szigetvari’s name

What’s in a name?
—Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 2,2,1

Some people are interested in the sources of names. Here’s my story.

Szigetvár is a town in southern Hungary. Szigetvári [ˈsigɛtʋaːɾi] is an adjective meaning ‘coming from or belonging to Sz.’ Many Hungarian family names are similar, some are spelt with -y at the end, others with -i, like mine. Names with -y were formerly associated with “noble” families, -i is the plebeian version.

(The word sziget became well known in the past decades, due to a festival named thus. It takes place on an island, sziget in Hungarian, in Budapest. Vár is ‘castle’ or ‘fortification’, a common element in the name of Hungarian cities.)

My family never had anything to do with Szigetvár though. My father’s name at birth was Cziegelwagner, a partly Hungarianized spelling of German Ziegelwagner meaning ‘brick transporter’. The family changed it to look even more Hungarian in 1948, because in those days you could easily find yourself deported to Germany if you had such a name. Sometimes brothers chose different alternatives to their names, so families have split. This is also a very common story in Hungary.

On the web I usually use szigetva. This comes from the early 1990s, when the admin of generated this as my username. There must have been a limit of 8 characters. It stuck.

© szigetvari-AT-elte-DOT-hu