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Posts Tagged ‘Clara’

Tomorrow is the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, probably the greatest of all nineteenth century novelists — and a contender for the greatest novelist of all time.

His works also provide a mine of wonderful names. To celebrate his birthday, today and tomorrow I’ll be featuring a selection of those which have fabulous potential for a baby born two hundred years on…

And others which make fine names for cats!

  • Abel — a name which features in more than one Dickens novel; there’s Abel Garland in The Old Curiosity Shop, and Abel Magwitch in Great Expectations. Abel is a biblical name still waiting in the wings somewhat,  though he has been rising steadily for years and years and broke the US top 1000 for the first time since records began in 2010. If you like him, use him now!
  • Affery — Affery Flintwinch is a maid in Little Dorrit. Dickens was an avid collector of names, and Affery was one of his finds. A form of Aphra.
  • Agnes — Agnes Wickfield is David’s childhood friend and second wife in David Copperfield.
  • Arabella — buzzing round the baby name boards as a successor to Isabella, Dickens used Arabella in Pickwick Papers for Miss Arabella Allen. In the UK, a name which until recently was regarded as rather archetypical of the Upper Class.
  • Avenger — “The Avenger” is the name by which Pip’s serving boy is known in Great Expectations.
  • Bamber — In Pickwick Papers, we meet with a Jack Bamber. The name  was made familiar to most in the UK by the TV presenter Bamber Gascoigne (b.1935), but not many know there were two eighteenth century politicians also called Bamber Gascoyne, the first born in 1725 — his father was called Crisp.
  • Barnaby — eponymous hero of Barnaby Rudge. Barnaby is another name mostly heard in British public (i.e. very expensive fee-paying) schools. It has never reached the US top 1000, but 224th in England and Wales in 2010.
  • Belle — yes, there is another Belle besides the one in Beauty and the Beast.  Belle was Scrooge’s fiancée in A Christmas Carol.
  • Betsy — with unpretentious and old fashioned charm, Dickens used Betsy more than once. The best known is Betsy Trotwood is David’s crunchy but kind old great-aunt in David Copperfield.
  • Brownlow — Mr Brownlow is the kind old gentleman who adopts Oliver in Oliver Twist.
  • Bumble — the famous beadle of Oliver Twist. Would suit a very fat cat.
  • Buzfuz — what a fabulous name for a cat! Serjeant Buzfuz (Serjeant is his name) is a not-very-nice barrister in Pickwick Papers.
  • Caddy — pet-name of Caroline Jellyby in Bleak House.
  • Charles — how can I leave out Charles? Dickens used his own name a few times, including Charles Darnay in A Tale of Two Cities, and Charles Cheeryble in Nicholas Nickleby. Use of Charles is surprisingly consistent on both sides of the Pond; in 2010 it was ranked 63 in America, and 62 in England and Wales.
  • Cherry — traditional pet-form of Charity, and used as such in Martin Chuzzlewit  for Charity Pecksniff.
  • Chuzzlewitsurname of the eponymous hero of Martin Chuzzlewit, I’d say Chuzzlewit falls firmly in cat-name territory, although there is a Chuzzlewit Mcclintock on the 1880 American Census!
  • Clara — a favorite of Dickens’s, borne by both David’s mother and nurse in David Copperfield and Clara Barley in Great Expectations.
  • Darnay — Charles Darnay, the son of a French marquis, is one of the heroes of A Tale of Two Cities.
  • Dodger — once I would have said Oliver Twist’s “The Artful Dodger” fell firmly in cat name territory, but actually, in today’s climate, maybe the world might be ready for Dodger as a bona fide name? The Artful Dodger’s real name was Jack Dawkins.
  • Dorrit — the surname of Amy Dorrit, invariably known as “Little Dorrit” in Little Dorrit. Could make an interesting variation on Dorothy — but is it too similar to Doritos?
  • Ebenezer — Ebenezer Scrooge is one of Dickens’s best-known characters, and although at the end of the tale he becomes a kind, happy and philanthropic old gentleman, his miserly former self has blighted Ebenezer ever since. But is that changing? With a number of great nickname options, such as Eben, Ben, Eb and Zer, and the meaning “stone of help,” it’s a great name.
  • Estella — the rather tragic Estella Havisham is Pip’s great love in Great Expectations. 
  • Fan — a short form of Fanny, the well-known pet-form of Frances, Fan was Scrooge’s sister in A Christmas Carol.
  • Fern — Will Fern, a character in The Chimes.
  • Fezziwig — another for the cats rather than the children. “Old Fezziwig” was Scrooge’s generous and happy employer in A Christmas Carol.
  • Fizkin — cat name! A candidate for parliament in Pickwick Papers.
  • Granger — Edith Granger is one of the characters in Dombey and Son.
  • Grewgious — what a name for Puss! Grewgious can be found in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
  • Herbert — the genial Herbert Pocket is Pip’s best friend in Great Expectations.
  • Hexam — the surname of more than one character in Our Mutual Friend, including the beautiful and good Lizzie.
  • Hominy — Mrs Hominy is a rather stereotyped “brash American” in Martin Chuzzlewit, her name no doubt a direct pluck of hominy, the dried kernels of corn (maize) used a lot in Southern, Latin American and Caribbean cooking.
  • Jarvis — Jarvis Lorry appears in A Tale of Two Cities, bearing a name which originated both as a medieval form of Gervais and a surname derived from it.
  • Jemima — a name which gets a number of minor mentions in the works of Dickens, such as Lady Jemima Bilberry in Little Dorrit.
  • Job — borne by Job Trotter in Pickwick Papers, Job is a suprisingly neglected biblical name (although it was 88th in Holland in 2010), presumably hindered so much by the fact it looks like the word “job,” even though the pronuncation is different (rhyming with “robe”). Roll it around a few times — I think it makes for a distinctly contemporary choice if you want a simple, one-syllable name with heritage. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the greatest of meanings (“persecuted”), but that’s not stopped many another name…
  • Jupe — the wonderful Cecilia “Sissy” Jupe is a daughter of a circus clown in Hard Times.
  • Kit — Kit Nubbles (Nubbles makes a great name for a cat) is a character in The Old Curiosity Shop.  A classic, old short form of Christopher, Kit has been in quiet independent use in the UK for some time.
  • Lillian — Will Fern’s little niece in The Chimes.
  • Lowten — a clerk in Pickwick Papers.
  • Lucretia — Lucretia Tox is found in Dombey and Son.

