Thursday, July 02, 2009

Question from Abby - Joan v. Jane

I love Tudor history and love to look at the picture galleries on this site. While browsing through pictures of Jane Seymour, I came across a sketch of her with her name given as "Iohanna." (it is the bottom picture in her gallery.) I know from studying latin myself that the letter I is often used instead of the letter J, but using the J instead so the name reads Johanna sounds more like the name Joan instead of Jane. Were the names Joan and Jane interchangeable or am I interpreting the name wrong?

9 comments:

PhD Historian said...

It is an error on the part of the engraver, Wenceslaus Hollar, who came from Prague in what was then the Kingdom of Bohemia. Perhaps he assumed "Jane" was the feminine form of "John." As you probably know, the latter is rendered "Johannus" in Latin, so the feminine would be "Johanna." However, the "Jane" that my principal research focuses on, Jane Grey, is consistently referred to as "Jana" in Latin. And Jane Seymour's name is usually rendered in Latin by Englishmen as "Jana," as well.

Tudorrose said...

In reference to your question.I have read Jane being pronounced as Johanna.For example Jane or Johanna seymour.This is the latin term for Jane.

Lara said...

Tudorrose - If you read PhD Historian's comment, I think you'll see that Jane is "Jana" (or Iana) in Latin. Johanna would be Latin for Joan, not Jane, I think.

feuerrabe said...

@Lara and PhD Historian: Johanna is Hebrew, not Latin. I think both Joan and Jane are English derivations for Hebrew Johanna, though I don't have the time to look it up right now to be a 100% certain. Maybe someone else can.

Changing the English Jane to Jana when writing a Latin text makes sense, because otherwise the name can't be declined in a Latin sentence, the grammar requires it. That doesn't however mean, that Jana was the original name that Jane derives from. It's rather a necessary 'translation' from English to Latin.

Lara said...

feuerrabe: D'oh! Of course - that makes a lot more sense, especially trying to "force" a name in to a Latin form (as opposed to the other way around).

PhD Historian said...

Good point, Feuerrabe, and logical. BUT ... in order for the Hebrew name to be rendered in Roman lettering rather than Hebrew script, it has to be translated/transliterated. So I'm wondering if "Johanna" is the classical Latinized form of an Old Testament name that might best be translated today directly into English as "Jane"? That is, did the Hebrew name expressed in English as "Johanna" gain that form because it was first translated into Latin (in the Vulgate, for example) before it was rendered in English? If passing directly from Hebrew to English, might it be "Jane" ... or "Joan" ... or both? I don't have any idea myself, since Hebrew is not among the languages I read (tried ... never could get past the right-to-left thing). But as a fan of languages and the way names are transliterated, I'd love to know!

feuerrabe said...

@PhD Historian: I love languages, too, but I only had 4 years of Latin and no Hebrew at all.

I consulted wikipedia, because I can't get a hold of an onomastics dictionary on a Sunday. :-) If wikipedia can be trusted then these are the etymologies for Joan and Jane:

"Jane is [...] the English form of the Old French name Jehanne, which was an old feminine form of the male name Johannes or Ioannes, a Latin form of the Greek name Ιωαννης or Ioannes, which is derived from the Hebrew name יוֹחָנָן or Yochanan, meaning "Yahweh is gracious."

"Joan is [...] related to the names John, Jane, Jean, Johan, Joanna, Juan, Ivan, Siobhán, and Siwan. It comes from Latin Joanna, from Hebrew, meaning 'The Lord's grace'. The name ultimately derived from the Biblical Hebrew name יוחנן Yôḥānān, short for יהוחנן Yəhôḥānān, meaning "Yahweh is merciful"

Kathy said...

Just to muddy the waters a bit, when I was in graduate school I ran across a prayer that was said for Jane Seymour for either a safe childbirth or recovery from the condition that eventually caused her death. I don't remember the exact details of it, but it was in Latin and I had asked a friend of mine if he could translate it as I don't read Latin. I had copied it down from a short item in Notes & Queries and given it to him without explaing who it had been for. He translated the name as Joanna since the Latin did say Johanna. Sorry I can't remember any more details than that, but I think she must have been called Johanna in Latin on occasion. (Of course, PhD Historian, this doesn't apply to Jane Grey at all.)

PhD Historian said...

Fascinating notes, Feuerrabe and Kathy. Clearly people in the Tudor era were as unsure about how to translate names into other languages as they were about spelling! None of it was standardized. Helps to explain some of the really bizarre renderings by foreign ambassadors of the names of the English men and women they were reporting on.