Wiktionary talk:About given names and surnames

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Etymology placement[edit]

I'd just like to say that I think that this page is excellent (at least the version I'm seeing, 16 April 2010). I agree with nearly everything written thus far, with a few exceptions. I think that etymological info is best placed under the etymology header, as opposed to the definition line. This allows for a more detailed analysis. While most of our name entries currently have nothing beyond "French" or something similar, there is a great deal of info that could be included (from French, from Latin from Ancient Greek; first attested in this work; etc.), and I'd like to keep our options open for the future. Additionally, the etymology section is pretty standard practice for regular words, and while I recognise that names need some deviation from other norms, I don't think it does here. Thoughts? -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 06:50, 18 April 2010 (UTC)

Please remember that most of us are not etymologists. A stub like "cognate to Alexander" is better than no etymology at all. SemperBlotto defines names with one sentence. It's fine if they are replaced by good etymology sections , like the ones added by you (welcome back!), msh210, and Ruakh. But nobody ever adds Germanic etymologies, for example.--Makaokalani 13:16, 20 April 2010 (UTC)
Yes, but I'm not asking for full etymologies. I'm asking that even tiny stub etymologies, which are certainly better than nothing, be placed in an etymology section, like all other etymologies are. Doing this allows that any future improvements are easily done, and keeps all words with a consistent format. -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 23:50, 20 April 2010 (UTC)

Treatement of historical persons[edit]

I'd like to argue that, for names of historical persons, we should primarily stick to the standard format (i.e. simply defining it as a given name). If people want to learn about specific people who bore that name, they should go to Wikipedia, and we should have a link to easily allow them to do so. We might even want to consider a name-specific template which says "to learn about people who bore this name, click this 'pedia link" or something. This would allow us to maintain our lexical focus while making it easy and intuitive for people to find out the info that a lot of them are probably looking for. The problem with defining Jesse, for example, as "the father of king David" is that we could add a whole lot of the stuff listed here and here. But those aren't meanings, those are referents, which we don't/shouldn't cover. Now, I think we have this unspoken tendency to list people who have no last name in the definitions, but not others. So, we have the "father of David" def at Jesse, and no one bats an eye, but if someone wanted to list Jesse James there, everyone would throw a hissy fit. Why? I don't think it's because the Biblical Jesse is more famous, even though I suspect that's what people would say (he's probably not, really, Jesse was a fairly minor character in the biblical narrative). I think it's because the biblical Jesse was just Jesse, not Jesse Johnson or something. But....I don't think this is an important qualitative difference. The biblical Jesse probably had a family nameish thing, perhaps Jesse ben...something. Jesse is just as much his given name as it was for Jesse James. Now, since I'm masochistic and want to convolute my thread and turn it into a flame war, I should recognise that Jesse James was an English-speaker, whose name was actually Jesse, where the biblical guy's name was actually ישי. This does add some complications, as Jesse in Jesse James is the actual name, as used by the person, where Jesse in the biblical Jesse is a translation (wait, I thought names didn't have translations?). Ultimately, I suppose, it's just a transliteration, but one that has a very long history, and has sort of developed on its own (without respect for the original) for awhile. Man, I really wanted to have some nice argument to wrap that up, but it sort of broke my brain, so I'll just leave this here for others to discuss, for now. I might think of something better on the topic later. Sorry. -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 07:53, 18 April 2010 (UTC)

The difference is that Jesse, father of David, is translated (Isai, etc) while Jesse James is just Jesse James in any language. It's the translations that justify the biblical/mythological/historical persons. Remove the definitions and valuable information will be lost. For example, biblical Peter is not the same as everyday Peter in all languages. (Jesse is a bad example because nobody except Anglo-Saxons name their kids after David's dad.) On the other hand, surnames are not translated, so I'd be ready to remove the definition of Churchill as a British statesman. See Wiktionary:Votes/pl-2010-03/Including particular individuals. No consensus even about what we were arguing about...--Makaokalani 13:23, 20 April 2010 (UTC)
Well, actually Jesse James is not just "Jesse" in any language. Going off interwiki links, he appears to be ג'סי in Hebrew (interesting that they didn't use ישי, no?) and ジェシー in Japanese. Ultimately, Jesse isn't a translation of ישי, but rather a transliteration, a very, very old transliteration. It's also a transliteration which appears in a particularly important work, the Bible. Interestingly, there are two types of name transliterations in the Bible: classic transliterations and revisionist transliterations (terms of my own coining, don't go out and use them in sentences). Certain names, which have, in someone's opinion, become part of the public consciousness, retain their old spelling, even if it's not a very good transliteration anymore (English phonology has changed quite a bit since the Bible was first written in it); these are classic transliterations. Other names have been given more up to date transliterations (revisionist transliterations). The latter are generally less important characters, the differences in whose names are likely to go unnoticed. Of course, this also depends on which translation you're reading. The point of all that is that there is, admittedly, something special about Jesse, and it's separation and independence from its etymon ישי. I still don't think that this specialness merits a separate definition, but there's something to your argument, I concede. However, I wonder if you can explicate exactly who gets their own definition. I suspect you can't. Is it everyone who has an English "name" which is different than their native language name? If so, every person whose name is natively written in a non-Latin script would get it. Is it everyone whose name is transliterated and said transliteration has achieved a phonological independence from its etymon? Then we need a separate definition for every John in the Bible (rest assured, there are quite a few of them). Is it every person who satisfies the previously mentioned requirement and is additionally somehow famous? If so, we really need to figure out exactly how famous a person needs to be to merit their own definition. -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 23:47, 20 April 2010 (UTC)
You are right, some criteria for notability is needed, like for any Wiktionary word. But you can also use definitions like "Any of several men in the Old Testament, including a son of Saul". The list in Shemaiah looks like overkill...When the script changes, transliterations and translations may be identical. My hobby is the use of given names in modern languages. There are many versions of the bible in any (major) European language. Some biblical names have become archaic, or were phonetically impossible to begin with, so vernacular forms are used. Or the opposite: a form from an obsolete version remains the standard given name (like English Elizabeth). You can never tell if the name of a Greek philosopher is taken up as a given name, or what a foreign king may be called. Every language is different. We need compromises, every king and biblical person cannot have an entry, but why not be as accurate as we can? Names are complicated, and they won't become simple just by defining everything as a given name. Would you define Dracula, Oedipus and Beelzebub as given names? --Makaokalani 16:03, 23 April 2010 (UTC)
Well, I purposely avoided the issue of mythical figures, as I think they retain all the complications of historical figures, and add their own set. Shemaiah is indeed overkill. In any case, if the names of historical figures are to be given special treatment, then we should figure out exactly how that works, so that we don't end up with more Shemaiah's. -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 22:22, 23 April 2010 (UTC)

Cognate vs transliteration[edit]

It's worth mentioning that many names will have both cognates and transliterations. Like John - Russian: Иван (cognate) and Джон (transliteration). A person called John can't expect to be called Иван if he visits Russia, nor a Russian called Иван (Ivan) will not be called John in English but Ivan but a king called James may not be called Джеймс but Яков. Some languages differ in the treatment of these two when translating foreign names into their language and it also depends on situations, like with king James. --Anatoli 00:55, 21 April 2010 (UTC)