Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Gordon

gordon castle
Gordon Castle


Gordon is a Scottish boy name meaning "great hill" or "spacious fort." It may have a different meaning in Old English and Irish. There are two possible origins - one, that it transferred in use from a Scottish or French place name, ultimately from the Gallo-Roman name Gordus (possibly "stream" or "whirlpool"), and two, that it was given in honor of Charles Gordon, an 1800's war hero. Regardless, Gordon is a relatively new baby name, beginning its history as a given name in the 19th century. The surname goes back to at least the 12th century and likely was born from several places instead of just one. Clan Gordon of Scotland is just one example.

Red Wings hockey star Gordie Howe, astronaut Gordon Cooper, composer Gordon Jenkins, prime minister Gordon Brown, chef Gordon Ramsey, physicist Gordon Gould, and writer Gordon Dickson are among many famous namesakes. In fiction, half the characters named Gordon are in children's TV shows (including 80s sitcom "Alf"), but many older folks will recall a Gordon from "Walker, Texas Ranger," while literary buffs might think of the novel Gordon by Edith Templeton. Possibly the most well-known fictional character, however, is comic book hero Flash Gordon - second only to Gordon from the Batman comics.

For a name so young, several places in the U.S., Australia and Scotland are named Gordon, as well as motor manufacturers that are no longer producing vehicles, a nobility title (Duke of Gordon is the title, but there is a Viscount Gordon as well and several people with the surname Gordon were nobility with other titles), a castle, a printing press and a bomber plane.

The proof Gordon is ripe for a comeback: he ranked #935 in 2014, back on at last after it went missing after 2008. The name has been well used since 1880 and was given to more than 2000 boys from 1917 to 1960, explaining Gordon's heavy vintage feel.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Cofa

Cofa (KOH-fah) is an unusual name - if one can call it a name at all. The Old English word cofa means "cave" or "chamber," from older Proto-Germanic roots, and it's also where we get the word cove. The surname Coventry also claims cofa as the first part of its etymology. Cofa has many acronyms, such as the College of Fine Arts. Still, for adventurous namers, Cofa proves right on trend being a legitimate word-name like Thatcher or Forest, and a boy's name ending in A, like Luca, Santana and Ezra. It even has the popular O sound, like Koa, Cole, Noah and Jericho. Since it's not used as a traditional name it can also be used for girls, similar in sound to Coco, Chloe, Sofia, Cora, and Siofra. Given its obscurity it may also appeal to those on the hunt for a truly one-of-a-kind name that no one else has.

The straightforward Cova has proven more desirable, used in the U.S. between 1913 and 1952, never on more than twelve girls in a year and only once for boys in 1918 on five boys.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Albion

albion


Albion (AL-bee-on), one of the many old names for Britain, is a boy's name from the Latin albus or Proto-Indo-European albho, both meaning "white."

One legend has it that Albion was a giant and the son of the god Neptune. After Neptune put Albion in charge of ancient Britain it was named after him - possibly in the form Alebion. The legend obviously isn't true, but Albion is indeed ancient, and could possibly be older than the Latin albus, and it might have a much longer story. If the popular theory that Albion's etymology of "white" refers to the white cliffs of Dover is not where the story ends, then it would have an older origin. It is most likely the island's old name is from Proto-Celtic albi̯iū, meaning "world," although it could have started as a PIE word meaning "white," which would tie it together nicely. As "world," the specific meaning is "upper world," as opposed to the underworld. Many suggest the two meanings combined are legitimate, making Albion "white upper world." This would add a richer layer to Albion, considering there were ancient Celtic gods with Roman counterparts named Albiorix, which means "king of the world," and Albius. If Albion and Albiorix are actually related, and if albiorix and albus were born from the same word, that could mean Albion/Albiorix could have been the founding father of the Celtic tribe, possibly the same as Dis Pater, making this a baby name with some real weight.

Eventually Albion stopped meaning all Britain and only meant Caledonia. Scotland and sometimes all Britain was also referred to as Albany, but Albion is the oldest known name for the Britain, and Albany originated a bit later, partially as a title and partially as a nickname/variation, with stronger ties to Scotland. Scotland has been known as Alban/Albania and the Kingdom of Alba. Today, Albany is most used as a place name, but remains familiar as a baby name.

Related names include Albin, Alban, Alben, Alpin (Celtic) and Aubin (French). None have been popular recently, but in Roman and medieval times, and up to the 1930's, it was common. In 2015 on 8 boys were named Albion in the U.S., and since 1880 that number hasn't changed by more than a handful either way. The female forms of these names include Albinia, Albina,  Alva, Alvit, Alba, and Albia. Elaborations include Fioralba and Rosalba/Rosalva. These names share an etymology with the word albino.

As a baby name, Alban may be the longest used, from about the 13th century. Three saints share this name, but Saint Alban was the first British Christian martyr during Roman times or about 300 AD. Saint Alban of Mainz (Germany) and Saint Alban Roe (England) came later.

Albion is also used in William Blake's mythology and poems, about the son of Neptune/Poseidon, but this myth has been written about by others.

For a time, Canada was referred to as New Albion and Albionoria, though they were short lived.