Update: He’s Short and Sweet to a T!

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Kate and Steve were expecting their third child, and since they received help at Waltzing More Than Matilda when naming #2, thought it was worthwhile to try us again.

If the baby was a boy, both Kate and Steve were keen on the name Ted for him. However, Kate’s mum didn’t think Ted was a “proper” name, and that a more formal option was necessary for the birth certificate.

Kate wondered whether her mum was right, but after writing into the blog she felt a lot more confident about their decision, and when their baby boy was born, he was named

TED WILLIAM,

baby brother to Madeline and Lewis.

Kate and Steve have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the name Ted; most people have been a little surprised by the name, but in a good way. The midwives at the hospital told Kate that they have seen a few Teds born lately, so Kate thinks it must be a name on the rise – I agree with the midwives, as I see it fairly regularly in birth notices now.

If Ted had been a girl, his name would have been Rose Eleanor, and Kate loves the name so much that she feels a tiny bit sad that they won’t be having any more children, because baby Ted has completed their family. There’s so often that name you never get to use!

Congratulations Kate and Steve! Ted is such a great name, and it sounds as if everyone else thinks so too.

(Picture shows Winnie-the-Pooh alphabet figurine)

Famous Name: Ava

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Today is the 55th anniversary of the release of Stanley Kramer’s On the Beach, starring Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck. Based on the novel by Nevil Shute, the film depicts the aftermath of a nuclear war, set in the near-future of the 1960s. With most of the world’s population dead, the film centres on a small group of people in Melbourne waiting for the lethal fallout to reach them.

Most of On the Beach was filmed on location, and a piece of local folklore is that Ava Gardner described Melbourne as “the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world”. Melbourne was a quiet little place in the 1950s, the first day of filming was abominably hot, and the media was horrible to Ava Gardner, so you could forgive her for being a bit grumpy. However, the quote was actually invented by a Sydney journalist with his tongue in cheek – whatever Ms Gardner’s thoughts about Melbourne, she was too professional to broadcast them publicly.

On the Beach made a financial loss, but was praised by critics, and has become a (slightly neglected) classic. The film created a ruckus in Melbourne, which went so crazy over seeing big Hollywood stars in their little city that they positively frightened most of the cast. Even the Australians cast as extras were mobbed as if they were A-listers. The film’s grim message was considered so traumatic that the Salvation Army, who play a small but significant role in the film, were on hand to provide counselling to people in cinemas.

Another of the film’s achievements was to bring attention to Waltzing Matilda, which is used to great effect during the closing scenes of On the Beach. It also opens the film, used to immediately signify an Australian setting. Waltzing Matilda became more popular after the film – not just in Australia, but overseas as well.

I read On the Beach as a young teenager, and found the story utterly compelling because for once the scenes of horror are set in Australia. The book has sometimes been criticised for showing the end of the world happening so quietly, and the characters going about their daily lives as calmly as possible. But I thought it made the story far more chilling, and far more real; many years later, the story is still vivid in my memory.

Ava was a medieval girl’s name, pronounced AH-vuh. It seems to have been a feminine form of the Germanic name Avo, originally a short form of names starting with Avi-. The meaning of it is much debated, but with no agreement reached. One theory is that it meant “desired”, to indicate a long wished-for child, but other ideas are that it came from aval, meaning “strength, power”, or from alfi, meaning “elf”.

In Norman English, the name produced Aveline, which evolved into Evelina, and is the basis for the surname Evelyn, also used as a first name. Another variant was Avis or Avice, which although it looks like the Latin for “bird”, is an elaboration of Ava. Av- names were quite fashionable in medieval times, thanks to Ava.

Two famous medieval Avas are Saint Ava, a Frankish princess who became a nun after being miraculously cured of blindness, and Ava of Melk, an anchorite and religious poet who was the first known female writer in the German language.

While Ava is still said AH-vuh in Germany and most European countries, in modern English it is usually pronounced AY-vuh. Some people see AY-vuh as a modern continuation of the medieval AH-vuh, while others see it as a completely separate modern English name, perhaps a variant of Eva.

While Ava may well have been understood as a form of Eva by some English-speakers, in continental Europe Ava was often understood as related to the Latin word Ave (said AH-veh), meaning “hail, greeting”, as in Ave Maria, or to similar words and names in modern languages. If we discount the English Ava (AY-vuh) on those grounds, then the European Ava (AH-vuh) must also be brought into question.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Ava has historically been more common in the United States than other English-speaking countries, because America has had significant immigration from Germany and Scandinavia. You could see the English pronunciation of Ava as the American pronunciation of the name. You’ve probably noticed that Americans tend to pronounce AY sounds rather than AH ones – for example, they often say the name Dana as DAY-nuh instead of DAH-nuh.

Just to add another layer, Ava is also a common Persian name for girls, meaning “voice, sound, call”, and said AH-vuh, making this a very multicultural name.

