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    Andre Lwoff

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    May 8, 1902 – September 30, 1994

    A glance at Jewish Nobel laureates gives us Andre Michel Lwoff of France, who won in 1965 in Medicine. Lwoff? What kind of a name is that? How would you even pronounce it?

    It turns out that Lwoff is of Russian-Polish extraction, and Lwoff was originally Lvov, a rather common name that comes from the Russian word for "lion" (or, if you want to get Jewier, "Levi"). So, a perfectly cromulent Russian Jewish name. Still, what the Lwoff?

    There is this assumption in the west that Russian names get to end with -off. (COUGH "Natasha Romanoff" COUGH COUGH COUGH, oh that is wrong on so many levels!) But there is not a single Russian person whose name ends with -off. And yet, here we have Lwoff, recently-profiled cigar mandate Davidoff, vodka baron Smirnoff... What gives?

    It has to do with the French (and somewhat the Germans). When Russians whose names ended with -ov emigrated in the 1800s and early 1900s, they usually went to France (or Germany), and their surnames got Latinized with the -off suffix, which was closer-sounding in French (or German).

    So if you ever meet a Lwoff, a Davidoff, or a Smirnoff, know that they likely do have Russian heritage... but the French (or Germans) had something to do with it. Not that it will help you pronounce their names!

    Verdict: Jew.

    August 25, 2021

    See Also

    Zino Davidoff

    Douglas Emhoff

    David Sarnoff

    Yakov Smirnoff

    Serge Voronoff
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