts is genitive and Kurti is dative.  Curd, Curdt, Curt, Kunto, Kurd, Kurre, Kurth, Kurtti.   (may be from  Proto-Indo-European root *gher-)

Lange   German feminine  ”long.”  So lange wie mφglich.  As long as possible.

Laura:    Feminine form of the Late Latin name Laurus, which meant “laurel”.

In ancient Rome the leaves of laurel trees were used to create victors’ garlands.

When a woman is graduated from a university in Italy, she is said to be laureata, and instead of a cap and gown she wears laurel leaves.

Lee:    Shelter,  ”sheltered from the storm” in Old English.  The leeside of the island is the opposite side from windward.

Lee is the most common surname on Earth, but it is this woman’s middle name.

People named Lee are so great in number because the Chinese Li is often spelled Lee in English. Lee or Li is written with the characters ? ‘tree’ + ? ‘children’, and means plum tree.

A legend about the Li family is that those who are the directly descended from rebel Emperor Zhuanxu have a genetic trait noticeable in their feet. The last toe on each foot would be pointing inward a little rather than being straight like the rest of the toes. In addition, the nail on this foot has two sections, with one section appearing to override the other. According to the legend, this distinguishes the “true” Li’s from the other families with the name, who were born with perfect feet.

Leland:   Laege = fallow. Place name, which meant meadow land, fallow land, pasture ground in Old English. Leah meaning “wood,” “clearing” or “meadow” and “land.”

Lillian:   Used since the sixteenth century, possibly originally a pet form of Elizabeth, but generally accepted as a variant of Late Latin lillium ”lily”.

Linda:    the linden tree, from Germanic lind meaning “soft, tender” ultimately from a Celtic root. Linda may also come from the Latin (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese) word linda, which is the feminine form of lindo, meaning “beautiful, pretty, cute or “clean.”

There is a Japanese concept that has the same connotation of cute, small, clean that Linda does.  It is kawaii (????), which  can mean “it is clean, pretty, neat.” One hears this word a lot in Japan, the land of the cute. Kawaiiii des’ neeee!  It often seems as if teenage girls, who are very kawai themselves, use this word in every other sentence.

????  means, “lovable”, “cute”, or “adorable” and is the quality of cuteness in context of the Japanese culture.

The word “kawaii” is formed from the kanji “ka” (?), meaning “acceptable”, and “ai” (?), meaning “love”. Kawaii has taken on the secondary meanings of cool, groovy, acceptable, desirable, charming and non-threatening.  All of which describe Linda very well.  By the way, these are construction barriers at Narita airport in Tokyo. Can you imagine such a thing here in the macho USA?  A Japanese girl seeing this barrier in Tokyo would say, “Kawaiiiiiiii

Lucie   Feminine form of Lucius with the meaning light (born at dawn or daylight, maybe also shiny, or of light complexion). Luce in Italian, Luz in Spanish, Lucy in English.

Lynn:   From place names in Norfolk and Scotland, Scottish Gaelic linne (“stream, pool”) or from corresponding Old English/Celtic words.

Margaret:  (??????????)  pearl.  Margaret may be related to the Sanskrit word ?????? maρjar?. Also Margaret might be of Persian origin, derived from marvβrid (???????), a pearl or daughter of light.   Many, many variations: Maggie, Madge, Marge, Meg, Megan, Mog, Moggie, Rita, Daisy, Greta, Gretel, Gretchen, Magee, Marg, Margot, May, Molly, Margo Sanna, Margi Meggie, Peggy and Peg. Margherita (Italian). A tequila margarita looks very like a pearl.

Marc, Mark:    ??????  from Etruscan Marce of unknown meaning, Mars?

Marshall:   early 13th cenutry  surname; mid-13 century as “high officer of the royal court;” from Old French mareschal ”commanding officer of an army; officer in charge of a household” (Modern French marιchal), originally “stable officer, horse tender, groom” (Frankish Latin mariscaluis) from Frankish *marhskalk “horse-servant” (Old High German marahscalc ”groom,” Middle Dutch maerschalc), from Proto Germanic *markhaz ”horse”  + *skalkaz ”servant” ( Old English scealc ”servant, retainer, member of a crew,” Dutch schalk ”rogue, wag,” Gothic skalks ”servant”). Cognate with Old English horsώegn (horse thane). From c.1300 as “stable officer;” early 14c. as “military commander, general in the army.”

