WORDS TELL US
ELIZABETH O'NEILL, M.A.
AUTHOR OF "THE WORLD'S STORY,"
"A NURSERY HISTORY
OF ENGLAND," ETC.
LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK, LTD.
35 PATERNOSTER ROW, E.C.
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I. SOME STORIES OF BRITISH HISTORY TOLD FROM ENGLISH WORDS
II. HOW WE GOT OUR CHRISTIAN NAMES AND SURNAMES
III. STORIES IN THE NAMES OF PLACES
IV. NEW NAMES FOR NEW PLACES
V. STORIES IN OLD LONDON NAMES
VI. WORDS MADE BY GREAT WRITERS
VII. WORDS THE BIBLE HAS GIVEN US
VIII. WORDS FROM THE NAMES OF PEOPLE
IX. WORDS FROM THE NAMES OF ANIMALS
X. WORDS FROM THE NAMES OF PLACES
XI. PICTURES IN WORDS
XII. WORDS FROM NATIONAL CHARACTER
XIII. WORDS MADE BY WAR
XVI. WORDS WHICH HAVE CHANGED THEIR MEANING
XVII. DIFFERENT WORDS WITH THE SAME MEANING, AND THE SAME WORDS WITH DIFFERENT MEANINGS
XVIII. NICE WORDS FOR NASTY THINGS
XIX. THE MORAL OF THESE STORIES
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STORIES THAT WORDS TELL US.
SOME STORIES OF BRITISH HISTORY TOLD FROM ENGLISH WORDS.
Nearly all children must remember times when a word they know quite well and use often has suddenly seemed very strange to them. Perhaps they began repeating the word half to themselves again and again, and wondered why they had never noticed before what a queer word it is. Then generally they have forgotten all about it, and the next time they have used the word it has not seemed strange at all.
But as a matter of fact words are very strange things. Every word we use has its own story, and has changed, sometimes many times since some man or woman or child first used it. Some words are very old and some are quite new, for every living language—that is, every language used regularly by some nation—is always growing, and having new words added to it. The only languages which do not grow in this way are the "dead" languages which were spoken long ago by nations which are dead too.
Latin is a "dead" language. When it was spoken by the old Romans it was, of course, a living language, and grew and changed; but though it is a very beautiful language, it is no longer used as the regular speech of a nation, and so does not change any more.
But it is quite different with a living language. Just as a baby when it begins to speak uses only a few words, and learns more and more as it grows older, so nations use more words as they grow older and become more and more civilized. Savages use only a few words, not many more, perhaps, than a baby, and not as many as a child belonging to a civilized nation. But the people of great civilizations like England and France use many thousands of words, and the more educated a person is the more words he is able to choose from to express his thoughts.
We do not know how the first words which men and women spoke were made. People who study the history of languages, and who are called Philologists, or "Lovers of Words," say that words may have come to be used in any one of three different ways; but of course this is only guessing, for though we know a great deal about the way words and languages grow, we do not really know how they first began. Some people used to think that the earliest men had a language all ready-made for them, but this could not be. We know at least that the millions of words in use in the world to-day have grown out of quite a few simple sounds or "root" words. Every word we use contains a story about some man or woman or child of the past or the present. In this chapter we shall see how some common English words can tell us stories of the past.
In reading British history we learn how different peoples have at different times owned the land: how the Britons were conquered by the English; how the Danes tried to conquer the English in their turn, and how great numbers of them settled down in the Danelaw, in the east of England; how, later on, the Norman duke and his followers overcame Harold, and became the rulers of England, and so on. But suppose we knew nothing at all about British history, and had to guess what had happened in the past, we might guess a great deal of British history from the words used by English people to-day. For the English language has itself been growing, and borrowing words from other languages all through British history. Scholars who have studied many languages can easily pick out these borrowed words and say from which language they were taken.
Of course these scholars know a great deal about British history; but let us imagine one who does not. He would notice in the English language some words (though not many) which must have come from the language which the Britons spoke. He would know, too, that the name Welsh, which was given to the Britons who were driven into the western parts of England, comes from an Old English word, wealh, which meant "slave." He might then guess that, besides the Britons who were driven away into the west of the country, there were others whom the English conquered and made to work as slaves. From the name wealh, or "slave," given to these, all the Britons who remained came to be known as Welsh.
Yet though the English conquered the Britons, the two peoples could not have mixed much or married very often with each other; for if they had done so, many more British words would have been borrowed by the English language. To the English the Britons were strangers and "slaves."
We could, too, guess some of the things which these old English conquerors of Britain did and believed from examining some common English words. If we think of the days of the week besides Sunday, or the "Sun's day," and Monday, the "Moon's day," we find Tuesday, "Tew's day," Wednesday, "Woden's day," Thursday, "Thor's day," Friday, "Freya's day," Saturday, "Saturn's day," and it would not be hard to guess that most of the days are called after gods or goddesses whom the English worshipped while they were still heathen, Tew was in the old English religion the bravest of all the gods, for he gave up his own arm to save the other gods. Woden, the wisest of the gods, had given up not an arm but an eye, which he had sold for the waters of wisdom. Thor was the fierce god of thunder, who hurled lightning at the giants. Freya was a beautiful goddess who wore a magic necklace which had the power to make men love. We might then guess from the way in which our old English forefathers named the days of the week what sort of gods they worshipped, and what kind of men they were—great fighters, admiring courage and strength above all things, but poetical, too, loving grace and beauty.
But, as everybody knows, the English people soon changed their religion and became Christians; and any student of the English language would soon guess this, even if he knew nothing of English history. He would be able to guess, too, that the English got their Christianity from a people who spoke Latin, for so many of the English words connected with religion come from the Latin language. It was, of course, the Roman monk St. Augustine who brought the Christian religion to the English. Latin was the language of the Romans. The word religion itself is a Latin word meaning reverence for the gods; and Mass, the name given to the chief service of the Catholic religion, comes from the Latin missa, taken from the words, Ite missa est ("Go; the Mass is ended"), with which the priest finishes the Mass. Missa is only a part of the verb mittere, "to finish."
The words priest, bishop, monk, altar, vestment, and many others, came into the English language from the Latin with the Christian religion.
Even, again, if a student of the English language knew nothing about the invasions of England by the fierce Danes, he might guess something about them from the fact that there are many Danish words in the English language, and especially the names of places. Such common words as husband, knife, root, skin, came into English from the Danish.
But many more words were added to the English language through the Norman Conquest. It is quite easy to see, from the great number of French words in the English language, that France and England must at one time have had a great deal to do with each other. But it was the English who used French words, and not the French who used English. This was quite natural when a Norman, or North French, duke became king of England, and Norman nobles came in great numbers to live in England and help to rule her.
Sir Walter Scott, in his great book "Ivanhoe," makes one man say that all the names of living animals are English, like ox, sheep, deer, and swine, but their flesh when it becomes meat is given French names—beef, mutton, venison, and pork. The reason for this is easy to see: Englishmen worked hard looking after the animals while they were alive, and the rich Normans ate their flesh when they were dead.
England never, of course, became really Norman. Although the English were not so learned or polite or at that time so civilized as the Normans, there were so many more of them that in time the Normans became English, and spoke the English language. But when we remember that for three hundred years French was spoken in the law courts and by the nobility of England, and all the English kings were really Frenchmen, it is easy to understand that a great many French words found their way into the English language.
As it was the Normans who governed England, many of our words about law and government came from the French. Englishmen are very proud of the "jury system," by which every British subject is tried by his equals. It was England who really began this system, but the name jury is French, as are also judge, court, justice, prison, gaol. The English Parliament, too, is called the "Mother of Parliaments," but parliament is a French word, and means really a meeting for the purpose of talking.
Nearly all titles, like duke, baron, marquis, are French, for it was Frenchmen who first got and gave these titles; though earl remains from the Danish eorl. It is a rather peculiar thing that nearly all our names for relatives outside one's own family come from the French used by the Normans—uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, cousin; while father, mother, brother, and sister come from the Old English words.
