Do you remember being very young and beginning to discover how where you lived fit into the world? Maybe you realised the number on your front gate was part of your address, or found that the street you lived on was one of many streets in a suburb, and that suburb was in a city with thousands or even millions of people. Perhaps you saw Australia on a world map for the first time, and could see its relation to other countries – didn’t it look far away from anywhere else?
In time you learned that you were on a planet called Earth, and when you were taught about the solar system, discovered that the Earth was really quite small, and a long, long way away from other planets. And that we all revolved around a Sun which was a star, not a very big one, and one of around 100 thousand million in the Milky Way – one of more than a 100 billion galaxies in our universe.
I don’t know about you, but when I learned all this in astronomy class, it totally blew my mind. The same way it blew my mind when I was a toddler and began to gradually understand that our farm was one of many in our hamlet, and that we were all part of a town 25 km away, and the regional centre was 50 km away, and the state capital 300 km away, and the nation’s capital a great distance, and the next country even further than that, across the sea. It made me feel very small and a long way from everything.
And when you were little, did you ever write down your address in this fashion: My Bedroom, 11 Acacia Road, Seaforth, Manly, Northern Beaches, Sydney, Cumberland County, New South Wales, Australia, Oceania, Southern Hemisphere, The Earth, The Solar System, The Milky Way, The Universe? Now there’s an another element to add to the address.
Astronomers have known for ages that the Milky Way is part of a larger cosmic structure, but it was too hard to figure where one group of galaxies ended and the next began. Recently a team of astronomers at the University of Hawaii, led by Brent Tully, have gathered measurements allowing scientists to define superclusters of galaxies. Their work, published this month in Nature, describes the vast group of galaxies to which the Milky Way belongs.
The name of our particular galactic supercluster is Laniakea, which is 520 million light years in diameter, and contains one hundred million billions Suns spread across 100 000 galaxies. The Milky Way is right on the fringes of Laniakea, on the edge of a vast empty region of space known as the Local Void, but we are constantly pulled towards a gravitational force in Laniakea’s centre which scientists have dubbed The Great Attractor.
Within the Laniakea Supercluster, we are part of the Virgo Local Supercluster, and beyond it are the neighbouring superclusters of Hercules, Coma, and Perseus-Pisces. Just as with the original problem of defining the edges of galaxies, it is not yet clearly known where the edges of Laniakea end and the edges of these other superclusters begin.
One surprise was that the Laniakea Supercluster is being pulled by a larger concentration of galaxies called the Shapley Supercluster, so we may be part of even greater structures that are yet to be discovered. Thus our universe expands as knowledge and comprehension grows.
Brent Tully, who has helped create our new map of the Milky Way’s environs, says: Seeing a map gives you a sense of place. For me, having that sense of place and seeing the relationship of things is very important in terms of understanding it. Thanks to Tully and his team, we have gained another insight into our place in the universe – and how small we are, and what a long way from everything.
The name Laniakea was suggested by Nawa’a Napoleon, associate professor of Hawaiian Language at Kapiolani Community College. The Hawaiian name can be translated in a number of ways, including “open skies”, “wide sky”, or “wide horizons”, but in this case it is understood as “immeasurable heavens”. The name was chosen to honour Polynesian navigators who studied the heavens in order to navigate the Pacific Ocean.
Laniakea is pronounced LAN-ee-uh-KAY-uh in the video from Nature I watched, although I have seen it written as la-NEE-uh-KAY-uh. It is well known in Hawaii, as it is the name of a surf beach famous for its sea turtles, and the name has been used for numerous businesses in the area. It does get very occasional use as a personal name, and although it is technically unisex, seems to have only been given to girls. Lani, Nia, and Kea are the obvious nicknames.
This is an elaborate Polynesian name which is unusual, but seems very usable in Australia, which has a significant Pacific Islander population, and where several Polynesian names are familiar. The short forms are very much on trend here.
While Laniakea has had some use as a Hawaiian name for girls, Hawaii has shared the name with the whole planet, and it now belongs to all of us. It’s not just a beautiful beach on the shores of a great ocean, but a multitude of galaxies whirling through the immensity of space, the “immeasurable heavens”. And it is our home.
Odo Hirsch’s Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool (2009) tells the story of the Bells, a proud family fallen on hard times; plucky youngest son Darius must save the family’s estate. (Name nerd bonus info: Odo is the older form of the German name Otto). Darius is the Latin form of Dareios, the Greek form of the Persian name Dārayavahush, meaning “holding on to goodness”. This name was traditional amongst the Persian kings, and Darius I was known as Darius the Great, as he ruled over the Achaemenid Empire at the height of its power. Darius III was defeated by Alexander the Great, and there are a number of minor princes with the name. Darius is mentioned several times in the Old Testament, so it is a Biblical name as well (nobody is sure which historical Darius it means). Although rare, this name is known in Australia from NRL star Darius Boyd, while there is also a Darius in The Hunger Games trilogy. Darius is a cool-sounding name that might appeal to a broad range of people.
Terry Denton’s first picture book was Felix and Alexander (1985), about a little boy named Alexander who gets lost, and his toy dog Felix must find him. Felix is a Latin name meaning “fortunate”. It was first given as a nickname to the Roman general and statesman Lucius Cornelius Sulla, a free translation of the Greek nickname he acquired during his military campaigns – Epaphroditos, meaning “beloved of Aphrodite”. The Roman procurator Felix is mentioned in the New Testament, although not in a positive way – he imprisoned St Paul. Felix was a favourite name amongst early Christians, and there are heaps of saints named Felix, including the 7th century Felix of Burgundy, who introduced Christianity to East Anglia, and three popes. Two Australian connections are Felix the Cat, and Australia Felix, the name given to the lush farmland of western Victoria by explorer Sir Thomas Mitchell. Felix was #172 in the 1900s, and left the charts in the 1920s. It returned in the 1980s at #396 and climbed steadily; it’s been on and off the Top 100 since 2011. It’s now #86, and was one of the fastest-rising names last year. A hip retro favourite growing in recognition.
Harley Sleepy Harley (2011), written by Karen Treanor and illustrated by Kelly Iveson, is a picture book about a cat named Harley who tries to find a place to nap in a Perth suburb. Harley is a surname which comes from a place name meaning “hare meadow” in Old English. The de Harley family were nobles whose history can be traced before the Conquest, and Sir Robert Harley, first Earl of Oxford, was from a prominent political family. One of them, William Cavendish-Bentinck, became British Prime Minister in the 18th and 19th centuries; he was the maternal great-great-great grandfather of Queen Elizabeth. The name will remind many of Harley-Davidson motorycles, giving Harley a pretty cool image. Harley was #212 in the 1900s, and went up and down before dropping off the charts in the 1950s. It returned in the 1970s at #462, and rose before peaking at #70 in 1992. It dropped again before starting to rise in the early 2000s, and is not far out of the Top 100. You could see Harley as an underused classic – in use for many years, but never very popular. I have occasionally seen Harley on girls as well.
Jude Me and Jeshua (1984) by award-winning author Eleanor Spence is a historical novel about the childhood of Jesus of Nazareth, as seen through the eyes of his cousin Jude. Jude is a variant of the name Judas, Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah, meaning “praised”. In the New Testament, Jude is used for the Apostle whose name was Judas, to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot. Jude is also listed in the New Testament as one of the brothers of Jesus (Eleanor Spence follows a tradition they were cousins), but it is not clear if Jude the Apostle was Jesus’ brother. The Apostle Jude is usually connected with the Apostle Simon the Zealot, and according to tradition they were both martyred in Beirut. Jude is well known as the patron saint of lost causes, and this has made him one of the most venerated saints. Contemporary associations are the actor Jude Law, and the Beatles song Hey Jude. Jude can also be used as a girl’s name, short for Judith, as in the YA novel by Maureen McCarthy, Queen Kat, Carmel, and St. Jude Get a Life (1995). This attractive name has quietly been gaining in popularity, and last year joined the Top 100 in Victoria.
