Enchanted by Edith, Charmed by Alice

These two lovely old ladies have been giving me delightful shivers recently. I love their simplicity, and their understated nature.

Of course, the most notable Alice is the character from the enchanting children’s tale by Lewis Carroll. I think that the character adds a certain amount of youth to the name, since her best known wearer is a young girl. The best-known film adaptations of Alice in Wonderland are likely to be the Disney version, released in 1951, and the most recent one by Tim Burton, released 2010.

In 2009, Alice ranked #258 in the US Top 1000, her heyday was no doubt in the beginning of the 20th Century, she was #8 in 1906. Her popularity in the Victorian Era could also be attributed to it being borne by one of Queen Victoria’s many offspring.

Where does Alice come from? She originated from the Old French name Aalis, a short form of Adelais, itself a short form of the Germanic name Adalheidis. The name means of nobility, coming from the German adal, meaning noble, and heid, meaning type

A downside of Alice? I have a friend called Alice, who has been to Germany and France on exchange trips. Both times her correspondants called her a-lees, with an elongated end sound, rather than the shorter end sound of the pronunciation al-is. Something that irritated her no-end. She ended up refusing to answer when called with that pronunciation.

Edith is usually looked over more than Alice, still considered rather fuddy-duddy by most, including myself until around a fortnight ago. I challenged myself to find a fault with Edith, and I failed. Now she’s on the verge of being introduced to my top names list. I’m that enchanted by her.

And Edith’s origin? She comes from an Old English name, derived from the elements ead, meaning rich, blessed and gyð, meaning war. It is an old name, no doubt, being borne, for example by the daughter of King Edgar the Peaceful. The name remained common after the Norman conquest, despite all the odds as several other Anglo-Saxon favourites all but died out. It did eventually fall out of favour in the 16th Century, but came back to light in the 19th Century.

Edith’s track-record in the US Top 1000 is less impressive than Alice, since she’s never come close to breaking the Top 10 (Her highest ranking in the last 110 years was in 1908, at #28, interestingly around the same time Alice peaked), but the good news? Edith has never fallen out of the Top 1000, the closest she came is actually in our most recent list [2009], when she charted at an all-time low of #849. A decade ago, she was mid 500s; dropping 200 places in 10 years is a clear indication that Edith is no longer loved by the masses.

I suppose part of Alice’s success should be put down to the afformentioned work by Lewis Carroll, since Edith’s best known bearer (for myself anyway) is Edith Piaf, she of Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, fame. Admittedly, now may be a good opportunity to mention that the most famous song associated with the name Alice, is the New World (although more successfully released later by Smokie) song, Living Next Door To Alice, better known as Who The Fuck Is Alice?

Let’s end on two fun facts. Currently, there are 1967 people in the line of succession to the British throne and her realms, there are 8 Alices, but no Ediths. Even in high society, Alice is the preferred of the two.

The other fun fact is that Theodore Roosevelt knew both an Alice and an Edith. His first wife was called Alice. His second? Yes, you guessed it, she was called Edith.

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One thought on “Enchanted by Edith, Charmed by Alice

  1. Pingback: Names of the Week: Alice and Cooper « Mer de Noms

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