Name Profile

Meno

Meno

I used to study Philosophy, and this little gem of a name is one I came across whilst engaging in such studies. I was reminded of it the other day whilst watching The Great British Bake Off, in which one contestant – Ruby – is studying for a philosophy degree.

Meno was a book written by Plato, and it’s topic of choice is what virtue is and whether it can be taught.

In the text a man named Meno is asked to define virtue, but he cannot define it without using the word virtue, and it is pointed out to him by Socrates that when he begin to list virtuous characteristics that they may simply just be by products of virtuousness thus not a definition of virtue.

Socrates then turns to Meno’s slave boy and shows that despite being unlearned, the boy knows about geometric principles. This is a demonstration of an idea of Socrates that certain knowledge is innate and one is able to ‘remember’ it when asked a series of questions.

But, back to the names, or name rather.

Meno would make a rather quirky, oft heard name – and what’s not to love about it’s oh-so-lovely -o ending? Or indeed that fascinating back story.

But here’s the biting point, should the name be male or female? The character Meno, from the book, is a male, thus one would assume it is a male name. Couple this with the fact that Meno is linked to the Ancient Greek name Menon, which is also, yes, you guessed it, a male name, this adds up to a hefty, logical reasoning that Meno is indeed a male name.

But it seems a plausible option as a female name, given it isn’t exactly an established name of either gender.

How do I pronounce Meno? Since the word menopause is of Greek origins (menis the Greek for month), logic would entail that Meno is pronounced like the beginning of the word, with a harsh first syllable: MEN-o, but I’m rather drawn to the softer pronunciation: min-no, or even, meh-no.

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Fanny

from hants.gov.uk

from hants.gov.uk

For the American readers, this name may initially seem a tad amusing, but for the British one, it’s borderline vulgar, but thousands of French girls to this day answer to the name Fanny.

As a young girl, and to this day my grandmother uses the phrase ‘ stop being such a Fanny Adams‘ when we (that is, her delightful grandchildren) are being particularly difficult, although the more common phrase you’ll hear people using is ‘Sweet Fanny Adams‘,  which means something completely different:  ‘nothing at all’.

I have a naturally curious mind, any yet it was only last year that it occurred to me to look up who exactly Fanny Adams was.

It’s not a pretty, bedtime-esque story, harking back to August 1867, when a girl named Fanny Adams was rather brutally murdered, causing a wave of horror in the small village of Alton, Hampshire not used to bearing witness to such crimes.

Fanny was with her younger sister Lizzie and friend Minnie at the time when they were approached by a man who offered three halfpence to Lizzie and Minnie to go spend, whilst he offered Fanny a halfpenny on the condition that she would accompany him down a road which lead to the nearby village of Shalden. The link to my Grandmother’s phrase is likely Fanny’s reaction to the offer of money: she took the halfpenny, but refused to accompany the man. However, he picked her up and carried her off anyways.

The second phrase comes courtesy of the rather dark sense of humour of British Sailors, who came to claim that the tinned mutton served to them onboard must surely be the remains of ‘Sweet Fanny Adams‘, a reference to her dismembered remains and this has since passed into common usage, with the meaning later changing to the one we know.

Which leads us ultimately to discussing the name Fanny itself, which as you may have guess from above did originally derive as a nickname from Frances.

Referencing back to the tale of Fanny Adams, one might dabble with the idea of the three girls being called Frances, Elizabeth and Wilhelmina, however, I’m hesitant to accept this given that both her tombstone and the record of her death both give her name as Fanny.

The name Frances comes from the Latin franciscus, which means frenchman. However, french name website gives the meaning of Fanny to be free. I have an inkling about where this interpretation could’ve derived from as you see, in 1999 the fine country of France decided to give up it’s old currency and take on the Euro.

It’s old currency was known as the French franc, and the origin of the name of the currency lies in the origin of the currency itself.

The first French franc came into play in 1360, and was used to pay the ransom of King John II of France which gained the king’s freedom. Since the coin showed the King atop a horse, the coin came to be named franc à cheval, which in French means free on horse. These days a Frenchman is more inclined to use the word libre to mean free.