In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the real "Middle Ages," the French poets, scholars, and writers were the greatest in Europe. The greatest doctors, lawyers, and scholars of the western lands of Europe had often been educated at schools or universities in France. Those who wrote about medicine and law often used French words to describe things for which no English word was known. The French writers borrowed many words from Latin, and the English writers did the same. Sometimes they took Latin words from the French, but sometimes they only imitated the French writers, and took a Latin word and changed it to seem like a French word.
If we were to count the words used by English writers in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, we should find that quite one-tenth of these are words borrowed from other languages. After this time fewer words were borrowed, but still the English language has borrowed much more than most languages.
Some people think that it is a pity that we have borrowed so many words, and say that we should speak and write "pure English." But we must remember that Britain has had the most wonderful history of all the nations. She has had the greatest explorers, adventurers, and sailors. She has built up the greatest empire the world has ever seen. It is only natural that her language should have borrowed from the languages of nearly every nation in the world, even from the Chinese and from the native languages of Australia and Africa.
Ever since the middle of the sixteenth century England has been a great sea-going nation. Her sailors have explored and traded all over the world, and naturally they have brought back many new words from East and West. Sometimes these are the names of new things brought from strange lands. Thus calico was given that name from Calicut, because the cotton used to make calico came from there. From Arabia we got the words harem and magazine, and from Turkey the name coffee, though this is really an Arabian word. We had already learned the words cotton, sugar, and orange from the Arabs at the time of the Crusades. From the West Indies and from South America many words came, though the English learned these first from the Spaniards, who were the first to discover these lands. Among these words are the names of such common things as chocolate, cocoa, tomato. The words canoe, tobacco, and potato come to us from the island of Hayti. The words hammock and hurricane come to us from the Caribbean Islands, and so did the word cannibal, which came from Caniba, which was sometimes used instead of Carib.
Even the common word breeze, by which we now mean a light wind, first came to us from the Spanish word briza, which meant the north-east trade wind. The name alligator, an animal which Englishmen saw for the first time in these far-off voyages, is really only an attempt to use the Spanish words for the lizard—al lagarto.
When the English at length settled themselves in North America they took many words from the native Indians, such as tomahawk, moccasin, and hickory.
In England and in Europe generally history shows us that there were a great many changes in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This new love for adventure, which gave us so many new words, was one sign of the times. Then there were changes in manners, in religion, and in the way people thought about things. People had quite a new idea of the world. They now knew that, instead of being the centre of the universe, the earth was but one of many worlds whirling through space.
The minds of men became more lively. They began to criticize all sorts of things which they had believed in and reverenced before. During the Middle Ages many things which the Romans and Greeks had loved had been forgotten and despised; but now there was a sudden new enthusiasm for the beautiful statues and fine writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. It was not long before this new great change got a name. It was called the Renaissance, or "New Birth," because so many old and forgotten things seemed to come to life again, and it looked as though men had been born again into a new time.
One of the chief results of the Renaissance was a change in religion. The Protestants declared that they had reformed or changed religion for the better, and the change in religion is now always spoken of as the Reformation; just as the reform of the Catholic Church which soon followed was called the Counter-Reformation, or movement against the Reformation—counter coming from the Latin word for "against."
In England the Renaissance and Reformation led to great changes not only in religion but in government, and the way people thought of their country and their rulers. People came to have a new love for and pride in their country. It was in the sixteenth century that the old word nation, which before had meant a race or band of peoples, came to be used as we use it now, to mean the people of one country under one government. In the sixteenth century Englishmen became prouder than ever of belonging to the English "nation." They felt a new love for other Englishmen, and it was at this time that the expressions fellow-countrymen and mother-country were first used.
The seventeenth century was, of course, a period during which great things happened to the English state. It was the period of the great Civil War, in which the Parliament fought against the king, so that it could have the chief part in the government of the country.
All sorts of new words grew up during the Civil War. The word Royalist now first began to be used, meaning the people who were on the king's side. The Royalists called the men who fought for the Parliament Roundheads, because of their hair being cropped short, not hanging in ringlets, as was the fashion of the day.
The people who fought against the king were all men who had broken away from the English Church, and become much more "Protestant." They were very strict in many ways, especially in keeping the "Sabbath," as they called Sunday. They dressed very plainly, and they thought the followers of the king, with their long hair and lace and ruffles, very frivolous people indeed. It was the men of the Parliament side who first gave the name Cavalier to the Royalists. It was meant by them to show contempt, and came from the Italian word cavaliere, which means literally "a horseman," coming from the Late Latin word caballus, "a horse."
It is a curious fact that we now use the word cavalier as an adjective to mean rude and off-hand, whereas the Cavaliers of the seventeenth century certainly had much better manners than the Roundheads; and at the end of that century the word was sometimes used in the general sense of gay and frank.
Both sides in the Civil War invented a good many new words with which to abuse the enemy. Milton, who wrote on the side of the Parliament, made a great many; but the Royalists invented more, and perhaps more expressive, words. At any rate they have been kept and used as quite ordinary English words. The word cant, for instance, which every one understands to mean pious or sentimental words which the person who says them does not really mean, was first used in this way by the Royalists to describe the sayings of the Parliament men who were much given to preaching and the singing of psalms. Before that time the word cant had meant a certain kind of singing, and also the whining sound beggars sometimes made.
In the eighteenth century, when Parliament was divided into two great parties, their names were given to them in the same way. The Tories were so called from the name given to some very wild, almost savage, people who lived in the bog lands of Ireland; and the name Whigs was given by the Tories, and came from a Scotch word, Whigamore, the name of some very fierce Protestants in the south of Scotland. At first these names were just words of abuse, but they came to be the regular names of the two parties, and people forgot all about their first meanings.
The great growth in the power of the peoples of Europe since the French Revolution has brought about great changes in the way these countries are governed. It was the French Revolution which led to the widespread opinion that all the people in a nation should help in the government. It was in writing on these subjects that English writers borrowed the words aristocrat and democrat from the French writers. Aristocracy comes from an old Greek word meaning the rule of the few; but the French Revolution writers gave it a new meaning, as something evil. Before the Revolution the name despotism had been used for the rule of a single tyrant, but it now came to mean unjust rule, even by several people.
The French Revolution gave us several other words. We all now know the word terrorize, but it only came into English from the French at the time of the Revolution, when the French people became used to "Reigns of Terror." But if the French Revolution gave us many of the words which relate to democracy or government by the people, England has always been the country of parliamentary government, and many terms now used by the other countries of Europe have been invented in England—words like parliament itself, bill, budget, and speech.
Nearly all the words connected with science, and especially the "ologies," as they are called, like physiology and zoology, are fairly new words in English. In the Middle Ages there was no real study of science, and so naturally there were not many words connected with it; but in the last two centuries the study of science has been one of the most important things in history. We shall see more of these scientific words in another chapter.
Perhaps we have said enough in this chapter to show how each big movement in history has given us a new group of words and how these words are in a way historians of these movements.
HOW WE GOT OUR CHRISTIAN NAMES AND SURNAMES.
We can learn some interesting stories from the history of our own names. Most people nowadays have one or more Christian names and a surname, but this was not always the case. Every Christian from the earliest days of Christianity must have had a Christian name given to him at baptism. And before the days of Christianity every man, woman, or child must have had some name. But the practice of giving surnames grew up only very gradually in the countries of Europe. At first only a few royal or noble families had sur-names, or "super" names; but gradually, as the populations of the different countries became larger, it became necessary for people to have surnames, so as to distinguish those with the same Christian names from each other.
In these days children are generally given for their Christian names family names, or names which their parents think beautiful or suitable. (Often the children afterwards do not like their own names at all.) The Christian names of the children of European countries come to us from many different languages. Perhaps the greatest number come to us from the Hebrew, because these Jewish names are, of course, found in great numbers in the Bible.
The conversion of the countries of Europe to Christianity united them in their ways of thinking and believing, and they all honoured the saints. The names of the early saints, whether they were from the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Teutonic, or Slavonic, were soon spread throughout all the countries of Europe, so that now French, German, English, Italian, Spanish names, and those of the other European countries, are for the most part the same, only spelt and pronounced a little differently in the different countries.
The English William is Guillaume in French, Wilhelm in German, and so on. John is Jean in French, Johann in German, and so on, with many other names.
