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Archive for July, 2011


There are few names more evocative of medieval romance than Guinevere, the Celtic queen, caught up in probably the most famous love triangle of all time — Guinevere, King Arthur, and Sir Lancelot.

The enduringly popular story of King Arthur and Guinevere has been retold countless times for a thousand years or more, most recently in the TV series Camelot.

What the truth is behind the legends is a question which has occupied historians, archaeologists and folklorists alike for hundreds of years.

Guinevere is the now classic form of the legendary queen’s name, as used by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in the Idylls of the King, but there are many others.

Probably the next most seen is Guenevere,  used in a number of versions, including Rosalind Miles’ Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country (1999) and the musical Camelot (1960).

In Mallory’s 15th Century Le Mort dArthur she is Gwenyvere.

The original Welsh form of her name is Gwenhwyfar.

This is really ancient!

For while Gwen features in a great many Welsh names of all periods, its Common Celtic predecessor  *uindo- ‘white, bright’ is attested in Celtic names in Roman Britain.

Hwyfar, however, is not recorded anywhere, except in Gwenhwyfar’s name.

There has been a lot of speculation over the years as to its meaning; the Victorians conjectured that it must carry some soft, feminine sort of sense, and interpreted it as ‘soft’ and ‘smooth’, linking it to the rare (and obsolete) Welsh word gwyf.

But this doesn’t actually even mean ‘smooth’!

It means ‘that which extends’.

And the sort of torture it must endure to turn it into hwyfar really brings tears to the eyes.

But there is a better explanation, provided by historical linguistics — the Common Celtic *sŒbro- ‘specter’.

In Old Irish, this became síabar — ‘fairy’ and ghost’ — a word which almost certainly features in the name of another tragic figure of mythology, the Irish Fionnabhair. This make it exactly cognate with Guinevere.

This begs the question whether Guinevere and Fionnabhair are linked at a level deeper than just their names, and whether rather than ever being real historical figures, they belong to the pantheon of the Pagan Celtic Gods.

Given the role they both play, a convincing argument could be put forward that they both represent Goddesses of sovereignty, like Rhiannon and Medb (it is probably no coincidence that in the myth, Fionnabhair’s mother is Medb of Connacht).

Even today, in North Wales, the legend persists of an apparation — ‘the Grey Lady’ who haunts the Celtic hill-fort of Moel Arthur, and is now said to protect the grave and treasure of King Arthur.

Alternatively, they may be the bride aspect of the Goddess — the May Queen. There are certainly strong parallels in the tale of Arthur and Guinevere with that of Lleu and Blodeuwedd.

Perhaps they are both.

Guinevere is found as a genuine given name from at least the 14th Century — largely as a result of the popularity of the Arthurian Cycles. In Wales and the Marches, it survived  in forms such as Gaenor, Gaynor, Gwennor and Gwenifer.

In Cornwall, it became Jenifer. George Bernard Shaw introduced it to the rest of the ESW in his play The Doctors Dilemma (1905), which features a character called Jennifer Dubedat.

In Scotland, it became Vanora. Vanora’s Grave in Meigle, Scotland is a grass-covered mound in front of which two carved Pictish stones are known to have once stood, though Vanora isn’t found as a given name itself before the 19th Century.

Another variant is the Italian Ginevra — made better known by Ginevra ‘Ginny’ Weasley in Harry Potter.

But Guinevere itself has always been uncommon. It has never featured in the top 1000 names in the US. And even in England and Wales, there were less than 250 girls given the name Guinevere as a first or second name between 1847 and 1915. 57 baby girls were called Guinevere in the USA in 2010, but only 4 in England and Wales.

This is a great shame, and Guinevere is crying out to be re-embraced. It makes a fantastic alternative to its love-child Jennifer, which is now tumbling out of favor after so long as a firm favorite. It shortens nicely to Guin or Guinny (or Gwin, Gwyn, Gwinny, Gwen and Gwenny, etc) — even Ginny or Jenny.

There are the Welsh pet-forms  of Gwen– names too: Gwenno, Gwennan and Gwenog.

You could even use Vere or Vera, Nev or Neve — or Never!

Why not?

And why not Guinevere? A magnificent name for Pagans and non-Pagans alike!

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Izi - fire

Many of us Pagan, New Age, and Independent Thinker folk believe that the universe is far more inter-connected than is generally accepted. Thus, when we encounter two things that look alike, many of us think that there is something joining them on a spiritual or ‘vibrational’ level.

