Sunday, September 27, 2009

A lineage of geniuses

Found this article in Slate about why we call certain great men by the first names. Men like Galileo (unique enough name), Leonardo (a common name) from Vinci (Leonardo da Vinci) or Joe from Manteca.

… in 1564, surnames were optional in Italy. In daily interactions, an Italian would use the name his parents gave him at birth … and, if further clarification were required, add on his father's name (like di Antonio, or "son of Antonio"), his birthplace (Romano, or "from Rome"), his occupation (Panettiere,* meaning "baker")…

The governments of the various Italian city-states eventually grew frustrated … without standardization, it was difficult to levy taxes or enforce military registration…

I’m reminded of this legacy every time I address the city council and the mayor insists on giving me his special welcome.

Why we don't use Galileo's last name. - By Brian Palmer - Slate Magazine

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