But in early times people got their names in a much more interesting way. Sometimes something which seemed peculiar about a little new-born baby would suggest a name. Esau was called by this name, which is only the Hebrew word for "hairy," because he was already covered by the thick growth of hair on his body which made him so different from Jacob. The old Roman names Flavius and Fulvius merely meant "yellow," and the French name Blanche, "fair," or "white." Sometimes the fond parents would give the child a name describing some quality which they hoped the child would possess when it grew up. The Hebrew name David means "beloved."
The name Joseph was given by Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, to the baby who came to her after long waiting. Joseph means "addition," and Rachel chose this name because she hoped another child would yet be added to her family. She afterwards had Benjamin, the best beloved of all Jacob's sons, and then she died.
The name Joseph did not become common in Europe till after the Reformation, when the Catholic Church appointed a feast day for St. Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin. Towards the end of the eighteenth century the Emperor Leopold christened his son Joseph, and this, and the fact that Napoleon's first wife was named Josephine, made these two names as a boy's and a girl's name very popular. We have both Joseph and Josephine in English, and the French have Fifine and Finette as well as Josephine, for which these are pet names. In Italy, too, Joseph, or Giuseppe, is a common name, and Peppo, or Beppo, are short names for it. These pet names seem very strange when we remember Rachel's solemn choosing of the name for the first Joseph of all.
Sometimes the early nations called their children by the names of animals. The beautiful old Hebrew name Deborah, which became also an old-fashioned English name, means "bee." In several languages the word for wolf was given as a personal name. The Greek Lycos, the Latin Lupus, the Teutonic Ulf, from which came the Latin Ulphilas and the Slavonic Vuk, all mean "wolf." The wolf was the most common and the most treacherous of all the wild animals against which early peoples had to fight, and this, perhaps, accounts for the common use of its name. People were so impressed by its qualities that they thought its name worthy to give to their sons, who, perhaps, they hoped would possess some of its better qualities when they grew up.
Sometimes early names were taken from the names of precious stones, as Margarite, a Greek name meaning "pearl," and which is the origin of all the Margarets, Marguerites, etc., to be found in nearly all the languages of Europe.
Among all early peoples many names were religious, like the Hebrew Ishmael, or "heard by God;" Elizabeth, or the "oath of God;" John, or the "grace of the Lord." The Romans had the name Jovianus, which meant "belonging to Jupiter," who was the chief of the gods in whom the Romans believed.
In some languages names, especially of women, are taken from flowers, like the Greek Rhode, or "rose," the English Rose, and Lily or Lilian, and the Scotch Lilias.
A great many of the Hebrew names especially come from words meaning sorrow or trouble. They were first given to children born in times of sorrow. Thus we have Jabez, which means "sorrow;" Ichabod, or "the glory is departed;" Mary, "bitter." The Jews, as we can see from the Bible, suffered the greatest misfortunes, and their writers knew how to tell of it in words. The Celtic nations, like the Irish, have the same gift, and we get many old Celtic names with these same sad meanings. Thus Una means "famine;" Ita, "thirsty."
The Greek and Roman names were never sad like these. Some old Greek names became Christian names when people who were called by them became Christian in the first days of the Church. There are several names from the Greek word angelos. This meant in Greek merely a messenger, but it began to be used by the early Christian writers both in Latin and Greek to mean a messenger from heaven, or an angel. The Greeks gave it first as a surname, and then as a Christian name. In the thirteenth century there was a St. Angelo in Italy, and from the honour paid to him the name spread, chiefly as a girl's name, to the other countries of Europe, giving the English Angelina and Angelica, the French Angelique, and the German Engel.
Besides this general name of angel, the name of Michael, the archangel, and Gabriel, the angel of the Annunciation, became favourite names among Eastern Christians. The reason Michael was such a favourite was that the great Emperor Constantine dedicated a church to St. Michael in Constantinople. The name is so much used in Russia that it is quite common to speak of a Russian peasant as a "Michael," just as people rather vulgarly speak of an Irish peasant as a "Paddy." Michael can hardly be called an English name, but it is almost as common in Ireland as Patrick, which, of course, is used in honour of Ireland's patron saint. Gabriel is a common name in Italy, as is also another angel's name, Raphael. Gabriel is used as a girl's name in France—Gabrielle.
No Christian would think of using the name of God as a personal name; but Theos, the Greek word for God, was sometimes so used by the Greeks. A Greek name formed from this, Theophilos, or "beloved by the gods," became a Christian name, and the name of one of the early saints.
The name Christ, or "anointed," was the word which the Greek Christians (who translated the Gospels into the Greek of their time) used for the Messiah. From this word came the name Christian, and from it Christina. One of the early martyrs, a virgin of noble Roman birth, who died for her religion, was St. Christina. In Denmark the name became a man's name, Christiern. Another English name which is like Christina is Christabel. The great poet Coleridge in the nineteenth century wrote the beginning of a beautiful poem called "Christabel." The name was not very common before this, and was not heard of until the sixteenth century, but it is fairly common now.
Another favourite Christian name from the name of Christ is Christopher, which means the bearer or carrier of Christ, and we are told in a legend how St. Christopher got this name. He had chosen for his work to carry people across a stream which had no bridge over it. One day a little boy suddenly appeared, and asked him to carry him across. The kind saint did so, and found, as he got farther into the stream, that the child grew heavier and heavier. When the saint put him down on the other side he saw the figure of the man Christ before him, and fell down and adored Him. Ever afterwards he was known as Christopher, or the "Christ-bearer."
Another Christian name which comes from a Greek word is Peter. Petros is the Greek word for "stone," and Petra for "rock." The name Peter became a favourite in honour of St. Peter, whose name was first Simon, but who was called Peter because of the words our Lord said to him: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church."
When the barbarian tribes, such as the English and Franks, broke into the lands of the Roman Empire and settled there, afterwards being converted to Christianity, they chose a good many Latin words as names. In France names made from the Latin word amo ("I love") were quite common. We hear of Amabilis ("lovable"), Amadeus ("loving God"), Amandus, which has now become a surname in France as St. Amand. In England, Amabilis became Amabel, which is not a very common name now, but from which we have Mabel. Amy was first used in England after the Norman Conquest, and comes from the French Amata, or Aimee, which means "beloved."
Another Latin word of the same kind which gave us some Christian names was Beo ("I bless"). From part of this verb, Beatus ("blessed"), there was an old English name, Beata, but no girl or woman seems to have been called by it since the seventeenth century. Beatrix and Beatrice also come from this. The name Benedict, which sometimes became in English Bennet, came from another word like this, Benignus ("kind"). Boniface, from the Latin Bonifacius ("doer of good deeds"), was a favourite name in the early Church, and the name of a great English saint; but it is not used in England now, though there is still the Italian name, Bonifazio, which comes from the same word.
Both Christian names and surnames have been taken from the Latin Dies Natalis, or "Birthday of our Lord." The French word for Christmas, Noel, comes from this, and, as well as Natalie, is used as a Christian name. Noel is found, too, both as a Christian name and surname in England. At one time English babies were sometimes christened Christmas, but this is never used as a Christian name now, though a few families have it as a surname.
Perhaps the most peculiar Christian names that have ever been were the long names which some of the English Puritans gave their children in the seventeenth century. Often they gave them whole texts of Scripture as names, so that at least one small boy was called "Bind their nobles in chains and their kings in fetters of iron." Let us hope his relatives soon found some other name to call him "for short."
Everybody has heard of the famous Cromwellian Parliament, which would do nothing but talk, and which was called the "Barebones Parliament," after one of its members, who not only bore this peculiar surname, but was also blessed with the "Christian" name of Praise-God. Cromwell grew impatient at last, and Praise-God Barebones and the other talkers suddenly found Parliament dissolved. These names were not, as a rule, handed on from father to son, and soon died out, though in America even to-day we get Christian names somewhat similar, but at least shorter—names like Willing.
It is often easier to see how we got our Christian names than how we got our surnames. As we have seen, there was a time when early peoples had only first names. The Romans had surnames, or cognomina, but the barbarians who won Europe from them had not.
