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Posts Tagged ‘Sophie’

In celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens, here is Part II of the best of the names from Dickens’s works for babies… and cats.

  • Lupin — believe it or not, J.K. wasn’t the first to use this flower name as a surname; Mrs Lupin features in Martin Chuzzlewit.
  • Magwitch — I’d love to name a cat Magwitch after Abel Magwitch in Great Expectations!
  • Magnus — Peter Magnus is another of Pickwick Papers‘s characters. As a first name, Magnus (simply Latin for “great”) has become regarded as particularly characteristic of the Shetlands. It makes the perfect choice for lovers of Felix and Rufus wanting something that is still off the radar…
  • Malta — named after the island, Malta Bagnet appears in Bleak House.
  • Manette — the surname of Dr. Alexandre and Lucie in A Tale of Two Cities.
  • Marley — now most associated with Bob, never forget the other Marley — the ghost of Jacob Marley with his rattling chains in A Christmas Carol… The surname derives from the Old English mearth “pine marten” or “weasel,” or mǣre “boundary” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Maylie — a cheerful surname borne by Mrs Maylie and her children Harry and Rose in Oliver Twist.
  • Merry — not uncommingly used as a nickname for Mercy, as it is in Martin Chuzzlewit for Merry Pecksniff.
  • Micawber — one of the most likeable of all Dickens’s characters is the perennially optimistic Mr Wilkins Micawber in David Copperfield. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones has a guitar called Micawber.
  • Mulberry — a great name for a not particularly savory character — Sir Mulberry Hawk in Nicholas Nickleby.
  • Nancy — undoubtedly one of Dickens’s best-loved characters, Oliver Twist‘s Nancy is perhaps the best embodiement, in so many ways, of what Dickens’s work was all about. Like Betsy, it’s a Victorian charmer of a name, still falling in America, but reviving in the UK (the oldest daughter of British Prime Minister David Cameron is called Nancy).
  • Nell — another tragic Dickensian character is “Little Nell” — a.ka. Nelly Trent — of  The Old Curiosity Shop. Traditionally, the pet-name for Eleanor, it is also used for Ellen and Helen, and very much falls in that same category as Nancy and Betsy.
  • Nemo — Jules Verne was not the first to have a Captain Nemo — Dickens was; he used Nemo as the pseudonym of Captain James Hawood in Bleak House.
  • Nickleby — surname of the hero of eponymous her of Nicholas Nickleby.
  • Ninetta — the real name of “The Infant Phenomenon” in Nicholas Nickleby.
  • Oliver — the eponymous hero of Oliver Twist. Number One in England and Wales in 2010, and rising rapidly in the US. Usually shortened to Olly or Ollie, there’s always Ol too, and how about the medieval Noll or snappy, modern Liv instead? I’ve even seen Levi suggested…
  • Peggotty — Clara Peggotty, always known as “Peggotty,”  is David’s kind and loving nurse maid in David Copperfield.
  • Pet — the name by which Minnie Meagles is known in Little Dorrit.
  • Phenomenon — “The Infant Phenomenon” is how the Crummles refer to their beloved daughter Ninetta in Nicholas Nickleby. Offers interesting nicknames, such as Phen, Phenie, Nomi, Nomie, Menon, Mena and Minnie.
  • Pip — obliged to legally change his name to Pip, Philip “Pip” Pirrip is the hero of Great Expectations.