The name Ava was popularised in the United States in the 19th century by the Philadelphia socialite Ava Lowle Willing, who married John Astor IV (called Jack), from the prominent Astor family. They named their daughter Ava Alice Muriel Astor (born 1902), making this an early celebrity baby name. The Astors were divorced, and not long after, Jack Astor was drowned during the Titanic disaster, making him the richest person to sail on the Titanic, and probably the richest person in the world at the time.

Ava Alice Muriel Astor married Prince Serge Obolensky, and their wedding was the social event of the London season. She went on to divorce and marry several more times in both England and the United States; pretty, supremely wealthy, and a patron of the arts, her name was well known on both sides of the Atlantic.

The actress Ava Gardner was born at the end of 1922, not long after Ava Astor had been photographed visiting Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt with her fiancé, Prince Obolensky. Unlike many other film stars, Ava Gardner never had to change her name to something more screen-worthy: it was already perfect – glamorous, fashionable, upper-class sounding, and not too common.

Ava Gardner’s film career did not make Ava a popular name in her lifetime. Continuously on the US Top 1000 since the late 19th century, and #751 in 1941 when Gardner first began getting parts in films, it peaked at #376 during the 1950s, at the height of Gardner’s success.

Ava left the US Top 1000 during the 1970s, when Gardner’s career had waned, but returned in the 1980s, after Ava Gardner suffered two strokes and became bedridden. Her serious health problems were widely publicised, putting her name back in the news, and no doubt there was genuine shock and sympathy for the Hollywood star’s condition.

The name Ava began rising after Ava Gardner’s death in 1990, and its popularity was further hastened by celebrities choosing it as a baby name, including Aidan Quinn, Heather Locklear, and Reese Witherspoon – in the last case at least, as a conscious tribute to the late Ava Gardner.

In Australia, the name Ava first ranked in the 1990s at #465, and rose so rapidly that it was in the Top 100 by 2003, debuting at #70. Bad luck to all those parents who called their baby girl Ava in the 1990s because they saw it an an underused name! Or maybe good luck that they jumped on the trend nice and early.

In 2005, Ava made a massive leap forward to #22, as this was the same year Hugh Jackman and his wife Deborra-Lee Furness welcomed their daughter Ava. In 2011 the name Ava joined the Top 10 at #9, the year after Lleyton Hewitt and Bec Cartright welcomed their youngest daughter and named her Ava.

Currently Ava is #3 nationally, #8 in New South Wales, #2 in Victoria, #8 in Queensland, #3 in Western Australia, #17 in Tasmania, #17 in the Northern Territory, and #2 in the Australian Capital Territory. It was one of the fastest-rising names at Baby Center Australia last year.

Ava is highly popular throughout the English-speaking world, being a Top 10 name in the United States, Canada, England/Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and New Zealand. However, it is slightly more popular in Australia than anywhere else, and has so far peaked higher here than in any other country.

Yes, Ava is very popular – so much so that some parents may be wary of choosing it. But it is also boosting the fortunes of other names, such as sound-alikes Ada, Avery, Aria, Arya and Ayla, and has risen in tandem with Eva, Evie, Evelyn and Ivy.

This modern classic has been very influential on contemporary girls’ name trends. Maybe you won’t use Ava because it is too popular, but you might use one of her style-sisters, like Isla or Maeve. Or perhaps something unusual like Alba, Avalon, Avril or Aveley now seems like a good choice, or an older name like Ida or Maida no longer seems fusty, but pretty and fresh.

The power of Ava is such that we will be hearing her echoes for many, many years to come.

Update: The Baby Who Came With Good Tidings for the Season

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Courtney wanted an unusual name for her second baby, and her first choice for a son was Arrow. She wrote in the blog wondering if Arrow was really too strange to use, as her husband Joel worried it was too different.

Most people who answered the poll seemed to think Arrow was the right sort of different rather than too weird. Courtney remained strongly in favour of Arrow, but in the end Joel couldn’t be persuaded.

Courtney and Joel recently welcomed their second son, and together they have decided that his name is

GABRIEL,

little brother to Israel.

Both Courtney and Joel love the name Gabriel, and Courtney thinks that the name works well as a brother for Israel. She also sees the name as a little nod towards the Christmas season, and I couldn’t agree more, as the archangel Gabriel so often features in Christmas pageants and Nativity scenes.

Congratulations to Courtney and Joel on choosing a beautiful name for their son! Even though Courtney’s choice of Arrow was vetoed, they were able to work together to find a name that was perfect for both of them. Courtney says maybe someone else will choose Arrow – who knows, maybe it is the right name for you?

(Painting shows a detail from Annunciation by Titian – 1522)

Waltzing With … Paddington

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Family movies as a Christmas season treat is a tradition I really look forward to, and already we have been to see two films based on children’s books with Australian stars: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, with Ed Oxenbould as the hero Alexander, and Paddington, with Nicole Kidman as the villain Millicent.

