Jodie and Drew were expecting their second child, and Jodie wrote in the blog looking for a vintage style name that didn’t have an obvious nickname. They had a good name list, but Jodie could see potential problems with almost all their favourite names.
In the end, Jodie and Drew had a son, and named him
a brother for their daughter Audrey.
Although Jodie wasn’t sure about the nickname Archie, it’s been more than a year now and so far nobody has called their son Archie. Jodie knows that might change when Archer starts school though.
Congratulations to Jodie and Drew! Usually it makes sense to go with your favourite name, even if it has a few potential issues. Most of the time the problem never comes up, or isn’t such a big deal after all.
I think many Australians would readily associate this name with Felix the Cat, the silent film era cartoon. One of the most recognisable cartoon characters in film history, he was the first animated character to become popular enough to attract a cinema audience.
Felix the Cat was created by Sydney-born Pat O’Sullivan, who arrived in the United States in 1910 and began working as a cartoonist. By 1916, he had opened his own cartoon studio, and around 1917 he created Felix the Cat, inspired by a cat his wife Marjorie brought into the office. Under contract to provide one cartoon a month to cinemas, by 1921 Felix was in sixty percent of North American cinemas.
Pat O’Sullivan was fiercely protective of his creation, successfully gained royalties from pirated merchandise, and took action when Walt Disney made a Felix carbon-copy called Julius. Unfortunately for Felix, Disney then went on to create a certain Mickey Mouse, who starred in early talkie Steamboat Willie in 1928. This spelled the beginning of the end for Felix, and by 1931 it was obvious that Walt Disney was going to be the big success story of cartooning.
After Pat O’Sullivan’s death in 1933, his lead animator Otto Messmer took credit for the creation of Felix. Messmer’s claim is still accepted in the United States, even though O’Sullivan was acknowledged as Felix’s creator during his lifetime. Australian film curators have pointed out that it is O’Sullivan’s handwriting on the early Felix sketches, and that kittens in an early film are given Australian accents, saying ‘lo, Mum! ‘lo Ma!
The cartoon cat that Felix was based on was called Thomas or Tom (a fairly obviously cat-related name), but Pat O’Sullivan changed his name to Felix. Apparently this was after the Australian boxer Peter Felix, who was born in the West Indies, and won the heavyweight title in the 1890s – he often wore black and was a flashy dresser. Pat had seen Peter Felix in his last big fight in 1908, shortly before he left Australia. O’Sullivan had a strong interest in boxing, and when he first arrived in New York he himself boxed for prize money.
The name Felix was a very Australian choice, because in 1836 Scottish explorer Thomas Mitchell called the lush pastureland of western VictoriaAustralia Felix, meaning “happy Australia, fortunate Australia”. In 1845 English travel writer Richard Howitt’s lively Impressions of Australia Felix was published, and in 1849 the Australia Felix magazine was founded.
After the colony was named Victoria in 1850, the name Australia Felix gradually dropped out of use. However, 19th century Victorian politician Jonas Australia Felix Levien provides an example of it being used as a name, and he wasn’t born until the 1870s. (I have also found someone named Australia Felix Drake in historical records).
Despite all these Australian references, I can’t help wondering if Pat O’Sullivan was also thinking of Felis, the scientific name for the cat genus, from the Latin word feles, meaning “cat”.
Pat O’Sullivan gave Felix a lucky name, and the cat brought Pat luck and success. He did not have a very happy end to his life though. His marriage became increasingly strained (it probably got off to a rocky start, as they wed while he was on bail for raping a teenage girl; he was subsequently imprisoned for 9 months), and Marjorie fell to her death from their second floor apartment in 1932. O’Sullivan’s mental faculties deteriorated due to syphilis, and he died of alcoholism a year after his wife’s death.
Name Information Felix is a Latin name meaning “lucky, fortunate”. It was first given as a nickname to the 1st century BC Roman general and statesman Lucius Cornelius Sulla, a free translation of the Greek nickname he acquired during his military campaigns – Epaphroditos, meaning “beloved of Aphrodite”.
Whether the goddess Aphrodite was taking care of him or not, Sulla was very successful, holding the position of consul twice, and being awarded the Grass Crown, the rarest and most prestigious Roman military honour, given only to those whose actions saved an entire legion or the whole army. Like Alexander the Great, he achieved many of his victories before his thirtieth birthday, and provided the model for later Roman leaders to gain power by force.