  • Pleasant — first used by the Puritans, Dickens used Pleasant  for the character of Pleasant Riderhood in Our Mutual Friend.
  • Plummer — we have Tyler and Mason, so why not Plummer? Caleb Plummer appears in The Cricket in the Hearth.
  • Pumblechook — definitely one for the cats, but too great a creation to leave out. A pompous and somewhat ridiculous character in Great Expectations.
  • Quebec — another of the Bagnet children in Bleak House.
  • Quinion — Mr Quinion, good name, though not a particularly nice character, in David Copperfield.
  • Rogue — Rogue has the halmark of a modern “word name”, but Dickens used it in Our Mutual Friend for Rogue Riderhood. He lives up to his name!
  • Rosa — the charmingly named Rosa Bud features in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Why doesn’t America like the lovely Rosa? She’s 238th in the UK, and rising, but 564th in America — and falling…
  • Seth — another of the Pecksniffs in Martin Chuzzlewit, Seth has been threatining to go stellar for a while, but peaked in 200o in the US in 63rd place and has since slipped back to 165th. Curious, as it ticks the boxes — why Ethan and Noah, but not Seth? The same’s not true in Britain, where it wouldn’t surprise me if Seth enters the top 100 this year.
  • Sophronia — an unusual option for lovers of Sophie and Sophia looking for that something slightly different. Sophronia Lammle is another of Our Mutual Friend‘s characters. From the Greek sôphrôn “sagacious,” “prudent,” and “of sound mind.”
  • Sophy — Although the French-spelling Sophie with an “ie” is the most popular vernacular form of Sophia in Britain at the moment, in the past, Sophy with a “y” was more normal. David Copperfield. Sophy Crewler features in David Copperfield.
  • Sweedlepipe — a particularly good cat name, as Paul “Poll” Sweedlepipe in Martin Chuzzlewit is a bird-fancier!
  • Sydney — Sydney Carton of A Tale of Two Cities is one of my personal favorite characters — I’ve mentioned before my preference for the flawed hero, and Sydney epitomises flawed hero so well. It is he who utters those immortal lines: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” Nowadays, Sidney is the preferred spelling.
  • Tattycoram — the name given to Harriet Beadle by the Meagles when she becomes their servant in Little Dorrit. Tatty is a pet-form of Harriet (via Hattie) and Coram was added because it was the name of the founder of the foundling hospital where Harriet spent the first years of her life. Would make a lovely name for a cat.
  • Tite — Tite Barnacle appears in Little Dorrit.
  • Turveydrop — Prince Turveydrop is a dancing master in Bleak House. Cat.
  • Uriah — Like Ebenezer, Uriah may well have suffered because of a Dickensian character. In Uriah’s case it is the odious, unctious Uriah Heep in David Copperfield. I have seen Uriah mentioned positively in recent times, and he made it to 549th place in America in 2010, but can her really shake Heep off? And his disconcerting similarity to the word urine?
  • Wemmick — John Wemmick is a kind man in Great Expectations, known for caring really well for his elderly father.
  • Wopsle — a minor character in Great Expectations, Wopsle would work well for cat — though perhaps reserve it for an indoor one (unless you fancy the idea of standing on the doorstep yelling “Wopsle, Whiskas!”)
  • Zephyr — “The Zephyr” is the pseudonym of Mr Minvins, a character in Pickwick Papers.

