Excerpt from Book:
To review the sources of a people’s nomenclature is to review that people’s history. When we remember that there is nothing without a name, and that every name that is named, whether it be of a man, or man’s work, or man’s heritage of earth, came not by chance, or accident so called, but was given out of some nation’s spoken language to denote some characteristic that language expressed, we can readily imagine how important is the drift of each—what a record must each contain. We cannot but see that could we only grasp their true meaning, could we but take away the doubtful crust in which they are oftentimes imbedded, then should we be speaking out of the very mouth of history itself. For names are enduring—generations come and go; and passing on with each, they become all but everlasting. Nomenclature, in fact, is a well in which, as the fresh water is flowing perennially through, there is left a sediment that clings to the bottom. This silty deposit may accumulate—nay, it may threaten to choke it up, still the well is there. It but requires to be exhumed, and we shall behold it in all its simple proportions once more.
And thus it is with names. They betoken life and matter that is ever coming and going, ever undergoing change and decay. But through it all they abide. The accretions of passing years may fasten upon them—the varied accidents of lapsing time may attach to them—they may become all but undistinguishable, but only let us get rid of that which cleaves to them, and we lay bare in all its naked simplicity the character and the lineaments of a long gone era. Look for instance at our place-names. Apart from their various corruptions they are as they were first entitled.
The reader will have observed that I have just incidentally alluded to five different classes of names. For the sake of further distinction I will place them formally and under more concise headings:—
1. Baptismal or personal names.
2. Local surnames.
3. Official surnames.
4. Occupative surnames.
5. Sobriquet surnames, or Nicknames.
I need scarcely add that under one of these five divisions will every surname in all the countries of Europe be found.