The Rally Australia Round of the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship will begin in Coffs Harbour in a few months, and tickets have just gone on sale for this event. FIA stands for the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body of many racing events. FIA are the initials of several organisations: Fundraising Institute of Australia, Fitness Institute Australia, Foodservice Industry Association, Finance and Insurance Brokers Australia, and Floating Islands Australasia.
Those three little letters also spell out a name: Fia. (Yeah okay, it’s a little contrived. Just go with it).
Fia is one of those names whose origin is difficult to ascertain, or which may have multiple origins. This isn’t uncommon with names that are exceptionally short and simple, but it does make it difficult to research, and my findings are going to involve a certain amount of supposition.
The earliest I can find Fia in historical records is around the 18th century, across central and eastern Europe, later moving north to Scandinavia. The most likely explanation is that Fia was used as a short form of a longer name, and, considering names common to all the countries involved, my guess would be that it is short for Sofia (in fact I have seen quite a few Europeans online named Sofia with Fia as their user name).
Fia isn’t often found in the English-speaking world until the late 19th century, and turns up in the United States amongst immigrants from the aforesaid European countries.
In Australian records, Fia is found very rarely, and associated with both Italian and Samoan immigrants. The Italian is interesting, because the most common explanation of Fia is that it is short for the medieval Italian name Fiammetta, which comes from the Italian word for “fire”. From the records of Italian immigrants to the US, I see Fia used as an abbreviation of Fiorella, meaning “little flower”, although Fia could still be short for Sofia in Italy (it is currently #1 there).
In Samoa, Fia is a common unisex short form of any name beginning or ending with fia. An example is AFL footballer Fia Tootoo, whose entire name is Fiatupu To’oto’o. A Samoan girls name that ends with -fia is Tausa’afia, which means “pleasant, lovable”; Fia can be used as the nickname.
There are two other theories I have read about the origin of Fia that are worth mentioning. One is that it is Scottish Gaelic, and originates from the medieval name Duibhshíth, which has been translated as “black fairy”. The other is that it is short for the medieval Irish name Fiachna, meaning “raven”, or related to fiadh, the Old Irish word for “deer” (originally any game animal).
I don’t find these theories very convincing, mostly because Duibhshíth and Fiachna are male names, and fiadh is also a masculine noun. I wasn’t able to find many women named Fia in Scotland or Ireland in historical records, and the very few I found may have been transcription errors, or abbreviations for longer names, such as Fionnuala. It would be strange for a genuinely Gaelic name to be so absent from Scotland or Ireland.
It would seem that in the English-speaking world, Fia is a modern name, and most likely began as a short form of Sofia. We may have lost touch with its origins due to the vagaries of immigration, and the name’s rarity.
If you are wondering how rare Fia is: there were 28 baby girls named Fia in the United States in 2012, 10 baby girls with the name born in the UK in 2010, and Fia doesn’t show up in Australian data at all. That’s very rare.
Fia is a neat, simple little name which would make a great alternative to popular Sofia and Mia, is a handy nickname for anything from Fiorella to Fiona to Seraphina, and which seems very multicultural. Its dearth of history and namesakes mean that it’s a baggage-free name, with few issues attached, and its rarity ensures that people don’t have a ready image to attach to its bearers.
However, if you are looking for an authentic Gaelic name to honour your Scottish or Irish heritage, I suggest you keep looking. I don’t think this is it.
Thank you to Celia for suggesting the name Fia to be featured on Waltzing More Than Matilda.
Amy is the English form of the Old French name Amée, meaning “beloved”; it’s a form of the Latin name Amata. It was in use in the Middle Ages, and revived in the 19th century. Amy was #32 in the 1900s, and by the following decade had sunk to #58, leaving the Top 100 in the 1920s. Amy disappeared from the charts between 1940 and 1960, but soared in popularity to make the Top 100 in the 1970s, and peaked in the 1980s at #8; by the 1990s it had only dropped one place. Amy had a very gentle decline, and left the Top 100 in 2011, but last year rallied and made #89, showing that there is life in this name yet. No wonder Amy has remained such a favourite – it’s a simple, unpretentious name with a nice meaning, and possesses appealing fictional namesakes from Little Women‘s Amy March to Doctor Who‘s Amelia “Amy” Pond.
Enid is a Welsh name meaning “soul”. In medieval Welsh legend, Enid is the wife of Geraint, a warrior king who is one of King Arthur’s men. Due to a silly misunderstanding, Geraint believes Enid has been unfaithful, and drags her off on a dangerous journey where she is not allowed to speak to him. Sensible Enid ignores this request, as she often has to warn him of approaching danger. Somehow this road trip from hell doesn’t put Enid off her husband, and in the end the two lovebirds are reconciled. Lord Tennyson turned the legend into two poems for his Idylls of the King, which brought the name to the attention of literature-loving Victorians. Enid was #64 in the 1900s, #49 for the 1910s, and peaked in the 1920s at #40. It left the Top 100 in the 1940s, and hasn’t charted since the 1950s. The most famous Australian Enid is Dame Enid Lyons, the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Strong yet sweet, and sounding like an anagram of Eden, this is a clunky old-style name which deserves revival.
Gertrude is a Germanic name meaning “spear of strength”. It was used amongst medieval German nobility and royalty, and Saint Gertrude was one of the great mystics of the 13th century. The name probably didn’t become well known in Britain until the 15th century, due to immigration from the Netherlands. Shakespeare used it for the Danish queen in Hamlet, giving it a stamp of approval as an English name. The name seems to have been more common in Australia amongst Catholics, due to its saintly namesake. Gertrude was #54 in the 1900s, #87 in the 1910s, and had left the Top 100 by the 1920s. It hasn’t charted since the 1930s – a very steep decline. However, I feel that this dignified name could have a slight revival, and would make a very hip and cutting-edge choice. The nicknames Gertie and Trudy seem cute and usable.
Helen is a name of Greek derivation whose meaning has been much debated. Often translated as “light”, “torch” or “the shining one”, the name may be related to a Sanskrit name meaning “swift”. The name is forever connected to its original namesake, Helen of Troy, a woman of staggering beauty. In Greek mythology, Helen was the daughter of Zeus, who came to her mother Leda in the guise of a swan, so that Helen was born from an egg. Married to King Menelaus of Sparta, she was carried off by Prince Paris of Troy, sparking the Trojan War to avenge her abduction, causing no end of trouble for all involved. Famous Helens include singer Helen Reddy, novelist Helen Garner, and opera star Dame Helen “Nellie” Melba. Helen has never left the charts; #77 in the 1900s, it was #71 in the 1910s and peaked in the 1940s at #4. A long-time favourite, it didn’t leave the Top 100 until the 1980s. It reached its lowest point in 2009 at #554, and since then has taken a slight upward turn, making #355 in 2011. With names such as Eleanor and Elena gaining rapidly in popularity, and retro nicknames Nell and Nellie becoming fashionable, classic Helen looks like it has plenty of room for growth.
Joan is the English form of the Old French name Johanne, a feminine form of Johannes, which is the Latin form of the Greek name Ioannes, from the Hebrew name Yehochanan, meaning “Yahweh is gracious”. The English form of Johannes is John, and Joan is also a Spanish form of John. Joan was introduced to Britain by the Normans, and it was used amongst royalty and the nobility during the Middle Ages. Later it became less common, and had a revival in the 19th century. It is well known from Saint Joan of Arc, the visionary military leader, whose French name is Jeanne d’Arc. Famous Joans include Joan Lindsay, who wrote Picnic at Hanging Rock and opera star Dame Joan Sutherland. Joan was #152 for the 1900s, shot up to make #28 for the 1910s, and peaked in the 1920s at #2. It didn’t leave the Top 100 until the 1960s, and hasn’t been on the charts since the 1970s. For many years, Joan’s image was stout and sensible, but since Mad Men came to our TV screens, Joan Holloway has given it a stylish and sassy edge.
