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Names in the News
On July 14 this year NASA’s New Horizons space probe made its closest encounter with the dwarf planet Pluto. Australia was the first place on Earth to receive images of Pluto from New Horizons, at the CSIRO’s Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla. The CDSCC has been tracking New Horizons since it was launched in 2006, and it will take more than a year to receive all the data.
Two days later, the David Bowie Is touring exhibition opened at Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image, and broke all records for ticket sales before anyone stepped inside the doors. First staged at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, it has already been seen by more than 1 million people around the world. The show includes costumes, video, photographs, and items from Bowie’s own collection, including notes and sketches.
David Bowie has a special significance in Melbourne. His first Australian tour was in 1978, and the biggest concert of his career to that point was at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. People queued for three weeks to buy tickets, and the fact that it poured with rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of 40 000 fans. His experiences in Australia in the 1970s inspired the music video for Let’s Dance, filmed in Sydney and outback Carinda).
Besides having key Australian events at around the same time, there isn’t an obvious connection between Bowie and Pluto. Except that Bowie has had so many references to space in his music – Space Oddity, Ashes to Ashes, Ziggy Stardust, Moonage Daydream, The Stars (Are Out Tonight), Life on Mars?, Star Man – that it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to cover these names together.
Scottish surname derived from the Gaelic nickname Buidhe, meaning “yellow”, to denote someone blond or fair haired. It has also been used to Anglicise the Irish surname Ó Buadhaigh, meaning “son of Buadhach”, with Buadhach meaning “victorious”, although more commonly that’s Anglicised to Boyce. In rare cases it may be a variant of the English surname Bye, from the Old English for “bend”, referring to someone who lived on a river bend.
The Bowie surname originates from Kintyre in western Scotland, and the Bowie family were early colonists to America, with John Bowie Snr one of the founders of Maryland in the early 18th century. He was the grandfather of James “Jim” Bowie, who played a prominent role during the Texas Revolution, and died at the Battle of the Alamo in 1836.
The thick heavy blade known as a Bowie knife is named after Jim, who carried a hunting knife with him and had a reputation as a skilled knife fighter. His brother Rezin Bowie is supposed to have been the creator of the Bowie knife, although Bowie family history relates that it was Rezin’s blacksmith who created the knife.
David Bowie was born David Jones, and first performed as Davie Jones, which risked being confused with Davy Jones from The Monkees. He chose his stage name after seeing the movie The Alamo in 1963, with Richard Widmark as Jim Bowie; allegedly he wanted a name with a “cutting” feel to it, like Mick Jagger’s, and the Bowie knife gave it some edge. He deliberately chose the name of a famous American, as American music and culture had first inspired him.
Bowie has been used as a personal name since the 18th century, and originated in Scotland. Mostly used as a middle name, it was first given as a family name, but in 19th century America increasingly given to honour Jim Bowie: it was particularly found in the southern states. The name Bowie has been given to both sexes, but mostly to boys.
Jagger, Lennon, and Hendrix are reasonably common names, but even with the fame of David Bowie, the name Bowie is in rare use. It doesn’t chart in Australia, while in the UK there has been a smattering of Bowies on the charts since 2003; in 2013 there were 5 baby boys named Bowie. In the US last year, there were 59 baby boys named Bowie and 30 baby girls (numbers rose considerably for boys, but fell for girls).
It is slightly puzzling why Bowie isn’t used more. It sounds like familiar names like Beau, Bohdi, and Brodie, is a counterpoint to popular Archer, and as a knife it fits the trend for weaponry names like Blade.
One issue is that the pronunciation is slightly confused. In the US, Bowie tends to be said BOO-ee, the usual pronunciation of the surname and the Bowie knife. The British sometimes say the first syllable of David Bowie’s surname like the bough of a tree, whereas Bowie himself says it like bow and arrows.
In Greek mythology, Pluto is the god of the Underworld and the afterlife. His earlier name was Hades, but gradually this was used to mean the Underworld itself. Pluto is the Latinised form of the Greek Plouton, meaning “wealth, riches”, and the name is sometimes glossed as “giver of wealth”.
It makes sense that Pluto should be associated with wealth, because he has dominion over all the precious metals, gems, and resources under the earth, and all crops planted in soil. He was a god of abundance, and from early on was associated with agricultural fertility – which is why he was the natural husband for the agricultural goddess Persephone. Pluto and Persephone were revered as a divine couple with knowledge of the mysteries of birth and rebirth.
In the Christian era, there was often a horror of gods of death and the Underworld, who tended to be associated with Satan or demons. Pluto’s image, never a particularly cheerful one, became positively macabre, with Hades a place of torment. In Dante’s Inferno, Pluto rules the fourth circle of Hell, where those who have squandered their wealth are sent. Medieval English writers sometimes conflated Hades with Fairyland, giving Pluto a magical elf-king quality.
The dwarf planet Pluto was discovered in 1930 by a young astronomer named Clyde Tombaugh who had just started working at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. It was named by an eleven-year-old Oxford schoolgirl named Venetia Burney. She made the suggestion to her grandfather Falconer Madan, retired from the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library. He had the connections to ensure that Venetia’s idea got to the right people, they unanimously agreed, and Venetia was paid £5 (around $450 in today’s money). A big help was that the first two letters were PL – the initials of Percival Lowell, who had founded the observatory.
When Walt Disney studios created a pet dog for Mickey Mouse in 1930, he was named Pluto – apparently after the planet, although nobody is able to confirm that. So Pluto went from being a god name to a dog name!
Pluto is a gloomy god, a dwarf planet, a cartoon dog … but the name has also been rarely used for humans. The name is first found in colonial America in the 18th century, as a slave name. Pluto can be found in Australian historical records (Pluto Riches and Pluto Surprise are two interesting finds), and was also given to Aboriginal servants. Overall, Pluto has mostly been used in the United States. Use of the name, always low, fell after 1930 and never recovered, although it isn’t clear whether parents were put off by the astronomical body or the Disney character.
Pluto is probably too much of a space oddity to use as a first name, but would make a memorable middle.
Two rare names from the stars: which one will rate better?
The name Bowie received an approval rating of 50%. 42% of people weren’t keen on it, although 17% loved it.
The name Pluto was much less popular, with an approval rating of 15%. 46% of people weren’t keen on it, and only 7% thought it was a good name.
(Picture of David Bowie in 1973 by Masayoshi Sukita; photo from Urban Walkabout)
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This month it will be the 95th birthday of Darcy Dugan, who was born in Sydney on August 29 1920. Although Darcy was a career criminal who committed many armed hold-ups, he gained folk hero status as the most notorious prison escape artist in New South Wales.
Darcy spent 44 years in prison, with a death sentence commuted to life imprisonment, and made six escapes from custody in all. Legend has it that his trademark was to scrawl Gone to Gowings on his cell wall before each escape – Gowings was a popular department store, and in the slang of the time, to go to Gowings meant “to leave in haste”.
Dugan’s experience of prison brutality and police corruption led him to become a campaigner for prison reform: after being released he worked towards the rehabilitation of ex-prisoners. Darcy died in 1991, and his memoir Bloodhouse was published a few years ago, the manuscript only to be released once he and all his enemies were dead.
Another literary namesake is the author D’Arcy Niland, who wrote numerous short stories, and several successful novels, including The Shiralee, about a swagman on the road with his little girl, Buster. Niland knew this subject well, for he had wandered around rural New South Wales with his father during the Great Depression.
The writer was born Darcy Niland in 1917, and named after the Australian boxer Les Darcy, who had died the year Niland was born. D’Arcy Niland, a keen boxer himself, began researching a book about Les Darcy, which was eventually completed by his widow Ruth Park, and son-in-law Rafe Champion, both successful writers. As Darcy Dugan was only a few years younger than Niland, I suspect he was probably named after the boxer as well.
Darcy can be a variant of D’Arcy, an English surname of French origin: it comes from the village of Arcy in Normandy, which means “bear town”. In Ireland, the name Darcy is usually from the same source, brought over by the Normans. Occasionally it is an anglicisation of the Gaelic name O’Dorchaidhe, meaning “son of the dark one”, although this is generally anglicised to Dorsey.
Darcy is an aristocratic name, with the Darcy family of Yorkshire holding noble titles since the 17th century, although the family had been prominent since the Middle Ages. The 4th and final Earl of Holdernesse was Robert Darcy, an 18th century diplomat: he was said to have been the last direct descendant of the Norman barons still in the Peerage.
His daughter Lady Amelia married “Mad Jack” Byron, the father of poet Lord Byron. Their daughter Augusta Leigh is supposed to have been in a relationship with her half-brother, and bore him a child called by her middle name Medora, after a character in one of Byron’s poems.
Many readers will be reminded of a purely fictional aristocrat: Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Tall, dark, handsome, rich, and aloof, he both attracts and irritates the spirited heroine Elizabeth Bennet, but she learns that Darcy can be generous and noble-spirited (and has a gorgeous estate).
