Thursday, May 12, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Saintly Names

Hello, readers!

For my first Throwback Thursday in a while, I'll be looking at the feast days associated with today's date, May 12th. Quite a few holy figures have their feast days today, and the names are fantastic!

Let's begin!

Blessed Imelda
The patron saint of First Holy Communicants, Imelda's backstory is extraordinary (but not altogether unusual, as far as saints go). Imelda is of German origins, meaning "great battle". Today, the name is associated with former first lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos, as well as actress Imelda Staunton. Both are strong personalities, and with a name like Imelda, your little one could be fierce. 

Blessed Joan of Portugal
A beatified princess, Joan of Portugal rejected a courtly life in favor of joining a convent - very rare in royal families. She managed to avoid numerous marriage proposals and remained with the church until her death. Also known as Joana, Joanna, or Johanna, her name is rather well-used today and in history. But Joan has yet to make it back onto the top 1000 - could its history and recent use in Mad Men bring it back?

An early Christian martyr, Crispoldus also has the distinction of possessing a very rare name - so far I've been unable to find any etymologies for it! I'm guessing it has something to do with Crispin - meaning "curly" - and the suffix "-bald" - meaning "bold". If you have any ideas, tell me in the comments!

Dominic de la Calzada
The patron saint of Spanish civil engineers, Dominic de la Calzada is associated with quite a few roads and churches built near La Rioja. He is also associated with the symbols of the hen and rooster - see the full story here. The name Dominic has gradually been increasing in popularity since the 1960's, and is currently at #68. Variations Domingo or Menico are less popular. 

Epiphanius of Salamis
His name may be a mouthful, but the real-life Epiphanius was anything but frivolous - he was an early iconoclast in the church. Variation Epifanio was on the top 1000 in the 1880's, and nine baby boys were name Epifanio last year. Sixteen girls were named Epiphany, and with names like Trinity and Destiny ranking highly, why not?

Nereus, Achilleus, Domitilla, and Pancras
These four Christian martyrs have their feast day celebrated together, hence their listing. Nereus comes from the Greek word for water, and is also associated with the god of the sea; feminine variations Nerea and Neria were used for girls last year. Achilleus is a bit extensive, but Achilles made the top 1000 for the first time this year - if you can get past the "heel" reference, it's lovely. Domitilla, while somehow foreboding in English, has been used in France as Domitille. It could be pronounced like "domicile" in the US, though. Pancras... sounds much too much like "pancreas" to me. 

Germanus I of Constantinople
Opposite our earlier friend Epiphanius, Germanus was an iconodule who promoted icon usage in the early Church. The name Germanus means "brother" in Latin, but it may also refer to the country of Germany and its earlier names. Today, Jermaine and Germany are used as names, but the "germ" beginning is a little unsavory. 

Philip of Agira
While very little is known about the life of this saint, he is one of the patron saints of the US Army Special Forces - go figure. Philip is a classic English choice meaning "lover of horses" (as well as a personal favorite). Agira, incidentally, is a town in Sicily - and both Sicily and Sicilia were used as names for girls last year. 

Other feast day participants include Modoald and Gregory Dix. Tell me your favorite names in the comments!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Egyptian Gods - Isis, Osiris, and more!

Nofri ehoou, readers!*

*Supposedly "good day" in Coptic.

With the new name statistics scattered across name blogs, many have pointed out the sharp decline of the name Isis. While pretty, this divine name has now been soured with the surge of the terrorist group called the Islamic State, or ISIS (though a better term to use would be Daesh, since the Islamic State is less about the Islamic religion than violent extremism). In any event, it looks like Isis will be out of use for a while - but are there other Egyptian god names that might be desirable?

Also - if you love the name Isis and want to reclaim it, more power to you! It's gorgeous and meaningful and should be associated with all that is good. 

Let's begin!

Alright, we've heard enough about Isis. As the goddess of health, marriage, and wisdom, she offers a wide range of meanings from which names can be generated. Other goddesses of marriage include Laima, Hera, Freya, and Juno; and other goddesses of wisdom include Anahita, Athena, Brigid, and Minerva. Similar sounding names include Isla, Amaris, Anais, and Isadora.

An even one hundred boys and eleven girls were named Osiris last year, up a little bit from 2014. This god of the afterlife has an incredible backstory, including his marriage to his sister, Isis. This name is definitely unique in sound and style, and while it might raise some eyebrows, it's definitely memorable. Other divine O-names include Odin, Orion, and Omega.

