Celebrity Baby News: Piper O’Neill and Jordan Green

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Beauty queen Piper O’Neill, and her partner Jordan Green, welcomed their son Taylor Ethan on January 23. Taylor joins big sister Elsie, aged 17 months.

Piper was named Mrs Australia late last year, and is the first pageant queen in Australia to be crowned while pregnant. She will fly to Florida in July to represent Australia in the Mrs International pageant. Piper grew up in Portland, Oregon to an Australian father and American mother, and is a global ambassador for Sydney-based charity Mums on a Mission, which raises money for causes such as the Children’s Hospital in Westmead. She hopes to use her pageant title to raise awareness of positive body image.

Celebrity Baby News: Ben and Jemma van Ryt

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Ben and Jemma Van Ryt with their newborn son Thomas James

Reality TV contestants Ben and Jemma van Ryt welcomed their first child on November 21 last year, and have named their son Thomas James.

Ben and Jemma took part in the 2013 series of home renovation show House Rules, and still live in the house in Perth that they renovated for the show. Before Thomas was born, they gave the house a Hamptons-style makeover and turned the spare bedroom into a nursery. Ben is a carpenter, and Jemma is a legal assistant.

Famous Name: Waratah

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Last year I featured our national flower, Acacia, as a name for Wattle Day. It was Australia Day last Monday, so I will be looking at another flower which is important to us – and was once a strong contender to become our national floral emblem.

Teleopea speciosissima is the Latin name for the New South Wales waratah, usually just called waratah. Native to the state suggested by its name, the waratah is a large shrub with striking, large crimson flowerheads, each containing hundreds of individual flowers. It blooms in the spring, and provides nectar for insects, birds, and pygmy possums. There are other species of waratah, most of which are native to New South Wales with a couple in Victoria and Tasmania, but Teleopea speciosissima is the best known.

The flower’s Latin name Telopea means “seen from afar”, to indicate its eye-catching appearance, while speciosissima means “most beautiful”. The common name comes from the Eora or Dharawal language indigenous to the Sydney area.

There are stories about the waratah in Indigenous Australian folklore. A Dreamtime legend from the Eora tells of a pigeon searching for her husband, when she has to take shelter in a waratah bush after being attacked and wounded by a hawk. Her husband calls to her, and as she struggles in the bush, her blood turned the white waratah flowers red.

A story from the Burragorang Valley, now lying beneath Waragamba Dam, relates that there was once a beautiful maiden who always dressed in a red cloak. When her lover did not return from battle, she died of grief, and the first waratah grew from the ground where she died. The waratah flower was a totem for the Dharawal people, who used it in ceremonies and arranged celebrations for the period of its flowering.

Europeans discovered the waratah when they arrived in 1788, and it was introduced to Britain the next year, where it managed to become a popular garden plant, despite being a little temperamental to grow; the Royal Horticultural Society gave it an Award of Merit in 1914. Today the waratah is grown commercially in several countries.

The waratah was often used in art design, being incorporated in many advertisements and commercial packaging. You may see stained glass windows in the Sydney Town Hall featuring waratahs, designed by French artist Lucien Henry in the late 19th century, while artist Margaret Preston produced her iconic waratah woodcuts in the 1920s, which are often reproduced.

After federation in 1901, the search was on for a flower to represent the country. Nationalistic fervour was high, and there were two main candidates – the waratah and the wattle. We already know that naturalist Archibald Campbell championed the wattle, while botanist Richard Baker was a waratah booster. He argued that the waratah was a better choice because it is only found in Australia, a truly national flower, while the blooms would make a distinctive motif.

The debate raged furiously, and so strongly did Baker make his points that he was nicknamed Commander in Chief of the Waratah Armed Forces. Lucien Henry would have been pleased, because he had been passionate about Australian native flowers, and taught courses in drawing them. When he returned to Paris, he wrote a book called Waratah: Australian Legend, to promote the flower he used so extensively in his designs. Lucien Henry died in 1896, and shortly afterwards, the popularity of Australian native flowers, including the waratah, exploded.

As with so many of these vigorous debates, it was unclear who had won, and the foundation stones for the national capital in 1913 diplomatically depicted both plants. Gradually the wattle became accepted as the national flower, while the waratah symbolised the state of New South Wales, having been chosen for the state rugby union team, the Waratahs, since the 1880s.

