“Complexity & Comedy” – Jane Austen names Names

April 22, 2015 at 8:35 pm (books, jane austen) (, , )

A blog reader, Rachel, gave me a heads-up about a book SHE’s enthusiastic to take a look at, after reading a laudatory Telegraph review: Margaret Doody, Jane Austen’s Names: Riddles, Persons, Places.

Only today a co-worker ask what I had studied in college. I could feel the “huh?” question when I said that one of my areas of study was Geography. Historical Geography, I could have said to clarify. Along that line is a study of Place Names! So I’m with Rachel in wanting to know more about this book.


Quite frankly _I_ find many “indications” of people and places related to my Smiths & Goslings… So part of me would be intrigued to see what correlations Doody has found – and, as a writer, I want to see how she lays out her theories. The preeminent draw for me to Matters of Fact in Jane Austen by Janine Barchas was the stories behind the names. I’m not sure, from the Telegraph‘s brief review, if Doody goes into the logic behind the (possible) choices in the same manner. BUT: as I’ve not see the book, I can’t really say.

Interesting that Doody believes Austen found amusement in the name “Fanny” (ie, Fanny Price) – for I have heard the “hidden” meaning of Fanny in the UK today – whereas here in the States a ‘fanny’ is a rather polite reference to one’s “posterior”. And yet I have a FANNY in my Smith family tree – so I tend to give a little less credence to the amusement of the name.

And, as someone who has studied place names, I will hold my opinion and hope the reviewer is a bit more cavalier in the discussion than the original author. For instance, is it the reviewer or the author who puts Martin Luther’s birthplace as Mansfeld?

Would to love to hear from blog readers who have the book!

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