Sunday, April 17, 2011


So, even though I'm participating in the party that doesn't mean that I can't continue on with remembering those that were killed during the Burning Times. In fact, I found one that applies to both.

When I first came across Alizon (pronounced "AH-li-zon," I think), I raised an eyebrow. Because I saw it in the description of a historical fiction novel. I can't remember the title of the book, I only remember that it was inspired by the Salem Witch Trials. I was thinking, "Come on, really? You can't make up kreative spellings for a historical piece!"

But then, lo and behold, I found it on historical records. In the list of people killed during the Burning Times, there is an Alizon Device, who was executed in Lancaster, England in 1612. She was one of the legendary Lancaster Witches. Their trial was one of the most meticulously documented in English history, although whether or not they were actual practicing Pagans is questionable. Mary Sharratt was inspired by this event and wrote a book called Daughters of the Witching Hill, featuring Alizon Device. So what do you know? It is a real, historical name.

But I'm still a bit suspicious of it. I keep thinking that someone made a mistake along the way and it's supposed to be Alison. Alison is one of the few matronymics, which is a name inspired by the child's mother, grandmother, or female ancestor. In the Western world, matronymics traditionally would have been given to the child of an unwed mother, the child of a father who died before the birth, or the descendant of an especially famous woman. In rare cases, the mother could have been especially strong-willed, insisting on giving their children names from their family tree.

There's a curious thing about Alison. Anyone with a basic grasp of English names can figure out that Alison means "son of Alice." However, I've never seen any specific instance in which Alison was given to a boy. Even Alizon Device was executed alongside a James Device. I can only assume that they were husband and wife, but I could be wrong. Some sources list that Alison a French diminutive of Alice, which I'm not sure I buy. The "son" thing just seems too obvious.

There are many variations of Alison, but you won't be able to find Alizon in any baby name book. So what do you think? Is Alizon a legitimate variation or is it a typo from the past?


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  1. It might be a legitimate variation; some people just want to be different. Take my name for instance, it is spelled Magaly, Magali, Magalis, Magalys... and who knows what else.

  2. My best understanding is that standardized spellings are a relatively recent innovation - 20th century, probably. Names predate widespread literacy by centuries.

    I can't find Alizon on any list I've encountered, but I have seen Alesone and Alysone.

  3. A boy named Allison.

  4. My parents saw an English play called "The Lady's Not For Burning" (1948) by Christopher Fry. It was a romantic farce set in the Middle Ages. They fell in love with the spelling and passed it on to me. Pronounced Alison, I have spent my life giving explanations of one sort or another.



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