Why do we refer to Galileo Galilei by his first name?
November 21, 2009 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Why do we refer to Galileo Galilei by his first name? Seems unconventional.
posted by found missing to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's not uncommon, especially with notable Italians: think of Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael. (Turtle power.)
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:57 AM on November 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


That very question answered at slate.com
posted by cali59 at 9:58 AM on November 21, 2009


Because he was born in an era where surnames were nowhere near as important (optional in some places) as they are today and he will have been referred to this way for centuries. Like Rembrandt, Raphael etc.
posted by fire&wings at 9:59 AM on November 21, 2009


In the middle ages, Italians took their surnames from their home town and their father's name, this could mean it was easier to identify people by their Christian name.
posted by ellieBOA at 9:59 AM on November 21, 2009


That very question answered at slate.com

Much more eloquently than me as well!
posted by ellieBOA at 10:00 AM on November 21, 2009


500 years from now, someone will be asking the same of Oprah.
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:00 AM on November 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oprah is a woman. I mean, I get the joke, and it's funny, but that's why.
posted by emyd at 10:31 AM on November 21, 2009


OK, fine, but why do we refer to Tycho by his first name?
posted by adamrice at 11:35 AM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The real question is why we refer to some renaissance Italians by their last names. Machiavelli is the most obvious puzzle.
posted by paultopia at 12:18 PM on November 21, 2009


paultopia- perhaps common-ness of name?
posted by JMOZ at 1:22 PM on November 21, 2009


I always wondered about Dante Alighieri. Maybe this explains him, but what about Saddam Hussein? Just because Hussein is a common name?
posted by k. at 4:19 PM on November 21, 2009


What about Saddam Hussein? Just because Hussein is a common name?

Yes. Particularly because of King Hussein of Jordan.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:13 PM on November 21, 2009


I've also wondered this about Napoleon. (Bonaparte, not Dynamite.)
posted by thebrokedown at 7:29 PM on November 21, 2009


Napoleon was an emperor, and emperors are usually referred to by their first name.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:55 PM on November 21, 2009


What about Saddam Hussein? Just because Hussein is a common name?

I can't vouch for whether this is true, but a family member of mine who married into an Arab family suggested that calling someone who is Arab by their first name is usually seen as insulting. It was the elder Bush who started the whole 'Saddam' thing, this same family member suggested at the time it was Bush's was of being a jerk to Hussein.
posted by kuppajava at 9:17 AM on November 22, 2009


Napoleon was an emperor, and emperors are usually referred to by their first name.

Napoleon fancied himself not merely an emperor, but a king. See also Napoleon II, Napoleon III, and Napoleon IV: The De-Napoleoning
posted by Sys Rq at 10:23 AM on November 22, 2009


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