Thursday, September 11, 2014

Polaris

polaris
Polaris from the X-Men comics

Polaris (po-LAR-iss or po-LAIR-iss - to each his own) is known as the North Star in the night sky, the Lodestar, traditionally also known as the "guiding star" or "pole star." The name means "of the [north] pole" in Latin, while the Greek name for it meant "dog's tail" in mistaken reference to the constellation Ursa Minor in which Polaris resides. Many believe it is the brightest star in the sky, but it is actually the 45th brightest. It does, however, play an important role in navigation because it remains nearly motionless.

Polaris has been used in some fiction, although nothing very recognizable. It was used three times in the DC Comics universe for the fictional Polaris star system or Polaris Galaxy, on a Super Mario Galaxy character, in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," and for three computer games. Polaris aka Lorna Dane was an X-Men character with the power of magnetism (fun fact: Magneto is her dad, Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver are her siblings).

Because this name has only been used for the star and not typically on people, it can be considered unisex. Nicknames on a girl might include Pola, Polly or Priss, while boys could be Poe or Polo.

Polaris was recorded just once - in 2010 on 5 baby girls. That's it, although nothing is recorded under 5 births so there are likely more, and that's exactly what White Pages says when listing 30 in the U.S.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A selection of names given to 5 boys in 2013

Anchor - word name
Anthem - word name
Bayard - French meaning "auburn-haired" - lots of history here
Beric - English meaning "grain farm"
Brandell - Old Norse meaning "sword"
Briscoe - Old Norse meaning "birch wood"
Chaplin - English occupational name for a clergyman
Connery - Irish meaning "dog-keeper/keeper of the hound"
Gent - word name
Gracian - prn. GRAY-shen, a variant on Graciano, "grace/gracious"
Gresham - English, "village surrounded by pasture/grazing homestead"
Helix - word name
Hyram - phonetic spelling of Phoenician/Hebrew name Hiram, "exalted brother"
Kline - variant spelling, German, "small"
Lucan - historical, Roman poet
Moxon - English surname, "son of Margaret"
Murdoc - Celtic meaning "sea, seaman"
Oaken - literal spelling of what Aiken means
Obsidian - cooled lava/volcanic glass, "stone of Opsius," possibly "power"
Phillipe - variant spelling of Greek Philip, meaning "lover of horses"
Pollux - star name and mythology name, Roman meaning "very sweet"
Quill - word name
Quintan - rare spelling of Quentin, meaning "fifth"
Roble - Spanish word name meaning "oak"
Ruffin - transferred use between personal name and surname, from Rufus
Seaver - variant of Severus, Latin, meaning "stern"
Sherwood - English place name meaning "bright forest/luminous woods," of Robin Hood fame

Friday, September 5, 2014

Viola

Violaandviolin


Viola: a baby name, a flower, a color, a butterfly, and a musical instrument. While the viola instrument, which is slightly bigger than a traditional violin, is pretty much called the same thing worldwide, viola the plant is called a violet in English speaking countries. And just in case you needed an extra motive to use this name, check out Lago Viola, a beautiful lake located in Italy.

As a name, Viola is a bit vintage - much more so than Violet, which currently ranks at #69. Viola literally means "violet" in Latin, and is a word name in European countries. The simple difference between Viola in America and Viola elsewhere is that Americans tend to pronounce it VY-ol-uh, whereas other countries stay true to the Latin vee-OH-lah. Violette/Violeta/Violetta is the only other used variant.

There have been countless namesakes over the years, including British children's writer Viola Bayley, Queen of Bohemia and Poland Viola Elizabeth of Cielszyn, poet Viola Garvin, aviator Viola Gentry, model Viola Haqi, and two silent film actresses. The only major literary Viola is from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Later the name was used in the movie "Shakespeare in Love." One of the earliest uses of Viola as a surname can be seen on the Baroque period Italian painter Giovanni Battista Viola (1576-1622) and even earlier on Alfonso dalla Viola, and Italian Renaissance composer. Both attest to the age of the name. Viola can definitely be considered a "classic."

Viola peaked in 1908 at #42. It has not ranked since running off the chart in 1972 at #958. Today it remains rare, but is not so far outside the top 1000 that it couldn't make an easy comeback. It was given to 174 girls in 2013, and that number more than doubled in the past decade. It seems the 90's just weren't kind to Viola.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ursula

Ursa_Major2


Disney kind of did it wrong. When picking a name for a sea-witch, a name that means "little she-bear" seems a bit ridiculous for a character that lives underwater.