Mari, Mary, Marie, Miriam  English versions of the name Maria, which was in turn the Latin form of the Greek names ?????? and ?????, or Maria, forms of the Hebrew name ??????? or Miryam. Spice ??? m-r-r meaning “bitterness” found on the hillside in Israel (“myrrh” could be a form of this name), used, as rosemary was, to heighten the taste of food. Salsa!

Mari has hundreds of variants, among them, Molly, Meg, Peg, Margaret, the list is almost endless.  Other meanings can include “rebelliousness” (??? m-r-y), or “wished for child” or “Our Lady” (?”? ???? Sha Mrih) or “beloved lady”, referring to the Christian reverence for the Virgin Mary. Mary/Mari/Miriam could also be a name of Egyptian provenance, perhaps from the word elements mry, meaning “beloved” or mr, meaning “love”.

Matilda:   French Mathilde, of Germanic origin, literally “mighty in battle;”  Old High German Mahthilda, from mahti ”might, power” + hildi ”battle,” from Proto Germanic *hildiz ”battle,” from Indo European *kel- (1) “to strike, cut.”

Melina (bee) can be a  combination of “Mel” with the suffix “-inda”. ”Mel” can also be derived from names such as Melanie meaning “dark, black” in Greek (melanin), or from Melissa meaning “honeysuckle.”. Melina is also associated with the Greek word meli, meaning “honey”, and with linda, meaning “gentle, soft, tender” in the Germanic languages. Melina was the name of a nymph that cared for the young Zeus.

Michael   ???????? (Mikha’el) meaning “who is like God?”  The patron saint of soldiers. Common in all languages, but especially Russian ??????Romania (Mihail), Poland (Micha?), and Portugal (Miguel). In the Roman dialect Michele is often pronounced Mige‘.

Monica is an ancient name of North African origin whose etymology is unknown. The earliest reference to the name is found in ancient Numidian inscriptions. The name might include a reference to the ancient Libyan god Mon. It has also been posited that it may have been derived from the Latin monere, meaning “to advise”. Saint Augustine’s mother was named Monica, and she was born in Numidia, North Africa, although she also was a citizen of Carthage, and so her name may be of Punic origin.

Nicole  means “victorious people,” evolved from a French feminine derivative of the name Nicholas and ultimately from Nike, victory. The town of Nice in France is named for this goddess.

Niehaus:    Topographic name from Middle Low German nie ‘new’ + hus ‘house’ or a habitational name from a common North German and Westphalian farm name with the same meaning.

Nigella Sativa is an annual flowering plant, native to south and southwest Asia, but the woman’s name Nigella is most likely a diminutive of Nigel, which name is derived from the Latin Nigellus from the Latin niger, meaning “black.”  The Latin word nigellus gave birth to Old French neel (modern nielle), meaning “black enamel” (same word as niello).

Nina:   Brought into English in the nineteenth century, apparently from several sources. Many borrowings are of Russian ????, the name of a Georgian fourth century saint, also known as Nino, of obscure origin and meaning, possibly connected with the Assyrian king Ninus. Other sources are, for example, the Italian diminutives like Annina from Anna and Giovannina from Giovanna.

The name Noah (Noah) comes from the verb nuah (nuah) meaning rest, settle down.  Derivatives of this root are: nahat (nahat), rest, quietness; Noah (noah), the name Noah; nihoah (nihoah), quieting, soothing; hanaha (hanaha), a giving of rest; manoah (manoah), resting place; menuha (menuha), resting place, rest.

Noel:   Latin (dies) natalis, referring to the nativity of Christ, the original French spelling being Noλl and Noλlle.

Obama:    an African surname. It is a fairly common Luo name, and it is derived from Swahili referring to members of the Luo tribe who converted to Islam.

Obama is also Japanese and it means ”little beach”. The Obama family (???) were a samurai clan of feudal Japan.

The third line is written in kanji and the first character is o little. The second character is hama beach. Japanese sound laws are such that when you put o and hama together, the pronunciation is obama (little beach).

Obama-shi (Obama city) is of course right on the water. (It’s the little blue green dot.)

