SOCIAL HONORIFICS AND TITLES
If we were to assume that an early ancestor was the source of the Don
river names we would have to admit a profound influence. He certainly commanded
But what kind of social order would know him over such wide areas? We
normally consider that very ancient people were restricted to the immediate
vicinity of their homes. We do not see them traveling or having commercial
trade over wide regions. Until recently this view was held for people even
of 3,000 years ago. Lately, as we accumulated more information, we came
to recognize that widespread commercial traffic took place even in more
remote times. If the names date from those olden days it means that common
social mechanisms were present.
Because of the limited nature of the linguistic evidence we may hesitate to draw profound conclusions. Perhaps there are other ways to explain the name patterns. It should take more than phonetic similarities to convince us. But why has modern scholarship neglected this information? Was the neglect out of conscious intent? Or was it because there is no recognized relationship to other evidence -- historical, archeological, or linguistic -- no accepted method for viewing such information in broader perspectives? Or is it because, perhaps, they do not believe the old stories -- do not accept that Adam was real? If the modern scholarly world viewed Adam's existence as illusion out of psychic aberrations, with the idea originating from people who think in myths, they would not look for an individual obscured by the mists of time. Then the place names are merely spurious phenomena unrelated to more discernible
realities, or to other accumulated bodies of knowledge. But if one is receptive to the idea that Adam was real, that he must have had a profound influence, then this linguistic evidence begins to take on deeper meaning.
One could argue that the place names, even though demonstrating a pervasive
influence, might, indeed, have derived from mythological folk tales and
not from real persons. After all, it is the veneration that brings names
into use, not the reality of the source. Adam is revered greatly today
among Jews and Christians although they have no evidence other than the
simple story in the Bible.
But what tradition would foster such respect? How did it come about?
Why would it carry so strongly in phonetic similarity across geographical
boundaries? The Greeks and Romans, intimately related in culture, did not
use the same names for their mythological gods. Zeus and Hera were the
Greek king and queen of the gods but the Roman names were Jupiter and Juno.
It seems more reasonable to assume origin in a cultural commonality out
of some reality which remembered the actual names, and not out of mere
If we had only the river and place names we would not have a very strong argument. Fortunately we have much other evidence. It shows that, indeed, the common source was Adam; he was far more than mythological. He not only gave his name to the rivers and the lands; he also gave it to his descendants in their titles of social honor. The evidence is instructive.
|THE DON TITLES|
Spanish men of high rank and nobility were
addressed as Don. The title is used more commonly today as a matter
of courtesy, but it was once restricted to a high class group as respect
for their ruling authority. Don Juan, Don Carlos, and Don
Quixote meant Lord Juan, Lord Carlos or Master Quixote. The title in Portugal
is Dom with the n-to-m phonetic shift. In Sicily the title is still
and came into the United States through the Sicilian underworldRHDEL,OED.
The female form in Spain is Doña;
in Portugal it is Dona; in Italy it is Donna. The female
form in Portugal has not seen the n-to-m phonetic shift.
In ancient Rome Dominus meant Lord or
Master, just as the Spanish Don meant Lord or Master. Through the
Roman conquests of the Iberian peninsula linguists believe the Spanish
and Portuguese Dom derive from the Latin Dominus. The Iberian
female forms are thought to derive from the Latin female Domina.
Numerous other words in Spanish and Portuguese can be traced without question
to Latin; it is natural to assume the titles also came from LatinRHDEL,OED.
However, the clear phonetic identity with the Don river names now brings that traditional etymology into question. Other evidence also speaks against it.
Geoffrey Chaucer was an English poet of the fourteenth century who is well known in English-speaking countries for his Canterbury Tales. He was sometimes called Dan Chaucer, pronounced as Don. The title, or honorific, of Don is used yet today in English universities where it denotes senior fellows and tutors, those with superior knowledge and wisdom. The title is assumed to be colloquial, applied to anyone who is an adept. The Oxford English Dictionary does not offer an explanation for the origin of the honorific except to say it probably was borrowed from Spanish and Portuguese titles. No evidence is adduced to support this supposition.