Mavis is an English dialect word meaning “song thrush”; it is related to the French word mauvis and appears in literature as a poetic word for the bird. The word was in rare use as a girl’s name, but massively popularised by its use in Marie Corelli’s 1895 novel, The Sorrows of Satan. Although panned by the critics, it is considered the world’s first best-seller. Mavis was #85 in the 1900s, #16 by the 1910s, and peaked in the 1920s at #14. It left the Top 100 in the 1940s, and hasn’t charted since the 1950s. Mavis seems to have been a real Australian favourite, because it was more popular here than in Britain, and much more popular than in the US. In the 1960s, pioneering TV series, The Mavis Bramston Show, set the tone for Australian sketch comedy (a “Mavis Bramston” was theatre slang for an actress who was a pain in the backside). Australian band The Mavis’s were named after a cat. Mavis was a fresh, pretty name in the 1910s, and I think it can be again. It sounds very much like Maeve, and its associations with spring time and bird song are lovely.
Minnie can be used as a short form of many different names – Mary, Amelia, Wilhelmina, Minerva, Hermione, or anything similar – and has long been used as an independent name. Famous fictional Minnies include Disney sweetheart Minnie Mouse, the Beano‘s tomboyish Minnie the Minx, and Cab Calloway’s jazzy Minnie the Moocher. These lively vintage creations make Minnie seem appealing, mischievous and off-beat; you can’t imagine a Minnie being tame or dull. Minnie was #56 in the 1900s, and by the 1910s was #100; it hasn’t ranked since the 1940s. With other vintage nicknames like Millie in vogue, piquant Minnie seems more than ready for a comeback.
Olga is the Russian form of the Scandinavian name Helga, meaning “holy, blessed”. Saint Olga was a 10th century Russian saint and princess, and the first Russian ruler to convert to Christianity. She didn’t convert until she was quite elderly, and before that she was a fierce ruler and brutal military leader. The name Olga was used by the Russian imperial family, and Mount Olga in the Northern Territory is named after Queen Olga of Württemberg, a daughter of Nicholas I of Russia. Olga was #88 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1910s at #60. It left the Top 100 in the 1930s, and last charted in the 1980s. I am not sure why Olga became such a trend in this decade; I can only think it had something to do with the Russian Imperial Family, who would have often been in the news during World War I, and who were overthrown in 1917. Today we might connect the name to actress Olga Kurylenko, who played Bond girl Camille in Quantum of Solace and recently appeared in Oblivion. On Nancy’s Baby Names, people debated whether Olga was a “horrid” name; although some find it ugly, others could find it clunky and hip. This would be a bold choice which still seems exotic.
Stella is the Latin for “star”, and it was created as a name by 16th century poet Sir Philip Sydney in his sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella. It is believed that Stella was inspired by real-life noblewoman Lady Penelope Rich, so endowed with dark-eyed, golden-haired beauty that it was practically mandatory for the poets of the day to fall in love with her (or pretend to), and dash off poems in her honour. Apparently unmoved by their literary efforts, she instead chose as her lover a handsome, wealthy and ruthless baron. Perhaps Sydney saw Lady Rich like a distant star – beautiful, glittering, cold, and unattainable. Stella wouldn’t have seemed too crazy as a name, because the Old French name Estelle is based on the Latin stella, and had been in use since the Middle Ages, and the Virgin Mary had for centuries been known as Stella Maris (“Star of the Sea”). Stella is a classic name in Australia. It was #48 in the 1900s, and #70 in the 1910s; by the 1920s it had left the Top 100. It reached its lowest point in the 1980s at #563, and since then has mostly climbed, reaching the Top 100 in the late 2000s. It is currently #52 in New South Wales, and still rising. You can understand why parents continue to use this pretty, star-like name, which fits in with the trend for -ella names.
Veronica is a Latin form of the Greek name Berenice, which means “bringing victory”; the spelling was altered to make it seem as if it was based on the Latin phrase vera icon, meaning “true icon”. Saint Veronica is a legendary saint who is said to have been so moved to pity when she saw Jesus on his way to Calvary that she wiped his face with her veil. By a miracle, the image of his face was impressed upon it, and this cloth could then be used to heal the sick, or even bring the dead back to life. This legend, which comes from the Eastern church, was very popular in the Middle Ages, and several of these veils were venerated as holy relics until their cult was suppressed. Veronica was first used as a girl’s name in Italy, and spread from there. In Australia, Veronica was #63 for the 1900s and #69 for the 1910s; it didn’t leave the Top 100 until the 1950s. It has never stopped charting, and is currently at its lowest point yet – #356. Veronica has something of a glamorous image. Hollywood femme fatale Veronica Lake lent her name to Veronica Lodge from the Archie comics, with the comics themselves suggesting that “a Veronica” was a stunning high-maintenance girl. This was picked up by 1980s mean girls cult flick Heathers, with Winona Ryder as Veronica, and Australian girl band The Veronicas called themselves after Ryder’s character. This is an underused classic which seems sophisticated, with dark undertones.
(Photo is of Australian World War I nurses; standing at the back on the right is Sister Constance Keys, who was mentioned in the post on Gallipoli. These nurses received military decorations for their heroism, and all made it back to Australia at the end of the war)
On Monday March 25, it will be the Feast of the Annunciation, which celebrates the angel Gabriel announcing to the Virgin Mary that she will conceive a son; Gabriel also tells her that the child is to be called Jesus. This was staggering enough news, but the big shock for her was that this would happen through the Holy Spirit and not via the usual route to conception.
This is the story told in Luke, while Matthew tells the story from a different angle. According to this gospel, Mary found herself pregnant and her betrothed, Joseph, was considering breaking things off. But then an angel came to him in a dream, and explained the situation to him.
Although the Bible doesn’t say so, it’s generally assumed that this angel was also Gabriel. Further assumptions are that he was the angel who appeared to the shepherds at the Nativity, and the one who came to Jesus to give him strength as he prayed in the garden before the Crucifixion.
The Feast of the Annunciation is held nine months before Christmas, to symbolise the length of a pregnancy. It is also called Lady Day, and until 1752, it was New Year’s Day in Britain. It’s obviously a hard habit to break, because in the UK they still start the financial year on April 6, which is Lady Day on the old (Julian) calendar.
The Annunciation isn’t Gabriel’s first appearance in the Bible, or even in the New Testament. In the Book of Daniel he interprets Daniel’s visions for him, and earlier in the Gospel of Luke he appears to Zachariah, a priest, and the husband of the Virgin Mary’s kinswoman. He tells Zachariah that his wife Elizabeth, for many years barren, would bear a son named John; this would be John the Baptist, who was to prepare the way for Jesus.
According to Islamic teachings, the angel Gabriel dictated the Koran to Muhammad, and led him on his “Night Journey”, or great spiritual vision of the heavens. So the angel is important to all three Abrahamic religions.
There is a tradition that Gabriel will blow his trumpet to announce Judgement Day, which comes from John Milton’s Paradise Lost. In Jewish legend, Gabriel is said to pluck new souls from the Tree of Life so that they may be conceived as new babies. So you can see Gabriel as both the beginning and end of Life – although the end is only to make way for a new beginning.
Gabriel is the English form of the Hebrew name Gavri’el, which is variously interpreted as “man of God”, “strong man of God”, “hero of God”, “champion of God”, “warrior of God”, or “strength of God”. The image you get from it is of a mighty being, using their immense strength to serve God. In the Old Testament, words such as great, might, power and strength are used to describe Gabriel, and in Jewish tradition he is an angel of judgement and punishment.
However, Christian tradition sees Gabriel differently. As he appears in the New Testament to bring people news of great joy, and to bring comfort to those burdened by great worry, he is viewed as an angel of mercy and consolation.
Angels are spiritual beings, not physical, so they cannot be said to have a sex, although in the Bible they always take on the appearance of human males when communicating with people. However, you might say that in Jewish tradition, Gabriel gives off a very masculine “energy”, while Christians get more of a feminine “vibe” from the angel. (If you doubt this, consider how many Nativity plays you’ve seen where a female plays the role of the announcing angel).
Because of this certain level of gender ambiguity, Gabriel has, for centuries, sometimes been used as a female name in the English-speaking world, and in fact Tom Waterhouse’s mother, the horse trainer Gai Waterhouse, is named Gabriel (in case you were wondering what Gai was short for). There are also specifically feminine forms of the name we have imported from other languages, such as French Gabrielle and Italian Gabriella.
The name Gabriel has charted in Australia since the 1960s, and joined the Top 100 in 2001 at #97. I’m not sure if this was an influence, but it joined the Top 100 a year after the movie The Patriot came out, starring Australian actor Heath Ledger as Gabriel Martin. It peaked in 2009 at #60, and since then has been on a decline. Last year it made #88.