The Lockie Leonard series by Tim Winton (1990-97) stars a surf rat named Lachlan “Lockie” Leonard who moves to the Western Australian town of Angelus (based on Albany). Leonard is a Germanic name which can be translated as “brave lion” or “brave as a lion”. St Leonard is a legendary 6th century saint, a Frankish nobleman at the court of Clovis I who could liberate prisoners from their chains when invoked. The Normans brought the name to England, although it didn’t become particularly common until the 19th century. Famous Australians with the name include distinguished chemist Leonard Lindoy, and hard-hitting post-war cricketer Leonard “Jock” Livingston, also a talented rugby league footballer. Leonard has been a popular name amongst Jews in the past, including Jock Livingston: other examples are Canadian folk singer Leonard Cohen and actor Leonard Nimoy. Leonard was #39 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1910s at #35. It didn’t leave the Top 100 until the 1960s, and remained in steady but low use until getting a little boost after The Big Bang Theory, with main character Leonard Hofstadter, began airing in the late 2000s. Clunky cool, this underused classic provides a way to get the popular nickname Lenny.
In Isobelle Carmody’s YA novel The Gathering (1993), Nathaniel Delaney is a teenager who moves to a grim seaside town and finds himself locked in a battle between the forces of Light and Dark. Nathaniel is a variant of Nathanael, the Greek form of Hebrew Netan’el, meaning “God has given”, nearly always understood as “gift of God”. In the Bible, Nathaniel is usually identified with the Apostle Bartholomew; as Bartholomew means “son of Talmai”, it is taken to be Nathaniel’s surname. Nathaniel was in use as an English name by the 16th century, and became more common after the Protestant Reformation. It was used amongst the aristocracy, and also became a favourite in America, with author Nathaniel Hawthorne a notable bearer. Nathaniel was #179 in the 1900s, and left the charts the following decade. It returned in the 1970s at #296, and climbed steadily until it reached the Top 100 last year at #79, making it one of the fastest-rising names of 2013. A handsome retro name that gives the popular nickname Nate, it’s well known from Australian actor Nathaniel Buzolic, from The Vampire Diaries, and Australian singer-songwriter Nathaniel Willemse, who was on The X-Factor.
The Rafferty series by Joan Woodberry (1959-62) are the adventures of an English boy named Rafferty who moves to a fishing village on the Queensland coast. Rafferty is a common Irish surname, an Anglicised form of O’Raithbheartaigh, meaning “son of Rabhartach”. The Old Gaelic personal name Rabhartach means “wielder of prosperity”. The name has a particular Australian resonance, due to iconic Australian actor John “Chips” Rafferty. He was seen as the quintessential Australian, and took part in a marketing campaign convincing British people to migrate to Australia in the 1950s – this might explain the choice of Rafferty’s name in Woodberry’s books. Another Australian reference is the slang term Rafferty’srules, meaning “no rules at all”. It gives the name Rafferty a pleasantly raffish, lawless feel. This name is around the 200s in Australia, and although it is rising in the UK, is more popular here than anywher else. I have also begun to see a few girls named Rafferty.
The Rowan of Rin fantasy series by Emily Rodda (1993-2003) takes place in a fictional world. Rowan is the unlikely hero, considered a bit of a wimpy weakling by the sturdy villagers of Rin, but when danger strikes, his resourcefulness and courage saves the day. Rowan is a Scottish name that’s an Anglicised form of Ruadhán, a pet form of Ruadh, Gaelic for “red”, often given as a nickname to a man with red hair. You may remember that the red-headed Scottish outlaw Raibeart “Ruadh” MacGregor is known as Rob Roy by the English. Rowan can also be unisex when named after the rowan tree; its English name comes from the Germanic for “to redden”, because of the tree’s red berries, so either way the meaning has a connection with the colour. A pleasant association with the tree is that according to folklore it has the power to ward off evil. The name Rowan has charted for boys since the 1940s, debuting at #205, and climbing until it peaked in the 1980s at #164. It’s now around the 300s-400s. Rowan is an underused modern classic which alludes to a vibrant colour, and a magical tree.
Norman Lindsay is famous for writing and illustrating The Magic Pudding (1918), a comic fantasy deservedly recognised as a classic. For some reason, his other children’s book, The Flyaway Highway (1936), is neglected, even though it’s just as funny and fantastical. I loved this story, which relates how Egbert and Muriel Jane meet a “bloke with horns and cows’ hooves” named Silvander Dan, who take them on a journey down the Flyaway Highway. As a child, I thought that the name Silvander was made up for the book (although I’m afraid I was already junior name nerd enough to know what it meant). However, I’ve since found that Silvander was a literary name in the 18th century, and in most of the sources I’ve read, characters named Silvander are untrustworthy bounders! The name is derived from Silvanus, the Roman god of woods and fields, from the Latin silva, meaning “wood, forest”. Although an extremely rare name, it is just enough like Silas and Alexander to not be completely outrageous, and has an agreeably silvery sound. For those who like Leander and Evander, here is another to consider.
I told myself I would not choose more than one book from a single author, but was forced to make an exception for Odo Hirsch, from whose oeuvre I could happily fill two lists. Antonio S and the Mystery of Theodore Guzman (1997) is his first novel, a charming story about a boy who lives in a grand old house, and is fascinated by a reclusive actor. (Name nerd bonus info: Odo Hirsch is the pen name of Dr David Kausman). Theodore is from the Greek name Theodorus, meaning “God’s gift”. Theodorus wasn’t uncommon in ancient times; ironically one of its famous bearers was the 4th century BC philosopher Theodorus the Atheist. Because of its meaning, the name was a popular choice for early Christians, and saints named Theodore are numerous, including a 7th century Archbishop of Canterbury and two popes. Theodore was also traditional mongst the Byzantine Emperors, and the Russian Tsars. Theodore was #116 in the 1900s, and reached its lowest point in the 1970s at #383. It began rising steeply in the 1990s, and last year joined the Queensland Top 100 at #79, making it one of the state’s highest-rising names. A sophisticated classic name which comes with cool short forms Theo and Ted, I’d call this underused except I’m not sure how long it will stay that way.
Last week there were commemorations around the world for the centenary of the start of World War I. I chose the name Hope to mark this solemn occasion, because even during those dark days, when the “lamps went out all over Europe”, there still remained a glimmer of hope for eventual peace.
Britain declared war on Germany on August 4 1914, to take effect at 11 pm. Less than four hours later, the first shot was fired by the British Empire – not in Europe, but thousands of miles away at Point Nepean, near Melbourne.
On August 5 1914, at 12.45 pm, the German cargo ship SS Pfalz was in Port Phillip, desperately trying to leave Australian waters, for they were now in enemy territory. Just minutes after learning that war had been declared, Fort Queenscliff gave the order to Fort Nepean: “Stop her or sink her”.
The first shot was sent across the bow, fired by Sergeant John Purdue. The Australian pilot Captain Montgomery Robinson, who was guiding the Pfalz through the heads, tussled with the German captain for a little while, because Robinson was adamant the Pfalz must stop, or the next shot would go into the ship.
The Pfalz, which was carrying consular officials and contraband, surrendered and was requisitioned by the Australian navy. Her crew were captured and interned, so nobody was killed or even injured. So quietly began the war which would claim 16 million lives and change the world forever.
I also chose to feature Hope because it feels as if the world has become a darker place in the last twelve months. Every day I hear of war and strife, of fear and cruelty, of genocide and bloodshed, of my countrymen and women lying in foreign fields, or at the bottom of the sea.
At such times, all one can do is light a little candle against the darkness, and its flickering flame, which sometimes wavers, and sometimes leaps up tall and strong, is hope.
Hope is a familiar vocabulary word which suggests confident optimism and positivity, a belief that things will improve, or an expectation that a good outcome will be achieved.
Hope is one of the three theological virtues in Christianity, along with faith and love. It refers to the hope of attaining heaven, and means much more than a vague optimism – it’s a complete trust in God’s guidance, and a firm assurance of a reward in the next life.
Saint Hope is one of a trio of legendary martyred saints named Faith, Hope, and Charity, the daughters of Saint Sophia (Wisdom). Their story is very old, and they are clearly personifications of theological virtues. There is also a male Saint Hope, a 6th century Italian abbot.
Modern psychology also views hope in a very favourable light, with many seeing it as harnessing the power of positive thinking to overcome difficult circumstances. Like religion, it also sees hope as more than just optimism, being stronger, and more goal-oriented. While an optimistic person has a passive “something will turn up” attitude, a hopeful person actively works towards the attainment of their desires.