This is Obama written in katakana, the alphabet used for foreign names, and it specifically refers to the President and not to the town of Obama.

Oscar:    The name is derived from two elements in Irish: the first, os, means “deer”; the second element, cara, means “friend”.   It can also be Old English ?s (“god”) and g?r (“spear”). (Oswald, Osborn, Oswid, Osric, Oslak), so it depends upon whether the person is Irish or English. This Oscar is English.

Osmond:   os god divine      mond protector

Oswald:  Anglo-Saxon name meaning “divine ruler”, from “os” (god) and “weald” (rule).

Patterson:  A patronymic meaning son of Patrick, which in turn derives from patricius, nobleman, in Latin. The name is first found in Ross-shire where the Pattersons had a family seat from early times and the first mentions come from census rolls taken by the early kings of Britain to determine tax rates for their subjects. Patterson, Paterson, Pattersen, Pattison. Another possible origin: pater father in Latin and son.

Paul:     The Greek word pauros (pauros) means feeble or little, and pauo  means to pause, stop, retrain, desist.

After his humbling conversion experience, Saul of Tarsus became known as Paul, a man who wrote over half of the New Testament.

Paula:      Roman family name Paulus meant “small” or “humble” in Latin as it did in Greek. The Latin,  Paulo post means a little after. Pablo, Pavel, Palle (Danish), Paolo, Pαl (Swedish), Paulino are all variants of Paula.

Penelope:   Greek ???? (pene) ”threads, weft” and ?? (ops) ”face, eye”. In the Odyssey this is the name of the wife of Odysseus, she who was the weaver.

Perry:   English origin from either Old English pyrige (pear tree), or the Norman French perrieur (quarry), possibly referring to a quarryman. Perry was recorded as a surname from the late 16th century in villages near Colchester, Essex, East England, such as Lexden and Copford.

Pettigrew:   One theory is that this name is originally derived from the Old French words “petit,” meaning “small or little,” and “cru,” meaning “growth.”  The phrase “petit cru“, meaning in this context, small person, was introduced into Britain after the 1066 Norman invasion, when French became the official language. Originally “petit cru” was used as a nickname of endearment.   I always thought that Pettigrew had a common origin with pedigree. The word pedigree is a corruption of the French “pied de grue” or crane’s foot, because the typical lines and split lines in a family tree or pedigree resemble the thin leg and foot of a crane (grue).

Piliwale:   The Piliwale sisters were four kupua creatures with sharp teeth, stick-like arms and legs, claw-like hands, and huge, swollen bellies.  They were able to cause landslides and floods, but their greatest power, if you could call it that, was their appetite.   Pili wale means “to cling without reason or cause.”  The term is often used to describe people who live off of others without giving anything in return.  ”When you visit T?t?, don’t you dare be a Piliwale,”  means that you’d better help out.  The Piliwale stones of H?‘ena stand as a warning to people who are pili wale, and old-timers of the district like to say, “H?‘ena is not the place for a Piliwale to visit.”

This is Silver Piliwale, a direct descendant of Piliwale, who was the tenth Alii Aimoku of Oahu.  Piliwale reigned as the titluar chieftain or King of the island of Oahu and all the territories Oahu claimed at the time.  His wife was the High Chiefess Paakanilea, descent not known.  The name Silver is probably related to Silva, a Portuguese name that meant forest or wood as in SilvaSylvia, Sylvania.  This man is my wife’s grandfather. He is something of a legend in the Hawaiian Islands. Many streets, valleys and other geographical sites there are named for him.

Rachel  (Hebrew: ?????, Standard Ra?el Tiberian R???l, R???l; also spelled Rachael, meaning “sheep; one with purity.”

Raquel is Spanish for Rachel.

Rafael, Rafaela:    Hebrew ??????? (Rafa’el)  ”God has healed”.

Ralph:    Short form of Radulf, from Old Norse Raπulfr (Old English Rζdwulf),  ”wolf-counsel,” from raπ ”counsel” (read, rat, rad) + ulfr ”wolf

Reinhard:   rein pure  hard  hardy, brave

Richard:   Middle English Rycharde, from Old French Richard, from Old High German Ricohard, from Proto Germanic *rik- ”ruler” + *harthu ”hard.” One of the most popular names introduced by the Normans.