Two feminine forms of the name have been more successful. Gabrielle has charted since the 1920s, and joined the Top 100 in the 1990s, when it peaked at #49. It left the Top 100 in 2010, and in 2011 was at #111, still only just outside the Top 100.
Gabriella has charted since the 1940s, but didn’t begin really climbing until the 1980s. It joined the Top 100 in 2006 at #89 (there were just as many baby girls named Gabriella as Gabrielle that year). It peaked the same year as Gabriel, in 2009, and only one place higher, at #59. However, its decline has been more gentle, and last year it made #71.
I do think the greater success of Gabrielle and Gabriella has not been helpful to the popularity of the male name Gabriel. I have noticed that many people hear the name Gabriel as Gabrielle, or think that the two names are so alike as to make Gabriel sound “feminine”. I have to admit this annoys me, because I much prefer Gabriel to either of his sister-names.
Gabriel seems to be more appealing to mothers as a baby name than it is to fathers, with many women complaining that their partner strongly vetoed the name Gabriel for their sons, even as a middle name.
I think it might suffer a little from what we might call The Valentino Factor – women are more likely to find the name Gabriel handsome, charming and even sexy, while men are more likely to find it foofy and irritatingly ornate.
Another issue is the nickname, because the standard shortening is Gabe, and many parents dislike it. Some worry it sounds too much like the word gay or the word babe, others think that it sounds dim-witted or redneck, and others just find it ugly.
It would be easy to suggest some other nickname, but chances are he’s going to get called Gabe once he leaves the house anyway, if he gets a nickname at all. Personally I don’t think Gabriel needs any nickname.
Gabriel is a beautiful, indeed, a heavenly name. It’s a name of great masculinity and strength, yet at the same time has a wonderful sweet tenderness as well. One thing that occurs to me is that there is a theme of the angel Gabriel bringing joyful news of unexpected pregnancies, and a miraculous childbirth. I think it would make a great name for someone expecting a baby they never thought they would ever have, a baby which defied all logic to make his way into the world.
For those who never thought their miracle baby would ever arrive, Gabriel says, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy!
(Picture shows The Annunciation on a window at St Mary’s Church, Denville, New Jersey)
Angelo is the Italian form of the Latin name Angelus, meaning “angel”. The Angelus is a Christian devotion, which traditionally involves praying three times a day, accompanied by the the ringing of church bells. It was common during the Middle Ages, so the name can be seen as after the prayer as much as after the heavenly creature. Angels are mentioned in the Old Testament as spiritual beings who bring communications from God; the word angel is derived from the Greek for “messenger”. Angels play a much bigger role in the New Testament, where they make several important announcements, including the birth and resurrection of Christ. A famous Italian named Angelo was Father Angelo Secchi, a 19th century astronomer and one of the first scientists to state that the sun is a star. Cricket fans know the name well from Angelo Matthews, the Sri Lankan captain. The name is rarely used in Australia, where angel-type names for boys aren’t common – even though angels are traditionally masculine. However, singer Adele welcomed a baby boy last year, rumoured to be named Angelo, and this may be a help. The Italian and English pronunciation are very similar – AHN-jel-oh and AN-jel-oh.
Dante is a short form of Durante, the Italian form of the Latin name Durans, meaning “enduring”. Its most famous namesake is undoubtedly medieval Italian poet, Dante degli Alighieri, nearly always known by his first name only. His Divine Comedy is considered the greatest work of Italian literature, and in Italy he is known as il Poeto (“the Poet”), just as Shakespeare is called The Bard in England. He is famous for his adoration of Beatrice, a girl he knew only slightly and who died in her twenties; he plays an important role in the literature of “courtly love”. Dante is a name which seems to be gaining more use in recent years, perhaps because of the number of fictional characters named Dante on TV and in video games. I see this handsome name quite a bit in birth notices, and have met a number of small boys named Dante, from a variety of backgrounds. The Italian pronunciation is DAHN-tay, and this is commonly used in Australia, but I have heard it said DAN-tay as well.
Eduardo is the Italian form of the English name Edward. The name is used in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries as well, where it is much more popular than in Italy – it is a Top 100 name in Spain and Chile. Famous Italians include actor, playwright and screenwriter Eduardo De Filippo; songwriter Eduardo di Capua, who composed the famous song O Sole Mio; and quantum physicist and cyberneticist Eduardo Caianiello(all these Eduardos were from Naples). The name is pronounced ed-WARD-oh, with the ward part rhyming with hard rather than horde. Last year, Australian soccer player Vince Grella welcomed a son named Eduardo, and so far it’s the only celebrity baby boy’s name which has been rated as “perfect” by blog readers.
Lorenzo is the Italian form of the Roman name Laurentius, which means “from Laurentum”; Laurentum was an ancient city in Italy, south of Rome, and its name probably comes from the laurel, or bay tree. Laurel wreaths were used by the Romans as a symbol of victory. The English form of the name is Laurence. One of the most famous Italian namesakes is Lorenzo de Medici, known as Lorenzo the Magnificent. A Florentine ruler during the Renaissance, he was famed for presiding over Florence’s Golden Age, and for being a great patron of the arts. Lorenzo’s grandson also bore his name; he is best known for being the ruler to whom Machiavelli dedicated his practical political handbook, The Prince. Lorenzo has been in the Top 5 in Italy for several years, and is currently #4; it’s also Top 100 in France. The Italian pronunciation is loh-REN-tso, and in English it’s pretty much the same except we say the final syllable -zo. Reality TV star Snooki, from Jersey Shore, welcomed a baby boy named Lorenzo last year. Possible nicknames include Enzo, Ren, Renzo and Zo.
Luca is the Italian equivalent of the name Luke, derived from the Greek name Loukas, meaning “from Lucania”. Lucania was an ancient district of southern Italy, and the name comes from the tribe of the Lucani who inhabited the area. One theory is that the tribe’s name comes from the Greek word for “wolf”; another that it means “sacred wood” in Latin. A famous Italian with this name is medieval sculptor Luca della Robbia; another is Fra Luca de Pacioli, a mathematician and Franciscan friar who worked with Leonardo da Vinci. You may also know the name from Luca Cordero di Montezemolo who is chairman of Ferrari. Luca is incredibly popular internationally: it is #12 in Italy, and also makes the Top 100 in the UK, Scotland, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. It has charted in Australia since the 1980s, and joined the Top 100 in the late 2000s; currently it is #79. You will sometimes see Luca described as a unisex name, and that’s because it is also the Hungarian form of Lucia, and is #10 for girls in Hungary. However, the two names are pronounced differently – the Italian boy’s name is said LOO-kah, while the Hungarian girl’s name is said LOO-tsah.
Massimo is the Italian form of Maximus, a Roman family name derived from the Latin for “greatest”. There is a very old and noble Roman family named Massimo, and they claim to be descended from the Maximi family of ancient Rome, including the famous general Fabius Maximus. This cannot be proven, as the family history only goes back about a thousand years, but what’s on the record is impressive enough. Extremely rich and influential, great patrons of the arts, they have produced numerous cardinals, ambassadors, politicians and military leaders, and have married into some of the most important royal houses of Europe, so that the family now bears a princely title. Massimo is one of the most common Italian boy’s names I see in birth notices, with Massi the usual nickname. It is pronounced mahs-SEE-mo.
Orlando is the Italian form of Roland, a Germanic name meaning “famous land” or perhaps “fame of his country”. According to history, Roland was a Frankish military commander in Charlemagne’s army, responsible for defending France against the Bretons; he died in a skirmish against the Basques after Charlemagne was defeated in a battle against Islamic forces. His death must have captured people’s imaginations, because while history says very little about Roland, legend says much. His life became an epic drama about a great nobleman of royal blood who dies in battle, defending his land and faith from Muslims. Just in case this seemed a bit tame, legend gave him a magic sword and threw in a giant, and the story was a massive medieval minstrel-sung hit all across western Europe. In Italy, he not only appears in Dante’s Divine Comedy, but starred in a whole line of epics as Orlando. The most famous of these is Orlando Furioso (it basically means Crazy Orlando) by Ludovico Ariosto. As the title suggests, Orlando goes doolally from unrequited love of a pagan princess and gallops around the world in a frenzy. There’s wizards and hippogriffs and sea monsters and a trip to the moon involved, and the story was hugely influential in European literature. We know this name well from actor Orlando Bloom, married to Miranda Kerr, and since their wedding I see this attractive name regularly in birth notices. The Italian pronunciation is or-LAHN-do, and the English or-LAND-oh.