Hope makes an appearance in Greek mythology, in the story of Pandora, who curiously opened a jar which released all the evils of the world. When everything had gone, only Hope remained in the jar. The Greeks generally depicted Hope as a young woman carrying flowers in her hands, and the Romans worshipped her as a goddess, and a power which came from the gods.
Hope has been used as a girl’s name since the late 16th century, and although name sites often say it was first bestowed as a virtue name by the Puritans, there isn’t much evidence of that. In fact, early births suggest that it may have orignally been inspired by places, such as the Hope Valley in Derbyshire, or Hope Cove in Devon.
These place names don’t have anything to do with being hopeful, but are from an Old English word meaning “a small enclosed valley”; it’s one of the sources of the Hope surname. However, later on a Christian meaning does seem more obvious. The name Hope has sometimes been given to boys as well, and you may remember that war hero Hugo Throssell had Hope as one of his middle names.
The name Hope was #247 in the 1900s, and has been on the charts almost constantly, only dropping out for brief periods. It began rising in the 1970s, and seems to have peaked in 2010 at #177; currently it’s in the 200s.
Interestingly, the name seems to have gone down a little in popularity since the sitcom RaisingHope has been on the air; the baby who gives her name to the show’s title is called Hope Chance, and her father changed her name from Princess Beyonce, given to her by her serial killer mother. The eccentric Chance family may have dampened enthusiasm for the name.
I often see the name Hope in birth notices and newspaper stories, most often in the middle, and I think in almost every case, the name was given because the baby was conceived against the odds, or born in difficult circumstances. It adds an extra layer of meaning to the name Hope.
Hope isn’t as popular as Grace, or climbing in popularity like Faith, but that may make this underused classic virtue name all the more desirable. Simple, clean, sweet, and wholesome, it’s a pretty name evoking a state of mind almost magical in its power. May your little Hope glow like a candle in the darkness, may she shine like a star in the night sky.
The Glasgow Commonwealth Games ended on Sunday, a very friendly games where Glasgow gave everyone a warm welcome. It was the first time England had won since 1986, and those games were also held in Scotland. In fact, it was a great Games for the British, with England, Scotland (fourth), and Wales (thirteenth) all winning more medals than they ever had before, in something of an Olympian afterglow.
At the closing ceremony, the baton was passed on to Australia, because the next Commonwealth Games will be held on the Gold Coast in April 2018. Let’s hope we’ll have better uniforms for that. Oh and by the way – it poured with rain the last few days of the Glasgow Games, but our team was warm and dry in their jumpers and anoraks, so who’s laughing now?
Now the Games are over for four more years, this is the end of our Scottish names. I picked the name Clyde because that was the mascot for the Glasgow Games, a cheery looking thistle named after the River Clyde, which flows through the city of Glasgow.
As an Australian reference, I picked Campbell for the Campbell sisters, Cate and Bronte, who did so well in the swimming. Between them they won five gold medals, so as many as Wales, and if they were a country they would have come fourteenth in the medal tally. They were also on the team which set a world record for the women’s freestyle relay.
Clyde is a Scottish surname, given to those who lived along the River Clyde. The Clyde is the third largest river in Scotland, and has its source in the Lowther Hills, in Scotland’s Southern Uplands. It meanders west across the country, and empties into the Firth of Clyde, the largest and deepest coastal waters of the British Isles.
The river’s Gaelic name is Chluaidh, which probably means “cleansing”. It may be related to the Latin cloaca, “sewer, drain”. Clyde has been used as a first name for boys since around the 18th century.
One of my favourite Australian Clydes is Clyde Fenton, a flying doctor in the years before WW II, who piloted his own plane as well as serving as a medical officer in the Northern Territory. Known for his kind and determinedly helpful nature, as well as his great resilience, he was famous for his daring rescues, lively escapades, and madcap pranks, which usually got him into trouble with the authorities. Although fairly indifferent to his own personal safety, he surprisingly lived into his eighties.
The name Clyde was #104 in the 1900s, when Clyde Fenton was born, and peaked in the 1910s at #96. It left the Top 100 in the 1920s, and hasn’t charted since the 1950s. Although it’s a dated name, it has never been really popular, and perhaps isn’t as tied to a particular era as you might think. Interestingly, this name just reached the Top 1000 again in the US, so seems to be having a comeback there.
The name sounds big and capable to me – perhaps because of Clydesdale horses. These Scottish horses were so important in colonial Australia they were called “the breed that built Australia”.
Campbell is a Scottish surname. The Clan Campbell are one of the largest of the Highlands clans, and became one of the most powerful families in Scotland. The Campbells had a reputation for being good soldiers and fighters, but lacking in diplomacy and cunning. The chief of the clan is the Duke of Argyll, in the Peerage of Scotland. The current Duke is Torquil Campbell, and his son and heir is Archibald Campbell, who is around ten years old – I think you will remember that Archibald is a traditional name in the Campbell family.
The name Campbell comes from Cam Beul, a Gaelic nickname meaning “crooked mouth, wry mouth”. The first person given this nickname is said to have been Dugald on Lochawe in the 12th century, who supposedly had a habit of talking out of one side of his mouth.
The name was originally Cambel, but as early as the 14th century it began to be spelled with a p, perhaps because the Norman knights at the Scottish court who were responsible for administration misunderstood it as from the Norman-French camp bello, “beautiful plain”. Campbell has been used as a (mostly male) first name since the 17th century.
Campbell began charting in the 1960s, debuting at #302. This is the decade British speed enthusiast Donald Campbell made several attempts in Australia to break land and water speed records, finally achieving success in 1964, when he broke both the land speed record on Lake Eyre in South Australia, and the water speed record on Lake Dumbleyung in Western Australia.
The popularity of the name Campbell went up steeply in the 1990s, the decade when sound-alike Cameron reached its height and began falling, and peaked in the early 2000s at #181. In New South Wales it seems to be somewhere in the 300s, but in Victoria it is around the high 100s. In the past, it has managed to be a Top 100 name in Tasmania.
It would be interesting to see how Queensland premier Campbell Newman affects the popularity of the name, since politicians generally don’t give names a boost, and Campbell Newman is extremely unpopular, according to the polls. In fact, it will be interesting to see whether he is still premier at the next Commonwealth Games. I do see Campbell quite frequently in birth notices, but not in Queensland, I must admit.
(Premier Newman was born in the 1960s, just as the name Campbell hit the charts, and a year before Donald Campbell broke the speed records in Australia, so his parents were naming trail-blazers.)
Campbell is a strong, handsome Scottish choice which has managed to become a modern classic without ever becoming popular. This makes it a desirable option for parents seeking a name that is familiar without being common.
Two Scottish surnames-as-first-names – but which one is better?
Ashby is a residential northern suburb, first developed in the late 1990s. It is named after the original landowner, Mr E.E. Ashby, who lived here before World War I. Ashby is a surname which means “farm among the ash trees” in a mixture of Old English and Old Norse; it is more common in Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and the East Midlands, which have a history of Scandinavian influence. Ashby has been used as a name for boys since the 17th century, and seems to have been especially popular amongst Puritan families. The town of Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire was an important centre for Puritan preaching and education, which may be an inspiration for the name. Ashby isn’t rare in Australian records, although more common as a middle name, and has occasionally been given to girls. I saw this is a boy’s middle name in a birth notice, and thought this might make an appealing Ash- name for boys, which seems more obviously masculine than Ashley. Unfortunately, it could easily be confused with Ashley too.
Bentley is 8 km south of the city, and is the location of the main campus of Curtin University. The area has been settled since 1830, and was developed in the post-war period with government housing, including homes for returned servicemen. Today Bentley is very varied: it has a light industrial area, but part of it is still used for grazing. The suburb is named after John Bentley, a veteran of the Crimean War who arrived in the Swan River Colony as a pensioner guard, and supervised convicts building what is now the Albany Highway. Bentley is a surname after the common English place name, meaning “bent-grass meadow”; bent-grass refers to rushes or reeds. Bentley has been used as a boy’s name since the 17th century, and has recently leaped up the charts in the United States to become a Top 100 name. Its jump in popularity is attributed to a baby named Bentley on reality show 16 and Pregnant. In Australia, Bentley is around the high 100s, which is still a lot more popular than it is in the UK. People often connect the name to the luxury car company, founded in 1919 by W.O. Bentley.
