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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 of Green Gables 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?

Azalea received a very good approval rating of 74%, but people were less enthusiastic about Amethyst, which had an approval rating of 43%.


(Top photo shows purple azalea flowers; bottom photo shows Azalea Street in Mullumbimby)