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.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kyria, Kyrie, and Kyrian

Kyria, the unisex Kyrie and the boy's name Kyrian are variants of the Greek girl's name Kyra, which currently ranks at #401 (in decline). They each mean "lord" in Greek but have a connection to ancient Persian and Egyptian in which they referred to the sun god Ra. The Greeks connected their word for lord to the Persian name for king, Kourosh (equivalent to Cyrus and possibly Cyril), which meant "throne." Several Persian kings were named Cyrus. In Egyptian, Ki-Ra meant "like Ra," or like the sun. There is no ancient connection to the word valkyrie, although if you were to name a daughter Valkyrie there is no sound reason to not nickname her Kyrie.

Kyria (KEER-ee-uh, and less often KY-ree-uh) is a variant of the popular girl's name Kyra. The spelling Kyria specifically means "noblewoman, respectable lady" and has been a Greek title of respect for women, much like "madam" or "miss." Kyrios was the male version of this title. It is a very rare name, with less than 40 girls given the name annually. The "Electa Kyria" was the second epistle of John in the Bible, and the woman to whom it is adressed is thought to be a noble woman from Syria who John cared for, I believe as a friend. She was considered humble and intelligent.

Kyrie (KEER-ee-ay, less often KUR-ee-ay or KY-ree) means "lord," and it has only ranked in the US top 1000 for two years now on the boy's side, rising quickly from #868 in 2012 to #590 in 2013. It does not currently rank for girls, but there are over a hundred born each year. During mass "kyrie eleison" are the only Greek words spoken, and they mean "Lord have mercy."

The boy's name Kyrian (KEER-ee-an, less often KY-ree-an) is the male variant of these names, and a more modern-boy look to the title "kyrios." There is a character named Kyrian that was created by author Sherrilyn Kenyon. As mentioned above, Cyrus (Ciro, too) is another Greek boys name meaning "lord," from the same origin.

Kira is also taken to be a variant of Kyra, although Kyra is sometimes said "KY-rah," not "KEER-uh." Kira in Russian is taken from the masculine Kir, and means "mistress, ruler." Kira is also a Japanese name.

There are towns named Kyra in both Cyrus, Greece and Zabaykalsky, Russia.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wendy as a nickname?

Sure! If Wendelina (wen-dell-EE-nah) is your style. Its similarity to Gwendolen and Wilhelmina make it approachable. If the female variants are too much for you, perhaps Wendel would be better. But since Wendy, a name invented by J.M. Barrie for Peter Pan, currently ranks at #703, the idea of using it as a nickname might appeal to those who don't want something so common. And although Wendy is sometimes used as a nickname for Gwendolyn, Wend- names get straight to the point.

Wendelina is the super rare feminine counterpart to Wendel. She is a German and Swedish name meaning "wanderer" in Old High German. Wendela, Wendeliena, Wendelin and Wendeline are other female Scandinavian variants of the name, although Wendelin is used as a boys name as well, as in the case of Saint Wendelin.

Saint Wendelin of Trier was a hermit and abbot, the son of a Scottish king, who made a pilgrimage to Rome. He founded the Benedictine Abbey of Tholey in Saarland, Germany. When he died a chapel was built over his grave and soon after the town of Sankt Wendel formed around it. He is now patron saint of herdsmen and country folk, and is still venerated in that part of Germany as well as the countryside of Austria and Switzerland.

Wendelin has also been used as a surname, as in the case of Flemish astronomer Godefroy Wendelin, though it is rare. Wendelin Weissheimer is another namesake - he was a 19th century German composer.

Wendell (WEHN-del, WIN-del)  is much more common, seen as a surname and given name in America, Sweden and Germany. Perhaps the most well known namesakes are Wendell Berry, an American novelist known for writing Hannah Coulter as well as nonfiction and poetry, and Wendell Meredith Stanley, a Nobel prize winning biochemist. This name has not been popular since about the time Wendell Wilkie ran for president in 1940. Windell, Wyndell and Wendel are alternate spellings.

The only Wendelina I can dig up with my limited resources is the wife of Sir Mark Collet, a 1st Baronet, merchant and Governor of the Bank of England in the 1880's. However, there were several notable women named Wendela. Vendela (Wendela) Skytte was a Swedish noblewomen who some use as an example of a well educated woman from history; Wendela Gustafva Sparre was a Swedish textile artist and member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts; Wendela Hebbe was considered the first professional female journalist in Sweden.

All of the female variants are too rare to rank, and not commonly used. Wendella does not seem to be a used spelling, but two L's would make the pronunciation different from Wendela, where the stress is on the first syllable.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ermintrude, Irma, or Trudy?

The Old Germanic girl's name Ermintrude has a meaning that can be interpreted a few different ways. This ancient and archaic name comes from irm/erm, meaning "entire," and either traut, meaning "beloved," or thruth, meaning "strength." From this the total meaning could be "entirely loved," or "entire strength." However, it is possible the name refers to Ermen, the Germanic god of war, and thus her meaning would be "Ermen's maiden." Her name can also be spelled a handful of other ways, including Ermentrude, Ermyntrude, Ermentraude, and other variants with an I replacing the first E. Ermengard (Irmingard) is another variant meaning "whole enclosure." Ermintrude was used occasionally until the 19th century.

There are two Ermintrudes you should know about. The first is Ermentrude of Orleans, Queen of the Franks and wife to Holy Roman Emperor / King of West Francia. (Interestingly, her mother was named Engeltrude.) She and her husband Charles had ten children. The second Ermintrude is actually Erminethrudis, a nun from Merovingian aristocracy, who it seems is most known for leaving us with a will that gives an example of the times. There is also an Ermintrude in Terry Pratchet's novel Nation.

The name Irma, which follows today's 100 year rule since it was most popular in 1911, is simply the first element of Ermintrude (Irmintrude) meaning "entire, universal." It is related to the super popular Emma, being that Emma originally came about as a short form of names like Ermintrude, although Emma didn't really become stable until the Norman conquest. About the time Emma was increasing in use in the 18th century, Ermintrude was dying out. Some may recall Irma was the name of April's best friend in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," and there is an Irma Pince in Harry Potter. Irma is also a character in The Adventures of Tintin. In the 40's Irma gained a little popularity thanks to the radio show, and later television and movie version, "My Friend Irma." Irma featured in a few other places in the 50's and 60's, including the film Irma la Douce. Irma is traditionally pronounced EER-mah in other countries, URR-mah in English speaking countries. Irma last ranked in 1995. Imma and Irmina are two rare variants of Irma.

For those looking for something more modern, Trudy has often been used as a nickname for Ermintrude and Gertrude. It means "strong spear" and could easily work as a vintage revamp today. Trudy is a name most are familiar with, yet it hasn't been in the top 1000 for over a decade. It had an incredible rise and fall - from about 5 girls per year in the late 1800's/early 1900's to almost a thousand per year in the 1940's and 1950's, then back down to less than 20 in 2013. To further make Trudy accessible today, you could further reduce the name to Tru. There have also been several namesakes, including Australian fantasy writer Trudy Canavan, British women's rights activist "'Trudie" Gertrude Denman (a Baroness), and three actresses. In fiction, Trudy appears in many places from Disney Comics to the TV show "Mad Men."