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Hoffman in the last line is not translated correctly: "hoffen" in German indeed means "to hope", but "Hoffman(n)" is another spelling for "Hofmann", which means "the custodian of a (noble) court". In other parts of Germany, this function was called "Meier/Meyer/Mayer/Maier". For this reason, there is the so called "Meier-Loch" (Meier-hole) in Germany, meaning a part of Germany, where the name Meier in all it's variants barely exist, wheras Meier otherwise is one of the most frequent names in Germany. In this region, the Meier was called Hofmann.


Not Ashkenazi, but when my brother was in hospital at Christmas we had a visit from the Jewish organization because they'd been told he was Jewish. I have also had some anti-Semitic rant directed at me online. I always feel guilty when I say we're not Jewish although our name is Marks. Right, Germans would be mystified.


Andrew, you explained beautifully how Jews would have gotten these names, but have left out completely why these names might be exclusively Jewish with a "vanishingly small" margin of error. Why couldn't a non-Jewish German who immigrated to the US in 1880 say, have one of these names? Was there little German immigration that late (unlikely)? Are few other Germans named after their professions, etc.. (not the case in my experience, see Müller) ?

As an American I have the same impulse as you -- mostly accurate, but I can't really explain the exclusivity either.


I thought "Gruber" was a ditch-digger — someone who digs Gruben.

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