Names of the Week: Jasper and Opal

Front cover of a book from the Artemis Fowl series, from glogster.com

We’re going for a geological theme this week, in honour of the fact that by the time this post sees the light of day I’ll have probably grazed my knees on some Welsh rocks. Or maybe even consumed a stick o’ rock, should I spot a shop selling them. I do hope so, it’s been awhile since I’ve visited the dentist.

There are plenty of mineral/precious stones which have enjoyed success as names. Both Ruby and Amber are currently in the England&Wales Top 100, whilst Jade was once upon a time (she’s now at #303). Other names in the category include Sapphire, Amethyst, Emerald, Crystal, Garnet and Peridot, which have all had varying degrees of popularity.

So, to Jasper. He’s a variant of Casper, and he’s not the only one. Kasper Peter Schmeichel used to play as a goalie for Notts County, whilst Kacper was the 171st most popular name for lads born in England&Wales in 2010. Jasper sits a little higher at a respectable #152, which places him just below the falling Sean at #151. Another thing to consider is other names which begin Ja-:

  • Jacob, #12
  • Jake, #29
  • Jamie, #49
  • James, #10
  • Jayden, #26
  • Jack, #2

That’s not including other J- names, such as Jenson and John, which also make up the Top 100. Clearly, we love the letter J. So, for me, there’s no reason why Jasper can’t climb any higher if the popularity of his variants is anything to go by. Well, there is one thing. In 101 Dalmations, one of Cruella de Vil’s henchmen was called Jasper, and I can vividly remember this fact which does put some reasoning behind why he’s not Top 100 already.

Like Casper et al, the name means treasurer. It seems apt then that this was the name of one of the Three Wise Men whom crash the Nativity Scene each year with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The other two wise men were called Melchior and Balthasar, who’ve yet to see their names catch on as much as Casper and Jasper have, who’ve see use since around the middle ages.

The mineral by the name Jasper was known to be a relative popularity in the duration of the ancient world in whatever form. Traditionally speaking, he’s also one of the birthstones for March.

When it comes to Opal, we’re looking a little further east to India, since she has her roots in Sanskrit. Specifically, the Sanskrit word upala, which means jewel. Through the magic of language evolution, she evolved into the Latin opallus, from which we English derived the word opal.

Opals are particularly well-known for their variety of colours, set against a mainly white background and, like Jasper, have been used for jewellery for centuries. Something like 97% of the world’s supply of opals comes from Australia, so it makes sense that it’s their national stone.

Now, for a bad connection. I read the Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Cowlfer immediately after each one was published, which centre around boy-genius Artemis and his dealings with the magical creature-land below ground. The author himself describes the series as Die Hard with fairies.

Opal Koboi is a recurring character in the series, but is a pixie not a fairy. According to the book, before her second birthday she had dismantled her first harddrive, but rather than be a force for good, the author eloquently describes her as an insane, power-mad pixie. That means she’s actually one of the series main antagonists, rather than an ally to Artemis.

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Categories: Names of the Week | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Names of the Week: Jasper and Opal

  1. Emily

    I love both Jasper and Opal. 🙂

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  2. Jasper is Top 50 here, clearly we’re over the Dalmatians and into Twilight!

    Opal has never been a big success story, despite opals being so pretty and our national stone. Some day I will profile this name! 🙂

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  3. I love a lot of gemstone names, including Crystal, but every time I ask someone what they think of Crystal (or a Crystal variant) in the middle spot they immediately say “That’s a stripper name.” Oh, how it bugs me.

    Also wondering how Artemis started being used as a boy’s name? (Female goddess and all)

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    • It’s an interesting question. I’ve only ever come across three, the other two being Alex James’ son and the male cat from Sailor Moon. The Artemis Fowl books are crazily successful, which I reckon has had an effect on the popularity of the name. Apparently, the author originally planned on naming the character Archimedes, as he was worried that the reference to the historical figure would lead people to believe the book was about him. Artemis Fowl was a junior, and I’m sure he mentioned in one book that it was a family name. I’ve read somewhere that in days gone by Artemis was sometimes given to boys as a way to honour their fathers if they were great hunters. There is a legit male version of the name: Artemisios.

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