Kevin Myers: Other than life, death, rags and riches, what's in a name?
Published 15/04/2011 | 05:00
A US scholar has just confirmed what most intelligent people suspected: the enduring nature of the impact of the Norman Conquest on England.
Gregory Clark, of the University of California, tracked Norman (Percy, Darcy, Mandeville) names and Anglo-Saxon names (Smith, Shepherd) through probate records, from 1858 to 2011. He found that people with Norman names were on average at least 10pc richer than those with aboriginal 'English' names.
A comparable survey at Trinity College Dublin showed that Fine Gael TDs are disproportionately more likely to have Anglo-Norman surnames -- again, this comes as no major surprise. Our ancient origins can leave a far greater imprint on us than we usually care to admit, and the social residues might remain in our conduct, just as herds of sheep continue to leap over the part of the field where there once stood a now-levelled hedge.