Posts Tagged With: Boniface

Papal Names

Pope Benedict XVI, from

Pope Benedict XVI, from

Yesterday the current Pope, Benedict XV, announced his resignation in a move that shocked many. Why so? Because he’s the first pope in about 600 years to make such a move: saying that he no longer has the ‘strength of mind and body’ needed to carry on his duties (he was the oldest man to become pope since Clement XII in the 18th century).

It’s fun to note that Benedict XVI is currently 85, being born in April 1927, whilst the Queen happens to be almost a year older than him, being born in the previous April.

But that’s an aside, because what I really want to talk about is papal names. You see, Benedict XVI wasn’t always called Benedict – indeed, he’s only gone by the name Benedict for just under 8 years, being previously known by the name Josef.

The reason? Upon accession to the papacy it has become a custom to take a papal name, with every pope since the 16th century doing so.

It hasn’t always been that way, though. Back in the early days of the Church, the bishops of Rome simply continued to use their birth names after their election. The custom of changing one’s name came circa 500 AD with the election of Pope John II, who was born with the name Mercurius. He deemed that being named after the Roman god Mercury would be a tad bit inappropriate, thus he took the name John as his papal name.

To this day, the last pope to use his birth name as pope was Marcellus II back in the 16th century.

What guides the choice of papal name is purely down to the new pope himself, and in times gone by popes have chosen names inspired by predecessors, mentors or even family members.

A notable example of this is John Paul II, who took the name of his two most immediate predecessors (John XXIII and Paul VI, respectively) as his papal name. His successor, John Paul II, chose his papal name for him, as he wished to continue the work of his predecessor who died only 33 days into his papacy.

John Paul I is also notable for being the first to be known by a double name, and he also has the distinction of being the first pope to use a ‘new’ name not previously used before since Pope Lando back in the 10th century.

So that’s the tale behind the papal names, but which names are most popularly used? It’s an interesting Top 10:

1. John

2. Gregory

3. Benedict

4. Clement

5. Innocent

6. Leo

7. Pius

8. Stephen

9. Boniface

10. Urban

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

Les Choristes

Snapshot from the film Les Choristes. Mathieu is conducting, with Pépinot sitting on the desk behind him, from

Les Choristes is a modern classic film from France, released in 2004, depicting the tale of a problem-child all-male boarding school. It’s an adaptation of the film A Cage of Nightingales (La Cage aux Rossignols) from 1945.

The basis of the story is that the widely successful orchestra conductor Pierre Morhange returns to France when his mother dies. With his old friend Pépinot, he reminiscences about his childhood inspirations through the pages of a diary kept by his old music teacher Clément Mathieu.  The film travels back to 1949, when a young Pierre is the badly behaved son of a single mother. He attends a boarding school Fond de L’Etang (roughly translates to rock bottom), which is for difficult boys. The new teacher, Mathieu, decides to assemble a choir, which leads to the discovery of Pierre’s musical talents and a transformation in the boys behaviours.

There are so many lovely names associated with this film, despite many of the characters only being known by their surnames. Starting off with the music teacher, his name was Clément Mathieu. Both names have been used as first names, and I do believe that both names are also relatively popular in France at the moment.

The name Clément comes from the Late Latin name Clemens, which meant merciful or gentle. As for Mathieu, he’s the French form of the name Matthew, a name that means gift of God.

Another name from the teaching staff was Rachin, the name of the strict headmaster. Strictly speaking, it’s his surname, but there are plenty of surnames used in the film which have potential: Boniface, Pépinot and Corbin. My favourite character was Pépinot – the t is silent – who was the youngest boy at the school. He would wait by the gates every Saturday for his father, but his father would never turn up. Near the end of the film Mathieu is fired and when he leaves Pépinot runs after him and asks to go with him. Eventually Mathieu relents, and the two board a bus together. The touching part? This all happened on a Saturday.

As for Pierre, his mother was called Violette. And she’s not the only Violette associated with the film, and actress named Violette played one of Rachin’s daughters. His second daughter was played by a Lena, and his wife was played by a Marielle.