Saint Rocco is an Italian saint who was born a nobleman but came to Rome on a pilgrimage. Turning up while the city was suffering from a plague, he spent his time tending the sick. When he succumbed himself, he was banished from populated areas, but miraculously provided with water, and a dog who brought him food and licked his wounds, which cured him. Returning home, he was thrown into prison as a spy and died, refusing to reveal his noble identity. However, he was recognised by a cross-shaped birthmark, and canonised as a saint by popular acclaim. When the Black Death swept through Europe, it was said that this plague could be averted by praying to Saint Rocco, and when a town was apparently spared in this manner, his popularity went through the roof. Although his cult had begun in northern Italy, it soon spread across Europe; in France his name became Roch, in Spain Roque, and in England, Rock. You’d be forgiven for thinking Rocco had something to do with rocks, but it’s an ancient Germanic name meaning “rest”, and pronounced ROK-ko. Even though the Black Death isn’t such a worry any more, Saint Rocco is still popular as a healer of the sick and patron of dogs. Rocco has charted in Australia since the 1940s, hitting a peak in the 1960s at #193. Since the early 2000s, when Madonna welcomed her son Rocco, it has been climbing steeply and is currently #228. Expect to hear more of this cute yet macho name in the future.
Romeo is the Italian form of the Latin name Romaeus, meaning “pilgrim to Rome”. When we hear the name Romeo, we think of the young and ardent lover from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, whose pubescent romance goes so tragically wrong. Shakespeare’s plot wasn’t original – he based it on retellings of 16th century Italian romances, and in turn, these used the story of Pyramus and Thisbe from Roman mythology as inspiration. However, one of the Italian authors, Luigi Da Porto, fell for an enchanting young woman at a ball and she returned his feelings; things never got off the ground because their families were feuding. By the time he had the chance to write about Romeus and Giulietta in Verona, the object of his desire had been married off to someone else. His version of the story, including the principals’ names, proved enduring – perhaps because it had the personal touches of someone who has loved and lost. Romeo is such an ultra-romantic name that it’s used as an epithet for any male lover. David and Victoria Beckham welcomed their son Romeo in 2002, giving this name some star appeal as well. We say it RO-mee-oh, but we know the Italian pronunciation of ro-MAY-oh from the car manufacture, Alfa Romeo.
Valentino is the Italian form of the Latin name name Valentinus, the saint of lovers, also called Valentine. It got an extra helping of Latin Loverboyishess from Italian actor Rudolph Valentino, a seductive sex symbol and star of the silent screen. He made women swoon, and men snipe at his annoying amount of attractiveness. The gals screamed with desire during his movies; the guys stormed out in disgust and threw hissy fits. We know the name well from Italian motorcycle racer and MotoGP World Champion, Valentino Rossi, giving this name quite a sporty image as well. I don’t know if it’s because of Rossi, but I do see the name Valentino quite often in birth notices, where it seems to be especially popular in the middle position.
Italian-Australians are the largest ethnic group in Australia after those of British and Irish heritage, and about a million people identify as having Italian ancestry – around 5% of the population. The first Italian migrants arrived in the 19th century (Australia’s first police officer was an Italian), but immigration soared after World War II. They have made an incalculable contribution to Australia’s economy and culture, with noteworthy Italians in business, politics, sport, the arts and entertainment. It’s not that I can’t imagine Australia without an Italian history; it’s just that imagining such an Australia appals me.
This is a selection of Italian names for girls which I think are usable in Australia, whether you have Italian ancestry or not.
Alessandra is the feminine form of Alessandro, the Italian form of Alexander. Alessandra has been popular in Italy for many years, remaining in the Top 10 throughout the 1970s. It is still in the Top 100 today, and has only recently slipped off the Top 30. I see many instances of this name in birth notices, particularly in families with Italian surnames (although not exclusively). Not only is it the Italian form of the popular Alexandra, but is well known due to Brazilian supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio, who is of part-Italian descent. It is also an Australian celebrity baby name, since Casey Stoner and his wife Adriana welcomed their daughter Alessandra Maria last year. This pretty name is an Italian modern classic, and the Italian pronunciation is ahl-e-SAHN-dra, although I suspect many Australians would say it more like al-uh-SAN-dra. Nicknames abound, including Allie, Alessa, Alessia and Lissa, and it is one of the names tipped to rise in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Arianna is the Italian form of the Greek name Ariadne, meaning “most holy, utterly pure”. In Greek mythology, Ariadne was a princess of Crete, the daughter of King Minos, and helped the hero Theseus escape from the Minotaur (Ariadne’s monstrous half-brother). The two of them escaped together, but Theseus abandoned her on the island of Naxos, where she married the god Dionysus. It seems likely that Ariadne was originally an ancient Cretan mother goddess, and some suggest that she was a goddess of weaving, thus perhaps a goddess who ruled fate. Arianna is currently #24 in Italy, and although there are a few famous Italians with this name, it’s probably best known as the name of Arianna Huffington, who co-founded The Huffington Post. The Italian pronunciation is ah-RYAHN-na, and the English is ah-ree-AH-nuh or ar-ee-AN-uh, which allows Ari as the obvious nickname.
Bianca is the Italian equivalent of the French name Blanche, meaning “white, fair”. The name was used amongst the Italian nobility during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; one example being Bianca Visconti, a 15th century Duchess of Milan who is a distant ancestor of both Diana, Princess of Wales and Princess Michael of Kent. There are two characters named Bianca in the plays of Shakespeare, in Othello and The Taming of the Shrew, but the name doesn’t seem to have been used in Britain until the 19th century, during the Victorian veneration of the Bard and his works. It does seem to have been attractive to families with Italian ancestry from early on. The name Bianca did not chart here until the 1960s, and was in the Top 100 by the 1980s. It peaked in the 1990s at #45, and fell until it left the Top 100 in 2009. In 2011 it rose again to make #103, only just outside the Top 100. Bianca is a modern classic in Australia which hasn’t been lower than the 100s since the 1960s, although it is rather dated in Italy. The Italian pronunciation is something like BYAHN-ka, but here we say it bee-AN-ka.
Chiara is the original Italian form of the names Clara, Clare and Claire, meaning “clear, bright, famous”. Chiara Offreduccio was one of the followers of Saint Francisof Assisi, and founded the Order of Poor Ladies; she is the first woman known to have written a monastic Rule. She was a great encouragement and support to Saint Francis, and nursed him during his final illness. Today we know her as Saint Clare, and her order is affectionately known as The Poor Clares. This medieval saint has a very modern connection, because she is the patron of television. Chiara has been a Top 10 name in Italy for several years now, and is currently #6. It is also Top 100 in Austria and Belgium. Chiara is one of the most popular Italian names that I see in Australian birth notices, and it is known to us as the name of cyclist Cadel Evans’ Italian wife. We say this name kee-AH-ra, which isn’t exactly the Italian pronuciation, but not too far off it either.
Eliana is the Italian form of the Roman name Aeliana, the feminine form of Aelianus. The name is from the Roman family name Aelius, derived from the Greek word helios, meaning “sun”. One of the Titans was named Helios, a handsome sun god who drove his chariot across the skies each day. There is a Saint Eliana, an early Roman martyr. Eliana can also be understood as a modern Hebrew name meaning “my God has answered”. This name is not on the Italian Top 30, but I have seen many examples of it in Australian birth notices, with a variety of spellings. The Italian pronunciation is eh-LYAH-na, but I think most Australians would prefer el-ee-AH-na, as it opens the name up to nicknames such as Ella, Elle or Ellie.
Francesca is the feminine form of Francesco, the Italian original of the name Francis. One of the most famous people with this name is Francesca da Rimini, whose story features in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Francesca was married off to a brave but crippled man named Giovanni, and fell in love with his younger brother, Paolo. Although Paolo was married too, they managed to carry on an affair for about ten years. Her story reached a tragic conclusion when her husband killed both she and her lover after finding them together in her bedroom. In Dante’s poem, he meets she and Paolo in the second circle of Hell, where those who have committed sins of lust are punished; Dante faints in pity at her sad plight. Her story has been turned into numerous operas, plays and artworks. Francesca has been on the Australian charts since the 1940s, but has never reached the Top 100. It peaked in the 1960s at #241; currently it is #245 and climbing, so looks likely to overtake this high point fairly soon. The name has been popular in Italy for many years, and is currently #12. The Italian pronunciation of frahn-CHES-ka, and the English fran-CHES-ka are both used here; Frankie is fast becoming the fashionable nickname.