Of course, that’s all just pure speculation.

Another reason that the the new currency came to be known as the franc comes from the Latin title of the King: Francorum Rex (King of the Francs).

Going back to Fanny, the name is of relative popularity in France as I’ve already mentioned above, and continues to be so despite the English connotations. It’s also worth noting that Fanny is popular as a stand alone name in France, rather than being popular as a nickname for Frances (which is nowhere near as popular).

The days if you’re looking for a nickname for little Frances, your best bet is probably popular Frankie, or even Frannie, as opposed to Fanny.

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Florence

Florence

This week, another celebrity welcomed a daughter named Florence – this time it was Mr. Jake Humphrey, who gave up his job as BBC’s F1 guy when his wife fell pregnant with their first child. Her full name is Florence Aurelia Alice, and you only need to take a quick glance at Jake’s twitter feed to see how smitten he is with his new bundle of joy.

The name Florence is experiencing somewhat of a boom at the moment here in England, which the tabloids are only too eager to attribute to one Miss. Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine fame. Their first album, Lungs, hit the shelves in 2009, the year that Florence climbed 14 places to #80, however it was the year before that Florence entered the Top 100 in England&Wales, suggesting the name was on the way up before Florence Welch truly arrived on the scene.

That doesn’t mean that she didn’t inspire any parents to use the name, as since 2009 the name Florence has only risen further up the charts. In 2011 – the most recent year we have data for – she rose a further 11 places to #43. It will be interesting to see where her meteoric rise will have her peak in the charts, although at the moment I’m not entirely convinced that she’ll go all the way to #1.

The name Florence originates from the Latin word florens, which means flourishing. The word florens itself comes from the word florere, which means to bloom, giving Florence a strained botanical link.

Variants include Florentia and Florentina, both used circa the Roman times, and there are plenty of saints to prove that point.

A small fact I appear to have neglected to mention is the simple fact that I often answer to a common nickname for Florence in my family household, as opposed to either Lucy or Lou, that nickname being Flossie. It”s never really been explained to me where the nickname came from, my father being just as delightfully random as me.

That said, the books surrounding the Bobbsey Twins are more than likely to be the source.

But whilst I’m particularly fond of the nickname Flossie, I’ve mostly found myself indifferent to Florence. True, she’s the name of what I’m told is a marvellous Italian city, and of course the world famous namesake of Florence Nightingale owes her name to the city.

No doubt many people regard Florence Nightingale as a fantastic lady, although my sister seriously contends that Mary Seacole did finer work. The Nightingale/Seacole debate is a curious one, with arguments including the fact that Seacole is promoted in favour of Nightingale as an attempt to promote multiculturalism, given that Seacole was a Jamaican lady. Personally, I don’t think that it can be ignored that Florence Nightingale was an amazing pioneer when it came to public health and nursing.

Still, that doesn’t seem to bother the 1400 or so parents who welcomed a daughter named Florence in 2011, nor parents of a Florence born in previous years.

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Benzene

Benzene is quite literally the dude of organic chemistry: a reaction would seem rather dull without a benzene ring thrown in for good measure. That’s my way of introducing a quirky, chemistry way of getting to the nickname Ben without having to use Benjamin (and the two are linked).

But what is a benzene ring I hear you cry. Well, they look like this:

My super dooper drawing of benzene

The one on the right is how benzene is usually notated for the sake of simplicity. It also happens to be known as the Kekulé structure, since it was suggested by August Kekulé all the way back in 1865 after he had a little nap by the fireside and dreamt of snakes which inspired the ring shape of the molecule (it had previously been somewhat of a conundrum as to how to arrange six carbons and six hydrogens without breaking any key chemistry rules, e.g. carbon usually forms four bonds at a time).

As you can see, Kekulé came up with a structure which consists of a ring of carbon atoms with alternating single and double bonds.

Whilst a benzene ring itself is not particularly reactive due in part to it’s ring nature, it forms a part of many chemical compounds, e.g. TNT (the explosive):

from about.com

Trinitrotoluene (TNT), from about.com

Exciting, huh? But where does the name Benzene actually come from?