Other names of actors from the film:


People from Armenia are known as Armens, thus some have suggested that this name means son of Armenia. Taking this further, the name Armenia has been theorised to have derived from the name Aram, which means excellence in it’s Armenian capacity. The exact origins of the name Armenia makes this only one of many theories, however.


I know of two brothers named Didier and Dieudonne. The name Didier is the French form of the name Desiderio, which means longing, desire.


This name derives from the Latin word faber, which means craftsman. It is worth noting that the name Brice is not related, it instead means speckled.


The real surname of the lad who played Pépinot, who was credited as Maxence Perrin. His father, Jacques Perrin, played the adult Pierre in the film. Maxence’s brothers are called Mathieu and Lancelot and Maxence’s cousin, Christophe, directed the film.


There is a Spanish name Téodule, which comes from the name Theodulus. It has the meaning of slave of God. Presumeably, therefore, Theodule is the French interpretation of the name.

Categories: French Names | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

10 Best Undiscovered Harry Potter Names


The names J.K.Rowling used for her main characters are nothing short of wonderful. It goes without saying that she’s the primary reason we’re all realising that the name Hermione rocks. But it’s not just the main characters who received names of interest, there are many other names given to minor characters which are of equal fascination.

A key qualifying factor for the lists was that the name wouldn’t be immediately associated with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as Hermione, Minerva and Neville are. Also, in the spirit of such names, all potential names had to be outside the Top 1000 in England&Wales.

The first five are female names:

1. Summerbee

This is a slighty cheeky state of affairs since Summerbee was the surname of a male character – but I reckon, as a name, Summerbee would work best for females. Whilst I’m usual slightly skeptical of smoosh names, I’ve seen a whole host of them of late which I couldn’t help but love. This one appeals to my inner child and that’s what got it the top spot.

The character was called Felix Summerbee, and he was the inventor of Cheering Charms. My child side is beside itself.

2. Magenta

I used to watch a show called Blue’s Clues as a child, and Blue the dog had a ‘friend’ called Magenta, also a dog. It was only later when I discovered Google did I realise that both dogs are female since I was under the impression that since Blue was, well, blue she was a boy dog and thus the pink dog, Magenta, was a girl dog. Fooled by colours, but that doesn’t stop me loving the name.

The character was called Magenta Comstock, and she was an experimental artist.

3. Indira

The names Indira and Zuleika are two of my favourites from the world of asian names. Zuleika is Persian, possibly meaning brilliant beauty; Indira is from Sanskrit and means beauty. Currently there’s a show on Disney Channel called How To Be Indie featuring a girl named Indira, but nicknamed Indie.

The character Indira Choudry was a Quidditch player for England, not India. She played in the beater position.

4. Musidora

We mentioned Musidora last week, but she’s such a lovely name I couldn’t not mention her in this list. If you missed that post, the name means gift of all muses. There was a French silent film actress who used the stage name Musidora, but was born Jeanne Roques.

The character Musidora Barkwith was a composer noted for her work, entitled Wizarding Suite.

5. Perenelle

If you knew her surname, you’d probably be able to guess she were a Harry Potter character. Perenelle is the wife of Nicolas Flamel, who featured prominently in the first book due to his creation of the Philosopher’s Stone.

As for the name of the character, there’s a similar French name, Pétronille; Eleanor of Aquitaine had a sister named Petronilla and there’s a French Saint named Pétronille. The name Perenelle could also reference the English word perenial, which basically mean continuing without interruption – certainly a strong case given that she and her husband were immortal before they destroyed the stone. In my research I’ve also seen the name given the meaning [little] rock.

And the second set of five are all male names:

1. Boniface

Cornelia Funke caused me to fall in love with the name Prosper after she gave it to one of her main characters in her book The Thief Lord. His little brother was called Boniface and was usually referred to as Bo. Interestingly, their Aunt Esther referred to their names as strange in the book when asked for them, calling her sister the same. The name Boniface comes from Latin and means good fate.

The character was called Brother Boniface and he was the maker of turnip wine.

