Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ingram

Ingram was on the U.S. top 1000 twice in 1883 and 1890, so it's been a long time since this name got a little love. It is even rare in the U.K. and Wales. From German, this name means "Ing's Raven," although the first element has contested meaning due to it's similarity to "angel" and "angle," with a possible connection to 'Anglo-Saxon, and a possible meaning of "Raven of Anglia."

This medieval name has quite a few Noble namesakes dating all the way back to the 8th century. One famous modern namesakes is Ingram "Gram" Parsons, the country musician.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Ondine and Undine

These watery baby girl names are almost the same, but Undine is a mythology word-name referring to the spirit of the waters, meaning "little wave" in Latin, first called so by Paracelsus in the 16th century, and Ondine is the same etymology but used in French.

The defining characteristic of an undine is that she lacks a soul, but can gain one through marriage of love. These water spirits have been written about through the ages, sometimes called mermaids and other times water nymphs.

Ondine appears in poem, plays, novels, songs, films, ballet and piano pieces. Undine appears in art, poems, novels, operas, piano and a silent film, as well as being an asteroid. It is also a popular name in comics and video games.

Undine first popped into the SSA in 1912, and hasn't been seen since 1935. Undina is even more rare, never appearing in the data. Ondine jumped in later, in 1961, and is still used. In 2016 it was given to 13 girls, and Ondina was seen only once, in 1968, when it was suddenly given to 15 girls.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Gus

While Gus can be a nickname for Gustav(e), Angus, and August, and variants of those names, Gus itself ranked #999 in 2016. It hadn't been in the top 1000 since 1978. Mingus, Argus/Argos, Fergus or Ferguson work just as well, and a rarely considered option is the Norman name Guiscard, which is cognate with the word "wizard."

Real-life namesakes for Gus include NCAA basketball announcer Gus Johnson, poker pro Gus Hansen, astronaut Gus (Virgil) Grissom, American skiier Gus Kenworthy, and film maker Gus Van Sant. A few different celebrities have chosen this (some as a nickname for either August or Augustus) for their sons.

In media, Gus-Gus was the name of a mouse in Cinderella, a character in T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, and a character in the book The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. In TV world, Gus has been a character in "Psych," Netflix's "Love," Disney's "Recess," "Breaking Bad," "Road to Avonlea," "Queer as Folk," and "Mighty Med."

Should you prefer Augustus as a full name with Gus as the nickname, Augustus is Latin meaning "venerable," and was originally used as a title for religious leaders in ancient Rome who acted similarly to prophets or oracles. The transfer out of religious-only use was made when Caius Octavius won a battle and the name Augustus was given to him as an honor, and future emperors thought they would use it as well. It may have taken all the way until the 1500's until the name was used as a chosen (and only) given name. Augustine was much more common. This name is not popular in England, Wales, or Scotland, and has not been since the 1940's.

Gustav is German and either means "guest of glory," as a Germanization of Old Slavic Gostislav, or Old German "God staff," (though there is debate that it means "Goth staff"). Gustave and Gustav haven't ranked since 1934, but Gustavo is at #533. The list of namesakes is quite long, including Nobel prize winners, artists, musicians, writers, Olympic medalists, a king of Belgium, a Belgian Prime Minister, and a French president.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Melisande, Melisende

Melisande
The cover of E. Nesbit's Melisande


Melisande (MELL-iss-ahnd, may-lee-SAHND) is the French variant of Amalswintha, and the inspiration for the English name Millicent, meaning "strong worker." There has been some confusion on the name's connection to Melissa, meaning "honey bee." There's a possibility that each spelling variation has a different origin - Melisande from Melissa and perhaps Melisande as cognate with Millicent, but that is speculation, and there could be absolutely no connection to Melissa at all. Melisende was a popular name in France in the Middle Ages. This name has quite the list of credentials, including a play, opera, and fairy tale.

Besides the play Pelléas and Mélisande by Maeterlinck, the opera by Debussy, and the fairy tale mentioned above, Melisande was the alias of a character in the Broadway show Bells are Ringing, a handmaid in the book Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm, a character in The Golden Basket by Ludwig Bemelmans, a noblewoman in the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey, a character in Enid Blyton's Adventures of the Six Cousins, the title of a short story by E. Nesbit, and there was a princess character in the Rankin and Bass animated film called The Flight of Dragons. Currently hanging on a museum wall in Germany is the Melisande painting by Austrian painter Marianne Stokes. Comic book readers may recognize the name as Ra's al Ghul's wife in the Batman storyline.

Melisandre, the character from Game of Thrones, is not quite the same name. Although this spelling has been seen historically, author Martin typically uses names that are unique to his created world but slightly similar to historical names in the real world.

In real life, historical namesakes spelled their names Melisende. Melisende of Jerusalem was Queen of Jerusalem from 1131 to 1153, then acted as regent until 1161. Her parents, King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and the intriguingly named Morphia of Melitene, had quite a love story. When Baldwin was elected king, he was urged to divorce his wife and find someone more politically favorable for the time. He refused, and in a show of love he postponed his coronation day until she could be crowned queen alongside him. Melisende's marriage to Fulk was the opposite, as there was a continuous battle for her right to rule alongside him as an equal, although they did eventually settle their differences. It is said she was a very good mother. Melisende was named after her countess grandmother, Melisende of Montlhéry, a daughter of Guy I of Montlhéry. (Melisende de Coucy may be a descendent. This link has notes on a Melisende de Cantilupe as well.) Melisende's sister gave the name to her daughter, Melisende of Tripoli. She was written about in the verse drama La Princesse Lointaine by Edmond Rostand.

