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.
Hey!, we thought. Here we are, a name site, with lots of regular visitors who are fascinated by names and think and know a lot about the subject, and yet they’re known by names they’ve invented for themselves. So where did those names come from?
Do you ever imagine an alternate life? Specifically, what you might have been named, or what you might have named your children if your life was just slightly different?
My husband’s taste in given names is buckets more conservative than mine. From the color of their eyes to the shape of their toes, I cannot imagine our children even a scintilla changed. And yet imagine just one twist in life’s journey, and all of a sudden they’re Dexter and Domino instead of Alex and Clio.
The given name that I so actively disliked as a child was chosen, in large part, because of a clumsy surname, poorly exported into English without harmonizing the improbable consonant clusters. What if my parents had decided to overlook the glaring limitations of a let-me-spell-it-for-you last name? Or what if my ancestors had blanded out their surname to something that accommodated any number of appellations?
There was a time when it was de rigueur for performers to change their names—to anglicize those that they felt sounded too ‘foreign’ or to up the cuteness factor of their name (e.g. Alicia ? Jodie). This doesn’t happen so much anymore (hat tip to you, Renee Zellweger and Zach Galifianakis)), unless you’re talking about rock stars and rappers—we have to admit 50 Cent sounds more intriguing than Curtis, Ginuwine than Elgin, and Foxy Brown foxier than Inga.
But looking back at some of the switches made in the past, and in light of changing fashions and trends, a lot of the abandoned names now sound cooler –and often more sophisticated (Julia over Julie) –than their replacements. Here some celebrity names before and after:
More women have donned a cape to fight for good than you might guess, but it hasn’t been an easy road. The Comics Code Authority, a set of industry standards adopted in 1954, limited gore and violence, but also sexual innuendo. Selina Kyle hung up her catsuit for more than a decade when the Code was at its strictest.
Female characters tend to go to extremes. There’s the wholesome Betty and later Barbara, characters introduced as Batgirl at a time when it was thought Batman and Robin needed girlfriends. Others are clearly not from this world, like Thundra, a Femizon warrior from the 23rd century, arrived in 1972 to challenge The Thing, or the first female superhero, Egyptian princess Fantomah.
As comic books have become popular sources for Hollywood films, plenty of A-list stars have worn these identities. For parents seeking a feminine name with an edge, knowing that your daughter’s appellation has been worn by a crime-fighting woman of steel might make an otherwise frilly name seem downright powerful. Here some possible female alter ego comic book names: