Floral Names



It’s the final day of our Flower-ish Week here at Mer de Noms, how’s it been for you so far ? Well, you’ve probably heard of all the names that have come before at least once, but today we’re throwing in a wildcard as a last huzzah. Everyone, say hello to Calytrix.

Now, strictly speaking, Calytrix is a genus of a group of plants, rather than the name of plant, but I couldn’t not cover this little gem. She also means we’re kind of ending the week as we started it off: with shrubbery. If you’ve learnt but one thing this week, I hope it’s that there’s some shrubbery out there with super awesome names.

The Calytrix group of shrubs are also more commonly known as starflowers, and they’re mostly found in Australia; that doesn’t mean, though, that the name Calytrix can’t find fans elsewhere in the world.

The calytrix tetragona shrub is more commonly known as fringe myrtle, with the fringed effect being a result of the tapering of the calyx into points behind each starry flower of the plant.

The name Calytrix derives from Greek origins, meaning calyx and hair, which fit the plant due to it’s long calyx tips.

You may not be surprised to hear that Calytrix lacks a ranking in England&Wales due to being used for less than 3 babes, but that doesn’t mean she sounds unfamiliar. If you like, you could consider her a smoosh of cute Callie and starlet Beatrix, who rank #397 and #272 in England&Wales (2012), respectively.

To conclude, Calytrix is very much the most of the beaten track name that I’ve covered this week – perhaps a choice only for the very brave. You can’t, however, deny just how pretty a name she’d make.

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Today we’re back on familiar ground for a few, and the blog, with a revisit to Clover. She’s a name I’ve loved since I was a little girl, mostly due to a children’s cartoon called Totally Spies that I watched more than a lot of, which featured a character with the name. As many will know, I recommended it to my parents as a name for my littlest sister, but they decided against using the name at pretty much the last moment.

A Clover is a wild flower which ultimately comes from the Old English word clafre. It’s strongly associated with luck, due to the four-leaf clover, but she’s not has so much luck in terms of popularity in England&Wales:

2005 2006 2007 2008
Rank #3970 #3116 #2895 #2022
Births 4 6 7 12
2009 2010 2011 2012
Rank #2148 #1993 #2150 #2215
Births 11 13 12 12
As you can see from the above table, Clover appears to be plateauing in terms of use, and thus it seems doubtful she’ll ever become wildly popular (unless, of course, along comes a prominent use of the name). She could continue to stall and remain forever in the bottom part of the list with only a handful of uses each year, equally I must concede that she might suddenly lurch her way to the Top 1000 in the coming years, surprising us all cynics. I still think it may be a bit too early to tell either way (even if 5 years of non-movement is a concern).
Those who hesitate with the almost non-existent usage of the name should consider her familiarity to the likes of Heather and Chloe, meaning she isn’t an entirely outlandish pick. But maybe some might think that regardless due to Clover being a popular brand of margarine in the UK, although that hasn’t affected Flora so much – another brand of margarine – which in 2012 ranked at #404 in England & Wales.
And if the margarine connection comes up, you could sniffily respond by informing the person that the little sister of Katy Carr from the What Katy Did series of books bears the name.
There’s also the option to use Clover as a nod to Irish heritage, with links to their patron saint – St Patrick, who linked the clover to the Holy Trinity – and one of their national symbols is the shamrock, aka a little clover.
So when it comes to Clover, she’s a fan favourite who appears to be failing to convert people liking the name into parents of girls with the name. It’s a shame really, but that gives the name the familiarity that many obscure names struggle with which can only be a plus.
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We head into Day 3 of Flower-ish Week with a name I’ve quietly liked since reading a book aged 7ish that featured a character by the name (although I’ll be darned if I can remember the name of the book, although I think it was by Jean Ure). The character was a bit of a free-spirit and I remember a key description of her being that she’d taken two different trousers and combined one leg from each.

Either way, today is the day of Peony, which the first actual flower name of the week. Peonies are native to Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America.

The flower is named for Paeon, a student of the Greek god of medicine and healing: Asclepius. According to legend, his teacher became jealous of pupil, whom had to be saved by Zeus from the wrath of his teacher by being turned into the peony flower.

Aside from Greek legend, peonies also feature heavily in Eastern culture. For example, it was a traditional floral symbol of China alongside the plum blossom, however the People’s Republic of China currently has no legally designated national flower, whilst the Republic of China (Taiwan) only designates the plum blossom. It is, however, the current state flower of Indiana.

In the Language of Flowers, the peony is associated with shame or bashfulness.

The name also reminds me of the primary school disco favourite The Music Man, wherein one section goes:

I am the music man, I come from far away

and I can play, (what can you play ?)

I play the piano,

pee-ah, pee-ah, pee-ah-no,

pee-ah-no, pee-ah-no,

pee-ah, pee-ah, pee-ah-no etc.

Which reminds me of Peony, because she’s pronounced ever so similarly to how I used to sing piano in the song: pee-ah-nee.

