Happy Australia Day! Here are ten names for boys which are associated with the colour blue, in honour of the saying, a true blue Aussie.
A bay is a scoop in the shoreline, much prized for providing safe anchorage and opportunities for fishing. Having a long coastline, Australia has many bays, including the Great Australian Bight which forms the southern edge of the continent, and Botany Bay in Sydney – there is even a Blue Bay on the Central Coast of New South Wales. Although bay also describes the colour of a horse’s coat (coppery brown with black markings), and bay tree is another word for a laurel bush, I tend to think of the name Bay as being influenced more by the geographic term, at least in Australia. Bay can also be from the surname – the first English people with the surname Bay took their name from baille, an enclosed courtyard as part of a Norman castle’s fortifications. Although Bay can be used for both sexes, I have only ever seen it on boys, perhaps because it sounds as if could be short for Bailey.
Blue is a colour of the spectrum, and a primary colour. Because it is the colour of the sky, it has often been seen as representing heaven and divinity. It has been connected to the “blue collar” working class, but also with the wealthy, and “blue blooded” nobility. Blue is a popular colour for uniforms, and the navy, air force, and police traditionally wear blue. Blue can also mean “sad, melancholy”; hence blues music, which arose out of suffering. The Australian flag and Eureka flag are both blue, blue heelers are tough, loyal Australian cattle dogs, and it is an Australian irony that a red-headed man is called Blue or Bluey – some say because of the redhead’s reputation for temper, as a blue is Australian slang for a fight. Since World War II, blue has been seen as the colour for boys (with pink for girls), giving the name Blue a boyish feel – although celebrity baby Blue Carter shows it works well for girls too.
The Blue Mountains are to the west of Sydney, part of the Great Dividing Range down the eastern side of Australia. Their name comes from the blue-grey haze which can be seen when the mountains are viewed from a distance, believed to be caused by the diffusion of eucalyptus oils from the trees. One of the most prominent is the Mountain Blue Gum (Eucalptus deanei), a tall forest tree. Its scientific name comes from Henry Deane, an Australian engineer who first collected specimens in the late 19th century. The English surname Dean or Deane comes from dene, meaning “valley” – the Mountain Blue Gum grows in sheltered valleys. Dean has been used as a boys name since the 17th century, and seems to have been initially most popular amongst non-Anglican Protestants. Dean first ranked in Australia in the 1950s, probably because of Hollywood star James Dean; it debuted at #134. By the following decade it had reached the Top 50, and peaked in the 1970s at #34. It didn’t leave the Top 100 until the early 2000s, and since then has gently declined into the mid-100s. It has recently got some exposure via Dean Winchester from the television show Supernatural, played by Jensen Ackles; the character is named after Dean Moriarty, from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. A simple, clean modern classic, this still has a touch of Hollywood.
Drake has been used as a boys name since the late 16th history in honour of the heroic sea captain, Sir Francis Drake – the first babies with this name were born around the time of Sir Francis’ death. His surname is from the Old English nickname Draca, meaning “dragon, serpent, sea serpent”, coming from the Latin draco. The word goes back to an ancient root meaning “to see” – perhaps suggesting that dragons had a mesmerising gaze. In European mythology, dragons are serpentine rather than lizard-like, so the word drake covers a range of creatures. The name would have been given to someone who was very bold and fierce, for dragons were generally viewed as evil. They were often shown guarding a hoard of treasure with avaricious ferocity. In the post-Christian era, they became associated with Satan, but in modern fantasy stories, dragons nearly always seem to be noble and friendly. Although dragons are cool, this name reminds me of the watery Rainbow Serpent of Indigenous cultures, depicted as a blue serpent on Sydney’s coat of arms.
Levi Strauss was the German-American businessman who founded the first company to manufacture blue denim jeans, which gain their colour from indigo dye. Originally sturdy workwear for labourers, jeans became iconic fashion items, and are now essential clothing for almost everyone. In the Old Testament, Levi was the son of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the Tribe of Levi. The Levites became the priestly caste of the Hebrews – perhaps the most famous members of the Tribe of Levi are Moses, and his siblings Aaron and Miriam. The name Levi is traditionally understood as “he will join”, because Jacob joined with Leah to produce Levi, but Biblical scholars believe it simply means “priest”, and comes from Arabic. Levi has charted in Australia since the 1970s – this was the decade that Levi jeans were first manufactured in Australia, and the brand name probably had more impact than the Biblical figure. Levi was #243 for the 1980s, and climbed steeply to make the Top 100 by the early 2000s, where it remains stable. It is #26 nationally, #31 in New South Wales, #30 in Victoria, #24 in Queensland, #40 in South Australia, #22 in Western Australia, #23 in Tasmania, #13 in the Northern Territory, and #53 in the Australian Capital Territory.
