Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dragging the Bastard Name Through the Mud

Our article, "Weaselhead, Devil and Drunkard: Surnames Originating As Insults," tells about the origin of unflattering surnames. Included is a statement from English etymologist Charles W. E. Bardsley, who wrote: "As time worn on, and the nation became more refined, there was an attempt made, successful in many instances, to throw off the more objectionable of these names.” The Bastard family, though, kept their surname and gained prominence in English society. But in 1894, the revered name was tainted with a touch of scandal. That was the year London newspapers published stories of the scandalous Bastard vs. Bastard, a divorce suit filed by John Algernon Bastard against Olivia Gertrude Louise Stopford (Claremont) Bastard. The petition revealed that the wife of Spencer Brunton had filed for divorce three years earlier, claiming that her husband had been carrying on with Mrs. Bastard since 1888, and that news appeared in The Times (London), 16 April 1894. News accounts give no indication that the alleged affair produced any children, who, not being Bastards might have been called bastards.

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