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).
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:
My name is Jennifer. My siblings: Heather, Michael, Lauren, Kimberly. None of them are stereotypical names you’d hear on the Top 60 Ghetto Black Names list. They are, however, found in the most popular names of the year list. I didn’t want my daughter’s name on either. My mother’s reasoning for her decision was different than mine. She would say “do you want to get a job?” Which sounds harsh but some research shows “black-sounding” names on resumes don’t do as well next to the same resume holding a “white-sounding” names.
If a name isn’t used much any more, no great calamity will result. Brangien and Althalos have been rarely used since the Middle Ages, but nobody has suffered as a result of Brangien deficiency, and no awful disaster has ensued from the loss of Althalos.
Furthermore, if we decided we’d like to see more of a particular name which has gone out of use, it costs no money or effort to bring it back. You simply slap the name onto your child’s birth certificate, and hey presto – you’ve got yourself a rare and beautiful specimen of an Althalos.
As long as we still know of a name’s existence from books and records, it is a potential baby name, no matter how many centuries or even millennia since it was last used.
There is hardly an account of Greenwich Village in the ’20s in which she does not prominently figure. Yet her roots in the neighborhood preceded even her fame. The poet’s unusual middle name came from St. Vincent’s Hospital on 12th St. Millay’s uncle was nursed back to health there after a sailing accident, and her mother wished to show her gratitude by naming her first-born child after the place.
This belief [in baby-name stealing] is ridiculous–after all, liking a name doesn’t give you ownership over it, and sharing a name with a friend or relative is, at worst, a mild nuisance. But the idea that names shouldn’t be stolen is not surprising. Over the past hundred years, naming has increasingly become an act of self-expression for parents, a way to assert their individuality rather than a sense of belonging in their community. With our names and selves so thoroughly intertwined, it stands to reason that parents would become increasingly protective of their children’s names.
As with so much of contemporary parenting, the drama surrounding name-stealing is ultimately more about the threat it poses to parent’s identities than their children’s. In practical terms, no child will be harmed by having the same name as a classmate or cousin. … Far more punishing than having the same name as another child is growing up in an environment where names are considered personal property and friendships end when someone “steals” one.
Naming your child was once simple: you picked from the same handful of options everyone else used. But modern parents want exclusivity. And so boys are called Rollo, Emilio, Rafferty and Grey. Their sisters answer to Aurelia, Bartolomea, Ptarmigan or Plum. Throw in a few middle names and the average birth certificate looks like an earthquake under a Scrabble board.
They’ve forgotten about ‘eccentric sheep’ syndrome.
This is the process, identified by social anthropologist Kate Fox in her book Watching the English, whereby something meant as ‘evidence of our eccentricity and originality’ ends up as ‘conformist, conservative rule-following’. Fox applied it to clothes, but the same thing is happening with names. In an attempt to make their children stand out, parents are only helping them to blend in. When everyone’s a Marni or an Autumn or a Sky, the rebellion has nothing to register against.
In England we find dogs that were named Sturdy, Whitefoot, Hardy, Jakke, Bo and Terri. Anne Boleyn, one of the wives of King Henry VIII, had a dog named Purkoy, who got its name from the French ‘pourquoi’ because it was very inquisitive.
Have you spotted any good name-related quotes/articles/blog posts lately? Let me know!