What's in a Surname? A Journey from Abercrombie to Zwicker

by David McKie

eBooks of the Month History The Real World

What's in a Surname? A Journey from Abercrombie to Zwicker Synopsis

This is the Sunday Times bestseller. Surnames are much more than convenient identity tags; they are windows into our families' pasts. Some suggest ancestral trades (Butcher, Smith, Roper) or physical appearance (Long, Brown, Thynne). Some provide clues to where we come from (McDonald, Evans, Patel). And some - Rymer, Brocklebank, Stolbof - offer a hint of something just a little more exotic or esoteric. All are grist to the mill for David McKie who, in What's in a Surname?, sets off on a journey around Britain to find out how such appellations have evolved and what they tell us about ourselves. En route he looks at the surname's tentative beginnings in medieval times, and the myriad routes by which particular names became established. He considers some curious byways: the rise and fall of the multi-barrel surname and the Victorian reinvention of 'embarrassing' surnames among them. He considers whether fortune favours those whose surnames come at the beginning of the alphabet. And he celebrates the remarkable and the quirky, from the fearsome Ridley (the cry of which once struck terror in the hearts of their neighbours) to the legend-encrusted Tichborne, whose most famous holders were destined to suffer misfortune and controversy. Elegiac and amusing by turns, he offers a wonderfully entertaining wander along the footpaths of the nation's history and culture, celebrating not just the Smiths and Joneses of these islands but the Chaceporcs and Swetinbeddes, too.

What's in a Surname? A Journey from Abercrombie to Zwicker Press Reviews

David McKie's incredibly detailed research and his diamond-sharp prose make this book a delight, full of wisdom and fun. Simon Hoggart

 

We are all slaves to our surnames. There is no escape from them. Be they grand or humble, David McKie sees behind every one a trail of genealogy and history, wealth and poverty, celebrity and shame. Names are the nation's most secretive record, our island still in code. It is brilliantly revealed in this book. Simon Jenkins

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780099558941
Publication date: 03/07/2014
Publisher: Windmill Books an imprint of Cornerstone
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780099558941
Publication date: 3rd July 2014
Author: David McKie
Publisher: Windmill Books an imprint of Cornerstone
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 304 pages
Genres: eBook Favourites, History, The Real World,
Categories: Genealogy, heraldry, names & honours, Social & cultural history,

About David McKie

David McKie was deputy editor of the Guardian from 1975 to 1984 and wrote both its 'Smallweed' and 'Elsewhere' columns. His books include Jabez - shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography Award and the Saga Award for Wit - Great British Bus Journeys and McKie's Gazetteer.

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