Buttigieg is certainly an unusual last name - difficult to spell and to intuit the pronunciation (boot-edge-edge). Pete's father, Joseph, was born in Malta, and their surname is Maltese.
Maltese is a Semitic language (descending from a variety of Arabic), and we've noted before that the name Malta itself is likely of Phoenician origin, and cognate to the Hebrew root מלט malat - "to escape."
So I thought it would be interesting to see if Buttigieg has any cognates familiar to Hebrew speakers. The name derives from the Arabic Abū d-dajāj. Abu literally means father, and dajaj means chickens (or poultry). Together, the name referred to a dealer in poultry.
Dajaj appears also in the full name of the star Deneb - which was originally known as ḏanab ad-dajāja, “the hen's tail”. Deneb is used frequently in fiction, including Star Trek. (Mayor Pete is a fan of Star Trek, and is quite a linguaphile. I wonder if he's aware of the connection to his name.)
Returning to Buttigieg/Abū d-dajāj, abu is certainly cognate with the Hebrew av אב - "father." But what about dajaj? Any Hebrew relatives?
I'll start out by saying that I was not able to find any clear connection between dajaj and any Hebrew (or Aramaic) word that I know (outside of an Aramaic cognate in this book, but I could not find any other source that mentions such a word). If any of you readers can help, I welcome your input.
While I could not find any Hebrew cognates, there are cognates in other Semitic languages, including dagag in Ge'ez, also meaning "domestic fowls". In this dictionary of Ge'ez, they write that the word derives "from an onomatopoetic dgdg" and compares to to a word in Sahri (another Semitic language), edegdeg - "make a tapping noise."
If dajaj is of onomatopoetic etymology - the pecking of the chickens - then the search for its origin ends there. But I'm not yet convinced.
This dictionary of Iraqi Arabic says that dagdag means "to bang, to pound", and dagg means "to grind, to crush". And this database of Semitic roots says that many related languages have similar roots meaning "trample down", "press, squeeze", or "tap". Perhaps ultimately all of those derive from an onomatopoetic ancestor, but I think that might leave room for some connection to Hebrew. If we consider the theory that some of the most ancient three consonant Semitic roots are based in earlier roots of two consonants (as we discussed here), then perhaps there was a two letter root *dg that meant "to beat, to pound." This would fit an onomatopoetic origin as well, since the sound of *dg is similar to tapping or knocking.
And if that's the case - and I admit I'm speculating here - there are some Hebrew words with related meanings that begin with dg:
- dagesh דגש - as we discussed here, originally meant "to pierce"
- digdeg דגדג - "to tickle", which Ben Yehuda coined from the Arabic daghdagha (a distinct spelling from dajaj)
And if we note the similarity between "g" and "k", we find these as well:
- dakak דקק - "to crush, pulverize"
- dakar דקר - "to pierce, stab"
I'm not sure what I think of these options. Ultimately, they're just stabs in the dark...