Monday, January 16

Elemental Names: Hydrogen

Periodic  Table, found via UNIFORM on Tumblr

Though I often look to nature and astronomy to find new, unusual names, I don't generally think of chemistry as a potential name-mining zone. I love the order and simple beauty of the periodic table, though, and thanks to a suggestion from my husband, have decided to take a look at it as a possible source for names. 

Up first — Hydrogen

In Greek, hydrogen means "water former." Some names with aquatic meanings are Damla (a Turkish name with a great meaning: "water drop"), Dalit ("to draw water" in Hebrew, particularly appropriate), Enki (the Sumerian god of water and wisdom, and keeper of the divine laws), Neith (Greek form of an Egyptian girls' name meaning "water") and Chinese unisex name Shui, which means "water" (the term feng shui translates to "wind-water"). Another interesting one is Finnish Virva, which is from the word virvatuli, meaning "will o' the wisp," which appears in Finnish folklore as a ball of light that floats over water.

Hydrogen is the lightest element, and Vayu is the name of the Hindu god of the air and wind. Another name for him is AnilAnila is the very pretty feminine form. Ilma is a Finnish name meaning "air." Ilma comes from Ilmatar, who in Finnish mythology was an androgynous goddess of the heavens, and the mother of Ilmarinen, the creator of the sky. Ilmari is the short masculine form of his name.

Qi or Chi is an ancient Chinese concept, defined as a life force or spiritual energy that is part of every living thing, literally translated as "air" or "breath." I've seen Chi used as a middle name before, and it always surprises me. In ancient Sumer, Enlil was the god of air, and in ancient Egypt, he was called Shu. Shu's husband was the goddess of moisture, Tefnut, which makes for a rather clunky name, but I love the idea of air and moisture getting paired up — perfect for hydrogen. In Greek mythology, Aether was the personification of the bright, upper air of the sky, the substance of light. It means "pure, fresh air" or "clear sky" and is where we get the English word ether.

Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical element in the universe, found in stars and gas giant planets. The gas giants are also referred to as Jovian planets — the word refers to the planet Jupiter, but I've always though Jovian could make an attractive name.

In its plasma state, hydrogen gives off a purple color. Sigal is a feminine Hebrew name meaning "purple." Names meaning "violet" include Yolanda-variant Iolanthe, first used by Gilbert & Sullivan in an 1882 comic opera, and Calfuray, a feminine Mapuche name.

And on a totally different note: here's a great sermon given by a Nobel Prize-winning nonviolent civil rights activist who shares a name with a 16th-century German protestant reformer. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. day!

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. 

Say that I was a drum major for peace. 

I was a drum major for righteousness. 

And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. 

And that's all I want to say.

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