The images above (in case you were wondering) show various plants from my drought-ridden garden, specifically: rose, ivy, catmint, bay (laurel). Anything strike you about them?
Yes, three of them also provide female names. At least, they do in English.
I don’t think it’s usual to call a baby girl “Catmint”. Unless you know someone called that?
But Rose, Ivy, and Laura (Laurel) used to be fairly common.
It happens in other languages, too. The Welsh name Blodwen means “white flower”.
Female names in English. And male names too?
I’ve blogged before about English and the strange ways it uses or doesn’t use words. Then, I was wondering why we rabbit or badger but we never mole. This time I’m wondering about the way we name female babies after things like flowers.
Or is it?
What does it say about us, and our view of females, that we do this?
When was the last time you heard of a male being named after a flower?
Actually, there is always Basil…
Shades of Basil Fawlty? I can almost hear Sybil yelling “Basil” in that ear-splitting way of hers, with the second syllable several octaves higher than the first. (As memorable, in its own way, as Dame Edith Evans and “a handbag?” in The Important of Being Earnest.)
Somehow I doubt that Basil figures in the top 100 names for boys nowadays.
Female names: beautiful, or precious?
Females can be named for things of beauty, like flowers. Or things that are precious, like jewels.
I seem to remember a jazz singer called Blossom Dearie.
And girls are called Pearl, Ruby, and Beryl. Also Jade and Amber.
I’m not aware of anyone being called Diamond or Sapphire, though. But emerald is there in Esmeralda. (That was possibly due to the influence of Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, though the character’s actual name was Agnès. She was nicknamed for the paste emerald she wore when she danced. The name started a fashion, though.)
Female names: a fashion for virtues?
Flowers may be a bit over the top (just my view — feel free to disagree) but it gets worse. What about naming your female children after virtues? It was a fashion in the Puritan period. A certain Sir Thomas Carew took this to extremes, I think, in the 17th century. His four daughters were named: Patience, Temperance, Silence, Prudence.
Silence? He called a child SILENCE?
I suggest that tells us everything we need to know about Sir Thomas Carew and his view of females. I bet he would never have called a boy child “Silence” or anything like it. My reference books don’t record whether he had any male children but, if he went for virtues there, he’d probably have gone for something strong and manly. Perhaps Fortitude Carew?
Do given names influence behaviour?
Females named after virtues. That’s a story in itself. Oh boy, the virtues we females are/were supposed to embody. In addition to the Carew four, you could try Chastity, Charity, Constance, Clemency… And that’s only the C’s. There are lots more, all the way to Verity.
What does it do to a girl to have a name like Silence? Or Chastity?
I can’t help remembering the six Mitford sisters. Five had pretty normal names: Nancy, Pamela, Diana, Jessica, Deborah. And there was also — I kid you not — the outrageously named Unity Valkyrie Mitford.
With a given name like that, is it any wonder she became an avid admirer of Hitler?
The only male I can think of who suffered in the same way was the fictional hero of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse series, who rejoiced (not) in the forename Endeavour. His parents chose it because his mother was a Quaker and his father admired the explorer, Captain James Cook, who had sailed in the ship HMS Endeavour. Parents have a lot to answer for, don’t they?
If you can think of some I’ve missed, please do share.
PS On the fraught question of unicorn naming, I’ve decided to go with Nigel, because it seems so very unlikely and (marginally) more appropriate than Basil. Thanks for all your suggestions.
PPS My Libertà partner, Sophie, informs me that unicorns always have very long eyelashes, for greater success at virgin-bothering. Sadly, my Nigel has no visible eyelashes so he may go a bit short in the virgin stakes, on account of having nothing to bat at them.