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

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed Sep 20 17:37:07 EDT 2006


Ania wrote:

>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.

It does all sound pretty far-fetched to me too.  Maybe Shakespeare invented
it independently, not realising that there was already a precedent for it?

("There was little excuse for the invention of the name MUSRUM.  It was
already known in sixteen principalities and native states."  See also the
explanations of its meaning given in footnotes later in the book.)

>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.

With you on Cedric (when was *Little Lord Fauntleroy*?  Um. 1886.  Phew!)
but I don't think Rowena can be Scott's: it seems to have been around
(meaning either "white skirt" oe "light-haired" if it was being Celtic, or
"famous friend" if it was being Old English, or as a Latinised form of a
Saxon name meaning "friend + joy", depending which book I look in) well
before the nineteenth century.  *Ivanhoe* certainly made it popular,
though.

>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.

I'm never entirely certain about Eric Partridge, though I know I am
supposed to respect him deeply.

The two trashiest I own are called "Name Your Baby" and "Naming Baby", and
each was given to me by a different well-meaning aunt when I was expecting
my first child.  I've kept them mostly because they are frequently good for
a giggle, especially the one that gives "famous people who have had this
name", and occasionally seems to be scraping the barrel more than somewhat.

Minnow





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