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The names traditionally given to the three Wise Men are Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior. But a friend of mine told me that in Australian English Caspar is not used. They use, instead, Gasper. Can anybody confirm, giving contestually some historical reason. 

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closed as general reference by MετάEd, FumbleFingers, J.R., simchona Sep 11 '12 at 21:53

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Where have you looked for the answer? (Just so others don't waste their time repeating your research) –  Andrew Leach Sep 11 '12 at 20:53
(I think you might have your second syllables switched around: I usually see CaspEr and GaspAr.) This might be related to how in Latin, the cognomen Gaius is abbreviated C. The two sounds are closely related - one is just the voiceless version of the other. –  Marthaª Sep 11 '12 at 20:54
This question can be improved by doing your research, showing the results in your question, and explaining what it is you still need explained. –  MετάEd Sep 11 '12 at 21:26
I've voted to close as Too Localised. It's not General Reference, since it now seems that even Wikipedia just makes things up about which is "more common". But the spelling of such obscure historical proper names is not what I consider of general interest to future visitors here. Strictly speaking, it's probably Off Topic. –  FumbleFingers Sep 11 '12 at 21:44
Etymonline only adds that "Jasper [is the] English form of Caspar or of Gaspar, the traditional name of one of the Three Kings". It would probably take a biblical historian to trace all the variations that occur in the literature. Suffice it to say, Gasper and Caspar are both in common use (I've even seen both in video games, which may qualify as "mass media") and have been for some time. –  Zairja Sep 11 '12 at 21:53

1 Answer 1

From the Wikipedia entry on the biblical magi:

Traditions identify a variety of different names for the Magi. In the Western Christian church they have been commonly known as:

  • Melchior (also Melichior), a Persian scholar
  • Caspar (also Gaspar, Jaspar, Jaspas, Gathaspa, and other variations), an Indian scholar
  • Balthazar (also Balthasar, Balthassar, and Bithisarea), an Arabian scholar

Caspar is also sometimes given as Gaspar or Jaspar. One candidate for the origin of the name Caspar appears in the Acts of Thomas as Gondophares (AD 21 – c.AD 47), i.e., Gudapharasa (from which 'Caspar' might derive as corruption of 'Gaspar').

Following on to the entry on the name Casper:

By the 6th century, the name Gaspar was recorded in mosaic at the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy as one of the traditional names assigned by folklore to the anonymous Magi mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew account of the Nativity of Jesus. The letter "G" in the name Gaspar was clearly different than the letter "C" used elsewhere, suggesting that the name Gaspar preceded the name Caspar, and not the other way around as some have supposed.

The Western tradition of the name Gaspar also derives from an early 6th Century Greek manuscript, translated into the Latin "Excerpta Latina Barbari". A pseudo-Venerable Beda text, called "Collectanea et Flores", apparently continues the tradition of the name Caspar: "Secundus nomine Caspar" (P.L., XCIV, 541). This text is said to be from the 8th or 9th century, of Irish origin. As a surname, Gaspar survives today in Spanish, Portuguese and French, although the latter adds a silent d. It also survives in the Armenian name, Gasparian.

It would thus appear that the variants have a long history in Europe and would have followed British colonists, prisoners, etc. to Australia.

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I think that Wikipedia article is misleading when it says "Caspar is also sometimes given as Gaspar or Jaspar". Searching Google Books, I find 614 hits for "Caspar and Melchior", but 637 for "Gaspar and Melchior" (Jaspar/Jasper get only 11 between them). So in fact, Gasper is (admittedly, by a whisker) the most common form. –  FumbleFingers Sep 11 '12 at 21:27
@FumbleFingers Likewise for some of the Balthazar variations. The last one, "Bithisarea", is completely unfamiliar to me and doesn't have any hits in any of the online corpora I tried. –  Zairja Sep 11 '12 at 21:32
It was also unfamiliar to me. That's why I didn't include it in the search string, because any particular variant would just reduce my results count to no purpose. Incidentally, when I reverse my search terms, Gaspar is the runaway winner by 1470 to 943. Wikipedia is really misleading about prevalence. –  FumbleFingers Sep 11 '12 at 21:40
pseudo-Venerable Bede? as opposed to the genuinely-Venerable Bede? –  StoneyB Sep 12 '12 at 0:57
@StoneyB I think it is the text that is pseudo-, i.e. it probably wasn't written by Bede of Northumbria, despite having been attributed to him. –  zwol Sep 15 '13 at 1:43

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