Paddington is surely Britain’s favourite illegal immigrant – a polite stowaway bear from darkest Peru with a penchant for marmalade sandwiches, who is found by the Brown family at a railway station, with a note reading: Please look after this bear. The Browns take the bear home to 32 Windsor Gardens and name him Paddington, after the railway station where they found him (his Peruvian name of Pastuso is apparently too difficult for English-speakers to pronounce).

Michael Bond was inspired to write the Paddington stories by a lonely-looking teddy bear he bought as a present for his wife, and named after the railway station close to their home. The first book was written in the 1950s, and Michael Bond was influenced by his memories of evacuated children during the war, often left at railway stations with a label around their necks to identify them. Surely he was also influenced by increased post-war immigration to London – Paddington’s best friend is a Hungarian shopkeeper.

Without giving away too many spoilers, the movie has all the warm-hearted charm and humour of the books, including lots of jokes for the adults watching. However, it has a touch more darkness and a lot more adventure (much needed, as the books’ big adventures tend to revolve around going to the shops or the cinema). Somehow the movie manages to have some of the books’ sadness, because despite the comedic chaos, there was always a poignancy to Paddington’s situation.

Paddington is a district of central London which began as a Saxon village on the city’s outskirts. Even in the early 19th century, Paddington was surrounded by open fields and meadows.

For many years, the area had a dark connection, because it was in this neighbourhood that the notorious Tyburn Tree, or gallows, was set up. This was the main place for public executions from medieval times to the late 18th century, a spectacle which attracted thousands. A “Paddington Fair Day” meant an execution day, while “to dance the Paddington Frisk” meant to be hanged.

Paddington’s development began in the 19th century, with the canal and the railway station. Paddington Station was designed by the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and today there is a statue of Paddington Bear on platform 1. You can also buy a Paddington Bear stuffed toy from Paddington station, with a label asking you to please take care of this bear. These toys were first created by Jeremy Clarkson’s mother, making enough money to send Jeremy to a private school, and also providing him with his first job as Paddington Bear salesman.

The Victorian era was Paddington’s heyday, when it was described as a “city of palaces”. With its grand terraced houses overlooking Hyde Park, and its garden squares, it became a highly fashionable address. Many famous people have lived in Paddington, including Robert Browning and Winston Churchill, and more recently, Emma Thompson and Tony Blair.

The name Paddington is believed to mean “Padda’s farm”. Padda doesn’t seem to have been a common Anglo-Saxon name, but enough examples exist to show it is genuine. The meaning is not certain (it may be a variant spelling or shortening of another name), but one theory is that it came from the Old English word pad, meaning “toad”. Toads were considered magical creatures in ancient Europe (we still think of witches and wizards as having toads for familiars), and this makes me wonder if the name Paddington is a little more mystical than it might appear at first sight.

Paddington is also an inner-city suburb of Sydney, about 3 km from the CBD, and named after the London area because of its similarly close proximity to the city centre. When the Victoria Barracks army base was built here in the 19th century, the village of Paddington sprung up to house artisans and labourers who worked to build the barracks. It grew rapidly, with large estates filled with terraced housing, and by the early twentieth century was thriving.

During the Great Depression, Paddington became a slum, but after World War II its fortunes changed as European migrants moved in to the suburb, finding it cheap and conveniently located. In the 1960s, students and artists arrived to add bohemian flair, and it also became part of the gay “scene”, with the first Mardi Gras parade marching proudly down Oxford Street in 1978.

As the suburb became gentrified, Paddington’s Victorian architecture meant that it was protected as a heritage area, and these days “Paddo” is fashionable and upmarket. The main streets are filled with art galleries, trendy stores, boutiques, antiques, and interior designers, while artists and craftspeople hawk their wares every weekend at Paddington Market.

There is another Paddington in Brisbane, which is likewise inner city, and has a similar history to the one in Sydney. There is also a gold mine in Western Australia called Paddington.

The name Paddington is not often found in historical records, but use goes back to the 18th century, and is almost certainly prompted by the surname Paddington rather than directly after the place in London. It is much more common as a middle name, and in Australian records, is found extremely rarely, and only as a middle name.

So that’s Paddington – a rare name, but a genuine one, with some history of use even in Australia. It is very closely associated with the famous bear, but that might be exactly the reason a Paddington fan wants to use the name, and Paddington is such a nice bear. In Australia it will remind people of the Sydney suburb, but again, it’s a fashionable area with positive associations.

When I did a couple of minutes idle searching online, I found not just one, but two people considering the name Paddington for a baby – one of them Australian. I have to admit their tentative idea was shot down pretty hard by others, so there doesn’t seem to be much support for the idea of a baby named Paddington.

However, I think it could make an awesome middle name, and if you have your heart set on a little Paddington, Paddy would make a cute nickname. Far be it from me to tell people not to name children after fictional bears.

