Arabic? Irish? Whatever

That’s the personal name /émǝn/, in a fully anglicized rendition of either of two very different names: the (Egyptian) Arabic name of MSNBC commentator Ayman Mohyeldin; or the Irish name of Google software engineer Éamonn McManus (who’s also a friend of mine). Time for a multicultural, multilingual moment.

Ayman. From Wikipedia:

Mohyeldin was born in Cairo, Egypt, to an Egyptian father, Medhat Mohyeldin, and a Palestinian mother, Abla Awwad. His father is a certified public accountant in Marietta, Georgia. Mohyeldin has an older brother, Ahmed, who is a resident neurosurgeon at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and former professional soccer star for the Atlanta Silverbacks. Mohyeldin lived in Egypt until the age of 5 when his parents emigrated to the U.S. He attended North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia.

(#1) AM on camera

Mohyeldin received his undergraduate education at American University in Washington D.C., earning a BA in International Relations with a focus on the European Union. He received an MA in International Politics with a focus on Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Éamonn. Irish by birth, Éamonn worked for several years in Grenoble, France — he’s a French-English bilingual (he’s often provided me with crucial comments on French for this blog) — before moving to Google in Mountain View CA.

(#2) EM looking conferential on 5/8/08

But wait! There’s more. The name Éamonn led me to the name Emmon, the name of an old friend in linguistics, the late Emmon Bach. It turns out that Emmon (with /ɛ/ rather than /e/) is a variant form of Éamonn (which is the Irish version of Edmund). And that Emmon himself was another wonder of multiculturalism and multilingualism.

From Wikipedia:

Emmon Bach (12 June 1929 – 28 November 2014) was an American linguist. He was Professor Emeritus at the Department of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Professorial Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London. He was born in Kumamoto, Japan.

His interests included syntax, phonology, the languages of British Columbia (especially Haisla), problems of tense and aspect in semantics, and formal problems and semantic issues in the morphology of polysynthetic languages.

(#3) A nice informal photo of Emmon (in Germany; photo from the Linguistic Society of America)

… As a child Bach spoke Danish and some Japanese.

… He did his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Chicago, with a Ph.D. in Germanic studies in 1959. … His first regular academic job was at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught from 1959 to 1972. He started in the German department and gradually switched to linguistics.


9 Responses to “Arabic? Irish? Whatever”

  1. Stewart Kramer Says:

    Baby-name websites seem to confuse these (and, of course, etymology isn’t the same as a current meaning), but these were enough to satisfy my curiosity :
    Irish variation of Edmund “wealthy protector”
    Meaning:Arabic – Fortunate; Variation of name is Ayman
    Ayman (Arabic: أيمن‎, also spelled as Aiman, Aimen, Aymen, or Eymen in the Latin alphabet) is an Arabic masculine given name. [3] It is derived from the Arabic Semitic root (ي م ن) for right, and literally means righteous, he who is on the right, right-handed, blessed or lucky.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Adrienne Shapiro on Facebook:

    Reminds me of the similar parallel names “Eileen” (Gaelic / anglicized) and “Aylin” (Turkish)

  3. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Rod Williams on Facebook:

    For another variant, I refer you to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas…

    More about this Amon, from Wikipedia:

    Amon Giles Carter Sr. (born Giles Amon Carter; December 11, 1879 – June 23, 1955) was the creator and publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and a nationally known civic booster for Fort Worth, Texas.

    … Carter parlayed this money and power into celebrity as a national spokesman for Fort Worth and West Texas (Carter popularized the description of Fort Worth as “Where the West Begins”, a phrase which still appears daily on the Star-Telegram’s front page). During the 1920s and 1930s, Carter personified the image of the Texas cowboy in the national mind: an uninhibited story-teller, gambler, and drinker, generous with his money and quick to draw his six-shooters.

    Something of a fabulous character, but no information, alas, on where the Amon came from.

  4. arnold zwicky Says:

    And now, also from Facebook, from Sim Aberson:

    I just watched the Israeli film Scaffolding
    in which one of the main characters is named Rami. I had thought of Rami as an Arabic name, but this Rami seemed to have been Jewish. I did a little research on the name, and the first thing that came up was Rami as a Finnish name. And I also found a reference to the name in Urdu.

    I’m guessing this happens with most one- or two-syllable names, except mine, which seems to have no clear origin that I have been able to discern.

    Brief response from me:

    Oh my, yes, accidental similarities in short words are extraordinarily common, and they’re the devil for doing comparative reconstruction. They’re especially common for short proper names, since in many cultures most proper names aren’t thought of as having recognizable meanings — only designations (and cultural associations: an American man named Herschel is pretty much guaranteed to be Jewish, etc.) — so they’re open for variation, not to mention flat-out invention.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Do you know if Arabic Rami and Jewish Rami have a common Semitic source, or whether they’re just accidentally similar?

      • Alon Lischinsky Says:

        I don’t think so! The Arabic is likely to be from رامي (rāmi, “archer”), cognate with Hebrew רמה (rama, “height”, seen in construct form in quite a few placenames such as Ramat haSharon)

        The Hebrew name is usually a hypocoristic for Avraham

      • arnold zwicky Says:

        To AL: thanks. That’s pretty much what I suspected. I was pretty sure the Hebrew was a nickname abbreviation and suspected the Arabic was not, but what do I know about Semitic?

      • Stewart Kramer Says:

        This site suggests the Finnish version is short for Abraham:
        Rami is a given name, and sometimes a surname, which is popular among Arabs in the Levant. It is also a surname among Indians, especially Gujarati. In Arabic, Rami (رامي) is derived from the verb “to throw” and means archer or good marksman; literally, “the one who throws the arrow, or it’s derived from the Arabic verb ” Ram” “رام” which means “to wish, to aim at, to dream, to be ambitious “.” The Hebrew version of the name (Hebrew: רמי‎), however, is derived from the Hebrew word רָם Ram, meaning high, tall, or exalted, though it can also be short form for Rahamim or Yermiyahu (Jeremiah). The Indian version of the surname is used by Gujarati florist community. It is derived from ‘Rama’, the legendary king of Ayodhya in ancient India. Rami is also a Finnish given name, abbreviated from Abraham.

        Famous real-life people named Rami
        Rami Malek – American actor
        Rami Kashou- clothing designer
        Rami Jaffee – American keyboardist with The Wallflowers
        Rami Elmrini – American YouTuber TvRamiE
        Rami Sebei – Professional Wrestler

  5. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Facebook, Gadi Niram > Sim Aberson:

    There is (or was) a Rami’s Israeli restaurant in Brookline [MA]. Rami was an Israeli Jew. I also [know] both Jewish and Arab Amirs.

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