Ginevra is the Italian form of Guinevere, so you can consider it to be the Italian Jennifer as well. By coincidence, it is also the Italian name for the Swiss city of Geneva. The Arthurian legends were known in Italy, and on the cathedral of Modena in Italy, it shows King Arthur rescuing Guinevere from her abduction by the villain Maleagant. A 15th century Florentine noblewoman named Ginevra de’ Benci was painted by Leonardo da Vinci and there was an also a 17th century Italian painter named Ginevra Cantofoli. There are several Ginevras in fiction, including Princess Ginevra of Scotland in Orlando Furioso, the Ginevra who has a tragic wedding day in the poem by Shelley, and Ginevra “Ginny” Weasley from the Harry Potter books. Ginevra is #25 and rising in Italy, but this romantic name is not often used in Australia. The Italian pronunciation is something like jeh-NEEV-rah, while the English pronunciation is ji-NEHV-ruh; I think both sound usable, and allow nicknames such as Jenny, Ginny, Ginger, June, Neve and Evie.
Lia is the Italian form of the Hebrew name Leah, who in the Bible was one of Jacob’s two wives, or it can be used as a short form of names such as Rosalia or Aurelia. I’m not sure how popular this name is in Italy (it’s not in the Top 30), but there are quite a few Australians named Lia, including politician Lia Finocchiaro. Italian girls names don’t have to be elaborate or ornate; here is one as sweet and simple as you could desire, fitting in perfectly with short popular names like Mia and Ava. Although Lia does not chart in Australia, Leah is in the Top 100 and has been climbing since the 1990s.
Mietta is the Italian form of the French name Miette, which literally means “bread crumb”, but is a term of endearment, like “sweet little morsel, sweet little thing” (compare with how you might call a little girl muffin in English). One of the fairies in The Sleeping Beauty ballet is named Miettes qui tombent, meaning “falling breadcrumbs”. It presumably began life as a nickname, but at some point was accepted as a full name, probably because it seemed like a pet form of names such as Marie. In Australia we best know the name from the chef Mietta O’Donnell, whose parents were Italian migrants and restaurateurs. Mietta and her partner opened the famous Mietta’s restaurant during the 1970s, a Melbourne institution for twenty years. Mietta O’Donnell was not just a contributor to Australian cuisine, she changed and defined Australian cuisine and raised the standard immeasurably, as well as teaching people about good food through her restaurant guides and cookbooks. Mietta was a charismatic and ardent supporter of the arts in her city; little wonder I see so many birth notices for little Miettas in Melbourne. In O’Donnell’s case, Mietta was a nickname; her real name was Maria. The Italian pronunciation of this name is MYEHT-ah, but most Australians would prefer mee-EH-tah. The popularity of Mia must surely have made Mietta more appealing.
Rosabella combines the names (or words) Rosa and Bella, and even if you don’t know much Italian, you can probably figure out what Rosabella means – “beautiful rose”. The two original words were used together in a medieval Italian poem by Leonardo Giustiniani, O Rosa Bella, which later became a popular English chant. A 1940s Italian love song featuring the name is Rosabella Del Molise; the song tells of a beautiful woman from southern Italy loved by a shepherd; he begs Rosabella to marry him, and plans a wedding to be speedily followed by a bambino. A piece of film trivia is that in the Italian version of Citizen Kane, the sled is called Rosabella instead of Rosebud. I get the feeling that in Italy this is a very old-fashioned name, and as it is also a variety of luncheon meat, may even appear comical. However, I have seen this name several times in recent Australian birth notices, along with Rosa-Bella, Rosabel and Rosebelle. Here it seems like a compound of popular Rose with popular Isabella; it’s slightly operatic, but does fit the trend for frilly girls names, and has simple nicknames like Rosie and Bella.
(Picture shows Francesca da Rimini (1837), painted by William Dyce)
Last week we had names from Victoria which were used less than ten times in 2012. Those names are uncommon – but what if you wanted something even rarer? These are names which don’t appear even once in the Victorian data from last year, and have never charted in Australia. However, they are not strange or obscure, and all of them can be found in Australian historical records.
Angharad is an Old Welsh name meaning “greatly loved”. It was reasonably common in medieval times, and there are several Angharads in Welsh history. In Welsh mythology, Angharad Golden-Hand is the lover of Peredur, one of King Arthur’s knights. Angharad Morgan is a main character in How Green Was My Valley, and in the film version was played by Maureen O’Hara. Actress Angharad Rees became well known in the 1970s for playing the role of Demelza in the TV series Poldark. Lots of famous Angharads, yet I could find only one woman named Angharad in Australian records. The pronunciation, ang-HAH-rad, may have caused some concern. This is a strong and unusual name with a lovely meaning. It would definitely stand out.
Beatrix is based on the name Viatrix, the feminine form of the Latin name Viator, meaning “voyager, traveller”. Early on, the spelling was altered to associate it with the Latin word beatus, meaning “blessed”, and it was common amongst early Christians. Some baby name books sandwich these two meanings together and interpret it as “blessed traveller”. Saint Beatrix was an early Roman martyr; according to legend, she was strangled by her servants. The name became less common in England after the Middle Ages, but was revived in the 19th century. One of the most famous people with this name is Beatrix Potter, the children’s writer and illustrator, who gave us such delightful characters as Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, Squirrel Nutkin and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. As well as these talents, she was also a scientific researcher, conservationist, farmer, and sheep breeder. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands helps give this name a royal touch, and a famous literary character is Beatrix “Trixie” Belden, girl detective. To me, this charming name seems spunkier and more eccentric than her sister Beatrice.
In Greek mythology, Chryseis was the daughter of a Trojan priest named Chryses, and she was captured by the Greek champion Agamemnon as part of the spoils of war; he refused to give her back even after being asked nicely. Chryseis’ dad prayed like blazes to the god Apollo, who obligingly sent a plague through the Greek soldiers until Chryseis was returned. A later legend says that she bore Agamemnon a son. Her name given in the Iliad simply means “daughter of Chryses”; appropriately for a priest of Apollo, Chryses’ name means “golden”, perhaps in reference to sunlight. Some writers say Chryseis’ real name was Astynome, meaning “possessor of the city”. When medieval authors retold the tale of the Trojan War, this story had a complete rewrite. Chryseis became Cressida (KRES-ih-duh), and one corner of a tragic love triangle; she is made the epitome of the false woman and the whore. Some authors were sympathetic to Cressida’s plight, and in Shakespeare’s version, Cressida is complex, highly intelligent and witty. A famous Australian with this name is the artist Cressida Campbell. I find this literary name quite bewitching.
Emmeline is the Old French form of the Germanic name Amelina, based on the word for “work”; it is therefore related to the name Amelia, and not to Emily. The name was introduced to Britain by the Normans, and many people prefer to give it a slightly French pronunciation as EM-uh-leen, while others seek to Anglicise the way it is said as EM-uh-line (like Caroline). My experience is that the British tend to say leen, Americans tend to say line, and Australians have a bob each way and can usually cope with either. There were several prominent suffragists named Emmeline, including Emmeline Pankhurst, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Emmeline Wells. Australia mountaineer Emmeline Du Faur was the first woman to climb Mount Cook (in record time), and the first person to climb several peaks – always dressed in a skirt. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence was a keen hiker and woodcrafter, and to me the name Emmeline sounds vigorous, healthy, and practical. Emmeline has a solid history of use in Australia, being commonly found in old records, and today its nickname Emmie means it fits in with popular names such as Emily, Emma and Emmerson.
Isadora is a variant of the name Isidora, the feminine form of Isidore, from the Greek for “gift of Isis”; the Egyptian goddess Isis was worshipped widely in the ancient world, and she was also important to the Greeks and Romans. Saint Isidora was a 4th century Egyptian nun, considered to be a “holy fool”, and treated with contempt by the other nuns for her eccentric ways, such as wearing a dirty dishrag on her head instead of a veil, and eating only leftovers instead of proper meals. When a visiting saint came to the nunnery, he immediately picked out Isidora as the only person holier than himself; upset by the praise and attention, Isidora ran away into the desert to be a hermit, and nothing more is known of her. The most famous Isadora is the American dancer Isadora Duncan, who developed her own unique style of dance, based on the natural movements of the human body. Like the saint, she was considered eccentric and radical, and danced to the beat of her own drum. Isadora is a beautiful, glamorous and individualistic name!
