Celebrity Baby News: Lanai and James Scarr


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Journalist Lanai Scarr, and her husband James, welcomed their triplets on January 11 and have named them James Maxwell, Nathaniel Lucas, and Edith Olivia. The triplets have a big sister named Molly, aged 2.

Lanai is the national political reporter for the Sunday Telegraph, and documented her pregnancy week-by-week in Kidspot magazine, as well as writing numerous newspaper articles on having triplets.

Wednesday Wayback: Waltzing with … Skyler


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Tomorrow school goes back in three different states and territories (Queensland has already been back a week), which means that the summer holidays are drawing to a close. I chose this name as suitable for the start of term, thanks to its educational meaning.

Name Information
Skyler is a variant of Schuyler; a Dutch surname of German origin meaning “scholar”, said SKIE-luh. This name was brought to what is now the United States by Dutch colonists, who settled in the east during the 17th century.

The Schuylers were a prominent New York family. Pieter Schuyler was the first mayor of Albany in New York, and a commander of the British forces at the Battle of La Prairie, near Montreal. His descendants were numerous and distinguished, including his grand-nephew Philip Schuyler, who was a general in the American Revolution and Senator for the state of New York. It is said that the first use of the names Schuyler and Skyler was in honour of this family.

Schuyler has only appeared on the US Top 1000 a smattering of times. It shows up first at the beginning of the twentieth century, and then again between the mid 1980s and mid 1990s, only charting as a male name, and never getting higher than the bottom of the Top 1000. Currently Schuyler is almost equally given to both sexes in the US – 17 girls and 15 boys last year.

Famous people with the name include Schuyler Colefax, the 17th US Vice-President, who was a distant cousin of Philip Schuyler, and Schuyler Wheeler, inventor of the electric fan. Schuyler has been chosen as a baby name by actors Michael J. Fox and Sissy Spacek – both times for daughters. The name is barely used outside the United States, and pronunciation would be a puzzle to most.

During the 1940s and 1950s there was a popular American radio and television series called Sky King, about an Arizona rancher and pilot called Schuyler “Sky” King. During the 1950s, the spelling variant Skyler begins showing up in the data. It’s tempting to imagine that people tuned into the show, and began spelling the name as it sounded, or in such a way as to make the nicknameSky more obvious.

Skyler joined the US Top 1000 in 1981 for boys, and for girls in 1990 – it began showing up in data as a girls name in the late 1970s, so it had a brisk rise as a girls name. Skyler peaked for boys in 1996 at #217, and is currently #351. For girls, it peaked in 2000 at #250, and is currently #302.

Famous Skylers include Skyler Green, a footballer who played for the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL, and actress Skyler Samuels, who played Gigi on Wizards of Waverley Place. A fictional Skyler is Skyler White from the TV seriesBreaking Bad, played by Anna Gunn. Fashion stylist Rachel Zoe has a son named Skyler.

In the UK, Skyler has charted for boys and girls since the late 1990s. Currently it is #406 for girls, while in 2014, there were 13 boys named Skyler. It is rising rapidly for both sexes.

Rising alongside Skyler is the variant Skylar. While it has never been higher for boys in the US than the 300s, and is currently #635, it is Top 100 for girls, being #48 and rising. A famous namesake is American singer and songwriter Skylar Grey, born Holly Hafermann – her stage name a reference to mysterious “grey skies”.

In the UK, Skylar is #212 for girls and rising steeply. It is occasionally used for boys, and in 2014 there were 5 baby boys named Skylar.

There are also spelling variants of Skyler/Skylar which are specifically feminine. Skyla is #531 in the US, #156 and rising in the UK, and in 2012 made the Top 100 in New Zealand. It is much more popular than Skylah, but that is rising rapidly as well.

Skyla and Skylah are much more common in Australia than any other spellings of Skyler, and the numbers in the UK and New Zealand suggest that this spelling makes the most sense for someone with a British/Commonwealth accent. I estimate that if Skyla and Skylah were added together, the name would be in the Australian Top 100 by now, or very close to it, while other spelling variants are extremely rare for either sex.

