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.