The “rich” in Richard is cognate with Reich, so meaning power, kingdom, might, and hard meaning strong, bold, hardy. Strong power, strong ruler, strong kingdom.

Robbie,  Robert:    Old North French form of High German Hrodberht “bright with glory.”

Robert or Roberta is derived from hrod- ”fame, glory” + -berht ”bright.”

Rollins:   (Rolin, Rolins, Rollin, Rollins, Rollings)   Norman French, derived from either Rolf or Rollo, popular throughout the European continent 500-1000 CE.

The Normans introduced Rolf and Roul both meaning “Fierce wolf” in 1066, and Rolin or Rollin is a diminutive “Little fierce wolf.”

I read the French national epic, La Chanson de Roland, when I was twenty-two, twenty-three, read it in the original. It’s an action story, so not that difficult. Roland held the passes in the Pyrenιes for Charlemagne. Orlando Furioso by Ariosto (XVI century) is another version of the same story. (Rolin, Roland, Rolins, Rollin, Rollins, Rollings)

Examples of Rolf or Rollo are to be found in the surviving church registers of the city of London, including Andrieu Rolin (Andrew Rollins!).

The first spelling of the family name in England is John Rolins (another version of Shane Rollins). This was dated 1327 in the Subsidy Tax Rolls of Suffolk during the reign of King Edward III.

Russo:   In Italian, to say Russian, you say russo, meaning the language or the nationality, but I think that Russo may also have meant red (rosso) and even Russia itself can mean red.  ”Nella seconda metΰ del IV secolo,” says one source, “alcune fonti riferiscono della tribω dei Rosolani, che vivevano nel bacino del fiume Ros (tributario del Dnepr, vicino l’odierna Kiev), che cominciarono ad usare frequentemente la parola ‘Rus,’” referring to the origin of the word “Russia” being derived from the Ros river, a tributary of the Dnieper.  Thus, to the Italians Russo calls to mind Slavic tribes who migrated into Italy very early. However that may be, I am still holding out for Russo being at least partially related to Rosso, red. The name is very common in Italy, and it also calls to mind the French name Rousseau.

Ruth:     ??? rut, possibly from the Hebrew for “companion.” In Israel ”Ruti” is a common nickname for Rut (Ruth). Ruthie, Tootie, Tootsi, Tuti are all variants of Ruth.

Samantha might be from Samuel with the addition of anthos, Greek for flower.

Samantha:   could also be derived from an Aramaic noun ?????? (šem?anta, “listener”). This calque of the name could also relate to the story of Samuel, who “heard” God.

Samuel:  The first part of the name comes from the Hebrew word Shem(shem), meaning ‘name,’ and the second part of the name Samuel is  el (el) God. In between these two elements is the letter waw, which is a linguistic coupling, so that the name Samuel could mean Name Of God. This name could be a relative of Ishmael and, if so, would be derived from shama (shama’) to hear, listen to, obey and el el  which would fit the story of Samuel a bit more closely, since it would mean Hear God.  In Israel, Shmuel can mean Samuel and Shlomo can mean Sam.

Schuyler:    Dutch surname “scholar, student” (from Germanic schul), brought to America by seventeenth century Dutch immigrants.  The surname Schuyler was originally introduced in North America by 17th century settlers arriving in New York. It became a given name in honor of prominent members of the New York family, such as Philip Schuyler, and so became the given name of Schuyler Colfax, the 17th vice president of the United States.

Shane: Anglicised version of the Irish Seαn, which is JohnShane comes from the way the name Seαn is pronounced in the Ulster dialect, as opposed to Shaun or Shawn.

There are many, many interesting variants of Shane in many, many languages.  Gjon (Albanian), Yahya (Arabic), Ganix, Ion, Jon (Basque), Ioannes (Biblical Greek), Yann, Yannick (Breton), Ioan, Ivan (Bulgarian), Joan (Catalan), Jowan (Cornish), Ghjuvan (Corsican), Ivan, Janko (Croatian), Ivan, Jan, Janek, Honza (Czech), Jens, Jannick (Danish), Jan, Johan, Johannes, Hanne, Jo, Joop, Hans (Dutch), Jaan, Johannes, Juhan (Estonian), Jani, Janne, Hannu (Finnish), Jean, Yann, Jeannot, Yanick, Yannic, Yannick (French), Xoαn (Galician), Ivan, Jovan, Janko (Serbian), Jαn, Janko (Slovak), Juoan, Xuan, Juanito (Spanish),Jens, Hampus, Hasse, Janne (Swedish), Ivan (Ukrainian),Evan, Iefan, Ieuan, Ifan, Ioan, Iwan, SiςnIanto (Welsh).