(Photo shows terrace housing in Paddington, Sydney)

Darley and Denley

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Multiples
Simon and Eli
Frankie, Georgina and Isobel – all girls (Archie)

Girls
Adelaide Anne Therese (Hallie, Hendrix)
Alice Susanna (Elsa)
Ava Lily (Lilac, Summer)
Ayan (Gum, Ajok, Monydeeng, Den, Nyadeeng, Sam)
Bella Ariana (Mila)
Brooklyn Elise (Tyde)
Coco-Vivienne
Darley Louchelle Lola-Rae (Hadlee)
Ellie Irene
Eloise Margaret Jean
Greta Valerie (Mataya, Sloane)
Haydee Mary
Ivy Gladys May
Marnie Sophia
Melody Sarah Rose (Lorelai)
Minti Rae
Moira Leah (Domonic)
Natazsia (Celeste, Kiara, Aleese, Tomas, Shanaya, Oriella, Jaelah, Eleena, Xienna)
Pyper Gertrude (Lexus, Boston)
Quinn Catherine (Trey, Charlotte, Faith, Louisa)
Rosi Belle
Ruth Mabel (Elsie)
Sadie Maya (Alira, Oskar)
Sage Elizabeth
Sophia Eleanor (Charlotte)

Boys
Alexander Aubrey Wilfred (Hunter)
Ari Peter (Sanjay, Flynn)
Baxter Patrick John
Campbell Flynn
Denley Jack (Archibald)
Hamish Alwyn
Harry Emerson
Henry Benjamin Stephen (Charlotte)
Jagger William
Jem Arthur
Jet Liam
Kalen Mark
Keanu
Leo Bruce Jay
Lex Eusbio
Lewis Elliott
Lincoln Francis (Addison)
Noah Jason
Ollie Michael (Lucy)
Rory Mac (Orla)
Sidney George “Sid” (Angus)
Taj Edward
Tyce James
William Campbell (Alexander)
Xavier Matthew

(Picture shows children making Christmas tree ginger biscuits at cooking classes in Perth; photo from BuggyBuddys)

Changes to the New South Wales Birth Registry System

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A few months ago I wrote an article on the consequences of not registering your baby’s name, with advice being that there were no immediate penalties for not making the sixty-day registration deadline, but it should be completed as soon as possible.

The state of New South Wales has now made changes to their birth registry system. This follows two tragic cases of abandonment of newborn babies in Sydney, which occurred within a week of one another.

In one case a baby boy had been left in a drain for almost a week, with the mother now facing charges of attempted murder, and in the other, a baby girl’s decomposed body was found buried in sand dunes, with the parents still unknown. This seems to underline Unicef’s findings that unregistered babies were more likely to be neglected and abused.

Attorney-General Brad Hazzard says a new software program named LifeLink will be introduced early next year to automatically match birth notifications from hospitals with registrations from parents. At present, hospitals have seven days to notify the registry of a baby’s birth, and it is the parents’ responsibility to officially register the baby within sixty days.

The Attorney-General says he is concerned that there may be other unregistered babies out there, and that they could be at risk. The LifeLink program is designed to provide more consistency in the birth registration process. It would also work as a cross-reference to identify parents who have forgotten to register their child, or deliberately failed to do so.

A taskforce has been set up to improve communication between authorities on births in New South Wales, involving the Department of Justice, police, NSW Health, Family and Community Services, and the Ombudsmans Office.

The Attorney-General explains that this is a way to ensure that agencies can work together to assist parents – he assures us that it’s about improving the system, and will not be about penalising parents. He believes that the overwhelming majority of parents register their baby within sixty days, but wants to ensure that no children in New South Wales are left unregistered.

For now, the registry uses emails, letters and phone calls to track down parents who have not officially registered their child’s birth, but does not visit them in person. If they cannot make contact with the parents, they are supposed to refer the case to Family and Community Services.

Obstetrician Andrew Pesce, the Sydney West Health Service head of Women’s Health and former Australian Medical Association president, questions the proficiency of the current system. Although abandoned babies are said to be very rare, Dr Pesce wonders how they know it is a rare event without a proper system in place.

You will have probably noticed a loophole in the system set up to close the loopholes in the system – LifeLink will only be of assistance if the baby was born in a hospital. One of the issues with the baby girl found in the sand dunes is that she doesn’t appear to have been born in a hospital, thus there is no way to find her parents’ identity through hospital records.

It suggests that desperate mothers may be frightened to go to hospital to give birth, or to seek out a registered midwife for a homebirth, leaving them and their babies extremely vulnerable, and completely outside the system. LifeLink will not fix this problem, and could possibly even act as a further discouragement. I don’t know what can be done in such cases, and nobody else seems to know either.

Although details seem fairly vague at this stage, it does suggest that parents in New South Wales would probably be wise to register their baby’s name within the sixty-day period from next year to avoid unwanted contact from government agencies. And as we’ve learned from Scarlett’s story, changing a baby’s name in New South Wales is somewhat problematic as the original name is not just “wiped out”, so you need to be really sure of the baby’s name before you register it.

It will be interesting to see if other states follow New South Wales’ lead.