In 1962, the waratah was officially proclaimed the state floral emblem, and is incorporated into the logo for New South Wales, and the former department store, Grace Brothers. When an Australian team won Best in Show at the Chelsea Flower Show, it featured a building in the shape of a waratah, to indicate their Australian theme.

The Waratah Festival was once held every spring at the time of the plant’s flowering, but this has been replaced with the Sydney Festival, now held in January at the height of summer. Rather a shame, considering the long traditions for waratah celebrations in the Sydney region.

Many things have been named in honour of the waratah. There is the suburb of Telopea in Parramatta, while one of the oldest parks in Canberra is called Teleopea Park (Telopea Park School is the oldest school in Canberra). Waratah is a suburb in Newcastle, and also a town in Tasmania, while Waratah Bay is in Victoria – it is not named directly after the plant, but after a ship called the Waratah which anchored there when it needed repairs after being damaged.

(Incidentally, Waratah seems to be an unlucky name for boats. The SS Waratah disappeared without trace off the coast of South Africa in 1909, with hundreds of passengers on board, while another ship of that name was lost in the English Channel, one on a voyage to Sydney, one south of Sydney, and another in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Waratah Bay one clearly got off lightly only being damaged. Sailors being superstitious, I cannot recommend this ill-starred name for your vessel. However, the steam tug Waratah is part of the Sydney Heritage Fleet, so maybe it’s okay if you just trundle around Sydney Harbour).

Waratah is found as a patriotic personal name in Australian historical records around the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mostly in the middle. Although slightly more common as a girl’s middle name, it seems to be have been given to both sexes as a first name in roughly equal numbers, which is unusual for a flower name.

However, apart from the flowers being large, bright and striking, rather than delicate, pale and pretty, the word waratah – pronounced WOR-uh-tah – doesn’t have a strongly feminine sound, sharing the WOR sound found in names such as Warren and Warwick. And although it ends in -ah, like many female names, there are also boy’s names ending in the same sound, like Noah, Joshua and Luca, so it has a very unisex feel to it.

I did manage to find a couple of Waratahs born in England in the 19th century, but cannot tell whether they had any connection to Australia, or if their parents were just fans of the flower. We can still chalk this up as an overwhelmingly Aussie name.

Like the brilliant flower, Waratah is a spectacular and distinctively Australian name choice. It is very patriotic, and if you are from New South Wales, has special meaning for your state. You may feel inclined to tuck it away in the middle, but if would be an unforgettable first name for either boys or girls.

Thank you to Michelle for suggesting the name Waratah to be featured on Waltzing More Than Matilda.

Celebrity Baby News: Sonia Kruger and Craig McPherson

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2601_krugerlead_spTelevision host Sonia Kruger, and her partner Craig McPherson, welcomed their first child on January 24 and have named their daughter Maggie. Maggie is named after Sonia’s mother Margaret, and also after the baby on The Simpsons. Sonia says the reference will make sense to anyone who knows her family. Craig wasn’t sure that Maggie was a “baby name”, but then Sonia reminded him of Maggie Simpson.

Sonia first came to prominence playing Tina Sparkle in the 1992 film Strictly Ballroom, as well as acting as a ballroom consultant for the movie. She has hosted numerous television programmes over the years, notably as a co-host on Dancing with the Stars. Since 2012, she has been both the host of Big Brother, and co-host of Channel Nine’s daytime chat show, Mornings. Sonia’s co-host is David Campbell, who recently welcomed twins.

Craig is an executive producer on Channel Seven’s current affairs program, Today Tonight. He and Sonia have been together for more than six years, and have long tried to have a baby, with some attempts sadly ending in miscarriage. Maggie was conceived with IVF, using a donated egg, and she is a sister to Craig’s six children from his previous relationship.

Names of Australian Prime Ministers’ Wives

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It is Australia Day tomorrow, and for our patriotic lists, I thought it must be about time to have names of our prime ministers and their spouses. Ladies first!

