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Toni Collette is that rare creature – a born actress. At the age of 11 she faked appendicitis so convincingly that doctors performed surgery on her, even though medical tests all showed there was nothing wrong. She has a face which effortlessly transmits emotion to an audience, and the instinctive ability to inhabit a character so completely that few people actually know what Toni looks like in real life. (Much prettier than on camera, is the general verdict).

Born and raised in working class Blacktown, Sydney, she dropped out of the National Institute of the Dramatic Arts to work in film and theatre. At 21 she stole our hearts as the plump, naïve, ABBA-loving Muriel Heslop from Porpoise Spit, in P.J. Hogan’s cult film Muriel’s Wedding, and was then catapulted into the world of Hollywood, Broadway, fame, wealth and awards. She went on to star in films such as The Sixth Sense, About a Boy, and Little Miss Sunshine, and since 2009 has played the title role in the Spielberg-produced TV show, The United States of Tara.

In 2002, she met Dave Galafassi, the drummer for Sydney indie band Gelbison, at a barbeque. She describes him as “balanced, patient, and beautiful,” and says she knew straight away that he was “the one”. In January 2003, Toni and Dave were married at her country house in south-coast Broughton, near Berry. They had a Buddhist ceremony which lasted an entire weekend, and featured dancing monks, vegetarian banquets, and a fireworks display.

Their first child, Sage Florence, was born in Sydney on January 9 2008. When she announced her pregnancy the previous July, Toni noted, “It is strange that in the last three films I’ve done [my character has] been pregnant. I’m just like, what is the universe trying to tell me?”

In October last year, Toni and Dave announced they were happy to be expecting a second child, and Arlo Robert Galafassi arrived this Good Friday, April 22. Arlo made it “the greatest Friday”, was the statement from Toni and Dave. Like his sister, he was born in Sydney, where Toni was filming Mental with P.J. Hogan.

I never knew where the name Arlo came from, and after doing a little digging, I found out that nobody else really knows either! Behind the Name lists it as “meaning uncertain”, but notes that it may come from the fictional place name Arlo Hill in Sir Edmund Spenser’s 1590 poem, The Faerie Queen. It is theorised that Spenser created the name from the Irish place name Aherlow, which is Gaelic for “between two hills”. Wikipedia says that it is either a variation of the English surname Harlow, a variant of Harley or Arlene, or an Italian variant of Carlo. It seems to be a name which originated in America.

Toni Collette has confirmed that her son Arlo was named after the folksinger Arlo Guthrie, son of Woody Guthrie, of whom she and Dave are fans. The middle name Robert is after Toni’s father, Bob.

Toni Collette is very popular in Australia – an amazing feat in a country which enjoys despising its famous people. I think it’s because Toni has always seemed like a hard working actress, rather than a glamorous celebrity. She has lived all over the world, but chose to make her home in her native Sydney instead of relocating to Hollywood. Despite the Buddhism, meditation and astrology, she is always described as “down-to-earth”. Although she has had her share of personal problems, such as eating disorders and panic attacks, she doesn’t hawk them around the chat show circuit, or bring out tearfully brave books on “My Battle With X”. In fact, she’d rather not talk about them. She went to therapy, she got over it. End of story. She doesn’t analyse things, yap about herself, or witter on Twitter, and she seems to have a perpetually sunny attitude and toothy grin. You have to admit, that’s pretty refreshing.

Everyone appears to be completely enamored with her baby name choices as well – nearly every article on baby Arlo is followed by enthusiastic comments praising Arlo as a gorgeous name. Many people were quick to point out that they too, had a little Arlo (one female), and a couple said their Arlo was inspired by the character Arlo Glass on TV show 24. Clearly it’s a name doing well at the moment, and no doubt climbing up the charts. Just as Toni Collette manages to be the celebrity who seems like she could be just like you if talent hadn’t driven her determinedly in another direction, she’s won further esteem by choosing a baby name that’s just what everyone else would have chosen.

I don’t know if I’m quite so in love with the name Arlo; I’m not a huge fan of either folk music or 24, and I must confess I have a perverse side to me that quickly goes off names greeted with universal acclaim. However, I think it’s great with the middle name Robert, a brilliant match with sister Sage, and Arlo Galafassi just sounds wonderful. I also find myself intrigued by the possible connection to Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen. As context is everything, I hereby award Arlo Robert Galafassi a thumbs up!

Further Reading:

See the entry on Arlo at Appellation Mountain for more information on the name.

Check out Mer de Noms’ blog entry on The Faerie Queen for more Spenserian names.

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