Mr Darcy has entranced generations of women, been depicted on screen by actors such as Sir Laurence Olivier and Colin Firth, and inspired modern works of fiction, including Lost in Austen and Bridget Jones’ Diary. Scientists have even named a male sex pheromone Darcin in honour of the romantic hero (it attracts female mice, not witty damsels).
Jane Austen is believed to have named Fitzwilliam Darcy after both Robert Darcy and William Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl of Fitzwilliam, an important 18th century statesman and one of the richest people in Britain. Perhaps she saw her hero as continuing the line of Norman barons, while also claiming some distant share of royal blood through his Fitzwilliam ancestry.
She was presumably not to know the scandalous direction the Darcy connection would take: it may amuse some readers to know that when Medora Leigh was born a year after Pride and Prejudice was published, she was baptised Elizabeth. This is just possibly not a coincidence – Augusta Leigh was a Jane Austen fan, and Lord Byron owned a copy of Pride and Prejudice.
Darcy has been used as a personal name at least since the 17th century, and originated in Yorkshire, influenced by the aristocratic Darcy family. It was originally nearly always given to boys, but overall, Darcy has more often been a girls’ name.
Australia is apparently the only country where Darcy is primarily a male name. From the 1900s, it is listed on the charts as a unisex name, and first charted as a boys’ name in the 1950s at #319 – around the time Darcy Dugan became famous.
It went off the charts altogether in the 1960s and ’70s, returning in the 1980s at #434, when Darcy Dugan was released from prison, and D’Arcy Niland’s The Shiralee was made into a mini-series. It then climbed steeply, making the Top 100 for the first time in 1997 at #77 (not long after the Pride and Prejudice mini-series). It never got any higher than its initial position, remaining in the bottom quarter of the Top 100.
Last year it dropped off the national Top 100, and the Top 100 in Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory. It is currently #97 in New South Wales and #87 in Tasmania. Darcy is around the 400s as a girls’ name, but if you included variants such as Darci and Darcie would be somewhat higher.
Darcy joined the UK Top 100 for the first time in 2013; it is #93 for girls and rising. In the UK, 28 baby boys were named Darcy as opposed to 588 baby girls. Darcey is even more popular for girls in the UK, at #84 and rising – the ballerina Darcey Bussell (born Marnie Crittle) has been a major influence on the name. Darcey is one of her middle names, while Bussell is the surname of her Australian adoptive stepfather – her biological father was the Australian designer John Crittle, descended from the first free settler to Australia. Spelling variants make this name even more common for girls in Britain.
In the US, Darcy has not charted since the mid 1990s. It peaked for girls at #349 and for boys at #869, both in 1968 (the song Darcy Farrow was released in 1967 by George Hamilton IV, about a girl named Darcy; the same year the sci-fi novel Too Many Magicians was published, featuring a detective named Lord Darcy, so it was on the radar for both genders). Last year in the US there were 183 baby girls named Darcy and 12 boys, but if you include spelling variants it is even more overwhelmingly a female name.
With such manly namesakes as Les Darcy, Darcy Dugan, and D’Arcy Niland, you can see how this unisex name became all-boy in Australia. But is it possible for it to follow international trends and become a girls’ name in the future? In a word, yes. It is currently falling in use for boys while climbing for girls, and has never peaked higher than #77. Ashley peaked at #60 for boys, and became far more common as a girls’ name, so it’s happened before. In the meantime, this is a name that seems just right for either a Mister Darcy or a Miss Darcy.
Darcy received a creditable approval rating of 70%. People saw Darcy as cute and spunky (15%), cool and classy (12%), and romantic and dreamy (10%). However, 7% thought it seemed downmarket and lower class – as opposed to the 6% who saw it as yuppy and snobbish!
72% of people thought Darcy was better as a boy’s name, while 28% preferred it as a name for girls.
(Photo shows Colin Firth as Mr Darcy in the 1995 TV mini-series of Pride and Prejudice)
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Austins Ferry is a suburb of Hobart, named after convict James Austin. Austin and his cousin was transported to Australia in 1803, and after their sentences expired, were given small land grants on the River Derwent near Hobart. In 1818 they established a ferry service across the river, and became very wealthy. You can still visit James Austin’s original cottage. Austin is an Old French shortening of the name Agustin, the equivalent of the English Augustine, and the surname Austin has the same source. Austin was #108 in the 1900s, and left the charts in the 1950s. It returned in the 1990s at #196, the decade of the Austin Powers spy comedies with Mike Myers in the title role. Groovy, baby! It climbed steeply and joined the Top 100 in 2011. It is currently #61, and was the fastest-rising name in Queensland and a fast-rising name in South Australia last year. It was a fast-rising name in New South Wales in 2013 too, so this retro name is doing very well for itself, and is now more popular than it has ever been before.
Cornelian Bay is a suburb of Hobart, whose bay on the River Derwent provides anchorage for yachts; there are boathouses and a waterside restaurant along its foreshore. The first English navigator to explore the Derwent was Lieutenant John Hayes; he came ashore here in 1793, and named the bay after the semi-precious cornelian stones which he found on the beach. Cornelian (also known as carnelian) is a dark red mineral whose name is from the Latin for the cornel cherry, a flowering dogwood tree which has small dark red fruit just the colour of the gemstone. Cornelian was used in Roman times for signet rings used to seal important documents, as hot wax doesn’t stick to it. It was a gemstone often associated with courage and good luck. Cornelian has been in very rare use as a personal name since the 17th century, and overall has been given fairly evenly to both boys and girls. Not many gemstones work well as boys’ names, but this sounds very similar to Cornelius, yet seems much more up-to-date. This would also make a great middle name, and is suitable for both sexes.
Fitzroy is an inner-city suburb of Adelaide, and an exclusive area overlooking the North Adelaide Parklands. The houses are mostly 19th century mansions along a few tree-lined streets, as this is where the upper class settlers lived in the city’s early days. It may have been named after Fitzroy in Melbourne, which is named after Sir Charles FitzRoy, the governor of New South Wales in the mid 19th century. Another suggestion is that it was named for historic Fitzroy Square in London, whose name comes from Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton, an 18th century politician who was a distant ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales. The English surname Fitzroy (or FitzRoy) comes from the Old French for “son of the king”, and was traditionally given to illegitimate sons and daughters of a monarch, and could be inherited as a surname by their descendants. For example, the father of the 2nd Duke of Grafton was an illegitimate son of King Charles II by his mistress Barbara Villiers. Fitzroy has been used as a personal name since the 18th century, and was sometimes used to indicate a family relationship with illegitimate royalty. Roy- (and royal) names are on trend, and this is one you could consider that has Fitz or Fitzy as the nickname.
Hobart is the capital of Tasmania; it is Australia’s second-oldest capital city after Sydney, and is our most southern capital city, serving as a hub for Australian and French Antarctic operations. It is located on an estuary of the Derwent River at the foot of Mount Wellington, and more than half of the city is taken up with bushland, so it contains much natural beauty. A small city with many historical buildings from its colonial past, Hobart has a great deal of charm. Hobart was named after Robert Hobart, 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire: Lord Hobart was the Colonial Secretary at the beginning of the 19th century. The surname Hobart is derived from the personal name Hubert, meaning “bright mind”. Hobart has long use as a personal name, and can be found often in historical records, with it being a bit of a favourite in Tasmania – indeed one example I found was Tasman Hobart. The Ho- at the beginning is rousing yet problematic, but you could use Bart or Barty as a nickname. A patriotic choice that may work better as a middle name.
Holden Hill is an inner-city suburb of Adelaide. It was named after a road extension called Halden’s Hill in the mid 19th century, as the land the road ran through was owned by a Mr Halden. The name was corrupted into Holden Hill. Holden is an English surname after a small village in Lancashire; it comes from the Anglo-Saxon meaning “deep valley”. Its most famous literary namesake is Holden Caulfield from J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. It’s quite likely that Salinger named the character after a friend called Holden Bowler he met while they were both working on a ship. Mr Bowler went on to run his own advertising business and was godfather to singer Judy Collins. In Australia Holden will remind people of the car company, its name coming from South Australian manufacturer Sir Edward Holden (although it is owned by General Motors). Sadly, Holden will cease production in Australia in 2017. A very uncommon name in Australia because of the car.
Jupiter Creek is a semi-rural suburb of Adelaide which was once part of a gold-mining area, and still a place to go fossicking. Its name was given by gold-miners, possibly after a bull named Jupiter who was fond of running away to graze there. In Roman mythology, Jupiter is king of the gods, and the god of the sky and thunder, the equivalent of the Greek god Zeus. Ruler of the heavens, he was a divine witness to oaths and the protector of the state and justice; his symbols were the oak tree, the eagle, and the thunder bolt. His name is from an ancient root meaning “O Father Sky-god”, so his name is an invocation: to speak the name of Jupiter aloud is to call upon the god. The Romans named the largest planet in the solar system after Jupiter, and believed those born under its influence to be especially fortunate. As Juno is a hip name for girls, and so is Juniper, Jupiter for boys doesn’t seem too strange. A possible issue is the movie Jupiter Ascending, which has Mila Kunis as a heroine named Jupiter.