Famous Names: Heston and Tex

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In 2014 Melbourne was named the world’s most liveable city by the Economist Intelligence Unit for the fourth year in a row. Their annual survey rates 140 cities out of 100 in healthcare, education, stability, culture and environment, and infrastructure, and Melbourne received 97.5 overall, with perfect scores in healthcare, education, and infrastructure.

To celebrate Melbourne’s continuing success, I thought we’d look at two names that have recently made the news there. Melbourne is not only a very cultured city, it’s also rather quirky, so I picked a couple of cultured, quirky guys.

HESTON
Heston Blumenthal is a multi award-winning British chef at the forefront of the “New Cookery”. Inspired by the playful nature of historic British cuisine, he follows a rigorously scientific approach to cooking, and has unleashed on an appreciative public such delicacies as snail porridge, chocolate wine, and bacon and egg ice cream.

Well known from his television shows, Heston has also been a celebrity chef on MasterChef Australia, been a guest at food festivals in Australia, and you can also buy his products through Coles (maybe you have already purchased one of his Christmas puddings). A great admirer of Australia, Heston has told Britons of Aussie food trends they should copy, including charcoal chicken, Tim Tams, quality beef, street food, and good coffee [article expired].

Early this year it was announced his triple Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck, recognised as the best in Britain, will be temporarily relocated to Melbourne’s Crown Casino next February. He made a savvy move taking The Fat Duck to Melbourne, which has a marvellous foodie culture. The tasting menu is $525 per person (not including drinks), making The Fat Duck the most expensive eatery in Melbourne, more than twice as pricey as its current premier restaurant, Shannon Bennett‘s Vue du Monde.

Despite this hefty price tag, demand was so strong that a ballot system was introduced, with potential patrons having to register before the end of October. Unfortunately some scammers managed to hack into the ballot system, and are now scalping reservations for up to $1000 (you still have to pay for your food on top of that). However, never fear people with more than $1500 to spend on one meal, after six months the restaurant will morph into Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.

Heston is an English surname which comes from a place name; originally a Saxon village, Heston is now a suburb of west London. One of its claims to fame is that British prime minister Neville Chamberlain flew from Heston Aerodrome to Germany in 1938 for uselessly appeasing talks with Adolf Hitler. Naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, who discovered so many species of Australian plants and has the banksia flower named after him, is buried at St Leonards church in Heston.

Heston is usually thought to mean “enclosed settlement” in Old English, because it was part of an area surrounded by forest and woodland. For the same reason, another theory is that it meant “brushwood farm”.

The surname is strongly associated with Hollywood legend Charlton Heston, who starred in films such as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, and Planet of the Apes. Born John Charles Carter, and known as Chuck or Charlie, he created his screen name by combining his mother’s maiden name, Charlton, with his stepfather’s surname.

Heston Blumenthal (who wasn’t rapt with his name as a child) asked his mother if he had been named after Charlton Heston, but she replied that she simply liked the name. When asked about the origins of his name, Blumenthal joked that perhaps his parents had a night out in London and parked at Heston Services (a motorway service station). The headline on the front cover of The Times was Top Chef Named After Parents’ Love of Motorway Services, requiring many apologies from Heston to his mum and dad.

Heston may be unusual, but it is by no means unique, being found thousands of times in historical records going back to the 16th century. There are a few examples of Heston being used as a first name in Australian records, although it is more common in the middle.

It’s a surname name for boys which is is rare yet on trend, and seems pretty cool, although I do think it will instantly remind everyone of the chef. Just like Mrs Blumenthal, you may be required to repeat that you just liked the name. Heston has also highlighted another issue with his name – American actress Tina Fey told him it translates as “shit on you” in Greek, so this is a name which does not travel well, at least not to Greece.

TEX
Tex Perkins is an Australian rock star, best known for fronting The Beasts of Bourbon and The Cruel Sea, but part of many other innovative musical acts. Recently he threw his hat in the ring as an independent candidate for the marginal seat of Albert Park in last month’s state election. His single policy? To get funding for the Palais Theatre in St. Kilda, a heritage-listed concert venue which needs a $40 million refurbishment.

Having gained the sitting Labor candidate’s promise of partial funding if he was elected, Tex directed his preferences to the ALP, then told people not to vote for him, but for Labor instead, and on election day, his How to Vote card instructed them to place the ALP first on the ballot paper. That’s taking self-effacement to a new level. His plan worked – Labor was elected, both in Albert Park and across the state. Let’s hope they honour their promise to the Palais. (Tex still got more than 1000 votes).

Tex is a nickname which is short for Texas, the US state. The state’s name comes from a Native American word in the Caddo language, tejas, meaning “friends, allies”. It was the name the Spanish called the Caddo, and the land they lived on, in today’s East Texas.

There is a Texas in Australia too, a town in southern Queensland. It is said that the name came about because of a territorial dispute between the owners of the land and some squatters – once the legalities were sorted out, the owners humorously called their land Texas because the United States and Mexico had a dispute over Texas, settled by the Mexican-American war. The town of Texas has featured in several country music songs, including one by James Blundell, who has spent quite a bit of time there.