Blue marlin are one of the world’s largest fish, blue-black with a silvery white underside, and an elongated upper jaw. They can reach more than 500 kg in weight, and have few predators, apart from humans. Because of their size, power, and elusiveness, they are considered to be one of the most highly prized targets for sports fishing. Found in many oceans of the world, blue marlin have been captured as far south as Tasmania. However, the greatest numbers have been caught off the Gold Coast in Queensland, and the largest ones in Bateman’s Bay, on the south coast of New South Wales. Blue marlin are considered be a threatened species, due to overfishing, and most anglers in Australia use the tag and release method. If you would like to use Marlin as a boy’s name, it doesn’t seem too different from Marlon in sound. The word marlin is short for marlinspike fish, as a marlinspike is a pointed tool used by sailors to separate strands of rope; it comes from the Dutch for “fasten, secure”. Like to use this as a girl’s name? What about Makaira, the Latin name for marlin?
Australia is entirely surrounded by ocean, and more than 80% of our population live near the sea. 71% of the planet is covered by ocean, which holds most of Earth’s water. Integral to life on the planet, it is believed that life first arose in its waters. It is not known where all the water on our planet came from, but it must have played a major role in cooling it and making it possible for anything to live here. It still continues to moderate our climate and weather patterns, so we can keep living here. From space, Earth appears to be a marbled blue colour, earning it the moniker The Blue Planet. The word ocean comes from Oceanus, which the ancient Greeks and Romans believed was an enormous river encircling the world. In Greek mythology, this world-ocean was personified as a Titan, depicted as a large, muscular man with a long beard and horns, having a serpent for his lower body. He is the father of the ocean nymphs, and all the rivers, fountains and lakes of the world. Despite these masculine origins, the name Ocean is given to both boys and girls.
Although it has around a hundred of them, Australia cannot be said to be a land of great rivers – river beds are often dry, and even our largest rivers tend to be on the thin side. Of course, this means that every single one of them is especially precious. It seems slightly cheating to include them on a list of Blue Names, as every river I have seen here was brown or green in colour. However, rivers are marked in blue on maps, and if you saw one from a distance with a quantity of blue sky reflected in it, from the right angle it would probably look blue-ish. The word river is Anglo-Norman, from the Latin for “riverbank, shore”; it is ultimately from an ancient root meaning “scratch, tear, cut”. River has been used as a first name since the 17th century, and from the beginning seems to have been used with the geographic term in mind, since people named River Banks and River Jordan turn up quite early in the records. The name is unisex, but historically much more common for boys – in Australia, it seems to be more than twice as common for boys as for girls.
Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon. Steel production began on an experimental basis in Australia in the 19th century, but didn’t really get going until World War I, when BHP opened the first steelworks in Newcastle. Its boom years were after World War II, but since the 1980s our steel production has decreased significantly due to global competition. During its heyday, steelworks provided mass employment and were a source of great pride for workers; it was from the steelworkers that the modern working class emerged. Blue steel is steel that has been given a dark finish, in order to increase toughness. Although we often connect blue steel with guns and other weapons, it is used in many useful capacities, such as on the steel-capped toes of work boots. It gives its name to a colour – steel blue, a shade of blue-grey. Last year I saw several boys named Steel or Steele in birth notices, after the release of the Superman movie, Man of Steel.
Suede is a soft napped leather, popular for making accessories such as shoes and handbags. It was originally used for women’s gloves, and the word comes from the French gants de Suède, meaning “gloves from Sweden”, since this is where the gloves were imported from. Suede features in the Carl Perkins song, Blue Suede Shoes, considered one of the first rockabilly records, and the first million-selling country song to hit the R&B charts. Perkins wrote the song based on a suggestion from Johnny Cash, and a real life encounter with a man who didn’t want anyone stepping on his blue suede shoes. It was soon afterwards recorded by Elvis Presley, who made it a hit all over again, and the song has gone on to become a rock and roll classic. I have met a little boy named Suede, and once I got used to it, found it rather cool and rockabilly. Suede was named in honour of the song, as his parents are Elvis fans. They probably attended the recent Elvis Presley Festival in Parkes.
The public’s favourite names were Levi, River and Bay, and their least favourite were Ocean, Steel and Suede.