Sidiropoulos:    ????????????  Sidiros = iron and -opoulos is a patronymic, that is, this name can mean son, daughter of iron. Iron was a precious commodity in Greece, but you could also make a case for this name meaning Smithson, since a smith is an iron worker. The daughter of a Sidiros would be a Sidiropoulou, but Greeks now keep the same surname over the generations. Papadopoulos, for example, the most common Greek surname, means son of a priest.

In Scandinavian, the name Sigourney means “conqueror.”  Sigourney can be a male or female name.

Silvia:   Feminine form of Silvius, from Latin silva (“forest”). In Roman mythology, Rhea Silvia was the mother of famous twins Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.

Socrates:   ????????  derived from ??? (sos) ”whole, unwounded, safe” and ?????? (kratos) ”power”.

Sophia:   ?????, the Greek word for “Wisdom.”

???????:   of the cross, Cross   Greek ???????, from ??????? meaning cross.  This can be a given name (Stavros) or a family name. Both given name and family name are very common in Greece.

Stephen:   ????????  ”crown”  was a deacon who was stoned to death, as told in Acts in the New Testament, and he is regarded as the first Christian martyr. Esteban or Estavan in Spanish. Sometimes Steffen and Steven in English.

Suzanne:  Hebrew name ??????????? (Shoshannah). This was derived from the Hebrew word ???????? (shoshan) meaning “lily” (in modern Hebrew Shoshannah also means “rose”).

Tara:   a female Buddha and a goddess in Hinduism. “Tara” is sometimes written/translated as “Dara”,  meaning “star”.  In Irish Gaelic, the Hill of Tara, or Teamhair na Rν, was the seat of the kings of Ireland from neolithic times (c. 5000 BC) to the 6th century or later. Tara is then taken to mean “Queen.”

Tatiana:   Feminine form of the Roman name Tatianus, a derivative of the Roman name Tatius. Tatiana was the name of a 3rd-century saint who was martyred in Rome under the emperor Alexander Severus. She was especially venerated in Orthodox Christianity, and the name has been common in Russia and Eastern Europe. The name Tatiana was not regularly used in the English-speaking world until the 1980s.

Teagen comes from the Welsh word teg, which means “beautiful” or “fair.”    Teagen may be related to the Irish name Tadgh or Taidgh, which means “poet.”  Some of the variants are Teigue and Teige, which could have transformed into Tegan or Teagan.  As a surname, it most likely arose as a patronymic, McTeague or McTague, meaning “son of Teague.”  The surname is Irish in origin, specifically from the region of Connacht.

Thomas:  ?????  Greek form of the Aramaic name ????????? (Ta’oma’) which meant “twin”.  In England the name was introduced by the Normans and became very popular due to Saint Thomas ΰ Becket, 12th-century archbishop of Canterbury and martyr. Another notable saint by this name was the 13th-century Italian philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas, who is regarded as a Doctor of the Church. Tom, Tommy, Maas (Dutch), Masaccio (Italian), Tomasso are variants of Thomas.

Timothy:     ???????? meaning “honoring God”, “in God’s honor”, or “honored by God”

Thorstein:  In Norwegian, the name Thorstein means “thors rock.” The name Thorstein orginated as an Norwegian name. Thorstein is most often used as a male name.

Torsten:  Scandinavian given name:  The Old Norse name was ήσrsteinn. It is a compound of the theonym Thor and sten ”stone”.

Tristan:  originates from the Brythonic name Drust or Drustanus. It derives from a stem meaning “noise”, seen in the modern Welsh noun trwst (plural trystau) “noise” and the verb trystio ”to clatter”.   The name is perhaps also influenced by the Latin root tristis (tant triste in the medieval French version of the myth), meaning “sad” or “sorrowful”.

