I like to go on little “Language Adventures” here on the blog from time to time, but sometimes these adventures become catastrophes. Here is the story of a recent one that I was actually going to triumphantly blog about before the train wreck happened. I had always wondered why the name Gustav, so popular in most European countries, was not popular in Greece – in fact, I have never met a Greek with that name, and, as a friend says, my Facebook friends list reads like the Athens phone book so I have a pretty good sized sample.
I was spurred into action to find out more while watching the Veggie Tales St. Nicholas video with Vaia. (These videos, by the way, are lots of fun and teach good lessons, as opposed to most other mindless video/tv entertainment). The movie is a hoot, and much of it takes place in the Greek world back in the day. And there is a Greek character named Gustav. This got me thinking, and I had a moment of clarity where I figured out the etymology of the name: Gustav must be a metathesis of Augustus – Avgustos, minus the Greek “os” ending, become Avgust, which metathesizes into Gustav. Brilliant, right? Wrong, at least according to the Wikipedia article on the name. It is apparently of Old Norse origin, although there is also a theory that it has Slavic roots. So, false cognate – Gustav is not related to Augustus.