The nickname Tex can be given to someone from the state of Texas, but can also be taken as a code name, and is a favourite for people with a cowboy, country, or Western persona, such as country music stars, cowboy actors, and rodeo promoters.

British soldier Keith “Tex” Banwell was the son of an Australian soldier, and lived in Australia for a few years as a child. A World War II hero who acted as General Montgomery’s double, he helped the Dutch Resistance, and was taken prisoner a few times, spending several months in Auschwitz after refusing to betray his friends. A character straight out of an adventure novel, Tex was his wartime code name.

Tex Morton (born Robert Lane) was a country music pioneer in New Zealand and Australia, and had a career that lasted from the 1930s to the 1970s. Dubbed the Singing Cowboy Sensation, the New Zealand-born yodelling whipcracker and sharpshooter performed at the Grand Old Opry and was a major contributor to the Australian country music scene. Tex Perkins (born Gregory Perkins) followed this lead, as he began in cowpunk, and has taken a Johnny Cash tribute show on the road.

Tex was in the US Top 1000 around the 1940s, but is now a rare name – only 11 boys were named Tex last year, although a further 11 were named Texas, perhaps called Tex on an everyday basis. It’s even less common in the UK, where less than three boys (maybe none) have ever been named Tex, although 19 girls (a meteoric rise) were named Texas, and maybe have Tex as a nickname.

In Victoria, 6 boys were named Tex in 2012, and it’s a name I see fairly regularly in birth notices; to me it seems as if the numbers might even have risen. Perhaps Tex Perkins is helping the name along, although I don’t know if any have actually been named in honour of the rock star. Tex is a great little nickname name, with a cool X-ending like Max, Rex, or Fox. It has a bit of a cowboy feel to it, although Tex Perkins makes it seem a bit rockstar too.

Two cool, charismatic boys names that are a little out of the ordinary – but which one do you prefer?

(Picture shows Tex Perkins outside the Palais Theatre; photo from the Herald Sun)

Celebrity Baby News: Media Babies

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Journalists Ben Fordham and Jodie Speers welcomed their first child on December 5, and have named their son Freddy Thomas. Freddy Fordham was born at 9 pm, weighing 3.5 kg (7 lb 7oz), and 50 cm long; he arrived as his parents were due to have Christmas drinks with the prime minister, but a baby is far more important than a prime minister, and Freddy’s birth took precedence. Ben is a Walkley Award winning journalist who recently left the Channel Nine Today show as sports reporter, and is currently a radio host on 2GB’s Sydney Live. Jodie is a reporter for Channel Seven News; she and Ben were married in 2011.

Radio host Jason “Labby” Hawkins and his wife Lou welcomed their son Felix a year ago. After seven years co-hosting B105’s breakfast show with Stuart “Stav” Davidson and Abby Coleman (both featured as celebrity parents on the blog), Labby is now moving to New Zealand to take up new professional opportunities. His nickname Labby is short for Lab Rat.

(Photo shows Ben and Jodie)

Interesting Boys Names from the 2014 Birth Announcements

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Do you worry there are no interesting names left for boys, or that only girls can have unusual names? Not so! For the final list of the year, here are a dozen rare names for boys that were recently used for real babies by Australian parents. 

Arion
In Greek mythology, Arion was an immortal talking horse who was the son of the sea god Poseidon, known for being extremely swift. The horse is referenced in the Percy Jackson fantasy series, and the Mistubishi Starion is meant to be a cross between star and Arion. There was a real person named Arion in Greek history – a famous poet and singer. However, even he became legend, as a folk tale sprung up that he had been kidnapped by pirates and miraculously rescued by dolphins, who were attracted by his beautiful singing and carried him safely to shore on their backs. The name may be from the Greek for “braver”, and is pronounced AR-ee-on. This name fits in well with the trend for AR names, has fashionable Ari as the nickname, and sounds similar to Aryan and Orion.

Basil
From the Greek name Basileios, meaning “king”. Saint Basil the Great was a 4th century bishop and one of the fathers of early Christianity. A great theologian and preacher, he cared for the poor and was one of the founders of monasticism. Recognised as a Doctor of the Church, in Greek tradition he brings gifts to children on New Year’s Day, making him an eastern version of Santa Claus. A common name in the east, there are numerous other saints named Basil (including Basil the Great’s father), and a few Byzantine rulers. Brought to Britain by the Crusaders, we often think of Basil as a particularly “English” name, thanks to actor Basil Rathbone, who played Sherlock Holmes, Basil Fawlty, and Basil Brush, and it has a rather old-school gentlemanly feel. The herb basil has the same meaning as the Greek name. Basil is also an Arabic name meaning “valiant, courageous”, so this would be an unexpected cross-cultural choice with the Australian nickname Baz or Bazza.

