[DWJ] In which I satisfy the curious (I hope!)

Anna Zofia Skarzynska ania.s at tiscali.co.uk
Wed Sep 20 16:40:19 EDT 2006


> Ania suggested
>
>>I think Imogen is made up by Shakespeare.
>
> The books I have that list it don't seem to agree about *anything* to do
> with it.  One says it is an old english name and gives no meaning for it,
> one that it is Anglo-Saxon and means "last-born" (how would one know,
> unless it were posthumous for the father and the mother died in 
> childbed?),
> one that it is old Irish and means "daughter, girl", and one that it is
> Latin, and means "an image or likeness"; a fifth says that it was a
> misprint for the Irish name "Innogen", in the original printed version of
> /Cymbeline/.
>
> Any other suggestions from anywhere, anyone?
>
> Minnow

Oh yes, the misprint. I remember reading about this and somehow retained it 
as a made up name. Anyway, whatever the truth, the Old Irish for 
girl/daughter is ingen (modern Irish inghean, then post the horrid spelling 
reform inion [pron. ineen] with a long second i- hence the Ni prefix in 
Gaelic women's surnames) and Innogen is sort of close in spelling if not in 
sound- but I must say that I have never seen Ingen used as an actual name in 
the fairly extensive assortment of Irish texts I have read, so I doubt that 
Shakespeare had that in mind. The vogue for Irish names is a very recent 
thing outside of Ireland. Besides, the g would not have been sounded in the 
Irish of Shakespeare's times, so unless he knew Irish (highly unlikely) how 
would he arrive at the spelling? If he saw ingen in an Irish text which he 
couldn't understand, how would he know it didn't mean 'cowpat' or something? 
And if he read Irish texts in translation, tha word ingen would have been 
translated.

I remembered (possibly unreliably) a couple more almost-made-up names- 
Cedric was Walter Scott's mistake, the real Saxon name was Cerdic; Rowena is 
also his invention, I think.

The most scholarly and reliable book on names I have seen is the Penguin 
one. Anything that has 'Celtic' or 'Baby names' in the title should probably 
be used for lighting the fire, from my experience.

Ania





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