Veronica:   Latin form of Berenice, influenced by the Church Latin phrase vera icon ”true image” associated with the legend of Saint Veronica who wiped the face of Jesus on the way to Calvary. Or more probably from the ancient greek ???????? ”she who brings victory.”

Vesper:   ( late 14th century) “the evening star,” from Old French vespre, from Latin vesper (masc.), vespera (fem.) “evening star, evening, west,” related to Greek hesperos, and ultimately from Proto Indo European *wespero- (Old Church Slavonic ve?eru, Lithuanian vakaras, Welsh ucher, Old Irish fescor ”evening”), from root *we- ”down” (Sanskrit avah ”down, downward”). Meaning “evening” is attested from c.1600.

Vitale:   Italian and Jewish (from Italy) from the medieval personal name Vitale (Latin Vitalis, a derivative of vita ‘life’). The name was popular with Christians as a symbol of their belief in eternal life, and was borne by a dozen early saints; it became especially popular in Emilia-Romagna because of two saints, San Vitale of Bologna and Ravenna. As a Jewish personal name it represents a calque of the Hebrew personal name Chayim ‘life’. Compare Hyams.   I have explored the church of San Vitale in Ravenna, a beautiful place.

Walter:    (wald, power) Old North French Waltier (Old French Gautier), of Germanic origin; cf. Old High German Walthari, Walthere,  ”ruler of the army,” from waltan ”to rule” (wield) + hari ”host, army.”

Walton:   Prefix “wald” (a wood), or “walh“, a farm worker or “walesc” – a foreigner.  The suffix is -ton, a town.  I would have thought wall town.

This Wesley is named for John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, who was born on the same day I was.  The “wes” portion of the name refers to the Western cardinal direction, while the word “lea” refers to a field, pasture, or other clearing in a forest. Thus, the name’s origin refers to a “western lea,” or a field to the west.

Wilhelmina:   In German it was spelled Wilhelmine, resolute, will, helmet.  This is my beautiful mother and she was named for the queen of the Netherlands.

William    Willahelm, composed of the elements wil ”will, desire” and helm ”helmet, protection”.

Names are music, full of meaning, rich and potent.



Anthea Sidiropoulos was walking into a church when she saw a sign that the janitor had put up in front of an area where he was mopping:  Please Don’t Walk On The Water.

Elephant to naked man:  How do you breathe through that thing?

A good listener is usually thinking about something else… or not thinking at all.

The thing about being on time is that there’s never anyone else around to appreciate it.

When a man brings his wife flowers for no reason, there’s a reason.

We’re happily married. We wake up in the middle of the night and laugh at each other.

The degree of one’s emotion varies inversely with one’s knowledge of the facts… the less you know the hotter you get.

You’ve been married for fifty years, how do you do it?   I close my eyes and pretend it’s not happening.

I was walking down the hill the other day and saw some men roofing a house and one of the guys hammering a nail called me a big ugly ham… in Morse code.

My friend Sam, one of the best people ever.  It’s confusing when we get mail, though.

We would have broken up except for the children.  We were the children.

Democrats are better lovers than Republicans.  You never heard of a good piece of elephant, did you?

My wife’s an air sign. I’m a fire sign.  There’s a lot of hot air, that’s for sure.

New summer camp in the Adirondacks for Native American kids:     Camp Shapiro.

The only thing my wife and I have in common is that we were married on the same day.

Marrying a man is like buying something you’ve admired in the shop window. When you get it home it might not go with anything that is in the house.

In Hollywood, all marriages are happy.  Trying to live together afterwards is what causes problems.

Justin Bieber was kind enough to do a benefit  at a senior citizens’ home and, approaching one of the elderly ladies, said, “Do you know who I am?”  And she says, “No, but go to the front desk, they’ll tell you who you are.”

A man in love is incomplete until he has married.  Then he’s finished.         Zsa Zsa Gabor

The guy who said two can live as cheaply as one has a lot of explaining to do.

American, Russian, Iraqi and an Israeli walking down the street. Roving Reporter says, “Excuse me, we’re conducting a public opinion poll about the meat shortage.” Russian says, “What’s meat?”  American says, “What’s a shortage?”  Iraqi says, “What’s public opinion?”  Israeli says,  ”What’s ‘excuse me?’ ”

I’ve been in love with the same woman for forty-one years. If my wife finds out, she’ll kill me.     Henny Youngman

A person is never drunk as long as she can lie on the floor without holding on.