Linden Park is an affluent suburb of Adelaide. It was named after a house and estate which was built by Sir Alexander Hay in 1861. Linden trees (Tilia) are also called lime trees, although they are not closely related to the tree which produces lime fruit. They are tall, shady trees that have great significance in Germany and Eastern Europe, where they were seen as sacred; in German folklore, the linden is said to be the tree of lovers. Lindens have often featured in stories and poems, often as a symbol of love, protection, or resurrection. In Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, the narrator dips his madeleine cake into a cup of lime-flower tea, which opens up a flood of memories. The word linden is from an ancient Germanic root which may mean “mild, soft”: the timber of the linden tree is soft and easily worked, making it ideal for carving. Linden has been used as a name since the 18th century, overwhelmingly for boys, and is found in Australian records quite often, mostly from around the late 19th and early 20th centuries, although I know a few men around my age named Linden. I haven’t seen it on a young child, but this is a handsome, soft-sounding tree name, not so different in sound from popular Lincoln.
Montrose is a northern suburb of Hobart. It is named after Montrose House which was built in 1813 by a Scottish settler named Robert Littlejohn, a renowned painter, botanist and teacher. It is the third oldest house in the state, and is named after Montrose, on Scotland’s east coast. A picturesque resort town, it is regarded as a cultural centre, and known for its sculpture. The town’s name is usually thought to be from the Gaelic monadh, meaning “moor”, and ros, meaning “peninsula”. Folk etymology understands it as “mount of roses”, and the town’s Latin motto is Mare Didat, Rosa Decorat, meaning “the sea enriches, the rose adorns”. Montrose is also a surname, and the Duke of Montrose is a title in the Scottish peerage, held by the Graham family. Montrose has been used as personal name since the 18th century, and first used by the Grahams. It has been used for both sexes, but is more common as a male name. Scottish and aristocratic, this is like a cross between Montgomery and Ambrose, and has Monty as the obvious nickname.
Sorell is a historic market town north-east of Hobart, now a dormitory suburb of the city. It is named after William Sorell, the state’s third Lieutenant-Governor. William Sorell did a good job of cleaning up the colony, which he had found in a fairly lawless and untidy position. The English surname Sorell is from the Old French nickname Sorel, meaning “chestnut”, and given to someone with reddish-brown hair. It has been in rare use since the 19th century, and is given to both sexes, although more common overall as a male name. It may be known from Sir Julian Sorell Huxley, biologist and brother of Aldous Huxley. An interesting, intelligent name that may sound too close to the word sorrow for some parents.
Mount Stuart is a suburb of Hobart on a ridge with the wonderful name of Knocklofty. The suburb is named because of Mountstuart Elphinstone, a Scottish statesman and historian who was Governor of Bombay (now Mumbai). A ship named in the governor’s honour as the Mountstuart Elphinstone visited Hobart in 1836, bringing the welcome news that the cruel and unpopular Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur was ordered to return to London. In celebration of getting rid of him, two roads were named Mount Stuart Road and Elphinstone Road, and eventually the area became known as Mount Stuart. Mountstuart Elphinstone was probably named after Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland, the seat of the Stuarts of Bute. They are descended from Robert II of Scotland, the first of the Stuart kings (the Elphinstones are related to the Stuarts). The name of the Stuart dynasty comes from Stewart, the Scottish form of steward, meaning a governor. The first of this surname was Walter Stewart of Dundonald, High Steward of Scotland. The Stuart dynasty ended up ruling Great Britain for more than a century, and it’s because of them that Stuart was used as a personal name. Stuart was #135 in the 1900s, joined the Top 100 in the 1940s and peaked in 1969 at #31. It left the Top 100 in the 1990s and hasn’t charted since 2010. Stewart was less popular, never reached the Top 100, and hasn’t charted since the early 2000s.
People’s favourite names were Linden, Austin and Holden, and their least favourite were Montrose, Jupiter and Hobart.
(Photo shows Hobart)
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Beau is a French word meaning handsome or attractive: it is the masculine form of belle, and both of these words are from the Latin bellus, meaning “beautiful, pretty, agreeable”. It is directly related to the English word beautiful, and is part of English surnames such as Beauregard (“beautiful view”) or Beaumont (“beautiful mountain”).
You can see Beau as a short form of such surnames, or as directly from the English word beau, which is old-fashioned slang for a man who is a well-dressed dandy, or for a woman’s lover or sweetheart. Both senses of the word go back to the Middle Ages, but it is rare to hear people using these slang terms in everyday modern life.
Some of the most famous namesakes were called Beau as a nickname, to indicate that they were at the very height of fashion. Richard “Beau” Nash was Master of Ceremonies in Bath and Tunbridge Wells in the 18th century, while George “Beau” Brummel was an arbiter of men’s fashions in Regency England, a friend of the future King George IV.
Beau Brummel was famous for his charisma and wit, and his name is synomous with style and masculine good looks. He changed men’s fashions from the wearing of bright colours, lace, jewels, and spangles to elegantly tailored dark clothing with a white shirt – it’s because of him that we consider it “good taste” for a man to dress in an expensively discreet suit.
Both the famous Beaus were middle-class men who had the confidence and personality to mix with the cream of society, and as a direct result, both died in debt (Beau Brummell died raving mad from syphilis, but this has not tarnished his image, just added a tinge of poignancy).
Beau Brummell has inspired several literary portraits, including as a character in Arthur Conan Doyle’s historical novel Rodney Stone. He was also in Georgette Heyer’s Regency Buck, and it became almost de rigeur to include him as a character in regency romances. Recently Beau Brummell has turned detective in a series by Rosemary Stevens, and taken part in homoerotic fiction written by Cecilia Ryan. Beau Brummel has also appeared on stage, radio plays, TV dramas, movies, and an operetta. The latest outing was probably on UK TV in This Charming Man, with James Purefoy as Beau.
The name Beau has been in use since the late 18th century, not long after the death of Beau Nash. Beau Nash was so severely mourned by his former mistress when he died that she supposedly lived in a hollowed out tree on a bale of straw for thirty or forty years: I haven’t the foggiest how that made her feel better, but presume the straw was changed from time to time.
Originally Beau was given fairly equally to boys and girls in Britain, but soon became overwhelmingly male as the name became more common in the United States. Interestingly, this pattern still holds true, as Beau is evenly unisex in the UK, but only charts for boys in the US. In Australia, Beau is usually considered a boy’s name, but you can still encounter the occasional girl named Beau.
In the US, Beau has been in the Top 1000 since the late 1960s. Its appearance then may have been because of the actor Lloyd “Beau” Bridges, the son of Lloyd Bridges. Beau Bridges received his nickname after Ashley Wilkes’ son in Gone With the Wind. During the 1960s Beau Bridges often appeared on his father’s TV show, The Lloyd Bridges Show, and gained parts in TV series such as The Fugitive and Bonanza.
Other 1960s influences were the rock band The Beau Brummells, Roger Moore playing Beau Maverick on the TV show Maverick, and the film Beau Geste, with Guy Stockwell in the title role as an American hero fighting for the French Foreign Legion – his nickname is from the French phrase beau geste, meaning “noble gesture”. In the US, the name Beau is currently #228 and rising.
In the UK, Beau has been in the Top 1000 for boys since at least 1996, and for girls since 2002. Currently Beau is #175 for boys and #169 for girls in the UK, but it is screeching up the charts for girls while staying stable for boys. Furthermore, if you include names like Bo, and double names like Beau-Lily, there are even more girls called Beau in the UK, so this seems to be in pink territory in Britain.
In Australia, Beau joined the charts in the 1970s at #261, and first joined the Top 100 in 1986 at #85. It made the Top 50 in 2011 and 2012 (at #50 and #40), but other than that has been steadily in the bottom half of the Top 100, or just below the Top 100. That makes it a good choice for someone who wants a name that is common, without ever having been highly popular.
Currently Beau is #80 nationally, #61 in New South Wales, #70 in Queensland, #88 in Tasmania, and #48 in the Australian Capital Territory. It has just dropped off the Top 100 in Victoria, and the Top 50 in Western Australia.
The name Beau is more popular in Australia than anywhere else in the world, although it is also Top 100 in New Zealand. Once of the factors in its success is probably the number of sportsmen named Beau, such as cricketer Beau Casson, AFL footballers Beau Maister and Beau Waters, and rugby union footballer Beau Robinson, who plays for the Queensland Reds.
However it is in rugby league that the name Beau really shines, boasting Beau Champion from the Parramatta Eels, Beau Falloon from the Gold Coast Titans, Beau Henry who has just left the Titans to play in the NSW Cup, Beau Scott from the Newcastle Knights, and Beau Ryan, who has retired from the Cronulla Sharks and become a comedian – his segment Beau Knows on the NRL Footy Show a reference to Nike’s Bo Knows ad campaign with American footballer Vincent “Bo” Jackson.
Non-sporting Australian Beaus include actor Beau Brady, who was on Home and Away for several years, and Beau Brooks, from online comedy group The Janoskians.
