Wednesday, 2 February 2011

What's in a name?

While by no means unique, I have a fairly unusual name - searching for Moncur on the web will usually bring up a link or two associated with me.

I don't know a whole lot about my family history save to say that my forebears were peasant farmers in Kincardineshire for at least two hundred years and that before that there were Moncurs who were armourers and that there was an Andrew Montcur who rendered homage to Edward I of England in 1296, which, at a guess, means my lot started out with one of the petty Norman nobles invited in by Malcolm Canmore during the Englishing of Scotland.

If true this would mean that the name is probably Norman French in origin. And I've always been struck by the observation that whenever I go to France, while I say Moncur to hotel receptionists and the like, the bill almost always addressed to a M. D Moncoeur, ie they instinctively Frenchify it.

Fine. People hear what makes sense to them, so even though they've seen my passport, they still write down what they think they've heard. Just the same way as my father's forename is Hendry, not Henry, simply because that's what it sounded like to my grandfather, who told the registrar to spell it that way.

Now, France I can understand. But when I was in California recently I was universally Moncour (pronounced Mon-coor). Which is a puzzle, as to why it should happen consistently to what's a relatively unusual name that I'm guessing most people in California won't have come across before ...

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