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Posts Tagged ‘Nina’

Twelfth Night

Today is the Christian feast of Epiphany, the traditional date among Catholics and Protestants when the legendary “Three Kings” visited the baby Jesus.

In parts of Italy, it is at Epiphany, not on Christmas Day, that children get their presents — delivered by a witch called Befana by broomstick last night.

Befana is a much magled form of Epifania — the Italian form of Epiphany — and she almost certainly evolved from the Pagan Goddess Strenia, who presided over the presents given at the New Year. (It also gives us Tiffany).

Meanwhile, in the Orthodox Church, today is Christmas…

In Britain and America, however, Epiphany — which also happens to be the twelfth day of Christmas, that is to say “Twelfth Night” — is often entirely neglected now, though once, when the twelve days were kept with full festivity, it was a big event — so big, it even got a Shakespearian play named after it.

The fabled “Twelve Days of Christmas” have their roots in the Norse Jól, and were originally kept between December 20th and the 31st.

They also have very prosiac origins; at this darkest time of the year, with the harvest gathered in, animals slaughtered, and crops requiring sowing in the autumn sowed, there really wasn’t much that needed doing – making it a perfect time for relaxing, and enjoying the year’s produce while it was still fresh.

I’ve always felt it rather sad that while the shops start celebrating the Midwinter festivals in the summer, and many people can’t wait to get their decorations out at the start of December — sometimes even in November, as soon as the New Year comes, it all gets put away, even though this is the traditional period for still celebrating.

Growing up, my family was one of the few who did keep Twelfth Night, making a special event of the last day of the tree. We still do.

One of our little traditions is that as we take down the decorations, we always sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Unfortately, the gifts sent on each of the days aren’t that name-worthy in their own right, but they do suggest those that are.

And so, to mark the occasion, here are my ideas:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

A partridge in a pear-tree

Airi, Alula, Apion, Betrisen, Ena, Enas, Li, Madaria, Mia, Pear, Pera, Perdiz, Pernice, Perina, Perry, Piro, Primula, Primus, Rika, Una

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Two turtle doves

Aphrodite, Callum, Colm, Colmán, Columba, Columbine, Dove, Dovie, Duo, Jemima, Jonah, Mimi, Paloma, Peleia, Secunda, Secundus, Thania, Trygon, Tuvi, Venus

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Three French hens

Chuck, Frances, Francesca, Francis, Frank, Hen, Talitha, Tertia, Tertius, Tertulla, Thrima, Tria, Trinity, Triskele, Trystine, Wren

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Four colly birds,

Aderyn, Amsel, Bird, Chogan, Colly, Deryn, Lonan, Merle, Merula, Quatro, Quartilla, Quartus, Tessera, Tesseres

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Five gold rings

Aranka, Aurea, Cinq, Cressida, Cyclamen, Eliphaz, Golden, Kirk, Marigold, Morgan, Orla, Quinque, Quintilla, Quintus, Sovann, Sunakai, Suwan

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Six geese a-laying

Anser, Antzara, Gander, Goshawk, Gossamer, Gus, Guska, Hani, Hex, Liba, Sextilla, Sextus, Zoss

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Seven swans a-swimming

Cygne, Cygnet, Cygnus, Ella, Gulbė, Iswan, Joutsen, Leda, Luik, Odette, Septima, Septimus, Seven, Swan, Swanilda

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Eight maids a-milking

Aludra, Cora, Corinna, Galatea, Impi, Meinir, Octavia, Octavian, Octavius, Octo, Parthenia, Virginia, Virgo

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Nine ladies dancing

Anassa, Beletili, Caryatis, Ceilidh, Cordax, Creusa, Damsel, Dominique, Dominy, Donna, Jive, Lady, Madonna, Martha, Nephthys, Nina, Nona, Nonus, Nostradamus

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Ten lords a-leaping

Adonai, Anaxandra, Anaxander, Baal, Caderyn, Cyril, Deacon, Decima, Decimus, Dinesh, Dominic, Don, Doyen, Edwen, Lapwing, Lord, Marquis, Meredith, Murdoch, Ner, Nerys, Rakesh, Ramnath, Sacheverell, Tiernan, Tierney

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Eleven pipers piping

Aule, Auletes, Auletris, Aulus, Endeka, Doucet, Fife, Flauta, Fletna, Flute, Fretel, Ney, Onze, Pan, Pfeifer, Piper, Quena, Subulo, Tibiae, Tibicen, Tibicina, Undecima, Undecimus

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Twelve drummers drumming

Baraban, Boben, Davul, Drummer, Duodecima, Duodecima, Nagara, Ngoma, Rebana, Tabala, Tambor, Tambour, Timbrel, Trommel, Trumm, Typanon