After him, the nickname became a common one for Roman leaders to take, and several emperors adopted it as a title. The Roman procurator Marcus Antonius Felix is mentioned in the New Testament, although not in a positive way – he imprisoned Saint Paul.
Felix was a favourite name amongst early Christians, as the name can imply being in the favour of God, or blessed by God. There are masses of saints named Felix, including quite a few martyrs, and three popes with the name. Saint Felix of Burgundy was sent as a missionary to East Anglia in the 7th century, and there are several churches dedicated to him in Yorkshire and East Anglia. The village of Felixkirk in Yorkshire is named after him, and so might be Felixstowe in Suffolk.
Although more common in Continental Europe, Felix has been in use as an English name since the Middle Ages, in honour of these various saints. It is particularly associated with East Anglia and south-eastern England in general, showing the legacy of Felix of Burgundy.
Felix was #172 in the 1900s, and left the charts in the 1920s (Felix the Cat didn’t do it any good). It returned in the 1980s at #396 and climbed steadily; it’s been on and off the Top 100 since 2011. Currently it is #89 nationally, #86 in New South Wales, #78 in Victoria, #36 in Tasmania, and #54 in the Australian Capital Territory. It was one of the fastest-rising names in Tasmania and Victoria last year, and one of the nationally fastest-rising names of 2013.
In the US, Felix is #267 and rising steeply, while the UK has a similar popularity to Australia, at #91 and rising. Felix is #66 in New Zealand and fairly stable – the highest popularity of any English-speaking country. Felix is well used in Western Europe and Scandinavia, and is most popular in Austria at #4.
Handsome, intelligent, and upbeat, Felix is a name with an irresistibly positive meaning and strong Australian associations. Once seen as rather hipster, this retro name is growing in popularity, and fittingly it’s rather a favourite in the state of Victoria.
Melissa and Ben are expecting their second child. They already have a daughter named Polly – Ben chose her name. The family surname is a short familiar one beginning with R.
So far Melissa’s name lists look like this:
Jack (a family name, but more common than Melissa would usually go for)
If it’s a boy, the middle name will probably be Linton, as this is a family tradition. If a girl, there is no middle name chosen, but Mary is one option that Melissa likes – it’s a family name. Polly also has a family name in the middle.
Generally Melissa prefers names that aren’t highly popular, and she likes names that can be easily shortened or have a nickname eg Liza nn “Lulu“. Melissa and Ben are not fond of overly “girly” names, and don’t want something that will sound “old ladyish” next to Polly.
They are very open to hearing fresh ideas, because so far there is no name that stands out from the pack, or which they really love.
* * * * * * * * * *
It’s tough when you have no shortage of possible baby names, but none that jump up and down in front of you, shouting, “Pick me! I’m the perfect name!”. It’s a problem that especially seems to affect parents expecting their second child.
Naming the first baby is often so easy: you get to use your favourite name since always, or the right name seems obvious from the start. We tend to second-guess ourselves when the second child is due, worry a lot more about it, and also have to think of something that will sound okay with the first child’s name.
I would take the pressure right off yourselves and have some fun. You’re actually in a good position, because you are both in a similar head-space, and not disagreeing with each other. This seems like an opportunity to get creative and open yourselves up to the possibility of all kinds of names.
Why not make a game of it? You could go for the “random name choice” idea where you flip coins or pull names from a hat or open a baby name book at random. Or you could have a “play off” type name where two names compete against each other, and you both eliminate the name you like least – “It’s time to go … Douglas”. Or pretend you’re talent show judges: “Cleo, it’s a yes from me”. Or go on “dates” with your name list, trying them on for size, until one of them gets a rose. Feel free to be as silly as you like!
So I will look at your name list, but I really want you to have a few giggles together as well.
This is quite different name to Polly. Polly is a relatively uncommon name, but you hear it enough that it seems like a regular name – so far this year I’ve seen three new babies named Polly. On the other hand, I have never met even one person of any age who had Liza as their whole name. So while Polly seems fresh, underused, and up-and-coming, Liza seems extremely rare and possibly a bit dated.
