Monday, October 24, 2016

Leaders of the United Nations

Hello, readers!

Today is the 71st anniversary of the founding of the United Nations - an organization which, for good or for bad, was created to promote international cooperation and prevent wars. Their influence is controversial, but the idea behind it should be celebrated - in these days of conflict, it's nice to remember that many still strive for peace and unity.

The 26 United Nations Flags from Dr. Francisco Castillo Najera, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Manuel Quezon, and the U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull in July 1942 (Wikipedia).

Here is a list of the past and present Secretaries-General of the United Nations (all men) and their names. I also included the dates of their leadership.

Gladwyn Jebb (1945-46)
Thanks to DMNES for the background! This rare English name means "bright friend," and hasn't been recorded in the United States since 1927. With the resurgence of Welsh names - Brynn, Dylan, Gwendolyn - in English-speaking countries, Gladwyn may fit in sooner than later. And you have to like a name that starts with "glad"!

Trygve Lie (1946-52)
A Scandinavian name meaning "trustworthy," this name's statistics surprised me - it's been recorded in the US in forty-five separate years, rising in 2015 (fourteen Trygve's were born last year). But with names like Trig and Trevor on the playground, it's no wonder the sound was adopted. the pronunciation is something like "trihg-vuh".

Dag Hammarskjöld (1953-61)
Another Scandinavian name with a few namesakes - most recently as a character in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Dag was used briefly in the States between 1961 and 1971. It seems that this particular Secretary General was especially influential! The name means "daylight," and it has more popular diminutives: Dagny and Daggett.

U Thant (1961-71)
One thing I love about the name community: I'm always learning something new! Burmese name conventions usually result in an individual having one name (often monosyllabic) and the ability to change their name at will. "U" is loosely translated to "Mr.", and Thant comes from the word for "clean" or "wholesome," according to a few (albeit not completely vetted) websites.

Kurt Waldheim (1972-81)
Many Americans are familiar with this name today via novelist Kurt Vonnegut and musician Kurt Cobain. It reached its peak popularity in 1964, but never made the top 100. Its similar tone to Keith or Kent make it more than viable. Kurt is also a short, "courteous" choice - as single-syllable boys names rise up the charts, Kurt may follow.

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (1982-91)
A popular name in the Spanish-speaking community, Javier is a variant of the well-loved Xavier. The name is Basque, and originally developed as a religious honorific for Saint Francis Xavier, founder of the Jesuits. Javier means "new house," and this choice has a lovely positive vibe - softer than its X-counterpart, but just as strong.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1992-96)
Famous for his double name, among many other things, Boutros Boutros-Ghali was in the news earlier this year: he died in February at the age of 93. His name is an Arabic form of Peter, meaning "stone" or "rock." Though Boutros has international flair, it may be mistaken for Brutus - a positive or negative consequence, depending on your name style.

Kofi Annan (1997-2006)
West African naming conventions - the Akan people, in this instance - often bestow names based on the day of the week a child is born. Kofi Annan was named based on this custom; his name means "born on a Friday." With Kai and Cody so popular, Kofi might work - but many people will mistake the name for "coffee." Kofi has been in use in the United States since 1970.

Ban Ki-moon (2007-16)
More naming conventions! Historically, Korean families would include one element of a name specific to each new generation. Names can also be spelt with multiple characters, so finding a singular meaning for this name doesn't apply. On a related note, thirteen children were given the name Moon last year.

António Guterres (2017-present)
Starting next year, the United Nations will have a new leader - António Guterres, a Portuguese diplomat. This name is not strange to Americans: Anthony currently ranks at #25, Antonio at #152, Tony at #504, Anton at #960, and Antoine at #1000. Though the meaning of the origin is unknown, this name was popularized by Christians after Saint Anthony.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

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