When people first took surnames, many used the name of their occupation. Thus Tom the miller, John the baker, and William the smith might become known as Tom Miller, John Baker, and William Smith. When we see those surnames today, we recognize them as occupational names.
Many names come similarly from occupations that have long since been forgotten. This week we'll recall some now-forgotten occupations, in Merrie Olde England, that survive as familiar surnames. We'll start with one which, though previously presented here, allows us to present one of last week's words.
chandler – (orig.) a candle-maker or candle-seller; also, a retailer of specified goods or lines [typ. nautical]; also (chiefly Brit.), a small shopkeeper selling provisions, groceries, etc.
– Charlotte Sun-Herald, FL, Mar. 4, 2007
Steve, who revels in his enfant terrible persona of the chandlery world, is never happier than when he is making waves - in one of the many dinghy classes he sails or when challenging the big boys of the chandlery business.
– Sail World, Australia, Feb. 28, 2007
cooper – a barrel-maker or barrel-repairer
– Amanda Ashley, in Midnight Pleasures
A cooper in German is a Fassbinder. This is also a surname.
—Ceci n'est pas un seing.
When I was young, our family's next-door neighbours were Mr and Mrs Cooper. Mr Cooper had been a cooper. He was retired at the time I knew him, but he'd worked for Courage's brewery in London.
It wasn't until several years afterwards that I realised how apposite was his last name, and I wonder if it had any bearing on his choice of a trade.
Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
webster – a weaver
[the root means "web", a nice image. I quote the Scottish version of the word]
– Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
I have met people with the names of "Bledsoe," "Slaughter" and "Hippkiss." I shudder to think what the origins of their names might be.
wainwright – a wagon-maker
"You know the name?"
"Nearly a decade ago, we killed a wainwright by that name," the man admitted, "a wagon maker and his wife. And we were paid handsomely for the task, I must say."
– R. A. Salvatore, The Cleric Quintet
granger – a farmer
– Katherine Anne Porter, Pale Horse, Pale Rider
We're already part granger now with all the hay we cut and stack.
– Janet Dailey, Stands A Calder Man
mercer – cloth merchant
– Nancy Mitford, Voltaire in Love
fletcher – one who makes arrows
– The Independent, Dec. 15, 2001