Names of the Week: Pip(s) and Pearl

Even at a young age, Elizabeth I wore pearls as a statement of her wealth, from englishhistory.net

There’s no getting around it, I adore short, quirky names, a category both of these fall quite nicely into. This week’s names are inspired by my next door neighbours – Peter and Margaret – who we’ve finally managed to get back on speaking terms with after they attacked our tree out front with a spade last summer. The damage was quite impressive for an 80 year old man.

Either war, this weeks male name is Pip(s). When I was a wee lass, I got into the Enid Blyton series, Five Find-Outers and Dogs, mostly because I didn’t want to read The Famous Five since everyone else was reading them, so they were never available at my local library. The five main children are referred to throughout the book as Larry, Daisy, Fatty, Bets and Pip. The first two are siblings, as are the latter two. Their full names are the rather more reserved Laurence, Margaret, Frederick, Elizabeth and Philip. It’s also worth noting that the policeman in the series was named Theophilus, and another one, PC Pippin, takes over for a short while when the former goes on holiday.

So, Pip is a short form of Philip, which was a name of the week a little while ago with Elizabeth when we had Trooping of the Colour here in England. But Pip could also be a short form of Piper, potentially putting Pip in the position of being for both males and females, as there were 3 male Pipers born in 2009.

In 2009, 6 little lads were named Pip in England&Wales, whilst 125 female Pippas were born; 58 female Pipers; 13 female Phillipas; 8 female Phillippas and 107 female Philippas. There were also 136 Philips; 52 Phillips; 11 Theophiluses; 5 Philippes; 4 Philipps; 3 Phils; 3 Philberts; 3 Philemons.

For those lost in the numbers, that works out at 311 girls potentially known as Pips, and 226 boys potentially known as Pips. So the boat currently tips in favour of the females right now, especially as we’re expecting a Pippa boom in the coming years thanks to Miss Middleton.

In the whole Sherlock Holmes cannon, there was a story entitled 5 Orange Pips, which was apparently Conan Doyle’s seventh favourite story out of the 56 stories he wrote concerning the famous sleuth. In the 2010 BBC version, set in the modern day, the 3rd episode of 3 is loosely based on the story, wherein a mobile phone receives messages with Greenwich Time Signal, which is sometimes referred to as the pips.

The main character in the novel, Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens features an orphan named Pip, and we also have Pippi Longstocking, a fictional character of Swedish origins and in the BBC series Come Outside, Auntie Mabel owned a dog named Pippin.

Then we have Pearl, who has more concrete usage as she ranks #379 with 111 births. Like Pips, I first came across the name Pearl in a book I read as a child. This time, it was by the wildly popular children’s author Jacqueline Wilson, and in her book, Dustbin Baby, the main character April was at one stage victimised by a girl named Pearl, whom I recall being described as having pearly teeth. I’ve only really just shaken off the association with this rather mean child and really started to appreciate the name more.

Maybe Jacqueline feels the same way, as in one of her more recent books, My Sister Jodie (2008), Jacqueline again uses the name, but this time as the narrator, 10 year-old Pearl, who goes to a new school with her elder sister Jodie, 14. At their old school, Jodie was popular and Pearl was bullied, their roles then reverse at the new school. At the end of the book, Jodie falls out of a tower, and Pearl’s parents welcome a third daughter, May.

Right now, Pearl ranks higher than Margaret, who means the same thing but sits about 100 places further down at #469 with 88 births.

Pearls themselves are regarded as gemstone, and are formed in the shells of some species of mollusks. But not the ones you eat. The name Pearl itself ultimately comes from the Late Latin word perla and there’s also the Old French word perle. The pearl is the birthstone for June.

Many years ago, before the time of pearl farming and plastic, pearls were considered a sign of wealth as they were rare and expensive. Most of the paintings of Elizabeth I show her in clothes stiched with pearls, and adorned with pearl jewellery.

Categories: Names of the Week | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Names of the Week: Pip(s) and Pearl

  1. Don’t forget Peregrin ‘Pippin’ Took from LOTR!

    I’m pretty certain that Pip as a short from for Philip owes its existence to Great Expectations, where Pip explains in the very first sentence that all he could make of either his first name or surname (Pirrip) as a baby was ‘Pip’ — and that’s how he came by the nickname.

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  2. There’s a Pip in the classic children’s book, “Seven Little Australians” by Ethel Turner, and his name is short for Philip too. He has a sister Margaret, but they didn’t call her Pearl, but Meg.

    Pip and Pearl are very cute; Pippin is nice because it’s the name of a an apple besides a hobbit.

    I can definitely foresee a boom in Pip-names for girls because of Pippa Middleton; this might put a dampener on them for boys.

    Over at Babynamelover’s blog, she posted a Christchurch birth notice, and in the week of the royal wedding, there were TWO baby girls called Pippa – one of them Pippa Kate!

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  3. Pingback: Names of the Week: Drummer and Piper « Mer de Noms

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