Part II tomorrow!

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Terentius Neo and his wife

Today marks the anniversary of the start of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE which destroyed the Roman town of Pompeii.

It was, coincidentally, the day after the Vulcanalia — the Roman festival dedicated to the fire and smith God Vulcan.

The 24th itself was a festival in honor of both Luna — Goddess of the Moon — and Mania, Goddess of Death.

We know the names of many of the people who lived in Pompeii — and nearby Herculaneum, which was also devastated.

In memory of all those who died, below are some of the names of Roman men and women whose names were preserved in the ruins of Pompeii.

Their fates are unknown.

  • Acilius CedrusCedrus is the Latin for ‘cedar’; it is actually a feminine noun, but was clearly used here as a surname.
  • Aemilius CrescensAemilius is the source of the French Emile and English Emilia and Emily — among others. Crescens ‘growing’ and ‘thriving’ was a common surname, and there are other examples known from Pompeii. The standard feminine is Crescentina.
  • Arrius StephanusStephanus is the Greek for ‘garland’ and ‘crown’. The source of English Stephen, it was a common Greek name. Arrius Stephanus was probably a Greek slave freed by a member of the Arrius family.
  • Betutius Placidus, LuciusPlacidus — Latin for ‘gentle’, ‘calm’ and ‘mild’.
  • Biria
  • Caecilius Capella, LuciusCapella means ‘little goat’, and is another feminine noun used as a male surname! Best known today as the name of a star in Auriga.
  • Caecilius Iucundus, Lucius — famous to anyone who ever learned Latin with the Cambridge Latin Course (or has seen The Fires of Pompeii — an episode of Doctor Who). Caecilius is the origin of Cecil, Cecilia, Cecily and Cicely.
  • Caetronius Eutychus, GnaeusEutychus is another Greek name, and this fellow was probably another freed slave. From the Greek eutukhês ‘fortunate’ and ‘prosperous’. A character of the name turns up in the New Testament.
  • Calavia OptataOptata means ‘wished for’, ‘longed for’ and ‘welcome’, and more than one example is known from Pompeii
  • Caprasia
  • Caprasius FelixFelix ‘fortunate’ was a very common Roman surname.
  • Casellius Marcellus, MarcusMarcellus means simply ‘little Marcus’. It was another common surname, most famously borne by the very aristocratic Marcus Claudius Marcellus, the first husband of Augustus’ daughter Julia.
  • Cassia
  • Chlorus — a surname from the Greek khlôros ‘greenish-yellow’.
  • Cornelius Amandus, Lucius
  • Cosmus — another surname, this time from Greek kosmos ‘order’; source of the name Cosmo.
  • Junius Proculus, DeciusDecius is probably a ‘modern’ mistake for Decimus (as Shakespeare made in Julius Caesar), but the original source is lost. Proculus was another well-used surname, a diminutive form of procus ‘wooer’ and ‘suitor’.
  • Demetrius — a Greek name meaning ‘belonging to (the Goddess) Demeter. Source of Dmitri and (ultimately) Demi.
  • Dentatius Panthera, TitusPanthera is the Latin for ‘panther’.
  • Epaphra — short form of Greek Epaphrodita from epaphroditos ‘lovely’ and ‘charming’.
  • Epidia
  • Epidius FortunatusFortunatus means ‘prosperous’, ‘happy’, ‘lucky’. Another popular surname.
  • Equitia
  • Erastus — Greek ‘beloved’ and ‘lovely’.
  • Euplia — possibly from the Greek euploia ‘fair voyage’
