Apologies in advance for the lateness in this post, caused by a sudden weekend-long internet outage. Thankfully, it’s back now and we can finish up with Week C.

I was inspired to cover today’s name for the simple reason that a lady appeared in this year’s Bake Off with the name. For those not in the know, The Great British Bake Off is now one of the most popular shows here in the UK; a noted mishap with a baked alaska caused a storm on twitter and ended up making front page news. Yes, we take this baking competition seriously.

Chetna was my favourite to win the series, but sadly left in the semi-finals this week, leaving Nancy, Richard and Luis left to battle it out in the final on Wednesday. Right now, I want Nancy the Maverick to win – but most agree we could be looking at another scandal if five-time star baker Richard doesn’t take the title.

The name Chetna is Indian in origin, and looks similar to the names Chetana and Chetan, who mean soul in Sanskrit. However, Chetna doesn’t seem to be an offshoot of Chetana, and whilst I’ve seen various meanings for Chetna bandied about, the most consistent one given is alert, realisation.

When it comes to popularity, Chetna has near to none – which I’ll admit surprised me, given we have many Indian communities living here in the UK. The name was given to 3 girls born in England&Wales in 1996, but since then doesn’t rank at all. It should be interesting to see the 2014 list next year to see whether the Bake Off has prodded Chetna into at least ranking. The name Chetana doesn’t rank, whilst Chetan was given to 7 boys in 2013.

With Chetna, you have an obscure Indian pick that is gorgeous and deserves more usage that she’s currently receiving. That might make her appeal to those looking for something unique, but now well known in the UK thanks to the Bake Off.

And Chetna, you rule.

The Bake Off 2014 competitors, Chetna is at the front in the pink jumper, via

The Bake Off 2014 competitors, Chetna is at the front in the pink jumper, via

Categories: The Offbeat Alphabet Series | Tags: , , | 2 Comments



Originally when I was drafting up a list of names to feature this week, I included a long-time personal favourite – Crimson – on the list. Somehow, over the many, many revisions Week C went through, we’ve switched to instead look at Cramesy.

Cramesy is an old term for Crimson which dropped off the radar in the early 19th century. Crimson has been around since the 15th century, and has seen various spellings over the centuries before settling on the one we know today, used to describe a shade of red.

The word comes from the Medieval Latin word cremesinus, which refers to the dye produced from the Kermes scale insects (the original source of the colour), itself coming from the Arabic word qermez, meaning red.

I’m interested to see what happens with Crimson, in terms of popularity, as in 2013 she recorded her first ranking in England&Wales of #5742 with 3 girls given the name.

One of the reasons that I chose to cover Cramesy instead is for the undefined gender usage, and following on from that, the similarity Cramesy has with longtime favourite James, a name that has been inside the Top 10 for the last two decades. Interestingly, he’s been hovering around the #10 mark recently, so in a year or two could potentially drop out of the Top 10. I think James is an example of a name overcoming a less than stellar meaning – he means supplanter – to be an extremely popular name. That said, most are probably unaware of said meaning.

To conclude, Cramesy is a word once forgotten that could see a revival as people look for something ‘like James, but not James‘.

Categories: The Offbeat Alphabet Series | Tags: , , | 1 Comment



We’re coming to the midpoint of Week C and we’re taking a trip into the world of Ancient Celtic names.

Cynbel is a new find for me, and rather reminds me of the musical instrument, cymbals – even more so if you consider that I’ve seen this name alternatively spelled Cynbal. He’s a Welsh male name by origins and means warrior chief.

When it comes to popularity, as with many names in this feature, the name has failed to rank at all in England&Wales since 1996. The only Cyn- names to rank are Cynan (#2954) and Cynthia (at the surprisingly low #3160).

Trying to come up with a popular sound-alike brethren proved tricky. Sybil is similar, but ranks at #2313. Cyril ranks even lower at #4685. There is Sydney, which ranks at ##378 for the girls and #233 for the boys (spelled Sidney).

One name I thought of though is Cymbeline, which I became interested in a few years ago. It’s the name of the eponymous character in the Shakespeare play. The name Cymbeline also doesn’t rank, and means hound of Belenus.

What’s interesting is that Cymbeline from the Shakespeare play was male, although most agree that these days that the name would be more suited to the female side of things. With Cynbel, I think it’s a little less clear cut.