Even those who would disagree, and call such similarities pure coincidence, still find it interesting to learn that a word or name familiar from one language has a completely different meaning in another — sometimes beautiful, sometimes not so…

And so, today’s collection of Sumerian features words which resemble established names:

Abgal  —  ‘sage’, ‘wise man’, ‘wizard’ < abba ‘elder’ + gal ‘great’

Ada  — ‘father’, ‘shout’, ‘song’

Adda — ‘carcass’, ‘corpse’, ‘skeleton’

Agar — ‘field’, ‘commons’; ‘heavy rain’; ‘lead’; ’embrace’

Al, Alan — ‘image’, ‘statue’, ‘figure’, ‘appearance’

Allan —  oak tree < Akkadian allaanum ‘oak’

Ama —  ‘mother’, ‘wild ox’, ‘cow’

Ambar — ‘marsh’; ‘reeds’, ‘canebrake’

Anna  — ‘tin’, ‘yes’

Ara — ‘praise’, ‘glory’, ‘to shine’, ‘to blaze’; ‘bright’, ‘clear’, ‘polished’; ‘way’, ‘road’; ‘times’

Aria — ‘district’, ‘desert’, ‘waste’

Asa — ‘myrtle’, ‘cage’, ‘fetter’, ‘bear’

Ash — ‘what one needs’

Asha — ‘field’; ‘area’

Ashera — ‘lamentation’

Babbar — ‘bright’, ‘white’, ‘the rising sun’

Barbarra — ‘flames’

Dana — ‘road-length measure’

Dara  — ‘belt’, ‘sash’; ‘dark’, ‘dim’, ‘high’

Daria — ‘driven (animal)’

Didi — ‘young’, ‘small’; ‘to play an instrument’

Ebla — ‘watery type of beer’; ‘light beer’

Eden, Edin — ‘steppe’, ‘plain’, ‘grazing land between the two long rivers’, ‘back’, ‘spine’ (NB — this could well be the source of the biblical Eden)

Emma, Imma — variant of enmen ‘thirst’ < en ‘time’ + mun ‘salt’

Erin, Eren — ‘man’, ‘servant’, ‘soldier’, ‘troops’, ‘army’, ‘gang of workers’, ‘people’, ‘folk’; ‘enemy’, ‘destruction’; ‘cedar’; ‘balance scale’

Gaz — ‘powder’, ‘break’, ‘fracture’, ‘war’

Gianna — ‘at night’

Gil, Gili, Gilim — ‘reed bundle’; ‘dancer’; ‘bride crown’

Gina, Gena, Ginna, Genna — ‘constant’, ‘regular’, ‘small’; ‘the planet Saturn’; ‘consent’

Hala — ‘share’, ‘lot’

Halba — ‘frost’, ‘freezing’

Ida — ‘river’, ‘main canal’, ‘water course’

Inda — ‘flower’; ‘bushel’; ‘pure-bred breeding bull’; ‘ancestors’; ‘fish-roe’; ‘funnel’, ‘hopper of the seed plough’

Izi — ‘waves’; ‘fire’

Izzi — ‘house wall’; ‘fire’; ‘current’, ‘flood’

Kal, Kala — ‘strong’, ‘swift’; ‘to repair’, ‘mend’

Kara — ‘to encircle’, ‘besiege’, ‘accuse’, ‘shine’, ‘be bright’

Kim — ‘willow-tree’

Kushla — ‘leather-cord’

Lal —  ‘honey’, ‘date-syrup’; ‘light’, ‘deficient’, ‘to be high’, ‘to diminish’

Lala — ‘joy’, ‘appeal’, ‘charms’, ‘abundance’, ‘vigor’

Lil — ‘wind’, ‘breath’, ‘spirit’, ‘infection’

Lilla — ‘spirt of a place’

Lillan — ‘stalk with ripe ear of grain’

Lusua — ‘friend’; ‘acquaintance’

Madala — a thick bundle of reeds used to build a raft

Meli — ‘voice’, ‘throat’

Mia — ‘how?’ The similar Mea means ‘where?’

