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German names in the US and Jewish folks


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#1 Alfred001

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 05:00 PM

German are the most numerous ethnic group in the US, yet it seems like whenever you encounter an American with a German last name they are Jewish.

 

I wonder why that is. Does anyone know?

I know some people of German ancestry have anglicized their last names, but then again, why haven't the Jewish people? Is it that Jewish immigration has been more recent while Germans moved earlier and maybe that practice of anglicization went out of style by the time the Jewish people came over?


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#2 Phi for All

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 05:26 PM

German are the most numerous ethnic group in the US, yet it seems like whenever you encounter an American with a German last name they are Jewish.
 
I wonder why that is. Does anyone know?


Confirmation bias.


I know some people of German ancestry have anglicized their last names, but then again, why haven't the Jewish people? Is it that Jewish immigration has been more recent while Germans moved earlier and maybe that practice of anglicization went out of style by the time the Jewish people came over?

 

You know a few Germans who did something, and now you're wondering why all the Jews haven't done the same thing? That sounds bizarre, doesn't it, expecting all one group to do what a few from another group did? Right?


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#3 imatfaal

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 05:38 PM

German are the most numerous ethnic group in the US, yet it seems like whenever you encounter an American with a German last name they are Jewish.

...

 

I think maybe more Americans claim to have German heritage than any other group - but I am pretty sure that British-American would be the largest group if you actually counted carefully.   The second half of your sentence is just confirmation bias (as I now see Phi has written above).  And frankly the mass-immigration into America from what is now Germany should probably not be thought of as from an identifiable single ethnic group - the bulk of the numbers would have been from Prussia, Bavaria, etc.  They were fleeing a revolution which sought to unify them - so I don't think they could be said to share a heritage, maintain a single culture or any of the other things which makes an ethnic grouping.  


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#4 zapatos

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 05:49 PM

 

I wonder why that is. Does anyone know?
 

 

Maybe you live in an area where most Germans are Jews.

 

I grew up in St. Louis which has a population heavy with ethnic Germans, and I never once met a German who was Jewish.


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#5 CharonY

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 06:25 PM

Anglicization of German names happened in a big wave in during/after WWI, IIRC. But there are still plenty of examples around (Koch, Muller, to name two very prominent ones). Also, Jewish names, while German, are typically quite distinct (but there are Jews who have changed their name).


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#6 Strange

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Posted 20 June 2017 - 07:54 AM

I have read stories of names being Anglicised (or, at least, corrupted) because immigration officials could pronounce/spell the original form. I don't know how much truth there is in this, though. If it happened, it may have been more common in the past (e.g. less familiarity with foreign names, changing attitudes to how new arrivals are treated).


I know some people of German ancestry have anglicized their last names, but then again, why haven't the Jewish people? 

 

 

Are you sure they haven't? The very fact of transliterating the names from Hebrew to the Latin alphabet, could be considered a form of Anglicisation.

 

The first name that occurred to me was Goldwyn (the film producer). Don't know why. He was born Gelbfisz.

 

I just looked him up, and the reason for his name change is interesting (and perhaps unusual). Initially, he Anglicised his name as Goldfish but then...

 

 

In 1916, Goldwyn partnered with Broadway producers Edgar and Archibald Selwyn, using a combination of both names to call their movie-making enterprise Goldwyn Pictures. Seeing an opportunity, he then had his name legally changed to Samuel Goldwyn, which he used for the rest of his life.

https://en.wikipedia...oldwyn_Pictures


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#7 swansont

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Posted 20 June 2017 - 10:00 AM

I have read stories of names being Anglicised (or, at least, corrupted) because immigration officials could pronounce/spell the original form. I don't know how much truth there is in this, though. If it happened, it may have been more common in the past (e.g. less familiarity with foreign names, changing attitudes to how new arrivals are treated).

 

 

German has umlauts, which English lacks. An ö becomes oe in English, for example. (e.g. Schroedinger vs Schrödinger) so even though you can tell it's German, it has been Anglicized.


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#8 Strange

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Posted 20 June 2017 - 11:05 AM

I have read stories of names being Anglicised (or, at least, corrupted) because immigration officials could pronounce/spell the original form. I don't know how much truth there is in this, though. 

 

 

 

Turns out it is a complete myth:

https://www.nypl.org...es-ellis-island

http://www.smithsoni...ange-180953832/


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#9 DrKrettin

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Posted 20 June 2017 - 11:35 AM

 

 

German has umlauts, which English lacks. An ö becomes oe in English, for example. (e.g. Schroedinger vs Schrödinger) so even though you can tell it's German, it has been Anglicized.

 

I don't think this process is necessarily being Anglicized, to be honest, it was part of the development of German orthography. The vowel difference was notated with a small e above the vowel, which became either the umlaut or an e behind the vowel. This is visible in a lot of German surnames, Goebbels and Goethe being the most obvious (my ex-wife's maiden name also). With the invention of the typewriter, it became increasingly common to write oe instead of ö because of the limited number of characters available. 

 

Some Anglicised German names just dropped the umlaut, e.g. Schroder.


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#10 Delta1212

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Posted 20 June 2017 - 02:28 PM

 
I don't think this process is necessarily being Anglicized, to be honest, it was part of the development of German orthography. The vowel difference was notated with a small e above the vowel, which became either the umlaut or an e behind the vowel. This is visible in a lot of German surnames, Goebbels and Goethe being the most obvious (my ex-wife's maiden name also). With the invention of the typewriter, it became increasingly common to write oe instead of ö because of the limited number of characters available. 
 
Some Anglicised German names just dropped the umlaut, e.g. Schroder.


Yeah, Anglicization would be bringing the name more in line with the rules of English spelling and/or pronunciation. Vowel + e is an accepted alternative in German spelling for when an umlaut is unavailable, and doesn't have any particular or corresponding meaning in English.

Similarly, merely transcribing a name from another language into the Latin script would be Romanization rather than Anglicization, as English is obviously not the only language that uses that alphabet or some variation of it.
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