Happy Birthday, Charles!

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There are distint signs now that the pace is gathering in the rehabilitation of names long consigned to granny (or rather great-granny status, as most grannies nowadays are called things like Carol and Susan, and true “granny names” are at least a generation further back).

The trend’s roots actually go back to the seventies and eighties, when the first batch of “Victorian” names started to come back into use. Principal among them have been Emily, Emma, Isabella and Olivia, on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Britain, too, this was the era when names which are only now really capturing the hearts of Americans, such as Alice, Amelia, Beatrice/Beatrix, Charlotte, Matilda and Eleanor (with its pet-form Ellie actually more popular than Eleanor herself), also returned to bask in the sun of popularity.

These could be classed the great-great-granny names; the names borne by the women who went on to name their daughters Lily and Grace, Florence and Evelyn.

This generation began to make a come-back in the nineties.

Some like Lily and Grace are already now thoroughly acclimatized. Some, like Florence, Daisy, Poppy and Ruby, are already considered mainstream in the UK, and are so talked about in the US, it can only be a matter of not very much time before they’re top 100 there too. Others, like Edith, Olive and Maud, are regaining attention.

But there’s a whole Devon cream tea shop’s worth of other delicious and tempting options, and these are the ones I think deserve to be brought back down from the attic.

AgathaI deliberated quite some time about whether to include Agatha, as she’s never actually been very common at all. However, perhaps largely down to Aunt Agatha in the Jeeves stories, she has acquired a distinctly granny edge, and there certainly were more Agathas around in 1910 than 2010! She’s a name I’ll feature on her own some time, as, personally, I love her, and there’s so much to say about her, but I just couldn’t neglect her here, because of my life-long love of all things Agatha Christie…

Agnes — a staple not just of the Victorians and the early twentieth century, Agnes was one of the most popular girls’ names of the medieval and early modern period too. She was under a cloud in the eighteenth century, and again in the twentieth. She is so rich in history, mythology and allusions that she has a post of her own, scheduled for St Agnes’ Eve. But it would be a travesty to not give her a mention here, especially as celeb baby Agnes Lark might well have been the catalyst she needed to spark interest again.

Annie — actually truly belongs  to the great-great granny era, being most in decline since 1881 (when she was ranked 8th). The musical and film arrested her decline in the late seventies and early eighties, but unlike her siblings, she then went back into decline. Her fate may have changed, but at present she still seems to be dithering in the low 300s. Although treated as a pet-form of Ann/Anne, there’s no reason not to consider her a name in her own right, as she’s been used as such so long, and is actually a bit closer to the original Hebrew Hannah, sharing two syllables, rather than just the one.

Blanche — never all that common; like Annie, it hovered in the fifties in the late nineteenth century. Short, elegant, with a long and distinguished history back to medieval times, Blanche makes a worthy alternative to those one-syllable names which are now growing tired, like Claire, Brooke, and Paige.

Doris — in America, one of the darlings of the twenties. This pretty Greek name is definitely ready for revival.

Elsie — already back on the radar and rising, sweet Elsie — usually considered a Scottish short-form of Elizabeth — is also an English surname and essentially the modern form of the Old English Ælfsige “elf-victory.” It’s a must for revival in the UK, slipping comfortably into that established group of friends, Sophie, Evie, Maisie, Ellie, Millie, Katie, Gracie, and Rosie, etc…

Ethel — Ethel’s take up in Victorian times was as a short-form of the numerous girls’ names which featured it as a first element, particularly Etheldred/Etheldreda and Ethelinda. But it is essentially the modern English form of the Old English æthel “noble,” and its German cognate Athalia was used as a name in its own right in medieval times, becoming the English Adela and French Adele. As the name of Lily Allen’s new baby, there are indications are that people are starting to see Ethel — for so long almost the quintessential great-granny name — in a new light. After all, it does combine those softest and most romantic sounds: eth and el…

Freda — Use in the last couple of centuries originated, like Ethel, as a short form of longer names, particularly Winifred and Alfreda. However, also like Ethel, it stands up as a name in its own right, with frithu  meaning “peace” in Old English. Its Norse cognate is found as a name in medieval times: Friða. It survived in Scandinavia as Frida. The Germanic Frieda has also long been used as a variant. Freda is also found in the name of a lwa (divinity) of Haitian Voodoo —   Erzulie Fréda — though in her case, Fréda is probably West African in origin.

GertrudeMy grandmother had the unusual name of Gayther — but was almost universally known as Gertie, the usual nick-name of Gertrude. For a time it was also treated as the archetypal name of a student of my alma mater, Girton College, Cambridge (the shared initial “ger” sound, no doubt). It was also borne by another of my historic heroines, the archaeologist Gertrude Bell. With the strong meaning of “spear-strength,” Gertrude was hugely popular for a time in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and has a distinctly “no-nonsense” air about her. But she does shorten to the gentle Trudy, tom-boyish Gerry and contemporary Tru, as well as the as well that ever-cheerful Gertie…

Gladys — up there with Ethel, Gladys (Gwladys in the original Welsh) is another name that I think only needs a nudge for people to start to think, “why not?” Either the Welsh form of Claudia, or an elaboration of gwlad “country.” After all, there are a number of names ending in, or prominently featuring the “is” sound, such as Alexis, Alice, Allison, Genesis, Melissa, Marissa, Iris, Isis, Paris, Carys, and Cerys, etc. Nor is Gladys actually all that far away from Madison and Addison when you think about it…

Ida — Ida is another that was at her most popular in the late nineteenth century and is long overdue reconsideration; she’s already making steady progress in the UK, and since the very similar Ada is clearly on the up in the US, why not Ida too? Ida was found in Britain in medieval times, though in the Victorian period it was most associated with the nymph of the mountain which shared her name, who was said to have raised the infant Zeus. There’s a whole lot more to Ida, and I intend to feature her as a pick of the week, but she certainly deserves a mention here.

