Saturday, October 21, 2006

Olive and Olivia

Meaning is obvious - olive, from Latin oliva. Since Greek times the olive branch has been the symbol of peace, so it could also be taken to mean peace - though it does not directly.
In terms of connection there is Olive Oyl (and olive oil) - the girlfriend of Popeye - probably what has condemned Olive and allowed Olivia to flourish.

The olive plant (as shown to the right) is grown in Eastern Mediterranean. The fruit of the plant is initially inedible and must be treated before eaten. This involves being soaked in a solution of NaOH and thoroughly washed with water to remove oleuropein - a naturally bitter carbohydrate. Green olives are unripe olives that have been processed and allowed to ferment. Black olives are ripe and unfermented thus tasting milder. Olives have also been used since ancient times for making Olive oil.

This is a Latinate name, first used by Shakespeare for the rich female heiress in Twelfth Night - wooed by Orsino, falls in love with Cesario (aka Viola as a man) and finally marries Sebastian, twin of Viola. This romantic connection (much more romantic than being the girlfriend of a spinach-muncher), the fact that it's a female form of Oliver and shares the same nicknames (Ollie, Livvy) means that it's popular in mainly English speaking countries - UK, USA, Australia, NZ and (interestingly, seeing as I don't know much about their naming trends) Finland.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Phoebe, Cynthia, Artemis, Diana and Selene

Seeing as I don't want this blog to be all about alternatives (it is interesting and useful to do them, I just don't want an overload).

So I'm going on Moon names or various names that have been attributed to the Greek goddess Artemis. A couple of years ago, the name Artemisia was among my favourite names. She was an architect - builder of one of the 7 wonders of the world, and named after the goddess of virginity and the hunt. Pure determination.

But if you really delve into Artemis it's either a safe name (artemes) or a butcher of a name (artemos), this is one of the problems I have with it - it does not mean beautiful one, or eagle or brave. It's meaning is debatable, and neither are stunning.

Want a twin set? Artemis and Apollo. Except that that would be horrendous. Together, they're names for twin cats or hamsters. I wouldn't advise Apollo on it's own - seems very he-man to me, like calling your child Hercules, Zeus or Achilles.

I suppose to finish off with Artemis - there is Artemis Fowl - a series of books by Eoin Colfer. Artemis is a boy. There is also in Bible a man named Artemas.

So if Artemis is not an option, what about the other names that derive from it:
Phoebe, Cynthia, Diana and Selene - I would say that they are all more popular than Artemis, more acceptable.

I'll start with Phoebe, certainly a name I've been hearing a lot recently. In the non-mythological, non-naming world Phoebe is famous for being the quirky 'Friend' and a witch in 'Charmed'. For English fans there's also a character on 'The Archers' named Phoebe.

Phoebe is sweet, and quite pretty - unusual sound that will stand out from the Emmas and the Amys. In the UK it's also borderline common (#35 to be exact), meaning that a Phoebe is unlikely to go through life without meeting another. It's a bright, pure name (phoibos), so unlike Artemis has a decent meaning.

Problem with it? Spelling - for the dyslexic (and non-dyslexic) Phoebe can be Phebe, Feebe, Phoeby, Pheobe, Phobe...

So lets get onto Cynthia - another name for Artemis due to her birthplace on Mt Cynthos. I tend to associate this name with older woman (all the Cynthias I know are older), but I still like it. It's a sensible name - not too frilly but not too bland. This is a name that has had a curve in popularity (in the US where I can get stats), In 1906 it was in the late 300s, 1957 it was #7 and last year it was #221. Cynthia has the thrilling meaning of 'woman from Cynthos' (reminiscent of Lydia - explored earlier, and Sabina - which will be in an upcoming thread)., not for me.

Diana - I have a personal reason for using this (or not using it as the case may be). Meaning is good - heavenly or divine. She was the Roman equivalent of Artemis - goddess of the moon, hunt, forests, childbirth...It's a name that has dipped in and out of the US top 100, it's rise hasn't been as extreme as it's spawn Diane.

Why not? Diana, Princess of Wales is just too big a block for me. I would use this name to honour someone else, but it may end up like I'm honouring her. I think I'll stick with Dinah - spunky and Biblical.

So finally we get onto Selene. It may have been irrevocably damaged by Celine Dion's 'My Heart will go on' hit. Except that apart from sound Selene and Celine are not closely related. Celine comes from Celio from Caelius meaning Heaven , Selene means moon. It's a fine name, another curve in popularity.

If I had to choose I'd go with Phoebe. It's spunky, a little different but still within the comfort zone.