The collegiate evidence is complicated by the
title of Dean, as the Dean of a university or the Dean
of a profession, someone expert in knowledge. The title is thought to derive
from the French decanum and the Greek deka or decanos,
someone who is the head of a group of ten. However, this supposed origin
of the Dean title is far from clear. As admitted by the Oxford English
Dictionary, "Whether viewed as Greek or Latin, the form of the word
The vowel change from don to dean
and the association with learned persons is not accidental. The various
forms derive from a source that also explains the don and donna
of the male and female, and the "a" prefix that changes don to adon.
All are explicitly related, as we shall see. The Don title is not
limited to Spain, Portugal or England. It is used in France in Benedictine
and Carthusian monastic orders where it was interchangeable with the pronunciation
In Italy Don is also used as a title of address for priestsRHDEL.
The same form can be traced through Europe
for female applications, with the n-to-m phonetic shift. Dam or
was an ancient European title of a woman of high rank and nobility. We
know the word today as Dame. We also use it more rarely as dam,
the descriptive term for a female parent, both human and animal. It occurs
also in the descriptive term for a young woman, a damsel. It is
found in Madam, a combination of the maternal ma with dam,
although traditional etymologies show it from the French ma+dam
= "my dame"RHDEL,OED.
This brief survey shows that don and dona titles had a wide influence in Europe. However, the opinion of modern scholarship that the titles come out of Rome and the Latin language is seriously open to question. There is no evidence for the supposed borrowing of the university titles in England. This is merely a suggested hypothesis because there is no other traceable source. This hypothesis is cast into further doubt because Dean is so phonetically similar and used in close association in those same institutions. It would be more simple to hypothesize an ancient common source that diffused down into the various societies than to insist upon a borrowing from Rome.
|DOM PREFIXES AND SUFFIXES|
Investigation of dom- and -dom
prefixes and suffixes adds to our information on this phenomenon.
Examples of English words with a dom prefix which come from Latin are:
Domain from dominicus = "of or belonging to a Lord or Master."
Dominate from dominare = "to rule, govern, lord over something or someone."
Dominion from dominium =
"property or ownership of a lord."
These all come from Latin dominus; they are words that connote rulership and strength. We saw earlier that the Keltic dun also connotes strength but the word is not of known Latin origin.
Now consider examples of the -dom suffix
in the Teutonic languages. Christendom and kingdom imply
rulership, authority, sovereignty, or a condition of state. The use of
to denote royal or kingly dominion, and the jurisdiction of an elder or
lord, is illustrated also in Earldom or Dukedom. The -dom
suffix also appears in such modern English words as freedom and
wisdom, a condition or fact of being free and wise.
Philologists propose that the Teutonic suffix -dom came from the Germanic root "do." This root is found throughout the Indo-European languages as the Sanskrit dha-, Persian da-, Old Slavic dete, Lithuanian deti, and Latin -dere. It generally means "to place, put, set or lay." The "m" suffix on the Germanic "do" follows similar inflections found in Sanskrit, Greek and Latin, illustrated by such English words as "hel-m," "sea-m," and "strea-m." But the common connotations of the Teutonic -dom and the Latin dom- cause us to ask if it is possible the Teutonic -dom came from a source other than the "do-m" verb. We shall look at this question again in the following chapter.
To show the antiquity of the don/dom
forms I turn to Northwest Semitic and Hebrew. Abundant evidence shows that
those languages long predate Rome and the Latin language, extending more
than four thousand years into the past. If a don influence can be
demonstrated in Hebrew it certainly did not come out of Rome.
Dan was a son of Jacob, a great-grandson
of Abraham. He was the father of the Israelite tribe of Dan. In Hebrew
his name is pronounced Don, with the same vowel intonation as the
Spanish and English Dons. Literally it means "to judge," someone
expert in knowledge and wisdom. Note how closely this literal meaning parallels
that of the European usage in the ruling Dons and the wise professors.
Daniel, the famous character
of the Hebrew apocalypse, also carries the name Don but with the
suffix El. He is known to students of Near East antiquities as one famed
for his expert knowledge and wisdom. Nebuchadnezzar called upon Daniel
to solve the mysteries of his dreams; Daniel was promoted to high office
because of his great intelligence and perspicacity. It seems hardly coincidental
that the Hebrew Don and Daniel, denoting knowledge and wisdom,
would have names phonetically similar to the European Dons who are also
noted for their expert knowledge and wisdom.