In England surnames were not used until nearly a hundred years after the Norman Conquest, and then only by kings and nobles. The common people in England had, however, nearly all got them by the fourteenth century; but in Scotland many people were still without surnames in the time of James I., and even those who had them could easily change one for another. Once a man got a surname it was handed on to all his children, as surnames are to-day.
It is interesting to see in how many different ways people got their surnames. Sometimes this is easy, but it is more difficult in other cases.
The first surnames in England were those which the Norman nobles who came over at the Conquest handed on from father to son. These people generally took the name of the place from which they had come in Normandy. In this way names like Robert de Courcy ("Robert of Courcy") came in; and many of these names, which are considered very aristocratic, still remain. We have de Corbet, de Beauchamp, de Colevilles, and so on. Sometimes the de has been dropped. Sometimes, again, people took their names in the same way from places in England. We find in old writings names like Adam de Kent, Robert de Wiltshire, etc. Here, again, the prefix has been dropped, and the place-name has been kept as a surname. Kent is quite a well-known surname, as also are Derby, Buxton, and many other names of English places.
The Normans introduced another kind of name, which became very common too. They were a lively people, like the modern French, and were very fond of giving nicknames, especially names referring to people's personal appearance. We get the best examples of this in the nicknames applied to the Norman kings. We have William Rufus, or "the Red;" Richard Coeur-de-Lion, or "Lion-Hearted;" Henry Beauclerc, or "the Scholar."
These names of kings were not handed down in their families. But in ordinary families it was quite natural that a nickname applied to the father should become a surname. It is from such nicknames that we get surnames like White, Black, Long, Young, Short, and so on. All these are, of course, well-known surnames to-day, and though many men named Long may be small, and many named Short may be tall, we may guess that this was not the case with some far-off ancestor. Sometimes man was added to these adjectives, and we get names like Longman, Oldman, etc.
Sometimes these names were used in the French of the Normans, and we get two quite different surnames, though they really in the first place had the same meaning. Thus we have Curt for Short, and the quite well-known surname Petit, which would be Short or Little in English. The name Goodheart was Bun-Couer in Norman-French, and from this came Bunker, which, if we knew nothing of its history, would not seem to mean Goodheart at all. So the name Tait came from Tete, or Head; and we may guess that the first ancestor of the numerous people with this name had something remarkable about their heads. The name Goodfellow is really just the same as Bonfellow. The surname Thin has the same meaning as Meagre, from which the common name Meager comes.
Names like Russell (from the old word rouselle, or "red"), Brown, Morell ("tan"), Dun ("dull grey"), all came from nicknames referring to people's complexions. Reed and Reid come from the old word rede, or "red." We still have the names Copperbeard, Greybeard, and Blackbeard.
Sometimes names were given from some peculiarity of clothing. Scarlet, an old English name, probably came from the colour of the clothing of the people who were first called by it—scarlet, like all bright colours, being very much liked in the Middle Ages. So we hear of the name Curtmantle, or "short cloak," and Curthose, which was later changed to Shorthose, which is still a well-known name in Derbyshire. The names Woolward and Woolard come from the old word woolard, which meant wearing wool without any linen clothing underneath. This was often done by pilgrims and others who wished to do penance for their sins.
Many surnames have come down from nicknames given to people because of their good or bad qualities. This is the origin of names like Wise, Gay, Hardy, Friend, Truman, Makepeace, Sweet, etc. The people who have these names may well believe that the first of their ancestors who bore them was of a gentle and amiable disposition. Names like Proud, Proudfoot, Proudman, Paillard (French for "lie-a-bed") show that the first people who had them were not so well liked, and were considered proud or lazy.
Another way of giving nicknames to people because of something noticeable in their character or appearance was to give them the name of some animal having this quality. The well-known name of Oliphant comes from elephant, and was probably first given to some one very large, and perhaps a little ungraceful. Bullock as a surname probably had the same sort of origin. The names Falcon, Hawk, Buzzard, must have been first given to people whose friends and neighbours saw some resemblance to the quickness or fierceness or sureness or some other quality of these birds in them. The names Jay, Peacock, and Parrott point to showiness and pride and empty talkativeness.
A very great number of surnames are really only old Christian names either with or without an ending added to them. A very common form of surname is a Christian name with son added to it. The first man who handed on the name Wilson (or Willson, as it is still sometimes spelt) was himself the "son of Will." Any one can think of many names of this kind—Williamson, Davidson, Adamson, etc. Sometimes the founder of a family had taken his name from his mother. This was the origin of names like Margerison ("Marjorie's son") and Alison ("Alice's son"). This was a very common way of inventing surnames.
The Norman Fitz meant "son of," and the numerous names beginning with Fitz have this origin. Fitzpatrick originally meant the "son of Patrick," Fitzstephen the "son of Stephen," and so on. The Irish prefix O' has the same meaning. The ancestor of all the O'Neills was himself the son of Neill. The Scandinavian Nillson is really the same name, though it sounds so different. The Scotch Mac has the same meaning, and so have the Welsh words map, mab, ap, and ab.
One very interesting way of making surnames was to take them from the trade or occupation of the founder of the family. Perhaps the commonest of English surnames is Smith. And the word for Smith is the commonest surname in almost every country of Europe. In France we have Favier.
The reason for this is easy to see. The smith, or man who made iron and other metals into plough-shares and swords, was one of the most important of all the workers in the early days when surnames were being made. There were many smiths, and John the Smith and Tom the Smith easily became John Smith and Tom Smith, and thus had a surname to pass on to their families.
As time went on there came to be many different kinds of smiths. There was the smith who worked in gold, and was called a "goldsmith," from which we get the well-known surname Goldsmith, the name of a great English writer. Then there was the "nail smith," from which trade came the name Nasmith; the "sickle smith," from which came Sixsmith; the "shear smith," which gave us Shearsmith—and so on.
In mediaeval England the manufacture of cloth from the wool of the great flocks of sheep which fed on the pasture lands of the monasteries and other great houses, was the chief industry of the nation. This trade of wool-weaving has given us many surnames, such as Woolmer, Woolman, Carder, Kempster, Towser, Weaver, Webster, etc. Some of these referred to the general work of wool-weaving and others to special branches.
Any child can think in a moment of several names which have come in this way from trades. We have Taylor for a beginning.
But many surnames which are taken from the names of trades come from Old English words which are now seldom or never used. Chapman, a common name now, was the Old English word for a general dealer. Spicer was the old name for grocer, and is now a fairly common surname. The well-known name of Fletcher comes from the almost forgotten word flechier, "an arrowmaker." Coltman came from the name of the man who had charge of the colts. Runciman was the man who had charge of horses too, and comes from another Old English word, rouncy, "a horse." The Parkers are descended from a park-keeper who used to be called by that name. The Horners come from a maker of horns; the Crockers and Crokers from a "croker," or "crocker," a maker of pottery. Hogarth comes from "hoggart," a hog-herd; Calvert from "calf-herd;" and Seward from "sow-herd." Lambert sometimes came from "lamb-herd."
But we cannot always be sure of the origin of even the commonest surnames. For instance, every person named Smith is not descended from a smith, for the name also comes from the old word smoth, or "smooth," and this is the origin of Smith in Smithfield.
A great many English surnames were taken from places. Street, Ford, Lane, Brooke, Styles, are names of this kind. Sometimes they were prefixed by the Old English atte ("at") or the French de la ("of the"), but these prefixes have been dropped since. Geoffrey atte Style was the Geoffrey who lived near the stile—and so on.
Nearly all the names ending in hurst and shaw are taken from places. A hurst was a wood or grove; a shaw was a shelter for fowls and animals. The chief thing about a man who got the surname of Henshaw or Ramshaw was probably that he owned, or had the care of, such a shelter for hens or rams.
Names ending in ley generally came into existence in the same way, a ley being also a shelter for domestic animals. So we have Horsley, Cowley, Hartley, Shipley (from "sheep"). Sometimes the name was taken from the kind of trees which closed such a shelter in, names like Ashley, Elmsley, Oakley, Lindley, etc.