Irene — As the usual English form of the Greek Eirene “peace”, Irene is mostly pronounced with two-syllables, but three is not unknown. With two fresh dramatisations of the Sherlock Holmes takes around at the moment — the big screen Robert Downey, Jr version and the sparkling and clever British television one staring Benedict Cumberbatch — the character of Irene Adler will no doubt be working her magic on how people perceive Irene.

Mabel — The bells should be ringing loudly for Mabel. Roll it around the tongue — “May bell”. How pretty is that? Already rediscovered in certain British circles (ranking 386 in 2010), she vanished in America from the top 1000 in 1960 and has yet to resurface. Mabel originated in the Middle Ages as a shorter form of Amabel.

Mildred — I’ve always had a soft spot of the charming Mildred, an Old English gem meaning “mild/gentle counsel.” Featured as a Witch of the Week here.

Nellie — traditional pet-form of Eleanor, but also used of Helen and Ellen. For a long time Nellie fell under the cloud about the popular song, but it is breaking away now and with that popular “-ie” ending, and those letter “l”s, Nellie has a lot of personality.

Olga — one of my first ever name loves. One of the Russian names that came into fashion in the late nineteenth century, Olga is not actually Russian in origin at all; it is the Russian form of Scandinavian Helga “holy.” Olga was never particularly common, peaking in the US in 1916 in 130th spot.

Opal — a nineteenth century adoption of the name of the precious stone, which derives ultimately from the Sanskrit upala “stone.”  It peaked in the US in 81st place in 1911, and dwindled into obscurity by 1900. Believed by the ancients to be the tears of joy wept by Zeus following his victory over the Titans, in more recent centuries black opals in particular have gained an association with witches.

Pearl — at first used as a nickname — like Daisy — for girls called Margaret, Pearl was in independent use by the mid nineteenth century. It actually peaked by 1890, but remained in the top 100 until 1927. It is just starting to show signs of renewed interest, but there’s still a long way to go.

Phyllis — another pretty “-is” name which has been too long neglected now. It derives from Greek phullon “leaf” (with phullis itself meaning “salad.”).

Vera — Vera is another name of Russian origin, meaning “faith,” though it is identical to the Latin vera, the feminine form of verus “true,” which is the source of the vera of the wonderful Aloe vera. Another of my personal heroines is the British writer and pacificst Vera Brittain. Vera was never particularly common in the US, but has recently started to show signs that its fortunes are changing.

Next week, I’ll take a look at the Grandpas…

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Os is yet another Rune which ended up interpreted  in different ways in the medieval period.

The form it takes in the various alphabets is as follows:

The Eldar Futhark has been reconstructed as *Ansuz “(a) God; this is the forerunner of the Anglo-Frisian Ós, Macromannic Óss and Younger Futhark Áss. So far so God — sorry, good.

However, in Old English os meant “mouth” while óss also carried the meaning “estuary.”

Hence this rune’s slightly bizarre duality exhibited in the ancient rune poems.

In one, its divinity is stressed.

In another, where the meaning “mouth” is understand, stress is placed on the mouth as the vehicle of language, and therefore of the transmission of wisdom, joy and happiness.

Lastly, the word is interpreted as meaning “estuary,” and thoughts turn on estuaries as places where journeys inland begin — with a curious comparison of swords and scabbards. Both rather carry the understanding of journeying inward, and returning home.

To those who use the runes today, one of Os’s principal associations is with the notion of journeying inward in order to communicate with the Divine within.