Furthermore, Hebrew has the title Adon,
which means Lord or Master. The close linguistic relationship between the
European Don and the Hebrew Adon is clear. The phonetics
and the meanings are the same. Even more, with an n-to-m phonetic shift
becomes Adom, and this is the Hebrew name for Adam. Thus we find
a solid linguistic connection between Adam and the
Europe. The close similarity in names, titles, and honorifics from Europe
to the Near East Hebrew, in phonetics and semantics across widely divergent
cultures, is impressive.
(Note: I postpone discussion of the accepted origin of the name Adom in Hebrew. I will consider this in a following chapter on Blood and Fertility Myths.)
One could suggest the Iberian dons and
came from Hebrew. They are phonetically and semantically identical to the
Hebrew: Don and Dom from Don and Adon rather
than from Latin dominus. But would the influence be limited to these
few forms? People would not borrow social titles unless there was a powerful
social influence. Would the ruling classes of Europe borrow their titles
from Hebrew people? And if from Hebrew, where the designations are used
in general application, does this mean the Hebrew people, as a class, were
of noble status? Otherwise, such transfer would take place only if the
ruling classes transferred from one country to another, or had a common
origin. If Northwest Semitic were the source of the European Dons we would
expect to see the Semitic influence in may other ways. But such influence
is not recognized. If there were a common source it is unknown.
Furthermore, such supposed origins would not explain the Teutonic dom forms.
Even more, we cannot consider the social titles
and honorifics in isolation from the Don river names. It is not
reasonable to ignore the phonetic identity.
A suggestion that the titles came from the
river names would be absurd; people do not acquire important social titles
from the names for rivers. On the other hand the river names would not
have come from the social titles; people do not name rivers after words
for social position. Would we name rivers Mister or Madam.
It seems far more reasonable that the river names and the titles both originate
in some common personality in remote antiquity.
If we assume this common source was beyond
known Indo-European and Semitic cultures we have an explanation for the
different forms among diverse people over wide geographical areas. The
tradition dominated all Caucasian people but different groups remembered
differently as the groups diversified. Thus we have don/dom in western
Europe, -dom in Teutonic, don and adon in Hebrew,
and the ever-present Don rivers. Social customs, linguistic meanings,
and phonetics drifted over time but the river names clung to the land.
Such thesis provides insight into the diffusion
of the title and name phenomena: it was a vertical diffusion down through
the generations as cultures drifted apart; it was not a horizontal diffusion
from one contemporary culture to the next.
Further insight into this process is noted
by the ancient restriction of the titles to a high social class, a nobility.
The titles were mechanisms for great social respect; they did not originate
out of mythological tales. They were used in everyday hard reality for
maintaining order and due process in social intercourse where one class
was superior to another. The titles carried from one generation to the
next among that high social class. The origin would be in some remote ancestor
who also carried that title. If a Don in Spain acquired his title through
inheritance from his father, then his father must have acquired it from
his father, and so on back through the generations to some remote ancestor
who also carried the title Don.
This process implies a powerful social force
from highly cultured groups, contrary to our prevalent notions of primitive
savagery among our Indo-European ancestry. There must have been a coherent
cultural refinement on a grand scale. Our modern godless anthropological
views may be more primitive than the people they assay to define.
As John Philip Cohane quoted from an unidentified
Don was the one "from whom, so saith antiquity, the pedigrees of our kings have flowed in glorious series, like channels from some parent spring."
A richer understanding of the Don phenomena is provided when we examine the conjugation of the Hebrew verb root don.
|A Technical Note|
|Linguistic scholars use two elements in determining etymologies. The first is similar sounds; the second is similar meanings. Latin dominus and Spanish Don are thus tied together. Sometimes etymologies are obscured by less visible phonetic shifts. For example, Greek and Latin "pater" is equivalent to English "father." The "p" to "f" shift is well recognized in the Indo-European languages. In order to confirm etymologies scholars resort to documentary evidence. They will use undocumented connections only if there is wide consensus within the academic community.||The present study reaches beyond this rigorous scholarly method. It demands a study of patterns. Such pattern study should not be less acceptable to linguists than to other branches of science. Patterns are used to yield great theoretical understanding about stars and galaxies. Patterns are used for demographic analyses and the allocation of social resources. Many other illustrations could be given. Through such disciplined process we all might obtain better understanding of our planetary past.|