Mina, Mana — ‘partner’, ‘companion’, ‘equal’, ‘two’

Miu — ‘ewe lamb’

Musa — ‘to name’, ‘to give as a name’

Nia — ‘by itself’

Nila — ‘to inspire awe’, ‘to raise oneself’ < ‘self’ + íla ‘raise’; ‘to diminish/humiliate oneself’ < ‘self’ + ‘diminish’

Nissa, Nisi — ‘greens’, ‘vegetables’

Nita — ‘male’, ‘manly’

Nura — ‘not stamped with a seal’

Nusa — ‘not good’

Sal — ‘uterus’, ‘vulva’

Sali — a type of lyre

Sam  — ‘equivalent (barter) purchase’, ‘sale price’, ‘merchandise’

Samana — ‘skin disease’; a grain disease, such as rust

Santana — ‘herbalist’, ‘horticulturist’, ‘date’, ‘orchard’, ‘administrator’ — also Shandana and Shandan.

Shada — ‘voluntarily’

Shala — ‘to engorge’, ‘to stuff’

Shakir, Shakira — ‘butter tub’, ‘churn’, ‘churning’, ‘pitcher’; ‘henbane’

Sharan, Sharin — ‘tick’, ‘bedbug’

Sharra, Shara  — ‘numerous’; ‘to dry up’, ‘to wither’

Sheba — barley rations distributed by the administration of the temple/palace; ‘to be careless/negligent’

Sheli — ‘pine/juniper seeds’

Shem — ‘herb’, ‘aromatic wood’, ‘resin’, ‘spice’, ‘fragrance’, ‘perfume’, ‘fragrant’; ‘tambourine’

Shena — ‘swallow’

Sher — ‘to shine brightly’; ‘shine’, ‘light’, ‘glimmer’; ‘decision’

Shula — ‘entrusted’ <  šu ‘hands’ + ‘hold’ + nominative; ‘paralyzed’, ‘idle’ < šu ‘hands’ + ‘to bind’, ‘diminish’

Shuluh — ‘ritual cleansing’, ‘purification ritual’

Shuna — ‘pestle’

Shushana — ‘one third (part)’

Sim — ‘kettledrum’

Sisi — ‘horse’

Sumur — ‘fierceness’

Sun — ‘wildcow’, ‘beerwort’; ‘modesty’; ‘quarrel’, ‘discord’

Sura — ‘far-reaching’

Suzi — ‘terror’

Tam — ‘polished’, ‘shiny’, ‘reflective’, ‘pure’, ‘reliable’

Tin — ‘life’, ‘wine’

Tina — ‘strongly’

Tutu — ‘incantations’

Uma, Una — ‘victory’, ‘triumph’

Uri, Urin — ‘eagle’, ‘standard’, ’emblem’, ‘banner’; ‘blood’

Uria — ‘in those (far remote) days’

Ursa — ‘to be/make comfortable/happy’.

Zana — ‘caterpillar’

Zara — ‘to spin’, ‘twine’, ‘to roll up’; ‘pole’, ‘shaft of chariots’, etc

Zena — ‘palm-frond’

Zizi — ‘subtraction’; ‘to rebel’

See also:

Sumerian Names — Part 1

Sumerian Names — Part 2

Sumerian Names — Part 3

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Boleyn

More surnames today of English, Anglo-French or Norse origin which have seen little use as yet as given names. Here are the best of the B’s:

