Wednesday, November 9

Panning for Name Gold: 1940

Sagittarius, from Johann Bayer's Uranometria
Archer — Archer, like previously-featured Zina, is a name from the science fiction catalogue of writer Philip K. Dick. He used it in The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. Its meaning is quite literal (it's an occupational surname, after all) but I wonder if Dick chose it for its various mythical connotations. The Archer is another name for the constellation Sagittarius, who is often represented as an arrow-and-bow carrying centaur, whose bow points toward the star Antares, "the heart of the scorpion" 
Axel — Axel was much less popular in 1940 than it is today. It fell out of the top 1,000 back in 1916, then reappeared in 1989 (I wonder how much of that is owed to Mr Axl Rose) and has been climbing the chart pretty steadily ever since. In 2010 it's listed at #187, a big jump up from its place in 2009, at #264. Axel also ranks in Belgium, Chile, the Netherlands, Sweden and France, where it's way up there at #28. It's the Danish form of Hebrew name Absalom, which means "my father is peace"
Cassius — the meaning isn't the best ("empty," or "vain") but there are many redeeming things about this name. It makes me think of Muhammad Ali, whose original name was Cassius (he was named for his father, who was named for American abolitionist Cassius Clay) and ancient Rome, where the gens Cassia were a noble family. Cassius peeked into the top 1,000 in 2008 when it ranked #944, though it hasn't appeared on the '09 or '10 lists. Pronounce it with three syllables, "KAS-ee-əs" or two "KASH-əs"
Cosimo — meaning "order" or "decency," Cosimo is an Italian variant of Greek name Cosmas. Saints (and brothers) Cosmas and Damian are the patron saints of physicians. A famous bearer of the name Cosimo was Cosimo Medici, a rich man and patron of the Renaissance in 15th-century Florence. I like English form Cosmo and Romanian Cosmin, too
Shepherd — occupational surnames have an easy time transitioning to the first-name position, as they're already recognizable and a good way to honor a family member (I'm Rowan, which was my maternal grandmother's maiden name). Shepherd refers to a sheep-herder, of course, and I think the nickname Shep is super hip

Britta — a variant of the Swedish name Birgitta, which is a form of the Irish name Brighid, which means "exalted one." Its similarity in look and sound to now-dated Brittany is both a plus (familiarity) and a negative (it may come off as made-up to a names-layman) but I'd love to see it used more often
Gala — I may have been subconsciously choosing names of people I've actually known. I knew a Britta in high school, and a Gala in college. Gala means "calm," though most people are probably familiar with it as a kind of apple, or as a word referring to a festive occasion 
Honora — a variant of Honoria, which comes from a Latin name meaning, obviously, "honor." You could get the nickname Nora pretty easily from this one, and it sounds a little less like a word and more like a proper name than celebrity-babyname Honor
Isaura — from a Latin name meaning "from Isauria," which was a region in what is now modern-day Turkey. Male form Isaurus sounds a little dinosaur-ish, but Isaura has a lovely sound and look, and is a great alternative to popular Isabella
Lucilla — mentioned in my post on Lucia, Lucilla is a Latin diminutive of Lucia, and was the name of a 3rd-century martyr. Wickedly-named Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla (she went by Lucilla) was second daughter of Marcus Aurelius. Her twin brother, Gemellus Lucillae, died when they were two, and her children were named Plautia, Aurelia Lucilla, Lucius Verus and Pompeianus — phew!


  1. I know they're getting very common, but I do love Archer and Axel, and Cassius is great.

    (I remember Lucilla from the (highly fictionalised!)movie "The Gladiator".)

  2. A nice selection. Isaura is catching my eye, as I think there is used for a few more of that underused gem.

  3. My love for Britta knows no bounds. The only problem is, I always want to say it with an accent. To know that it means exalted one, though, moves it up a few spots on my list.

  4. I love Britta, but any time I suggest it, people always think of the water filter Brita. Boo.


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