Bertram is a new suburb of the City of Kwinana, in Perth’s south (for more information, see Leda in Perth Suburbs That Could Be Used As Girls Names). It is named after an assisted migrant from the 1920s, who came here under the group settlement scheme. Bertram is a Germanic name which means “bright raven”; it was introduced to Britain by the Normans. A famous Australian namesake is Sir Bertram Stevens, who was Premier of New South Wales in the years before the Second World War. Bertram has been quite a popular name in fiction, including the main character of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well. Unfortunately, Bertram is not, on the face of it, a very sympathetic character, although he gets his regulation happy ending anyway. Another fictional Bertram is Bertie Wooster, from P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves books; a good-natured idler, this Bertram is not without charm, although perhaps not the most sturdy namesake. The short form Bertie would be very cute though.
Carlisle is south of the CBD, and close enough to offer views of the city. Originally farmland, it was developed in the late 19th century, and is a fairly typical older suburb. The name Carlisle was chosen by the suburb’s ratepayers, who called it after the northern English city of Carlisle in Cumbria. Their logic was that just as Cumbrian Carlisle is famously near the border between England and Scotland, so was Australian Carlisle right on the border between the city of Perth and its suburbs. However, it is interesting to note that one of the landowners at the time was named Carlisle; it is possible his surname put the idea in the ratepayers’ minds. Carlisle is an ancient city which was one of the most heavily fortified towns of pre-Roman Briton: its name means “stronghold of the god Lugus”. Lugus was one of the most prominent of the Celtic gods, and the Romans identified him with Mercury, as he was known as a god of trade and skill. Carlisle has been used as a boy’s name since the 18th century, and was originally used most often in Cumbria. It has recently received some interest since the name was chosen for one of the more sympathetic vampires in the Twilight series.
Falcon is one of the suburbs of Mandurah, a coastal city 45 km from Perth, within the metropolitan area. It is popular with tourists and retirees, making it the least affordable city in Australia. Falcon has a number of beaches, and is named after Falcon Bay, which is pronounced FAWL-kin, rather than FAL-kin – an earlier English pronunciation of the word. Falcon was a yacht whose crew won a silver medal at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, and many of Falcon’s streets are named for yachts. Falcon has been used as a boy’s name since medieval times – there is even an obscure St. Falcon, and Falcon was the middle name of Antarctic explorer Robert Scott. The name may be from the Latin Falco, meaning “falcon”, or derived from the Germanic name Fulco, meaning “people”. I did find a few Falcons born in Australia, and for some reason they were nearly all South Australian. In Australia, this name will remind people strongly of the car, the Ford Falcon, and perhaps also the slang term in rugby league for being accidentally hit in the head by the ball. I’m not sure whether the pronunciation will make any difference.
Murdoch is in the south, and the home of Murdoch University. The university is named in honour of Sir Walter Murdoch, a former chancellor of the University of Western Australia, and its founding Professor of English. Sir Walter was a essayist famous for his wit and intelligence, and an active proponent of international peace and justice, political freedom, women’s rights, and affordable childcare. His great-nephew is the media mogul Rupert Murdoch. The surname Murdoch is the Anglicised form of two Gaelic personal names that became conflated with one another, and were written as Muireadhach. One name was Muiredach, meaning “mariner”, and the other was Murchad, meaning “sea warrior”. Muireadhach was a traditional name amongst the Earls of Monteith, and Murdoch has seen particular use in their seat of Perthshire. Murdoch is commonly found in Australian records amongst Scottish families, but although we have enthusiastically embraced Lachlan, Murdoch has been less successful. Fun fact: Murdoch was an early name crush for a particular Australian blogger, which makes you wonder if this could have been a contender without the prominent Murdoch family.
Samson is a small suburb of Fremantle, a southern port city in the Perth metropolitan area. The suburb was only developed in the 1970s, as before this it had belonged to the army, and was a military camp during World War II. The suburb is named after the Samson family, who have been prominent in the Fremantle area for nearly two centuries. Sir Frederick Samson was mayor of Fremantle for twenty years, from the 1950s to the 1970s, and his home, Samson House, is one of Fremantle’s landmarks. The suburb of Samson contains Sir Frederick Samson Park, Fremantle’s only bush reserve. Sir Frederick was the grandson of Lionel Samson, a wealthy Jewish merchant who settled in the Swan River Colony in 1829 and became one of its most successful pioneers. Popular for his charm and wit, respected for his integrity, the business he founded is still run by the Samson family, making it Western Australia’s oldest family business. Samson is one of the most famous characters in the Old Testament, a judge of the Israelites known for his superhuman strength. His name is from the Hebrew for “man of the sun”, leading some scholars to suspect he was originally a sun god, or demi-god. Samson was in use as an English name during the Middle Ages, and there is a Welsh St Samson, one of the Apostles of Brittany. This is a very masculine name which provides another way to get the popular short form Sam.
Sawyers Valley is on the eastern fringe of Perth’s outer suburbs, and 40 km from the city. Its name came about because it was originally a saw mill and timber processing area. It’s now a semi-rural suburb in the bush-covered hills surrounding Perth. Sawyer is an occupational surname for someone who sawed wood for a living – and in the days when most things were made of wood, an important trade. Sawyer has been used as a personal name since the 17th century, mostly as a male name. In Australian records, I can only find it as a man’s first name, although not unusual as a female middle name. Sawyer doesn’t chart in Australia, but has been in the US Top since 1991; it had a huge jump up the charts after Steven Spielberg chose the name for his son in 1992. In America, it is a unisex name, but more common for boys. Although it is in rare use here, I have seen it a few times, on both sexes. Its most famous namesake is Tom Sawyer, the young scamp from the stories by Mark Twain, while it has also been alias for Josh Holloway’s character on Lost.
Stirling is a residential suburb 10 km north of the city. The area has a multicultural history, because in the 1920s it attracted retired Chinese miners from the goldfields, returned servicemen from the First World War, and many Italian migrant. It became a successful market gardening region producing almost every vegetable possible, some for export. Even after development in the 1960s and ’70s, the suburb remains one of Perth’s most ethnically diverse, with a third of the population having Italian heritage, and many from Macedonian, Greek and Asian backgrounds. The suburb is named after James Stirling, who was the first governor of Western Australia, and who lobbied for a colony to be founded on the Swan River. Stirling is a Scottish Clan name which comes from the city of that name in central Scotland; it is known as the “Gateway to the Highlands”. The meaning of its name is not known, although folk etymology says that it is from the Gaelic for “place of battle”. Another theory is that it is British, and means “dwelling place of Melyn”; the name Melyn is said to mean “yellow-skinned, sallow-skinned”. Stirling has been used as a boy’s name since the 18th century, and was first used this way in Stirlingshire. I have seen this name quite a few times in birth notices, and it’s one with a great deal of dignity.
Warwick is in the northern suburbs of Perth, and a large section of it is still native bushland. It originally belonged to a railway company, and is named after Warwick Road, the major road which goes through it, and pre-dates the suburb’s development. It may have been inspired by Warwick Road in London. The name Warwick comes from the English city of Warwick in the Midlands; its name means “dwellings by the weir” in Old English, as the River Avon flows through it. It’s pronounced WOR-ik. The Earl of Warwick is one of the most prestigious titles in the British peerage, and Guy of Warwick a legendary English hero, which may help explain why Warwick has been used as a boy’s name since at least the 16th century. However, it seems to have originated in Devon, in the seat of a family named Warwick who belonged to the minor nobility. Warwick first charted in the 1910s at #203, joining the Top 100 in the 1940s, where it peaked at #80. It left the Top 100 in the 1960s, and hasn’t charted since the 1990s. Famous Australians with this name include the racing driver Warwick Brown, and flamboyant former AFL star, Warwick Capper.