Surnames as well as Christian names were often taken from the names of saints. From such a beautiful name as St. Hugh the Normans had Hugon, and from this we get the rather commonplace names of Huggins, Hutchins, Hutchinson, and several others. So St. Clair is still a surname, though often changed into Sinclair. St. Gilbert is responsible for the names Gibbs, Gibbons, Gibson, etc.
Sometimes in Scotland people were given, as Christian names, names meaning servant of Christ, or some saint. The word for servant was giollo, or giolla. It was in this way that names like Gilchrist, Gilpatrick, first came to be used. They were at first Christian names, and then came to be passed on as surnames. So Gillespie means "servant of the bishop."
Some surnames, though they seem quite English now, show that the first member of the family to bear the name was looked upon as a foreigner. Such names are Newman, Newcome, Cumming (from cumma, "a stranger"). Sometimes the nationality to which the stranger belonged is shown by the name. The ancestors of the people called Fleming, for instance, must have come from Flanders, as so many did in the Middle Ages. The Brabazons must have come from Brabant.
Perhaps the most peculiar origin of all belongs to some surnames which seem to have come from oaths or exclamations. The fairly common names Pardoe, Pardie, etc., come from the older name Pardieu, or "By God," a solemn form of oath. We have, too, the English form in the name Bigod. Names like Rummiley come from the old cry of sailors, Rummylow, which they used as sailors use "Heave-ho" now.
But many chapters could be written on the history of names. This chapter shows only some of the ways in which we got our Christian names and surnames.
STORIES IN THE NAMES OF PLACES.
The stories which the names of places can tell us are many more in number, and even more wonderful, than the stories in the names of people. Some places have very old names, and others have quite new ones, and the names have been given for all sorts of different reasons. If we take the names of the continents, we find that some of them come from far-off times, and were given by men who knew very little of what the world was like. The names Europe and Asia were given long ago by sailors belonging to the Semitic race (the race to which the Jews belong), who sailed up and down the AEgean Sea, and did not venture to leave its waters. All the land which lay to the west they called Ereb, which was their word for "sunset," or "west," and the land to the east they called Acu, which meant "sunrise," or "east;" and later, when men knew more about these lands, these names, changed a little, remained as the names of the great continents, Europe and Asia.
Africa, too, is an old name, though not so old as these. We think of Africa now as a "dark continent," the greater part of which has only lately become known to white men, and with a native population of negroes. But for hundreds of years the north of Africa was one of the most civilized parts of the Roman Empire. Before that time part of it had belonged to the Carthaginians, whom the Romans conquered. Africa was a Carthaginian name, and was first used by the Romans as the name of the district round Carthage, and in time it came to be the name of the whole continent.
America got its name in quite a different way. It was not until the fifteenth century that this great continent was discovered, and then it took its name, not from the brave Spaniard, Christopher Columbus, who first sailed across the "Sea of Darkness" to find it, but from Amerigo Vespucci, the man who first landed on the mainland.
Australia got its name, which means "land of the south," from Portuguese and Spanish sailors, who reached its western coasts early in the sixteenth century. They never went inland, or made any settlements, but in the queer, inaccurate maps which early geographers made, they put down a Terra Australis, or "southern land," and later, when Englishmen did at last explore and colonize the continent, they kept this name Australia. This Latin name reminds us of the fact that Latin was in the Middle Ages the language used by all scholars in their writings, and names on maps were written in Latin too, and so a great modern continent like Australia came to have an old Latin name.
There is a great deal of history in the names of countries. Take the names of the countries of Europe. England is the land of the Angles, and from this we learn that the Angles were the chief people of all the tribes who came over and settled in Britain after the Romans left it. They spread farthest over the land, and gave their name to it; just as the Franks, another of these Northern peoples, gave their name to France, and the Belgae gave theirs to Belgium. The older name of Britain did not die out, but it was seldom used. It has really been used much more in modern times than it ever was in the Middle Ages. It is used especially in poetry or in fine writing, just as Briton is instead of Englishman, as in the line—
"Britons never, never, never shall be slaves."
The name Briton is now used also to mean Irish, Scotch, and Welsh men—in fact, any British subject. We also speak of Great Britain, which means England and Scotland. When the Scottish Parliament was joined to the English in 1702 some name had to be found to describe the new "nation," and this was how the name Great Britain came into use, just as the United Kingdom was the name invented to describe Great Britain and Ireland together when the Irish Parliament too was joined to the English in 1804.
We see how Gaul and Britain, as France and England were called in Roman times, had their names changed after the fall of the Roman Empire; but most of the countries round the Mediterranean Sea kept their old names, just as they kept for the most part their old languages. Italy, Greece, and Spain all kept their old names, although new peoples flocked down into these lands too. But though new peoples came, in all these lands they learned the ways and languages of the older inhabitants, instead of changing everything, as the English did in Britain. And so it was quite natural that they should keep their own names too.
Most of the other countries in Europe took their names from the people who settled there. Germany (the Roman Germania) was the part of Europe where most of the tribes of the German race settled down. The divisions of Germany, like Saxony, Bavaria, Frisia, were the parts of Germany where the German tribes known as Saxons, Bavarians, and Frisians settled. The name Austria comes from Osterreich, the German for "eastern kingdom." Holland, on the other hand, takes its name from the character of the land. It comes from holt, meaning "wood," and lant, meaning "land." The little country of Albania is so called from Alba, or "white," because of its snowy mountains.
But perhaps the names of the old towns of the old world tell us the best stories of all. The greatest city the world has ever seen was Rome, and many scholars have quarrelled about the meaning of that great name. It seems most likely that it came from an old word meaning "river." It would be quite natural for the people of early Rome to give such a name to their city, for it was a most important fact to them that they had built their city just where it was on the river Tiber.
One of the best places on which a town could be built, especially in early days, was the banks of a river, from which the people could get water, and by which the refuse and rubbish of the town could be carried away. Then, again, one of the chief things which helped Rome to greatness was her position on the river Tiber, far enough from the sea to be safe from the enemy raiders who infested the seas in those early days, and yet near enough to send her ships out to trade with other lands. Thus it was, probably, that a simple word meaning "river" came to be used as the name of the world's greatest city.
Others among the great cities of the ancient world were founded in a quite different way. The great conqueror, Alexander the Great, founded cities in every land he conquered, and their names remain even now to keep his memory alive. The city of Alexandria, on the north coast of Africa, was, of course, called after Alexander himself, and became after his death more civilized and important than any of the Greek cities which Alexander admired so much, and which he tried to imitate everywhere. Now Alexandria is no longer a centre of learning, but a fairly busy port. Only its name recalls the time when it helped in the great work for which Alexander built it—to spread Greek learning and Greek civilization over Europe and Asia.
Another city which Alexander founded, but which afterwards fell into decay, was Bucephalia, which the great conqueror set up in the north of India when he made his wonderful march across the mountains into that continent. It was called after "Bucephalus," the favourite horse of Alexander, which had been wounded, and died after the battle. The town was built over the place where the horse was buried, and though its story is not so interesting as that of Alexandria, as the town so soon fell into decay, still it is worth remembering.
Another of the world's ancient and greatest cities, Constantinople, also took its name from a great ruler. In the days when the Roman Empire was beginning to decay, and new nations from the north began to pour into her lands, the emperor, Constantine the Great, the ruler who made Christianity the religion of the empire, chose a new capital instead of Rome. He loved Eastern magnificence and Eastern ways, and he chose for his new capital the old Greek colony of Byzantium, the beautiful city on the Golden Horn, which Constantine soon made into a new Rome, with churches and theatres and baths, like the old Rome. The new Rome was given a new name. Constantine had turned Byzantium into a new city, and it has ever since been known as Constantinople, or the "city of Constantine."
We can nearly always tell from the names of places something of their history. If we think of the names of some of our English towns, we notice that many of them end in the same way. There are several whose names begin or end in don, like London itself. Many others end in caster or chester, ham, by, borough or burgh.
We may be sure that most of the places whose names begin or end in don were already important places in the time before the Britons were conquered by the Romans. The Britons were divided into tribes, and lived in villages scattered over the land; but each tribe had its little fortress or stronghold, the "dun," as it was called, with walls and ditches round it, in which all the people of the tribe could take shelter if attacked by a strong enemy. And so the name of London takes us back to the time when this greatest city of the modern world, spreading into four counties, and as big as a county itself, with its marvellous buildings, old and new, and its immense traffic, was but a British fort into which scantily-clothed people fled from their huts at the approach of an enemy.