Antonia
Antonia Watson (nee Dowlan) was the second wife of Chris Watson; she was a 23 year old waitress and he was 58. Antonia is the feminine form of the Roman family name Antonius. The Antonia was a very old family who claimed descent from Anton, a son of Hercules – Anton seems to have been invented, and the name may be Etruscan in origin. The most famous of the Antonii was Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony), made famous by Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra. Mark Antony’s first wife was his cousin Antonia, and he had three daughters, all named Antonia. The youngest Antonia was famed for her beauty and virtue, and became the mother of the Emperor Claudius, and grandmother of Caligula. There is a Saint Antonia who seems to be Saint Theodora under another name, and the name has been used amongst continental royalty – it was a middle name of Maria Antonia, otherwise known as Marie Antoinette. Antonia has charted since the 1950s, when it debuted at #346, and it peaked in the early 2000s at #279. Currently it is around the 400s, so this elegant name is an underused modern classic.

Bettina
Lady Bettina Gorton (nee Brown) was the wife of John Gorton. Bettina was an American student at the Sorbonne who met John while on holiday in Spain; he was a student at Oxford. After marrying in England, they moved to his family’s farm in Australia, and Bettina supported her husband in his political career. On an official visit to Sarawak, Bettina became interested in Asian languages and culture; she later graduated with honours in Oriental Studies from ANU and worked on the English-Malay dictionary. When John became prime minister, her knowledge of South East Asian languages made her a great asset when travelling overseas, and she established a native garden at The Lodge which is named in her honour. The name Bettina can have two possible origins. If German, it is a pet form of Elisabeth, while if Italian, it is a pet form of Benedetta, the feminine form of Benedetto, the Italian form of Benedict. One of the world’s first supermodels was Simone Bodin, who worked under the professional name “Bettina” in the 1940s and ’50s. The French model gave the name Bettina a little boost in the postwar era, but it’s never been common.

Blanche
(Josephine) Blanche d’Alpuget is the second wife of Bob Hawke; she was named after her great-aunt Blanche d’Alpuget, a pioneering journalist. Blanche lived in South East Asia for several years, and after returning to Australia, began writing about her experiences, winning a number of literary awards for both fiction and non-fiction. She later became Bob Hawke’s biographer: his wife tolerated their open relationship for many years, and after retiring from politics he divorced to marry Blanche. Blanche was originally an Old French nickname meaning “white”, to suggest “pure”. The name became common in the Middle Ages, perhaps because very fair skin was considered beautiful and aristocratic. It was popularised by Blanche of Navarre, who had a French mother; as she became Queen of Castile, the name was traditional in her royal family. A famous namesake is Blanche of Lancaster, the mother of King Henry IV, said to be pretty and fair. Blanche was #125 in the 1900s, and left the charts in the 1940s. This is a vintage name which works well in the middle; it might remind you of The Golden Girls or A Streetcar Named Desire.

Ethel
Ethel Bruce (nee Anderson) was the wife of Stanley Bruce. She and Stanley were a devoted couple, and the first to live at The Lodge. Ethel is a short form of names starting with Ethel-, such as Ethelinde. The Old English word ethel meant “noble”, and it was a common name element in royal and aristocratic names. The Victorians were mad keen on Anglo-Saxon names, and began using Ethel as a name in its own right; usually for girls, but occasionally for boys, as there were plenty of male names starting with Ethel-, such as Ethelred. The name was popularised by two 1850s novel – The Newcombes, by W.M. Thackery and The Daisy Chain by C.M. Yonge. Ethel was #14 in the 1900s, and left the top 100 in the 1940s before dropping off the charts in the 1960s. It recently became a celebrity baby name, when pop singer Lily Allen named her first child Ethel, and would appeal to someone looking for an old-fashioned alernative to the current crop of fashionable E names, such as Esther and Eloise.

Ilma
Ilma Fadden (nee Thornber) was the wife of Arthur Fadden. Ilma was a supportive political wife who campaigned for her husband and accompanied him on official visits overseas. The name Ilma can be a short form of Wilhelmina, as well as a Finnish name meaning “air”; I have also seen it listed as a Hungarian form of Amelia. I suspect that in everyday usage, it was often given as a variant of Elma – a name of obscure origin, possibly sometimes created from other names, such as Elizabeth and Mary. Ilma was #176 in the 1900s, and fell until it left the charts in the 1940s – it was a minor trend of the early twentieth century and almost a twin in popularity of Elma. Now this vintage name seems like an interesting multicultural choice not much different to Isla and Emma.

