Saturday, May 13, 2017

Perdita

Perdita charles robert leslie
Perdita by Charles Robert Leslie 

Perdita (per-DEET-uh) may sound familiar to you for one of two references: either the mother Dalmation from "101 Dalmatians," the Disney movie (or the Dodie Smith novel The One Hundred and One Dalmatians), or the Shakespeare character from The Winter's Tale. Despite her familiarity, she's exceedingly rare - given to only about 30 girls in the U.S. between 1950 and 1980. In fact, the Social Security Administration shows no record for her after 1970. She was not given to any girls (at least not more than four) in 2016. Which is mind-boggling given her literary credentials and upbeat, classy sound. The name is even rare in its home country, where only 7 girls were named Perdita in the U.K. and Wales as of 2013.

They say Shakespeare invented the name. Meaning "lost," from Latin perditus, it suited the character. In Perdita's story, she is left as an infant to die. Her mother, Queen Hermione, is imprisoned because Perdita's father, King of Sicily, believes his wife was unfaithful. The story is predictable because it has been done time and again: peasants find her and raise her, then a prince comes across her and, because she's just so beautiful, he decides he must marry her. Florizel is his name, and they run away together because she is not a princess and his father will not let him marry anyone below his station. However, all is revealed in the end for a happily-ever-after.

Perdita was used as a psuedonym for poet and actress Mary Robinson in her correspondence with King George IV (at the time just Prince of Wales), who went by Florizel in their letters. They took their names from the Shakespeare play because Robinson became famous after playing Perdita on stage.

More recently, namesakes include actress Perdita Weeks, actress Perdita Avery, Canadian track athlete Perdita Felicien, women's rights activist Perdita Huston, and author Perdita Buchan.

In fiction, Perdita was used in the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett, as a character in Mary Shelley's The Last Man, and the novel Stardust by Neil Gaiman, and as a title and main character in a novel by Hillary Cunningham Scharper. In the 2008 movie "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day," this is a character's stage name.

Lastly, Perdita is a genus of North American bees, and a moon of the planet Uranus.

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