But the British showed themselves wise enough in their choice of places to build their duns, which, as in the case of London, often became centres of new towns, which grew larger and larger through Roman times, and on into the Middle Ages and modern times.
The great French fortress town of Verdun, which everybody has heard of because of its wonderful resistance to the German attacks in 1916, is also an old Celtic town with this Celtic ending to its name. It was already an important town when the Romans conquered Gaul, and it has played a notable part in history ever since. Its full name means "the fort on the water," just as Dundee (from Dun-tatha) probably meant "the fort on the Tay."
By merely looking at a map of England, any one who knows anything of the Latin language can pick out many names which come from that language, and which must have been given in the days when the Romans had conquered Britain. The ending caster of so many names in the north of England, and chester in the Midlands, xeter in the west of England, and caer in Wales, all come from the same Latin word, castrum, which means a military camp or fortified place. So that we might guess, if we did not know, that at Lancaster, Doncaster, Manchester, Winchester, Exeter, and at the old capital of the famous King Arthur, Caerleon, there were some of those Roman camps which were dotted over England in the days when the Romans ruled the land.
Here the Roman officers lived with their wives and families, and the Roman soldiers too, and here they built churches and theatres and baths, such as they were used to in their cities at home in Italy. Here, too, it was that many of the British nobles learned Roman ways of living and thinking; and from here the Roman priests and monks went out to teach the Britons that the religion of the Druids was false, and instruct them in the Christian religion.
Another common Latin ending or beginning to the names of places was strat, stret, or street, and wherever we find this we may know that through these places ran some of the viae stratae, or great Roman roads which the Romans built in all the provinces of their great empire. There are many remains of these Roman roads still to be seen up and down England; but even where no trace remains, the direction of some, at least, of the great roads could be found from the names of the towns which were dotted along them. Among these towns are Stratford in Warwickshire, Chester-le-Street in Durham, Streatham, etc.
Then, again, some of the towns with port and lynne as part of their names show us where the Romans had their ports and trading towns.
It is interesting to see the different names which the English gave to the villages in which they dwelt when the Romans had left Britain, and these new tribes had won it for themselves. Nearly all towns ending in ham and ford, and burgh or borough, date from the first few hundred years after the English won Britain. Ham and ford merely meant "home," or "village." Thus Buckingham was the home of the Bockings, a village in which several families all related to each other, and bearing this name, lived. Of course the name did not change when later the village grew into a town. Buckingham is a very different place now from the little village in which the Bockings settled, each household having its house and yard, but dividing the common meadow and pasture land out between them each year.
Wallingford was the home of the Wallings. Places whose names ended in ford were generally situated where a ford, or means of crossing a river or stream, had to be made. Oxford was in Old English Oxenford, or "ford of the oxen."
Towns whose names end in borough are often very old, but not so old as some of those ending in ham and ford. There were burhs in the first days of the English Conquest, but generally they were only single fortified houses and not villages. We first hear of the more important burghs or boroughs in the last hundred years or so before the Norman Conquest. Edinburgh, which was at first an English town, is a very early example. Its name means "Edwin's borough or town," and it was so called because it was founded by Edwin, who was king of England from 617 to 633.
The special point about boroughs was that they were really free towns. They had courts of justice of their own, and were free from the Hundred courts, the next court above them being the Shire court, ruled over by the sheriff. So we know that most of the towns whose names end in burgh or borough had for their early citizens men who loved freedom, and worked hard to win their own courts of justice.
There are other endings to the names of towns which go back to the days before the Norman Conquest, but which are not really English. If a child were told to pick out on the map of England all the places whose names end in by or thwaite, he or she would find that most of them are in the eastern part of England. The reason for this might be guessed, perhaps, by a very thoughtful child. Both by and thwaite are Danish words, and they are found in the eastern parts of England, because it was in those parts that the Danes settled down when the great King Alfred forced them to make peace in the Treaty of Wallingford. After this, of course, the Danes lived in England for many years, settling down, and becoming part of the English people. Naturally they gave their own names to many villages and towns, and many of these remain to this day to remind us of this fierce race which helped to build up the English nation.
The Normans did not make many changes in the names of places when they won England, and most of our place-names come down to us from Roman and old English times. The places have changed, but the names have not. But though towns and counties have had their names from those times, it is to be noticed that the names of our rivers and hills come down to us from Celtic times. To the Britons, living a more or less wild life, these things were of the greatest importance. There are several rivers in England with the name of Avon, and this is an old British name. The rivers Usk, Esk, and Ouse were all christened by the Britons, and all these names come from a British word meaning "water." Curiously enough, the name whisky comes from the same word. From all these different ways in which places have got their names we get glimpses of past history, and history helps us to understand the stories that these old names tell us.
NEW NAMES FOR NEW PLACES.
We have seen in how many different ways many of the old places of this world got their names. Some names go so far back that no one knows what is their meaning, or how they first came to be used. But we know that a great part of the world has only been discovered since the fifteenth century, and that a great part of what was already known has only been colonized in modern times.
With the discovery of the New World and the colonization of the Dark Continent and other far-off lands, a great many new names were invented. We could almost write a history of North or South America from an explanation of their place-names.
In learning the geography of South America we notice the beautiful Spanish names of most of the places. The reason for this is that it was the Spaniards who colonized South America in the sixteenth century. Very little of this continent now belongs to Spain, but in those days Spain was the greatest country in Europe. The proud and brave Spanish adventurers were in those days sailing over the seas and founding colonies, just as the English sailors of Queen Elizabeth soon began to do in North America.
Let us look at some of these names—Los Angelos ("The Angels"), Santa Cruz ("The Holy Cross"), Santiago ("St. James"), all names of saints and holy things. Any one who knew no history at all might guess, from the number of places with Spanish names spread over South America, that it was the Spaniards who colonized this land. He would also guess that the Spaniards in those days must have been a very great nation indeed. And he would be right.
He would guess, too, that the Spaniards had clung passionately to the Catholic religion. Here, again, he would be right. Any great enthusiasm will make a nation great, and the Spaniards in the sixteenth century were filled with a great love for the old Church against which the new Protestantism was fighting. The Pope looked upon Spain as the great bulwark of Catholicism. The new religious feeling, which had swept over Europe, and which had made the Protestants ready to suffer and die for their new-found faith, took the form in Spain of this great love for the old religion. The nation seemed inspired. It is when these things happen that a people turns to great enterprises and adventure. The Spaniards of the sixteenth century regarded themselves, and were almost regarded by the other nations, as unconquerable. The great aim of Elizabethan Englishmen was to "break the power of Spain," and this they did at last when they scattered the "Invincible Armada" in 1588. But before this Spain had done great things.
The Portuguese had been the first great adventurers, but they were soon left far behind by the Spanish sailors, who explored almost every part of South America, settling there, and sending home great shiploads of gold to make Spain rich. And wherever they explored and settled they spread about these beautiful names to honour the saints and holy things which their religion told them to love and honour.
It was the great discoverer Christopher Columbus who first gave one of these beautiful names to a place in South America. He had already discovered North America, and made a second voyage there, when he determined to explore the land south of the West Indies. He sailed south through the tropical seas while the heat melted the tar of the rigging. But Columbus never noticed danger and discomfort. He had made a vow to call the first land he saw after the Holy Trinity, and when at last he caught sight of three peaks jutting up from an island he gave the island the name of La Trinidad, and "Trinidad" it remains to this day, though it now belongs to the British. As he sailed south Columbus caught sight of what was really the mainland of South America, but he thought it was another island, and called it Isla Santa, or "Holy Island."
It might seem curious that as Columbus had discovered both North and South America, the continent was given the name of another man. As we have seen, its name was taken from that of another explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. The reason for this was that Columbus never really knew that he had discovered a "New World." He believed that he had come by another way to the eastern coast of Asia or Africa. The islands which he first discovered were for this reason called the Indies, and the West Indies they remain to this day.