I can also see potential pitfalls, with people mistaking it for the popular Eliza, or reading it as Lisa, or not being sure whether it’s said LIE-za or LEE-za. You seem to want the name so you can use Lulu as the nickname. Could something more obviously Lulu-like be the answer, like Lucia, Louisa, Eloise, or Talullah? (I was going to say Lucinda, but Polly and Lucinda is a bit too much like Polly from the nursery rhyme who sat among the cinders!). Or could you use Lulu itself – Polly and Lulu are utterly adorable together.
This is a cool name, and I think makes a wonderful match with Polly. It suits your wish for a name that doesn’t make Polly appear “old ladyish”, because Polly and Cleo seem young and hip, not fusty and vintage. Interestingly, I have seen the exact same number of baby Cleos as baby Pollys, so they feel like a good match popularity-wise.
That’s a really pretty name, and manages to sound exotic-but-not-too exotic. Weirdly, it doesn’t sound that strange with Polly either. I can foresee pronunciation issues though – I’m not sure myself whether you would say it IN-es, or EE-nes, or ee-NES. It might also be confused with Innes, which is sometimes given to girls.
How elegant and chic! I love Daisy as the nickname for Marguerite, but you might think Polly and Daisy is too old-ladyish, or too cutesy (same with Maisie?). What about Margot? Polly and Margot is a gorgeous sibset.
A pretty, starry, classic name, and the fact that it’s also popular (which you don’t normally go for) makes me wonder if you like it more than you think? Polly and Stella does have a very strong L sound though.
I wouldn’t worry about the popularity if Jack is a family name that you like and have strong positive connections to. This is a good, solid, unpretentious name that sounds very manly with your surname. Nothing could be more down-to-earth than Polly and Jack, and both being popular nursery rhyme characters adds a touch of whimsy.
Very handsome and rather hip. It sounds both aristocratic and rugged, and I love it with your surname. Gus would make a cute nickname.
This is the kind of name that parents don’t often consider, but it’s a classic and is still in some use. It’s not hip like Fergus, but has something of the same sturdy vibe.
This sounds great with your surname, and Polly and Ned is just too cute!
This is quite similar to Polly – a vintage-style name that is coming into use more and more, so I think they make a great match.
Other Names You Might Like
Marigold (a spin on Mary, but might need a different middle name)
Hugh or Hugo
I think the names you have thought of already look pretty good, and maybe one of them is a name that will grow on you until you love it, or one name will suddenly seem perfect once the baby actually arrives.
I hope that blog readers will suggest as many names as possible for you to consider – one of them could be the perfect choice!
Readers, what what do you think of Melissa and Ben’s name lists? What do you think you should do when no name really stands out? And can you suggest any names that go with Polly without seeming old-fashioned?
Anastasia Kouyiji Sun
Audrey Annabel (Missy)
Delaney Jean (Archer, Pippa)
Haylen Dawn (Jayda, Chevy)
Isabella Valentina (Sofia)
Jessica Bree (Ethan)
Karla Elita (Brencis)
Lucinda Jo Elsie
Nala Rain (Raya)
Pippa Mary (Billy, Allie, Mary)
Scarlett Maggie (Oskar)
Skylah Matisse (Kirrily)
Zoe Irene (Joseph)
Argie Hudson Edward (Brittney)
Casey Mark David
Elliott Richard Thomas (Una, Davina)
Farley Ray (Tippi)
Geoffrey Clifford (Eleanor, Ada)
Grayson Robert (Mitchel, Cassidy, Felicity, Reigan, Preston)
Hunter Ted (Cooper)
Jett Noel (Ella, Hannah, Abby, Yazmin)
Joe Kendall (Lucy, Neve)
Kingston John Roderick (Josie)
Mack Ernie (Jagger)
Rusty Max (Chayton)
Tyz Rohan Reece (Blair, Dylan, Jemma, Jazma, Kash)
You can see the popular names of each decade at Baby Name Explorer, but I thought it would be more convenient if I provided a Top 100 for the decades before 1960. This is the 1900s, and I will gradually add more and include links on the Name Data page. Numbers in brackets signify the overall number of babies with that name.