Jean
Lady Jean Page (nee Thomas) was the second wife of Earle Page, and originally his secretary. Like Joan and Jane, Jean is a medieval form of the Old French name Jehanne, introduced by the Normans, and a popular choice in both England and Scotland during the Middle Ages. In England, Jean was eventually surpassed in popularity by Jane, but continued being used in Scotland. In the 19th century, the name was re-introduced back to England, where it now seemed a Scottish name choice. Jean is also a man’s name, the French form of Old French Jehan, and thus the French equivalent of John. Jean first charted in Australia as a unisex name, peaking in the 1910s and ’20s (in the Top 50 if most of the Jeans were girls). In the 1950s, Jean joined the charts as a specifically feminine name, where it peaked at #140, and left the charts altogether in the 1990s. Never popular in the postwar era, it remains very well used as a middle name.

Margaret
Margaret Whitlam (nee Dovey) was the wife of Gough Whitlam. A former champion swimmer, Margaret was a social worker who seemed the perfect match for her husband, and the couple were deeply in love. Margaret was an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, a regular guest on radio and television, and a columnist for Woman’s Day. She died just two years before her husband, acknowledged as one of Australia’s National Treasures. Margaret is derived from the Greek for “pearl”. The name came into common use because of Saint Margaret of Antioch, a legendary saint who was tortured for her faith. She was supposedly swallowed by Satan in the form of a dragon but escaped unharmed, which made her enormously popular. Margaret has been used by European royalty since medieval times. Queen Margaret of Scotland was an Englishwoman married to Malcolm III canonised as a saint: the name has particularly strong associations with Scotland. Princess Margaret was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth; her grandfather was a Scottish peer. Margaret is a classic name which has never left the charts. It was #6 in the 1900s, and the #1 name of the 1930s and ’40s. It left the Top 100 in the 1980s, and is currently in the 400s, where it has remained fairly stable for decades. An intelligent, dignified classic with tons of nicknames, including Daisy, Greta, Maggie, Maisie, Margot, Meg, Meta, Peggy, and Rita.

Martha
(Elizabeth) Martha “Pattie” Deakin (nee Browne) was the wife of Alfred Deakin. Alfred was a lifelong spiritualist, and Pattie shared his faith; their marriage was long and happy. Martha is the Latin form of the Aramaic name Marta, meaning “lady, mistress”. In the New Testament, Martha was the sister of Lazarus and Mary of Bethany. Many remember the story when Martha was busy in the kitchen cooking for the disciples, while her sister Mary sat listening to Jesus. Worried and distracted, Martha asked Jesus to rebuke her sister for not helping her, but Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better path (tough advice for those who wear themselves out working for others). Practical and caring, Saint Martha is a role model for those seeking an active helping role in the spiritual life. Martha was #92 in the 1900s, and left the Top 100 the following decade, dropping off the charts briefly in the 1940s, and again in the 1990s. It had a minor comeback in the late 2000s, and is already a Top 100 name in the UK, and climbing. A strong, capable, and attractive name which has never been very popular.

Sonia
Lady Sonia McMahon (nee Hopkins) was the wife of William McMahon. The grand-daughter of one of Australia’s wealthiest men, she was an occupational therapist before her marriage. Glamorous and charming, Sonia made international headlines when she wore a revealing dress to a dinner at the White House, showing more leg than was usual. Sonia is a variant of Sonya, Russian pet form of the name Sophia, from the Greek for “wisdom”; Sonja is another common variant. Sonia is also an Indian name, meaning “golden” in Hindi. The name was popularised in the English speaking world through a 1917 best-selling novel called Sonia: Between Two Worlds by Stephen McKenna. The title character is an upper class English girl with big brown eyes and a face like a Sistine Madonna. Sonia first entered the charts in the 1920s, debuting at #309. It entered the Top 100 in 1967, around the time Sonia McMahon came into the public eye, and peaked in 1971 at #52 – the year she wore “that dress”. Leaving the Top 100 in the 1980s, it hasn’t charted since the early 2000s, having been well and truly taken over by popular Sophia.

