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Mac vs Mc in surnames Options
Kirill Vorobyov
Posted: Monday, July 24, 2017 7:34:49 AM

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Joined: 10/4/2016
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Location: Moscow, Moscow, Russia
Hello, dear forumers!

General Macarthur from Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Niggers"...

I notice some names begin with Mc while others with Mac (and even not capitalizing the next letter). I wonder whether these are two ways of spelling the same name, or are they different names? In other words, could the General's name be spelled as General McArthur? Or is he strictly Macarthur?

Thanks a lot!
Kirill
Sarrriesfan
Posted: Monday, July 24, 2017 7:57:05 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/30/2016
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Location: Luton, England, United Kingdom
Kirill Vorobyov wrote:
Hello, dear forumers!

General Macarthur from Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Niggers"...

I notice some names begin with Mc while others with Mac (and even not capitalizing the next letter). I wonder whether these are two ways of spelling the same name, or are they different names? In other words, could the General's name be spelled as General McArthur? Or is he strictly Macarthur?

Thanks a lot!
Kirill


In the earlier Celtic languages used in Scotland and Ireland that would become Scots Gaelic and Irish, Mac is a prefix used to mean 'son of', so Macarthur means son of Arthur.

Over the centuries some started to shorten the name to 'McArthur' and this over even more time became a different name than Macarthur, a person that was called one would never be called the other, except by mistake.

The General would never be called McArthur.

There are those that say that Mac is used in Scotland and Mc in Ireland, but I don't think that is actually the case.

I lack the imagination for a witty signature.
Kirill Vorobyov
Posted: Monday, July 24, 2017 8:04:28 AM

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Joined: 10/4/2016
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Neurons: 1,521
Location: Moscow, Moscow, Russia
I see, thank you very much, Sarrriesfan!

So it's either one way or the other.
thar
Posted: Monday, July 24, 2017 8:15:11 AM

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They are different names - a name has a specific spelling, you can't vary it.

The difference comes from the ways the names were written down in the past. 'Mac' means 'son of' or 'family of' in the Gaelic language, which survives in Scotland and Ireland.
Eg
MacDonald was the son of a Donald. McEnroe was the son of 'Enroe'.
MacArthur was the son of Arthur (except that was originally Art or Airt - eg an Irish king called Art had a son called Cormac mac Airt.)

When these names were written down, it was done in various ways. There were no fixed rules in writing.
There was a tendency for names in Scotland were written as Mac, while names in Ireland were written as Mc. But this is not any sort of rule. It is also compounded by migration of people in large numbers between the two places. And also to everywhere else.

There are other variations - sometimes the second part is capitalised -
McDonald, MacDonald

Sometimes it isn't
Mcdonald, Macdonald

Sometimes it is written ck
Mackdonald.

Sometimes, it is never transliterated into English, and is written in Gaelic
MacDhòmhnaill


With emigration of people, especially to America, there is the possibility of even more variations - especially when illiterate people have their name written down by people with no understanding of it. Lots of weird spellings. You can't do much different with 'MacDonald' but some others get very strange spellings - and of course they are official and they stick.


But now they have been written down for a few hundred years, they are fixed, they are not interchangeable.

Edit
Cross posted, obviously. Got distracted. Whistle




Kirill Vorobyov
Posted: Monday, July 24, 2017 8:53:26 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 10/4/2016
Posts: 287
Neurons: 1,521
Location: Moscow, Moscow, Russia
Thank you, Thar!

In fact, my question was partly triggered by McDonald's (restaurants), I think I've occasionally seen MacDonald's, and Urban Dictionary mentions this spelling too, but now I realize this is simply a wrong spelling, a mistake some people may be making sometimes.

So in fact it must be one way or the other - i.e. not interchangeable. Good to know, thank you very much.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Monday, July 24, 2017 5:07:10 PM

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Joined: 9/12/2011
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Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
We have the same 'trouble' with '-ski', '-ska', '-vich', '-vik' and so on - especially because they are changed into Latin letters rather than Russian.

Many countries have similar
Irish - Patrick O'Donnell, Nuala O'Donnell (Podraig O'Dhomhnaill, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill) (son or daughter)
Scottish or Irish - McDonald, MacDonald etc
English - Donaldson
Scandinavian - Donaldsson (or something similar)
Icelandic - Ivar Svensson, Guðrún Mínervudóttir (son or daughter)


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
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