1. Leslie (403)
2. Francis (400)
3. Jessie (228)
4. Sydney (157)
5. Jean (132)
6. Lindsay (26)
7. Merle (7)
Ramadan finished on July 18, and recently we saw a story in the news mentioning converts to Islam. That gave me the idea to cover one of Australia’s early Muslim converts. Her name was Jane Winifred Oaten, but she always went by her middle name.
Winifred came to Australia from London as a child around 1890, her father making a desperate attempt to break the poverty cycle through migration. Life in Australia got off to rough start before she even left, as her mother walked off the ship prior to sailing. Winifred and her father lived in severe hardship trying to wrest a miserable living from a block of land in Queensland infested with prickly pear. At an early age she was sent out to low-paid domestic service as her father succumbed to alcoholism and depression.
When barely 17 Winifred married an itinerant shearer named Charles Steger. It was an unhappy partnership, and she was forced to desert her husband and their four children after he threatened to shoot her. She worked as a barmaid, then married an “Afghan” cameleer named Ali Nuby (although Muslin cameleers were collectively known as Afghans in Australia, Winifred’s husband was actually Indian).
A kind and decent man, Ali was the great love of Winifred’s life, and she took her husband’s religion to become a Muslim; the marriage would not have been legal, as her first husband was still alive. After Ali’s death, she supported herself and their three children by working as a washerwoman in Oodnadatta, South Australia.
Winifred entered an arranged marriage to another Indian cameleer named Karum Bux, and she and her husband made a pilgrimage to Mecca, through India, in 1927. This was to prove a turning point for her. When she returned, she wrote a series of articles for a newspaper called Arabian Days: The Wanderings of Winifred the Washerwoman, under the pen name of Bebe Zatoom.
According to the articles, Winifred the Washerwoman had a most exciting time on the way to Mecca. She met Mahatma Ghandi and King Ibn Sa’ud of Arabia, and in Bombay (Mumbai), she stayed in the palace of the Khalifat, the supreme Muslim body in India, which appointed her their Australasian secretary. Pretty heady stuff for an Oodnadatta washerwoman.
She soon separated from her third husband, and the very next year after her pilgrimage was asked to become governess to the royal family of Afghanistan. By the time she got there, the king had unfortunately been overthrown, but she travelled to the Afghanistan border to find the king, and escort his queen back to Bombay. Once again, on her return she supplied a newspaper with her “reliable first-hand impressions” of these events.
Winifred the Washerwoman was soon turning out weekly serial stories called Star Dust and Soap Bubbles, and another series in a different paper as a man named Sapphire Bill from the Northern Territory. Winifred wrote 14 unpublished novels based on her life in the outback: three of them were later serialised in newspapers without payment.
In her 1969 autobiography, Winifred claimed she was born in China to unknown parents, and had been raised in a convent where she met her husband Ali. The pilgrimage to Mecca was undertaken with Ali, conveniently deleting two husbands from her life story. Winifred kept writing into her nineties, and died at the ripe old age of 98. However, as she had lied about her age, she received a telegram from the queen commemorating her 100th birthday a year before her death.
At a time when women had few choices, and poor uneducated working class women had even less, Winifred managed to lead the life that she wanted through her writing. Living in poverty and drudgery, Winifred’s make believe helped her survive a harsh environment, and it’s little wonder she preferred fantasy and fiction. Her conversion to Islam brought her romance and adventure, giving her an exoticism and glamour that no other washerwoman has ever matched.
Name Information Winifred is the Anglicised form of the Welsh name Gwenfrewi, meaning “blessed reconciliation”; the name has become known because of a Welsh saint. According to legend, Saint Winifred was the daughter of a Welsh nobleman, while her mother was the sister of Saint Beuno, and related to royalty.
The story goes that as a teenager she was attacked in a fit of drunken lust by a local prince named Caradoc, who began to tear off her clothes. When Winifred fought back, Caradoc became so infuriated that he cut her head off. The head rolled downhill, and where it stopped, a healing spring appeared. Good old Uncle Beuno put her head back on her body, and restored her to life. Seeing Caradoc still lounging around with a “like whatever” attitude, Saint Beuno called on Heaven to punish him, and the ground promptly opened up and swallowed the would-be murderer.