You can see that if all the different spellings of Skyler were added up, it would be an extremely common name in the English speaking world. So Skyla or Skylah may not be an original choice for girl, but a boy named Skyler would stand out in Australia. Some of the other spelling variants would be worth considering, although I think Schuyler will cause more problems than it is worth.

By now this name has become almost completely divorced from its true meaning, and we now connect it with such things as clear or cloudy skies, free-wheeling flight, and the wild blue yonder. The obvious nicknames are Sky and Skye, and it fits in with names like Shyla, Myla, Kayla, Kai, and Tyler. Its sound is at least part of the reason for its success.

(Photo is of the NSW Schoolhouse Museum of Education in Sydney)

Celebrity Baby News: Deborah Knight and Lindsay Dunbar




Television presenter Deborah Knight, and her husband Lindsay Dunbar, welcomed their third child on January 30 and have named her Audrey Olive Joan. Audrey joins big brother Darcy, aged 7, and big sister Elsa, aged 5. She is a “surprise baby”, because both her siblings were conceived with the assistance of IVF, and they weren’t expecting to have another child.

Deborah began her journalism career on radio before joining Channel Ten as a news reporter and presenter. In 2011 she moved to Channel Nine, and is currently the co-host of Weekend Today, as well as a news presenter. Lindsay is a graphic artist and broadcast designer with the ABC.

(Photo of Deborah with Darcy and Elsa from The Australian)

Celebrity Baby News: Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale




Actress Rose Byrne, and her partner, actor Bobby Cannavale, welcomed their first child together on February 1 and have named their son Rocco. Bobby’s other son, and Rocco’s brother, is the actor Jake Cannavale, from his marriage to actress Jenny Lumet.

Rose began her career as a teenager, with a part in the film Dallas Doll. She appeared in television series such as Heartbreak High, Echo Point, and Murder Call, and continued working in films and on stage. Her Hollywood debut was in 2003 in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, and she went on to appear in films such as I Capture the Castle, The Night We Called It a Day, Troy, Wicker Park, Sunshine, 28 Days Later, Get Him to the Greek, Bridesmaids, X-Men: First Class, I Give It a Year, and Neighbors. She had a starring role in the American legal drama series, Damages, has won several acting awards, and is the face of Oroton.

Bobby is an American actor who began his career in theatre. He has had roles in television series such as Third Watch, Ally McBeal, Law and Order, Six Feet Under, Will & Grace, Cold Case, Modern Family, Boardwalk Empire, and Nurse Jackie. He has also appeared in numerous films, including The Station Agent, Snakes on a Plane, Win Win, Blue Jasmine, and Danny Collins. He and Rose have been dating since 2012.

Waltzing With … Sydney


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Sydney-Circular-Quay-2012Famous City
On Australia Day, January 26, we celebrate the start of European settlement in Australia, when the First Fleet landed at Sydney Cove in 1788. Not much was actually done on this day – the ships landed, they ran up a flag, and drank a toast to the king. Few people went onshore, and convicts did not begin disembarking until the following day.

It was on February 7 1788, 228 years ago today, that the colony was proclaimed by Governor Arthur Phillip. Everyone gathered for a ceremony where possession was formally taken of the east coast of Australia by Britain – although the description of offshore territories was left sufficiently vague that it’s possible they also took New Zealand at the same time.

They did not acknowledge the Indigenous population as owners of the land, but Governor Phillip did intend to treat them humanely and kindly. Unfortunately these good intentions didn’t work out that well in the long term, mostly due to cultural ignorance and the fact they were about to unknowingly decimate the local population with a bunch of diseases.

People love to make myths about the founding of nations and cities, and in the case of Sydney, it has a strange and salacious foundation myth. It states that when the convict women were finally allowed off the boat on February 6, there was such a burst of pent-up sexual excitement that the day ended with a drunken orgy. How an orgy works when there are many more men than women is left to our imaginations.

