In this week's installment of Literary Names, we'll be looking at the beloved children's classic, Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery!
Along with many other readers, I identified with Anne in many ways when I read this book for the first time. Who hasn't felt like the awkward but endearing member of their family? I also liked her insistence that her name be spelled "with an E" - it's the little things in life that mean the most.
Lucy Maud Montgomery
The author's name is just beautiful, so we're starting there. Lucy is only just now returning to its popularity levels from the late nineteenth century, when LMM was born. This classic name means "light", and it's popular in almost every English-speaking country. Maud (without an E), on the other hand, hasn't been seen in the US Top 1000 since the 1930's. With vintage names making a comeback, I think that could change for this sweet moniker. Montgomery made the news last year when celebrities chose it for their son, and its numbers have been slowly rising over the past 20 years. It's got the cute nickname Monty among other positive attributes.
Protagonist and everyone's favorite literary redhead, Anne Shirley leaps from the page as the unexpected orphan who comes to live with the quiet, conservative brother and sister Cuthberts. She also tends to romanticize names - Cordelia and Geraldine among them - but doesn't mind her own too much. While the name Anne has never made the top 50, it's been decreasing in popularity over the years, with Anna on the rise. Anne is a perfect middle name (and one of the most popular), and in a few years, it might feel just as adorably retro as Maud.
Anne's stern but caring female guardian, Marilla Cuthbert initially is annoyed with Anne but finds quite a few similarities between herself and the young girl. She's an excellent example of "tough love", but provides the steadfastness to counter Anne's wayward spirit. The name Marilla was originally a diminutive of the floral Amaryllis, and means "to sparkle". Either the shorter or longer forms are pretty options, with Marilla fitting in aurally with Isabella or Arabella. Only 9 little Marilla's were born in 2014, so it's definitely unique!
The strong and silent type, Matthew Cuthbert falls under Anne's spell almost instantly, becoming the foil to Marilla's toughness - who can forget the moment he buys her a dress with fancy sleeves? He's one of Anne's "kindred spirits", and his transformation into a doting father-figure is absolutely adorable. The name Matthew has been in the top 20 since 1971, with hundreds of namesakes, literary and real. International variations Matteo and Mathias are become more popular now, especially as multicultural choices.
Anne's best friend and loyal confidante, Diana Barry is also the only character we see get drunk in the novel - and what a fiasco that scene is! She's much more even-keeled than Anne; almost every summary I've found about the character contains the word "agreeable". Diana's name is on the decline after 80 years in the top 200. Diana means "divine", so here are some alternative godly names: Deva, Astrid, or Rhiannon.
The boy we love to despise! In spite of a years-long feud with Anne, Gilbert and she have a lot in common, and their similarities lead to friendship (and romance). After reaching the bottom of the US top 1000, Gilbert is on the upswing again. Its nerdy vintage sound is fun and accessible, plus the name lends itself to cute nicknames - Gil and Gib among them. Blythe is also a fabulous option - it means "happy", and has been a lovely choice for a few little girls.
Any other fans of Anne out there? Tell me in the comments!