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Oświecimski - Oświęcimski - Oświęciński
Created by Administrator Account in 12/25/2009 9:39:11 AM

 


... My mother has 'always' spelt her maiden name as 'Oświęcimska'. I looked this name up in some Polish references, and it is not that uncommon, about 250 in Poland. There are similar looking names with the diacritic marks absent etc, which appear less common. [He goes on to mention several different spellings, including "Oświecimski" and "Oświeciński," and asks if those spelling differences are significant].

Every name has to be taken on its own terms; with some names the difference of a single letter can mean volumes, in other cases you can have 5 or 6 different letters and it means virtually nothing.

In this case, I'd be inclined to say the different versions of the name are not significant. This is due to the phonetic properties of the characters that change. It is not rare in dialect for Ę to be pronounced as, and spelled as, simple E; this happens with enough names that I'm on pretty solid ground saying so. The M/N variance is also very common, because both are nasal sounds and we see them interchanged constantly. The oldest documents mentioning Oświęcim give the name ending with -in, and Rymut's books on Polish surnames and Polish place names specify that this surname has often appeared as either -imski or -iński. Actually, the -im ending is somewhat unusual, -in would be expected by normal Polish standards; so even if -imski is the right form, there would be a constant tendency for Poles to "correct" it to the more normal -iński, simply because they encounter and hear that so often and -imski so rarely.

You're absolutely right to be careful about jumping to conclusions, those spelling differences might mean a lot. For that matter, just because Oświęcimski and Oświęciński are essentially the same name from a linguistic point of view, that does not rule out the possibility that the different forms indicated different families. That's where your research comes in. But if I understand your question correctly, my research indicates that those differences don't have to have any great significance at all. From a linguistic and phonetic point of view, it's entirely plausible that this could be the same name and yet sometimes appear with the nasal Ę as simple E, and the -im as -in.

Copyright © 1998 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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