Cassius
Roman family name. The Cassii were of great antiquity, and said to be one of the noblest families in Rome; the Via Cassia in the city is named after them. They seem to have been from southern Italy, where they owned large estates, and their name may not be Latin in origin, but Oscan; the meaning of Cassius is probably not traceable. One of the best known of the family is the Cassius who instigated the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar. Famously, William Shakespeare writes of him as having “a lean and hungry look” in his tragedy Julius Caesar, while in Dante’s Inferno, he is chewed by Satan in the centre of Hell, alongside Judas Iscariot. Despite this, the name came to be associated with those who stood up to tyranny and injustice. There are two saints of the name – Cassius of Clermont, and Cassius of Narnia (are you able to resist a saint of Narnia?). The name is strongly associated with boxer Muhammad Ali, who was named Cassius Clay after his father, and his father was named in turn after a politician who worked for the abolition of slavery. Depending on how you pronounce it, you can use either Cass or Cash as the nickname, both of which are on trend.

Fenris
Norse mythology tells of a monstrous wolf who is the son of Loki and a giantess; Odin raised the wolf himself, but the gods kept him bound in fear of his power. It is foretold that at the end of the world, one of this wolf’s sons will swallow the sun, and the other swallow the moon. All fetters will break, and the great wolf will go free, with flames burning from his eyes and nose. In a great battle, he will swallow the god Odin, killing him, but Odin’s son will in turn slay the wolf. The wolf is called Fenrir, meaning “fen-dweller” (a fen is a type of wetland), or Fenrisúlfr, translated into English as Fenris Wolf. Fenris has appeared as a character in comic books and video games, and in fantasy novels such as Arthur Quinn and the Fenris Wolf. Norse mythology names are in fashion at present, and this one is very cool.

Fyfe
Scottish surname after the historic kingdom of Fife, on a peninsula in east Scotland between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth. The region is one of the country’s historic counties, and is the location of St. Andrews. Once a Pictish stronghold, Fife became a politically important area, and until the 15th century, the Earl of Fife was the highest peer in Scotland, and had the privilege of crowning the nation’s monarchs. The meaning of Fife is not known – it was originally Fib, and according to legend, Fib was one of the sons of the founder of the Picts. The name Fyfe has nothing to do with the flute known as a fife, which comes from the German for “pipe”, although this does give it a rather musical feel. Known in Australia as the surname of AFL footballer Nat Fyfe, and cartoonist Andrew Fyfe, this is a handsome Scottish choice with plenty of history.

Joachim
From the Latinised form of Yehoyaqim, a Hebrew name meaning “established by Yahweh”. In the Old Testament, there was a king of Judah with this name, and his name is transliterated as Jehoiakim; it seems to be a throne name, because he was named Eliakim by his parents. According to early Christian tradition, Joachim was the name of the Virgin Mary’s father, and he is venerated as a saint in Christianity and honoured in Islam under the name Imran. Legend states that Joachim was a wealthy, pious man married to a woman named Anne; although they loved each other dearly, they were unhappy at their childless state, believing it to be a sign of God’s displeasure. At the climax of their story, an angel tells Anne that she is pregnant, and that her child will be known throughout the world. Anne joyfully rushes to meet her husband, embracing him at the city gate to tell him the glad tidings. The name Joachim has been more common in continental Europe than in English-speaking countries, and was used amongst royalty: a contemporary example is Prince Joachim of Denmark, the younger brother of Crown Prince Frederik. Strong and distinctive, this has familiar Joe as the obvious nickname.

Lazarus
From the Greek form of Eleazar, a Hebrew name meaning “God is my help”. In the New Testament, Lazarus of Bethany was the brother of Martha and Mary, and one of the followers of Jesus. He was famously brought to life by Jesus, four days after his death, and his story contains the shortest and perhaps most quoted sentence in the Bible: “Jesus wept”. This is the biggest miracle performed by Jesus in the New Testament, and one which leads directly to his own death and resurrection, which Lazarus foreshadows. Lazarus is regarded as a saint, and according to Christian tradition, he lived another thirty years after his raising, and never smiled again. Jesus also told a parable about a beggar covered in sores named Lazarus, and because of this, the name Lazarus became associated with the care of those with leprosy, with leper hospitals called lazar houses. It’s currently in the news as the surname of Glenn Lazarus or “the brick with eyes”, rugby league star turned senator. A name that embodies a spectacular miracle of hope, Lazarus is an eye-catching choice that fits in with current trends, and has Laz, Lazar, and Lazy as nicknames.

Makoto
Japanese name meaning “truth, faith, sincerity”, and pronounced mah-ko-to. It is unisex, but more common for boys. Makoto is often used in Japanese video games and manga, so may be reasonably familiar to some English-speakers. It’s an attractive boy’s name with a very positive meaning and easy to pronounce; exotic but not too strange. The baby I saw in a birth notice had Mako as his nickname; if this sounds similar to Marco, it would make the name seem like an appealing cross-cultural name choice.