It derives from gum benzoin, an aromatic resin from southeast Asia and known to European pharmacists and perfumers since around the 15th century. The benzoin part itself is a corruption of the Arabic expression, lubān jāwī, or frankincense of Java. You see, those crazy Catalan traders who bought this gum benzoin (curiously sometimes also known as gum benjamin) dropped the lu part and changed the a to an e giving you the word benjawi. The Italians decided this wasn’t enough, so further altered the word to benjuì, and in Latin it ultimately came to be known as benzoë, making it look like a rather perplexing Benjamin and Zoë smoosh name.

That’s not the end of the story though, because benzene wasn’t originally called benzene – it was called bicarburet of hydrogen. This name was dreamt up by Michael Faraday (he of Faraday constant fame) when he first isolated and identified benzene in 1825. In 1833 a chap by Eilhard Mitscherlich came along and distilled benzoic acid (which comes from gum benzoin) and lime together to get benzene and he decided to name the compound benzin, and this eventually morphed in to the word benzene we know today.

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Blossom & Bloom

Sakura

I mentioned the name Bloom briefly a post or two ago, and I remain fascinated by it – especially when I pair the name up with Blossom.

On the surface, Bloom and Blossom share many attributes:

  • Both are B Names
  • They start with the same three letters, Blo- …
  • …and end with the same two letters, -om
  • All the letters you find in Bloom are in Blossom
  • Both are nature names
  • As well as both being connected to nature, both are also specifically related to the floral world of names
  • As words, both could be used to refer to beauty

So basically, these names are best buds (holla unintended pun).

The thing is, there are are a plethora of inspirations you can find in the garden in the form of flower names: think Lily, Rose and Poppy, for example. Unlike these names, however, neither Bloom nor Blossom really refer to a specific flower, but that doesn’t stop them from being wonderful names.

Take Blossom, for example, which is defined in the Oxford dictionary thusly:

(noun)

  • flower or a mass of flowers, especially on a tree or bush:tiny white blossoms[mass noun]:the slopes were ablaze with almond blossom
  • [mass noun] the state or period of flowering:fruit trees in blossom

(verb)

  • (of a tree or bush) produce flowers or masses of flowers:a garden in which roses blossom(as adjective blossoming)blossoming magnolia
  • mature or develop in a promising or healthy way:their friendship blossomed into romance(as noun blossoming)the blossoming of experimental theatre

Whilst not refer to one specific flower, there are several flowers with the name blossom, including cherry blossom which is notable as it helps explain the illustration accompanying this post. There exists a wonderful Japanese name, Sakura, which means cherry blossom.

As well as cherry blossom, I’m keen to note the orange blossom as it’s currently one of my fragrances of choice when it comes to diffusers (the other two being lavender and blueberry).

But let us quickly backtrack to the Victorian era, and another wonderfully quirky invention of theirs: the Language of Flowers. It was, at it’s most basic, a created means of communication in which various flowers were assigned various meanings and thus could be used to send so-called coded messages.

There are some geographical differences, but here is what several different blossom flowers means in this quirky language:

  • Apple Blossom – preference, promise
  • Cherry Blossom – beauty, spirituality
  • Lemon Blossom – discretion
  • Orange Blossom – women’s worth, bridal festivities, fertility
  • Peach Blossom – I am your captive

For me, growing up in the 90s, I think of The Powerpuff Girls when I hear the name Blossom. For those not ‘versed in this children’s cartoon, the tale revolves around three sisters with superhero abilities – and their names were Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles.

Of the three names, only Blossom really seems a plausible option. Indeed, my own sister shared a school classroom with a girl named Blossom, born in the mid-90s.

These days, Blossom enjoys a reasonable standard of use: she ranked at #673 in 2011 in England&Wales, with 58 girls given the name. Just as many girls were given the name Elspeth, don’t cha’ know.