Tamara
Tamara “Tamie” Fraser (nee Beggs) is the wife of Malcolm Fraser. Ambivalent about being in the public eye, she proved an excellent political campaigner, and was the first prime ministerial wife to employ her own secretary; Tamie also oversaw extensive renovations in The Lodge. She continues to be active in community affairs. Tamara is the Russian form of Tamar, a Hebrew name meaning “date palm”. The name became better known in the English speaking world because of Russian ballerina Tamara Karsavina, who moved to London as a ballet teacher in the 1930s. Tamara first joined the charts in the 1950s, debuting at #522. Its rise in the 1950s seems to be as a formal option for the name Tammy, which became popular because of a Debbie Reynolds romantic comedy called Tammy and the Bachelor: the song Tammy from the film became a smash hit. Tamara joined the Top 100 in 1975, when Tamie Fraser came into the public eye, and peaked in 1989 at #56, leaving the Top 100 in the early 2000s. Currently it is around the 300s, and shows some signs of a slight recovery.

(Photo shows Sonia McMahon in the entrance hall of The Lodge, 1971)

Rosalie Aurora and Zoe Coral

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Twins
Alice Juliana and Elliot John (Harrison, Mia, Lachlan, Poppy)
Louis Arthur and Flossy Lena Dot (Sid)
Skylar and Rhainer (Navaro)

Girls
Adelaide Joan
Amity Faith Anne
Caitlin Gertie
Cassandra Joy (Jayden)
Farrah Mae
Frankie Laine (Katy, Tommy)
Georgia Wynne (Hannah May)
Gigi Louise (Peggy)
Gypsy (Memphis)
Iseult Joni (Fisher)
Jayda Maurine Joyce (Jordan, Jaxon, Jamila)
Leni Bessie (Ilish)
Lila Poppy
Lusiana Rokoloma
Millie Claudine
Misheeta Nijushi (Moumita, Mondira)
Monique Elizabeth (Genevieve)
Patience Rae
Polly Martha
Rosalie Aurora
Shakya-Lee
Thea Rose (Eden)
Tiffany Jane
Vezna (Vasko)
Zoe Coral (Joseph)

Boys
Abel Thomas
Archibald Stirling (Millie)
Arthur Roy
Augie James (Lola)
Duncan Joseph
Ezra Blake
Grayson McIvor Danien
Henri David William (Digby, Payden, Rory, Millie, Alex, Charlie)
Jett Zacob
Jonas Eric (Hanya)
Laurie Forrest (Harry, Ralph)
Lenny Charles (Nash)
Luca Bernard
Marley Toren Sage (Ruby)
McLeod Fletcher Morris
Miller Jae (Oakley, Calais)
Noel Louis Peter (Isaac)
Owen Linton
Reeve Nathaniel (Claudia)
Rowan Kenneth
Sebastian Gage
Take John Patrick
Vaughn Michael (Eveleigh)
Yuew Kuol (Akon, Achol)
Zarak Khan (Sophia)

(Photo of sunrise over Long Reef, Sydney by Glenn Crouch)

Top 50 Baby Names in Western Australia for 2014

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GIRLS

  1. Emily
  2. Ava
  3. Charlotte
  4. Olivia
  5. Amelia and Mia
  6. Ella
  7. Isla
  8. Sophie
  9. Chloe
  10. Grace
  11. Isabella
  12. Ruby
  13. Zoe
  14. Lily and Lucy
  15. Harper
  16. Sophia
  17. Sienna
  18. Hannah and Zara
  19. Emma, Evie, Ivy and Scarlett
  20. Georgia
  21. Matilda
  22. Eva and Layla
  23. Imogen
  24. Willow
  25. Abigail
  26. Alexis
  27. Evelyn and Summer
  28. Jasmine
  29. Isabelle
  30. Madison and Mila
  31. Lilly and Savannah
  32. Paige
  33. Jessica and Maddison
  34. Holly
  35. Aria
  36. Violet
  37. Sofia
  38. Alyssa
  39. Sarah and Stella
  40. Annabelle, Ellie and Poppy
  41. Mackenzie
  42. Alice, Elizabeth and Phoebe
  43. Addison and Audrey
  44. Anna
  45. Charlie and Maya
  46. Elsie and Hayley
  47. Lola
  48. Bella and Rose
  49. Amber and Indi
  50. Amelie and Peyton
BOYS

