Category: name history
By Arika Okrent
Arika Okrent is editor-at-large at TheWeek.com and a frequent contributor to Mental Floss. She is the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, a history of the attempt to build a better language. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and a first-level certification in Klingon. Thanks to Arika for permission to reprint this article from The Week.
Like a lot of people, I was entranced recently by this animated map of the most popular baby names for girls by state over the past 52 years. It shows how the country shifted from Mary to Lisa before giving over completely to Jennifer, after which the Jessica/Ashley and Emily/Emma battles eventually resolved into the current dominance of Sophia. The map was created by Reuben Fischer-Baum of Deadspin using baby name data from the Social Security Administration. The SSA website gives the top 1,000 boy and girl names (as reported on social security card applications) for each year from 1880 onward.
Some of my favorite names are those that come across as modern but end up having a big past. These names hide their age well, giving them versatility.
Simply put, these are old names that sound new. If you are torn between the imaginative and the established, these names could be for you.
by Linda Rosenkrantz
A Berry recently posted a request for a blog explaining the origins of some of the common nicknames—more properly diminutives or pet forms– for classic names that seem to be miles apart. And of course we aim to please, so…..
There is a certain logic to it all, as well as some whimsy. The simplest road to a pet form is, obviously, by shortening it to its first one or two syllables, as in Di for Diana, Ben for Benjamin, Archie for Archibald and Eliza for Elizabeth. Occasionally, a middle syllable will do the job, leading to Liz for Elizabeth and Xan for Alexander. (Where this gets a little tricky is when the pronunciation of the base name has changed over the years—Richard seems to have been often pronounced Rickard at one time, resulting in the nickname Rick and his rhyming cousin Dick, with Dick then becoming so popular that the phrase “every Tom, Dick and Harry” became a euphemism for Everyman. Or a sprinkling of the letters in the name could lead, say, from Dorothy to Dot.
Over history, have American parents favored the soft or hard G sound for their children? I have put together the G names that have been in the Top 100 since 1880, and created a chart showing which names have been on top in each decade. And as an attempt to show things visually, I have also highlighted the names that begin with the hard G sound…
February 17th is the birthdate of Andrew Barton Paterson, affectionately known as “Banjo” Paterson. He was named Andrew after his Scottish-born father, and his middle name Barton was a family name from his mother’s side; he was related to Edmund Barton, who would later become Australia’s first prime minister. Because he and his dad had the same name, Paterson went by his middle name, and was always known as Barty to his friends and family.
Paterson lived with his grandmother while he was attending the prestigious Sydney Grammar School, and she encouraged in him a love of poetry. He was 21 when he first began submitting poems to The Bulletin, under the pseudonym of “The Banjo” (sometimes shortened to a simple “B”). Full of fierce nationalism and a desire for a fairer society, he had some aspirations to write fiery polemic, and had even written a political pamphlet. However, The Bulletin had other ideas.
In the late nineteenth century, there was a movement towards the British colonies of Australia becoming one country, a feeling that Australia should be a united nation, and Australians a united people. In the effort to provide Australia with a unifying mythology that would instill nationalistic pride, it seemed that the Australian bush and outback would be the symbol to draw everyone together.