Estauries and Gods aren’t quite such separate entities as might initially be thought…

Emphasis is also placed on Os as a symbol of communication.

With the excpetion of Áss, I think Ansuz, Os and Oss all have interesting name potential. But there are many other interesting options to incorporate the spirit of this rune.

Hundreds — if not thousands — of names include an element meaning ” a God.”

  1. The Hebrew el — usually translated as “God” (i.e. the Judeo-Christian one) — originally meant “a God” and there’s no reason not to interpret it that way still. Among this vast source of names are well-known favorites such as Daniel, Elijah, Gabriel, Joel, Michael, Nathaniel and Samuel  as well as biblical oldies which are increasingly dug out of the grandfather’s chest, such as Eleazar, Elihu, Lemuel, Ozias, Raphael, and Reuel, and rarities like Abdiel, Gamaliel, Jophiel, Mahalalel, Mehetabel, Othniel and Uriel.
  2. The Greek theos also meant “a God” rather than “God” in Pagan times. Names which feature it include well-known classics such as Dorothy, Thea, Theo, Theodora, Theodore, Theophilus, Tiffany, Timothy, and lesser known glories such as Panthea, Theano, Theoclea, Theona and Theoxena.
  3. Likewise, the Roman deus was used in Pagan times to mean “a God” and “God” from the Christian period. Names which feature it include Amadeus and Deodatus.
  4. The Sanskrit dev “a God” is also cognate withtheos and deus. In India, Dev (feminine: Devi) is used as a name in its own right, as well as featuring in compounds like Devdan and Devdas.
  5. Old English god “a God” originally, as well as “God”, just like all the others. Names which feature it include Godbert, Godfrey, Godiva, Godric, Godwin and Goodeth.
  6. Our feature Os was also popular in Anglo-Saxon names: Osbert, Osborn, Osgar, Osmund, Oswin and Osyth.
  7. Its Norse cognate Áss was equally popular: Ásbjorn, Ásgeirr, Ásketil and Astrid.

As for the Rune’s other associations, here ‘s just a small selection of other options:

  • Benedict ♂ — Latin bene “well” and dico “to speak”; usually translated as “blessed.” Fem: Benedicta.
  • Campbell ♂ ♀ — Anglicized form of the Gaelic Caimbeul “crooked mouth.”
  • Cato ♂ — Latin catus “wise” and “clear-sighted.”
  • Enigma ♀ — the origin of “enigma” is the Greek ainissomai “to speak in riddles.”
  • Eulalia ♀ — a name of Greek origin, meaning “sweetly-speaking.”
  • Fatua ♀ — the name of a Roman Goddess; her name means “speaking by inspiration” from fatuor “to be inspired.”
  • Frodo ♂ — Old Norse fróðr “wise.”
  • Geneva ♀ — the name of this Swiss city may derive from a Common Celtic word meaning “mouth” and “estuary.” The Italian city of Genoa may share the same source.
  • Keen ♂ ♀ — in the eleventh century, keen meant “wise,” “learned,” “powerful” and “strong.”
  • Metis ♀ — one of the Titans, Goddess of wisdom, and mother of Athena. Greek: mêtis “good advice” and “widsom.”
  • Ninkasi ♀ — the Sumerian Goddess of beer and brewing; her name means “the lady [who] fills the mouth up.”
  • Panya ♀ — Thai name meaning “knowledge” and “widsom.”
  • Phineas, Phinehas ♂ — one interpretation of this ancient name derives it from the Hebrew for “mouth” and either “serpent” or “oracle.”
  • Prophecy ♀ ♂ — derives from the Greek: prophêteia “prophecy” from pro “before” + -phêtês “speaker.”
  • Sage ♀ ♂ — “sage” meaning “wise” derives ultimately from the Latin sapio “to be wise.”
  • Snotra ♀ — the Norse Goddess of Wisdom; Old Norse snotr “wise.”
  • Sophia, Sophie ♀ — Greek sophia “wisdom.” 
  • Sophocles ♂ — a famous Greek playwright, whose name means “wise-glory.”
  • Yeshe ♂ ♀ — Tibetan name meaning “wisdom.”
  • Zaqar ♂ — the Mesopotamian God of dreams, and messenger of the moon-God Sin; his name comes from the Akkadian for “to speak.”