With Beau you get a simple no-fuss name with a very attractive meaning that is cute on a little boy and rather romantic or even sexy on a grown man. For centuries the name has been associated with masculine taste and style, and it sounds handsome and charming. Although unisex in other places, it is solidly masculine and even sporty in Australia, and has been in the Top 100 for decades without ever becoming highly popular. There is plenty to love about sweetheart Beau!
Thank you to Renee for suggesting Beau be featured on Waltzing More Than Matilda, a name she is considering using.
Beau received an approval rating of 72%. People saw the name Beau as adorable on a little boy and charming on a grown man (18%), and either cute or handsome (15%). However, 13% thought it was too nicknamey for a formal name. 5% found the connection to the old slang meanings of beau a turn off. Only one person thought the name Beau was too popular.
(Picture shows James Purefoy as Beau Brummell in This Charming Man)
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Beulah Park is an affluent suburb of Adelaide, named after a village in Wales. The name Beulah is from a Hebrew word translated as “married (woman)”. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah prophesies that the land of Israel shall be known as Beulah, because it shall be as if “married” to God, to indicate an especially close and loving relationship. Because of this, Beulah was used by John Bunyan and William Blake to mean a mystical place from which Heaven can be seen; it’s also used this way in the hymn Beulah Land. Beulah has been used as an English name since at least the 17th century, and was taken up by the Puritans. It has been much more popular in the United States, and was Top 100 in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; however it hasn’t charted there since the 1950s. Poor Beulah has come to exemplify the “ugly old lady” name, even though it doesn’t sound much different to Bella or Ruby (put the OO sound from Ruby into Bella, and you’ve got Beulah!). Can vintage Beulah ever be pretty again?
Brooklyn Park is in Adelaide’s western suburbs, and was probably named after the borough of New York City. Brooklyn was settled by the Dutch, and originally called Breukelen, after a town in the Netherlands, whose name means “broken land”. Apparently this is because both the Breukelens were built on marshes, where the land is broken up with little streams, and I have also seen Brooklyn translated as “marshland”. Brooklyn has been used as a personal name since the 19th century, and originated in the United States. It was at first more common as a male name, but today Brooklyn only charts as a girls name in the US. In the UK it is more common for boys, thanks to David Beckham’s son Brooklyn – the name has charted for boys in the UK since 1999, when Brooklyn Beckham was born. In Australia, the name Brooklyn is fairly evenly used for both genders, although not very common for either. An attractive underused modern name suitable for either sex, although international trends suggest it is turning pink again.
Cherry Gardens is a semi-rural suburb of Adelaide named for the native cherry trees which once grew there in profusion. The name Cherry can be from the cherry tree, or its delicious red fruit, although I think many people would be reminded of cherry blossom, which is enchantingly pink and lovely. In Australia, cherries are especially connected with the town of Young in New South Wales, which promotes itself as the Cherry Capital of of Australia, and holds a Cherry Festival every year. It also recalls the popular Cherry Ripe, which is Australia’s oldest chocolate bar. Cherry can be given as a nickname for names such as Charity, and can also be from the surname Cherry, which might refer to someone who grew or sold cherries: this probably explains boys given the name Cherry. Cherry has been used as a name since the 17th century (perhaps influenced by the popular poem and song Cherry Ripe), but it only became common in the 19th. It has a 1950s vibe, and seems “ripe” for teasing, but also bright and irrepressibly cheery. It’s a name that makes you smile when you say it aloud.
Eden Hills is a suburb of Adelaide, and well suits its name, as it in the city’s foot hills, and contains bushland, parks, and a botanic garden. The first landowner in the area was William Cook, who settled here in 1839. He was the master of a vessel called the Eden, and it is believed that’s where the suburb got its name. The name Eden is usually given in reference to the Garden of Eden in the Bible. The name has been translated as if derived from the Akkadian edinnu, meaning “steppe, plain”. It’s now thought to be related to an Aramaic root meaning “fruitful, well-watered” – this fits in better with the biblical description, as the Garden of Eden was said to be irrigated by rivers and filled with fruit trees (of course fruit was to prove a real problem). In Hebrew, the word is understood as meaning “pleasure”, and Eden is recorded in the Old Testament as a personal name. It has been used as an English name since the Middle Ages as a variant or pet form of the Anglo-Saxon Ed- names, such as Eadhun, meaning “rich bear cub” (the source of the aristocratic Eden surname). The biblical meaning came into use around the 16th century, and the name has always been given to both sexes, but is more common as a feminine one. Eden has charted since the 1980s at #757 (the decade of popular TV drama series, Return to Eden – in this case, Eden was the name of an estate in the Northern Territory). It joined the Top 100 in 2011 and is now #68. Although it has only ever charted as a girl’s name, it is quietly but steadily given to boys too, and seems rather distinguished as a male name. A clean attractive name suitable for both sexes.
Fern Tree is an outer suburb of Hobart, named so because of the Tasmanian Tree Ferns which grow abundantly in the area. It’s a popular place for bushwalking. Ferns are ancient plants which have remained unchanged for more than a hundred million years, and are extremely hardy and easy to grow. Because ferns don’t have flowers or seeds, people didn’t know how they reproduced for a long time (now we know – it’s from spores). This enigma gave it a magical air, and it has long been associated with fairies and spells. Ferns have a special connection with New Zealand, used as an emblem by sporting teams, especially the netball team, the Silver Ferns. Fern has been used as a person’s name since at least the 17th century, but it became quite popular in the 19th century. Not only were plant names very fashionable then, but the Victorians went fern-crazy, and there was a real fad for collecting the plants. This is a vintage nature name which doesn’t seem old-fashioned in the least, but rather off-beat and artistic.
Lenah Valley is in the foothills of Mount Wellington in Hobart, and was settled in the 19th century. There are several bushland reserves here, and it is the home of the Lady Franklin Museum, a classical temple built by pioneer Jane Franklin, wife of the explorer John Franklin; it now houses the Art Society of Tasmania. Lenah is the local Aboriginal word for “kangaroo”. It looks like the name Lena, but is said LEN-uh, not LEEN-uh. This would work well cross-culturally, while having a very Australian meaning.
Lutana in Hobart’s north was originally built by the Electrolytic Zinc company as housing for its workers. A competition was held to name it in the 1920s, and the name Lutana was selected; it’s the local Aboriginal word for “moon”. A famous namesake is Lutana Spotswood, an Indigenous language worker who gave a eulogy in the Palawa language at the funeral of Tasmanian premier Jim Bacon. Lutana is pronounced loo-TAN-uh. This is quite similar to the familiar Luna in sound and meaning, but is purely Australian and avoids any concern over loony or lunatic. Not only can you use Lulu as a nickname, but I have seen quite a few baby girls lately named Tanna, so the sound must appeal to Australian parents.
Marion is in Adelaide’s south-west, and was named after a young daughter of James Fisher, the Resident Commissioner in the 1830s, who was responsible for disposing of public land. Miss Fisher’s name was actually Marianne, not Marion, and she lived to be one hundred years old. Marion is a medieval French pet form of the name Marie. During the Middle Ages, one of the most popular type of French folk song revolved around a shepherdess named Marion, and her lover, a knight named Robin. This all sounds very familiar, but strangely enough there doesn’t seem to be any proven link between these songs and the English tales of Robin Hood and Maid Marian. There is also a surname Marion, taken directly from the woman’s name, and this has been quite often been given as a boy’s name – most famously to the actor John Wayne, born Marion Morrison. Perhaps people thought it was the masculine form of Mary. In the US, Marion has charted as a unisex name fairly evenly given to both sexes, but it has only charted as a female name in Australia. Marion was #89 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1930s at #47. It left the Top 100 in the 1960s, and hasn’t charted since the 1980s. Although this name is dated, there is something rather glamorous about it, thanks to French actress and singer Marion Cotillard. If you’re worried about Margot becoming too popular, why not consider this other French charmer?
Penna is in the outer suburbs of Hobart, and is sometimes listed as a village or a commuter town. It’s name is most likely from the Cornish surname Penna, meaning “headland”, as it is faces onto a peninsula. Penna as a personal name can be from the Latin word penna, meaning “feather, wing”. This is where our word pen comes from, as we once wrote with feathered quills, but even in English, the word penna means a contour feather on a bird. There’s also the Italian surname Penna, which comes from the Latin pinnus, meaning “pointed”, and refers to someone who lived on a hill. In Finland, Penna can be given to boys as a variant of the name Ben. Penna has been used as a personal name since the 18th century, and when you look through the records, it’s clear that it is a multicultural choice, used all over the world, including Hungary, Italy, Greece, Norway, Persia and Brazil, as well as English-speaking countries. Recently it was chosen by actor Ian Ziering for his daughter, giving this rare name some much needed publicity. The rise of Penelope makes Penna seem more usable.