  • Fabia — the Fabii were a very important family, though most bearers descended from former slaves and other dependents.
  • Fabius Celer, MarcusCeler was another popular Roman surname meaning ‘swift’.
  • Fabius Memor, MarcusMemor means ‘mindful’ and ‘remembering’
  • Faventinus — from favens ‘favoring’ and ‘befriending’.
  • Fortunata
  • Fufidius Successus, NumeriusNumerius is one of the rarer Roman first names.
  • Gavius RufusRufus ‘red’ and ‘ruddy’ was one of the commonest Roman surnames.
  • Grata Metallica — yes, Metallica (I wonder if the Swedish family who fought to call their daughter Metallica knew it was used as a given name in Roman times?). From metallicus ‘of metal’ and ‘metallic’; ‘mine-worker’.
  • Helpis Afra — Greek elpis ‘hope’; Afer ‘African’.
  • Hirtia Psacas — Greek psakas ‘drop of rain’, grain’ and ‘morsel’.
  • Julius Nicephorus, GaiusNicephorus is Greek, meaning ‘bearing victory’
  • Livius Firmus, LuciusFirmus was another common surname, meaning ‘strong’, ‘steadfast’ and ‘powerful’
  • Loreius Tiburtinus
  • Lucretius Fronto, Marcus
  • Lusoria
  • Mestrius Maximus, QuintusMaximus needs little intro — Latin ‘greatest’. Not uncommon.
  • Numicia PrimigeniaPrimigenia means ‘primal’; it was an epithet of the Goddess Fortuna.
  • Numisius Rarus, LuciusRarus ‘thin’ and ‘rare’.
  • Nymphius — a family name of Greek origin, from numphê ‘nymph’ and ‘bride’.
  • Octavius RomulusRomulus was one of the legendary founders of Rome.
  • Oppia
  • Oppius GratusGratus, another surname, meaning ‘beloved’, ‘dear’ and ‘agreeable’.
  • Paccia
  • Paccius Clarus, PubliusClarus ‘clear’, ‘bright’ and ‘shining’. Source of Clara and Clare.
  • Pinarius CerealisCerealis ‘belonging to (the Goddess) Ceres’.
  • Plotilla
  • Pomaria
  • Popidius Metallicus
  • Poppaeus SabinusSabinus ‘Sabine’, source of Sabin and Sabina. The emperor Nero’s second wife was called Poppaea Sabina, and had property near Pompeii
  • Primilla — feminine diminutive of primus ‘first’.
  • Pupius, Marcus
  • Salvius — another family name familiar to anyone who has done the Cambridge Latin Course. From salvus ‘safe’ and ‘sound’.
  • Sextilius VerusVerus, another popular Roman surname — ‘true’, ‘real’, ‘genuine’.
  • Sibilla Pompeiana
  • Spurius Saturninus, MarcusSaturninus, Roman surname meaning ‘belonging to (the God) Saturn’
  • Suettius ElainusElainus is a surname of Greek origin, from elainos ‘of olive-wood’
  • Sutoria Primigenia
  • Terentius Neo, TitusNeo — from the Greek neos ‘new’… so Neo is not so ‘new’ as a name as some folk may think!
  • Tettius Faustus, GaiusFaustus, another common surname meaning ‘of favorable omen’, ‘auspicious’. The origin, obviously, of Faust.
  • Trebius Valens, AulusValens, yet another of the most common surnames, valens means ‘strong’, ‘healthy’ and ‘powerful’ and is the source of Valentine and Valentina.
  • Vedius VestalisVestalis, a surname meaning ‘belonging to (the Goddess) Vesta’.

All names included here have been ordered their family (gens) name (where known). Not all first names (praenomina) or surnames (cognomina) are known.

In the Roman system of naming, male citizens usually had three names: a first name (praenomen) — of which there were only a few in common use — the name of their gens ‘family’ or ‘clan’ (nomen), and their surname (cognomen).

Women were mostly known by the feminine form of their family/clan name, or the feminine form of a surname. But sometimes they bore both, or two family names, or two surnames.