Male historians and writers seemed to be especially fond of this urban legend, apparently loving the idea that Sydney was founded on a hotbed of drunken gang rape. They helped spread it even when they knew it wasn’t true, because there is barely a shred of evidence to support it. The soldiers’ wives were allowed off the ships not long after their husbands, and a few hand-picked convict women on February 5.

The next day, the rest of the convict women disembarked in small groups, surprising one commentator who found them cleaner and better-dressed than expected. There were no drunken convicts, because they weren’t given any alcohol. The big event was the weather, alarming to the British but entirely normal for a Sydney summer – a hot, muggy day ended with a spectacular thunderstorm, including a massive lightning strike which killed a handful of sheep. Thankfully the sheep have been left out of the orgy legend.

There was certainly plenty of sex in early Sydney, but probably most of it was between people who were already in partnerships, or at least knew each other previously. Instead of a mass orgy, there was a burst of weddings which took place in the new colony, as people settled down together and raised families – these came quickly, as everyone appeared to get pregnant easily in Sydney, even those considered barren, so that the land seemed healthy and fertile.

That was the start of Sydney as we know it – not the boozy party town you might have thought, but still a place of love and hope, new life and fresh beginnings, myths and legends, sunshine and storms, and minor miracles. Not to mention the occasional lightning-struck sheep: surely the progenitor of the traditional lamb chop on the barbie.

Name Information
Captain Arthur Phillip’s first idea for the city’s name was New Albion, a poetic way to refer to England. However, he soon changed his mind, and named it Sydney after Thomas Townshend, Baron Sydney, who was the Home Secretary. This wasn’t a first – Sydney in Nova Scotia had been named after Townshend three years earlier.

The choice of Sydney made a lot of sense, because Thomas Townshend was recognised as the originator of the plan to colonise New South Wales (at that time, the whole eastern seaboard of Australia).

He also gave the colony its first constitution and judicial system – a sign that he did not want New South Wales to be a mere penal settlement, but a colony of free citizens under English law. Although his ideals may not have always worked out in the reality of colonisation, his determination that slavery be illegal here was at least a promising start.

Townshend had originally wanted his title to be Baron Sidney, after his ancestor Sir Algernon Sidney, the famous republican, patriot and martyr, whose revolutionary ideas would help bring about the founding of the United States.

However, Townshend worried that other family members might stake a claim to it (even barons have to worry about name stealing!), so he thought about making his title Sydenham, the name of a village near his home in Kent which is now a suburb of London.

Sydnenham may mean “Cippa’s village”, which is sometimes translated as “drunkard’s village” (there are many places in England derived from Cippa, so that adds up to a lot of drunk Anglo-Saxons!). Others prefer the less controversial “market village”.

Eventually, Thomas Townshend managed to find a compromise with Sydney. To make it clear he wasn’t trying to steal Algernon Sidney off any relatives, he said it was in honour of his ancestor Sir Robert Sidney, 1st Earl of Leicester, the brother of the poet Sir Philip Sidney, who brought us the name Stella. Sir Robert was a poet as well, a diplomat and patron of the arts in Elizabethan and Jacobean times.

In the days when people were more relaxed about spelling, the Sidney family often spelled their name Sydney. The aristocratic surname Sidney is from a place name meaning “wide island” – in this case, island refers to a dry patch in a wetland. It can also be loosely translated as “at the watermeadow”. Folk etymology connects it with the suburb of St. Denis in Paris, named after the city’s patron saint. The surname originates from Kent, where the Sidney family had a seat at Tunbridge Wells.

Sydney has been used as a personal name since at least the 16th century, and was in use by the Townshend family. The name was originally given to both sexes fairly evenly, and then gradually became more common as a girl’s name, although still given to boys. By the 19th century, the situation reversed and it became much more common for boys – a variant of Sidney, rather than a feminised form of it.

Famous people named Sydney include Sydney Smirke, the architect who designed the famous Carlton Club in London; witty author Sydney Smith, whom Henry Tilney in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is said to be based; actor Sydney Greenstreet; Sydney Silverman, the British MP whose efforts helped bring about the abolition of the death penalty in that country; American astrologer Sydney Omarr; and Hollywood director and producer Sydney Pollack.