Rosetta is a small suburb of Hobart thought to be named after Rosetta Cottage. This was built in the early 19th century by John Beresford, who came to Australia as a convict on the First Fleet, and took up land in Tasmania to become a prosperous farmer. Rosetta Cottage later became a private girls’ school, and then the Undine Hotel – it is now a B&B. It seems likely the cottage was named after the Rosetta Stone, a 2nd century BC stone slab discovered in Egypt in 1799 which had the text in Egyptian hieroglyphics, Egyptian script, and ancient Greek. This allowed Egyptian hieroglyphics to be translated for the first time, and even now, Rosetta Stone is used to mean a crucial key in decoding information. The Rosetta Stone is so named because it was found in the Egyptian town of Rosetta. Rosetta, meaning “little rose”, is the western version of the town’s Arabic name Rashid, meaning “guide” – both are corruptions of the Coptic name Trashit, which I think just describes it as a mouth of the Nile. This is a pretty vintage name, very much on trend, which has a wealth of meaning and history behind it. Rosie or Etta could be used as the nickname.
People’s favourite names were Fern, Eden and Lenah, and their least favourite were Lutana, Brooklyn and Beulah.
(Photo shows Wittunga Botanic Garden in Eden Hills, Adelaide)
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The Emperor Augustus was the founder of the Roman Empire and its first emperor; the month of August was named after him. His reign initiated the Pax Romana, a relatively conflict-free period which lasted for more than two centuries. Born Gaius Octavius, he was granted the title of Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus, meaning “Military Commander and Caesar, the Son of God, the Venerable”, with the Augustus part meaning “venerable”, from the Latin augeo, meaning “increase, growth, honour”. Before it became an imperial title, Augustus was an epithet used to signal something that was sacred, and the title was adopted by the Holy Roman Emperors in the Middle Ages. Augustus has been a favourite name amongst European royalty, and traditionally used by the Hanoverians in the British monarchy. Hazel has shot into the Top 100 since The Fault in Our Stars, and I wonder if it could also boost regal Augustus, as this is the name of Hazel’s love interest? The name is already rising in the US, so maybe. Gus is a popular short form, although I have seen a lot of interest in Augie because of the Australian rock band Augie March, named for a character in a Saul Bellow novel.
Scottish surname referring to someone from the village of Brisco in Cumbria, once part of the Strathclyde kingdom of Scotland. The place name comes from the Old Norse for “wood of the Britons”. Also an extremely rare Italian surname which is probably from the Germanic brakia, meaning “struggle”, used as a nickname. The name is well known because of the undercover alias Donnie Brasco used by FBI agent Joseph Pistone during the 1970s: his autobiography inspired the movie Donnie Brasco, with Johnny Depp in the title role. It has an unfortunate meaning in Australia, as brasco is slang for “toilet”, from the manufacturer Brass Co. Brasco is an extremely cool-sounding name, and as for the toilet association – better tell everyone to just forget about it!
Latinised form of the Polish name Kazimierz, from the Slavic for “to destroy fame”, referring to someone who annihilates their opponent in battle so completely that they lose all honour. Four medieval rulers of Poland have been named Casimir, and St Casimir, the son of Casimir IV, is the patron saint of Poland and Lithuania. Kazimierz is a reasonably popular name in Poland, but Casimir is rare around the world, even in countries with high immigration from Poland. However, this is a handsome heritage choice, not so different from fashionable Casper and hip Caspian, with Caz as the obvious nickname, although Cass and even Cash seem possible.
Irish name thought to mean “white fire”. In Irish mythology, Fintan mac Bóchra was a seer who accompanied Noah’s granddaughter to Ireland before the Great Flood. When the floodwaters hit, his family were all drowned, but Fintan managed to survive under the sea in the form of a salmon for a year; he also lived as an eagle and a hawk before returning to human form. He lived for more than 5000 years after the Deluge, becoming the repository of all wisdom. Once Christianity arrived in Ireland, Fintan decided to leave the world of mortals with a magical hawk who was born at the same time as he. There are a staggering 74 Irish saints named Fintan, which shows what a common name it must have been, and it is still in regular use in Ireland. The popular boy’s name Finn, and all the similar names, such as Finlay and Finnian, make this seem on trend.
English surname which can be related to the word gauge, meaning “measure”, and would have started as an occupational surname for someone who checked weights and measures. It can also be an occupational surname for a moneylender, as gage meant “pledge” – that which the person would put up as surety against the money loaned (as when objects are pawned). Its related to the words wage and mortgage, and also to the word engage: when you get engaged to someone, you make a pledge to them. Gage is an aristocratic surname; Sir William Gage first introduced the plum-like greengage into England in the 18th century, which is where its English name comes from. Gage has been used as a personal name since the 18th century, originating in the west country. It first joined the US charts in 1989, the same year that Stephen King’s Pet Sematary was made into a horror film; the protagonist’s toddler son is named Gage, played by Miko Hughes (from Full House). Although Gage takes on a particularly macabre role in the story, the cuteness of little blond Miko must have had an effect. Still in fairly common use in the US, Gage is a rare name in Australia and the UK – its similarity to the word gauge, used in the context of guns, makes this an on-trend weaponry name.
In Norse mythology, Loki is a mysterious figure, sometimes depicted as a trickster or god of deceit. Other times he is a troublemaker, or commits outright evil. Although said to be one of the giant folk, he is sometimes numbered amongst the gods, and seems to have been on friendly terms with them at some point. However, after many acts of mischief and malice, they punished him by having him bound by the entrails of one of his sons, with a serpent dripping venom on him, making him writhe in pain, which causes earthquakes. It is foretold that at the end of the world, he will slip free from his bonds and fight against the gods on the side of the giants, and be slain. Fittingly for such an enigmatic character, the meaning of Loki isn’t known. However, he is also called Lopt, meaning “air”, suggesting he was associated with that element. In Scandinavian folklore, the phenomenon where the air shimmers on a hot day is said to be caused by Loki. The name has been used more often since the Marvel comics world was brought to life on film, with Loki as a super-villain played by Tom Hiddleston. Hiddleston portrays a complex, vulnerable, intelligent character whose charisma and style has won him legions of fans. Not only a cute-sounding mischievous name, Loki is quite similar to popular names like Luca and Lachlan, so it doesn’t seem strange.
Biblical place name; in the New Testament it is described as the home town of Jesus and his family. It’s also a title, because Jesus is often called Jesus of Nazareth. In early times, Christians were called Nazarenes (“people of Nazareth”) by non-Christians, and the modern Jewish word for Christians is notzrim, while in the Quran Christians are known as naṣārā – all coming from the name Nazareth. Archaeologists think that Nazareth would have been a small, insignificant village at the time of Jesus; today it is a city in northern Israel with most of its citizens Arabs, both Muslim and Christian. A place of Christian pilgrimage, it also has several sites of Islamic significance. The meaning of the city’s name is uncertain – it may come from the Hebrew for “branch”, or “watch, guard, keep”, implying it was originally on a hill, or protected in a secluded spot. Nazareth has been used as a personal name since at least the 16th century, and is of Puritan origin. Originally used mostly for girls, overall it has been given fairly evenly to both sexes, and has never been very common. An unusual Biblical name which is overtly Christian.
Derived from the Germanic name Hruodland, translated as “famous land”, or perhaps “fame of his country”. Roland was an 8th century Frankish military leader under Charlemagne, responsible for defending France against the Bretons. It is recorded that he was killed at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in northern Spain by a group of rebel Basques. He became a major figure in medieval legend, and his death an epic tale of a Christian hero slain in battle against Muslims (the real Roland was killed by Christians, although Charlemagne was engaged in a war against Islamic forces in Spain). The 11th century La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland) describes Roland fighting a rearguard action against thousands of Muslims with a magical sword given to Charlemagne by an angel. Against the sensible advice of his best friend Oliver, Roland proudly refuses to call for reinforcements until it is too late, then dies a martyr’s death before angels take his soul to Paradise. In an English fairy tale based on a Scottish ballad, Childe Rowland is a prince who rescues his sister from the Dark Tower of the King of Elfland; the story is mentioned in Shakespeare’s King Lear. It helped inspire the poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came by Robert Browning, and in turn this informed Stephen King’s fantasy series, The Dark Tower, with Roland Deschain as the flawed hero. Roland was #107 in the 1900s and continued falling until it left the charts altogether in the 1990s. This is a traditional underused name which is heroic and noble.
English surname referring to someone who worked with slate, especially in laying slate roof tiles. The surname comes from Derbyshire, and although it is of Norman-French origin, possibly existed before the Conquest. It has been used as a personal name since the 17th century, and from the beginning was associated with Derbyshire and the Midlands, which has a long history as a centre for slate quarrying. An unfortunate association in Australia is that slater is another word for a wood louse. The surname has several sporting namesakes, including former cricketer and media personality Michael Slater, rugby league star Billy Slater, and American surfing champion Kelly Slater. That probably helps explain use of the name Slater at present, and it seems like a tougher, edgier version of Tyler.
