About Names: Bertram never caught on in U.S. but rings loud in Shakespeare lore

Bertram “Bertie” Wilberforce Wooster (played by Hugh Laurie)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his July 2nd column, he looks at the history of the name Bertram.

The name Bertram is derived from ancient Germanic beraht-hramn, or “bright raven.” In Germanic myth, ravens were sacred to the god Odin. The first famous Bertram was St. Bertram of Ilam, a hermit living near Stafford, England, in the early eighth century. Later legends claim he was a Prince of Mercia who fell in love with an Irish princess, becoming a hermit after she and their infant son were devoured by a pack of wolves.

Bertram was regularly used in medieval England. Surnames Bartram and Buttrum derive from it. Bertram became rare after 1400, retaining some use in Northumberland, England’s northernmost county. The Victorian era love for medieval names revived Bertram. It was much more common in Britain. By 1910, there were 6,401 Bertrams in the U.S., while England’s 1911 census found 21,819. England’s population at that point was 36 million; the U.S. had more than 92 million people.

In 1880, when Social Security’s yearly baby name data starts, Bertram ranked 405th in the U.S. At its 1923 high point, it had risen slightly higher, to 394th. Bertram fell from the top 1,000 names in 1971.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Bertrams in history!

Nearly every country on Earth is named after one of these four things

Ever wondered how England got its name? As with countless other countries, it’s all down to a tribe of early settlers (in this case the fifth century Angles).

In fact, almost every country in the world is named after one of four things: 1) a tribe; 2) a feature of the land; 3) a directional description; or 4) an important person. That’s according to Quartz, which analysed 195 countries listed in the Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names.

The name given to the somewhat obscure study of place names itself is toponymy, and here you may find a selection of countries in each of the four categories, and how they got their monikers.

About Names: Despite ties to traitor, Benedict has enjoyed a long, blessed history

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his July 19th column, he looks at the history of the name Benedict.

Benedict is from Late Latin Benedictus, “blessed,” used as a name by early Christians. It became famous through St. Benedict of Nursia (480-550). As a young man, Benedict became a pious hermit near Subiaco, Italy. He attracted followers, becoming so admired that a jealous priest tried to kill him. A raven snatched poisoned bread out of his hands.

Sixteen Popes have been named Benedict, the first reigning from 575-579. The name became popular in medieval England, though in everyday use it was usually pronounced “Bennett.” That’s why Bennett is a common surname, ranking 86th in the 2010 United States census.

Benedict Arnold (1741-1801), the American revolutionary general who plotted to turn West Point over to the British, made “a Benedict Arnold” a synonym for “traitor” to Americans. It might then seem surprising that Benedict was actually 10 times more common in America during the 19th century. Only 94 Benedicts are listed in Britain’s 1851 census, while 1,068 are found in the 1850 United States census, when the total populations were equal.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Benedicts in history!

Seeking New ANS Officers for 2020

Ever thought about getting more involved with the American Name Society but did not know how?  Here is your opportunity!  The American Name Society is currently looking for a few good people who are interested in joining the Executive Council.  Starting January 2020, new officers will be needed to fill the positions listed below.

To apply for one or more of these positions, please fill out the application form on this page.


Secretary (2020-2022)

The person in this position serves as a voting member of the ANS Executive Council and its various committees (e.g., the Nominating Committee).  Aside from these duties, the Secretary is responsible for taking and disseminating the official minutes from the ANS Business Meetings, creating the ANS newsletters, and sending our ANS members announcements regarding important events (e.g., the Nominating Committee’s Slate). The ideal candidate for this position must have outstanding writing and editing skills in English and be comfortable working with email mailing programs like MailChimp.

Membership Officer (2020-2022)

In addition to being a voting member of the ANS Executive Council (EC), the person in this office is responsible for managing the ANS membership database, both institutional and individual.  To accomplish this task, this officer must liaison with ANS members, the ANS Executive Council, the ANS Treasurer, and Taylor and Francis, the current publisher of the ANS Journal, NAMES. The person selected for this position must be computer literate and be comfortable working with spreadsheets.