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Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of British novelist Mervyn Peake, author of the magnificent Gormenghast trilogy. To mark the occasion, here are some of the best names (and characters!) from the trilogy:

A Sketch by Peake of Fuchsia and Steerpike; as well as being an author, Peake was a highly regarded artist (Official Gormenghast Website).

Titus. Titus Groan, 77th Earl of Groan is the hero of the series, and Titus Groan is the title of the first book, despite the fact that Titus is only a baby in it. He becomes the major protagonist, however, in the following novels, and though he doesn’t actually do much in Titus Groan, he is the pivot around whom the story unfolds. Titus was a Roman praenomen — i.e. the closest thing Romans had to a first name. Probably the best known bearer was the Emperor Titus (39-81 CE). The origins are very obscure; it may possibly be related to Latin titulus ‘title’ or titio ‘fire-brand’. It was first used as a given name in the English-speaking world in the 16th Century.

Fuchsia. Lady Fuchsia Groan is Titus’s sister, a girl on the cusp of womanhood. Virtually ignored by her parents, she is half-feral,  fiercely proud and passionate. Her name is taken from the delicate, ballerina-like flower, named in the 18th Century in honor of the 16th Century German botanist Leonhard Fuchs — a surname meaning ‘fox’ in German. Fuchsia is first found as a given name in the 19th Century, when ‘flower names’ first came into fashion.

Gertrude. Countess Gertrude, whom Peake described as ‘of huge clay’, is the flame-haired, distant mother of Titus and Fuchsia. Though she cares more for her cats than her children, she is a good ally when the chips are down. She definitely suits her name; deriving from the Old German gêr ‘spear’ + drudi ‘strength’. The original bearer was one of the Valkyrie, and Peake was clearly giving a nod in the direction of the earliest of the 7th Century German saints of the name, who is the patron saint of cats (and mice). The 12th Century St Gertrude — St Gertrude the Great — was a famous mystic. The name didn’t really take of in England until the 15th Century, when the cult of St Gertrude (the cat and mouse one), spread to Britain from the Continent. Although Gertrude is still quite a heavy name, its pet-forms Gertie and Trudy both have charm.

Alfred. Alfred Prunesquallor is the kindly doctor at the vast and ancient Gormenghast Castle. Alfred is one of a small number of Old English first names which is still in regular use – at least in the UK, and in the pet-form Alfie. This has actually been immensely popular in recent years, largely because of popular character of the name in the soap Eastenders.  Alfred could barely be less popular in the States, and Alfie is completely off the radar. Most people don’t realise that the modern Alfred actually represents two  Saxon names: is Ælfræd, from ælf ‘elf’ + rǣd ‘counsel’ — as borne by one of the most famous of all the Kings of Anglo-Saxon England, King Alfred the Great of Wessex (849-99) — and Ælfriþ, æl ‘all’ + friþ ‘peace’.

Clarice. Lady Clarice Groan is the twin of Lady Cora, the snobbish, very simple spinster aunts of Titus. The machiavellian Steerpike uses them in his plans to gain control of the castle — and is responsible for their very sorry end. These days, Clarice is mostly associated with Clarice Starling and The Silence of the Lambs. It is a very old name, a medieval elaboration of Clara (meaning ‘clear’ and ‘famous’ in Latin). The US pronunciation is ‘clah-REES’, but the traditional UK way is ‘CLAH-ris’.

Cora. Lady Cora Groan — the other twin. Identical to her sister. It is essentially a Latinized form of the Greek korê ‘maiden’, but the form demonstrates influence from Corinna and Coralie, both already around at the time it first appeared at the end of the 18th Century. It became popular in America during the 19th Century after it featured in James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, The Last of the Mohicans (1826). There is also the Inca mother and fertility Goddess Mama Cora Ocllo.

Irma. Irma Prunesquallor is the doctor’s spinster sister. Her name is German, originating as a short form of names beginning with Irm-, representing the Old German element ermen ‘whole’.

Keda. Keda is Titus’s wet-nurse, the widow of one of the ‘bright carvers’ who live in the shanty town beneath the walls of Gormenghast. The names seems to be pure invention on Peake’s part.

Barquentine is the elderly and and rather repulsive Master of Ritual. A barquentine is a small boat, deriving from bark, itself from the French barque and ultimately from Latin barca ‘small boat’.

Sepulchrave. The 76th Lord Groan, and father to Titus. He is a sad, lonely man, worn down by years of attending to the pointless ritual which accompanies his position as Lord Groan. The name is another of Peake’s inventions, based on English sepulchre ‘tomb’, emphasizing how completely Sepulchrave is trapped by stagnant tradition — a major theme of the trilogy.

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