aristocratic names, Celtic names, famous namesakes, fictional namesakes, French names, germanic names, Italian names, Latin names, locational names, name history, name meaning, name popularity, Norman-French names, saints names, surnames names, UK name popularity, US name popularity
This year was the 60th anniversary of Eurovision, hosted by last year’s winner, Austria, and the finals held in Vienna on May 23. The contest was won by Sweden, with heavily favourited Måns Zelmerlöw’s Heroes storming to victory, the sixth time Sweden has been the winner. Austria was the wooden spooner this time, with not a single point – the first time a host country has received zero points. (Seriously what happened, the song wasn’t that bad?).
The big excitement for Australia was that we were finally allowed to compete, chosen as a wildcard entrant, and being given an automatic slot in the final (if you’re wondering how you receive this honour, you pay for it, with SBS stumping up the costs). We sent pop star (and twice-time celebrity dad) Guy Sebastian, performing Tonight Again, written especially for Eurovision. We came a creditable fifth, and Tonight Again is tearing up the iTunes chart in Europe, predicted to be one of the biggest hits of the northern summer.
In fact, Australia impressed enough that they haven’t ruled out asking us back next year. The theme of Eurovision 2015 was “Building Bridges”, and maybe they can build a bridge all the way to Oz.
Guy is the Norman-French form of the Germanic name Wido, a short form of names such as Witold and Widukind, based on the word witu, meaning “wood”. It was introduced to England by the Normans, and was a fairly popular name. There are a couple of saints named Guy, and the name was also used to Anglicise the name of Saint Vitus, whose Latin name means “life”.
Another influence may have been the legendary medieval hero Guy of Warwick. In the story, Guy falls in love with a fair lady named Felice, who is much posher than him. In order to win her, he must prove his worth by battling dragons, giants, huge wild boars, and a particularly savage cow. After marrying Felice, he soon feels remorseful for his acts of violence, and goes on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, eventually ending his long life as a hermit in a cave. It all sounds a bit pointless to us cynical moderns, but Guy was greatly admired, and the name Guy became traditional in the Beauchamp family, the earls of Warwick.
The name had already become relatively uncommon when it was chosen for Guy Fawkes in the 16th century, and it is conjectured that the name was slightly more popular in Yorkshire because of a famous local judge named Sir Guy Fairfax (records show Guy was still getting some use in Warwick, because of the legendary hero, and was a particular favourite in Gloucestershire, where there was a noble family named Guy – whose surname came, not from the personal name, but from the French place name Guise).
Guy Fawkes is infamous for his role in the Gunpowder Plot, where a small group of Catholics planned to assassinate the Protestant King James I and his government by blowing up Parliament House with gunpoweder. They would then kidnap King James’ nine-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, and place her on the throne as a Catholic monarch (Elizabeth Stuart was a Protestant, but the conspirators planned to raise her as a Catholic and marry her to a Catholic when she was old enough).
It was an outrageous plan, fortunately foiled by the Plotters themselves, when they sent out letters to Catholic parliamentarians, telling them to stay away lest they get blown sky high. The letters were thought to be a hoax, but the king ordered the cellars under the parliament to be searched just in case, and Guy Fawkes was discovered there shortly after midnight on November 5 in 1605, along with enough gunpowder to reduce the House of Lords to rubble, and a fuse ready for lighting.
At first Fawkes was steadfast in his refusal to name his co-conspirators, or to reveal his identity, earning the king’s admiration. However he didn’t admire him enough not to have him tortured, and after several days of it Fawkes was eventually broken. The Plotters were all found guilty of high treason and sentenced to be hung, drawn, and quartered. Fawkes asked forgiveness of the king and the state before breaking his neck on the noose before he could be hung.
The first Guy Fawkes Night was held on November 5, when the people were encouraged to light bonfires to celebrate the king’s escape from assassination, and it went swimmingly enough that it was officially designated a day of thanksgiving until the mid 19th century. Bonfires were later supplemented by fireworks, and the custom was to burn an effigy (often of the pope). In modern times, effigies have included unpopular public figures, such as Margaret Thatcher, but the classic “guy” is of Guy Fawkes himself.