Saint Beuno sat on a particular stone in the pool which had formed around the spring that had opened up from Saint Winifred’s head. Here Saint Beuno made an oath in the name of God that whoever should be in that spot and ask for something three times in the name of Saint Winifred should have their prayer granted, as long as it was good for their soul.
Saint Winifred’s Well is located in the town of Holywell, in the north-east of Wales. It has been known since Roman times, and after Winifred’s supposed decapitation in 660 was a place of pilgrimage. It is called the Lourdes of Wales, as so many remarkable cures have occurred there, and has long been named as one of the Seven Wonders of Wales. It features in the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Richard the Lionheart prayed here for the success of his crusade, while Henry V gave thanks at the well for his great victory at Agincourt. James II visited the well with his wife Mary of Modena, after several attempts in producing an heir. Shortly afterwards, Mary became pregnant with James, Prince of Wales. Queen Victoria visited the well as a child.
People of all faiths, or none, are welcome here, whether to pray for help, or to see a place of great historical interest, as it is only site in Britain to be a place of continuous pilgrimage for thirteen centuries.
Although the legend cannot be true, Saint Winifred was a real person who was a nun and abbess. Historical records pay great attention to a prominent scar on her neck, so perhaps Caradoc really did have a go at her. His brother Owain is said to have killed Caradoc in revenge for some hideous crime, and that might be it.
If you are wondering how Gwenfrewi turned into Winifred, when the name became used in England in the 16th century, Gwenfrewi was altered to look like the male name Winfred, which is Anglo-Saxon and means “friend of peace”.
Winifred was #39 in the 1900s, and left the Top 100 in the 1930s. It hasn’t charted since the 1950s. However, this seems like a name which is due for a comeback. It was voted the popular name of the 1900s that blog readers most wanted to be revived, and the short form Winnie is very hip at the moment. I do see an occasional baby named Winifred, and the fashionable Winter must be of help.
International trends suggest that Winifred, although rare, is growing in usage. There were 35 baby girls named Winifred in the UK in 2013, which is only just outside the Top 1000. The numbers of Winifreds are rising briskly in Britain. In the US there were 99 girls named Winifred (about the same number as Cleo, Rosalind and Priscilla), and the numbers are rising there too.
The name Winifred commemorates a saint connected with healing waters and prayers granted. It also recalls one of the outback’s colourful eccentrics who became the heroine of her own adventure story. I think this vintage name is adorable, seeming soft and innocent on a little girl, but mature and intellectual on a grown woman. It deserves serious consideration. Besides Winnie, nicknames include Win or Wynne, Freda, Fred, and Freddie.
(Picture is of the city of Mecca, where Winifred Steger’s life changed direction)
Tessa and Patrick were expecting a second child, and Tessa wrote in to the blog asking for feedback on their name lists.
Not long ago, they welcomed a daughter, a little girl they have named
a sister for Lucas.
Gemma was always their front-runner, and doesn’t it sound pretty and elegant matched with Marguerite? Gemma was also the public’s favourite name from their list, and Tessa enjoyed watching the polls, so thank you to everyone who voted.
Congratulations to Tessa and Patrick – and to Lucas, who is loving being a big brother.
Austins Ferry is a suburb of Hobart, named after convict James Austin. Austin and his cousin was transported to Australia in 1803, and after their sentences expired, were given small land grants on the River Derwent near Hobart. In 1818 they established a ferry service across the river, and became very wealthy. You can still visit James Austin’s original cottage. Austin is an Old French shortening of the name Agustin, the equivalent of the English Augustine, and the surname Austin has the same source. Austin was #108 in the 1900s, and left the charts in the 1950s. It returned in the 1990s at #196, the decade of the Austin Powers spy comedies with Mike Myers in the title role. Groovy, baby! It climbed steeply and joined the Top 100 in 2011. It is currently #61, and was the fastest-rising name in Queensland and a fast-rising name in South Australia last year. It was a fast-rising name in New South Wales in 2013 too, so this retro name is doing very well for itself, and is now more popular than it has ever been before.