Then we have Bloom, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as thus:

noun

  •  flower, especially one cultivated for its beauty
  • [mass noun] the state or period of flowering
  • [mass noun] the state or period of greatest beauty, freshness, or vigour
  • [in singular] a youthful or healthy glow in a person’s complexion
  • [mass noun] a full, bright sound in a recording
  • a delicate powdery surface deposit on certain fresh fruits, leaves, or stems

verb

  • [no object] produce flowers; be in flower
  • come into or be in full beauty or health; flourish
  • (of fire, colour, or light) become radiant and glowing
The word has origins in Middle English, and can be related to a handful of Old Norse words:

  • blóm: flower, blossom
  • blómi: prosperity
  • blómar: flowers

When it comes to Bloom as a name, you’re more likely to meet a John Bloom than a Bloom Smith, if we’re honest (since Bloom does not rank in England&Wales). Of course, the most notable Bloom family is that of Orlando Bloom, with wife Miranda Kerr and son Flynn Christopher Bloom.

A problem with Bloom, at least in my part of the world, is the word blooming, an informal word usually used to express annoyance, or simply used for emphasis, comme:

  • that’s blooming good
  • he has such blooming cheek

You could easily swap blooming out for a favourite word of mine: ruddy.

At the end of the day, both names are a little out there for most – that much I’ll give you – but they make wonderful options for anyone looking for a quirky botanical pick.

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Sheldon&Leonard

from wikia.com

l-r: Penny, Leonard and Sheldon, from wikia.com

I’ve only recently started watching hit sitcom The Big Band Theory, and only really after a friend cornered me and had me watch an episode.

Two of the main characters of the show are best friends Sheldon and Leonard, who happen to live together. They are collectively named after a man named Sheldon Leonard: a man best known for his work in American film and tv.

The name Sheldon originates as a surname, and he comes from Old English meaning valley with steep sides. It also happens to be a pretty common place name. However, despite being a common place name in Britain, it’s not a common name in itself and especially not for babes born today as he ranked at #1600 in 2011, being only given to 14 boys.

Rather curiously, Nameberry also lists Sheldon as a female name.

As for Leonard, it may come across as a rather dowdy name, popularly used for the elder generation. Whether or not we’ll see a sudden resurgence in the name Leonard, following the rather remarkable success story of Stanley (#80 and rising in England&Wales in 2011), remains to be seen, but he is a fine name.

He currently ranks at #361, being outranked by Leonardo at #215.

As for the meaning of the name, he comes from Germanic origins and means brave lion.

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Chess

Chess

Let me get this out there right now: I don’t know how to play chess, and this little fact is somehow a source of endless amusement for a close friend of mine. My brother also used this fact to his advantage when he offered to ‘teach’ me the game, but simply took it as an easy win. That’s some brotherly love in action right there.

As you might be able to tell, my relationship with the game is not exactly a happy one, and we tend to simply ignore one another and this works quite well for both involved. Of course, things get more complicated when you consider the popularity of chess, and for some reason I only seem to run in circles where the norm is to know how to play chess.

However, on my facebook news feed thingie just the other day, a post popped up saying that a girl named Chess had commented on the photo of some person I befriended many years ago, despite not really knowing them.

I thought, hmm, chess – as a name? How intriguing, and promptly set about putting together this post. As you do.

My initial reaction was that Chess could simply be a nickname for Chelsea, and that much is true. It could alternatively be short for another name, but we’d be here forever speculating.

But the more I think about it the more I go:

yeah, Chess as a name is a brilliant idea.

And just think about it, the game of chess has this whole thing going about it being an intellectual game, and that works for it. Plus, many lovely people answer to both Jess and Tess – I even know a Vanessa who goes by Ness.

Then again, why would I name a child of mine after a game I can’t even play? Food for thought there, I guess.

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Molly

Molly

Without a doubt, one of my favourite words in the English lexicon is mollycoddled. So delightful bizarre a word, yet I adore it so.

The origins of the word doesn’t exactly give us a million reasons to love the name Molly: according to Oxford dictionaries the word originates in two parts from circa that 19th century:

  • the first, molly, has a dual meaning of girl/prostitute
  • the second, coddle, is older from maybe the 16th century, probably deriving as a dialect variant of the now-obsolete word caudle, a word based upon the Latin word caldum meaning hot drink.