English surname after a village in Lincolnshire, meaning “homestead by the willows, settlement by the willows”. Willoughby’s main claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of John Smith, who was one of the leaders of the Virginia Colony in early colonial America, and connected with the Native American girl known as Pocahontas. Willoughby is an aristocratic surname connected with several baronies; the family trace their lineage to a Norman knight who was granted land in Lincolnshire by William the Conqueror. Since the 17th century, the Barony of Willoughby de Eresby has been associated with the office of the Lord Great Chamberlain, who has charge of the royal apartments and hall at Westminster Palace, and plays a major role at coronations: the current baroness was one of the maids of honour at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Willoughby is also a suburb of Sydney on the Lower North Shore, first settled as farmland under Captain Arthur Phillip. Some people believe Surveyor-General Sir Thomas Mitchell chose the suburb’s name in honour of Sir James Willoughby Gordon, whom he had served under during the Peninsular War. In use as a personal name since the 17th century, Willoughby is a hip boy’s name which seems like a spin on popular William, while also boosted by looking like a masculine form of Willow. Will is the obvious nickname.
Thank you to Leah for suggesting the name Willoughby be featured on Waltzing More Than Matilda.
People’s favourite names were Augustus, Willoughby and Fintan, and their least favourite were Nazareth, Brasco and Slater.
(Photo of Billy Slater from the Herald Sun)
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Variant of the ancient Greek name Althaea, perhaps derived from the Greek word althos, meaning “healing”. In mythology, Althaea was a queen with a son named Melager. When Melager was a baby, the Three Fates turned up, rather like the fairy godmothers in a certain tale. One said he would be noble, the second that he would be brave, but the third did the usual grumpy godmother routine, and said his life would last only as long as a certain piece of wood burning on the fire. Althaea immediately took the wood and blew it out, burying it secretly so that none should ever find it again. When Melager was grown into the brave and noble prince predicted by The Fates, he got into a quarrel while hunting, and killed his uncles. When Althaea discovered Melager had murdered her brothers, she took revenge by setting fire to the piece of wood, so that her son died. Afterwards she committed suicide. This isn’t the happiest name story ever, but the poet Richard Lovelace wrote To Althea, From Prison while imprisoned for a political protest. The famous poem is very romantic, and the name Althea has been used since the 17th century because of it, while never being very common. One attraction of this literary name is the potential to use fashionable Thea as a nickname.
Modern Welsh name derived from caru, meaning “to love”, and given the common -ys ending found in Welsh names, such as Gladys and Glenys. It has been in use since the early 20th century, and is currently #328 in England/Wales, although falling in popularity. The name gained interest as a celebrity baby name, when Welsh-born actress Catherine Zeta Jones chose it for her daughter. It is meant to be pronounced KAH-ris, but the few people called Carys I know in Australia all say their name to rhyme with Paris, and this pronunciation is even used in Wales sometimes (kuh-REES is really pushing it though). Leaving aside possible pronunciation pitfalls, this is a modern name that is feminine without being frilly.
In medieval romance, Isolde the Fair is a stunningly beautiful golden-haired Irish princess with a gift for healing, who is married off to King Mark of Cornwall. Due to a mix-up with a love potion, Isolde falls passionately in love with Tristan, her husband’s nephew and adopted son, with tragic consequences. Tristan actually ends up married to a different Isolde, a Breton princess called Isolde of the White Hands, who he weds for the curious reason that she has the same name as his true love. Their marriage is never consummated, and fed up and jealous, Isolde of the White Hands eventually takes her revenge. The stories originally had nothing to do with Arthurian legends, but became part of them. Adapted by Gottfried von Strassberg in the 12th century, Isolde is a German translation of Iseult, used in French versions of the tale. The Welsh form of the name is Esyllt, and although there are many arguments over the name’s meaning, the most convincing theory is that it is from the Celtic for “she who is gazed upon”, to suggest an overwhelming beauty. The name Isolde has been used since the Middle Ages due to the Tristan and Isolde legend, without ever becoming common: the composer Richard Wagner, who wrote the opera Tristan and Isolde, had an illegitimate daughter named Isolde. A romantic literary name fit for a fairytale princess, you can say Isolde almost any way you like, but common pronunciations would be i-SOL-duh or i-ZOL-duh.
Variant of the Arabic name Jamila, the feminine form of Jamil, meaning “beautiful”. The name became better known in the English-speaking world in 1944 through the romantic fantasy film Kismet, starring Marlene Dietrich as Lady Jamilla, a captive queen who falls in love with a rascally beggar. Set in an Arabian Nightsy type world, at one point, Dietrich does an erotic dance with her legs painted gold, so the name got a rather sexy image. Jamilla works well cross-culturally, and is easy to explain to people, as it is said like Camilla with a J. The popular short form Milla is an added attraction.
Modern Cornish name meaning “joy”, used since the early 20th century, and in rare but fairly steady use in England/Wales. The name is something of a favourite in fiction, even being chosen for historical novels set in Cornwall hundreds of years ago, when it is unlikely the name was in use. Lowenna can be found in the US in the 19th century, where it may be a variant of Louanna, or other names based on Louisa. It was used in the stage version of Rip Van Winkle, written in 1859 (Lowenna is Rip’s daughter; in the original story, his daughter was called Judith). A drawcard is that the name is very similar to the Indigenous name Lowanna, meaning “girl, woman”, giving this name a rather Australian feel.
Latin for “light”. Lux was used as a male name in medieval Germany, as a short form of Lukas, or a corruption of the German nickname Luchs, meaning “lynx” – this is the origin of the Lux surname. Lux began to be used as an English name by the 17th century, when it was used for girls: in general, English-speakers have preferred it as a female name, although it has been used as a male name too, particularly in North America, which has a history of high immigration from central Europe. The name may be used in a Christian sense, as Fiat lux means “Let there be light”, a famous quote from Genesis to show the beginnings of creation, or even a specifically Catholic context as Lux Aeterna (“eternal light”) is used in Latin prayers to refer to heaven. However, the meaning of light is positive to almost everyone, and the name also has a science-fiction feel to it, because lux is a scientific measurement of luminosity (there is a video game character named Lux, Lady of Luminosity). The name has had publicity from the film The Virgin Suicides, with Kristen Dunst as Lux Lisbon, and from the daughter of One Direction’s stylist – once known in the press as Baby Lux, and almost a celebrity in her own right. A short, cool, luxurious-sounding name that also works well in the middle.
Can be used as a short form of other names, or with the meaning “a small bouquet of flowers” in mind. The word posy comes from poesy, meaning “poetry”, and has been used to mean a bunch of flowers since the late 16th century – a slightly earlier definition of the word was a motto inscribed inside a ring. Posy has been used as a personal name since the 18th century, and although it sounds very dainty and feminine, it has quite often been given to boys. The reason is because Posy is also a surname, after the town of Pusey in Oxfordshire, meaning “pea island”. Although the name Posy has never been very common, there are a few Posys in fiction to give it some publicity. Posy Fossil is one of the main characters in Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes, a brilliant young dancer filled with ambition. More recently, Posy Hawthorne is a sweet little sister in The Hunger Games, and in the romantic comedy About Time, Posy Lake is the protagonist’s eldest daughter. Although Posy began as a short form of Josephine, you could use it for a wide variety of names, including Sophia and Penelope – British cartoonist Posy Simmonds, from The Guardian, is named Rosemary.
In the 2001 movie Moulin Rouge!, Nicole Kidman plays the role of Satine, a Parisian cabaret star and courtesan who has never known love until she falls for a poor English writer. Satine, which is presumably a professional or stage name, is French for satin, the familiar glossy fabric – its name comes from the Chinese city of Quanzhou (once a major shipping port for silk), which was called by the Arabic name of Zayton during the Middle Ages. Zayton is the Arabic word for “olive”, to symbolise peace, perhaps due to the mix of cultures living and working in the city. This makes Satin or Satine a possible honour name for Olive, weirdly enough. Satine has been used as a name since the 19th century, and although it is not a traditional French name, it has sometimes been used as a baby name in France since the film came out. A soft, exotic-sounding name with an Australian connection.
The name of a highly successful Japanese cosmetics company, and one of the oldest in the world, being founded in 1872. The company’s name is taken from the classic Chinese text, the I Ching (Book of Changes), and can be translated as “How wonderful is the virtue of the earth, from which all things are born!”. The company believes that this embodies its resolve to create new products that will enhance clients’ well being, and also helps to promote an image which is healthy and environmentally sound. Although there are many brand names used as personal names (such as Chanel and Armani), and some existing personal names used for brands (such as Mercedes and Nike), I have only ever seen one baby given the name Shiseido. That makes it very unusual, but it’s rather attractive, and has a lovely, carefully-crafted meaning. Pronounced shi-SAY-doh, you could use Sadie as a short form, although the baby I saw had Sass as her nickname.
Gaelic name meaning “brightness, radiance”. It can be found in medieval Irish documents, so it has a long history. In Ireland it is sometimes Anglicised as Sarah, because of the similar sound, while in Scotland it is more often Anglicised as Clara, which has the same meaning. The Irish actress Sorcha Cusack, who came to prominence in the 1970s as Jane Eyre, and is still on TV now as the housekeeper in Father Brown, has given it publicity in recent decades, and the name isn’t uncommon in Ireland. The correct pronunciation is SAWR-kuh or SAWR-i-kuh, but in practice a wide variety of pronunciations is tolerated in Ireland and Scotland, including SAWR-sha, which is probably easier for English-speakers, and sounds like familiar Sasha (although liable to be confused with another Irish name, Saoirse). An unusual yet very usable name.
