This French and English surname of YAWN was from a medieval given name which is ultimately from the Hebrew male name YONA, meaning 'Dove'. In the book of the Bible which bears his name, Jonah was appointed by God to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh, but tried to flee instead to Tarshish. On the voyage to Tarshish, a great storm blew up, and Johah was thrown overboard by his shipmates to appease God's wrath, swallowed by a 'great fish' and delivered by it on the shores of Ninevah. This story produced a powerful hold on the popular imagination in medieval Europe, and the given name was a common choice. The name has many variant spellings which include JONAH, YONAH, JONA, JONAK, JONASEN and YONOVITZ. The origin of badges and emblems, are traced to the earliest times, although, Heraldry, in fact, cannot be traced later than the 12th century, or at furthest the 11th century. At first armorial bearings were probably like surnames and assumed by each warrior at his free will and pleasure, his object being to distinguish himself from others. It has long been a matter of doubt when bearing Coats of Arms first became hereditary. It is known that in the reign of Henry V (1413-1422), a proclamation was issued, prohibiting the use of heraldic ensigns to all who could not show an original and valid right, except those 'who had borne arms at Agincourt'. The College of Arms (founded in 1483) is the Royal corporation of heralds who record proved pedigrees and grant armorial bearings. The bulk of European surnames in countries such as England and France were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries. The process started earlier and continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the 11th century people did not have surnames, whereas by the 15th century they did. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error.
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