(Photo shows the entrance to Sir Frederick Samson Park, in Samson)
Aveley is a neighbourhood of the town of Ellenbrook – an outer suburb in the north-east which is projected to be a future satellite city. Avely is named after a small town in Essex, where the Belhus estate was located: this stately home was once visited by Queen Elizabeth I, and had grounds landscaped in the 18th century by the famous Capability Brown. One of the early settlers to the Swan River Colony in 1829 was Edward Pomeroy Barrett-Lennard, the grandson of Lord Dacre, who owned Belhus. Edward Barrett-Lennard was assigned more than 13 000 acres in the Swan Valley, and his eldest son George purchased a large tract of land which he named Belhus after the family estate: it is this which eventually became Aveley. The name Aveley is Old English and means “Aelfgyth’s meadow”; Aelfgyth is an Anglo-Saxon woman’s name meaning “elf battle”. Avely is also a surname, and has been in rare use as a personal name since at least the 16th century. Historically more common for males, Aveley fits so well with current trends in female names that it seems more suitable for girls. Pronounced AV-uh-lee, this is a pretty, modern-sounding name with a feminine meaning and interesting history.
Carine is an affluent suburb 14 km north of the city. The area was once owned by the wealthy Hamsersley family, who came to the Swan River Colony in 1837, and before being developed in the 1960s, it was primarily used for farms and market gardens. The suburb’s name comes from the local wetlands, which are now known as Big Carine Swamp and Small Carine Swamp. Their names are a corruption of Careniup, the Noongar name for the wetlands, which means “the place where bush kangaroos graze”; it has the same origin as nearby Lake Karrinyup. The tranquil wetlands provide a home for rare water-birds and other native wildlife. Carine is already used as a girl’s name, the French form of Carina; it can be said in several different ways, but the Australian Carine is kuh-REEN. You would be hard pressed to find anything more Australian than “kangaroo” as part of a name’s meaning, and this is attractive, although perhaps slightly dated-sounding, due to its similarity to Karen, Caroline, and Corinne.
Floreat is an exclusive suburb 8 km north-west of the city, close to beaches and filled with parkland. As well as swanky boutiques, it is also well known for its sporting facilities, including Perry Lakes Stadium, which was used for the 1962 Empire and Commonwealth Games, and has now been replaced with the Western Australian Athletics Stadium. The suburb’s name is Latin for “let it flourish, let it prosper”, which is the official motto for the City of Perth (and has been fulfilled, for the city has grown rich on the back of the mining boom). Floreat has been occasionally used as a unisex name since the 18th century. In Australian records, it has mostly been used as a middle name, and examples from Perth may have been named for the city’s motto. In Australia, Floreat has been more commonly used as a girl’s name, due to its similarity to Florence, which has the same Latin origins and meaning. With Florence now fashionable, and girl’s names ending with a T sound, like Charlotte and Violet, popular, Floreat seems a surprising choice as a name, but not an outrageous one.
Jindalee is a new outer suburb in Perth’s far north. Because development has only just begun, the beaches are almost untouched, and it is surrounded by bush, scrub, and heathland. The name Jindalee is believed to mean “a bare hill” in an unknown Aboriginal language of New South Wales; there is a town of Jindalee in New South Wales, and a suburb of the same name in Brisbane. The name may refer to Eglinton Hill in Jindalee, which provides views of the sea. I only found one person in Australian records with the name Jindalee, and it was in the middle; although he was a man, to me Jindalee seems feminine, and could be shortened to Jinny or Jindy. This is a lively name which seems quintessentially Australian in its flavour.
Kiara is a quiet leafy suburb in Perth’s northern suburbs. Its name is from an Aboriginal word for “white cockatoo”, and it is not a Western Australian word, but one recorded in the Coffs Harbour region of New South Wales. The “white cockatoo” in question is probably the sulphur-crested cockatoo, a large, handsome, intelligent, curious, and very loud bird, native to the eastern states and far north of Australia. Australian parents seem to have a great fondness for girls’ names beginning with K, and this name sounds much like Italian Chiara, but with a distinctive Australian meaning. The name Kiara has charted since the 1980s, and first joined the Top 100 in 1999 at #67, peaking in 2005 at #49. It left the Top 100 in 2011, and is currently in the low 100s. It’s no longer popular, but still getting plenty of use.
Leda is one of the suburbs of the City of Kwinana, a coastal centre in Perth’s far south known as a working-class industrial area. Several of Kwinana’s suburbs are named for ships, and the brig Leda brought settlers to the Swan River Colony in 1830. The name was appropriate, because in Greek mythology, Leda was a queen of Sparta whose beauty attracted the attention of the god Zeus, who seduced her in the guise of a swan. Queen Leda didn’t have any unnatural interest in swans – the god-swan fell into her arms for protection while escaping from an eagle. Swans are one of the few birds which have a penis outside their body, like mammals do, and after this the specifics are left to our imaginations. Some artists and poets have depicted the act as a rape, while others show Leda as not just consenting, but positively enthusiastic. The same night, Leda lay with her husband, and from these biologically confused couplings, she gave birth to two eggs – one of which contained the ravishing Helen of Troy. Helen’s birth was commemorated by her father Zeus, who placed the constellation Cygnus, the Swan, in the sky. The meaning of the name Leda is not known for sure; it may be from the Lycian for “woman, wife”, and is pronounced LEE-duh. Simple and elegant, this is a name from Western Australian history which also references Perth’s Swan River.
Myaree is a light industrial suburb 11 km south of the city. Its name is said to come from an Australian Aboriginal word meaning “plant leaves, foliage, greenery” (rather inaptly, given the suburb’s purpose). Myaree has been used as a baby name, although not apparently in Australia: it may have been an Anglicisation of an Arabic girl’s name, or a name created from other name elements. Apart from the pleasant meaning of Myaree, and its multicultural possibilities, in many ways it seems quite on trend, because of popular Maya, trendy Marley, and fashionable Myra. In other ways, it seems slightly dated, because of its similarity to names such as Maree and Nyree. To me it’s rather appealing and contemporary, while not unfamiliar in sound.
Quinns Rocks is in the outer northern suburbs of Perth. It was first settled in the 19th century by a family of sheep farmers called the Clarksons, who used it as pasturage. In the 1930s it was a place for seaside holidays, with many people building beach shacks along the coast. It began to be developed as a residential area in the late 1950s, and was declared a town in the 1960s. The beautiful white beach is the suburb’s major feature, and still attracts holidaymakers. The suburb gets its name from an offshore reef, and is believed to have been called after Robert Quin, a 19th century government surveyor who made the first records of the area. Another theory is that it is named after Mick Quinn, one of the Clarksons’ shepherds who had a shack in the area. Why it should be named after this shepherd in particular is not related, and the congruence of names seems most likely. Quinn is a common Irish surname, an Anglicised form of the Gaelic mac Cuinn, meaning “son of Cuinn”. Cuinn (which is Anglicised to Conn) means “head, chief”. The surname’s originator is Art mac Cuinn, a High King of Ireland; according to legend, he and his father Conn of the Hundred Battles, also a High King, had dealings with a fairy woman. The Quins were one of the noble families of Ireland, but the line came to an end a few years ago. Quinn is rising rapidly as a unisex name, and currently seems to be almost equal between the genders, while also performing well as a middle name. Expect to see more Quinns in the future.
Serpentine is a small town on the very fringes of the metropolitan area, 55 km south-east of the city, on the railway line between Perth and Bunbury. The town is named after the nearby Serpentine River, so called because of its meandering course. Serpentine has been used sparingly as a name since the 19th century, and in Australian records is found mostly as a middle name, divided fairly evenly between males and females. Most of the Serpentines were from the Perth area, making me think they were named after the river. Serpentine is a problematic name, because while serpentine means “winding, curving” (like a serpent), it can also mean “crafty, deceitful”. The second meaning is an obvious allusion to the serpent in Genesis, who leads Eve into temptation. While this may give some people the jitters, serpents are also ancient symbols of wisdom and healing, and are often depicted guarding sacred places; a serpent holding its tail in its mouth is a symbol of eternity. In Australian Aboriginal myths, the Rainbow Serpent is a significant deity, symbolising life and fertility. Strong and mysterious, sinuous Serpentine may be easier to bear as a middle name.
Viveash is a secluded riverside suburb in the city’s north-west. It is named after Dr Samuel Waterman Viveash, a prominent pioneer who arrived in the Swan River Colony in 1838, and took up farming. Viveash is an English surname whose origins are disputed; it may be Anglo-Norman, and come from the French vivace, meaning “lively, vigorous”. However, because it is pronounced like “five ash” with a V instead of an F at the start, it is often linked to places in southern England called Five Ash Trees. Viveash has been used as a personal name for both sexes, almost exclusively found in the middle position. Examples from Australian records are all from Western Australia, and nearly all from the Perth area, making it likely they were named in honour of Dr Viveash. Viveash is a very unusual name, but is vaguely similar to Vivian and Ashley, while having a distinct sound and feel of its own.