This name has only made records once - 5 boys were named Horus in 2011. Homophone Horace, on the other hand, was in the top 100 for over fifty years until dropping off the top 1000 entirely in 1990. Egyptian Horus, the god of the sky, war, and hunting, is often depicted as a falcon (bonus points for coolness). The first syllable might invite teasing, but the name has definite mythological merit.

While Seth is also a Hebrew name meaning "placed", the god Seth in Egyptian mythology is a bit more active - he's the god of storms, chaos, and war. Seth has the head of a set-animal, about which very little is known. If you like the name but really want to push the meaning, seven boys were named Chaos last year.

The god of mummification and the afterlife, Anubis is down there with Hades and Pluto in underworld divinity. Seven boys were named Anubis last year, and the name has been recorded (barely) since 2002. His symbol is a jackal - sidenote, but why isn't Jackal on the list of Jack names? - and he's represented as the color black, a sign of the silt and fertility of the Nile.

So this isn't a godly name, but Egypt has been recorded for both boys and girls since the 1970's. Egypt is a lovely place-name calling to mind history, religion, and discovery, and it's unusual spelling and sound make it stand out.

Tell me what you think in the comments!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hair-Raising Names

Hello, readers!

Recently I changed my hair pretty drastically, and I'm very happy with the results. What has surprised me most is the reactions of family, friends, and coworkers - they seem totally shocked!

As always, whenever a new subject enters my mind, I have to find a way to connect it with names! So today's post is about hair-related names. 

Samson and Delilah
Many of us already know the Biblical story - super strong man falls for femme fatale, and femme fatale shaves his head, sapping him of his strength. I like this Wikipedia quote about Samson: "Samson had two vulnerabilities—his attraction to untrustworthy women and his hair, without which he was powerless." Delilah has rocketed in popularity in recent years, thanks to Tom Jones and the Plain White T's. Samson has only been used in the last few decades, as an alternative to ever-popular Samuel. Both names have more or less distanced themselves from their hairy origins, and neither would surprise too many people today. 

This name is VERY attached to its origin story, but that didn't stop a few parents in 1959 - 9 baby girls were born that year named Rapunzel. My theory is that an episode of Shirley Temple's Storybook, which aired in 1958, changed some minds. The name Rapunzel comes from the rapunzel plant, a kind of leaf vegetable, which was part of the original story. In any case, the name, while pretty, will be really hard to pull off - and why subject your child to daily "let down your hair" jokes for the rest of their life?

Pippi Longstocking
It seemed that every year at least a few girls I knew would stick a wire hanger in their hair to create gravity-defying braids on Crazy Hair Day - hence Pippi's addition to this list! The children's book character was also super strong (another example of strength tied to hair) and there have been countless shows, films, and stories created about Pippi. While the original name has never been used - and could admittedly lead to some teasing - similar Pippa has come back in full force. 

Shirley Temple
As a child, I was told often that I bore a resemblance to the 1930's child star - most little girls with blonde curls get told that at least once. In any case, the lovely Shirley Temple was really a natural blonde, though her curls were styled by her mother from an early age. The name Shirley was popular from the 1920's through the 1960's, but is much rarer today. Is it still dated, or will we see a Shirley comeback with other vintage names making waves? Time will tell!

Farrah Fawcett
Let's jump ahead a few decades to 1977, when the Farrah-flip was all the rage at hair salons. Actress and artist Farrah Fawcett inspired many women to recreate the windswept look - check your own family photos to see if any of your relatives followed suit! The actress was actually born Mary Leni Farrah Fawcett, but went by the most unusual of her three first names. The name briefly peaking in the late seventies, then went out of style until 2010. Today the name ranks at #759, and comes from the Arabic word for "happiness". 

Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston)
When Friends debuted in 1994, many Americans rushed to their stylists to recreate Jennifer Aniston's iconic choppy/wavy look. "The Rachel" swept the nation, though it's original wearer didn't much like it. The names at play here, however, were far more popular than flash-in-the-pan hairstyles. Jennifer is now iconic as the most popular name of the 1970's, and Rachel has never really left the top 200. Hairdos make come and go, it seems, but these names are forever!

Who did I miss? Any icons unnoticed? Tell me in the comments!