It is worth noting that, -bel names are all the rage right now: Annabelle; Isabella; Isabelle; Isabel; Bella; Isobel are all within the Top 100, with Annabel; Arabella; and Mabel not far behind.

If you are considering Cynbel as a female name, the option of a respell as Cynbelle or Cynbella is a possibility – although not one I personally would consider (although that’s simply personal preference).

However, with the Cynbal spelling this issue is almost side-stepped, if you consider it to be one (and are considering this as a male name).

In the end, what you have with Cynbel is a long forgotten male name that could see an interest as a modern female name.

Categories: The Offbeat Alphabet Series | Tags: , | 1 Comment



This was the only name the made it from the original planned list to actually be including as part of the week. That’s impressive, despite a last minute panic about whether Christabel and Chesten were too similar to both warrant their own post.

The name Christabel is an interesting one because she sounds as if she’s a modern smoosh name, but she first appeared in Sir Eglamour d’Artois, a Medieval romance dating from the 1350s. However, Christabel became more commonplace on birth certificates by those wonderful people we know today as the Victorians, inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Christabel (first part published 1797).

The poem was published in two parts, and the story it tells is that of Christabel and her encounter with a stranger named Geraldine after she goes into the woods to pray by the large oak. Geraldine claims to have been abducted from her home by a group of men. Christabel pities the woman and things go on from there. The interesting thing to note is that the poem was never finished: Coleridge published two parts, and had plans for at least an additional three more.

Whilst not a modern smoosh, speculation is that she originally came about as a combination of Christ and Belle. It is also worth noting the Spanish name Cristóbal, which is the Spanish form of Christopher. The name Christopher comes from the Greek word chrio, meaning to anoint, whereas Belle is the French word for beautiful. I guess that means you could construe Christabel’s meaning as beautiful anointment.

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu would publish a novel entitled Carmilla almost a century later in 1872, which is said to be inspired by Christabel – complete with a fascinating C- name. In this case, Carmilla looks to be either an elaboration of Carmel or Camilla (or maybe even a smoosh of the two ! ). In the case of this novel, Carmilla is the vampire character and inspired by Geraldine – and the novel would likely prove inspiration for one of the defining works of the vampire genre, Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Perhaps one of the more noted bearers of times gone by is Dame Christabel Pankhurst (1880-1958), a suffragette. This lends the name a strong forebearer and may be reason enough to use Christabel. Ms Pankhurst has previously been mentioned in this blog before in a Sibset post.

The name also has had sporadic use by the Royals – with Princess Alexandra bearing Christabel as one of her 4 middle names. Princess Alexandra is a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II (their fathers are brothers) and when she was born, Princess Alexandra was sixth in line to the throne, but now lies all the way down at #46. I’ve read somewhere that her middle name Christabel was chosen because she was born on Christmas Day.

Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester almost ruled as Queen Elizabeth II’s regent had her father King George VI (his brother) died before she came of age. He married Lady Alice Christabel Montagu Douglas Scott in 1935. By happy coincidence, Princess Alice, as she came to be known, was also born on Christmas Day.

When it comes to usage, again, it’s a sporadic story, although in recent years there’s an emerging pattern of roughly 15-20 girls born in England&Wales each year given the name; her 2013 ranking was #1639.

It seems surprising maybe that Christabel not be rising in popularity, given the surge in popularity of likes of Arabella and Annabel. And I think that is the greatest shame of all, although that makes her all the more alluring for those looking for a fabulous literary name with next to no usage and almost guaranteed ‘recognisability’.

Categories: The Offbeat Alphabet Series | Tags: | 1 Comment



I’ll be honest, I had a hard time choosing names to feature this week: there were just so many great options ! I was swapping names in and out more times than you can imagine, but finally we’ve made it.

For day 1 of Week C, we’re looking to Cornwall for inspiration. The county lies at the south-western tip of England, and has the dubious honour of being the only English county that I’ve yet to visit. Strange really, since Cornwall has been a popular tourist destination since the times of the Victorians.

Cornwall is the home of the Cornish people, who are recognised as being distinctly different, culturally speaking, from the majority of the rest of England. It’s interesting, as alongside the whole Scottish independence furor, several did comment about the potential for an independent Cornwall. Indeed, some have tried for years for Cornwall to compete separately from England at the Commonwealth Games.