  1. Oliver
  2. Jack
  3. Noah
  4. Wiliam
  5. Lucas
  6. Thomas
  7. James
  8. Ethan
  9. Liam
  10. Jacob
  11. Mason
  12. Lachlan
  13. Samuel
  14. Charlie
  15. Alexander and Joshua
  16. Harrison
  17. Logan
  18. Cooper
  19. Riley
  20. Hunter and Levi
  21. Jaxon and Max
  22. Henry
  23. Isaac
  24. Benjamin
  25. Harry
  26. Hudson
  27. Nate, Tyler, Xavier
  28. Daniel
  29. Jayden
  30. Blake and Elijah
  31. Archie and Oscar
  32. Dylan
  33. Kai
  34. Aiden and Luke
  35. Matthew, Michael and Ryan
  36. Sebastian
  37. Leo
  38. George and Jackson
  39. Eli and Lincoln
  40. Flynn
  41. Archer and Mitchell
  42. Chase
  43. Caleb, Jake and Jordan
  44. Zachary
  45. Luca
  46. Patrick
  47. Connor
  48. Jai
  49. Austin
  50. Hayden

GIRLS

Biggest Risers
Aria (+14), Evelyn and Mila (+13), Madison and Paige (+12)

Biggest Fallers
Jessica (-9), Jasmine (-8), Ruby and Sofia (-7), Mackenzie and Matilda (-5)

New
Audrey, Charlie, Maya, Elsie, Lola, Rose, Amber, Indi, Peyton

Gone
Aaliyah, Samantha

BOYS

Biggest Risers
Archie (+20 at least), Aiden (+13), Henry and Logan (+10)

Biggest Fallers
Jake (-18), Braxton (-13 at least), Seth (-12 at least), Daniel (-12), Finn (-11 at least)

New
Archie, Caleb, Jordan, Luca, Patrick, Jai, Austin, Hayden

Gone
Joseph, Ryder, Marcus, Beau, Owen, Nathan, Nicholas, Finn, Seth, Braxton

Famous Name: Richard

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Famous Namesake
I seem to end up doing names connected with cricket every January, and this year my choice was inspired by seeing The Richies in the stands on Day 2 of the Sydney test against India early in the month – otherwise known as known as Richie Day, which takes place the day before Jane McGrath Day.

The Richies are a group of cricket enthusiasts who dress up as iconic cricket commentator Richard “Richie” Benaud, complete with trademark silver hair, cream jacket, sunglasses, and oversized Channel Nine microphone (it is law that a Richie can only speak on Richie Day if they talk into their microphone).

The Richies were founded in 2010 by Michael Hennessy as a homage to Richie Benaud, who had just announced his retirement from full-time commentating. The first year there were ten Richies, this year there were 350; next year they hope to fill a whole bay, which means 680 Richies.

The group were inspired by comedian Billy Birmingham, who has gained fame for his cricket parodies under the name The Twelfth Man, where he often impersonated Richie Benaud’s distinctive voice. This year Billy Birmingham put The Richies through their paces, and revealed his own sons had dressed as Richie Benaud for the 2013 Test.

As for Richie Benaud himself? He wasn’t just a much-loved commentator, but a great all-rounder who debuted in the 1950s, and was captain for 28 tests between 1958 and 1962 without losing a series. He was the first player to complete the test double of 200 wickets and 2000 runs, and has been inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame and the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.

Now 84 and battling skin cancer, Richie Benaud will appear with Billy Birmingham in advertisements for Australia Day this year – but don’t expect Richie to fully endorse his comedy double.

Name Information
Richard is a Germanic name which comes from ric (“power, rule”) and hard (“brave, hardy”), usually translated as “brave ruler”. It was introduced to Britain by the Normans, and has become one of the stock of standard English names, while also well known in other European countries.

Richard has been commonly used by English royalty and aristocracy. One of the best known is Richard I, known as Richard the Lionheart. Said to be tall, elegant, and extremely handsome with red-gold hair, he had a reputation as a great military leader, and remains an enduring figure of romance.