Cornelian Bay is a suburb of Hobart, whose bay on the River Derwent provides anchorage for yachts; there are boathouses and a waterside restaurant along its foreshore. The first English navigator to explore the Derwent was Lieutenant John Hayes; he came ashore here in 1793, and named the bay after the semi-precious cornelian stones which he found on the beach. Cornelian (also known as carnelian) is a dark red mineral whose name is from the Latin for the cornel cherry, a flowering dogwood tree which has small dark red fruit just the colour of the gemstone. Cornelian was used in Roman times for signet rings used to seal important documents, as hot wax doesn’t stick to it. It was a gemstone often associated with courage and good luck. Cornelian has been in very rare use as a personal name since the 17th century, and overall has been given fairly evenly to both boys and girls. Not many gemstones work well as boys’ names, but this sounds very similar to Cornelius, yet seems much more up-to-date. This would also make a great middle name, and is suitable for both sexes.
Fitzroy is an inner-city suburb of Adelaide, and an exclusive area overlooking the North Adelaide Parklands. The houses are mostly 19th century mansions along a few tree-lined streets, as this is where the upper class settlers lived in the city’s early days. It may have been named after Fitzroy in Melbourne, which is named after Sir Charles FitzRoy, the governor of New South Wales in the mid 19th century. Another suggestion is that it was named for historic Fitzroy Square in London, whose name comes from Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton, an 18th century politician who was a distant ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales. The English surname Fitzroy (or FitzRoy) comes from the Old French for “son of the king”, and was traditionally given to illegitimate sons and daughters of a monarch, and could be inherited as a surname by their descendants. For example, the father of the 2nd Duke of Grafton was an illegitimate son of King Charles II by his mistress Barbara Villiers. Fitzroy has been used as a personal name since the 18th century, and was sometimes used to indicate a family relationship with illegitimate royalty. Roy- (and royal) names are on trend, and this is one you could consider that has Fitz or Fitzy as the nickname.
Hobart is the capital of Tasmania; it is Australia’s second-oldest capital city after Sydney, and is our most southern capital city, serving as a hub for Australian and French Antarctic operations. It is located on an estuary of the Derwent River at the foot of Mount Wellington, and more than half of the city is taken up with bushland, so it contains much natural beauty. A small city with many historical buildings from its colonial past, Hobart has a great deal of charm. Hobart was named after Robert Hobart, 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire: Lord Hobart was the Colonial Secretary at the beginning of the 19th century. The surname Hobart is derived from the personal name Hubert, meaning “bright mind”. Hobart has long use as a personal name, and can be found often in historical records, with it being a bit of a favourite in Tasmania – indeed one example I found was Tasman Hobart. The Ho- at the beginning is rousing yet problematic, but you could use Bart or Barty as a nickname. A patriotic choice that may work better as a middle name.
Holden Hill is an inner-city suburb of Adelaide. It was named after a road extension called Halden’s Hill in the mid 19th century, as the land the road ran through was owned by a Mr Halden. The name was corrupted into Holden Hill. Holden is an English surname after a small village in Lancashire; it comes from the Anglo-Saxon meaning “deep valley”. Its most famous literary namesake is Holden Caulfield from J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. It’s quite likely that Salinger named the character after a friend called Holden Bowler he met while they were both working on a ship. Mr Bowler went on to run his own advertising business and was godfather to singer Judy Collins. In Australia Holden will remind people of the car company, its name coming from South Australian manufacturer Sir Edward Holden (although it is owned by General Motors). Sadly, Holden will cease production in Australia in 2017. A very uncommon name in Australia because of the car.
Jupiter Creek is a semi-rural suburb of Adelaide which was once part of a gold-mining area, and still a place to go fossicking. Its name was given by gold-miners, possibly after a bull named Jupiter who was fond of running away to graze there. In Roman mythology, Jupiter is king of the gods, and the god of the sky and thunder, the equivalent of the Greek god Zeus. Ruler of the heavens, he was a divine witness to oaths and the protector of the state and justice; his symbols were the oak tree, the eagle, and the thunder bolt. His name is from an ancient root meaning “O Father Sky-god”, so his name is an invocation: to speak the name of Jupiter aloud is to call upon the god. The Romans named the largest planet in the solar system after Jupiter, and believed those born under its influence to be especially fortunate. As Juno is a hip name for girls, and so is Juniper, Jupiter for boys doesn’t seem too strange. A possible issue is the movie Jupiter Ascending, which has Mila Kunis as a heroine named Jupiter.
