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Book Notes: A Dictionary of Jewish Names and Their History, Benzion G. Kaganoff

Edgar Samuel

<plain_text><page sequence="1">A Dictionary of Jewish Names and their History, by Benzion G. Kaganoff (Routledge &amp; Kegan Paul, 1978), 150pp. ?5.95. Rabbi Kaganoff 's dictionary of Jewish surnames and personal names fdls a long-standing need. As its title implies, it is more than a dictionary of names, and indeed it is prefaced by a detailed discussion of their history. The study of names demands a knowledge of many languages and cultures. The author is strogest on Yiddish and East European names and weakest in dealing with Arabic and Sephardi names, of which he includes very few. Sensibly he divides names into their various categories: acronyms and abbreviations (such as KATZ), descriptive names, occupational names, patronymics, matronymics, place names, house names (such as ADLER and ROTHSCHILD), and fanciful or invented names. I feel, however, that he has failed to recognise how many Jewish names were invented by the Austrian Civil Service for the great surname handout of 1787. MANDEL is not a variant of MEN</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes 125 DEL, while MANDELBAUM and BERNSTEIN are not patronymics any more than BRILLIANT, FISCHBEIN, WEINBERG, WEINGLASS, and WEINSTEIN are occupational names. The author is incorrect in asserting that there was a house in the Frankfort ghetto called EINHORN; even though a unicorn would make a nice house sign, it goes in my view with EINZIG, EINMANN, and EINSTEIN as an Austrian inventive name. The second matter with which I disagree is the interesting subject of Hebrew abbreviations. There is little doubt that KATZ is de? rived from Cohen Tsedek, but METZ is a place name and GETZ is a variant of GOTTSCHALK, the accepted kinnui for ELIAKIM. I do not find it con? vincing to derive them from Moreh Tsedek and Gahhai Tsedakah. Among Sephardi names there are some oddities. There seems little justification for the statement that the SASSOON family of Bagdad descend from an IBN SHOSHAN family of Toledo. MERCADO may possibly be a personal name on the island of Rhodes, but as a Spanish surname it is a place name. One is also justified in asking where exactly is located the place called SEISPORTAS, which the author claims to be the source of the SASPORTAS (or SAPORTA) surname? Such faults are perhaps inevitable in a pioneering work. Despite them there is plenty to learn from it. I had not heard before of Ukranian Jewish surnames based on prayers, such as YISHTABACH and ADONOILOM. It is satisfying too to be offered convincing derivations for puzzling Yiddish names, such as GERONIMOS for GRONAM and PUCELLE for PESSEL, but the derivation of FEIGE from FEILCHEN ('violet') rather than from VOGEL, the kinnui for ZIPPORAH, is more debatable. While this is by no means the definitive study, it is a useful and interesting book. Edgar Samuel</page></plain_text>

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