May 16, 2006

Locative Epithets as Names

In all the foofuraw about the barbarism of referring to Leonardo da Vinci as da Vinci, nobody seems to have noticed that referring to people by their locative epithets alone is quite common. Here are some examples:

  • (Vincent) van Gogh
  • (Alexis) de Tocqueville
  • (James) van Allen
  • (Johannes Diderik) van der Waals

How many of you even knew the given names of the latter two?

Not only is the use of such names common, but I suspect that it is not necessarily the result of ignorance of the structure and usage of such names in their original language. In fact, one finds the same usage in the original languages. Check out the article on Democracy in America in the French language version of Wikipedia and you'll see that it refers to de Tocqueville , or the article on Van Gogh in the Dutch Wikipedia, which refers to Van Gogh.

Posted by Bill Poser at May 16, 2006 01:07 PM