Melisende of Arsuf was Lady of Arsuf around the same time as Melisende of Tripoli, and both came from Crusader states. Not a lot is known about her life.

Melisende of Lusignan, Princess of Antioch's direct line died out when her daughter died with no heir. She came from Jerusalem as well.

Melisende de Picquigny was born between 1060 and 1090 in Saint Omer, France. Her son may have been the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem who convened the Council of Nablus with Baldwin II, Melisende of Jersusalem's father.

None of the spelling options mentioned were used in the U.S. in 2016. Melisande registered a total of four times - 5 in 1947, 5 in 1960, 6 in 1972, and 5 in 2005. It is almost as rare in France today. I suspect it won't take long for Melisandre to get some use because of America's current love of Game of Thrones names.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Corbeau

Corbeau (kor-BOW) is French for raven, from Old French corbel, and ultimately Latin corvus. While Corbeau can be found as a surname, this word has given us other surnames, such as Corbus, Corvo, Corvino, Corbinien, Corbin, Corby, and Corbelin. Of those, Corbin gained use as a given name in the U.S. with actor Corbin Bernsen and it now ranks at #239. Change the spelling to Korban or Corban and it is an unrelated name found in the Bible. Saint Corbinian was a Frankish bishop who lived between 670 and 730. The name Corbeau is not used in the U.S. as a given name.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dulcibella

Dulcibella is one of the later forms of the Middle English feminine name Douce, from the word dulcis, meaning "sweet" in Latin. The name went through many spelling options between the 13th and 16th centuries, including Douse, Dowse, Dulcia, Dowsabel and Dousabel. Later variants include Dulcea, Dulcina and Dulciana. Dulcinea was the form used by Cervantes for Don Quixote. Although Dulcibel is pronounced DULL-sih-bell or DOOL-sih-bell depending on your native language, the spoken form of the name for centuries was Dowsabel, pronounced DOW-suh-bell. Like some other medieval names, the form Douce was also used for boys, and the name has given us surnames like Dowson and Dowse.

At some point in the mid to late-1600's, Shakespeare picked up the name and turned it into a term meaning "sweetheart" in The Comedy of Errors, a little bit like how Doll is a nickname but also a similar term. The only other place I see Dulcibella pop up is in the children's novel The Riddle of the Sands, in which Dulcibella is a boat named after the author, Robert Erskine Childers' sister.

While the name is, and has always been uncommon, both in the U.S. and England, it has increased in popularity over time and still used sparingly in England, but has not been used in the U.S.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Catriana

Say it isn't so! This drop-dead gorgeous name is so rare it was only given to 6 girls in 1998, and that's it. And yes, she's legit. As is the case with Katherine/Catherine, Katriana is another option, both a variant spelling of Catriona. Catriona is the Irish and Scottish way to spell Catrina, from Katherine, meaning "pure." Catriona is pronounced kuh-TREE-nah. Caitria is another version of the name used in Ireland.

Catriana can be found at least once in a published work - The Celtic Monthly.

What isn't so clear is the intended pronunciation of Catriana. Did someone see Catriona in Ireland and mistake the pronunciation for kah-tree-ON-uh, then take the name elsewhere as Catriana (kah-tree-AH-nah)? Is it just a case of name typo? Or down another path, did someone first intend it as a different spelling for Catrina, independently of Catriona? Similar events led to the family of Caterina/Catarina, Catherina/Catharina, Cathryn/Kathryn etc. If you take a look at the multitude of names related to Katherine, especially the Sardinian version Caderina, it's a wonder Catriana hasn't been noticed by anyone. The absence of clarity on this name's spelling origin, undoubtedly because it is so rare, is actually a bonus. You can choose how you want to pronounce it.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Boys Names as Rare as Diamonds

Here's a list of boy names that were not used in 2016 in the U.S., many of which have not been used for decades - or ever.

Acis
Acteon (and Actaeon)
Aether
Alcide
Alderic
Amadis
Ardal
Ariodante
Auberon
Balint
Bard
Bas
Baudelaire
Belisario
Bramwell
Cadmael
Cadman
Cadmar
Cadmus
Cadwallon
Caliban
Cassio
Cathal
Cicero
Claren
Clasien
Cobalt
Corentin
Cyrano
Daan
Dalibor
Dardanus
Drystan
Elderic
Eleazer
Eltanin
Endymion
Ernani
Faust
Ferre
Florent
Gabin
Gabor
Galt
Ganymede
Gawain
Geo
Glastian
Gower
Guiscard
Gulliver
Heliodor
Humphrey
Hyperion
Iridian
Janus
Jaromir
Jessop
Kassian
Kermit
Kitterick
Levente
Lothar
Lowie
Ludo
Ludovic
Melchior
Melior
Mingus
Moe
Nat
Night
Odalric
Orfeo
Orpheus
Osgood
Paladin
Pascale
Pastor
Pelleas
Peregrino
Pherrick
Pieran
Pim
Piran
Placido
Priamus
Puck
Radovan
Raoul
Rastaban
Reynard
Rinaldo
Roald
Romaric
Rudyard
Ruggiero
Runyon
Salazar
Scipio
Septimus
Seraphim
Sheratan
Sim
Sixten
Sorrel
Spike
Squall
Sulien
Taddeo
Tancred
Tancredi
Tempest
Thersander
Thibault
Thoreau
Tiber
Tibor
Troilus
Tuur
Tygo
Umberto
Umbriel
Vandan
Vanth
Vencel
Zan
Zivan