Two famous actors named one of their children Sydney. Comic genius Sir Charles “Charlie” Chaplin had a son named Sydney, named in honour of Chaplin’s brother, actor Sydney Chaplin. Distinguished Hollywood star Sir Sidney Poitier has a daughter named Sydney, apparently named after himself. Both Sidney Earle Chaplin and Sydney Poitier entered the acting profession.

The most famous Sydney in fiction is Sydney Carton, from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Although a flawed character, he redeems himself through an act of heroism, and Dickens gives him some farewell lines that are among the most quoted in English literature.

In Australia, Sydney charted as a unisex name from 1900 to the 1960s. It peaked in the 1910s at 222 births per year, but by the 1950s registered only 4 births per year. Although recent data is hard to come by, it would seem that Sydney is still given to both sexes, with perhaps more girls with the name overall. It is in steady but unobtrusive use.

In the UK, Sydney was a popular name for boys from the 19th century until the 1940s. Since the mid-1990s, it hasn’t been popular for either sex, and consistently charts higher for girls. Currently it is in the 300s for girls, and the 800s for boys. The name peaked for both sexes in 2001, the year after the Sydney Olympics, when it was #206 for girls and #805 for boys.

In the US Sydney charted for boys steadily from the 19th century until the 1950s, after which use became sporadic. It was last on the Top 1000 as a boy’s name in 1996, and has never charted higher than the 300s.

As a girl’s name, Sydney had a burst of use from the 1930s to the 1960s, but at lower levels of use than for boys named Sydney. After coming back in the early 1980s, the name was been consistently on the Top 1000 as a girl’s name, and was a Top 100 name from 1994 to 2013. it peaked in the early 2000s at #23 (around the time of the Sydney Olympics) and is currently just outside the Top 100.

It’s interesting that even though the name Sydney came well before the city of Sydney, the city inspired the name to peak at the time of the Summer Olympics in 2000.

Sydney may have passed its Olympian peak, but this is an appealing vintage unisex name that could honour someone named Sidney, or the city of Sydney. Despite being an “American-style” name, it will always have an undeniable Australian connection.

(Picture shows Circular Quay in Sydney, the area where the First Fleet landed at Sydney Cove in 1788)

What Name For Alfie’s Brother or Sister That’s Both British and Australian?


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Samantha is originally from the UK, and is married to an Australian named James. Sammie and James are expecting their second child next month, a brother or sister for their son Alfie. They picked a name for their son which is popular in in the UK but not used as much in Australia, which has worked out well (once James’ family recovered).

Sammie would love another older-style name which sounds familiar to British ears, but isn’t too common in Australia. Sammie loves the names Ted and Reggie – however, they have friends with these names, and don’t fancy seeing them on their son as well. At one point they settled on Jude, but when they shared this with Alfie, he kept saying Judy, which put them off.

James is really keen on Clarence, with the nickname Clarry or Clary, but Sammie doesn’t like it at all. This has become something of a sore point, and James is now being very critical of any name Sammie comes up with. As a result, Clarence is still on their baby name list in order not to antagonise James.

Sammie quite likes the name Digby, but James doesn’t think you can have two sons with their names ending in an EE sound.

The middle name for a boy will be either Leonard or George, which are both family names. Sammie liked the idea of combining them as Lenny George, but James says Lenny is a “nerdy” name in Australia.

Girls names will be much easier. They had picked out the name Elsie if their first child was a girl, but now Alfie and Elsie seem a bit much together. Their favourite is Daisy, then Florence and Maisy. Sammie likes Nellie, Betsy and Nora, while James prefers Georgie and Rosie. The middle name will either be Sylvia or Norma, which are both family names.

(Sammie feels that this baby is a boy and hasn’t been too bothered about girls names, but she thought Alfie was a girl, so wasn’t well prepared with boys names last time).

Sammie and James have a surname which ends in -son, like Richardson, so they don’t want a name ending in N, such as Nathan or Hayden.

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Sammie I feel for you, because you have a natural desire to find a boys name similar to Alfie, and it doesn’t seem difficult to do – except all sorts of blocks keep being placed in your path.