You would think that would-be domestic terrorist Guy Fawkes would have doomed the name Guy for good and all, but in fact the name became more popular after his death. It received a boost from William Harrison Ainsworth’s popular 1841 historical novel Guy Fawkes, which showed Fawkes in a sympathetic light, and urged toleration of faith at a time of anti-Catholic sentiment.
After this, Guy Fawkes often appeared as an action hero in pulp fiction, and the Fawkes mask has become a symbol of protest against tyranny, used by the Occupy movement, Anonymous, and WikiLeaks, amongst others. In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the protagonist is named Guy, a state book-burner who eventually rebels. In the Harry Potter series, Fawkes was a phoenix, the pet of Dumbledore, and extremely loyal; the Order of the Phoenix is a secret organisation headed by Dumbledore intended to fight the tyrannical reign of Voldemort.
Guy’s name has entered the English language – originally a bizarrely-dressed person was called a guy, after the effigies on Guy Fawkes Day, dressed in old clothes. Now a guy just means any man, a bloke, a dude, a feller. More generally, it can just mean a person, because it’s possible to address a group of people of either or both genders as “you guys”.
The name Guy was #201 in the 1900s, and left the charts in the 1920s, not returning until the 1940s, at #224; perhaps British World War II hero Guy Gibson, of “dam busters” fame, was a help. Guy peaked in the 1970s at #113, and then steadily fell. It hasn’t charted since the late 2000s. Guy has similarly fallen out of fashion in the UK and US; it was #560 in England/Wales in 2013, while last year 156 boys were named Guy in the US.
Guy is a handsome name, but the word guy to mean a man or a person has not been a help to its dwindling use. However, this is an underused traditional name, connected with heroes and antiheroes alike, and has a rebellious, even bad boy, link. Give your son this name, and he might just consider himself the luckiest Guy in the world.
Vienna is the capital of Austria, and one of the great cities of Europe. Vienna is called The City of Music, for many great composers have lived and worked here, including Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, and Mahler. It is also called The City of Dreams, as the home of pioneering psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. A beautiful baroque city and major cultural centre, it has been ranked as the city with the world’s best quality of life.
The name English-speakers use for the city is Vienna, the Italian form of the official German name Wien. As the site of Vienna was settled by Celts, it is thought to come from the Celtic root windo, meaning “white, fair” (the basis for the Irish Fionn and the Welsh Gwyn). Another theory is that it comes from the Celtic Vedunia, meaning “forest stream” – the stream would presumably be the River Wien which runs through Vienna. Others believe that it comes from the Roman settlement, fortified in 15 BC and given the Celtic name Vindobona, which might mean something like “white land, fair land”.
The name Vienna must have been in some use in the Middle Ages, for St Francis of Paola’s mother was named Vienna da Fuscaldo. It’s been in use as an English name since the 18th century, and can be found in Italy at the same time, probably because of the saintly connection. Modern namesakes include Joan Crawford’s gutsy saloon-keeper character in the 1950s western, Johnny Guitar, and American indie singer-songwriter Vienna Teng (real name Cynthia Shih).
Vienna is around the 600s in Australia. In 2013, Vienna ranked #882 in England/Wales, while in the US, 253 girls were named Vienna last year – not too far removed from the Top 1000.
While Vienna is by no means common, there’s a feeling that it is on its way up – and you can see why. Pretty and elegant, this is a modern-sounding multicultural name that actually has a long history. Fitting in with the trend for V names, it sounds like an updated version of Sienna, and seems like a choice that might be widely admired. Could Eurovision give it a boost?
Guy received an approval rating of 42%. 47% of people weren’t keen on the name Guy, while 15% loved it.
Vienna received a slightly higher approval rating of 48%. 39% of people weren’t keen on the name Vienna, while 13% loved it.
(Photo of Guy Sebastian at Eurovision from SBS)