Monday, February 9, 2009

Featured entry of the day

Well, lookie here, see what's the featured article of the day over at Wikipedia -- the House of Gediminas! Now, I'm no stranger to this part of Lithuanian history, but for the average reader of the online encyclopedia, this must be pushing the limits of obscurity.

A quick read of the entry reveals one of the problems in getting people to take an interest in Lithuanian history: the names are long and complicated and don't have much to do with English, German, or the Romance languages (at least superficially). Gediminas, Skalmantas, Daumantas, Jaunutis, Mindaugas, Traidenis, Vaišvilkas, Algirdas, Kęstutis, Vytenis, Vytautas the Great, Vainius, Vykintas -- hoo boy, even my head starts spinning after a while, and I grew up in a town with a lot of people with non-Anglo-Saxon names.

Part of the problem for modern-day scholars is that, as this author writes, Lithuanians didn't really use surnames until the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Before then, men used single names that came from two root words: "much strength" or "great hope" or something like that. (My mundane surname seems to mean either "much patience" or "much endurance" -- I guess I'm descended from a guy who had a hard life.)

Someone else wrote an article on feminine names from the Gediminid line, but as you can see, there aren't too many attractive-sounding ones to choose from.

Some people of Lithuanian descent actually use some of these old names as their given names. When I was a kid, the electrician who worked on our house was named Gediminas -- no wonder we always called him "Gid"!

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