In March, Canberra was named Australia’s most liveable city, scoring highly in design, cleanliness, outdoor recreation, education, and safety. This was in a survey of residents conducted by the Property Council of Australia.
Now data collected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that the Australian Capital Territory has the highest levels of well-being in the country, with perfect scores for income, safety, and civic engagement, and near-perfect scores for health, jobs, education, and access to services.
The OECD report highlighted the differences between regions in member countries, and unfortunately the report showed that Australia had the greatest regional inequality of any OECD country, with Tasmania doing the worst in terms of income (6.1 while the ACT is 10). And while the ACT scored 9.9 for health, and 10 for safety, the Northern Territory received 4.1 for health, and a truly dismal 1.4 for safety.
Because the OECD was examining the regions of each country separately, it also shows that the Australian Capital Territory is performing extremely well on a global scale – in fact, it is officially the best place to live in the world, with Canberra coming first, then Western Australia second, followed by three regions in Norway. (The study also showed places similar to the ACT were western Norway, Stockholm, New Hampshire, and South-East England).
However, even though the ACT is, we now learn, the greatest place on the planet, it probably won’t lead to millions of people flocking there in search of cleanliness and safety. Not only because there isn’t the infrastructure for millions of people, but because Australians love to despise their capital as cold, boring, sterile, and full of politicians.
As a result, when people move to Canberra, especially those who have come from other countries, they are often pleasantly surprised to find themselves in a setting of great natural beauty, within easy driving distance of both the beach and the ski slopes, and, well, somewhere generally safe and clean and all those things which sound boring, but are actually nice to have.
Most of the Australian Capital Territory is taken up with national parks, which is why it is called “the bush capital”, and so I am covering two names from the mountains of the ACT region.
Mount Franklin is one of the higher mountains in the Brindabella Ranges, on the border of the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. The mountain’s summit is on the ACT side, and it is 1646 metres (5400 feet) high. It was once the hub of Canberra’s ski community, and it is still open for cross-country ski-ing, snow play, and bush walking.
Mount Franklin is close to Brindabella Station, which was built by the pioneering Franklin family in the 19th century. It was the childhood home of the famous author and feminist Miles Franklin, whose autobiographical novel My Brilliant Career tells of a spirited young woman growing up in rural New South Wales. Under the pen name Brent of Bin Bin, she wrote a series of novels about a station called Bool Bool in the mountains of south-eastern New South Wales, based on Brindabella, and in later life, she wrote a memoir called Childhood at Brindabella. Brindabella Station is still a working farm, and it is possible for visitors to stay on the property.
The station is named after the Brindabella Range itself, part of the Australian Alps which can be seen to the south-west of the capital. The Brindabellas are often taken for granted by Canberrans, but they are beautiful in their diversity, from imposing high crags in the mist, to rolling farmland nestled snugly in sun-dappled valleys between dark forests. The play of light and cloud never stops moving across the ranges, and each day in the mountains seems to end with a spectacular sunset.
The name Brindabella is said to mean “two hopping mice” in a local Aboriginal language. Hopping mice are native Australian mice with long tails, large ears and strong back legs; they can hop about just like a rabbit or a kangaroo. Another theory is that brindy brindy meant “water running over rocks”, and that Europeans added a -bella at the end, to suggest “beautiful”.
Franklin is an English surname, which doesn’t denote an occupation so much as the person’s social status. In medieval England, a franklin was a free man – one not in servitude to anyone. It came to mean someone who owned land, but was not a member of the landed gentry or aristocracy. The franklin was the beginning of an English middle-class: those who owned property, and could even be quite well off, yet were not of noble lineage.
The word franklin comes from the Latin francus, meaning “free”, which is the origin of our English word frank, meaning “free, liberal, honest”. You might remember that frank comes from the Germanic tribe of the Franks, who conquered Gaul, which was named France in their honour. The country’s name was the inspiration for the name Francesco, so Franklin is a linguistic relative of the names Frank and Francis.
Franklin has been used as a boy’s name since the 17th century, and it has been used more often in the US, where it has never left the Top 1000. One of the name’s most famous namesakes is inventor Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and another American namesake is the president Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Franklin and Brindabella seem like names which might appeal to those who love the outdoors, especially the mountains. At the same time, they might equally find favour with those who love Australian literature, and may be especially meaningful for those who have a connection with the area around the Brindabellas.
Although neither of them have ever charted in Australia, their short forms are on trend, because Franklin can be shortened to the fashionable Frank or Frankie, while Brindabella naturally shortens to popular Bella – although Brin would not sound strange as a nickname. You may recall the American-born triplet with a Canberran father named Brindabella, and I have also seen a baby named Bryndee-Bella, in apparent allusion to the mountain range.
(Picture shows a view of the Brindabella Ranges, including Mount Franklin; photo from Weatherzone)
Australian rapper and model Iggy Azalea has been in the news recently, as she performed at the Billboard Music Awards last month. Her song Fancy recently reached #1 on the Billboard Top 100 in the same week that Ariana Grande’s Problem, which features Azalea, made #2. This makes Iggy Azalea the first act to reach #1 and #2 simultaneously since the Beatles did it in 1964 with I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and She Loves You.
Iggy grew up in the hippie town of Mullumbimby in northern New South Wales, and began rapping at the age of fourteen after developing an obsession with Tupac when she was eleven. Unsuccessful and unpopular at school, Iggy dropped out. Shortly before her sixteenth birthday, she left for a “holiday” in the United States, during which she phoned her parents and broke it to them that she wasn’t coming home, but going to seek her fortune as a professional rapper. She lived in the southern states, and developed a southern American accent for professional purposes.
As a rapper in America, Iggy was at first unsuccessful and unpopular, but Mullumbimby had accustomed her to this, and it didn’t faze her. Later she moved to Los Angeles, and began uploading her own videos to YouTube: her career began to grow when her first official music video, for her song Pu$$y, went viral. Her first studio album, The New Classic, was released in April this year and debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts, also making #1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop albums, and Top Rap Albums. She is the first non-American female rapper to reach the summit of these charts.
We are told that screen names are no longer necessary in Hollywood, but stage names are still common in the world of rap and hip-hop. Iggy Azalea invented hers using the old chestnut of combining her pet dog’s name with the name of the street she grew up on (her family still lives on Azalea Street in Mullumbimby). While some people might use this method and end up with something uninspiring, like Pickles Main or Mr. Bunny Wunny Commercial Estate, Iggy Azalea got pretty lucky with hers, although her real name of Amethyst Kelly seems marketable enough.
I have been seeing quite a few Azaleas and Amethysts in birth notices in the past few years, and wonder whether Amethyst Kelly aka Iggy Azalea has had an effect? I haven’t seen any girls named Iggy though.
The azalea is a flowering ornamental shrub native to Asia, Europe and North America; it is a member of the rhododendron family. Azaleas bloom in the spring, and have beautiful frilly flowers in shades of pink, purple, and white.
Its name comes from the Greek for “dry”, because it grows in dry soil and is tough enough to thrive in harsh conditions. In Chinese culture, azaleas are a symbol of womanhood and love for the home. Azalea festivals are held in Japan, China, Korea, and in many cities of the United States; the azalea is the state wildflower of Georgia in the US.
Azalea has been used as a girl’s name since the 18th century, originating in both Britain and the US. Although there is some dispute as to when azaleas were introduced to England from the Americas, they were definitely imported by the early 18th century. Azalea first turns up in Ohio in the US, where there is a small town named Azalea, so it can be seen as a place name. The name Azalea is currently rising in popularity in the United States.
As a name, Azalea seems flouncy and feminine, and also quite tough – the “dry” meaning seems very appropriate in Australia. It can be pronounced either uh-ZAY-lee-uh or uh-ZAYL-yuh, and fits in with trendy names such as Zalia and Zahlia, so that it seems a little exotic but doesn’t sound particularly strange. Zay or Zaylie could be used as short forms.
An amethyst is a semi-precious gemstone which is a violet-shaded quartz, ranging from a pinkish colour to a deep purple. The name comes from Greek, and means “not intoxicated”, due to a belief that amethysts were a protection against drunkenness.
