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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Girls Names as Rare as Diamonds

Below are the names that were not used on any baby girls in 2016, and most have never been recorded in the U.S. at all. These are all legit, many with historical, mythological or literary backgrounds.

Abigaia
Acantha
Accalia
Acrasia
Adamina
Aegina
Aeronwen
Aetheria
Alastrina/Alastriona
Aleydis
Alienor
Alifair
Allegria
Alsatia
Altamira
Aludra
Alula
Amabilia
Amapola
Amarantha
Ambroselle, Ambrosine
Amelina
Aminta
Amoret
Anatolia
Anaxandra
Angerona
Angiola
Angiolina
Antalia
Antalya
Aphra
Aquamarine
Aquilina
Aradia
Araminta
Archina
Ardith
Argenta
Arianell
Arianella
Arianwen
Aristea
Aristella
Armandine, Armandina
Arolilja
Artemesia
Ashera
Aspasia
Atalanta
Atira
Aveza
Awilda
Azzurra

Basia
Belisama
Bellona
Belphoebe
Belva
Berania
Bernardine
Betony
Betsan
Bevan
Bluebell
Boglarka
Boudicca
Bradamante
Branwen
Brianza
Brigantia
Britomart
Brunelle
Brunissende
Bunny

Cadwen
Caelia
Calcia
Calico
Calluna
Calpurnia
Calvina
Cambina
Canella & Canela
Capella
Capitola, Capitolia, Capitolina
Capucine
Cardea
Carelia
Carissima
Carmenta
Carnella
Carola
Casilda
Caspia
Caspienne
Cassiane
Castalia
Catkin
Catriana
Celandine & Celandina
Cenawen
Chandra
Charlotta
Chesten
Chestine, Chestina
Chrysanthe
Circe
Clarabel
Claria
Clarimonde
Clarissent
Claudie
Clelia
Clorinda
Collina
Concordia
Coralia
Coralina
Corisande
Cosima
Coventina
Crescentia
Crisanta
Cura
Cybele
Cypriana

Dagmar
Dalma
Decima
Deianira
Desdemona
Deverra
Dido
Dianora
Diantha
Divinia
Domitille, Domitilla
Doronina
Doveva
Duessa
Dulcibella

Easter
Egeria
Elska
Eluned
Elysiana
Emerant
Emerence, Emerentia, Emerencia, Emerentina
Empanda
Endrina
Epona
Eruca
Esmerina
Espiridiana
Eudoxia
Eulalie
Evelisse

Faina
Fairuza
Falena
Farzana
Fauna, Faunella
Fenella
Fenicia
Fennia
Ferelith
Feronia
Ffion
Fiamma & Fiammetta
Fidelia
Fien
Fifer
Finola
Fiorenza
Florizella
Forestyne
Fortuna
Fortunata
Franzia
Freesia
Frostine
Fruzsina
Furrina

Galatea
Galene
Galila
Garance
Gavia
Gayla
Ghislaine
Glausia
Glynis
Godiva
Grania
Gratia
Gunila
Gwyneira

Heliabel
Hester

Ingela
Isannah
Iselin
Ismay 
Imene
Imriska
Ismenia
Isola
Isolda
Isolina
Izola

Jacquetta
Jennet
Jocasta
Juturna

Kasienka
Kasimira
Katalin
Katinka
Kelda
Kerensa
Kilmeny
Kinga
Kolfinna
Kollina

Lamia
Laureline
Leocadia
Lettice
Lilium
Lillias
Lionella
Lise
Lithia, Lithiya
Lore
Loredana
Loria
Lorian
Lucasta
Ludovica
Lunaria

Mafalda
Magnilda
Maibritt
Malvina
Marcellina
Marcheline
Maristella
Marzanna
Marzena
Maudeline
Maximiliana
Mazarine
Megaera
Meissa
Melisande
Mellonia
Melusine
Micheline
Milda
Miuccia
Morwenna
Musa
Myfanwy

Nausicaa
Nelleke
Nephele
Nerine
Nicandra
Nimue
Nineve
Niniane
Niobe
Nortia

Odile
Oenone
Oliviera
Ombeline
Orabel
Orfea
Oriane
Orlena
Osa
Ottoline
Ourania

Paget
Palatine
Palatua
Pamina
Panna
Pascaline
Patelana
Patria
Pax
Pelagia
Pellonia
Perdita
Peregrina
Peronelle
Perrine
Persinette
Petrina
Petronella & Petronilla
Petunia
Pietra
Placida
Plumeria
Polaris
Pomeline
Pomona
Porrima
Proserpine
Prunella

Questa
Quilla
Quillana
Quitterie

Radomira
Raziela
Rhonwen
Rhoswen
Rixende
Rohana
Romilda
Romola
Ronia
Roos
Rosmerta
Roswitha
Roxelana
Rudolpha & Rudolfa
Rudolphine
Rumina
Runcina
Rurina
Ruscella

Sabeline
Sagitta
Salacia
Satia
Satyana
Season
Seia
Serenella
Severina
Shalimar
Shera
Siasmin
Sidonia
Signy
Silena
Silveria
Sirene
Strenia
Suadela
Sylvestine
Syrene

Tamarisk & Tamarix
Tanaquil
Tanith
Thaddea
Thaisa
Thalassa
Thana
Thebe
Tiarella
Tigris
Timea
Tirion
Titania
Tomyris
Tristana
Tristania
Trystine
Tutelina

Ulla
Umbrielle
Undine
Ursa

Valentia
Valina
Vanadis
Venelia
Venetia
Venla
Verina
Verulia
Vibia
Volutina

Willadeen, Willadine, Willardine
Willodean, Willodeen, Willowdean

Xanthippe

Zabel
Zephyrine

*Update: also, none of these Gascon language girl's names were used except for Adelaida, Alaria, Belina, Celina, and Clarie. Most of these unusual French girl's names weren't used either (data in post).

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Osric

If Osric (OZ-rik) looks at all familiar, you've probably read Shakespeare's Hamlet, in which Osric is a courtier. Osric is also a prince in the fantasy series The Chronicles of Amber, a king in the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian, and there is actor Osric Chau.

From history we have a handful of namesakes. Osric of Deira was a king in the kingdom of Deira in the mid-600's, Northern England, but he did not leave much of a legacy. Osric of Northumbria ruled from 718 until 729, and he may be a descendant of Osric of Deira. Osric of Sussex probably ruled at the same time as Osric of Northumbria, but in Sussex alongside another ruler. Osric of the Hwicce was an Anglo-Saxon ruler in the kingdom of Hwicce and might've ruled jointly with his brother. His mother came from Northumbria, so there is a possible relation to the first two Osric's. This last king left a bit more of a legacy, founding two monasteries - Bath Abbey and Gloucester Cathedral. The legendary chronicler Bede wrote about all of these men.

Osric is an Anglo-Saxon name with Germanic elements (it is dithematic and ultimately Proto-Germanic), composed of os, meaning "a god," and ric, meaning "powerful." In other words, "divine ruler." Other ric- ending names have begun to take off or are already popular, such as Alaric (which became noticed in The Vampire Diaries), Maverick (which was #139 in 2016), Dominic/Dominick/Domenic, and eternally-popular Patrick and Eric (Erick was #237 in 2016). Osric really isn't that different, and there are names higher in popularity that are harder to spell or pronounce or just don't make any sense. Osric was given to a mere 5 boys in 2016.