Georgian Era Surnames: Names Expressing Contradictions

Definition of the Word "Surnames," Courtesy of Google
Definition of the Word “Surnames.” Courtesy of Google.

Everyone likely knows that in the Georgian era surnames such as Butcher, Tailor, or Miller referred to a person’s occupation and that a surname of Lewes, York, or Surrey was likely given to a foundling by a parish officer tasked with naming them. However, some of the more interesting surnames in use in the Georgian Era were often contradictory and expressed the reverse of a person’s actual character or qualities. One writer decided contradictory surnames were interesting enough that he wrote a short piece and identified some contradictory surnames. Here it is verbatim:

Georgian Era Surnames: Daniel Lambert by Benjamin Marshall, 1806
One of the Fattest Men in England, Daniel Lambert by Benjamin Marshall, 1806. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

We have a Mr. Light, whose weight is only one stone less than that of the memorable Lambert; a Miss Ewe, who is the tenderest and most innocent lamb in the universe; a Mr. Plot, who never thought in his life; and a Madame L’Estrange, who is the commonest woman upon town; one of the fairest ladies in the world is Mrs. Blackmore; and one of the fattest men Mr. Lean. Mr. Wiseman is without exception, the greatest fool in the neighbourhood in which he resides; and Price is notoriously the name of a man of no price or value whatever.

This popular city has been known to afford a very honest parson Hell, and Mr. Death a very ingenious apothecary; and the polite world cannot have so soon forgotten Mr. Manly, who knotted all the fringes of his own ruffles, and of his aunt’s petticoats. Laws is perhaps almost the only man in the world who does not known that there are any laws in it. We never yet knew a Mr. Short who was much under six feet in height; and the friends of two families swear that Mr. Goodchild broke the hearts of his father and mother, and drove another of his nearest relations to distraction, by his wicked and undutiful behaviour; while Mr. Thoroughgood turned out a complete rogue and a vagabond at 15 years of age, and was transported at the expence of the government at five and twenty. Mr. Gotobed is never so happy as when he can sit up all night smoking and drinking. Mr. Hogg is so particularly cleanly and neat in his person as to be the admiration of all his acquaintance. Mr. Armstrong has scarcely physical power in either of his arms to dance his own baby for five minutes; and Mr. Playfair is a notorious sharper.

It is with sincere regret that we feel obliged to add to this list, that we knew a Dean who is a common prostitute, a Bishop who is little better than a knight of the post, and an Abbot that loves blasphemy even better than venison. Mrs. Small is reported to be the lustiest woman in the three kingdoms. The only Mr. Halfpenny the world is at present acquainted with, is not worth a farthing. Many years have not elapsed since Horace drew beer at an ale-house in Wapping, and Homer was particularly famous for curing sore legs. Mrs. Fury is, perhaps, the quietest woman in Europe; Mrs. Prate, as is well known, has been always deaf and dumb; Mr. Nightingale has a worse voice than raven; Mr. Lightfoot has lost one of his legs, and go the gout in the other; and poor Mrs. Ogle was born blind.

References:

  • Brady, John Henry, A Critical and Analytical Dissertation on the Names of Persons, 1833

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