James Pylant has posted another great article over at genealogymagazine.com. In "Was Your Ancestor Courteous— Or Did He Just Wear Short Stockings?" Pylant examines family names that have dual origins. Curtis, for example, derives in some cases from the word "courteous."
Curtis, however, has more than one origin. It also comes from Curthose, a nickname given to someone wearing short stockings. The Middle English word curt (meaning short) was coupled with hose, originally a man’s stockings. Perhaps the earliest reference to this nickname morphing into a last name is to Robert Curthose, the Duke of Normandy. Eventually the spelling of Curthose evolved into Curtis and the old spelling faded into oblivion. [Link]I've run into several homographic surnames in my research, many of them created by Finns wanting to fit in with the locals here in Maine. Komulainen was Americanized to Cummings, Pyykönen to Pike, Heikkinen to Higgins, Hytönen to Whitman, and Mikkonen to the Irish-sounding McKeen.
And then there's my great-grandmother, Mary Jane Knapp, whose ancestors didn't come from Saxony by way of England. Her father was Solomon Knapp (originally Van Knapp), the son of Alexander Van Eps—scion of an old Dutch family from New York.