Friday 5 February 2016

Mr Kowalski's Ferrari

I thought I'd post this lovely map that was made by Marcin Ciura. I hope it's big enough to read. If not, click upon it and it ought to expand. It's simple really, it's a map of the most common surname in each European country that designates a job. So there are a lot of smiths, and a lot of millers. But most of them are ones that I had never thought about. I've known the word Ferrari since I was a small boy, but it never occurred to me that the Fer meant iron and that the famous red car is simply a Smith. The same goes for all those Kowalskis. Anyway, click and have a look.

Incidentally, though I don't like to cavil, Murphy doesn't seem to belong here. It's from O Murchadha, a tribal name meaning the descendants of  Murchadh. Murchadh was a chap and his name meant sea-warrior. But that doesn't make it an occupational surname in the way that this map maps so wonderfully, as it doesn't map the most common occupation merely the tribe that bred the most. Murdoch, on the other hand, which is etymologically related, does mean sailor.

For another hidden Smith, see this old post of mine.


  1. In English, a farrier fits horseshoes. There's probably a Latin ferro connection there. A farrier is not far from a smith, but not exactly the same thing. I wonder if the horse in the Ferrari logo has ties to the shoer's profession.

  2. I always did wonder what Kowalski's name in "Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea" meant. Now I know. Thanks :)

  3. don't all surnames merely map " the tribe that bred the most"?

    1. In patriarchal societies, is that the tribe whose men bred the most? With our Northern European surname habits, the tribe whose women propagated most successfully wouldn't show up by name.

  4. Hello,

    As a non-English native speaker, I would be very grateful if you could provide some feedback on what I am trying to write in English. I wonder if what I am trying to do sounds too awkward to native ears?


    Each time when I attempt to write anew,
    I face familiar frightening dependence:
    I feel again as if I never knew
    How to create a simple rhymed sentence.

    I start with one, and then another word,
    Awaiting something that could help expressing
    The elusive unformulated thought
    That calls for realising and caressing.

    Constructing lines, replacing, swapping them,
    I'm trying to create a smoothen'd flow.
    I'm working hard; and when it comes to end,
    The thought is born, and words begin to glow.

    Yet, when it's finished, I am again in doubt:
    What if I'll be unable to shape another thought?


    Thank you

    Valerie Livina

  5. Valerie, as a native English speaker, I think that what you have written is excellent. It makes perfect sense, and only the last two lines don't rhyme (and I think that's OK, as they are making a point).

  6. What a shame you haven't posted anything since February. Is it that your book career is taking you away from your blog? New love in your life? Spending your book money on exotic holidays and expensive kitchen gadgets? Rampant alcoholism taking over? Whatever it is, you are missed from the blogosphere!

  7. Loved it. My surname is Ferrari, my family came from Livorno, I think...