英文名知识
10月13日 113 次浏览

西方人姓氏背后的故事//The Story Behind Surnames in the West

公司有两位同事或班上有两位同学都姓Smith,你想知道他们是不是亲戚,于是去问他们。这一问把人家问生气了,你更觉得摸不着头脑了。为什么两位陌生人会出现同姓的情况呢?这在西方可不是很常见。我们这篇文章就给大家慢慢解释。

在西方很多国家的文化中,姓通常是随父亲的,曾祖父传给祖父、祖父传给父亲、父亲传给儿子。女性结婚后一般会随丈夫姓。不过如今,越来越多的新人会选择性地沿用这些习俗,也有的不追随这些传统。有的女性会继续用自己的姓,也有的通过融合两方创出一个新的姓,比如用“自己的姓-丈夫的姓”这种形式。

举个例子,Sarah Brown嫁给Victor Tell,她可以有好几个选择:最传统的方式是随丈夫姓,改成叫Sarah Tell;也可以将自己的姓和丈夫的姓都保留,叫 Sarah Brown-Tell;还可以直接不改姓,还是叫原名 Sarah Brown。直到今天,是否要改姓一直是争论的焦点,若一方希望改姓而另一方不同意,甚至可能会导致一段感情破裂。

姓一般是随父亲这边往下传,所以很多西方家庭希望生儿子来“延续家族香火”,而女儿迟早会成为别人家的人。所以,文章开头提到同姓的两位同事可能是随父亲姓也可能是改姓随丈夫了。那么,为什么他们同姓但却互相一点都不认识呢?

西欧最早出现姓氏是在16、17世纪,当时需要有一种方法可以最快地将贵族和凡人的社会阶级区分开来。比如说,当时镇上铁匠叫做John le Smith,他的后代无论是什么职业,都姓Smith。此外,有的姓源于地名:一家人的祖籍地、居住地或农耕的地方。如果有人姓“Atwood”,那么可以推测他们家祖先可能曾居住在森林附近的小镇或城市里(at wood,意为“树林附近”)。类似的姓还有Bradley (源于 “broad woodland”)、 Hamilton (英格兰的一个地方,汉密尔顿)、Aston (古英语意为“小镇东边”)。

今天,我们已很难找出所有姓的起源,不过历史学家们则在大胆推测。现代社会,西方人的姓主要来源于家族发展历史、祖先的社会地位和职业等方面。

全世界范围内,几个最常见的姓有 Lee (或 Li)、Zhang、Wang、Nguyen、Garcia、Gonzalez、Hernandez、Smith、Smirnov以及Müller。有的人移民到其他国家,会稍微改一下自己姓氏的拼写以适应当地的习惯,德国的大姓Muller会改成Miller。还有很多非裔美国人用的是英国的姓氏,这是因为在历史上,奴隶会随自己的主人姓,然后后代也会沿用这个姓氏。美国的前五大姓氏分别是Smith、Johnson、Williams、Brown、Jones。

中国的宝宝们可能会想是不是我也该给自己取个英语姓氏?我们可不推荐这么做噢!最佳的做法是取个英文名,但保留自己中文的姓,因为姓氏里包含着自己家族的历史和文化。只要用自己的姓的拼音拼写就行了,比如Wang、Li、Zhang、Zhu等。然而,我们还是见到一些中国同事、客户、朋友等将自己的姓给改了,结果弄得那发音或看起来挺别扭的。其实很少有人会改变自己的姓氏,所以我们的建议是大家还是保留自己的中文姓氏,这样就不会出现“为什么你姓Red呀?”“因为我喜欢红色”之类的尴尬对话了。

最好英文名的取名顾问们会帮大家找到心仪的英文名。虽然并不推荐大家在起英文名的时候把自己的姓给改掉,但也希望本文能让大家对西方姓氏有所了解。
 

There are two people who work at your company or are classmates at your school and they both have the last name Smith. When you ask them if they know each other, they're offended and now you're confused why. If you're confused how two complete strangers can share the same last name but have no connection to each other, we're here to help.

In many Western cultures, a person's surname is passed down to them through their male ancestors, usually the father. His surname was passed down to him by his father and his father before him. Another way to get a surname is when a woman marries into a family, she will frequently take the surname of her husband. Today, we're seeing more couples bend or skip these cultural norms all together. Now a woman might keep their own surname or create a hyphenated last name, for example, she’d keep her last name and add a hyphenate and then add her husband’s last name.

For example if Sarah Brown married Victor Tell, she has a few options. The traditional path would be to take his name, becoming Sarah Tell but she could also choose to hyphenate her original surname, becoming Sarah Brown-Tell or refuse to take his surname all together and remain Sarah Brown. Today, these options are often debated and can be a breaking point in a relationship if one wants to take the other’s surname and the other doesn’t want them to.

Because the family name is passed down on the male side, many families wished for sons and not daughters since a son would continue the family line while a daughter would help continue another family's history. In our example above, both of your colleagues most likely recieved their last names from their fathers or when they were married. But then you might be wondering why they have the same last name and not be related.

The earliest history of surnames in Western Europe started back in the 16th and 17th century as society wanted an easier way to distinguish noblemen from common people. For example, the town blacksmith might have been named John le Smith and as time passed his family members now go by Smith, regardless if they're a blacksmith or a banker. Another origin of surnames is based on place: the family's place of origin, residence, or the land they farmed. For example, the last name “Atwood” could be from a family that's ancestors used to live in a town or city near a forrest or “at wood.” A few more examples of place based surnames include: Bradley (from “broad woodland”), Hamilton (town in England), and Aston (meaning “east town” in Old English).

Today, it’s hard to determine the origin of all surnames but now historians can make a good guess. In modern times, a person’s surname is shaped by the history of their family, from social status and occupation to culture of their ancestors.

Around the world, the most popular surnames include Lee (or Li), Zhang, Wang, Nguyen, Garcia, Gonzalez, Hernandez, Smith, Smirnov, and Müller. Some surnames are more popular than others because as people moved to different countries they Anglicised their names, so the popular name in Germany, Muller, was changed to Miller. You’ll also find many African-Americans with popular British surnames because historically slaves would take the last name of their owners and the last name was then passed on to their ancestors. In the US, the five most popular surnames are Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, and Jones.

You might be wondering if you too should pick an English surname but we don’t recommend it. You can select an English first name but stick with your Chinese family name as it tells people about your family’s history and culture. Instead of the Chinese characters, you can go by the pinyin: Wang, Li, Zhang, Zhu, etc. Unfortunately, we’ve come across several Chinese coworkers, clients, and friends who’ve tried changing their surname and ended up with a strange sounding last name like “Loveless”, “Your”, and “English.” First names can be customized but surnames follow the tradition of bloodline. It would be very rare for someone to change their surname so we suggest keeping yours and skipping an unnecessary explanation of why your last name is “Red” just because you liked the name.

At Best English Name, our consultants can help you pick the first name that best suits your personality. We don’t recommend changing your surname but hope you were able to learn a new thing or two about Western surnames.
 

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