Thursday, January 17, 2013

Some Insight Into the Names Maryam and Natah

I never knew my mother had a middle name.  Not in Hebrew.  I knew her English middle name was Marilyn, she would share that information readily.  But I never heard her say her middle name.  Not to me.  My aunt Leah knew it.  G-d bless Aunt Leah.  She says Tehillim regularly and when my mother was not well she had her on the list. With her full name: Freidah Maryam bat Esther.  (The rest of us just went with no middle name).  Her brother's name was Shmayah. Her father's middle name was Manaleh. Her uncle whom I'm named for was Natah.  They had funny (not ha-ha) names in Galicia.

I'm in the Y,U. library now.  They've got THE book that has the answers about these names: A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation, and Migrations, by Alexander Beider.  A dear friend confirmed to me that Maryam was in fact a name in Galicia (not that I ever doubted it, but other family members did) and told me about this resource where I could learn more.

Beider writes, "The Yiddish Maryem (variation scheme - Maryam) is derived from the Greek form of the biblical Mary.  Related phonetic forms were used by Jews only in Eastern Europe...Most likely Maryem arose as a blend form of Miryem (the standard Yiddish version of Mary and Maria/Marie (the Christian form of the same biblical name). Alternatively it could have been borrowed directly from the East Slavic Orthodox Christians...He notes elsewhere that the name Mirlin (similar to Marilyn) is derived from the name Miryem, and then later the name Mirel, and  then Mira.  Interesting.

It seems from Beider that my teachers who associated my name, Natah (nun-tet-ayin) with Natan/Noson were not far off.  They were wrong to say that I was mistaken as to what my own name was.  But they were accidentally correct in a scholarly kind of way, as Natah does come from Natan/Noson.  He writes, "Their Hebrew spelling, nun - tet - ayin, was chosen to conform to the Hebrew common noun natah meaning plant.  (Years ago I looked and found it used as a noun in one place in Tanach). He cites several times and places when this name was used.  He includes the pronunciation, Nutah, which I sometimes heard in the family (but not Nyutah, which I also heard).

Hopefully to be continued.

2 Comments:

Blogger Pesach Sommer said...

Sorry I'm late. Her neshama should have an aliyah.

January 17, 2013 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Thank you. I didn't do a Yahrtzeit post per se.

January 18, 2013 at 12:41 AM  

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