2. Loxias

Sometime people refer to Robin Hood as Robin of Loxley, referencing his potential backstory as a noble. The names Loxley and Loxias are likely not to be related, but it’s always my first connection when I hear names such as Loxley or even Locklyn. In mythology the name Loxias was given to an epithet of Apollo. His name means the obscure.

The Loxias in the books was a former possessor of the Elder Wand.

 3. Emeric

I have a French friend called Aymeric, and right now the 15th person in line to the Belgian throne is Prince Aymeric, who was born in 2005. He has a twin brother called the rather more familiar name to us Nicolas. Aymeric is a form of the name Emeric, which in turn is the French form of Emmerich.

J.K used the name Emeric for two of her characters. The first was Emeric the Evil, who also possessed the Elder Wand at one point. The second was Emeric Switch who authored A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration.

4. Arkie

He rather reminds me of the nation’s sweetheart Alfie and friend Archie. I’ve seen a few sites list this as a female name since it did rank for female in the late 1800s in the US, but the character was male. Arkie Philpott was a wizard on the receiving end of a Probity Probe at Gringotts Bank, following a tightening of security after the return of Lord Voldemort.

5. Cyprian

There was a Bishop of Carthage named Cyprian. The name quite simply means from Cyprus and is still in use this day, just as we call people from London as Londoners and so forth.

The character was called Cyprian Youdle and he was a Quidditch referee noted for being killed during a match.

Categories: Harry Potter Names | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Straining Bookshelfs

The Thief Lord cover, from

One of the best places to root around for names inspirations is books. The fictional world is where anything goes really – I once read a book named Storm’s Child where the main characters were called Rail (male) and Moa (female). Whilst I never got into Garth Nix’s main successes, I did love his book Shade’s Children – where the main characters were called Drum (male), Gold-Eye (male), Ninde (female) and Ella. Eoin Colfer once wrote a book called Supernaturalist, with characters Cosmo, Stefan and Mona. I digress, I read too much as a mid-teen and now my bookshelfs strain under the weight of all the books I own.

Since both Abby and Elea have both covered names of fictional characters this week in their own ways, I’m instead going to bring you inspiration from the names of the author’s which I read back when every waking moment of my life curled up with a book, along with the name of one of my favourite titles by them and some names from said title:

Benjamin Zephaniah (Teacher DeadJackson)

Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah is his full name, and I’m in awe of the mix of styles he’s been bestowed. I’ve met two young Zeph’s recently – one was a Zephyr and twin of Asher, whilst the other was a Zephaniah.TV’s Julia Bradbury welcomed a son named Zephyr earlier on this year in August.

The name Benjamin is of Hebrew origins and means son of the south/right hand, whilst Zephaniah is also of Hebrew origins and means Yahweh has hidden. For the sake of completion, Zephyr means west wind, whilst Asher means happy or blessed.

And a quick breakdown of each name’s popularity in 2010 in England&Wales:

Benjamin Zephaniah Zephyr Asher
Rank 22 1407 3332 364
Births 3005 17 5 112

Blue Balliett (Chasing VermeerPetra and Calder)

Balliett purposefully chose unusually names, believing that’s exactly what would appeal to her readers. When I initially read Chasing Vermeer about 3 years ago I didn’t like the name Petra all that much, but she’s grown on me. She’s the female form of Peter, which means rock, although the character was named with reference to the ancient city of Petra and as part of family naming tradition.

Now, for some hard data from the 2010 data for England&Wales. Blue doesn’t rank for girls (the author is female), but does for the boys:

Blue Calder Petra
Rank 1801 n/a 1472
Births 12 n/a 20

Cornelia Funke (The Thief LordProsper, Boniface ‘Bo’, Scipio, Esther and Ida)

I adore the name Prosper, and it’s from this book that my love for him was first sparked. I acknowledge that Funke’s other work, the Inkheart trilogy, is better known, but this one has a special place in my heart.

