Not sure what this says about my brain
I spend much of my day looking at, and for, patterns. Whether they be patterns that match hostnames, like I create as part of my antispam project, Enemieslist, or patterns in email traffic, or patterns in many other arenas, one thing you have to watch out for is being misled by false clues.
In the ongoing effort to classify naming conventions, I've learned a lot about the culture and terminology of networking. A token 'bri' may refer for example to 'Basic Rate Interface', and implies that the host is an ISDN link. 'ppp' may mean dialup, and hence normally dynamically assigned hosts, but it may also mean statically assigned hosts over Ethernet (pppoe, usually). But the mere presence of a certain token isn't always sufficient to signify what you expect it would normally; for example, 'client' in some contexts is roughly equivalent to 'user' (dynamic) and in others means 'customer', more in the sense of 'business class customer'. So I struggle with the varied conventions and limitations of Google Translate and do the best I can do.
When I'm grinding through long lists of hostnames and zooming around my XML files in emacs, I try to take breaks every so often, to keep my mind from turning to mush. One thing I've found enjoyable is to look up the various regions and locales that I find domains registered in, or hostnames containing references to. One search led me to a short page about a town in Poland, which is distinguished only by a clock tower and the fact that the town's Jews were completely exterminated by the Nazis in 1943. Must be fun to be part of the Chamber of Commerce in that town, eh?
Another search led me to a page delineating the various words, suffixes, and prefixes that English has absorbed over the years from older languages, used in place names, and their meanings ("lea" is a meadow or clearing, "holm" is an island, "hithe" a wharf, "ford" a crossing, and so on). I was familiar with many of them, just from reading over the years; others I'd had different senses of ("wich", meaning simply "place or settlement", I had been misled into thinking meant "salt works" because several early salt works were in Middlewich, Norwich, and other such - it's also possible that wick derives from Norse 'vik', or bay, because if you're going to make salt, a bay is a pretty good place to do it).
One which I hadn't known before, however, stuck with me.
It seems that "-ey" in many place names is an old reference to an island. (Think of the French "ile", for example). Anglesey, the island just off the northwest coast of Wales, is "the Angles' island"; Athelney is an island (actually, a dry area surrounded by marsh) in southwest England. Once I learned this, I couldn't keep from finding the suffix everywhere. Unfortunately, usually in exception rather than proper observation of the rule. My grandfather on my mother's side, for instance, was named Sidney (said to derive from the French St. Denis, itself a corruption and derivation of Dionysus). A friend in the antispam world has the last name Bilbrey, which is a corruption of Bilborough or Bilbury, similar to the pronunciation of Marlborough among a certain class of English (MAR-bra). And while Romney (once an island in Kent), Orkney (Norse for "seal island", from an even older Gaelic name), Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Lindsey, and others are the result of the pairing of some other word with "-ey" and do refer to islands, most don't.
Haughey, Finney, Gaffney, Griffey, Duffy, Caughey, Sweeney and a variety of others are actually anglicized from Gaelic names that have nothing to do with islands. Some others are simply different spellings of unrelated words (Britney from Bretagne/Brittany, Stacey from the Greek Anastasia, Courtney from either Irish Gaelic "O'Curnain" or French "Curtenus", or "short nose"). Many are actually references to meadows or fields (pretty much anything that ends in "ley or "ly" or "lea" is, apparently, excepting nearly every adverb in English, of course). Godfrey is a corruption of German Gottfreid. Aubrey is Tuetonic for "King of the Elves". Cheney is an old French surname. Names ending in "-by' tend to be derived from Norse for "farmstead or small village". Surrey is derived from "Suthrige", or southern region. Disney, from the Norman D'Isigny, but I'm unsure whether the French refers to an island. Riley, which you might think would mean "rye meadow", is also derived from Irish Gaelic and means something else entirely. McCaffrey, Gaffney, Casey, Daley ditto. Kinsey is derived from "King's (or royal) victory" in Old English.
You see the point. But it's been absolutely maddening for me for some reason, and spurred me on to research every name or placename I hear that ends in a long e sound, and almost all I've looked at have been
Or perhaps it's just what it portends for our ability to know where we came from, with so much of the origins of our language obscured by a simple ending with so many different corruptions and influences. I recently read The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, which was a fascinating inquiry into the people who may have spoken the language we refer to as Proto-Indo-European, actually a reconstructed idea of a language. It's really not much more than a few stems and prefixes, derived by tracking the evolution of modern languages and finding commonalities and trends in sound shifts and so forth. I was ensnared by the idea that we could reconstruct a language nobody has spoken in tens of thousands of years, just as I was chilled by the idea that one day the language of my thoughts and arguments and judgements would be gone.