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Popularity of the Baby Name Edward


Posts that Mention the Name Edward

More on Maha & Najla

A few months ago, in the Visionary Baby Names for 2020 post, I mentioned the names Maha, Najla, and Butta-kuz. Each of these names refers to the eyes of a specific animal, yet most books and websites define them only in the extended sense: “beautiful eyes,” or “wide eyes.”

This is frustrating if you’re aiming to find more detailed definitions — something I learned while writing that post, and something memoirist Najla Said learned the day she met a woman named Maha.

In Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family (2013), Najla recounted that Maha (of Syrian descent) asked her what “Najla” meant. She replied:

“It means ‘big black eyes like a cow,'” I told her with the “I am so proud of my special name, isn’t it exotic and beautiful” smile I had now perfected.

Then Maha surprised Najla by claiming that her name meant the exact same thing.

Najla, somewhat upset by this, asked her mother about the unlikely coincidence. Her mother confirmed that “[the names] are similar. But they are different.”

So Najla — like the rest of us — turned to the internet. There, she found a site about Arabic baby names.

I looked up “Najla” and I looked up “Maha” and sure enough, I found them to mean essentially the same thing. But what is weirder is that […] there were also about twenty other names that mean “big black eyes like a…something” — “big black eyes like a cow,” “big black eyes like a donkey,” “big black eyes like a horse,” “big black eyes like a monkey”…

Finally she consulted her younger brother Wadie, who’d taken Arabic in college. He told her that “Maha” meant “‘big black eyes like an ibex…or rather, an oryx, I believe?”

…I’ve seen conflicting information about both Najla and Maja, so I can’t quite tell if either one refers specifically to a wild cow, or to an oryx, or to something else entirely.

I am very curious about those other animal eye-inspired Arabic names Najla mentioned, though. So far, I haven’t found any of them. If you know of one, please leave a comment!

P.S. Najla is the daughter of scholar Edward Said.

What Would You Name the Catfish-Riding Boy?

little boy, large catfish, old photo, texas, 1940s

This might be my favorite photo on the entire internet.

The shot, which depicts a playful little Texas boy pretending to ride a dead catfish on someone’s front porch, was taken by photographer Neal Douglass in April of 1941.

The Portal to Texas History calls it “Mrs. Bill Wright; Boy Riding Catfish.” So I’m guessing that “Mrs. Bill Wright” was the boy’s mother. But there’s no other identifying information, so I don’t know the boy’s name, nor do I have any way of tracking it down.

So let’s turn this into a name game!

First, let’s suppose our little catfish-rider was not named “Bill” (or “William,” or “Willie,” etc.) after his father. With that rule in place, here are the questions:

  • What do you think Mrs. Bill Wright named her son?
  • What would you have named him?

Just for reference, popular names for Texas newborns in the late ’30s included:

Albert
Arthur
Carl/Charles
Clarence
Daniel
David
Don/Donald
Edward/Eddie
Ernest
Frank
Fred
Gary
Gene/Eugene
George
Gerald
Harold
Henry
Jack
James
Jerry
Jesse
Jesus
Jimmie/Jimmy
Joe/Joseph
John/Johnny
Jose
Juan
Kenneth
Larry
Louis
Manuel
Melvin
Paul
Raymond
Richard
Robert/Bobby
Ronald
Roy
Thomas/Tommy
Walter

For extra credit, what do you think the boy named his catfish? And, what would you have named his catfish? ;)

(If you like this game, here’s a similar one from years ago: What Would You Name the Two Frenchmen?)

Baby Named “Nimrod Shackleton”

Years before the the ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Ernest Shackleton led the Nimrod Expedition to Antarctica. The party set sail from Lyttelton, New Zealand, on January 1, 1908.

A few months later, a New Zealand newspaper reported that a local baby had been given an expedition-inspired name:

What would the infants say if they felt the full weight of the names that are put upon them? Since Lieut. Shackleton left for the Antarctic with the Nimrod a baby — presumably a boy — at Lyttelton has been christened “Nimrod Shackleton.” Shall we hear of a dainty wee girl being dubbed Mollymawk, and will these islands be by-and-bye picturesque with Albatross Jones, King Edward VII Land Smith, Penguin Peterson, Antarctica Adams?