I said to my wife, do you feel that the sex and excitement have gone out of our marriage, and she said, let’s talk about it during the next commercial.

If god dwells within us, I hope she likes enchiladas, because that’s what she’s getting.

Married men don’t live longer than single men.  It just seems that way.

A New Age church in California has three commandments and seven suggestions.

If you were my husband, said Lady Astor, I’d put poison in your coffee.  And if I were your husband, answered Winston Churchill, I’d drink it.

Mrs. Pop to Mr. Pop:  No way we’re naming this kid Iggy.

Marry me, and I promise I’ll never bother you again.

Besides “I love you,” what three words does a woman want to hear the most. “Ill fix it.”

Marriage means commitment.  So does insanity.

It was a really big shoe.  That guy who was half Jewish and half Japanese was circumcised at Beni Hana’s.

I was engaged once to a contortionist. She broke it off.

Doctors:  they give you an appointment in a month and then ask why you took so long to see them.

She’s a lovely person. She deserves a good husband. Marry her before she finds one.              Oscar Levant to Harpo Marx.

A WASP’s idea of affirmative action.  Hiring South American jockeys.

I love these people.  Silvia and Franco.

Carrie Clores, right, is married to my old friend Rob who played keyboards in Love, Janis, NYC.

Man rules the roost. Woman rules the rooster.

Dad:   Son, if you masturbate, you’ll go blind.       Son:    I’m over here, Dad.

Patient:  Doctor, I have no memory.    Doctor:  Now, keep calm, how long have you had this problem?   Patient:  What problem?

Men are not dogs.   Dogs are loyal and faithful.

A smart husband thinks twice before not saying anything.

Where do you find a man who is truly committed?    In a mental hospital.

What is the difference between men and pigs?  Pigs don’t turn into men when they get drunk.

How does a man plan for the future?   He buys two bottles of vodka instead of just one.

I may be seventy-one but every morning when I get up I feel like a twenty year old.  Unfortunately there’s never one around.

Why don’t lobsters share?     Because they’re shellfish.        (I knew you would like that one.)

Did you hear about the psychic amnesiac?  She knew in advance what she was going to forget.

A WASP is a guy who gets out of the shower to take a leak.

As long as the world keeps turning and spinning, we’re gonna be dizzy and we’re gonna make mistakes.         Mel Brooks

If I had my life to live over, I’d make all the mistakes much sooner.

When you’re dead, your fingernails, toenails and hair continue to grow for three days. After that your e mails taper off.

Fabulous new diet:  you can only eat bagels and lox… and you have to live in Syria.

The new heroin diet is interesting… most of your food falls on the floor.

I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in fourteen days I lost two weeks.

Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.

Behind every successful man stands a proud wife and an astonished mother-in-law.

How many musicians does it take to change a lightbulb?  One, with ten on the guest list.

Adam to Eve:  Hey, I wear the plants in this family.

How many New Yorkers does it take to screw in a light bulb?    Hey, fuck you, forget about it.

I’m now at the age where I’ve got to prove that I’m just as good as I never was.

The secret to staying young is to exercise regularly, eat sparingly and lie about your age.

My wife calls our waterbed The Dead Sea.

The optimist created the airplane.  The pessimist created the seat belts.

I’m so old, my blood type was discontinued.

Confidence:  what you start off with before you completely understand the situation.

My wife always lets me have her way.   And that’s OK.

If you don’t drink, when you wake up in the morning, that’s the best you’re going to feel all day.

I heard two guys talking in Arabic in a bar the other day. I said, “Hey, you’re in America now, speak Spanish.”

Jewish foreplay is three hours of begging. Italian foreplay is, “Honey, I’m home!”

How many Amish does it take to screw in a lightbulb?  The Amish don’t have lightbulbs.  They bake pies.

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but that’s what it is… an institution.

Joe:  You’re always wishing for something you haven’t got.    Flo:  What else is there to wish for?

My wife and I were happy for twenty years.  Then we met.           Henny Youngman

I wanted to sign up for Paranoids Anonymous but they wouldn’t tell me where they were.

A marriage license costs twenty dollars now, and everything you’ve got for the rest of your life.