The ancient Greeks and Romans drank wine from cups made from amethyst, thinking this would stop them being affected by alcohol. In medieval times, amethyst amulets were worn in battle, in the belief that they had healing properties, and kept the wearer cool-headed; they are supposed to have the ability to dispel illusions.
Amethysts are mined all over the world, with the highest quality coming from Brazil and Sri Lanka. You can fossick for amethysts yourself in Australia, with the most promising locations being in northern Queensland. You can also find “desert amethysts” – very old glass bottles which have baked in the sun until they turn a pretty violet colour.
Amethysts seem to capture the imagination of writers, and there are many stories and poems about them, even in ancient times. If you have read the Anne ofGreenGables books by L.M. Montgomery, you will remember that as a child, Anne thought that diamonds would be “purply-sparkling” like amethysts and was disappointed to find they were colourless. One of her fancies was that amethysts were the souls of good violets.
Amethyst has been used as a personal name since the 19th century, when other gemstone names were fashionable; it can be shortened to Amy. Although amethysts are not rare or valuable, there is something pure and wholesome about them, even spiritual. As Anne says: “I think amethysts are just sweet”.
Two pretty nature names starting with A, both belonging to the same person. Which one do you prefer?
Happy Mother’s Day! One of my mum’s favourite hobbies is browsing in antique shops and vintage stores: sometimes you find the most wonderful items in these places, and marvel that we ever stopped making such beauties. On the other hand, sometimes there’s nothing but junk in them. But either way, you get to lose yourself in the past for a while. Here are ten boys names from the 1920s, and I will let you decide whether I have dug up something worthwhile, or whether they should be allowed to lie under dust sheets for a few years longer.
Based on the place name Atholl, a district of the Scottish Highlands which means “New Ireland” in Gaelic. One of its towns is named Blair Atholl, and the Duke of Atholl is a member of the Scottish peerage – the only person in Europe legally commanding his own private army, the Atholl Highlanders. Both Sydney and Adelaide have suburbs named Blair Athol; the one in Sydney is named after a historic house. A famous Australian namesake is Athol Guy, from folk group The Seekers – he’s the one with glasses. Athol has been used as a first name since the 18th century, and originates from the Atholl region of Scotland. Athol was #86 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1910s at #70; by the 1920s it was #72. It left the Top 100 in the 1940s, and hasn’t ranked since the 1950s. Athol unfortunately sounds a lot like the female name Ethel, and can be mispronounced to sound like a rude word (I went to primary school with an Athol, and can testify to this). It might be better suited as a middle name.
Germanic name translated as “brave as a bear”. It was brought to England by the Normans, where it replaced the Old English equivalent, Beornheard. There are several saints named Bernard, including St Bernard of Mentone, founder of a famous refuge for pilgrims in the French Alps; the St Bernard dogs used to rescue people are named after him. Another is St Bernard of Clairvaux, who founded the Cistercian Order and is a Doctor of the Church, famed for his eloquence. Two Australian celebrities demonstrate the different ways this name can be pronounced: Bernard Fanning from Powderfinger says his name with the accent on the first syllable, while tennis player Bernard Tomic has his name pronounced with the emphasis on the second. Bernard was #62 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1920s at #53. It didn’t leave the Top 100 until the 1970s, and last ranked in the 1990s. With more than sixty years in the Top 100, yet never in the Top 50, Bernard seems very usable. It’s a strong, masculine name that is quite funky, and comes with cute nicknames like Bernie, Barney, and Bear.
Germanic name translated as “bright army”, and found very early in the form Charibert, who was King of the Franks in the 6th century; his daughter married a king of Kent. The Anglo-Saxons had their own form of the name, Hereberht, and there is a 7th century saint with this name, as well as an obscure French St Herbert. When the Normans conquered England, they brought the name with them, and it replaced the Old English form. Unlike many other medieval names, Herbert managed to remain in use because it is an aristocratic surname – the Herbert family have been Earls of Pembroke in an unbroken line since 1501. The first Earl of Pembroke was a courtier married to the sister of Catherine Parr, one of Henry VIII’s wives, and the present Earl still lives on the estate built by the first Earl. The name Herbert became popular during the 19th century, when Sidney Herbert, the 14th Earl, was a distinguished politician famous for being the most handsome MP of his day. Herbert was #23 in the1900s, and #48 by the 1920s. It left the Top 100 in the 1940s, and hasn’t ranked since the 1960s. I have seen one or two small children named Herbert, and this is one for the serious lover of vintage names, with the nicknames Herb, Herbie, and Bertie.
Anglicised form of Iain, a modern Scottish Gaelic form of John, derived from the medieval Irish name Eoin. Both Iain and Ian date from the 19th century, and it is not impossible that Iain was an attempt to Gaelicise English Ian. Ian was #128 in the 1900s, and joined the Top 100 the following decade. It was #57 in the 1920s, and peaked in the 1950s at #10. It didn’t leave the Top 100 until the 1990s, and is currently stable in the mid-200s. This makes Ian a very safe choice – it’s a classic which was popular for eighty years, and is still in reasonable use.
English form of the Welsh Llwyd, commonly translated as “grey”, which in practice referred to various shades of brown in different contexts, and white, in the sense of grey hair being white. Although Llwyd was sometimes used as a personal name, it became better known as an epithet, which came to describe someone with mouse-brown hair, and then developed into a surname. By this stage, the original meaning of “grey” was pretty much lost, and it was understood as “brown-haired”. The word llwyd could also be understood as meaning “holy, blessed”, although this doesn’t seem to have contributed to the surname. In Britain, Lloyd has some heavy-duty business clout, due to Lloyds Bank, and the insurance market Lloyd’s of London. Use of the name may have been boosted by David Lloyd George, Britain’s only Welsh Prime Minister. Lloyd was #148 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1910s at #80. By the 1920s it was #91, and it left the Top 100 the following decade. However, the name Lloyd continued to chart until the late 2000s. It’s still in occasional use, and I see it quite often as a middle name in birth notices. Lloyd may be a little clunky, but it’s not an outrageous choice.
A region in north-west Scotland, said to mean “headland” in Gaelic, perhaps referring to the Black Isle, a peninsula in the Scottish Highlands. Another possibility is that it means “horse island” in Old Norse, in reference to the island of Orkney. The Scottish surname Ross originates from this area. However, the surname has English roots too, because there are places in England named Ross, with the meaning “headland”, and Rozzo was an Anglo-Saxon name meaning “fame” (related to the name Rose). The Rosses were a large Yorkshire family who came over with William the Conqueror from the village of Ros in Normandy (the name means “red’); in the Middle Ages they bought up large tracts of Ayrshire, so their surname also became Scottish. Ross has been used as a personal name since at least the 16th century, and first used in England rather than Scotland. Ross was #203 for the 1900s, and hit the Top 100 in the 1920s at #75. It peaked in the 1950s at #37, didn’t leave the Top 100 until the 1980s, and still ranked in the late 2000s. Ross is fairly common in the middle, and wouldn’t be too surprising up front.
Anglicised form of Ruadh, a Gaelic name meaning “red”, often used as a nickname for someone with red hair. One of the most famous bearers is Scottish outlaw Raibeart Ruadh MacGriogair, known in English as Rob Roy MacGregor. His story was turned into a best-selling novel by Sir Walter Scott, and Liam Neeson starred in a film about him. The name can also be derived from the surname, which can be from Ruadh, but also from Norman-French Roi, meaning “king”. This could be used as a nickname, but was a medieval personal name as well. Roy was #25 in the 1900s, and #34 by the 1920s. It left the Top 100 in the 1950s, and reached its lowest point in 2010 with a ranking of 0. Since then, Roy has begun to pick up steam, and has become rather fashionable, along with similar names like Royce, Elroy and Leroy. This classic is once again on trend.
