|Two girls and their props: Edith Piaf and Edith Head|
"In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs."
~ from The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Like the rest of the bourgie-TV-watching world, I've been enjoying Downton Abbey lately. I'm afraid I can't even say I liked it before it started getting brought up at every dinner party ever, but I was really just too busy being cool to notice. For reals. So busy.
Anyway there are three sisters in the show and they all have nice names. Mary's, well, Mary, so it's not that interesting, Sybil is really great and stylish and I only like it spelled Sibyl, and then there's Edith. A grand old name with a sweet hipster-ready nickname (Sedgwick fans probably dig Downton, right?) that happens to be totally accessible and usable today.
It brings to mind a great troupe of wonderfully talented and interesting women. There's French singer Édith Piaf (born Édith Giovanna Gassion), Academy Award-winning costume designer Edith Head (she's Edith Claire) and writer Edith Wharton. Edie Sedgwick did a lot to give the name a chic, sophisticated, dramatic girl vibe, and the nickname "Edie" is certainly charming enough.
Edith is derived from an Old English name containing elements meaning "riches/blessed" and "war." It is used regularly in some Scandinavian countries including Sweden, where it's in the top 100. In 2010, Edith was at #820 in the States, 22 spaces up from its 2009 position. I'll be interested to see where it lands for 2011, since pre-09 it had been in a straight-up downward spiral since the 1880s (it was once in the top 30). It seems to have had a few years of regaining a teensy bit of lost popularity, so it's hard to predict where Edith will wind up, though if it manages to stay in the top 1,000 for a bit longer, I think it'll stay there for quite some time, and probably enjoy a real resurgence.
I usually stick to the oldest spelling when it comes to names, but I have to admit I'm won over by alternate spelling Edythe. Some other nice forms are Edita, Danish Ditte, Italian Editta, Finnish Eedit, Hebrew Idit and Tongan Iteti.