Category: name history
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.
It’s pretty obvious that the first initial letters of names move in and out of fashion. The last several years have seen a rotation of vowels—A, E, O, I– as favored name-starters. But there have been instances, too, of ending sound name trends as well, which aren’t quite so apparent. Case in point:
In the early decades of the twentieth century, in addition to name trends like the birth of the flower name craze—Rose, Violet, Lily, Daisy, Hazel and Myrtle– as well as gem names like Pearl, Ruby and Opal, and the month names of April, May and June, there was an infatuation with girls’ names ending in ‘s’. Appellations such as Doris, Phyllis and Lois were seen as ultra-poetic and romantic, having an appealing classical feel—but it was a fad that faded fairly quickly. Today’s most popular list , for example, shows only two female names ending with the S sound in the Top 100 (Alexis and Genesis), while in the years from 1900 to 1930, there were five times that number. Some of them still sound terminally dated today:
…while the other half are either ripe for revival or already back:
Some of those characters eventually have fictional children of their own. Mad Men couple Pete and Trudy just welcomed daughter Tammy. 90210’s Jen has a brand new son called Jacques. In honor of the two new arrivals, here’s a look back at some notable small screen births.
Everyone was watching I Love Lucy when Ricky and Lucy welcomed Enrique Jr. – Lil’ Ricky – in 1953. The show was a sensation, but Richard was already a Top Ten mainstay, and even Ricky was in the Top 100 before the baby’s arrival.
The first influential television baby probably came from 1964’s Bewitched, a sitcom with a supernatural twist. Bewitching wife Samantha’s name caught on, as did daughter Tabitha, who arrived in the show’s second season.
There’s more than one way to add a child. The Brady Bunch’s six kids became seven when Cousin Oliver came to stay during the show’s final season. While his name is the height of fashion today, it didn’t catch on until decades later. The character did lend his name to Cousin Oliver Syndrome – the phenomenon of adding a younger child to revive a fading show.