What this is a very long way of saying is that Cornish names are more influenced by Celtic roots than the Germanic influence felt elsewhere, which gives rise to a whole host of fascinating names.

Like Chesten. She is, for all intents and purposes, the Cornish form of Christine and – from what I can gather – is pronounced how you’d probably expect: CHEST-en.

This name doesn’t rank at all in the England&Wales data, which includes babes born in Cornwall. As an aside, I personally think it would be fascinating to see separate Cornish stats, if only to see how Cornish names fare. We know that 17 girls were named Elowen in 2013, but I can’t help but wonder about their distribution.

Christine as a name is interesting, as it was recently commented to me by a 20-something friend that Christine is ‘hopelessly unfashionable’. Don’t you just love tidbits from those who don’t obsess over name statistics? But she makes a good point, nonetheless, as Christine is more common amongst the grandparents of we hip 20 year olds than our parents. The name ranked at #3 in 1944 and 1954, #26 in 1964, #63 in 1964, #89 in 1984 and thus dropping out of the Top 100 some 20 years ago in 1994. The name now lies outside the Top 1000, so the unfashionable comment is not without it’s merit.

But that’s still at least 27 more uses in 2013 than Chesten received.

Looking at the Top 100 these days and there are plenty examples of names that a reinventions of popular names of bygone years. Think Maisie for Margaret (#1, 1924-1944); Molly for Mary (#1, 1904-1914); Jack for John (#1, 1914-1944).

So there’s precedence, especially in the case of Maisie, who started out life as a nickname for the Scottish form of Margaret: Mairead.

Of course, the problem I see is that Chesten isn’t feminine and frilly like many popular girl names these days, which could be somewhat of a problem.

Chester the walking chest, from Don't Starve

Chester the walking chest, from Don’t Starve

The name actually reminds me of Chester, a character from the Don’t Starve survival PC game. Once you pick up the Eye Bone, Chester appears and you can store items in him. His name is a pun on the word chest, obviously. Chester is also, of course, a city in the Cheshire region of England, close to the Welsh border.

To surmise, what you get with Chesten is a no-frills Celtic adaptation of a name that’s not like to rise in popularity any time soon.

Categories: The Offbeat Alphabet Series | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Caitlin Moran on How She Chose Her Name

Ebury | Caitlin Moran Jacket cover shoot. 22nd April 2012 T: +44 (0) 7500 829 003 E:

Caitlin Moran, via

A few weeks ago I talked about Caitlin Moran in a Sibset post, well we’re back today because I recently read an interview she did, wherein she discussed her own name and how she came to choose it, which I thought was interesting enough to share. She also talks about a familiar pitfall of reading a name before hearing it said aloud first – I had the exact same problem with Imogen many years ago !

You chose your own name, Caitlin, out of a book when you were 13 years old, and pronounced it in an unusual fashion—”Cat-lin.”

It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, and that includes trying to get a wasp stoned and playing chicken on the motorway. Because we didn’t go to school, I went to our local library every day, and after I’d been doing that for about six months I decided that I was going to read every book in the library, section by section. The first section I chose was the paranormal section, because when you’re a teenager, it seems like that’s where they’re hiding all the secrets. I read a book about numerology, where each letter is given a numerical value, and then you add things up to tell the future. I did numerology on my christened name, which was Catherine, and it said I would not be successful. So I spent about six months coming up with all these different names and working out what their value was in numerology until I came across Caitlin Moran, and it was like, “Yes, that one will be successful.” And I was like, “Great.”

But then, because I got the name out of a book, I didn’t know how you pronounced it. I’m literally the only person in the world who pronounces it “Cat-lin.” I feel so embarrassed—I’ve spent all my life trying not get special treatment, so the agony of having a name that everybody pronounces incorrectly and then feels bad about, and then I have to go, “I’m really sorry, that’s not even my name, but you pronounce it this way,” I just feel like it’s the most ridiculous problem that anyone’s ever given themselves. I am such a penis.