It was Amerigo Vespucci who first announced to the world, in a book which he published in 1507 (three years after Christopher Columbus had died in loneliness and poverty), that the new lands were indeed a great new continent, and not Asia or Africa at all. People later on said that Amerigo Vespucci had discovered a new continent, and that it ought to be called by his name. This is how the name America came into use; but of course the work of Vespucci was not to be compared with that of the great adventurer who first sailed across the "Sea of Darkness," and was the real discoverer of the New World.
Though it was the Spaniards who discovered North America, it was the English who chiefly colonized it.
It is interesting to notice the names which the early English colonists scattered over the northern continent. We might gather from them that, just as the love of their Church was the great passion of the sixteenth-century Spaniards, so the love of their country was the ruling passion of the great English adventurers. (Of course the Spaniards had shown their love for their old country in some of the names they gave, as when Columbus called one place Isabella, in honour of the noble Spanish queen who had helped and encouraged him when other rulers of European countries had refused to listen to what they thought were the ravings of a madman.)
The English in Reformation days had a very different idea of religion from the Spanish. Naturally they did not sprinkle the names of saints over the new lands. But the English of Elizabeth's day were filled with a great new love for England. The greatest of all the Elizabethan adventurers, Sir Francis Drake, when in his voyage round the world he put into a harbour which is now known as San Francisco, set up "a plate of brass fast nailed to a great and firm post, whereon is engraved Her Grace's name, and the day and the year of our arrival there." The Indian king of these parts had freely owned himself subject to the English, taking the crown from his own head and putting it on Drake's head. Sir Francis called his land New Albion, using the old poetic name for England.
But the colonization of North America was not successfully begun until after the death of Elizabeth, though one or two attempts at founding colonies, or "plantations," as they were then called, were made in her time. Sir Walter Raleigh tried to set up one colony in North America, and called it Virginia, after the virgin queen whom all Englishmen delighted to honour. Virginia did not prosper, and Raleigh's colony broke up; but later another and successful attempt at colonizing it was made, and the same name kept. Virginia—"Earth's only Paradise," as the poet Drayton called it—was the first English colony successfully settled in North America. This was in the year 1607, when two hundred and forty-three settlers landed, and made the first settlement at a point which they called Jamestown, in honour of the new English king, James I.
The first settlers in Virginia were men whose chief aim was to become rich, but it was not long before a new kind of settler began to seek refuge in the lands north of Virginia, to which the great colonizer, Captain John Smith, had by this time given the name of New England. It was in 1620 that the "Pilgrim Fathers," because they were not free to worship God as they thought right at home, sailed from Southampton in the little Mayflower, and landed far to the north of Virginia, and made a settlement at a place which Smith had already called Plymouth.
Before long new colonies began to spring up all over New England; and though we find some new names, like the Indian name of the great colony Massachusetts, we may read the story of the great love which the colonists felt for the old towns of the mother-country in the way they gave their names to the new settlements.
A curious thing is that many of these new towns, christened after little old towns at home, became later very important and prosperous places, while the places after which they were called are sometimes almost forgotten. Many people to whom the name of the great American city of Boston is familiar do not know that there still stands on the coast of Lincolnshire the sleepy little town of Boston, from which it took its name.
Boston is the chief town of Massachusetts; but the first capital was Charlestown, called after King Charles I., who had by this time succeeded his father, James I. The place on which Charlestown was built, on the north bank of the Charles River, was, however, found to be unhealthy. The settlers, therefore, deserted it, and Boston was built on the south bank.
It was not long before the Massachusetts settlers built a college at a place near Boston which had been called Cambridge. This is a case in which the old town at home remained, of course, much more important than its godchild. If a person speaks of Cambridge, one's mind immediately flies to the English university city on the banks of the river Cam. Still the college built at the American Cambridge, and called "Harvard College," after John Harvard, one of the early settlers, who gave a great deal of money towards its building, is famous now throughout the world.
It was natural and suitable that the early settlers should use the old English names to show their love for the mother-country; but it was not such a wise thing to choose the names of the great historic towns of Europe, and give them to the new settlements. To give the almost sacred name of Rome to a modern American town seems almost ridiculous. Certainly one would have always to be very careful to add "Georgia, U.S.A." in addressing letters there. The United States has several of these towns bearing old historic names. Paris as the name of an American town seems almost as unsuitable as Rome.
But this mistake was not made by the early colonists. If we think of the names of the colonies which stretched along the east of North America, we find nearly always that the names are chosen to do honour to the English king or queen, or to keep the memory fresh of some beloved spot in the old country.
In 1632 the Catholic Lord Baltimore founded a new colony, the only one where the Catholic religion was tolerated, and called it Maryland, in honour of Charles I.'s queen, Henrietta Maria. Just after the Restoration of Charles II. in 1660, when the country was full of loyalty, a new colony, Carolina, was founded, taking its name from Carolus, the Latin for "Charles." Afterwards this colony was divided into two, and became North and South Carolina.
To the north of Maryland lay the New Netherlands, for Holland had also colonized here. In the seventeenth century this little nation was for a time equal to the greatest nations in Europe. The Dutch had very soon followed the example of that other little nation Portugal, which, directed by the famous Prince Henry of Portugal, had been the first of all the European nations to explore far-off lands. Holland was as important on the seas as Spain or England; but this could not last long. The Dutch and the English fought several campaigns, and in the end the Dutch were beaten.
In 1667 the New Netherlands were yielded up to England. The name of the colony was changed to New York, and its capital, New Amsterdam, was given the same name. This was in honour of the sailor prince, James, Duke of York, afterwards the unhappy King James II. Another of the Stuarts who gave his name to a district of North America was Prince Rupert, the nephew of Charles I., who fought so hard for the king against Cromwell. In 1670 the land round Hudson Bay was given the name of Rupertsland.
Sometimes, but not often, the new colonies were given the names of their founders. William Penn, who founded the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, gave it this name in honour of his father, Admiral Penn. Sylvania means "land of woods," and comes from the Latin sylvanus, or "woody."
But it is not only in America that the place-names tell us the stories of heroism and romance. All over the world, from the icy lands round the Poles to the tropical districts of Africa, India, and Australia, these stories can be read. The spirit in which the early Portuguese adventurers sailed along the coast of Africa is shown in the name they gave to what we now know as the Cape of Good Hope. Bartholomew Diaz called it the Cape of Storms, for he had discovered it only after terrible battlings with the waves; but when he sailed home to tell his news the king of Portugal said that this was not a good name, but it should instead be called the Cape of Good Hope, for past it lay the sea passage to India which men had been seeking for years. And so the Cape of Good Hope it remains to this day.
After this it was not long before the Portuguese explored the south and east coasts of Africa and the west coast of India to the very south, where they took the Spice Islands for their own. From these the Portuguese brought home great quantities of spices, which they sold at high prices in Europe.
It was the great explorer Ferdinand Magellan who first sailed round the world, being sure, as he said, that he could reach the Spice Islands by sailing west. And so he started on this expedition, sailing through the straits which have ever since been known as the Magellan Straits to the south of South America, into the Pacific, or "Peaceful," Ocean, and then ever west, until he came round by the east to Spain again, after three years of great hardship and wonderful adventure.
The adventures of the early explorers most often took the form of seeking a new and shorter passage from one ocean to another, and so many straits bear the names of the explorers. The Elizabethan explorer, Martin Frobisher, sought for a "North-west Passage" from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and for a time it was thought that he had found it in the very north of North America. But it was afterwards found that the "passage," which had already been given the name of Frobisher's Straits, was really only an inlet, and afterwards it became known as Lumley's Inlet.
Frobisher never discovered a North-west Passage, for the ships of those days were not fitted out in a way to enable the sailors to bear the icy cold of these northern regions. Many brave explorers tried later to discover it. Three times John Davis made a voyage for this purpose but never succeeded, though Davis Strait commemorates his heroic attempts. Hudson and Baffin explored in these waters, as the names Hudson Bay and Baffin Bay remind us.