Aristocratic surname which probably comes from a place name meaning “at the water-meadows” in Old English. However, folk etymology derives it from the French Saint-Denis, a suburb of Paris named after the city’s first bishop. The Sidney family became prominent during the Tudor period; Sir William Sidney was squire to Henry VIII. Sir William’s grandson was poet Sir Philip Sidney, famous for creating the name Stella. The story goes he had a noble and gallant death, for as he lay dying in battle, he gave his water to another wounded soldier, with the words, “Thy necessity is yet greater than mine”. Sir Philip’s great-nephew was Algernon Sidney, a 17th century republican executed for treason, and afterwards revered as a heroic patriot and martyr. Although Sidney had been used as a first name since the 16th century, it became much more popular in the United States during the 18th and 19th, because Algernon Sidney’s anti-monarchist views were highly influential to the American conception of liberty. Although it has charted for both sexes in the US, in Australia Sidney has only charted as a male name. Sidney was #48 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1910s at #47; by the 1920s it was #63. It left the Top 100 in the 1940s, and dropped from the charts in the 1980s. However, it ranked again in the late 2000s at #450, and has been gently increasing. This retro name is back in style, along with its short form, Sid.
English form of the Roman family name Terentius, of unknown meaning. The Roman comic playwright we call Terence was named Publius Terentius Afer, and he was a slave (probably from Libya) of a Roman senator from the Terentius family, who educated him, and later freed him; he adopted the name Terentius after gaining his freedom. There are several saints we call Terence, although most of them were named things like Terentianus, Terentian, or Tertius. Terence has been used as an English name since the 17th century, and in Ireland was used to Anglicise the name Toirdhealbhach, meaning “instigator”. Terence was #141 for the 1900s, and joined the Top 100 in the 1920s at #71. It peaked in the 1940s at #30, and left the Top 100 in the 1960s. It hasn’t ranked since the 1990s, but Terence still seems usable, and could be seen as either a “posh” choice or an Irish one.
English surname derived from the Norman French waleis, meaning “foreigner”. Although often translated as “Welsh”, the word waleis could refer to someone from Wales, or from the English counties bordering Wales, or to Cornish Celts, or to Bretons who came to England after the Norman Conquest and settled in East Anglia. The surname became associated with Scotland because of the early medieval Kingdom of Strathclyde, which straddled northern England and southern Scotland. The people of Strathclyde spoke Cumbric, a British language closely related to Old Welsh, and were known as walensis. Even after becoming part of Scotland, it remained a distinctive area into the 12th century. The surname is famous because of Sir William Wallace, a commander during the 13th century Wars of Scottish Independence who has become an iconic Scottish national hero. There have been many books and poems written about Wallace’s exploits, and he features in the film Braveheart, played by Mel Gibson. Wallace has been used as a first name since the 17th century, and originates from Scotland. Wallace was #74 for the 1900s, and peaked in the 1920s at #68. It left the Top 100 in the 1940s, and hasn’t ranked since the 1950s. Wallace really deserves to make a comeback, and the nicknames Wally and Wal are cute.
(Picture shows two boys riding their tricycles amongst grape vines in Mildura, Victoria in the 1920s; photo from Museum Victoria)
Last month, New South Wales Liberal Premier Barry O’Farrell resigned from his position during a NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation into Australian Water Holdings. Barry denied receiving a $3000 bottle of Grange Hermitage from a AWH executive and failing to declare it, but a thank you note in his handwriting, even mentioning the 1959 vintage of wine (the year of Barry’s birth), was presented to ICAC as evidence.
Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian was Barry O’Farrell’s choice for his successor, but in the end she settled for Deputy to Premier Mike Baird, and was rewarded by being made Minister for the Hunter region.
New South Wales is not unaccustomed to these political scandals. The former Labor Premier resigned from his shadow ministry roles due to a personal affair, and a former Liberal Party leader resigned in tragic circumstances several years ago. The new Premier is now watching his ministry become engulfed in a cash-for favours scandal which has also damaged the NSW Labor Party, and is creating anxiety for the Federal government as well. Expect more scalps.
Barry can be seen as an Anglicised form of the Irish name Bairre, a short form of Finnbarr or Barrfind, meaning “fair hair”. It can also be an Anglicised form of the Irish name Berach, derived from a Gaelic word meaning “sharp”, and often glossed as “spear”.
There are five Irish saints named Finnbarr, with the best known being a 6th century monk who created a centre of learning in the city of Cork. Saint Barrfind (known by a confusing variety of spellings of his name) is a 6th century Irish saint who legend says was a disciple of Saint Columba, and said to have voyaged to North America, serving as an inspiration for Saint Brendan the Navigator. Saint Berach was a 6th century Irish saint who was a disciple of Saint Kevin.
The Barry surname can be derived from these names, such as O’Baire, meaning “son of the fair haired one”. But most Irish Barry families got their surname from the Normans, because de Barri was a knight who came over during the Norman Conquest of Ireland. The name comes from the village of LaBarre in Normandy, whose name may mean “gateway, barrier”.
However, the aristocratic de Barry family, Normans settled in Wales, received their name from ownership of Barry Island, whose name seems to come from the Welsh for “hill”, although it’s often said to be named after Saint Baroc, a British saint who had a chapel on the island. The Scottish Barrys take their name from a place name in Angus which also means “hill”.
Barry has been used as a first name in Ireland and England (and more rarely, Wales and Scotland) since at least the 18th century, and due to immigration from Ireland, became known in the Americas and Australia as well.
A famous Australian namesake is comedian Barry Humphries, who created the character of naively ocker Barry McKenzie for a Private Eye comic strip in the 1960s. In the 1970s films, Barry McKenzie is the nephew of Humphries creation Edna Everage, and played by Australian singer Barry Crocker. Perhaps due to this trio of Barrys, and Barry McKenzie’s rich Australian slang (mostly made up), Barry is often perceived as a very Aussie name. This does have some validity, because Barry peaked higher in popularity here than elsewhere.
Barry was #121 in the 1910s, and joined the Top 100 in the 1920s at #84. It peaked in the 1940s at #10, and left the Top 100 in the 1970s – perhaps the Barry Mackenzie films weren’t a help to it? Barry last ranked in the 1990s, but just two years ago I saw a birth notice for a baby Barry, so it is still in occasional use. Bazza or Baz are the traditional nicknames, although Baz Luhrman is not a Barry.
Gladys is a modern form of the medieval Welsh name Gwladus, traditionally identified as a Welsh form of Claudia, although it may come from the Old Welsh word for “country, nation, realm”, with connotations of sovereignty and rulership over the land.
The name Gwladus was used amongst royalty and nobility in medieval Wales, and Saint Gwladys (often called Saint Gladys) was the beautiful daughter of a legendary Welsh king who married another king, also a saint (somehow he managed to fit raiding and robbery onto his CV). The saintly couple had a number of children who were saints as well. According to legend, Gwladys and her family knew King Arthur, and lived in the woods as hermits, with a strict regimen of vegetarianism, cold baths, and chastity.
The name Gladys became well known outside Wales in the 19th century, when English author Ouida used it for a character in her novel Puck. In the book, Gladys is a farm girl who becomes a gifted actress; angelically beautiful, she manages to be both pure and passionate. Apart from this attractive namesake, the nickname Glad seems cheerful, and Gladys may have reminded some parents of gladiolus flowers (the familiar “gladdies” so beloved of Dame Edna Everage).
Gladys was #8 in the 1900s, left the Top 100 in the 1940s, and hasn’t ranked since the 1950s. There was a very famous Australian singer named Gladys Moncrieff, an absolute superstar for decades, known as “Australia’s Queen of Song”, and “Our Glad”. She started her career as “Gladys the Wonder Child” in the 1900s, and was still holding farewell concerts in the 1960s, laden with awards and honours on every side. The name Gladys disappeared from the charts around the same time she retired, but must have remained in some use, for Gladys Berejiklian was born in 1970.
Gladys was very popular once – as popular as Ava is now. In its day it was fashionable, and must have been seen as fresh, pretty, and charming. It is now generally viewed as an “ugly old lady name”, and often cited as an example of a name that can never be brought back, like an unlovely corpse with DO NOT REVIVE scrawled across its chest.
I think most of us are realistic enough to know that our daughters’ names – so popular, fashionable, fresh, pretty, and charming at present – will probably become “old lady names”, given enough time. We know there will be wrinkled Madisons, widows-humped Khaleesis, Willows with hip replacements, and Arias doting over their great-grandchildren, and their names’ image will change to match their senior status.
But names like Gladys are a looming spectre – what if our daughters’ names don’t just become old lady names, but ugly old lady names? Names that people hate, shudder with horror to think they were ever used, and vow will never be used again? And what popular names of today will be the “ugly old lady names” of the next century, I wonder?