Lavender has been used as a personal name since the 17th century, and was given to both sexes. It may have originally been derived from the surname, which is Norman-French and based on the word lavandier, referring to a worker in the wool industry who washed the raw wool (this is an occupation that both men and women had). Even in the middle of the 20th century, you can still find boys named Lavender. By now, however, it is almost entirely thought of as a girl’s name, and considered to be from the flower. The flower name comes from the Old French lavendre, possibly from the Latin for “blue-coloured”, lividius, but also influenced by lavare, meaning “wash”, because lavender was used in washing clothes. Lavender is often used to scent soaps and beauty products, and has been used as a relaxation aid for thousands of years. The colour lavender is associated with sensuality and decadence, and at one time, was considered symbolic of homosexuality. Like Rose, this is a pretty old-fashioned flower name that is more complex that it first appears.
Sabine is a French and German form of Sabina, the feminine form of the Latin name Sabinus, meaning “Sabine”. The Sabines were an Italian tribe who inhabited the region where the city of Rome stands today, and some of them fought against Rome for their independence. According to legend, the Romans abducted Sabine women to populate the city of Rome; the war between the Romans and Sabines ended when the women threw themselves and their children between the armies of their fathers and those of their husbands. The history behind the legend is that the conquered Sabines assimilated with the Romans, beginning a new line of inheritance. Many of the noble Roman families traced their ancestry to Sabine origins, and at least some of the deities and rituals of Rome came from the Sabines. The Sabines were said to have taken their name from the hero Sabus, who was worshipped as a deity. Although it is too long ago to be sure, one theory is that the tribal name Sabine meant “us, ourselves, our own people”. You can either say this name the French way, sa-BEEN, or the German way, za-BEE-nuh; most English-speakers use the French pronunciation. There is at least one famous man named Sabine – the writer Sabine Baring-Gould, whose name was after the surname (derived from the personal name). You can find both men and women named Sabine in Australian records. Sabine is smooth and sophisticated, but comes with a cute nickname – Bean.
Theodora is the feminine form of the Greek name Theodoros, meaning “gift of God”. The name pre-dates Christianity, but its meaning appealed to early Christians, and there are a few saints with this name. One of them was Saint Theodora, who as punishment for her pious celibacy, was dragged into a brothel. Her first “customer” was a Christian man, who had came to save her; they were both martyred, but their virtue remained intact. This story is probably fictional, and may have been inspired by sacred prostitution, of which Christians obviously disapproved. An Eastern Orthodox Saint Theodora disguised herself as a man and joined a monastery. Her identity as a woman was only discovered after her death. The name was a very popular one for Byzantine empresses, and Theodora I is also regarded as a saint. A Roman Theodora was a senator, and supposedly the lover of one of the early popes. She was harshly condemned for daring to “exercise power like a man”. The hussy! The image you get from these historical Theodoras is of very strong, independent, determined women – which might explain why Disney has chosen this name for the Wicked Witch of the West in Oz: The Great and Powerful. Pop star Robbie William welcomed a daughter named Theodora Rose last year, called Teddy; he wanted a dignified full name for the cuddly nickname, and Theodora fit the bill perfectly.
Verity is an English word meaning “truth”, especially in regard to religious truth or doctrine. It has been used as a personal name since the 17th century, and would have been given as a virtue name by the Puritans. However, it was most likely also given in honour of the surname, for births of Veritys in Yorkshire are suggestive, given that the Verity family is a prominent one in that county. The surname is Anglo-Norman, and has the same meaning as the personal name. Originally, Verity was a unisex name, and in early records is given equally to boys and girls. The first Verity I can find born in the United States was a boy, and his family were Puritans in Massachusetts. You can find the name Verity given to both sexes in Australian records, but only as a middle name for boys, and it has never been very common here. Famous Australian women named Verity include the politicians Verity Barton and Verity Firth, the ABC presenter Verity James, and the actress Verity Hunt-Ballard, who played Mary Poppins in the Australian version of the musical. This is a crisp, clean name which sounds intelligent and upper-class to me.
Zia is a variant of the Arabic name Ziya, meaning “light, shine, splendour” – more specifically, it refers to light which shines by its own illumination, and is connected to the sun and sunlight. Traditionally, Zia is a male name, but Arabic baby name sites usually list it as female, and the name charts in France only for girls. There are quite a few people called Zia in Australian records, and they are not all Arabic men. There are women called Zia from different cultures, including Italian, where Zia may be short for a name such as Annunzia (zia means “aunt” in Italian, but this doesn’t seem to have been a hindrance to its use by Italians). Most women called Zia in the records seem to be of British descent, and I’m guessing either it was seen as a short form of other names, or parents just liked the sound of it. I can imagine parents today also liking the sound of it, because it is so similar to popular names such as Zara and Mia – indeed, it almost seems like a cross between these names. This is a zippy name which sounds a bit different, but won’t seem out of place in the playground.
New Year’s Eve is celebrated in Sydney with a huge firework display on the Harbour, the Harbour Bridge forming the centrepiece. Each year’s theme is displayed across the Bridge in words and pictures; for 2013 the theme was Embrace, asking us to embrace love, Sydney, possibilities, and the moment, illustrated by a butterfly and a pair of red lips.
Being one of the earliest places in the world to greet the New Year, the Sydney fireworks are amongst the first celebrations that people see, so they really do try to put on a show. Sydneysiders firmly believe their NYE firework display is the best in the world, although this year Abu Dhabi insisted theirs was clearly superior. I think London was my favourite, although Sydney was definitely the best city with a harbour fireworks display (sorry Hong Kong!).
Such an enormous spectacle necessitates a team of people working on it, but someone has to have their name at the top, and in this case it was Aneurin Coffey, the producer, Fortunato Foti, the director, and Kylie Minogue, the creative ambassador. As we have already covered Kylie in an earlier blog entry, when Ms Minogue was ambassador for the Sydney Mardi Gras, we are going to look at the names of Messrs Coffey and Foti instead.
Aneurin Coffey, originally from Perth, has been in event management and production co-ordination for many years, and been involved with the Sydney fireworks since the late 1990s. Fortunato Foti comes from a long line of pyrotechnicians; the Foti family have been creating firework displays since the 18th century in Italy. Fortunato’s grandfather Celestino migrated to Sydney in the 1950s, after being interned here during the war.
As you can imagine, in the lead-up to the Big Bang, these two gentlemen were often interviewed on the news and in newspapers, which is how I came to hear their intriguing names.
Aneurin is a variant of the name Aneirin, which has an important role in Welsh literature. Aneirin was a British bard in the Dark Ages, believed to have been a poet at a court which today is Edinburgh, and possibly the son of a queen of West Yorkshire. His best known work, Y Gododdin, is a series of elegies for warriors who fell in battle; there is a chance that it contains the earliest reference to King Arthur, although it isn’t certain. Revered in his own era, and rediscovered in Tudor times, he is still highly-regarded today.
The meaning of Aneirin is not certain, and it may be the British form of the Latin name Honorius, meaning “honourable, noble”. The name would have been familiar to Britons as that of the Emperor Honorius, under whose rule Rome was sacked in 410. There is a famous story that in this same year, Britain asked for Roman help against barbarian incursions, and Honorius, who had problems of his own, replied by telling them that Britain must guard itself. It is from this moment that the end of Roman control in Britain is dated.
From the 18th century, Aneirin’s name began to be spelled Aneurin, presumably to make it look as if it was derived from the Welsh for “all gold”. The name is usually pronounced a-NY-rihn, and the Welsh politician Aneurin Bevan, founder of the National Health Service, used Nye as his nickname.
The name has been mostly used in Wales, and by those with Welsh heritage. A contemporary namesake is attractive young Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard, who has won an award for his stage work, but also appears in films, and made guest appearances on TV shows such as Shameless.
Fortunato is the Italian form of the Latin name Fortunatus, meaning “fortunate, blessed”. There are several saints called Fortunatus, including Fortunatus the Apostle, listed as one of the Seventy Disciples of Christ, and mentioned by Saint Paul. Fortunatus also appears in literature as the hero of a German tale from the 16th century, who meets the goddess of Fortune and is given endless riches. Despite his charmed life, his heirs are unable to share his wealth, for they do not have the wisdom and honour to manage it.