Like the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, which mean "she-bear," these are the feminine Latin diminutives of Ursus, "bear." Both Ursa Major and Ursa minor have unique stories from several different cultures. Ursula (Ursa too) is a girl's name most do not consider using today, but one that is rich with history and culture.

Saint Ursula of the 4th century was a virgin princess of Britain whose popularity during the Middle Ages may have increased the name's usage. Her [now accepted as fictional] tale says that she sailed with 11,000 virgin handmaidens to meet her future husband, but when a storm brought them to their destination in just a day she decided to on a pilgrimage around Europe with the pope and bishop. They soon arrived in Cologne, all 11,003 of them, where the town was being raided by Huns. I. The end all of the virgins were killed, Ursula specifically being shot with an arrow. It is unclear what happened to the pope and bishop. Saint Ursula has been a very popular subject of paintings throughout history. A little known fact is that Christopher Columbus named the Virgin Islands after Saint Ursula and her handmaidens, and later Ferdinand Magellan named Cape Vigenes after the virgins.

Saint Ursula Ledochowska came later. Born in Austria to a Count and Countess, her birth name was Julia Maria. She founded the Congregation of the Ursulines of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus. Two of her other accomplishments were starting an orphanage, and starting a home for female university students.

Author Ursula K. Le Guin is known for her fantasy novels, one of which - Tales From Earthsea, was made into an animated film by Studio Ghibli.

Actress Ursula Andress was a gorgeous Swiss-American 60's movie star known for her roles in "Dr. No," "Casino Royale," and later in 1981 she was in "Clash of the Titans." A few other actresses have been named Ursula.

Ursa was also one of the bad guys in Superman II, but in the newer versions her name is Faora. In Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing there was a character named Ursula. Ursula has also been a name used by Honore de Balzac, J. K. Rowling, Sheila Lavelle, and a few TV shows and other stories.

Ursula has several variant forms, including Orsola, Orsolya, Orsina, Orsa, Ursa, Ursulina, Ursuline, Ursola, Ursella, Urselina, Usulie, Ursie, Urska, Urszola and Urszuli. Ursula is related to the even more rare Ursinia, which includes Ursina, and is the botanical name of the "solar fire" plant, Ursinia anthemoides, which looks like an orange daisy. Ursinia is a variant of Ursula, created by botanist Joseph Gaertner in honor of Johann Heinrich Ursinus who lived in the 1600's. The boy's name Orson also means "bear."

I would immediately blame Ursula's decline in popularity on Disney's "The Little Mermaid," except that movie came out in 1989 and Ursula was already on a downward slope. In 1983 Ursula ranked at #984 and has not been back on the SSA list since. Before her disappearance Ursula had been given since at least the 1880's in the U.S., with high points in the early 1900's and the late 60's/early 70's. Currently Ursula is given to less than 30 baby girls a year, at its lowest point since the 1880's.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Branwen vs Bronwen vs Bronwyn & Branwyn

First things first: a -wyn ending to a name in Welsh means it is a boy name, while a -wen ending means it is a girl name. So if you're looking for a name for your baby girl, whether it be Branwen or Ceridwen or Tanwen, make sure you take this into consideration. Very few people outside of Wales and the surrounding area will know the difference, but now you do.

Secondly, Branwen is pronounced BRAHN-wen (not BRANN-wen) and Bronwen is pronounced BROHN-wen depending on your accent.

Third, both Branwen and Bronwen have their own respective meanings. Branwen means "white, blessed raven," while Bronwen means "fair, blessed breast (breast not necessarily meaning boobs - chest works as well, or, alternatively, the heart which lay beneath the breast)."

They also have their own respective histories. Branwen in legend was the daughter of Llyr in the "Mabinogi," tales from Welsh mythology. She is known as the most beautiful girl in the land and turns out to be a great ruler. Branwen also features as a character in Madeleine L'Engle books. Bronwen, on the other hand, is not a mythology name. Instead it has been used on a few Canadian, Irish and English namesakes, and has been a given name for quite some time.

Branwen happens to be more rare than Bronwen. As it has only really been around (in the US) for the last decade, Branwen has only been used a handful of times, but Bronwen has been used since at least the 1940's, never used more than 25 times in a year, not being used some years at all. Obviously the difference in how rare isn't much, but if you're torn between both spellings then this might help out.