The meaning of McCann

Although I have been aware of the A Song of Ice and Fire books since about 1998 or thereabouts, when only one or two had yet been published (I go into more of that here), I did not start reading the books until 2017, shortly after “The Dragon and the Wolf” aired, and did not begin bingeing the series on HBO via Hulu until after I’d read through the books at least once. During that time I also developed a real impatience with fandoms of all kinds, after having witnessed the trainwrecks that are the fandoms of The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and Supernatural, so stopped caring about anyone else’s take on any show or movie, really, and stopped seeking those out. Between one and the other I am not as in-depth well-versed in the world of Westeros as I might have been by now, so I’m not up on all of what you normally hear about these shows and the makings-of with their little urban legends and odd coincidences.

I do know about one odd coincidence, though, and it is to do with the subject of this website.

And that odd coincidence is the meaning of Rory McCann’s surname.

Going by everything Rory’s said on the subject, when he said it, and how he put it across, I don’t think he knew this about himself when he took the part of Sandor “The Hound” Clegane in Game of Thrones. It wasn’t any great revelation, he was just keen to get regular acting work. By the time he heard he’d gotten the part, he’d read the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series and done some research on ASOIAF internet fan forums, and that was about it.

But by the time Season 2 rolled around, for whatever reason and in whatever way, Rory had made an interesting discovery. It would become a talking point in his interviews for the next few years. As here:

Access Countdown To ‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 2: Q&A Rory McCann Talks Sandor Clegane (The Hound)

and here:

‘Game of Thrones’ Q&A: Rory McCann on ‘The Hound’ and Season Four

And, well, Rory does that. He’s a bit of a nervous interview (from everything I’ve seen) so I have no doubt he coaches himself ahead of time to have a few pieces to fill in should there be a lull in the conversation. This was his bit for a while:

“Did you hear that ‘McCann’ means ‘hound’?”

“Yes, it doesn’t mean McAnn, ‘son of Ann,’ it means ‘hound,’ ‘son of hound,’ ‘wolf hound’.”

What??? Really??? Here I was reading this stuff four years later just gobsmacked. How weird is that??? I even went and clicked half-assedly around Google a bit to see if I could verify it… yep… looks like. Amazing. It’s like the role was made for him. He seemed to think so too.

Once I got more in-depth adding a bio page and other material to the site, however, I went back and looked again, and made an even more interesting discovery. It seems Rory’s sources weren’t quite correct.

No, seriously, you’ll love this.

McCann (surname) at Wikipedia [Archive]

McCann Name History, Family Crest, & Coats of Arms* at House of Names [Archive]

McCann Surname History at [Archive]

…Ain’t that some funny shit?

So here’s a summary, in case you don’t want to plow through all that. Basically, McCann, as with many Scottish surnames, was originally Irish (and is still, in Ireland). The name is widely believed to derive from the Gaelic words meaning “son of wolf cub.”


But Wait, There’s More. One branch of the family apparently wound up in continental Europe and eventually therefore in Italy, where they became aware** of the similarities between “cann” and “canis” and adopted a coat of arms with one or more dogs on it.


It seems that no matter what Sandor’s fate might have potentially been, like if he’d stayed with the Starks instead of haring off on his insane little revenge quest, Rory’s name would have still been an incredible coincidence.

Sometimes real life really is stranger than fiction.

Oh, and I’ve got one more for you. This isn’t to do with Rory’s name per se, but it’s kind of related and it’s pretty funny. In January 2021 some scientists came out with some interesting news about dire wolves. Here are some relevant links. Have fun.

Dire Wolves Weren’t Actually Wolves, DNA Analysis Reveals at Smithsonian Magazine [Archive]

Dire wolves are actually ice age mega-foxes at Popular Science [Archive]

…It would seem that the dire wolf branched off millions of years before the gray wolf came along, so it is not a wolf at all, but a… DOG***.

I just… I just can’t with these crazy coincidences. This is AWESOME.

I hope to tell Rory someday. I think he’d get a huge kick out of it.

*I am given to understand from certain sources, which I am vague about now, that the coat of arms probably didn’t work in the real world the way it worked in Westeros. To wit, apparently there wasn’t often such a thing as a “family coat of arms.” A coat of arms is an individual thing usually and conferred to a specific person in honor of that person’s social position or personal deeds. Probably a good thing, too, as someone from my own family wound up with a coat of arms with the heraldic dolphin on it and, well, our being a French family and all, that might have been awkward. (Look it up. Specifically the heraldic dolphin.) So anyway, the coat of arms depicted on this page is likely from a specific person in Rory’s ancestral family rather than representative of the whole thing. I wish the companies selling coats of arms to the historically uneducated would be more honest about this.

**I am confused about this. Scotland was Catholic for a long time; Ireland still is. The people would have been exposed to Latin, so how it is that no one ever figured this out until a branch of the McCanns moved to Italy? Might be they were all laity and didn’t learn Latin, which was a common enough problem and one of the big reasons that translating the Bible to vernacular languages was such a big deal. Not many priests in the McCann family tree, then? I suppose not.

***Wolves are dogs too; in fact, the domestic dog is a subspecies of wolf, so say the DNA tests. But while all wolves are dogs, not all dogs are wolves.


[Last updated: 06 August 2021]

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