The world mollycoddle itself means to treat someone in an overprotective way, for those confused, and indeed lends Molly well to the character of Mrs Weasley in the Harry Potter books. Whether or not J.K. is a fan of the word remains unclear, however.

It could just be that she picked a popular name, as the name Molly is a mainstay favourite in England&Wales, having consistently ranked within the Top 50 since 1996, although she sadly seems to be tailing off at the moment, having fallen from a peak of #15 in 2001 to #46 in 2011. There seems a very real chance she’ll eventually fall outside the Top 50 next year.

The name Molly still has one over the name she originates from, given that Mary is now sitting down at #250. That’s a long way from her glory days, although Mary was last in the #1 spot in 1914, which is nigh on a century ago now. Sound-alike Polly sits just behind at #274.

Molly to me is an unusual name in that she rocks the childish, girly name thing well, but also doubles up as an awesome-hugger mama name with ease.

That’s the Lou way of saying that Molly works well on all ages.

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Oksana

For some reason, today I feel compelled to talk about this delightful Ukrainian name.

As a small child, I watch many delightful pieces of television on the lap of my fathers, including such greats as Inspector Morse; as such lows as Xena: The Warrior Princess. Don’t get me wrong, the latter is a fun show, but it ain’t Shakespeare.

Either way, the point I’m trying to make is that the name Xena is possibly related to the name we’re focusing on today: Oksana.

The name Oksana is alternatively spelt as Oxana, and is the Ukrainian version of the name Xenia, which may seem a darn sight more familiar to you all than Oksana.

I actually know a lady with the name Oksana, and from her accent I’m pretty sure she’s from Eastern Europe, whether it be Ukraine or not is something I’ve yet to fully confirm.

The name Xenia comes from Greek origins, and is the name of a 5th century saint. The meaning of the name? Hospitality.

Strictly speaking, the meaning of the name extends beyond that, seemingly into a whole concept of hospitality, directed towards those considered guests.

It was considered to be of particular importance during the Ancient times, due to the belief that the gods walked among them [the Greeks], so if one were to be a poor host, they could very well be facing the wrath of a god disguised as a stranger.

I have also read somewhere that Zeus was sometimes referred to as Zeus Xenios, alluding to the fact that he also happened to be, amongst other things, the god of travellers.

It was, of course, equally important for guests to be courteous to their hosts.

Other variants of Xenia include Ksenia, Kseniya and Ksenija; Xena comes in to it through possibly being inspired by Xenia.

Now, the name Oksana did not rank in England&Wales last year, although Roksana DID at at staggeringly respectable #830. The people of Englnad&Wales also managed to produce 7 girls with the name Xena last year. Finally, both Xenia and Zenia ranked at #3549.

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Osborne

When I”m bored I doodle, as I’m sure most other people do. The above picture is my attempt at a giraffe from Wednesday morning. Now, to be fair I was aiming to make it a childish drawing and was actually interrupted before I could finish my handiwork (something about how I should doodle on my own paper, rather than on my friend’s ?!)

This was actually the third of a series of drawings (the previous two being a snail and a cat), and after my friend complained about how the name I gave to the snail (Sammy) was ‘too mainstream’, I gave the giraffe the first random-and-not-popular name that came to mind.

Which just so happened to be Osborne.

Whilst I’m not 100% on why Osborne just so happened to be at the forefront of my mind, I can say a little bit more about the name in question.

First off, this name also had two other relatively common variants: Osbourne and Osborn. All three versions ultimately come from the Old English name Osbeorn, which derives from two elements:

  • os, meaning god
  • beorn, meaning either man or bear

In terms of popularity as a first name, well, I can say for sure that 3 Osborns were born in 2002 and that’s the only name data we have for the name.

However, I do know for a fact that Osborne however whichaway you spell it is most certainly used as a middle name, since I now know at least two guys with Osborne as a middle.

Suffice to say, this is another one of those names which is proportionally used to a much greater extent in the middle name slot.

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