See the entire interview here:

Categories: Name Opinions, Name Pronunciation | Tags: | 1 Comment

Sibset of the Week: The Dahls

Roald Dahl, via

Roald Dahl, via

Some time in my primary school years, we went to watch a play adaptation of George’s Marvellous Medicine after reading it in class. I remember being enraptured by it and like many children before me, became a fan of author Roald Dahl. It makes sense, of course, for Roald Dahl to feature prominently in school libraries across Britain, given that he is considered by some to be one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century. It is, of course, by pure accident and happy fate that this is the third week in a row to feature a prominent wordsmith from Britain.

Dahl married American actress Patricia Neal in 1953, and in their 30 years of marriage welcomed 5 children:

Olivia Twenty

Chantal Sophia ‘Tessa’

Theo Matthew

Ophelia Magdalena

Lucy Neal

It’s a fairly interesting collection of names, part of me wonders the tale of how Tessa evolved as a nickname for Chantal. I also couldn’t help but note that for children born in the 1950s and 60s, the names could easily be transferred to a 2010s set of children. Theo has rocketed to #41 in the past 10 years, with Ophelia also rising to #306 in 2013. The name Olivia spent 3 years at #1 from 2008, and is currently at #2, whilst Lucy has been hanging in the Top 30 since 1996. The only name to buck this trend is Chantal, who experienced popularity in the 1990s, but fails to rank at all anymore.

This ahead of the curve naming was continued by Tessa Dahl, who named a daughter Clover in the mid-1980s, a name which has only consistently been ranking in England&Wales since 2004 (albeit only about 12 girls receive the name each year at the moment). Clover is sister the Sophie, Luke and Ned.

Sophie Dahl is these days a well known cookery writer who married jazz singer Jamie Cullum in 2010 and has two daughters: Lyra and Margot.

Categories: Sibset of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Don’t Starve

In a recent playthrough, I got bored and set an entire forest on fire.

In a recent playthrough, I got bored and set an entire forest on fire.

In yesterday’s Sibset post I made a brief mention of the game Don’t Starve, and it occurred to me not long after hitting publish that the names of the playable characters were worth a mention. I picked up a copy of Don’t Starve during it’s beta release on Steam (i.e. before it’s official release), and have been a big fan of the game ever since.

At it’s heart, it’s a survival game. You’re effectively plopped down in a world by the antagonist Maxwell and the aim is to survive for as long as possible. The three things you need to keep up is your characters health, hunger and sanity. Whilst you’re busy trying to collect fire wood, there are also many enemies out there attempting to kill you.

As for the playable characters, they all possess a W- name. You start out with Wilson and gradually unlock other characters as the game progresses.


A gentleman scientist and the first playable character. His special ability is that of growing a magnificent beard. No, really. The name Wilson means son of William and ranked at #692 in 2013.


The second playable character, who you can see me playing as above. Willow’s special ability is that of spontaneously (or purposefully) creating fire. Willow is a tree name, the name coming from Old English and means to twist, which itself came from Latin, meaning vine. She ranked at #54 in 2013.


The Wendy character is haunted by her dead sister Abigail, whom Wendy can summon as almost a sidekick when fighting mobs. I knew that I’d covered this name before, and was somewhat alarmed to discover that my 3 Long Forms of Wendy post is now 3 years old. Huh. Time flies.

The origins of the name Wendy are often given as being  penned by J.M.Barrie when he first wrote Peter Pan. It also has roots as a nickname of the Welsh name Gwendolen, which means fair, blessed or white, but it was when Barrie used the name that it really entered the public conscious. She ranked at #1774 in 2013.


The strongest character in the game, Wolfgang bears a Germanic name, meaning path of the wolf. Only 3 babies were given the name in 2013.


This character is effectively the hard setting for the game, with health, sanity and hunger all decaying much faster for him. The name Wes is the short form of Wesley, a name which means west meadow in Old English. Wes doesn’t rank, but Wesley does – at #655.


This character is an actress dressed up as a viking. She’s a tough cookie, and is spawned in the game with armour. Her name derives from Old High German, and means peaceful warrior. Predictably, the name doesn’t rank.

via the Don't Starve wikia

via the Don’t Starve wikia

via the Don't Starve wikia

via the Don’t Starve wikia


This character beings the game with Lucy the Axe in his inventory, and is a Canadian lumberjack. Woodie is either a nickname for Woodrow, or simply derived from the word wood. The name Woodie does not rank, but Woody does (no doubt with a little help from Toy Story) – at #464.