The first thing to get out of the way is that the popular names in Australia and the UK aren’t that different, so looking for a name like Alfie, which is very popular in the UK yet not used that much in Australia, gives you a fairly short list of choices.

Other boys’ names which fit this pattern are Freddie, Finley/Finlay, Theo, Arthur, Harley, Reuben, Kian, Stanley, Jenson, Frankie, Teddy, Louie, Bobby, Elliott/Elliot, Dexter, Ollie, Frederick, Albert, Leon, Ronnie, Rory, Jamie, Ellis, Sonny, and Joey.

James doesn’t like the idea of another name ending in EE, so that eliminates Freddie, Finley/Finlay, Harley, Stanley, Frankie, Teddy, Louie, Bobby, Ollie, Ronnie, Rory, Jamie, Sonny, and Joey.

Some of these names seem like such perfect matches with Alfie that I wonder if James could rethink his policy? Alfie and Freddie, Alfie and Sonny, Alfie and Rory, and Alfie and Stanley seem utterly adorable, and quite manly or laddish as well, rather than cutesy.

Both of you don’t want a name ending in N, which would eliminate Reuben, Kian, Jenson, and Leon.

That leaves you with a choice of Theo, Arthur, Elliott/Elliot, Dexter, Frederick, Albert, and Ellis. Albert and Arthur could leave you with Alby or Artie as nicknames, which seem uncomfortably close to Alfie, while Elliot and Ellis have such a similar sound to Alfie that they might even be confused with it (a bit like the Elsie issue).

You’re now down to Theo, Dexter, and Frederick, all of which seem like perfectly reasonable choices. Theo seems like a good choice for someone who liked Ted, but wasn’t able to use it, and Dexter a fair alternative for someone who liked Digby but had had it vetoed.

I’m pretty sure Frederick would be shortened to Fred or Freddie/Freddy, which I think is a lovely match with Alfie. Then again, both Alfie and Freddie are nicknames for Alfred, so you might feel as if you’d given your sons the same name! If so, you now have a choice of just two names that fit your hoped-for pattern.

The other trouble is that your dear old other half is being a bit difficult. I’m wondering if he was as keen on Alfie’s name as you were when you chose it, especially as you said his family had some trouble adjusting to it. As you didn’t discuss boys names too much last time, thinking Alfie was a girl, was it a rushed decision? Did James feel that his views didn’t get enough of an airing?

I just wonder if some lingering resentment is what’s making him rather unreasonable this time around – and let’s face it, he is being unreasonable. Vetoing all boys names ending with an EE sound is extremely restrictive, and doesn’t make any sense considering that you’ve already agreed upon Daisy and Maisy for girls. I just can’t see any logic to this at all, and Digby would be an awesome match with Alfie (although it might make having a Daisy later seem less easy).

He’s also wrong that Lenny is a nerdy name in Australia – it’s not far outside the Top 100, and is a fashionable name. I know a lot of Australians who consider it an unsophisticated choice though, probably because it’s strongly connected with sport. Some prefer it as a nickname for Lennox or something similar.

On the other hand, his championing of Clarence is slightly odd, as this really does seem quite nerdy, in that it’s a vintage name which hasn’t had a comeback as yet (James is ahead of the curve). I think Clarry is rather cute, and doesn’t seem too strange a match with Alfie, but the fact is that you just don’t like it. I think it might be a bit too vintage Australian for you rather than vintage British, and as a Brit, I wonder if Clary reminds you too much of comedian Julian Clary?

Maybe this is James’ point – that Alfie was a very British-style choice, and he is pushing for a more Australian-style choice this time. If so, this isn’t an unreasonable request; he might just be expressing it in an unreasonable way.

I think the two of you need to have a talk about what you both really want. Last year we had an Australian-born woman married to an American write in to the blog who wanted a name which worked in both Australia and the US. Their first son was named Felix, a name more popular in Australia than the US, but still fashionable and rising there. They ended up naming their second son Sage, which is better known in the US than here, so they got a nice mix-and-match.