  • Balmer — from Middle English balme ‘balm’ — originally an aromatic substance made with resins from various trees; balmer referred to someone who prepared balm or sold it.
  • Beale — from the Old French bele ‘beautiful’, which is found as a girl’s name in the Middle Ages. Also spelled Beal, Beall, and Beel.
  • Beckley — from the personal name Beccalēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’. Becca is nothing to do with Rebecca; its origin isn’t known for certain, it may be a short form of an unknown Anglo-Saxon name, or an Old English nickname from becca ‘hook’, or possibly a personal name of Celtic origin, coming ultimately from the same source as the Welsh bach ‘small’. All we know is that it features in a number of English place names, so can’t have been that rare.
  • Bellamy — from the Old French bel ami  ‘fair friend’.
  • Benley — from Old English bēon ‘bees’ + lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’.
  • Bessemer — Old English besma ‘broom’; a besmere or besemere was a besom-broom maker.
  • Boleyn — surprisingly, very rare as a given name, despite Anne Boleyn’s popularity. It is a variant of Bullen, from Boulogne in France, itself from the Gallo-Romanic name Bononia, either from the Celtic *bundo- ‘base’, ‘floor’ and ‘bottom’.
  • Bonallie — from French bon ‘good’ + aller ‘to go’. Var: Bonally, Bonella, Bonnalie, Bonnella.
  • Bonamy — from the Old French bon ami  ‘good friend’.
  • Brabazon — Anglo-French Brabançon ‘person from Brabant’; the name was applied to a bunch of medieval mercenaries, whether originally from Brabant or not.
  • Brade — from the Old English brād “broad.”B
  • Brierley — from one of the places of the name. Old English brēr ‘briars’ + lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’.
  • Brightwen — from the Old English names Beohrtwine ♂ ‘bright friend’ and Beohrtwynn ♀ ‘bright joy’.
  • Brixey — from the Old English name Beohrtsige ‘bright victory’.
  • Brooker — from Middle English broker ‘dweller at the brook’.
  • Bryden — Old French bridon ‘bridle’; used of someon who made bridles. Also Brydon.
  • Butler — from Anglo-French butuiller, the title of a high-ranking servant in charge of a wine-cellar. It became the surname of a very powerful Anglo-Irish aristocratic family. Anne Boleyn’s paternal grandmother was Lady Margaret Butler, daughter of the 7th Earl of Ormonde. Butler did see very modest use in the 19th Century, but hasn’t appeared in the top 1000 since 1903. A prominent bearer was the poet William Butler Yeats.
  • Buxton — from Buxton, Derbyshire.  Old English personal name *Bucc + tūn ‘enclosure’, ‘farmstead’, ‘estate’, ‘manor’, ‘village’. Bucc is probably from the Old English buc ‘male deer’ or bucca ‘he-goat’.
  • Bythesea — not quite as obvious as it looks; the sea in Bythesea is more likely to mean ‘watercourse’, ‘drain’, ‘pond’ or ‘lake’ rather than ‘sea’. Pronounced ‘BI-thuh-see’.

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Appleby

Following on from my post yesterday about using surnames as first names, I thought I’d take a look at some less used surnames which would make fantastic first names, especially for those with Pagan-leanings. None of them feature in the top 1000 names of the US or UK.

This list, by and large, excludes surnames which are identical to existing first names or ordinary vocabulary words — these all deserves articles to themselves.

And as this is such rich name territory, I plan a whole series of articles on the subject, starting with an A-Z of surnames of Old English, Anglo-French or Norse origin. Today’s are names beginning with A.

  • Abra, Abrey — uncertain origin, possibly a variant of Aubrey, or from Alburgh ‘old mound’, or Avebury ‘Afa’s Burgh’.
  • Acton — from one of the places of the name. Old English āc ‘oak’ + tūn ‘enclosure’, ‘farmstead’, ‘village’, ‘manor’ and ‘estate’. Acton Bell was the pen-name of Anne Bronte.
  • Aldren — Old English alor ‘alder’. Used of someone who lived among alders.
  • Allman — from the Old French aleman ‘German’.
  • Amberley, Amberly — from Amberley, Sussex and Amberley, Gloucestershire. From the Old English amore, a type of bird, possibly the bunting or yellow hammer + lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’.. Amberley in Sussex is known for its medieval castle, now a very exclusive hotel. The American-style spelling Amberly did peek a few twice into the US top 900s between 1985 and 1991.
  • Amelot, Amlot — a pet-form of Emmeline, itself from the Old German amal ‘work’.
  • Amery, Amory — variant of better-known (and more used) Emery, from the Norman-French name Amalric ‘work-ruler’ (currently rocketing up the charts along with its spin-off Emerson).
  • Amiel — a pet-form of Old French ami ‘friend’ or the medieval girl’s name Amia.
  • Appleby — from one of the places called Appleby. Old English æppel ‘apple’ + Old Norse ‘farmstead’, ‘village’ and ‘settlement’.
  • Arlett — from Old English *alrett ‘alder grove’.
  • Arley — probably the commonest name on this list; Arley is found dithering as a boy’s name in mostly the 800s and 900s until the 1930s. from one of the places called Arley or Areley, from Old English earn ‘eagle’ + + lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’.
  • Arundel — partly from Arundel in Sussex (from hārhūne ‘horehound’ + dell ‘valley’), home of Arundel Castle, the principal seat of the Dukes of Norfolk, and partly from the Old French arondel ‘little swallow’.
  • Ashberry — from one of the places called Ashbury. Old English æsc ‘ash’ + burh ‘fortified place’ and ‘stronghold’ — a common element in Old English girls’ names.
  • Ashby — from various places called Ashby, from the Old English æsc or Old Norse askr both meaning ‘ash tree’ + Old Norse ‘farmstead’, ‘village’ and ‘settlement’. Popped into the US top 1000 a few times in the 19th Century.
  • Ashwin — from the Old English name Æscwine, from æsc ‘ash’ (used in this context to mean ‘spear’) + wine ‘friend’
  • Atherley — for ‘(dweller) at the lea’.
  • Atholl — the English Atholls derive from the Middle English for ‘(dweller) at the hollow’.
  • Athorn — for ‘(dweller) at the thorn (tree)’.
  • Audley — from Audley in Staffordshire. From the Old English girl’s name Aldgyth ‘old-battle’ or ‘old-strife’ + lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’. It found its way into the top 1000 a handful of times in the late 19th and early 20th Century.
  • Avann — ‘(dweller) at the fen’. Old English fenn ‘fen’.
  • Aveley, Avely — from Aveley, Essex.  From the Old English girl’s name Ælfgyth ‘elf-battle’ or ‘elf-strife’ + lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’.
  • Averley — uncertain; possibly from Aversley Wood, Huntingdonshire. Perhaps Old English eofor ‘boar’ (or a personal name containing the element) + lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’.
  • Aylen — Old English æðeling ‘noble’ and ‘prince of the royal blood’ (there is evidence that this was used as a personal name too).
  • Ayler — Old French aillier ‘garlic-seller’.
  • Ayre, Eyre — Old French eir, heir, ultimately from Latin heres ‘heir’.
  • Axon — either Old English personal name Acca + son, or from Askin, a surname deriving from a pet form of the Old Norse name Ásketill ‘cauldron of a God’.
  • Axton — variant of AXON, or the well known Ashton ‘ash-enclosure’, etc.

