Friday, October 12, 2012

Name - Newton

Sir Isaac Newton

I thought I would post about the name Newton today. My nephew Isaac, who is almost 6 months old, has a very serious demeanor for his young age, and a rather intellectual look. Which made me think of Sir Isaac Newton. And the idea of using the name Newton for a first name. Because though Isaac may sound like an intelligent person, Newton sounds like a brainy one. Isaac seems like the name of someone who may be intelligent but is not solely defined by that whereas Newton seems like a name for someone wholly immersed in an intellectual world, where ideas are reality.

Newton's origin is simple. It's an English surname which comes from a place name meaning "new town". A possible nickname is Newt.

Now, Newt conveys something rather different from Newton. Newt makes me think of a little creature. Newts are small aquatic creatures, amphibians. A type of salamander. They are found in Europe, Asia, and North America. They metamorphose through 3 stages: aquatic larva, terrestrial juvenile (they are called an 'eft' at this stage), and adult. Adults look like a lizard, as you can see below. They can dwell in the water all the time or dwell on land and only return to the water to breed. The North American variety typically is water-dwelling while the European newt is land-dwelling. A very cool thing about newts is that they are able to regenerate limbs (which reminds me of the book The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L'Engle) as well as eyes, spinal cords, heart, intestines, and jaws. An interesting theory is that this regeneration can take place because the cells that do this are similar to tumor cells. Many adult newts produce a toxin in their skin, some strong enough to kill an adult human (if ingested, or if it comes into contact with mucous membranes or breaks in the skin. otherwise they can safely be your pet. be sure to wash your hands though, not only because of the toxins in their skin but the bacteria they carry, including salmonella). The coolest name for a type of newt I came across was crocodile newt and also the warty newt. Both are found in Asia.

I thought this was interesting. Even though Newt is a nickname for Newton, which means "new town", newt as a name for the salamander has a different origin. Remember that the juvenile newt is called an eft? Well, that's the original name of the newt, it changed along the way to euft, then to ewt. In English we use an instead of a before nouns beginning with a vowel, so an ewt = a newt.

And thinking of a little salamander creature called a newt made me think of witch's spells where they mix all sorts of creepy ingredients in their special brew in a big black cauldron, like 'eye of newt'. Apparently this comes from Shakespeare's play Macbeth, where the three Weird Sisters, 3 witches, mix a brew, and chant the following:

"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."

Now, my instinct was to think that eye of newt was included because a newt has poisonous toxins in its skin, but remember, that's not the European varieties (though they would have other bacteria, and salmonella is quite deadly). However, eye of newt is apparently supposed to be a type of herb or plant, possibly the wild mustard seed.

It's also a little hard not to think of Newt, the little girl in Aliens found moving about rather quickly, like a tiny salamander, through the watery parts of the mining settlement. Ahem. If you haven't seen Aliens that thing behind Newt is the alien, not part of the little girl.

I'm not sure I can 100% recommend Newton as a name, but I don't discourage it either. Although it might be a name to be teased about, with it's nerd connection to the physicist and the American politician Newt Gingrich, it also has a cool factor, since it is a surname and that is a rather popular trend. It fits in with Colton or Easton or Ashton. And of those four names, Newton has more substance, I think, and a very cool nickname.

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