Fortunato is not uncommon as an Italian surname, and there are quite a few streets and businesses in Australia bearing this name. A young namesake is Fortunato Caruso, who plays Australian rules football for West Adelaide.
The beginning of a new year, whatever it may bring, is always filled with hope for the future. Here are two rare names associated with luck, honour, gold and riches – good omens for the year ahead.
All the best for 2013!
(Picture shows the fireworks on Sydney Harbour, January 1 2013; photo from ABC News)
To nobody’s surprise, surely, seen-everywhere Archer was the big winner for 2012, and the similar Hunter also did well. Marcus is the name of several Australian sports stars; perhaps Canberrans were paying keen attention to the sports news this year, or maybe they are all Mumford & Sons fans? Celebrity baby name Mason continues to keep up, even as his sister Penelope failed to make the grade. Prince Harry‘s official name, Henry, made number 10 on the list, while his nickname was number 11. From reading the birth notices, I know that there is an obstetrician named Andrew in Canberra; I don’t know if he is responsible for his name’s success though.
Biggest Movers Down
Finn and Matthew (30)
Cameron and Sebastian (23)
Angus and Darcy (21)
Edward and Harrison (20)
In general, Old Testament names for boys had a bit of a fall in 2012, with Levi the worst affected. Scottish favourites Hamish, Angus and Cameron also went down, and Darcy doesn’t seem to be doing well for either girls or boys. Jake, Jacob and Edward waned like an old moon, as did Isabella and her offshoots – make of that what you will!
New to the List
With Ari, Aryan and Aria new to the popularity charts, and Archer the fastest-rising, names starting with a piratical AR sound seem in vogue. Jude, Reuben, Tobias and David provided some new blood for Biblical names.
Both Louis and Lewis are new to the charts – a name which seemed generally popular this year. Braxton and Spencer were two surname names I’ve seen much of, and Vincent seemed to be several name bloggers’ pick for the Name Most Likely. We were right in at least one area of the world, anyway! I wonder if the Danish prince helped in this regard?
Jai and Rohan are two Indian names new to the list, Dante and Rafael two from southern Europe, and Ali and Muhammad two Arabic ones, possibly showing some demographic changes in the Territory – although Jai has long been a standard in Australia, and Rafael on trend for ages.
Interestingly, 1970s trendsetter Jason is on the list, and last year Jennifer was on the girl’s list. Apparently if you go beyond Ava and Aiden, you get … more Jennifer and Jason!
Back on the List
Gone from the List
Aidan and Aiden have been replaced by Ayden – Jayden went up, although Hayden went down. Luca went down, but Luka stepped in. Nicknames Alex, Tom and Billy were rejected in favour of their full names. Jonah, John, Jesse and Seth were four Biblical names to disappear altogether. Michael rose, while surname-form Mitchell was out.
You may have noticed that all the names that have been featured on the blog since the weather got warmer have had some connection with water or the sea. With summer holidays upon us, it is only fitting that the last Name List for the year is one of Australian beach names.
The town of Airlie Beach in the Whitsunday region of north Queensland is a popular tourist destination and one of the departure points for the Great Barrier Reef. Because James Cook thought he arrived here on Whitsunday, every year there is a Blessing of the Fleet on Whitsunday (Pentecost) – although Cook almost certainly got the day wrong and it was really Whitmonday. The town’s beach is quite small, and infested by sea wasps, the most lethal jellyfish in the world. For the convenience of those wishing to avoid a painful death, a swimming lagoon has been built on the foreshore. The town is named after Airlie in Scotland, the seat of the Earl of Airlie. Airlie Castle is referenced in the ballad, The Bonnie House o’ Airlie, and mentioned in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Kidnapped. The meaning is not known, although it’s possibly from the Gaelic for “edge of a ridge”. Airlie is a name reasonably well-known in Australia, although rare elsewhere; there’s ABC presenter Airlie Ward, hockey player Airlie Ogilvie, policy analyst Dr Airlie Worrall, and actress Airlie Dodds. This is a modern name with ties to Scottish history, and would be a great choice if Airlie Beach is meaningful to you.
Bondi Beach is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike, one of Sydney’s iconic destinations, and heritage listed. In the fashionable eastern suburbs, it’s a place to see and be seen, lined with hotels, cafes and restaurants from where you can view the beach and beachgoers. Bondi has always had a reputation for showing a lot of flesh, and in stricter times the American actress Jean Parker was booted off it for wearing a bikini. These days topless bathing is common on Bondi. If almost-naked humans aren’t your thing, there is always the chance of seeing dolphins, fairy penguins, and in season, whales. Bondi Beach has many cultural events, including the annual City to Surf charity run, and it stars in TV shows such as Bondi Rescue and Bondi Vet. The name Bondi (said BON-dye) is said to be from boondi, a local Aboriginal word meaning “sound of water breaking over rocks”. The rare use of this name in records may be from the Italian surname Bondi (said bon-DEE), meaning “good day”. I saw a baby girl named Bondi in this year’s Bonds Baby Search. This is an unusual choice, but rather patriotic, and seems ideal for beach-loving Sydneysiders.
Etty Bay is a picturesque little bay in far north Queensland; the nearest town is Innisfail. Enclosed by rainforest filled with wildlife, it attracts bushwalkers, birdwatchers and picnickers, and is known as one of the best places to see endangered cassowary birds in the wild – cassowaries are large flightless birds around six feet tall. Etty Beach is considered safe for swimming, as long as you avoid saltwater crocodiles and deadly jellyfish. Etty is a pet form of names such as Esther, Ethel, Henrietta and Harriet, and was most common in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With Etta tipped as the next retro-chic name, and Arrietty from The Borrowers receiving notice, Etty seems not only cute and usable, but positively stylish. It fits in with other vintage nicknames such as Elsie, Hattie and Millie.
Miami is a suburb of the Gold Coast which was first developed in the 1920s to entice tourists, and is still a popular place for people to visit. Its clean sandy surf beach make it a favourite destination for family holidays. It is named after Miami in Florida, as being somewhere else that’s hot, humid and beachy – during the 1920s, Miami enjoyed such prosperity and growth that it was dubbed “The Magic City”. This success the Queensland developers no doubt hoped to emulate. The city of Miami was named after the Miami River, and this in turn was named for the Native American people called the Maiyami. They took their name from the lake they lived by (later known as Lake Okeechobee); the name simply means “big water”. Miami is a name I see sometimes on little girls, and its not only an American place name, but an Australian one as well. It fits in with popular names such as Mia, Maya and Amy.
The town of Yamba in northern New South Wales lies at the mouth of the Clarence River, and boasts eleven beaches, including Pippi. It’s primarily known for surfing, and the Pippi Beach Classic is a surfing event held here each January. At one end of the beach is the enticingly-named Lovers Point, and from here is an easy walk up to a rock shelf which gives magnificent views of the sea. Dolphins are plentiful, and whales can be seen during winter and early spring. Pippi Beach is named after the pippis or pipis which can be found here – small edible clams which are often used for fish bait. You may recall that John Sutton, co-captain of the South Sydney Rabbitohs team in the NRL, welcomed a daughter named Pippi last year. As John is a keen surfer, I wondered if Pippi Sutton may have been named after this popular surf beach. You probably also know the name from the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren – the character’s name was invented by Mrs Lindgren’s nine-year-old daughter, Karin. You can see Pippi as short for Phillipa, and if Pippa or Piper delight you, yet seem too common, then sprightly Pippi may fit the bill.
Rainbow Beach is a small town in southern Queensland which was once a centre for sand-mining, but is now a popular tourist destination with an attractive beach and many bushwalking tracks. The town get its name from the brilliant coloured sand dunes which surround it. According to a local Aboriginal legend, the dunes received their colours when the spirit of the rainbow plunged into the cliffs after coming off second-best in battle. More prosaically, the colours stem from the sand’s rich mineral content. The evanescent beauty of rainbows have made them part of mythology for many thousands of years. Both Greek and Norse myth saw the rainbow as a path between heaven and earth; in Irish folklore there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; and in the familiar story of Noah and the Ark from the Old Testament, the rainbow is a sign of God’s promise to never destroy the earth again. In Australian Aboriginal mythology, the rainbow serpent is of great significance and power, creating and marking the earth’s territories, and controlling its water resources. The subject of artists, singers and poets, the stuff of hopes and dreams, the rainbow has long been used as a symbol of social change. The striking name Rainbow is not that rare in old records, and used for both sexes, but is most common as a middle name.