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Sir Winston Churchill as a little boy; Winston started out as a surname

In the — shall we say — more conservative naming crowd, using surnames as first names is almost as big an anathema as that most heinous crime of all: using boys’ names for girls!

Often perceived as a nasty modern naming trend, it’s on the list that some purists would love to see banned.

So what’s the reality? Are surnames as first names ‘real names’? Is using surnames as first names just a modern fad? Is it a sign of being uncouth, uncultured and uneducated?

No, no, NO!

Let’s take a look at some these criticisms more closely.

Are surnames real names?

Of course surnames are real names! the clue is in the name. In France, your surname is your nom, your first name, your prénom. Nom, nom — name, name. A surname is a name. One is (usually) inherited and the other chosen, but that’s the only real difference.

A very large proportion of surnames started out as given names anyway, or, in the case of some of the topographical names, include a given name within them. So kicking up a fuss about using it as a first name comes across as a bit mealy-mouthed, quite frankly.

The only caveat I would ever place on using a surname as a first name relates to those which contain ‘son of’ in their meaning for girls, or started out as feminine nouns (like Brewster and Baxter) for boys.

I’m all for unisex names, and using so-called boys’ names for girls, but a son is a son, a daughter is a daughter, and a ‘woman brewer’ is a ‘woman brewer’ — even if the word hasn’t been used with that meaning for a thousand years! (Sorry, I’m just pedantic like that!)

Is it just a modern fad?

Using surnames as first names is not a new phenomenon. Far, far from it. The trend began in the  English-speaking world in the 16th Century!

But using surnames as first names is actually older still — it goes back to the Romans…

In the late Roman Empire, the old system of names broke down and all names got rather jumbled up. Early examples inlude the adoption of Flavius as a praenomen (first name) in honor of the Flavian Emperors, which was in use by the 1st Century CE.

And a great many names which purists would consider ‘genuine’ first names actually started out as Roman surnames. Anthony, Austin, Cecily, Claire, Claudia, Emilia, Julia, Julian, Justin, Sebastian, etc are all English forms of Roman ‘surnames’.

Is it a sign of being uncouth, uncultured and uneducated?

Leaving aside the awful snobbery of such attitudes, using surnames as first names actually began with the aristocracy — the very antithesis of uncouth, uncultured and uneducated!

Many of the most established surnames-as-first-names — Ashley, Douglas, Fraser, Russell, Scott, Sidney, Spencer, Stanley — are the names of some of Britain’s most aristocratic families.