Perhaps James would also prefer a situation like that, where Alfie’s brother has more of an Australian vibe to his name. James’ love of Clarence/Clarry makes me wonder how he feels about Clancy, which has a wonderful literary history in Australia, as he is a character from a poem by Banjo Paterson. The name is not unusual here, although not common either.

Even though James says he doesn’t want a name ending in EE, he has suggested the name Clarry as a nickname for Clarence. Not only could Clancy work as a nickname for Clarence, but this suggests that James might be one of those people who prefer having a long form of a name on the birth certificate, and a nickname for everyday use.

This means that you might be able to have a cute boyish name after all – just with a longer name attached for formal use. Again, I think this is something you need to have a chat about.

I also can’t see anything wrong with Jude, and wonder if you were put off too easily by Alfie’s attempts to pronounce it. Is it really that big a deal if Alfie calls him Judy for a short while, or are you worried that it’s an unwanted nickname that will stick? Jude is a name popular and rising in both the UK and Australia, so another name like that might be a choice that works well for you.

Names I would suggest you consider, or re-consider:

Clancy possibly nn for Clarence
Frederick nn Freddie, Freddy or Fred
Theodore nn Theo
Lennox nn Lenny
Tobias nn Toby

As for girls, I think you are pretty well set. Daisy, Florence, and Maisy are all great choices that sound wonderful as a sister for Alfie. I especially like the combination Daisy Sylvia. It would be very useful if you were wrong again, and in line to have a baby girl!

Readers, what names would you suggest for Alfie’s brother or sister? And what do you think of the possible names considered?

Tommie Lissa Storm and Ziggy Darcy Danger


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Kristian and Kristiana
Posey Jean and Saige Judith (Autumn Maree)
Keith, Ali, Penelope, Tiffany and Beatrix – one boy, four girls (Kurt, Aviva, Indiana)

Airlie Grace
Alexis Vivian
Amelia Enid
Cherilyn Kunashe (Cheryl, Cherise)
Coco Cora
Courtney Nicole
Daisy Pamela (Montana)
Elke Linda
Frankie Soleil (Stella)
Harper Dominique (Isabelle)
Harriet Sadie (Lucy, Evie)
Ivy Valentine
Jayden Margaret (Sophie)
Kendall Shirley
Kiva Elizabeth
Louisa Hanna
Lucy Aster (Billy, Matilda)
Matilda Lashay (Jackson)
Mia Khaleesi
Neve Helena Jean
Olive Bloom
Poppy Lucinda (Trixie, Spencer)
Seraphina Victoria Alexia (Theadora)
Tommie Lissa Storm (Eli, twins Bonnie and Lyn-eve)

Abdullah Yusuf
Ace Riley (Justin)
Alwyn Bert (Thomas)
Archie Fox
Brayth Alexander
Chet Martin (Boston)
Christoph Petros
Corbin Flynn
Declan Jude (Annabel)
Donald Christopher (Tia, Jillian)
Easton Stephen
Indiana John (LeBron)
Izaya Gnarly
Jarahl Jarrad Jay (Jahmalakai)
Kasper Taj
Linton Johnson (Jyren, Kaileb, Tyson)
Luca Sullivan (Oliver, Georgie)
Macquarie James
Mikhail Shafari
Otto Henry Rowu
Pippin Sami “Pip” (Jack, Charlie, Sandy)
Reuben Kenneth
Rogan Rudi
Timothy Lorenz (Lily)
Ziggy Darcy Danger

Thank you to The Name Game for one of the twin sets.

(Picture shows a summer storm over Bondi; photo from ABC)

Name Update: Ooh, It’s Lewis!




Cassandra and Jason were expecting a sibling for their daughter, and quickly settled on a name for a baby girl. However, their 20 week scan showed that they were about to welcome a baby boy instead. With no boys names chosen, Cassandra wrote in to the blog for ideas.

Cassandra and Jason selected several different possible names, and didn’t choose one name until after the baby arrived. Their son was born a few weeks ago and his name is


brother to Daisy.