People’s favourite names were Carys, Isolde and Posy, and their least favourite were Lowenna, Jamilla and Shiseido.
(Picture shows Nicole Kidman as Satine in Moulin Rouge!)
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Christian Mowatt is the younger brother of Zenouska Mowatt, grandson of Princess Alexandra, and great-great-grandson of King George V; born in 1993, he is 51st in line to the throne. Christian is one of the most common names in the British royal family, especially in the middle. Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, a member of the Danish royal family, was the husband of Princess Helena, the daughter of Queen Victoria. Their son was also called Prince Christian, and he was Queen Victoria’s favourite grandson, a British army officer who fell in the Boer War. Christian is from the Latin name Christianus, meaning “follower of Christ”. It has been used as a personal name since the Middle Ages, and was originally more common for girls amongst English-speakers. It became seen as a boy’s name after John Bunyan’s highly popular The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), where the hero is a man named Christian. Christian has been a traditional name for Danish kings since the 15th century, and Prince Christian of Denmark, the son of Prince Frederik and Princess Mary, is second in line to the Danish throne. Christian was #178 in the 1900s, and disappeared from the charts the following decade. It returned in the 1950s at #280, perhaps inspired by French fashion designer Christian Dior, or Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Anderson, both popular at the time. It rose in the 1960s, and reached the Top 100 in 1971. Its progress has been up and down, and it’s currently #85. It’s a retro name that feels like a modern classic, popular for decades without feeling overused.
Columbus Taylor is the eldest son of Lady Helen Taylor, a grandson of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and a great-great-grandson of King George V; born in 1994, he is 38th in line to the throne. The name Columbus is best known as the surname of Christopher Columbus, the 15th century Italian explorer and navigator under the patronage of the Spanish monarchy. In his efforts to find a safe passage to Asia by sailing west, he initiated the Spanish colonisation of the New World, leading to lasting European contact with the Americas that changed the world forever. The explorer’s Italian name was Cristoforo Colombo; Colombo is the Italian form of the saint’s name Columba, Latin for “dove”, and used by Christians in reference to the Holy Spirit, often symbolised as a dove. A name with Transatlantic appeal, nearly always given in honour of the explorer, and a more eyebrow-raising form of Callum.
Guelph is one of the middle names of Leopold Windsor, the son of Nicholas Windsor, who has been featured on the blog as a royal dad. A grandson of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and great-great-grandson of King George V, Leopold was born in 2009, and as a Roman Catholic, is not in the line of succession to the throne. The House of Guelph was a European dynasty which played a major role in the politics of medieval Italy, but whose territories moved towards Germany early on, and was eventually succeeded by the Kingdom of Hanover – thus giving strong ties to the British royal family. The current head of the House of Guelph is Ernest August, Prince of Hanover, a descendant of King George II, and husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco. The House of Guelph was founded by Welf IV, Duke of Bavaria, of Italian and German heritage; his name is a Germanic one meaning “young dog”, and thus the equivalent of the English word whelp. A very noble name – perhaps even too aristocratic for most.
Hubert was one of the middle names of George Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood, who was the son of Princess Mary, and grandson of King George V, cousin to Elizabeth II. He passed his middle name down to his son, Mark Hubert Lascelles, born 1964, and not in line to the throne due to being born out of wedlock. Hubert is a Germanic name meaning “bright mind”, and became well known because of St Hubert, an 8th century Bishop of Liege. A French nobleman, he became addicted to hunting after his wife died in childbirth, until he had a vision of a crucifix between the antlers of the stag he was pursuing. Even though this legend was taken from the story of St Eustace, St Hubert is honoured as the patron of ethical hunting, having compassion for animals as God’s creatures. Widely venerated during the Middle Ages, St Hubert’s noble ancestry made him a favourite with chivalric and military orders. Hubert has been used in two Disney films – King Hubert is the father of Sleeping Beauty, while in Brave, Hubert is one of Princess Merida’s three brothers. Hubert was #102 in the 1900s, and had left the charts by the 1940s, so this vintage name may appear dated, although it is rising in the UK, and fits in with Hugh and Hugo.
Inigo is one of the middle names of Charles Armstrong-Jones, the son of Viscount Linley, grandson of Princess Margaret, and great-grandson of King George VI; Queen Elizabeth II is his great aunt. Born in 1999, he is 19th in line to the throne, and his middle name is in honour of Inigo Jones, a personal hero of his father. Inigo Jones was a 17th century British architect and stage designer, a royal Surveyor-General, and hugely influential. Some of his many works include the Queen’s House in Greenwich, now used to house the art collection of the National Maritime Museum, the Banqueting House in the Palace of Whitehall, now a museum, and the Queen’s Chapel at St James’ Palace. He also designed Covent Garden square, and undertook repair and remodelling of St Paul’s Cathedral. Inigo is a British form of Íñigo, a Castilian form of the Basque name Eneko, translated as “my little love, my little dear one”. It may go back to Roman times, but from the Middle Ages was traditional amongst Spanish royalty and nobility. Pronounced IN-i-go, this was first used as an English name in Cornwall, but became traditional amongst descendants of Inigo Jones. Those descendants in Australia include meteorologist Inigo Owen Jones, and wealthy grazier Arthur Triggs, whose brother was named Inigo. A sweet yet solid choice, Inigo has been given further dash and a famous catchphrase by Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride.
Maximilian Lascelles is the son of Henry Lascelles, the great-grandson of Princess Mary, and great-great-grandson of King George V; born in 1991, he is 66th in line to the throne. The name Maximilian is from the Roman name Maxmilianus, derived from Maximus, meaning “greatest”. There are a few saints named Maximilian, with the 3rd century martyr St Maximilian of Tebessa regarded as the first conscientious objector, because he believed that as a Christian, he could not serve in the Roman army. He has been a hero to the anti-war movement ever since. Maximilian I was a 15th century Holy Roman Emperor, named for one of the St Maximilians – probably Germanic missionary and martyr Maximilian of Celeia – and the name has been traditional amongst European monarchy ever since (the tradition that his name was a cross between two Roman emperors is just folklore). Maximilian is around the 400s here, but significantly higher in the UK. Handsome and regal, Maximilian sounds very imposing – but shortens to popular, friendly Max.
Otis Shard is the son of Lady Emily Shard, and the great-great-grandson of King George V; born in 2011, he is not in the line of succession because his mother was born out of wedlock. Otis is a surname derived from an English form of the medieval Germanic name Ode or Odo, an earlier form of the German name Otto. The surname is very well known in the United States, as the Otises are a prominent family influential in early American politics; aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart was one of their members. Famous musical namesakes include Otis Redding, Otis Rush, Otis Span, rapper Otis Jackson Jr, and Otis Williams, from The Temptations, and another musical connection is the song Otis by Kanye West and Jay-Z, sampling Otis Redding. A rising name in the UK, Otis is around the 300s here, and a very fashionable choice.
Tane Lewis is the brother of Senna Lewis, and great-great-grandson of King George V; born in 2012, he is 30th in line to the throne. As earlier discussed, Tane’s father is New Zealander Gary Lewis, the only Maori to have married into the British royal family, and Tane has a name to honour his heritage. Tane is the god of trees and birds in Maori mythology, the son of the sky father and the earth mother, who clothed his father in the stars and his mother with vegetation. In some legends, he made the first man, and in others he made the first woman, moulding her from soil so she could be his wife. The word tāne means “man” in Maori, and it is pronounced TAH-neh, although I have met boys in New Zealand and Australia called Tane who say their name TAYN. A strong, simple yet evocative name which is a wonderful heritage choice, fitting in with familiar names such as Tanner, Tate, and Talon.
Tewa Lascelles is the brother of Tanit Lascelles, a great-grandson of Princess Mary, and great-great-grandson of King George V; born in 1985, he is 58th in line to the throne. Tewa’s mother was Lori Lee, known as “Shadow”, of Native American descent, and his name was chosen to honour his heritage. The Tewa people are from New Mexico, and the name Tewa comes from a Keres word meaning “moccasins”; it is pronounced TAY-wuh, rather like Taylor with a W instead of an L. Tewa Lascelles, an American citizen, was born in New Mexico, and perhaps the name reflects his birthplace as well. Tewa is in a progressive punk band, following in his family’s musical footsteps, as James Lascelles is a keyboardist with an interest in world music, and grandfather George Lascelles devoted most of his career to opera.
Xan Windsor, Lord Culloden, is the brother of Lady Cosima Windsor, son of the Earl of Ulster, and great-great-grandson of King George V; born in 2007, he is 26th in line to the throne. Xan is named in honour of his father, Major Alex Ulster, and this snappy short form of Alexander seems very versatile. Fresh and futuristic, Xan could belong to either gender, and is of ambiguous cultural background, making it the perfect choice for the modern age.
People’s favourite names were Otis, Christian and Tane, and their least favourite were Columbus, Tewa and Guelph.