Linden Park is an affluent suburb of Adelaide. It was named after a house and estate which was built by Sir Alexander Hay in 1861. Linden trees (Tilia) are also called limetrees, although they are not closely related to the tree which produces lime fruit. They are tall, shady trees that have great significance in Germany and Eastern Europe, where they were seen as sacred; in German folklore, the linden is said to be the tree of lovers. Lindens have often featured in stories and poems, often as a symbol of love, protection, or resurrection. In Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, the narrator dips his madeleine cake into a cup of lime-flower tea, which opens up a flood of memories. The word linden is from an ancient Germanic root which may mean “mild, soft”: the timber of the linden tree is soft and easily worked, making it ideal for carving. Linden has been used as a name since the 18th century, overwhelmingly for boys, and is found in Australian records quite often, mostly from around the late 19th and early 20th centuries, although I know a few men around my age named Linden. I haven’t seen it on a young child, but this is a handsome, soft-sounding tree name, not so different in sound from popular Lincoln.
Montrose is a northern suburb of Hobart. It is named after Montrose House which was built in 1813 by a Scottish settler named Robert Littlejohn, a renowned painter, botanist and teacher. It is the third oldest house in the state, and is named after Montrose, on Scotland’s east coast. A picturesque resort town, it is regarded as a cultural centre, and known for its sculpture. The town’s name is usually thought to be from the Gaelic monadh, meaning “moor”, and ros, meaning “peninsula”. Folk etymology understands it as “mount of roses”, and the town’s Latin motto is Mare Didat, Rosa Decorat, meaning “the sea enriches, the rose adorns”. Montrose is also a surname, and the Duke of Montrose is a title in the Scottish peerage, held by the Graham family. Montrose has been used as personal name since the 18th century, and first used by the Grahams. It has been used for both sexes, but is more common as a male name. Scottish and aristocratic, this is like a cross between Montgomery and Ambrose, and has Monty as the obvious nickname.
Sorell is a historic market town north-east of Hobart, now a dormitory suburb of the city. It is named after William Sorell, the state’s third Lieutenant-Governor. William Sorell did a good job of cleaning up the colony, which he had found in a fairly lawless and untidy position. The English surname Sorell is from the Old French nickname Sorel, meaning “chestnut”, and given to someone with reddish-brown hair. It has been in rare use since the 19th century, and is given to both sexes, although more common overall as a male name. It may be known from Sir Julian Sorell Huxley, biologist and brother of Aldous Huxley. An interesting, intelligent name that may sound too close to the word sorrow for some parents.
Mount Stuart is a suburb of Hobart on a ridge with the wonderful name of Knocklofty. The suburb is named because of Mountstuart Elphinstone, a Scottish statesman and historian who was Governor of Bombay (now Mumbai). A ship named in the governor’s honour as the Mountstuart Elphinstone visited Hobart in 1836, bringing the welcome news that the cruel and unpopular Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur was ordered to return to London. In celebration of getting rid of him, two roads were named Mount Stuart Road and Elphinstone Road, and eventually the area became known as Mount Stuart. Mountstuart Elphinstone was probably named after Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland, the seat of the Stuarts of Bute. They are descended from Robert II of Scotland, the first of the Stuart kings (the Elphinstones are related to the Stuarts). The name of the Stuart dynasty comes from Stewart, the Scottish form of steward, meaning a governor. The first of this surname was Walter Stewart of Dundonald, High Steward of Scotland. The Stuart dynasty ended up ruling Great Britain for more than a century, and it’s because of them that Stuart was used as a personal name. Stuart was #135 in the 1900s, joined the Top 100 in the 1940s and peaked in 1969 at #31. It left the Top 100 in the 1990s and hasn’t charted since 2010. Stewart was less popular, never reached the Top 100, and hasn’t charted since the early 2000s.
Baby It’s Cold
It’s official – the name Elsahas become more popular since the movie Frozen came out in late 2013. In Victoria, the number of babies named Elsa doubled in the year following the film’s release, from 19 babies named Elsa in 2013 to 38 in 2014. However, the numbers were increasing even before the film, with 11 in 2011 and 22 in 2012, so it seems as if the movie was jumping on a trend (or else pre-publicity for the movie doubled numbers too). So far in 2015, there have been 6 babies named Elsa.