Cassandra and Jason have a surname like Bloomer, and didn’t want a name with an OO sound in it. Several blog readers wrote in to say that they liked the name Lewis, and thought it sounded nice with their surname, so I’m happy to see that they decided it wasn’t a problem after all.

Congratulations to Cassandra and Jason on the birth of Lewis! Lewis Banks is not only very handsome, but makes a wonderful match with Daisy.

Requested Name: Iden


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Iden is an English surname which comes from the village of Iden near Rye in East Sussex, whose name in Old English means “woodland pasture where yew trees grow”. The Iden family were once Lords of the Manor in this village, Anglo-Normans who took their surname from the village.

A famous member of the Iden family is Alexander Iden, a medieval High Sheriff of Kent. He is a character in William Shakespeare’s historical play Henry IV, where he puts down a rebellion almost by accident and is knighted for his good deed.

Iden has been used as a first name since the Middle Ages, and was strongly associated with Sussex and Kent (where there is a hamlet named Iden Green). It was originally almost entirely feminine in usage, most likely because it looks and sounds very much like the name Idunn.

This is the name of a Norse goddess of spring, whose name is conjectured to mean something like “one who rejuvenates”, to indicate immortality and ever-youthfulness. In medieval England, the name was Anglicised to Idonae, Idony, and Idonea (the last one coinciding with the Latin for “suitable”). You could therefore see Iden as another attempt to Anglicise the name.

The gender ratio of Iden gradually evened up, and by the 18th century was significantly more common as a boy’s name, although still given to both sexes. It’s interesting that even in the 19th century, births of Idens in England were still strongly tied to Sussex and Kent, showing a local appeal to the name.

Probably the most famous person with the name is the Shakespearean actor and director B. Iden Payne. He went to the United States just before the First World War, and had a successful career as a director and drama teacher, working on Broadway and in the academic world. He finished his career at the University of Texas, and they have a theatre and acting award named in his honour.

Iden has been used as a character name on Star Trek. In the series Iden, played by Jeff Yagher, is a highly intelligent hologram who tries to defend and save his fellow holograms. In the process, he develops a Messiah complex, which leads to his downfall.

Another science fiction connection is the popular time-travelling cyborg novel In the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker. In the story, the garden of the title belongs to Sir Robert Iden, a 16th century owner of a country manor house.

Nineteenth century English author Richard Jeffries also had a “garden of Iden” in his novel Amaryllis at the Fair. In it, Mr Iden turns his garden into a miniature paradise, with his daughter Amaryllis as its loveliest bloom. The rich prose and detailed descriptions make this a treasure for garden lovers.

The name Iden has never been common, and in Australia just a few examples can be found in historical records, mostly in the middle. I only saw it as a man’s name, but one or two women had it as a middle name.

The name is in occasional use in the UK, and in 2014 5 boys were named Iden. In the US, 42 boys were named Iden in 2014, and numbers appear to be increasing. The name does not seem to be in use for girls in the English-speaking world, despite the name starting out as feminine. Yet another example which shows that names do not always go from male to female when they switch gender.

Iden isn’t a common name, but neither is it bizarre or unfamiliar, and it has a significant history as a first name. Even for people who aren’t aware of the name Iden, it sounds enough like commoner names such as Aiden, Eden, and Arden not to sound too strange (there’s also Idan, a Hebrew name for boys).

On the flipside, its similarity to other names mean that it might be confused with them. Likewise, its deceptively easy pronunciation (IE-den, so the first syllable sounds like the word eye) will no doubt cause a certain amount of misunderstandings.

Short and simple, Iden is a medieval name that sounds completely modern and even space-age. It travels well, and works cross-culturally, because the name Iden is used in several other languages and countries.

I’ve seen quite a few people considering the name Iden, and can see it increasing in use, especially if it becomes more of a favourite in popular culture.

Thank you to V for requesting the name Iden be featured on Waltzing More Than Matilda.

(Photo shows a view of countryside near Iden, East Sussex)

Baby, Where Did You Get That Name?