Trinity Beach is a suburb of Cairns in far north Queensland; the city lies on Trinity Bay, which is where the suburb gets its name. Captain James Cook named it on his 1770 voyage, as he arrived there on Trinity Sunday, which is the first Sunday after Pentecost (hopefully he had his dates sorted out by this stage). It is a festival to celebrate the Holy Trinity of the three Persons of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although the Holy Trinity is a Christian concept, the idea of a triple deity is found in several religions. The name Trinity was used from the 17th century, and was given to both sexes, in honour of the Holy Trinity. In recent years, it has gained a sci-fi image, for there has not only been a cult science-fiction film called Trinity, but Trinity is the love interest in The Matrix movie series, and Trinity Wells a newsreader in Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah JaneAdventures. More ominously, the Trinity Test was the code name for the first detonation of a nuclear bomb in 1945, heralding the start of the Atomic Age.
Vera View Beach is just north of famous Cottlesloe Beach, in Perth, Western Australia. It isn’t one you will see promoted as a major tourist destination; not the most stunning beach in the world, it nonetheless makes a pleasant walk from the main beach, and is near the main cafe strip. It is also a good place to go snorkelling, as there a small reef nearby teeming with sea life. The beach’s name comes from the fact that it is near Vera View Parade in Cottlesloe. Vera is a Russian name which means “faith”; we tend to be struck by its similarity to the Latin for “truth”, while Albanians notice that it sounds like their word for “spring”. Vera was #15 in the 1900s, and by the 1940s was out of the Top 100. It ceased to chart in the 1980s, but has very recently made a comeback, and was #626 in 2011. Its image was severely dented by the sour-faced prison guard, Vera “Vinegar Tits” Bennett, in the 1970s-80s TV series, Prisoner (no wonder it disappeared from the charts then). However, with simple old names firmly back in fashion, and the V sound becoming increasingly popular, retro Vera could do very well.
Vivonne Bay is on Kangaroo Island in South Australia; the island is off the coast of Cape Jervis. The pristine beach at Vivonne Bay is several kilometres long, and popular for surfing and fishing. There is a tiny town of Vivonne beside the bay. Vivonne Bay was named by the French explorer Nicolas Baudin, who came here in 1803. He was the first to map the western and southern coasts of Australia, and his expedition was a great success, discovering more than 2500 new species and meeting the Indigenous people of Australia. Apparently his expedition harboured a spy – one of his men prepared a report for Napoleon on how to invade and capture the British colony in Sydney Cove, but recommended not to. Baudin died of TB in Mauritius on the way home. He named Vivonne Bay after the French town of Vivonne, near Poitiers (or the aristocratic surname which comes from the town – the town’s name comes from the nearby river Vonne). Readers of Marcel Proust will remember he used the name Vivonne for the river in Swann’s Way. I think this name is pretty, and seems like a cross between Vivienne and Yvonne. It’s different, but not too different.
Wanda Beach lies on Bate Bay in the suburb of Cronulla; this is in Sutherland shire, in the southern districts of Sydney. Wanda has a dark past, because there were two murders here in 1965. Two teenage girls, Marianne Schmidt and Christine Sharrock, best friends and neighbours, disappeared at Wanda Beach while on a picnic, and their bodies, partially covered in sand, were found the next day. The murder is still unsolved. Wanda Beach gets its name from an Aboriginal word, wanda, said to mean “beach” or “sand dunes”. Wanda is also a Polish name; there is a medieval Polish legend about a Princess Wanda, and the name was popularised in the English-speaking world by English author Ouida’s 1883 novel, Wanda. The name may come from the West Slavic people known as the Wends; their name possibly means “tribe, kinship, alliance”, ultimately from an ancient word for “love, desire”, and related to the name Venus.
(Photo shows the morning tide coming in at Etty Bay)
At the end of November, the Premier of South Australia announced that the Neptune Islands Group Marine Park would be renamed the Neptune Islands Group (Ron and Valerie Taylor) Marine Park. This is no mere change of name, for a network of 19 marine parks has taken effect in order to protect the seas from over-fishing. The premier noted that the southern oceans had more diversity than the Great Barrier Reef, and contained many plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else.
The marine park has been named in honour of Ron and Valerie Taylor; divers, film-makers, shark experts, and conservationists who were ardent proponents of preserving marine habitats. Their skills in underwater filming were used on such films as Jaws and The Blue Lagoon, but more importantly, they wrote books and made documentaries to highlight the beauty and fragility of marine ecology. They won many awards for both photography and conservation. Ron passed away this year, and Valerie continues to be an advocate for marine protection.
The Neptune Islands, near Port Lincoln, were named by the navigator and cartographer Matthew Flinders in 1802. Rugged and remote, they seemed to him inaccessible, as if they would would always belong to King Neptune.
Neptune is the English form of Neptunus, the Roman god of fresh water springs, lakes, rivers, and the sea; he is the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Poisedon. He was worshipped in a festival that fell at the height of summer, when rainfall was at its lowest, and water most needed and valuable. As you know, his name has been given to the eighth planet from the Sun.
The meaning and origin of his name is obscure, with etymologists in disagreement over which language/s Neptune might be derived from. The general view is that it means something like “moistness”, “damp, wet”, “clouds, fog”, or “to water, irrigate”.
Another theory is that it is from the Italian town of Nepi, north of Rome, which was anciently known as Nepet or Nepete. This town is famous for its mineral springs, and traditionally connected to the god Neptune, who would presumably have approved of its watery wonders.
The town’s name is Etruscan, from the Etruscan name for Neptune, which was Nethuns. This may be related to the Irish god Nechtan, who had a sacred well, and thus another liquid connection. In fact there are several Indo-European deities with similar names and aqueous roles, and it is speculated that their names may go back to an ancient word meaning “nephew, grandson”.
One of the ships of the Second Fleet was called Neptune, and unfortunately it had the worst reputation of all for its appalling mistreatment of convicts.
Neptune sounds as if it should be ultra rare in Australian name records, but there are quite a few from the 19th century – at least quite a few more than I expected to find. It was mostly used in the middle, such as Cecil Neptune, and Samuel Caesar Neptune, but you can also find men named Neptune Persse and Neptune Frederick. Two of them rejoiced in the full names of Neptune Love and Neptune Blood; I believe the name Neptune is traditional in the Blood family.
Neptune would be very unusual as a baby name today, and I can’t quite imagine what you would use as a nickname – Neppy sounds too much like “nappy” to me. At the very least, please not Tuna.
A complete change of pace brings us to the name Taylor, a very common English surname referring to someone who made clothes as their occupation; the word tailor is ultimately from the Latin talea, meaning “a cutting”. In the Middle Ages, tailoring was a high-status craft, as only the wealthy could afford to have their clothing professionally made, and tailors could command good fees. Both men and women were employed as tailors.
There are many folk tales and fairy stories about tailors, and nearly always the tailor is depicted as being extremely clever, and confidently able to outwit others. Tailors having to be so precise and painstaking in their work, and no doubt with plenty of diplomatic skill to handle their rich clients, they must have gained a reputation for being as sharp as pins and as smooth-talking as silk.
The earliest Taylor-as-a-first-name I can find in the records is from the 16th century, and it was on a female. This may be an error in transcription, as subsequent early Taylors seem to be male (with plenty of girls who had Taylor as a middle name). In the United States, Taylor has always charted as a boy’s name, and only charts for girls from the late 1970s onwards, but is currently Top 100 for girls, and in the 300s for boys. In the UK, it only charts for boys, where it is barely on the Top 100 and falling.
In Australia, Taylor has charted for both boys and girls since the 1980s, when it was #383 for boys and #785 for girls. It peaked for both sexes in the 1990s, when it was #38 for girls and #130 for boys. At the moment, Taylor is only just outside the Top 100 for girls at #108, is #251 for boys, and falling for both sexes.
So that’s a quick survey of Taylor popularity around the world: Top 100 for girls in the US, Top 100 for boys in the UK, and not on the Top 100 at all in Australia.
Here are two very different names which evoke the sea and honour its protectors, as well as having a strong connection to the history of South Australia.
(Picture shows seals on Neptune Island; photo from Flickr)