The Brewer of Ghent. James van Artevelde. (Fourteenth century.) It may here be remarked that it is a great error to derive proper names of any antiquity from modern words of a similar sound or spelling. As a rule, very few ancient names are the names of trades; and to suppose that such words as Bacon, Hogg, and Pigg refer to swineherds, or Gaiter, Miller, Tanner, Ringer, and Bottles to handicrafts, is a great mistake. A few examples of a more scientific derivation will suffice for a hint:-
BREWER. This name, which exists in France as Bruhière and Brugière, is not derived from the Saxon briwan (to brew), but the French bruyère (heath), and is about tantamount to the German “Plantagenet”
(broom-plant). (See Rymer's Fædera, William I.)
BACON is from the High German verb began (to fight), and means “the fighter.” PIGG and BIGG are from the old High German pichan (to slash).
HOGG is the Anglo-Saxon hyge (scholar), from the verb hogan (to study). In some cases it may be from the German hoch (high).
BOTTLE is the Anglo-Saxon Bod'-el (little envoy). Norse, bodi; Danish, bud. GAITER is the Saxon Gaid-er (the darter). Celtic, gais, our goad.
MILLER is the old Norse, melia, our mill and maul, and means a “mauler” or “fighter.” RINGER is the Anglo-Saxon hring gar (the mailed warrior)
SMITH is the man who smites.
TANNER (German Thanger, old German Danegaud) is the Dane-Goth. This list might easily be extended.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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