(Picture shows Tane Lewis, accompanied by his mother, Lady Davina Lewis; photo from The Daily Mail)
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The most popular boys names of the 1940s were John, Peter, Robert, and David, but what were the least popular names? Here are ten names which were only chosen once in any year between 1944 and 1949 in South Australia, making them unique names for their time and place. Still rare, some feel surprisingly contemporary, while one or two have perhaps had their day.
English surname of multiple origins. It can be from a common place name meaning “east settlement”, to indicate a village to the east of a larger town, although occasionally it seems to be a corruption or variant of Ashton, meaning “settlement near the ash trees”. It can also mean “at the stone”, to indicate someone who lived near a prominent stone. Finally, it can be a contraction of a personal name such as Aethelstan, meaning “noble stone”, and there are examples of men with Aston as a first name in the Middle Ages from this derivation. Sir Aston Cockayne, 1st Baronet, was a 17th century writer who was on the Royalist side during the English Civil War, and a close friend of the future Charles II. The name might remind you of Aston Villa Football Club, in the English Premier League, or Aston Martin luxury cars – both familiar in the 1940s as well. I see the name Aston name sometimes in birth notices, perhaps inspired by Aston Merrygold from English boy band JLS.
English surname from an unknown place name meaning “stream surrounded by broom” – broom is a hardy European shrub with yellow flowers. The name has a strong connection with the Salvation Army, because Bramwell Booth was the second General of the Salvation Army who served during World War I, the eldest son of its founder, William Booth. We know the name was used by Salvationists, because Bramwell Tillsley, a Canadian who was the son of British Salvationists, was the 14th General of the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army has a strong history in South Australia, with the first official Salvation Army corps formed in Adelaide in 1880. Booth was also used as a baby name during the 1940s, with the Salvation Army’s support of the troops being greatly appreciated. Bramwell is an attractive, little-used surname that has the appealing nickname Bram.
Form of the Greek name Kosmas, meaning “order”, and thus the opposite of “chaos”. The Greeks also used the word to mean “the world”, because they believed the world was perfectly put in order. We use the word cosmos to mean “the universe, all of creation”. According to tradition, Saint Cosmas was a skilled doctor; along with his twin brother Damian, he performed many miraculous cures before his martyrdom. The name Cosmo was introduced to Britain by the Scottish peer Alexander Gordon, 2nd Duke of Gordon, when he named his son Cosmo in 1720. Cosmo’s name was in honour of his father’s close friend Cosimo di Medici – Cosimo is the Italian form of Kosmas. The name has always had a rather exotic and aristocratic image, and Scottish associations. There were several famous Cosmos that could have inspired the name in the 1940s, including popular British playwright Cosmo Hamilton, and Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang. Cosmos is also a type of daisy, whose name comes from the same Greek origin, so with some imagination, the name Cosmo could honour someone named Daisy.
Variant of Denzel, a Cornish surname. The name was traditional in the aristocratic Holles family, with one of the earliest and most famous of their number to bear the name Denzil Holles, 1st Baron Holles, a 17th century statesman who is best known for being part of a group who attempted to arrest King Charles I, sparking the Civil War, but also took a leading role in bringing about the Restoration. The Denzel spelling came first, as Denzil Holles’ grandfather was Denzel Holles. These Denzils and Denzels were named in honour of their ancestor John Denzel, who had large estates in Cornwall in the 16th century and was Attorney-General to Elizabeth of York, queen of Henry VII. John Denzel took his surname from the Denzell manor house in St Mawgan, Cornwall, and the meaning of its name is not known for sure, although perhaps from the Celtic for “hill fortress in open view”. A 1940s Australian namesake is Sir Denzil Macarthur-Onslow, a World War II general regarded as a “cracker of a bloke”. Denzil still seems contemporary because of American actor Denzel Washington, and is very usable.
Derived from the ancient Germanic name Eberhard, often translated as “brave as a wild boar”. The name was introduced by the Normans to Britain, where there was already an Old English form of the name, Eoforheard. A famous namesake is Sir Everard Digby, who was executed for his part in the failed Gunpowder Plot, and another was Everard Calthrop, a railway engineer who helped develop the modern parachute. Although in use since the Middle Ages, modern usage has probably been influenced by the surname, as the Everards are an aristocratic family who have been created baronets in both Ireland and England. Everard Park is a suburb of Adelaide, named after the prominent pioneer Sir Charles Everard, said to have the best orchard in the colony, giving this a strong South Australian feel. Everard is an interesting twist on classic Evan, and the trend for girls’ names starting with Ev- may also be a help.
English surname referring to someone living near a triangular field; the word gar means spear in Old English, and a gar field is one that is shaped like the point of a spearhead. The surname is well known in the United States, as their 20th president was James A. Garfield, and his sons also went on to have illustrious public careers – there is a town in Victoria named Garfield in honour of the American president. A namesake from the 1940s was Hollywood actor John Garfield, while one with Garfield as his first name is Garfield “Gar” Wood, an American inventor, showman, and record-breaking motorboat racer – the first to travel over 100 miles an hour on water. An Australian namesake from this era is Sir Garfield Barwick, a barrister who came to prominence during a 1943 court case involving the Archibald Prize. He later became a Liberal MP, Attorney-General, and Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. He was the legal advisor to Sir John Kerr during the controversial dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam (an old enemy of Barwick’s), so he well and truly made history. Garfield would be a charming and unusual vintage name, except for one thing – the obese cartoon cat!
In Greek mythology, Linus was a Thracian prince who was so musically talented that he was said to have been the son of Apollo, god of music, and Calliope, the muse of epic poetry. According to legend, Linus invented melody and rhythm, and taught music to his brothers Orpheus and Heracles. Unfortunately, Heracles didn’t appreciate the music lessons, and killed Linus with his own lyre after he tried to give Heracles some constructive criticism. Although the meaning of the name is not certain, there was a type of dirge in classical Greece called a linos, and it’s possible that the mythological character was a personification of this song of mourning. The name has a Christian association because Linus is said to have been a Bishop of Rome in the early church, and is listed as the second pope. The name Linus is especially popular in Scandinavia, although many people will connect it to Linus Pauling, the American scientist who won both the Nobel Chemistry Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize, and whose work was aleady known by the 1940s. The name might also remind you of security blanket-hugging philosopher Linus from the Peanuts comics. A sweet, smart name with a mythological musical connection.
Greek name meaning “new”. It wasn’t an unusual name in ancient Greece, and there are several prominent men named Neon from history. However, in modern times the name is strongly associated with neon lighting – bright electrified glass tubes often used for signs. They are named after neon gas, which is used to give off a bright orange light, but other gases provide different colours. Neon has has the same meaning as the name Neon. Neon lighting was invented in 1910, and was in its heyday between 1920 and 1940, the bright colours suddenly bringing dark streets to life. It’s probably not a coincidence that the name Neon peaked in the 1940s and ’50s, usually given to boys. Neon feel both space age and vintage, and has been used as a comic book hero name, for both a male and female character. As neon is often used in an artistic context today, you might think of this as an arty name, and it’s otherwise bright and energetic.
A revel is a festive celebration, while to revel is to make merry. The word comes from Old French, and is directly related to the Latin rebello, from which our word (and name) Rebel is derived. This is probably because we think of celebrations as tending to be rather unruly or disorderly, and sometimes they can even get out of hand! This fun-loving word has been used as a personal name since the Middle Ages in both England and France, and was also given as a nickname to people who were known for partying particularly hard. It is from this that the surname derives, and it is especially associated with Yorkshire. A famous Australian namesake is Western Australian Indigenous artist Revel Cooper, whose career began in the 1940s. Although he was just a child then, he was one of a number of children in state care who were given specialised art training, and their artwork exhibited in Perth, New Zealand, India, and Europe. Unlike many of the children, Revel continued his art career into adulthood. Revel is a boisterous medieval boys’ name that still sounds contemporary.
Rollo was a powerful 9th century Viking leader who was the founder and first ruler of the area of France now known as Normandy. He was the great-great-great grandfather of William the Conqueror, and through William, is the ancestor of the present day British royal family, as well as all current European monarchs. His name is a Latinised form of the Old Norse name Hrólfr, which in modern times is known as Rolf. It’s a shortened form of Hrodulf, now known as Rudolf, meaning “famous wolf”. Rollo is also a Scottish surname, the Clan Rollo being descended from the Normans, and in particular the nephew of William the Conqueror, Erik Rollo. Because the Lords Rollo is a title in the Scottish peerage, the name gains further aristocratic credentials. Rollo fitted in well with 1940s name trends, when Rolf and Roland were fashionable, and Australian artist Rollo Thompson flourished in this decade. Like Cosmo, it fits in with current trends for boys names ending in -o, and this is a fun yet blue-blooded choice.
People’s favourite names were Linus, Aston and Bramwell, and their least favourite were Neon, Denzil and Garfield.
(Picture shows Denzil Macarthur-Onslow, on the right, supervising a training exercise in Queensland in 1942; photo from the Australian War Memorial)