Manual of Life - Things You Didn't Realise Till You Did #74

The first line still holds true.

So, another leisurely meal, another arbitrary thought. Try this one on for size -

There is no original Western European or American first-name that begins with 'Z'. All of them are predominantly Middle Eastern in origin, with some East Asian ones thrown in for flavour.

Go on, think about it.

Most of the first-names that you can think of come from the belt of land that stretches from Greece to Afghanistan (on a longitudinal basis), and from the languages that originated therein (Arabic, Hebrew or Cyrillic). There are a few Chinese names that I can think of off-hand too, and I can't quite speak about names in the South Asian countries, but the chunk seems to be Middle-Eastern/Central Asian in origin.


On the other hand, there are tons of first names in Western Europe and America that begin with the letter 'C', but none in that West Asia/Middle Asia belt (excluding the East).


All those history lessons about the many invasions of India from the armies of Central Asia suddenly make so much sense. Even a quintessentially Gujurati name like Zaveri has its roots in those incursions.

Update: We have the odd-one-out (thanks be to the wise Fëanor) - Basque. In my defence, the language is denoted as an 'isolate', so it really doesn't bear much in common to its neighbours. Still, a valid exception.


Purely Narcotic said...

Zsa Zsa like in Gabor?

Falstaff said...

Rubbish. Plenty of German surnames beginning with a Z. Zuckerman. Zellmer. Zenger.

Also, what do you mean by 'original' American? Native American surnames?

Tabula Rasa said...

one of the most original names i've ever heard was that of an irishman called zebedee zzypp. (this was in 1983.)

@purelynarcotic -- hungary doesn't count as western europe.

Tabula Rasa said...

ah, google tells me that zebedee is hebrew.

DewdropDream said...

Yeah I thought of 'Zebedee' too ... what about places beginning with Z?

??! said...

Hey hey again.

And what TR said.

Not surnames. First names. I specified this.

Actually, I was going for names carried over by the settlers (like Thomas, or James, or Charles), but that's a good point. Are there any NA names starting with Z?


Falstaff said...

Tchah! First names are even easier. Both the Greek and the Hebrew traditions have plenty of Z first names: Zoe, Zerlina, Zachary, Zander, Zeke (which is, admittedly, a shortening of Ezekiel, but still pretty common). And that's assuming that Poland lies outside your definition of Western Europe (otherwise see Zbignew).

I'm not sure what you mean by Western Europe anyway. Are we talking Vikings? Celts? Anglo-Saxons? Because a great deal of Western European nomenclature comes from the Old / New testaments (see Hebrew names above), which aren't exactly Western European to start with.

??! said...

That's my point! The Z-names are from Arabic/Hebrew origin, not French/Spanish/English.

Ok I think Isee the problem....I left out Hebrew for some reason from my list of languages. Although I did specify what region, and the Judaic world falls bang in the middle of that belt.

The Bride said...

I've heard of a Czech/Romanian name called Zoran or Zohan. Again, not West European but East.

Fëanor said...

There are several Basque names starting with Z. As Western European as you might want.

As for Middle-Eastern names beginning with 'C', this is a bit of a straw man, surely. If 'C' is pronounced like 'K', then you have Kahlil or Kamran etc., which could be spelt Cahlil or Camran as well. And if it's the soft sound, like 'S', then Siham would meet the requirement.

km said...

Zoe is Middle Eastern?

And Zaphod?

Falstaff said...

??!: As far as I can tell, your point is that you think of names starting with Z as middle-eastern. If Zachary and Zeke are 'middle-eastern' then so are Adam, Eve, Abraham, Joseph, Rachel, Samuel, John, etc., etc.

Also, Greek origins (Zoe, Zander) are not Arabic / Hebrew and it's a bizarre version of Western Europe that leaves the Greeks out.

Obviously, you can twist the definitions of what you mean by a 'European' name as much as you like to fit your cockamamie theory, but let's not pretend it has any real empirical validity.

Tabula Rasa said...

1. adam, eve, etc. *are* middle-eastern in origin. no one is claiming they're not.
2. geographically, greece is in the south-east of europe. not west. bizarre, i agree.
3. this is an observation, not a theory. no one claimed this was a theory.

snow got in your britches, buddy?

??! said...

Now there's a winner. You're quite right about Basque, but then it's quite the unusual language itself, relative to the others around it. So, exception to the rule?

Fair point again. and edited.

Zoe is Greek. Zaphod is well...

My saviour! I bake you cookies.

??! said...

Eesh. Bad mood, huh?

As TR said - Greece may seem Western European, but that's only because so much of modern civilisation is based on it. It's actually right surrounded by Albania, Bulgaria, and the Baltics. Don't get more Eastern European than that.

And if you think the Biblical names aren't Middle-Eastern in origin, then you've got the wrong map of the globe.

Again, let me emphasise. It seems to me that the Z-names are mostly exclusive either to those main languages, or to the countries within that stretch of land I mentioned. Not both factors always, but one of them is present. There are valid exceptions, as Feanor pointed out above, but I still hold to my observation.

Also, 'cockamamie'?

Anonymous said...

Uh, Zaveri is pronounced with "jh" as in jhanda (flag) not as "z" as in zulfen (locks of hair). Kuchh bhi kya!