The last English king with the name was Richard III, whose reputation was so tarnished after his death that the name has never been used for a British monarch since (the child who would have been Richard IV was one of the “princes in the Tower” who disappeared in a sinister way, which didn’t help its fortunes as a royal name).

Richard III is infamous from Shakespeare’s play of the same name, where he is portrayed as a deformed, murderous, power-hungry villain. Recently, Richard III has been back in the news after his skeleton was dug up in a Leicester car park, with signs of many injuries from his death at the Battle of Bosworth Fields. Although the skeleton did have scoliosis, so that one shoulder would have been higher than the other, facial reconstruction shows him as looking young and quite pleasant rather than a hideous monster, and modern historians have been kinder towards him.

There are a number of British saints named Richard, including Saint Richard of Chichester, the patron saint of Sussex. There is a Saxon saint named Saint Richard the Pilgrim, but details of his life are sketchy, and Richard doesn’t seem to have been his real name. There are also several Saint Richards who were martyred for their faith in the 16th century.

Because the name has remained in common use for so many years, it is easy to think of famous men named Richard. You might think of composers Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner, singers “Little Richard” (Richard Penniman) and Richard Ashcroft, Beatles drummer Richard Starkey “Ringo Starr”, comedians Richard Pryor and Rich Hall, actors Richard Burton, Richard Attenborough, Richard Gere, Richard Harris, Richard E. Grant, Richard Wilson, and Richard Dean Anderson, presenter Richard Hammond, scientist Richard Dawkins, charismatic entrepreneur Richard Branson, and disgraced former US President Richard Nixon, who was named after Richard the Lionheart.

Richard is a classic name which has never left the charts. It was #26 in the 1900s, and reached its peak in the 1940s at #15. It didn’t leave the Top 100 until the early 2000s, and has gently declined so it is now around the mid-200s. Despite being at its lowest point so far, the name is still in reasonable use and relatively stable. Its popularity is about the same in the UK, and in the US is around the mid 100s. Richard is most popular in the Czech Republic.

Richard has many nicknames, but one thing not helpful to the name is that most of them seem rather dated. Dick, once so common that we could say Every Tom, Dick and Harry to mean “every man”, is now frowned upon as an embarrassment, while Dicky reminds older people of “Tricky Dicky” Nixon. Rick and Ricky both peaked in the 1960s, and while I quite like Rich, Richie and Ritchie, Richie Rich, Richie Cunningham, and Ritchie Valens might give them a 1950-ish feel.

You can find medieval short forms of Richard through the English surnames they have inspired. Hick and Hitch led to Hitchens, Higg to Higgins, while Ditch led to Deek and Deex. Dickon was King Richard III’s nickname – also a character in The Secret Garden. Dickon was transformed into names such as Diggin and Diggle, which are quite a lot like fashionable Digby, and make Digger or Digs seem like reasonable vintage-style short forms of Richard. Dix is also a possibility, in line with names such as Max.

With Richard, you get a solid classic name that has never been out of the 200s; a name good enough for kings and saints and celebrities, as well as all manner of ordinary men. It’s a name which matures well, and looks professional on a CV. In fact, as Richie Benaud would say, you might think this name is perfectly “marvellous”!

 

Celebrity Baby News: Jayson Brunsdon and Aaron Elias

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Fashion designer Jayson Brunsdon, and his partner Aaron Elias, welcomed their first child on January 5 and have named their son Roman Elias. Roman was born via a Thai surrogate, using an egg donated by a cousin, who will remain part of Roman’s life.

Jayson is a former fashion editor for US Vogue and Follow Me magazine. He has worked as a stylist in New York and been creative director for Morrissey Edmiston. He launched his own label in 2004, and has stores in Sydney, Melbourne, and Singapore. His designs are available internationally at major stores such as Myer, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Harvey Nichols, while his collections have been shown at New York Fashion Week. Aaron is Jayson’s business partner; he and Jayson have been together for sixteen years.

The name Roman was chosen to reflect strength and power – there were many obstacles in the way for Jayson and Aaron, and they feel their son had to fight his way to them. Jayson says, “… he is a fighter, warrior”. The middle name, of course, is Aaron’s surname.

(Photo shows Jayson and Aaron with Roman; Jayson is on the left)

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