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It is twenty years ago today that the United States recognized the independence of the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from the former USSR.

Seems like a good opportunity to take a look at what people are calling their babies in the Baltics!

Lithuanian and Latvian are closely related languages — both belong to the Baltic family. Linguists regard Lithuanian as the modern language which most closely resembles Proto-Indo-European.

Estonian, meanwhile, is a Finnic language, related — oddly enough — to Finnish.

Lithuania’s top ten in 2010 was as follows:

Girls:

  1. Emilija — Emilia/Emily
  2. Gabija — Lithuanian Goddess of fire
  3. Ugnė — ‘fire’
  4. Austėja — Lithuanian Goddess of bees
  5. Urtė — uncertain. Possibly Lithuanian form of Urd — the Norse Goddess of fate (itself from Old Norse urðr ‘fate’ and ‘uncanny’, though there are numerous other suggestions
  6. Kamilė — Camilla
  7. Gabrielė — Gabriella/Gabrielle
  8. Goda — probably arose as a short form of names beginning God-; now is interpreted as deriving from old Lithuanian words meaning ‘dream’ and ‘glory’.
  9. Rugilė — from rugys ‘rye’
  10. Miglė — from migla ‘mist’.

Boys:

  1. Matas — short form of Motiejus — Matthew; matas also means ‘measure’
  2. Lukas — Luke
  3. Dovydas — David
  4. Nojus — Noah
  5. Kajus — Gaius
  6. Jokūbas — Jacob
  7. Dominykas — Dominic
  8. AugustasAugustus
  9. Mantas — of uncertain origin; possibly simply mantas ‘treasure’, or from manta ‘property’, ‘goods’, or mantus ‘friendly’, ‘clever’, ‘beautiful’
  10. Gustas — either Lithuanian form of Gustav, or a short form of AUGUSTAS. Also gustas ‘taste’ and ‘desire’.

Latvia’s looks like this:

Girls:

  1. Sofija — Sophia/Sophie
  2. Alise — Alice
  3. Viktorija — Victoria
  4. Anastasija — Anastasia
  5. Marta — Martha
  6. Anna — Anna/Ann(e)
  7. Evelīna — Evelina/Evelyn
  8. Emīilija — Emilia/Emily
  9. Laura
  10. Katrīna — Katherine

Boys:

  1. RobertsRobert
  2. GustavsGustav
  3. Markuss — Mark/Marcus
  4. Maksims — Maxim/Maximus
  5. Daniels — Daniel
  6. ArtjomsArtemius ‘belonging to (the Goddess) Artemis; the name of a saint venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Russian form is Artyom (it is also the source of the boy’s name Artemis, made famous by Artemis Fowl)
  7. Aleksanders — Alexander
  8. Ričards — Richard
  9. Ralfs — Ralph
  10. Artūrs — Arthur

And lastly, but not leastly, Estonia. Rather harder to pin down, but apparently, these were the most popular names in June 2011:

Girls:

  1. Laura
  2. Mia
  3. Sofia — Sophie/Sophia
  4. Maria — Maria/Mary
  5. Alisa — Alice
  6. Milana — could be an adoption of the Slavic Milana, feminine of Milan < mil ‘gracious,’ ‘dear’ and ‘beloved’, or an Estonian take on Melanie, or even Magdalene (Malin is a Finnish name derived from the last).
  7. Aleksandra — Alexandra
  8. KertuGertrude
  9. Annabel
  10. Darja — Daria

Boys:

  1. OliverOliver
  2. Rasmus — Erasmus
  3. Maksim — Maxim/Maximus
  4. Romet — modern name of uncertain meaning; possibly deriving from rõõmu ‘joy’
  5. Daniel
  6. Daniil — Daniel
  7. HenriHenry
  8. Karl — Charles/Karl
  9. Sander — Alexander
  10. Markus — Mark/Marcus

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