Even today, some of the quirky family names used by certain families started out as first names — take the famous Winston Churchill. Winston became a family name among the Spencer-Churchills in the 17th Century, with the marriage of the heiress Sarah Winston, daughter of Sir Henry Winston, to John Churchill.

Ah, but, the purist says, these are aristocratic families.  They had a connection with the family who bore the surname. They’ve been passed down now for centuries.

Yes, they did. Yes, they have. So what?

Aren’t we all part of the same human family? If you have ancestors originated from the British Isles — and if it were possible to trace every line of your ancestry right back to the time when surnames began — you would find most, if not all, British-origin surnames in use today in your family tree.

If you doubt this, do the maths. There are an average of 4 generations per 100 years. We all have two parents, four grandparents eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great grandparents, and so on and so forth. Every generation you go back, the numbers double.

By 1300, the number you get to is almost double the estimated population in 1300 not just of the British Isles, but the entire population of Europe!

Of course, in reality, people from the British Isles don’t just descend from people from the British Isles or Europe. Immigration and emigration has always happened, and we all have a wonderfully diverse genetic ancestry, regardless of from where we and our immediate ancestors originated.

But the fact is undeniable. These surnames belong to all of us.

And naming practices change. They always have, they always will.

And using surnames as first names is a no less valid source of first names than any other…

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Whenever news of an unusual baby name hits the press, there is an inevitable backlash.

Usually, it’s a celeb baby under the spotlight.

And, amid the flotsam and jetsam of the same old criticism, there’s often a call for laws to prevent people from using extraordinary names.

Sometimes, such laws are actually made.

New Zealand, for instance, has been in the news this week for banning certain names from use as given names.

It joins a small but significant number of countries which possess laws to limit what names can and cannot be used.

Sometimes, the names on a banned list are surprising. In Italy, for instance, you can’t call a daughter Andrea (because it’s the Italian form of Andrew), while in Portugal, you can’t call a boy Tom (foreign diminutive — bad juju).

In Sweden, famous for being very strict about names, you can’t call a girl Elvis – or rather, you couldn’t prior to 2008.

It seems the Swedes have lightened up a bit since — although exactly how that will translate in practice has yet to be seen.

Anyone know of a baby girl called Elvis in Sweden yet?

Back in New Zealand, controversial names now banned include Lucifer, Messiah and Justice.

Lucifer and Messiah are on the hit-list because – presumably – some un-named (and unelected) ‘power-that-be’ deems them offensive or inappropriate on account of certain religious connotations to certain people.

Justice is up there because it can also be a title, and that is judged ‘unacceptable’.

The NZ Baby Name Tsar is clearly unaware that Justice is also a concept which many people hold very dear, and about which some might feel so strongly that they’d like to bestow it as a name on their child.

Something people have done since the 16th Century, when Justice is first encountered as a genuine given name.

So if you’re a Kiwi and Justice is an old family name, used for generations – tough.

I wonder, is My Name is Earl banned in NZ too?

Some might accuse New Zealand of going from one extreme to another. Smarting from the fact that a very small handful of New Zealand parents were getting a bit too over-creative a few years ago, and coming up with names such as Number 16 Bus Shelter and Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii, they seem now to have gone to the other extreme.

Whatever next? Proposals like those put forward in Venezuela a few years ago to limit parental choice to just a hundred names?

So, just what are the grounds on which states like New Zealand for banning certain names?

In a nutshell, those in favor argue that it safeguards children from being saddled with names which might be offensive, ambiguous or downright silly. It saves the child from a moniker which might prove to be a ‘social disability and handicap’.

In principle, surely that’s a good thing?

Perhaps… but I ask you this: where do you draw the line?

And who decides?

And what are the consequences when a State is allowed to ride rough-shod over personal liberty just to curb the silliness of an extremely tiny minority? When it starts to dictate what its citizens can and cannot name their own children?

What will they start to think they can dictate to us next?

One of the biggest flies in the ointment in this name-banning lark is the fact that when prescriptive laws like this come into being, a lot of people view it as the State is over-stepping its bounds — and that will always make some go out of their way to push the law to the limit.

This is exactly the reason why one Swedish couple tried to call their son Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 — pronounced Albin — in 1996.

If I were the gambling sort, I’d be prepared to put money on more New Zealand babies being given ‘odd’ names as a result of this legislation, rather than less.

