Wednesday, January 22, 2014

7 New Names for 2014

Girls

Blodwen - Welsh, from "blodau" meaning "flowers" and "gwen" meaning "white" or "fair" or "blessed".



Ceridwen - Welsh, might mean "crooked woman" as the root cyrrid or cwr may mean "crooked" or "bent" and ben or ven may mean "woman". The wen portion of the name might be related in some way to the use of wen at the end of a saint's name or it might be from 'gwen' meaning "fair". Ceridwen is a curious sorceress in Welsh myth.

Desdemona - the name of an Italian woman in one of Shakespeare's tragedies - she is murdered by her husband who believes she has been unfaithful to him. Though she denies the allegation her husband refuses to believe her because he is heavily influenced by Iago, who constructs the lie. Desdemona is the ultimate tragic heroine, the female completely innocent of wrongdoing who suffers a violent death as the result of the entrapments of love (very similar to Ophelia in this respect, though Ophelia's death is not purposeful and Desdemona's is very brutal as her husband beats her to death. It comes from Greek and means "ill-fated" or "unfortunate". At Shakespeare's time belief in the role of the stars in a person's life and fortune was common among the educated and not viewed with disdain as it is today. The play I did my Master's thesis on was La Estrella de Sevilla - "The Star of Seville" whose main character is named Estrella and so there is a double reference to the character and the star that rules her fate, as well as the other layers of meaning in the play I won't go into. I'm not sure if the Greek roots of the name Desdemona relate to the term we have in English "cursed" since being "cursed" suggests an act that takes place to cause only misfortune to rule one's life. However in my experience people often say "I'm cursed" without the idea that somewhere sometime someone cursed them, but rather, for those who do believe in it (versus those who use the term purely figuratively) the meaning is more that 'something' rules their life such that they always 'get the short end of the stick' so to speak.



Eurydice - Greek, this name is closer to its original form spelled Eurydike (and pronounced 'yur uh dy kee', however, it is also correct to spell it Eurydice and pronounce it 'ur uh dice ee'). In Italian it is "yur oh dee chay". I also love the Spanish pronunciation of "ay oo ree dee say". One of my favorite love stories - Orpheus goes to the Underworld to rescue his love Eurydice. He is a great musician and his music convinces the gods of the Underworld to release her to him and return to life. However because at the last moment Orpheus looks back she is lost to him and they are not reunited again until his death (one of the worst in mythology - ripped apart by the 'mad' female worshippers of Dionysius - known as Bacchus in Roman mythology). The story of Orpheus and Eurydice remind me of Lot and his wife fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah. They are told not to look back at the cities or they will perish and Lot's wife turns to look at the awful destruction she hears behind her and is turned to a pillar of salt. I also think of Jezebel who is ripped apart at her death (she participated in the worship of idols that required human sacrifice and is in general represented as a cruel and brutal woman in the Bible). There is also a part of the Bible where the prophet Elisha is pursued by children mocking him and he curses them and they are ripped apart by wild dogs. But Orpheus is one of the great images of ancient Greek culture and together with Eurydice one of the great tragic romances.




Boys

Fergus - English form of the Celtic name Fearghas, from "fear" meaning "man" and "gus" meaning "choice" or "vigor" or "strength". A famous Irish legendary hero was named Fergus, supposed to have been from the north of Ireland.

Gawain - I thought this name would be simple and easy to explain as Welsh and the older form of Gavin, meaning "white hawk".  Gavin is the later form of the Welsh name Gwalchgwn which means 'white hawk'. Beyond that is more complicated. Gawain is the English form of the name of one of the knights of the Round Table (and one of my personal favorites, after Lancelot). The Welsh 'gwalch' does mean hawk and the name of the mythological Welsh hero Gwalchmei is thought to mean 'hawk of May'  - May coming from the name of the month of May. There are other explanations for the origin of the name though. There is the the Common Brittonic name "Ualcos Magesos" meaning "hawk of the plain", the Brythonic "Wolcos Magesos" meaning "wolf of the plain" or "errant warrior of the plain", "Gwalt Avwyn" meaning "hair like reigns" or "bright hair", the Dutch "Walewein". There are variants of Gawain such as the Latin Walwen, Gualguanus, Walganus, and Waluanus or the French Gauvain. Gawain, though, remains my favorite.










Hiawatha - This name turned out to be a bit more complicated in origin than I expected. I knew it was the name of a Native American hero in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (The Song of Hiawatha) - a 19th century American. Apparently Longfellow used the name Hiawatha which was an Ojibwe name meaning "he who makes rivers" or "maker of rivers". There is some connection to a man various north-eastern tribes spoke of as a great leader, with the Iroquoian name "Hayowentha" or something along those lines, meaning "he who combs" according to some websites I visited. However, the important thing about the man of legend (haven't read the poem so I can't really comment on that) seems to be his wisdom and the way he modeled how to live or be. He was powerful in a magical sense as well, defeating serpents, riding in a 'magical' canoe. Though wouldn't the story tellers of 5 hundred years ago think that we ride in magical canoes as well? That our anti-venoms are magical potions? Doesn't an i-phone glow in the dark, emit sounds of all kinds, even carry the voices of the dead or pictures of people who have not yet lived (ultrasounds). I am beginning to doubt less and less the things that may have existed in the world I never saw. Someone who can figure out how to get a camel or a mule to move is pretty smart, actually, if you ask me. The wheel or fire seem simple by comparison. So who knows what things people once had or knew or did or hoped? Since we have obliterated so much of their world long ago, it is hard to say.




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