I can’t find any record of the baby, but I can tell you that a “mollymawk” is a type of albatross whose name comes from the Dutch word mallemok (from mal, “foolish,” and mok, “gull”).

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Name Spotting: Malancthon

sign, colorado, names
Sign inside Garden of the Gods

My dad came out to visit us in Colorado recently. He loves geology, so we made sure to take him to several different places with impressive rocks/terrain.

One place we visited was Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. In this park we spotted the above sign, which described how the park got its name back in the 1850s:

As they looked over this area of cathedral-like rock spires, one man, Malancthon Beach, commented that the spot would be a great place for a beer garden someday. His friend, a poetic young man named Rufous Cable, replied that it was a place “fit for the Gods.”

It’s a cool story, but, to me, that first name “Malancthon” is way more interesting than the origin of the park name. Where did it come from?

My best guess is that Malancthon is a tribute to 16th-century German theologian Philipp Melanchthon, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation. His surname at birth was Schwartzerd (“black earth” in German), but as a young man he Latinized his name to the classical equivalent Melanchthon (“black earth” in Greek).

Civilian Conservation Corps, new deal
CCC Company 1848

We also saw some names at Red Rocks, which is both a park and a famous amphitheater.

The amphitheater was constructed from 1936 to 1941 by men in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a work relief program that existed during the Great Depression. One display included a photo of 124 of the men in the local CCC. Here are their first names, sorted by frequency:

  • 5: Joe, Raymond
  • 4: Charles
  • 3: Arthur, Clarence, Edward
  • 2: Bill, Byron, Carl, David, Earnest, Edwin, Everett, Jack, James, Leo, Maurice, William
  • 1: Aaron, Albert, Aldine, Alfonso, Allen, Alva, Amos, Ancelmo, Arleigh, Aubrey, Audrey, Barnett, Blaine, Calvin, Celestino, Charley, Claud, Claude, Clayton, Cleston, Dale, Damas, Dan, Darold, Dick, Don, Donald, Ed, Elden, Elias, Elipio, Emerson, Emilio, Eric, Ernest, Eston, Fares, Frank, Fred, Glenn, Grant, Gust, Guy, Horace, Hubert, Irvin, Jake, Jasper, Jesse, Jim, John, Jose, Kenneth, Lawrence, Leland, Leonard, Lester, Louis, Lyman, Manual, Marvin, Max, Merce, Noah, Norman, Orval, Pasqual, Paul, Pete, Richard, Rowland, Rudolfo, Russel, Russell, Sandeford, Trenton, Willard

…What interesting names have you spotted while out and about recently?

Baby Named “Lloyd” for Steamship Company

In late 1964, a baby boy was born to Maria and Gottfried Spizenberger while they were aboard the ocean liner Berlin en route from Bremerhaven and New York.

The Berlin was owned by the North German shipping company Norddeutscher Lloyd, so the Spizenbergers named their new baby Lloyd, after the shipping company.

In fact, the surname Lloyd is used frequently in the names of shipping companies. Examples include Balkan Lloyd, Österreichischer Lloyd, Hapag-Lloyd (a descendant of Norddeutscher Lloyd), Lloyd Sabaudo, Asiatic Lloyd, and Atlantic Lloyd.

Why? It all goes back to coffee…kinda.

A man named Edward Lloyd founded a coffee house in London in the 1680s. Lloyd’s Coffee House was a meeting spot for London merchants and ship-owners, and soon became known as a place where ship-owners could obtain marine insurance. Many years later, this evolved into the famous insurance market Lloyd’s of London.

But going back to the marine insurance thing: “[F]or the past century or more, the name [Lloyd]…has been freely borrowed by maritime companies around the world in the belief that it added cachet.” And this is why the surname Lloyd — which is based on the Welsh word for “gray” — pops up so often in the names of shipping companies worldwide.

What are your thoughts on name Lloyd? Do you prefer it as a name for a baby, a coffee house, or a shipping company?

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