POLISH-SURNAMES-L ArchivesArchiver > POLISH-SURNAMES > 2006-08 > 1155484762
Subject: Re: [Pol-Sur] CMIEL vs TRZMIEL
Date: Sun, 13 Aug 2006 11:59:22 -0400
I notice Rob Podlasek asked about the names CMIEL and TRZMIEL, and DIana
Grzelak Needham answered with some info from my book. It may be worth
mentioning that Prof. Kazimierz Rymut lists these names in his book
_Nazwiska Polakow_ [The Surnames of Poles]. The modern form of the name is
TRZMIEL, and it comes from the noun _trzmiel_, which means "bumblebee." But
he points out that in older Polish this word was spelled _czmiel_ as well as
_c'miel_ (that is, with accented C). The form CZMIEL shows up in Polish
records as early as 1338.
This all makes sense if you pronounce the name out loud according to Polish
phonetic values. The TRZ comes out sounding much like our "ch" -- and Polish
CZ and accented C sound very similar. A Pole with a good ear can tell the
difference, but they are very similar sounds and thus are easily confused.
This is especially true in old records, where names were usually spelled
phonetically. Until the 19th century most Poles couldn't read or write, so
there was no widespread consciousness of a "correct" way to spell names.
Those who could read and write and kept records just put down what they
heard. At one time most folks thought this word -- and the surname from
it -- sounded like CZMIEL or C'MIEL.
In more recent times the consensus is it sounds like TRZMIEL. But it's a
very subtle difference. If I was in the room with you and pronounced
TRZMIEL, CZMIEL, and C'MIEL, odds are you wouldn't hear any difference (even
assuming I pronounced them accurately, which is probably not an assumption
we should make!). So it's not at all odd the name can be, and is, spelled
many different ways.
A quick look at the database at http://www.herby.com.pl/herby/indexslo.html
tells us as of 1990 there were 767 Polish citizens who spelled it C'MIEL,
442 who spelled it CZMIEL, and 957 who spelled it TRZMIEL. So even though
TRZMIEL is the "standard" form these days, the other spellings survive.
Frankly, if you're researching a family with this name, it's wise to keep an
eye open for all three spellings. The same person may show up as TRZMIEL in
one record, CZMIEL in another, and C'MIEL in a third. Inconsistent spelling
of names is just one of the things you have to get used to if you're going
to do genealogical research.
Note, by the way, that this is an entirely separate name from CHMIEL, which
begins with a guttural sound as in German "Bach," not the sound we spell CH.
That word comes from the noun meaning "hops," and Poles would never confuse
it with TRZMIEL/CZMIEL/C'MIEL. Although when it comes to surnames you never
Author, _Polish Surnames: Origins & Meanings_