Here’s a selection of other names which have been banned in one corner of the world or another in recent years:

*, @, 4Real, 89, 1069, III, Adolf Hitler, Akuma, Anus, Baron, Bishop, C, Chow Tow, D, Dalmata, Duke, I, Ikea, Fat Boy, Fish and Chips (twins), General, Gesher, Grammophon, Judge, Keenan Got Lucy, King, Knight, Lillprins, Metallica, Monkey, Mr, Nero, O.crnia, One, Ovnis, Pipeline-Vintervila, Pluto, Q, Skrot, Stallion, Stompie, Superman, T, Tequila, Tomhet, Tornfeldt, Twisty Poi, Venerdi, Veranda, Woodstock, Yeah Detroit.

Mostly utterly dreadful? Undeniably!

But what needs to be stressed is how rare these extreme names actually are.

And the fact remains that the right to name yourself or your child — your own flesh and blood — how you please, and in accordance with your beliefs and philosophies, should be protected as one of the most sacred human rights.

The vast majority of parents on the planet exercise their right responsibly — without the need for State interference.

In countries which have no laws regarding what names can be used for babies, most children are not called Dweezil and Moon Unit.

Most have ‘normal’ names.

And what unusual names are bestowed are inoffensive (to any rational, live-and-let live sorts, anyway). They may not be to everyone’s taste, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to dictate what others call their children.

Thus, we may well ask, ‘Why, oh, why, oh why?’

We may shake our heads at the insanity of giving a child a really ridiculous or deliberately provocative name, when the parents are clearly just taking the Michael.

We may wonder whether such folk realize that it’s going to backfire spectacularly when the child becomes old enough to understand.

But the fall-out will be of their own making. There will be no-one else to blame but themselves.

The State is not there to protect people from their own stupidity.

The bottom line is this: if you value personal liberty, freedom of expression, and parental rights, banning names should itself be banned in any country that calls itself a democracy.

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100 years ago yesterday, the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham rediscovered Machu Picchu, the ‘Lost City of the Incas’. Machu Picchu was almost certainly an estate of the infamous Incan Emperor Pachacuti (1438-1471/1472) ‘He Who Shakes The Earth’, whose name comes from Quechua pacha ‘time’, ‘epoch’ and ‘world’ + kutay ‘to grind’.

Pachacuti also happens to be one of my Small Child’s favorite historical characters, largely on account of this brilliant song by the BBC’s  Horrible Histories — which I’m featuring today to celebrate 100 years of Pachacuti’s Macchu Picchu becoming known to the world!

Sadly, names like Pachacuti aren’t so common in Peru any more; speakers of Quechua mostly have Spanish or Quechuan forms of Spanish names. These are some of them:

Alfunsu — Alfonso

Alisya — Alicia

Alwirtu — Alberto

Alwunsu — Alfonso

Andris — Andrés

Angil, Anhil — Ángel

Ansilmu — Anselmo

Birnabiy — Bernabé

Damyan — Damián

Filipi — Felipe

Filis — Félix

Hasintu — Jacinto

Hulya — Julia

Hulyu — Julio

Hurhi — Jorge

Husiy — José

Ilina — Elena

Inis — Inéz

Inriki — Enrique

Irnistu — Ernesto

Isla — Elsa

Istir — Ester

Karlus — Carlos

Karmin — Carmen

Kristubal — Cristóbal

Kulun — Colón (Columbus)

Luwis — Luis

Luwisa — Luisa

Manuyla — Manuela

Manwil — Manuel

Marsilina — Marcelina

Marsilu — Marcelo

Marya — María

Maryanu — Mariano

Mihil — Miguel

Pablu, Pawlu — Pablo

Pawla — Paula

Pawlina — Paulina

Pidru — Pedro

Ramun — Ramon

Ransisku — Francisco

Rawul — Raúl

Rikardu  — Ricardo

Ristuwal — Cristóbal

Rulandu — Rolando

Rusa — Rosa

Rusindu — Rosendo

Ruwirtu — Roberto

Santus — Santos

Sara — Sara

Sisar — César

Sunilda — Sunilda

Sunya — Sonia

Tibursyu, Tiwursiyu — Tiburcio

Tumas — Tomás

Tumasa — Tomasa

Unuratu — Honorato

Wana — Juana

Wikturya — Victoria

Wilipi — Felipe

Wilis — Félix

Winita — Benita

Wirnawiy, Wirna — Bernabé

Yulanda — Yolanda

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