What meanings lie behind the strange gifts have not been satisfactorily elucidated. Some Catholics claim they arose as a catechism to help teach tenets of Catholicism in England after the Reformation, but there is no proof of this, and it is more likely its roots are far older. I prefer the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes’ interpretation:

Suggestions have been made that the gifts have significance, as representing the food or sport for each month of the year. Importance [certainly has] long been attached to the Twelve Days, when, for instance, the weather on each day was carefully observed to see what it would be in the corresponding month of the coming year. Nevertheless, whatever the ultimate origin of the chant, it seems probable [that] the lines that survive today both in England and France are merely an irreligious travesty.

Happy Twelfth Night!

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Martin Tovar y Tovar's Signing of the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence

I’m staying in the Americas today, as another country is celebrating its independence – its 200th anniversary in fact.

On the 5th July 1811, Venezuela announced its independence from Spain, and today Venezuelans are celebrating.

To honour this event, I thought I’d take a look at Venezuelan Names.

Venezuelan names have gained a reputation for being inventive and innovating (or way-out and wacky, depending on whom you’re talking to – great old article here from the New York Times, if you missed it the first time around!).

In 2007, the trend had grown so widespread that there was a backlash amongst the more conservative elements in Venezuelan government, which threatened to see such names banned and parents limited to a choice of just 100 names.

Obviously, this was considered preposterous; the notion was dismissed, leaving Venezuelan parents free to continue to name their children with whatever takes their fancy, without giving a hoot for what anyone else thinks.

Personally, I find the attitude quite refreshing – even though I would draw a line at the more notorious Venezuelan Names such as Stalin, Hitler, Yesaidú (yes, I do) and Iroshima (Hiroshima).

I don’t intend to dwell on the names most people consider outlandish on this special day for Venezuelans (for all the hype, most Venezuelans still choose pretty conservative names for their children; in 2010, the top five girls’ names were Camila, Isabella, Sofía, Victoria and Valentina, while the boys were Sebastián, Santiago, Samuel, Diego and Gabriel).

Instead, I thought I’d focus on Venezuelan names with wider appeal. For as well as all the cooky names, a lot of pretty nifty new names have emerged from Venezuela’s slightly anarchic creativity in past decades that are worth a look.

Feliz día de la independencia, Venezuela!

Betulio ♂ — a name which immediately highlights the fact that with many Venezuelan names, it is all but impossible to identify its origin. The most famous bearer is Betulio González (b.1949), the Venezuelan boxer. The most likely source seems to be the Latin betula ‘birch’.

Chiquinquirá ♀ — the name of a town in Colombia, made well known in Venezuela by (María) Chiquinquirá Delgado (b.1972), a model, actress and TV presenter. This is a classic Catholic religious name, rather than an invention; Chiquinquirá is home to the ‘Virgin of Chiquinquirá’, patron saint of Colombia and the Venezuelan province of Zulia, where Chiquinquirá was born.

Coraima ♀ — popularly derived from Greek korê ‘maiden’ and touted in Spanish with the elaborated meaning of templo divino de la juventud – ‘divine temple of youth’. Its most famous bearer in Venezeula is the actress Coraima Torres (b.1973), who is said to have Lebanese ancestry, so it is possibly its true origins lie with an Arabic name such as Karima ‘kind’ and ‘generous’.

Dayana ♀ — probably plucked straight from the world of plants; dayana features as part of the botanical name of more than one South American orchid. It was coined at the end of the 19th C in honor of the English botanist John Day (1824-88). Dayana’s similarity to Diana probably influenced its adoption too.

Goizeder ♀ — actually a Basque name from goiz ‘morning’ + eder ‘beautiful’, but it is Venezuelan model and TV presenter Goizeder Azúa (b.1984) — of Basque ancestry — who has put the name on the radar.

Greivis ♂ — Greivis Vásquez (b. 1987) is a Venezuelan-born basketball player. His name appears to be a classic Venezuelan coinage, devised to appear foreign — and thus exotic and desirable in the mind of the creator. Somewhere, deep in its subconscious, may lie the English surname Grieves or Graves.

Hannelly ♀ — this seems to be an adoption of the unusual surname of Irish origin, which is probably a variant of Hanley and deriving ultimately from the Irish Gaelic áluin ‘beautiful’. Why it should be taken up as a girl’s name in Venezuela is simply Venezuelan. Hannelly Quintero (b.1985) — a model and TV presenter — is responsible for bringing the name to a wider audience.