As far as popularity in England&Wales goes, Peony isn’t something to write home about: in 2012 she ranked #2521 with only 10 girls given the name. Compare that to the similar sounding Penny (also an intriguing nickname option), who ranks at #308, and Pia who had double the births at 20, with a ranking of #1525.

What does that mean ? Well, it makes Peony an obscure floral name (duh, that’s what we’re covering this week after all) with plenty of folklore to use as bedtime story fodder.

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Yesterday we kicked off Flower-ish Week here at Mer de Noms with some shrubbery, and today we’re onto a minty medicinal herb in the form of Betony.

The less-pretty official name for the plant is Stachys Officinalis, with it’s common name being Betony. Pliny the Elder, a Roman naturalist, gave the plant the names betonica and vettonica, the name deriving from the Vettones tribe of people (who lived in modern-day mid-western Spain), whom he believed to use betony as a herbal medicine.

In the Language of Flowers, Betony is associated with surprise.

In folklore, the first reference to Betony occurs in the work of a Roman physician by the name Antonius Musa, who claimed it was effective in use against sorcery; this led betony to be planted in graveyards to prevent ghosts. As well as protection from evil, some of the ailments betony has been used to combat include anxiety, bad dreams and headaches.

The main pitfall with this name is the potentially problematic pronunciation as it’s BET-nee, whereas many may assume it to be three-syllables.

Then there’s the likelihood of people mishearing you and thinking little Betony is actually a Bethany; especially when you consider that Betony has never been used more than 3 times in any year since 1996. Another similar name is Betty, who ranks at #458, which could make a sweet nickname for Betony.

So, when it comes to Betony, if you’re looking for an unused gem, that’s good news and Betony is certainly one to consider. If not, well, there’s always Bethany, which in 2012 ranked at #73 in England&Wales.

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I’m majorly crushing on the name Fearne at the moment, and I’m not exactly sure why. It was in the depths of my current crush that I decided to declare this week Flower Week on the blog as an excuse to cover the name – but then it occurred to me that fern is more of a shrub than a flower, so some quick thinking on my part has lead to this week being renamed Flower-ish Week (resisting the urge to name it for the Knights Who Say Ni) in which I’m aiming to cover five offbeat floral-esque names.

Today it’s Fearne, which isn’t so much unheard of in the UK, but I gather it is less heard of elsewhere.

But first, a word on the spelling as I’m sure most of you will be wondering why I’m using Fearne, when the plant name is more commonly spelled Fern.

It’s simple case of pointing the blame at popular BBC Radio 1 DJ Fearne Cotton, whom I grew up with on Saturday morning children’s TV. What I’ve rationalised that as is that, when it comes to Fearne, the spelling is unlikely to be nigh on an issue in my generation of parents (hello adulthood, if you could kindly hang in the waiting room, I’m not quite ready) who grew up with Fearne Cotton on Saturday morning TV.

But, if we’re fair, the spelling Fearne isn’t entirely wild, in fact, it’s more true to the Old English root of the name – fearn, which comes ultimately from the Greek word pteron, which means feather.

If the name Fearne Cotton sounds familiar to anyone who doesn’t listen to BBC Radio 1 (or, like me, grew up with her on the telly box), she might be on your radar as she named her son Rex Rayne last year.

Fearn is also the Irish name of the third letter in the Ogham alphabet. It’s an Early Medieval alphabet, used primarily to write the early Irish language. The alphabet is occasionally referred to as the Celtic Tree Alphabet as trees were assigned to individual letters; in the case of Fearn, this is the alder tree.

We also have the folklore side to Fearne, given that ferns appear in Slavic folklore where it is believed that they only bloom once a year, and so to see one is thought to bring happiness and riches for the rest of one’s life. It’s also held in Finnish tradition that if one were to find a seed of a fern in bloom on Midsummer night will, by possession of it, be guided to hidden treasure.

I’ve seen the name Fearne being accused as being a hipster name, and I’m uneasy with that kind of labelling, but then, I’m uneasy with the whole concept of you needing to be cool to use certain names. Although I concede that the sentence Oh, you’re mistaken, I’m named my daughter for the ancient letter not the plant almost tips it into snob territory; I doubt that sentence has ever been uttered, though.

That said, Fearne Cotton is one cool lady. Aside from herself and fellow presenter Fern Britton, the other best known Fern in my world (and probably the best known Fearne to the rest of the world) is like to be she from the children’s book Charlotte’s Web. It was written by E.B.White and first published in 1952, with the main human character going by the rather apt name of Fern Arable.

As far as rankings go in England & Wales, the name Fearne ranked at #600, Fern at #663 and Ferne at #2717, which actually makes the former the most popular current spelling of them name. Which is an interesting change in fortune, as Fern was for a long time the preferred spelling – ranking as high as #241 in 1998 – but has sadly faded in popularity since then whilst Fearne has climbed from not even ranking in 1998, which was the year Fearne Cotton first hit the world of children’s TV.

To conclude, the name Fearne is well suited to those looking for something short and sweet, and there’s the lovely option of Fifi as a childhood nickname should you be so inclined.

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