The article goes on to say that the number of babies namedAnna has held steady in Victoria. Anna has returned to the Top 100 in Tasmania and was one of Queensland’s biggest risers in 2014, going up 19 places, and also in Victoria, where it went up 25 places. So although overall numbers haven’t changed much, the name Anna had a definite boost in the rankings after the film, which is significant for a name that peaked in the 1980s, and which you would expect to be on a slow decline.
The Victorian birth registry cannot reveal how many babies have been named Kristoff, Olaf or Sven, because if less than 5 babies have a name, the information must remain confidential.
Naming Babies in the Lebanese Community
Journalist Antoinette Latouff had an entertaining article at the start of the year on being pregnant with her second child as part of the Lebanese community. Bad bits: lots of pressure to have a boy (Antoinette was pregnant with another girl), tons of interference. Good bits: oceans of love, support, and practical help.
It’s the norm for grandparents to expect to name the baby (one mother-in-law just started calling the pregnant belly John), while in some cases the eldest son is expected to name his children after his parents – which might mean Osama is your child’s default name. Antoinette says sometimes it can be a challenge finding a name which sounds good with your exotic surname, and name sharing is very common in extended families.
The Trouble with Amelia
Yusuf Omar, a Muslim poet from Somalia, wrote about when he and his wife Khadijo were expecting a baby girl. On the advice of a young Western-educated Somali friend, they considered the name Amelia, as being beautiful, easy to pronounce, and fitting in well with Australian society. Unfortunately, the older generation amongst the Somali-Australian community felt hurt and betrayed by their choice: it was especially shocking as Muslim poets are supposed to be cultural custodians.
They were told that the name Amelia was “non-Muslim”, but Yusuf protested that there is no such thing as a “Muslim name”, and that names are neutral. He came to realise there is no such thing as a culturally neutral name, especially after meeting a Mohammad who goes by Moe in order to find employment.
He also notes the number of converts to Islam who change their names, even though this isn’t called for by Islamic teaching. The prophet Muhammad never asked that his followers change their names, unless the meaning of it was offensive to Muslim belief. In fact Muhammad himself kept his original name, which was a traditional pagan name. Yusuf notes that whenever someone changes their name they risk obliterating their own history and culture.
In the end, Yusuf and his wife named their daughter Eemaann, meaning “faith”, on the advice of his mother-in-law. However, the young people call her Amelia.
Legal and Illegal Name Changes in the News Dorothy Barnett was recently sentenced to prison in the US after kidnapping her baby daughter Savanna from her home in South Carolina in 1994, and eventually bringing her up in Australia. Savanna Todd, now aged 21, grew up believing her name was Samantha Geldenhuys, and that another man was her father. It’s been a very high-profile case of changing a child’s name by illegal means, but Savanna still goes by Samantha, and has been supportive of her mother. She says that a name change does not change who you are, even though this is a case where a name change did indeed obliterate her history and culture. Dorothy’s most common alias was Alexandra or Alexandria.
GableTostee, who was accused of murdering Warriena Wright after a Tinder date, and in an unrelated matter gaoled for traffic offences, has changed his name to the more generic Eric Thomas. Police are baffled as to why someone would change their name while legal proceedings are still underway, rather than at their completion in order to start a new life. However, they stress there is nothing illegal or sinister about it.
Choosing a Baby Name on Struggle Street
Did you watch the confronting series Struggle Street on SBS? Before it had even appeared on television it was condemned as exploitative “poverty porn“, but by the time the first episode aired, it had been hailed as a powerful, poignant, complex, thought-provoking insight into the lives of those affected by terrible hardship.
Probably one of the most difficult things to watch was young mother Billie Jo Wilkie, who had a horrific start to life herself, giving birth at home with the aid of illegal drugs, and the assistance of her mother Carlene, who was also on drugs.
At one point, they discussed possible baby names and liked the idea of the name Crystal – after crystal meth. This shows context is everything, because Crystal is a perfectly nice, normal name, but what an appalling reason to choose it.
I don’t know what name they eventually chose, but Billie Jo’s child, her third, was taken into care soon after birth. And in what seems to be something of a pattern for this Name News, Billie Jo shortly afterwards ended up in a women’s prison, on remand for traffic offences.