Huáscar ♂ — Spanish form of Incan Waskar Inca, the name of a 16th Century Incan Emperor. Its use is a good example of the fact that Venezuelans don’t ignore their Native American heritage in the search for interesting names.

Keidy ♀ — Highly likely a phonetic spelling of Katy – pronounced with an American accent.  Keidy Moreno (b.1983) is an international model.

Majandra ♀ — a combination of María and Alejandra, made well-known in Venezuela by the actress and singer Majandra Delfino (b.1981),  whose birth name was Maria Alejandra.

Mayré ♀ — almost certainly conceived as a phonetic rendition of the plain English Mary; many English names are popular in Venezuela, often spiced up with creative spellings. Mayré Martínez (b.1978) is a Venezuelan singer-songwriter.

Ninibeth ♀ — probably a combination of Nina and Beth. Ninibeth Leal (b.1971) is a former Miss World.

Ugueth ♂ — As borne by Ugueth Urbina (b. 1974), a former baseball player – though as he is now in prison for attempted murder, he is a bit of a persona non grata in Venezuela at present. Possibly, just possibly, related to Hugh; Ugo is the Italian form of Hugh, while Ugue and Ugues are found in Provence (while the usual French form is Hugues).

Veruska ♀ — a visitor to Venezuela might be surprised to find so many Russian and Russian-style Venezuelan names, but these were popular during the Cold War. Veruska is a pet-form of Russian Vera – though it now seems far more common in Latin America! Verushka is another form.

Yaxeni ♀ — probably a reworking of Xenia or Yesenia, or perhaps a blend of both. Yaxeni Oriquen (b. 1966) is well-known in Venezuela as a female body-building champion.

Yormery ♀ — another classic Venezuelan invention; almost certainly a respelling of English your Mary.

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Yesterday, I featured Sumerian names from the Temple School of Nippur. Today’s selection comes from a range of sources and dates, but all are still genuine Sumerian names. Some are known to have been in use over five thousand years ago.

Amare ♂ ♀ — ‘calf of the temple’ < amar ‘young animal’ and ‘calf’ + é ‘temple’.

Amarenzu ♂ ♀ — ‘calf of Enzu’ < amar + Enzu, another name of the moon God Nanna < en ‘lord’ + zu ‘wisdom’.

Amarezen ♂ ♀ — ‘calf of the festival’ < amar  + ezen ‘festival’, ‘feast’.

Amarkish ♂ ♀ — ‘calf of Kish’ < amar + Kish, the name of a Sumerian city < kiš ‘totality’ and ‘entire world’.

Amarsin ♂ ♀ — ‘calf of Sin’ < amar + Sin, another name of the moon God Nanna.

Baranamtarra ♂ ♀ – fate has been decreed for the king < bara ‘ruler’, ‘throne dais’, ‘dwelling’ + namtar  ‘to decree the fate’  + suffix ra.

Eulli ♂ ♀ —  ‘the temple into distant days’ (i.e. ‘may the temple last for a very, very long time!) < é ‘temple’ + ul-lí  ‘distant days’.

Lugalme ♂ ♀ – a name taken from an incantation:  lugal me galgal sag an šè ‘the king lifted up the great decrees unto heaven’.

Ninbaradari ♂ ♀ — ‘the queen is an everlasting dwelling’ < nin ‘lady’ and ‘queen’ + bara ‘ruler’, ‘throne dais’, ‘dwelling’ + darí ‘everlasting’; another name from an incantation.

Ninedinni ♂ ♀ — ‘the queen [has gone] to the plain of her own’ < nin ‘lady’ and ‘queen’ + edin ‘plain’ + ‘of her own’.

Ninshuel ♂ ♀ — ‘queen clean hands’ < nin + šu ‘hand’ + el ‘clean’; this is another name taken from a phrase in an incantation.

Urbau ♂ ♀ — ‘dog of Bau’ < ur ‘dog’ + Bau – a Sumerian Goddess (see Baunisheg in yesterday’s post).

Urnina ♂ ♀ — ‘dog of Nina’ < ur + Nina, a Sumerian Goddess identified with Ishtar.

Zimu ♂ ♀ — ‘my breath of life’ < zi ‘breath of life’, ‘soul’ + mu ‘my’.

Zimuandagal ♂ ♀ — ‘my soul is with Anu’ < zi ‘breath of life’  and ‘soul’ + mu ‘my’ + an ‘Anu’ + da-gal ‘to be with’.

Sadly, many Sumerian names are far too unwieldy for the tastes of most Westerners; some names comprised whole (and quite long!) sentences. But if you fancy a Sumerian name — and you have to admit, there’s a certain appeal about names from the earliest language ever to be written down — there are other options, which I’ll explore in future posts…

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