This character is a boy who was at some point eaten by a spider, but lives on. His name is therefore a reference to this somewhat bizarre relationship. The name Webber is a surname, and does not rank.


This witch character, like all those below, can only be modded in game. Her name is of Old English origin, meaning quaking aspen. I was rather surprised to discover that the name does not rank in England&Wales.


This name comes as a nickname of Winifred, and is notably the name of beloved bear-character Winnie the Pooh. She ranked at #925 in 2013.


This name started out as a Scottish and English surname, coming from Norman French origins and meaning Welsh/foreigner. The most famed bearer of the name is Sir William Wallace, a Scottish hero whom lead a rebellion against the English in the 13th century. Unsurprising, the name was only given to 4 boys born in England&Wales in 2013.


This name was also originally a surname of Old English origins, meaning town on the River Wylye. The name doesn’t rank.


Our last character bears another surname turned first name. This one is also of English origins, and comes from the Middle English nickname Wildbor, meaning wild boar; he ranked at #730.

Categories: Video Game Names | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sibset of the Week: The Burnses



A few weeks ago I spent some time in Ayrshire during the Commonwealth Games, and this week’s family hails from that very part of the world and seemed a fitting way to end the unofficial ‘Scottish Week’ we’ve had going on.

Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns is one of the most noted poets to hail from Scotland, and indeed is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland. As well as writing in English, he also wrote works in the Scots language, being one of the best known poets to do so. In 2009 he was chosen as the greatest Scot by the Scottish public in a vote run by Scottish television channel STV. His family therefore seemed an obvious choice to round off this week.

First, let’s take a look at Rabbie’s own family. He was the eldest son of William Burness and Agnes Brown:

Robert (1759-1796)

Gilbert (1760-1827)

Agnes (1762-1834)

Annabella (1764-1832) (I’ve also seen her name listed as Arabella, the Scottish form of Annabella)

William (1767-1790)

John (1769-1785)

Isabella (1771-1858)

All the names are pretty typical 18th century names, although the one that I took note of is Gilbert, since I’ve never covered the name on the blog. He’s a Germanic name that means bright pledge.

Then we have the children of Rabbie Burns who, unless noted, are also the child of Rabbie’s wife, Jean Armour.

Elizabeth ‘Bess’ (1785) by Elizabeth Paton

Robert (1786, twin of Jean)

Jean (1786, twin of Robert)

Unnamed twin daughter (1788)

Unnamed twin daughter (1788)

Robert (1788) by Janet Clow

Francis Wallace (1789)

William Nicol (1791)

Elizabeth ‘Betty’ (1791) by Ann Park

Elizabeth Riddell (1792)

James Glencairn (1794)

Maxwell (1796)

There are some pretty interesting middle names here: Nicol; Glencairn; and Riddell. I seem to recall reading somewhere that Nicol comes from a friend of Rabbie Burns’, so it could be logical to assume the same for the other two.

Maxwell is interesting to me, because he appears in several popular PC games: Scribblenauts as the primary playing character; Don’t Starve as the antagonist; and partially in the Max Payne games as the titular character. Maxwell also happens to be the codename of a Nvidia graphics processing unit (GPU).

Categories: Sibset of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Scottish Forms of Popular Names, Female



Like yesterday we’re looking at the Scottish forms of some popular names. Again, the ranks quoted come from the Scotland 2013 set of data.

ALICE – Aileas

ANNA – Annag, Nandag

BEATRICE – Beitris

CAITLIN (#72)- Caitriona, Catriona (#413)

CHRISTINA (#344) – Cairistìona, Kirstin

ELEANOR (#147) – Eilionoir, Eilidh (#23)

ELIZABETH (#93) – Ealasaid, Elspet, Elspeth (#413)

FRANCESCA (#183) – Frangag

ISABELLA (#40) – Iseabail, Ishbel, Beileag, Isobel (#147)

KIRSTY (#213) – Ciorstaidh

LILY (#11) – Lillias, Lileas

LUCY (#5) – Liùsaidh

MARGARET (#319) – Maisie (#47), Mairead, Maighread, Peigi

MARY (#254) – Màiri, Mhairi (#344)

Categories: Scottish Names | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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