As for the name of the author, first we must note that the author is German, and then note the name is the female form of the Latin name Cornelius. The name comes from the Latin element cornu, which means horn. 4 girls were named Cornelia in 2010 in England&Wales, putting it at #4688. On the flip side, 6 lads were named Cornelius last year, and thus at a ranking of #2941. And for the names of her characters I mentioned above? (The ranking for Bo is the male ranking)

Prosper Boniface Scipio
Rank n/a n/a n/a
Birth n/a n/a n/a
Esther Ida Bo
Rank 156 878 1483
Birth 334 40 16

Cressida Cowell (How To Speak DragoneseHiccup, Fishlegs and Camicazi)

I know that I’m probably too old for Cowell’s books these days, but I am still eagerly awaiting the next installment of the Hiccup franchise next month (the film adaption of the first book dissolved me into tears-the only film to ever do so). I love the name Cressida, and she’s the medieval form of another name I love: Chryseis and also means gold. In Greek legend, Chryseis was the daughter of Chryses, a priest of Apollo. Since Hiccup and friends don’t rank, but Cressida does at #4688, with 4 births – same as Cornelia.

Enid Blyton (The Mystery of the Burnt CottageFrederick ‘Fatty’, Margaret ‘Daisy’, Lawrence ‘Larry’, Philip ‘Pip’ and Elizabeth ‘Bets’)

Enid is almost synonymous nowadays with the author, and the name comes from Welsh and means either soul or life. As an author, she chose rather classic names, all of which are not as popular nowadays as they were back when the books were first published, the one mentioned above came out in 1943:

Enid Frederick Lawrence
Rank 2104 95 355
Births 12 688 117
Philip Margaret Elizabeth
Rank 296 505 49
Births 152 80 1356

Compare the rankings of 2010 with that of 1934 when  all six names were in the Top 100:

Enid Frederick Lawrence
1934 68 24 72
2010 2104 95 355
Philip Margaret Elizabeth
1934 56 1 14
2010 296 505 49

Malorie Blackman (Noughts & CrossesPersephone ‘Sephy, Jasmine and Meggie)

The Noughts&Crosses trilogy was the one which first introduced me to the name Persephone, although I wasn’t sure of the pronunciation until I watched the television show Firefly. My copy of the first book is also signed by the author, Malorie Blackman, which I won, rather than stood in a line for.

The name Malorie is a variant spelling of Mallory, a name that comes from Norman French and means unfortunate. Rather makes me think of the CBBC show Trapped, where the contestants are known as unfortunates. Persephone’s meaning is not established, although she has been linked to Greek words which means murder or to destroy, whilst Meggie is a short form of Margaret and Jasmine is a lovely botanical name. They rank, as such:

Malorie Mallory Persephone
Rank n/a 4688 3156
Births n/a 4 7
Jasmine Meggie
Rank 41 5707
Births 1466 3

Tamora Pierce (The Magic In The WeavingSandrilene ‘Sandry’, Trisana ‘Tris’, Daja, Briar (male) and Lark)

I actually took this book out of my local library by mistake more than anything, but found myself reading it anyway. Whilst a little difficult to follow to begin with, I loved it enough to read all it’s sequels. This is the first real occasion I came across the name Briar, since I was never really shown Sleeping Beauty as a child, and I actually like it. The character himself chose the name, wanting something botanical, yet masculine. I think he achieved that, since I’ve often misread the name as Bear.

As for the name of the author, Tamora, she’s a variant spelling of the name Tamara, which is a variant of the name Tamar, which means palm tree in Hebrew. Predictably, none of the names have really made an impact in the popularity data for England&Wales (the data for Briar is the female one, since there is no male ranking):

Tamora Tamara Sandry Lark
Rank n/a 458 n/a 5707
Births n/a 90 n/a 3
Trisana Daja Briar
Rank n/a n/a 5707
Births n/a n/a 3

Tom Becker (DarksideCarnegie, Vendetta and Marianne)

I listed him because of his surname, rather than his first name. Becket is a nouveau name getting some attention right now, and I think I like Becker a tad more. He’s a German surname and variant of another surname, Becke, which means baker. The Carnegie Award is given out annually to a single children’s book which has impressed, and named after Andrew Carnegie.

Out of all the names, only Marianne ranks in the England&Wales data – at #946 with 36 uses.

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