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On January 6 Selene Garton and Brendan Winter, from southern Queensland, welcomed their son in alarming circumstances. He arrived unexpectedly at home with no time to get to a hospital, and was a breech birth, being born feet first. They rang 000, and during a 17 minute phone call, the emergency medical dispatcher gave them soothing instructions on how to deliver the baby until the paramedics arrived. Selene and Brendan have named their son Izaya Gnarly to indicate the “gnarly” start he had in life, but he will be called Gnarly. I think if you want to give your child a very unusual name, that’s a good way to do it – put it in the middle, and then call them by their middle name.

When Kylee and Robbie Wieczorek from central Queensland knew that they were expecting a baby boy, they involved their seven-year-old son Owen in the name choosing process. Owen suggested the fairly awesome Thor Captain America Ironman, but his parents just laughed in a “kids say the darnedest things” sort of way. However, the name stuck, and once the baby arrived, Thor seemed both strong and different, so Owen’s choice prevailed. They dispensed with the suggested middle names, and Thor’s middle name is Cecil, after his great-grandfather. Owen may not mind that his middle name suggestions were ignored, as he is adoring having a baby brother.

Parker Bowman, aged 4, also loves being a big brother to his baby sister, Lennon Adelaide [pictured]. Their mum Marette Kiernan heard someone call out to their child Lennon on a beach in Florida, and decided she liked the name, while Adelaide is after Marette’s grandmother (dad Andrew hated the name Lennon at first, but seems to have come around). Parker has given his sister a cute nickname: Lemonade.

Natalie and Samuel from Terrigal have a baby boy named Iver, named after their favourite band, Bon Iver. They looked the name up and read it was a Scandinavian boy’s name meaning “archer” (which is said AYV-er). However, the American band’s name is French for “good winter”, and the Iver (winter) part is said ee-VAIR. I’m not sure whether Iver’s name is said the Scandinavian way, the French way, or like Ivor.

More unexpected honouring: Sarah and Jarrad Cook from Geelong wanted to name their son after their favourite AFL footballer, Daniel Menzel. Daniel wasn’t distinctive enough, so their baby son is named Menzel, and he has already met his famous namesake. Menzel is a German surname which is a pet form of Menz, short for names such as Herman and Clemens. You might recall the difficulties John Travolta had with the name of the actress Idina Menzel, from Frozen. Let’s hope no one similarly mangles Menzel’s name.

And another name honouring a sporting hero: Cassie and Kris Pyper from Kurnell in Sydney named their son Maximus John John, after the Hawaiian surfer John John Florence, because Kris is a keen surfer himself. Florence’s name is actually just John, but his mother called him John John after John F. Kennedy Jr, the son of JFK. Aptly, John John Florence is renowned for surfing the huge waves of the Banzai Pipeline often just called the Pipe), so there’s a connection with the Pyper surname.

Dimity and Michael Hand from Sydney’s northern beaches have a baby girl named Zaelia. Dimity picked out the name Zaelia when she was a little girl, because her childhood best friend had a wonderful grandmother named Zaelia. Dimity thinks that Zaelia is derived from Azalea and means “little flower”, but it’s actually a Latin American pet form of Rosalia. However, that still gives it a flowery meaning. Dimity also believes Zaelia isn’t influenced by trends, although it’s right on trend because of Zali and Zalia.

Ina and Dave Mills from the Northern Beaches welcomed their third child late last year. They already had a daughter named Ruby and a son named Roki, and hadn’t picked out a name before the birth. However, there was a painting of a caravan called Ruby and Rosie just outside the delivery room, and they took that as a sign, so their daughter is named Rosie Bea. Why Bea? Because she was meant to be, of course!

Carmen and Adrian Longmuir from Gladstone welcomed their sixth child last year and named him Tyz, said to rhyme with rise. Adrian chose the name because Tyz will be their last child, and he “ties up” the family nicely. The meaning has special poignancy because Tyz’s brother Kash passed away a year before.

Quinn and Ivy Palmer from Adelaide may look like twins, but these baby girls are actually triplets – their sister, the smallest triplet, died while still in the womb. Parents Emma-May and Jim named the third triplet Aurora, because she is their “Sleeping Beauty”.


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