Allied Conference Coordinator (2020-2022)

The person elected to this position is principally responsible for organizing the ANS session at the annual conference of the Modern Language Association. This activity involves issuing a call for papers, assembling a team of abstract reviewers, selecting three authors whose work will be presented at the MLA conference, and coordinating the presentation of the three winning abstracts with the MLA administration. In addition to these duties, as a voting member of the ANS Executive Council (EC), the Allied Conference Coordinator participates in the legislative decision-making of the Society. Although the term of service for this position is for two years, the holder of this office may be re-elected pending approval by the EC. Given the fact that this position requires close communication with the MLA, candidates who have a demonstrated expertise in literary onomastics will receive preference.

Member-at-large (2020-2022)

The person elected to this position will serve as a voting member of the Executive Council (EC) and is expected to participate actively in the legislative decision-making involved in resolutions and motions placed before the EC.  In addition to these duties, members-at-large serve on various auxiliary sub-committees to, for example, help with the nomination of new officers, coordination of the annual conference, and organization of allied conferences.  Officers in this position can renew their term of service twice.


List of Historic Welsh Place Names now over 660,000 Records


The List of Historic Welsh Place Names received the Cynefin Project data from the National Library of Wales just before Christmas 2018, and since then, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales has been going through them and cleansing the data in order to upload them to the List. This meant going through over 900,000 records, and pulling out each one that wasn’t actually a name, like ‘field’ or ‘house and garden’. This work is now completed, and the Commission is happy to announce they have an additional 515,902 names to add to the list.

Call for papers: 27th International Congress of Onomastic Sciences, Krakow, Poland, August 23-28 2019

The International Council of Onomastic Sciences is pleased to invite you to the 27th Congress of Onomastic Sciences, which will take place in Krakow, on August 23rd-28th, 2020. To submit your paper proposal, please fill in the application form and send it back to: icos2020@ijp.pan.pl


The deadline for submitting paper proposals is 30 November 2019. The final programme will be prepared in February 2020 and the abstracts will be published on the Congress website then. Speakers may present their papers in paper sessions. During the Congress papers will be presented in plenary sessions, paper sessions, and special symposia. In the plenary sessions the invited keynote speakers will give lectures dealing with the most significant questions of the interdisciplinarity of onomastic research.

A Socio-Onomastic Study of Genocide and Nazi Germany

This freshly released book provides readers with an increased understanding of and sensitivity to the many powerful ways in which personal names are used by both perpetrators and victims during wartime. Whether to declare allegiance or seek refuge, names are routinely used to survive under life-threatening conditions. To illustrate this point, this book concentrates on one of the most terrifying and yet fascinating events of modern history: the Holocaust. More specifically, this book examines the different ways in which personal names were used by Nationalist Socialists and targeted victims of their genocidal ideology. Although there are many excellent scientific and popular works which have dealt with the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, this work stands alone in its investigation of the importance of naming both for this horrific period and for other genocidal periods of human history.

The author, I. M. Nick, is a researcher in sociolinguistics, editor-in-chief of Names: The Journal of the American Name Society, and president of the Germanic Society for Forensic Linguistics. She is the Immediate Past President of the American Name Society.

Soon a new name for Brussels Airport?

This is, in any case, the dream of Kurt Ryon, the mayor of Steenokkerzeel, who would like the airport renamed, like in many other major cities. Paris, New York or Rome, for example, have chosen to give their airport the name of a famous character: Charles De Gaulle, John F. Kennedy or Leonardo da Vinci respectively. As part of the airport is located on the territory of his municipality, Kurt Ryon suggests renaming Brussels Airport and calling it “Bruegel International Airport” in the future.

Pieter Bruegel (1525?-1569) is widely regarded as the 16th century’s greatest Netherlandish painter. Brussels and Bruegel are inextricably linked. Not only did the most important part of his life took place in Brussels but he is also buried here and we can still admire an important part of his oeuvre in Brussels’ finest museums.