Riordan
Anglicised form of the Irish surname O’Rioghbhardain, meaning “son of Rioghbhardan”. Rioghbhardan is a Gaelic byname meaning “royal bard”. Poets and singers were held in high regard in ancient Irish society; they were not mere entertainers, but also historians, scholars and advisers to the king. The O’Riordans came from Tipperary, and are strongly associated with Cork. Ballyrearden in Cork is named for them. The surname has recently become well known because of American novelist Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson fantasy series, and others. Riordan is pronounced REER-dun, or REE-uh-dun, but the surname has taken on such a variety of pronunciations, like ROAR-den, ROY-uh-dun and RYE-uh-dun, that you might feel free to say it in almost any way you like. Rio could be used as the nickname.

Royce
English surname derived from Royse, a medieval form of Rose; it is thus one of those rare surnames taken from a female name rather than a male one, and could honour someone named Rose . The name is strongly associated with the luxury car brand Rolls-Royce, co-founded by English engineer Sir Frederick Royce. A famous Australian namesake is botanist Robert Royce, for whom the genus of shrubs Roycea is named. There are several famous sporting Royces in Australia, including former AFL star Royce Hart, who played for Richmond in the 1960s and ’70s. Roy names are bang on trend at the moment, and if you’re one of those people who get all het up about girls with masculine surnames like Addison and Mackenzie, here’s your chance to even the score slightly.

Stellan
Swedish name of obscure origin. The first known person with the name came to Sweden from Germany in the 16th century, so it may be from the German language, yet the name is not used in Germany, which casts doubt on that theory. It isn’t a particularly common name in Sweden, but has become known here because of Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, who has been in such films as Good Will Hunting, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Thor. Stellan became a celebrity baby name when actors Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connolly named their son Stellan after their friend Stellan Skarsgård. This is a handsome heritage choice which sounds to English-speakers like a masculine form of Stella, and so may be understood as having the same meaning – “star”.

Wulfric
Anglo-Saxon name meaning “wolf power, wolf ruler”, and pronounced with the first syllable to sound like the word wolf. Wolves were numerous in Anglo-Saxon times, and it’s not surprising that wulf was a common element in Old English names. The Anglo-Saxons saw the wolf as a symbol of warrior strength, and in stories wolves were protectors of the god Woden, and of royalty. The gloriously named Wulfric Spot was chief councillor to King Ethelred the Unready; his mother was a noble lady named Wulfrun, and the city of Wolverhampton is said to be named after her. Saint Wulfric of Haselbury was a 12th century hermit who managed to wield quite a bit of influence as a prophet and healer even over royalty; he correctly predicted the death of Henry I. Despite these interesting namesakes, Wulfric is a name more common in fiction than real life, and you may know it as one of the middle names of the wizard Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter. An English name with plenty of history but little contemporary use, this fits in well with the current fashion for animal names. Despite its ferocious meaning, it seems eccentric and lovable to me.

(Photo shows St Andrews golf course in Fife, recognised as the home of golf)

Celebrity Baby News: Football Babies

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AFL star Nick Riewoldt, and his wife Catherine, welcomed their first child on December 4 and have named their son James Lawrence. Nick is the captain of St Kilda, where he has played since 2001, and has won the Leigh Matthews Trophy for most valuable player, and the Ron Evans “rising star” medal. Nick and Catherine were married in 2012; the wedding was at Catherine’s parents’ cattle ranch in Waco, Texas.

Retired AFL star Wayne Carey, and his partner Stephanie Edwards, welcomed their daughter Charlotte on November 21, born prematurely and still in hospital although healthy and making good progress. Wayne also has an 8 year old daughter named Ella with his ex-wife, Sally. Wayne played for the North Melbourne Kangaroos from 1989-2001, and became the club’s captain. After an off-field scandal and time away from the game, he played for two seasons with the Adelaide Crows before retiring in 2004. He is often regarded as the greatest player in the history of the game, and has won the Michael Tuck Medal for fairest and best, and the Leigh Matthew Trophy twice. Wayne is currently a football commentator for Channel 7 and Triple M radio.

Rugby league player Dean Whare, and his wife Natasha, welcomed their daughter Zahlia last month, a sister for Mia, aged 2. Dean is originally from New Zealand and plays for the Penrith Panthers, as well as for the New Zealand national squad. Zahlia arrived just before the Four Nations final, where New Zealand beat Australia 22-18, so it was a very good week for Dean.

Retired AFL star Lenny Hayes, and his wife Tara, welcomed their son Hunter last year. Lenny was captain of St Kilda, which he played for from 1999-2014. He won the Norm Smith Medal in 2010 as best player at that year’s Grand Final, and was awarded the Madden Medal for lifetime achievement this year. Since retiring, Lenny has taken up a role as project manager for the AFL, and written his memoirs.

Surname pronunciation: Riewoldt is said REE-volt. Australians usually pronounce Whare as FAHR-ay, but apparently it’s really more like Buddy with an F.

(Photo shows Nick and Catherine Riewoldt)

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