The drinking age and the voting age should be the same.  Some of the people we vote for, you need a drink.

If someone says, “My kid is a conservative, how did that happen?”  remind them that when we took all those drugs in the 60s, we were told that our children would be brain damaged.

Let me get this straight.  I can’t sleep with anyone else for the rest of my life, and, if things don’t work out, you get to keep half my stuff?  What a great idea.

My doctor keeps sending me to other physicians.  I don’t know if he’s a doctor or a booking agent.

Texan:  How big is your farm?  Kibbutzer: Two hundred by three hundred feet.  How big is your ranch?  Texan:  I get in my car, drive from sunrise to sunset and never reach the end of my land.  Kibbutzer:  Yeah, I had a car like that too.

What is the difference between a dog and a fox?  About five drinks.

Frank goes to a meeting once a week to make him stop drinking, and it works.  Every Wednesday between five and six he doesn’t drink.

Patient:  How much to have this tooth pulled?  Dentist: Ninety dollars.   Patient:  Ninety dollars for just a few minutes work?   Dentist: I can extract if very slowly if you like.

I used to take two hits of acid so I could have a round trip.

Four out of three people have trouble with fractions.

Docotr:  You’ll be able to resume your love life when you can climb two flights of stairs without becoming winded.  Patient: Why don’t I look for a woman who lives on the ground floor?

When her enemies stopped booing, she knew she was slipping.

I’m so old that when I order a three-minute egg, they ask for the money up front.

She never hated a man enough to give him his jewelry back.

I was recently born again.  It was a glorious experience, but I can’t say that my mother enjoyed it a whole lot.

Chinese guy having a drink when Roy Goldberg knocks him off the stool. “Hey, what’s that for?”  ”That’s for Pearl Harbor.”  ”Yeah, but I’m Chinese,” the guy says. “All the same to me,” says Goldberg.  A little later, the Asian man walks over and slugs Goldberg. “That’s for the Titanic.”   “The Titanic,” answers Roy, “was hit by an icberg.” “Iceberg, Goldberg, they’re all the same to me.”

Tell me. darling, where have you been all my life?    Well, for the first fifty years of it I wasn’t even around.

Are you living a life of quiet desperation, or are you married?

That new synagogue in Harlem is called Beth You Is My Woman Now.

Robert Altman took this of Chet Helms.

I’ll never make the mistake of being seventy again.

I just had some words with my wife, and she had some paragraphs with me.

Bumper sticker in Canada:  I’d rather be driving.

Dad, he said, I play this guy who’s been married for twenty-five years.  That’s great, son, enthused his father, one of these days maybe you’ll work up to a speaking part.

A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.        Mark Twain

I finally got it all together. Now I’m too old to pick it up.

Or, to put it another way, experience is a comb that life gives you after you’ve lost your hair.

The dread of loneliness is greater than the fear of bondage, so we get married.

Politics is the art of looking for problems, finding them everywhere, diagnosing them incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

What’s the difference between baseball and politics?  In baseball, you’re out if you’re caught stealing.

Rick Santorum says that gay people getting married would violate the sanctity of marriage.  Are you married?  Do you feel sanctified?

Being in politics is like being a football coach.  You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it’s important.

Marriage is grand.  Divorce is a hundred grand.

Why don’t Baptists make love standing up?   They’re afraid it might lead to dancing.

A WASP proposes marriage:  How would you like to be buried with my people?

Don’t marry for money. It’s cheaper to borrow it.

If god has anything better than sex to offer, she’s keeping it to herself.

Why is psychoanalysis quicker for men than for women?  When it’s time to regress to their childhood, most men are already there.

He doesn’t have an enemy in the world, but all of his friends hate him.

How many psychoanalysts does it take to screw in a lightbulb?  How many do you think it takes?

I had to give up masochism.  I was enjoying it too much.

The thing that takes up the least amount of time and causes the most trouble is sex.

Honey, am I your first?       Why does everyone ask me that?

No problem is too big to run away from.

The thing about being unemployed is that when you wake up, you’re on the job.

The amount of sleep required by the average person is about five minutes more.

I’ve noticed that nothing I’ve never said ever did me any harm,

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Then quit.  No use being a damn fool about it.

We’ll see you next week.

Sam Andrew

Big Bother and the Folding Company