It was nearly two hundred years later that Sir John Franklin sailed with an expedition in two boats, the Erebus and Terror, determined to find the passage. He found it, but died in the attempt; but, strangely enough, his name was not given to any strait, though later it was given to all the islands of the Arctic Archipelago.
The winning of India by the British in the eighteenth century did not give us many new English names. India was not, like the greater part of America, a wild country inhabited by savage peoples. It had an older civilization than the greater part of Europe, and the only reason that it was weak enough to be conquered was that the many races who lived there could not agree among themselves. Most of the place-names of India are native names given by natives, for centuries before France and England began to struggle for its possession in the eighteenth century India had passed through a long and varied history.
When we remember that the natives of India have no name to describe the whole continent, it helps us to understand that India is in no way a single country. The British Government have given the continent the name India, taking it from the great river Indus, which itself takes its name from an old word, sindhu, meaning "river."
In the days of the early explorers, after the islands discovered by Columbus were called the West Indies, some people began to call the Indian continent the East Indies, to distinguish it; and some of the papers about India drawn up for the information of Parliament about Indian affairs still use this name, but it is not a familiar use to most people.
The mistake which Columbus and the early explorers made in thinking America was India has caused a good deal of confusion. The natives of North America were called Indians, and it was only long afterwards, in fact quite lately, that people began to write and speak of the natives of India as Indians. When it was printed in the newspapers that Indians were fighting for the British Empire with the armies in France, the use of the word Indian seemed wrong to a great many people; but it is now becoming so common that it will probably soon seem quite right. When it is used with the old meaning we shall have to say the "Indians of North America." Some people use the word Hindu to describe the natives of India; but this is not correct, as only some of the natives of India are Hindus, just as the name Hindustan (a Persian name meaning "land of the Hindus," as Afghanistan means "land of the Afghans"), which some old writers on geography used for India, is really the name of one part of the land round the river Ganges, where the language known as Hindi is spoken.
The place-names of India given by natives of the many different races which have lived in the land could fill a book with their stories alone. We can only mention a few. The name of the great range of mountains which runs across the north of the continent, the Himalayas, means in Sanskrit, the oldest language used in India, the "home of snow." Bombay takes its name from Mumba, the name of a goddess of an early tribe who occupied the district round Bombay. Calcutta, which stretches over ground where there were formerly several villages, takes its name from one of these. Its old form was Kalikuti, which means the "ghauts," or passes, leading to the temple of the goddess Kali.
In Australia, where a beginning of colonization was made through the discoveries of Captain Cook towards the end of the eighteenth century, the place-names were sometimes given from places at home, sometimes after persons, but they have hardly the same romance as the early American names.
Botany Bay was the name chosen by Captain Cook in a moment of enthusiasm for an inlet of New South Wales. He gave it this name because of the great number of plants and flowers which grow there.
In Africa a good deal of history can be learned from the place-names. Although the north of Africa had for many hundreds of years had its part in the civilization of the countries round the Mediterranean Sea, the greater part of Africa had remained an unexplored region—the "Dark Continent," as it was called. In the fifteenth century the Portuguese sailors crept along the western coast, and afterwards along the south, as we have seen, past the Cape of Good Hope. But the interior of the continent remained for long an unexplored region.
The Dutch had, very soon after the discovery of the Cape, made a settlement there, which was known as Cape Colony. This was afterwards won by the English; but many Dutchmen still stayed there, and though, since the Boer War, when the Boers, or Dutch, in South Africa tried to win their independence, the whole of South Africa belongs to the British Empire, still there are naturally many Dutch names given by the early Dutch settlers. Some of these became very well known to English people in the Boer War. Bloemfontein is one of these names, coming from the Dutch word for "spring" (fontein), and that of Jan Bloem, one of the farmers who first settled there. Another well-known place in the Transvaal, Pietermaritzburg, took its name from the two leaders who led the Boers out of Cape Colony when they felt that the English were becoming too strong there. These leaders were Pieter Retief and Georit Maritz. This movement of the Boers into the Transvaal was called the "Great Trek," trek being a Dutch word for a journey or migration of this sort. Since the days of the Boer War this word has been regularly used in English with this same meaning. Like the English settlers in America, the Dutch settlers in South Africa sometimes gave the names of places in Holland to their new settlements. Utrecht is an example of this.
Up to the very end of the nineteenth century no European country besides England had any great possessions in Africa. The Portuguese still held the coast lands between Zululand (so called from the fierce black natives who lived there) and Mozambique. Egypt had come practically under British rule soon after the days of Napoleon, and in the middle of the nineteenth century the great explorers Livingstone and Stanley had explored the lands along the Zambesi River and a great part of Central Africa. Stanley went right across the centre of the continent, and discovered the lake Albert Edward Nyanza. Nyanza is the African word for "lake," and the name Albert Edward was given in honour of the Prince Consort. Victoria Nyanza, so called after Queen Victoria, had been discovered some years before. It was all these discoveries which led to the colonization of Africa by the nations of Europe.
In 1884 the great German statesman, Prince Bismarck, set up the German flag in Damaraland, the coast district to the north of the Orange River; and soon after a German colony was set up in the lands between the Portuguese settlements and the Equator. This was simply called German East Africa. At the same time the other nations of Europe suddenly realized that if they meant to have part of Africa they must join in the scramble at once. There were soon a British East Africa, a Portuguese East Africa, a Portuguese West Africa, a German South-west Africa, and so on. All these are names which might have been given in a hurry, and in them we seem to read the haste of the European nations to seize on the only lands in the world which were still available. They are very different from the descriptive names which the early Portuguese adventurers had strewn along the coast, like Sierra Leone, or "the lion mountain;" Cape Verde, or "the green cape," so called from its green grass.
Still, romance was not dead even yet. There is one district of South Africa which takes its name in the old way from that of a person. Rhodesia, the name given to Mashonaland and Matabeleland, was so called after Mr. Cecil Rhodes, a young British emigrant, who went out from England in very weak health and became perfectly strong, at the same time winning a fortune for himself in the diamond fields of Kimberley. He devoted himself heart and soul to the strengthening of British power in South Africa, and it is fitting that this province should by its name keep his memory fresh.
The story of the struggle in South Africa between Boer and Briton can be partly read in its place-names; and the story of the struggle between old and new settlers in Canada can be similarly read in the place-names of that land.
The first settlers in Canada were the French, and the descendants of these first settlers form a large proportion of the Canadian population. Many places in Canada still have, of course, the names which the first French settlers gave them.
The Italian, John Cabot, had sailed to Canada a few years after Columbus discovered America, sent by the English king, Henry VII., but no settlements were made. Thirty-seven years later the French sailor, Jacques Cartier, was sent by the French king, Francis I., to explore there. Cartier sailed up the Gulf of St. Lawrence as far as the spot where Montreal now stands. The name was given by Cartier, and means "royal mount." It was Cartier, too, who gave Canada its name; but he thought that this was already the Indian name for the land. A story is told that some Red Indians were trying to talk to him and making signs, and they pointed to some houses, saying, "Cannata." Cartier thought they meant that this was the name of the country, but he was mistaken. They were, perhaps, pointing out their village, for cannata is the Indian name for "village."
Cartier, like Cabot, sailed away again, and the first real founder of a settlement in Canada was the Frenchman, Samuel de Champlain, who made friends with the Indians, and explored the upper parts of the river Lawrence, and gave his name to the beautiful Lake Champlain, which he discovered. It was he who founded Quebec, giving it this Breton name. Sailors from Brittany had ventured as far as the coast of Canada in the time of Columbus, and had given its name to Cape Breton. And so French names spread through Canada. Later, in one of the wars of the eighteenth century, England won Canada from France; but these French names still remain to tell the tale of French adventure and heroism in that land.
We have seen many names in new lands, some of them given by people from the Old World who settled in these lands. In the great European War we have seen people from these new lands coming back to fight in some of the most ancient countries of the Old World. The splendid Australian troops who fought in Gallipoli sprinkled many new names over the land they won and lost. One, at least, will always remain on the maps. Anzac, where the Colonials made their historic landing, will never be forgotten. It was a new name, made up of the initial letters of the words "Australian and New Zealand Army Corps," and will remain for ever one of the most honoured names invented in the twentieth century.