Years ago, I mentioned that Malta was the only nation I knew of in which parents were not allowed to register baby names in the national language.
Why couldn’t they? Because Malta’s government IT systems could not handle Maltese font.
But “a collective overhaul across government IT systems [is now] being done to ensure Maltese orthography is accepted across the board,” and Malta will soon be allowing parents to officially bestow traditional Maltese names.
Maltese, a Semitic language that descended from Sicilian Arabic, has six letters that English doesn’t have. One of them, ie, is easy enough to replicate on a computer; the other five (below) are not.
Here’s how to pronounce them, roughly:
C-with-a-dot makes a ch-sound
G-with-a-dot makes a j-sound (without the dot, G makes a g-sound)
Gh-with-a-line is silent*
H-with-a-line makes an h-sound (without the line, H is silent*)
Z-with-a-dot makes a z-sound (without the dot, Z makes a ts-sound)
Without these letters, a large number of traditional Maltese names are unable to be rendered properly.
(I would love to list some of those names, but, ironically, I can’t — WordPress hasn’t played nicely with special characters ever since the introduction of the Gutenberg editor a few years back.)
Anyway…well done, Malta! I’m proud of you. :)
Mallette, Karla. European Modernity and the Arab Mediterranean. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.
*More on the silent letters: “Maltese orthography continues to reflect the presence of some letters that are no longer pronounced in order to indicate semantic provenance — a convenience that makes it possible, among other things, to look up words in the dictionary under the three-consonant root (as one does with Semitic languages).”
Update, 6/13: Here’s an image of a list of traditional Maltese names…
The list above includes Maltese names that are equivalent to: Angelo, Beatrice, Francis, Elizabeth, Jacob, James, George, Juliet, Justin, Joseph, John, Hilda, Lucia, Luigi, Theresa, and Vincent.
P.S. While gathering these names, I happened to find out that the surname Buttigieg — as in former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg — is Maltese and means “poulterer.” Specifically, it comes from a pair of Sicilian Arabic words meaning “father, master, owner” and “fowl.”
Gail Gail Kane was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1887. Her birth name was Abigail Kane. Gail Patrick was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1930s. She was born in Alabama in 1911. Her birth name was Margaret LaVelle Fitzpatrick. Gail was also a character name in multiple films, including Dangerous (1935) and Woman Doctor (1939).
Garda Garda Sloane was a character played by various actresses (Florence Rice, Rosalind Russell, Ann Sothern) in various late-1930s mystery movies (Fast Company, Fast and Loose, Fast and Furious) written by Harry Kurnitz.
Gerda Gerda Holmes was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Illinois in 1892. Gerda was also a character name in multiple films, including Three Sinners (1928) and Babies for Sale (1940).
Germaine Germaine De Neel was an actress who appeared in films in the 1930s. She was born in Canada in 1911. Germaine was also a character name in multiple films, including Evening Clothes (1927) and The Great Garrick (1937).
Gertrude Gertrude McCoy was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Georgia in 1890. Gertrude Robinson was an actress who appeared in films from the 1900s to the 1920s. She was born in New York in 1890. Gertrude was also a character name in multiple films, such as Coming-Out Party (1934).
Ginna Ginna was a character played by actress Eve Arden in the film My Reputation (1946).
Usage of the baby name Ginna (which debuted in the data in 1947).
Ginny Ginny Simms was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1950s. She was born in Texas in 1913. Her birth name was Virginia Ellen Simms. Ginny was also a character played by actress Luana Patten in the film Song of the South (1946).
Glad Glad was a character played by various actresses (such as Mary Pickford and Jacqueline Logan) in various movies called The Dawn of a Tomorrow, all based on the novella of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Glenda Glenda Farrell was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1970s. She was born in Oklahoma in 1901. Glenda was also a character name in multiple films, including TheWhite Parade (1934) and Down Argentine Way (1940).
Gypsy Gypsy Abbott was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Georgia in 1897. Gypsy Rose Lee was an actress who appeared in films in the 1930s to the 1960s. She was born in Washington in 1911. Her birth name was Rose Louise Hovick. Gypsy was also a character played by actress Evelyn Brent in the film Bowery Champs (1944).
Haidee Haidee Wright was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in England in 1867. Her birth name was Ada Wright. Haidee was also a character name in multiple films, including In theSultan’s Garden (short, 1911) and Monte Cristo (1922).
Hedda Hedda Hopper was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1960s. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1885. Her birth name was Elda Furry. Hedda Nova was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Russia in 1899. Hedda was also a character name in multiple films, including A Self-Made Lady (short, 1918) and Servants’ Entrance (1934).
Hedy Hedy Lamarr was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1950s. She was born in Austria-Hungary (now Austria) in 1914. Her birth name was Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler. Hedy was also a character played by actress Ruth Hussey in the film Bedside Manner (1945).
Hepsabiah Hepsabiah Hardlot was a character played by actress Zasu Pitts in the short film He Had ’em Buffaloed (1917).
Hepzibah Hepzibah Pyncheon was a character played by various actresses (such as Mary Fuller and Margaret Lindsay) in various movies called The House of the Seven Gables, all based on the novel of the same name by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Hermia Hermia was a character name in multiple films, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1909) and Wood Love (1925).
Hilda Hilda Vaughn was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was born in Maryland in 1898. Hilda was also a character name in multiple films, including A Girl of the People (short, 1914) and The Top of New York (1922).
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader looking for lists of old-fashioned double names. She was aiming for names like Thelma Dean, Eula Mae, and Gaynell — names that would have sounded trendy in the early 1900s. She also mentioned that she’d started a list of her own.
So I began scouring the interwebs. I tracked down lists of old-fashioned names, and lists of double names…but I couldn’t find a decent list of double names that were also old-fashioned.
I loved the idea of such a list, though, so I suggested that we work together to create one. She generously sent me the pairings she’d collected so far, and I used several different records databases to find many more.
I restricted my search to names given to girls born in the U.S. from 1890 to 1930. I also stuck to double names that I found written as single names, because it’s very likely that these pairings were used together in real life (i.e., that they were true double names and not merely first-middle pairings).
Pairings that seemed too timeless, like Maria Mae and Julia Rose, were omitted. I also took out many of the pairings that feature now-trendy names — think Ella, Emma, and Lucy — because they just don’t sound old-fashioned anymore (though they would have a few decades ago).
The result isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a decent sampling of real-life, old-fashioned double names. I’ve organized them by second name, and I also added links to popularity graphs for names that were in the SSA data during the correct time period (early 1900s).
In the girls’ top 10, Saga, Ella and Wilma replace Agnes, Molly and Linnea.
The names in the top 100 that rose the fastest were:
Lo, Saga, Hedvig, Julie, and Ronja for girls, and
Kian, Henry, Love, Algot and Sam for boys.
The names in the top 100 that fell the fastest were:
Hilda, Cornelia, Elvira, Felicia and Linn for girls, and
Linus, Elvin, Rasmus, Felix and Jack for boys.
The sudden rise of Saga (from 21st to 4th) could be due to the popular Scandinavian TV show “The Bridge,” which features a character named Saga. But, as Maybe it is Daijirō (aka Maks) notes, the show has been around since 2011. Saga’s usage stayed relatively flat until 2014.
Also in 2015, the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PVR) received 1,942 applications for adult name changes — a new national record. Znövit (Snow White), Lejontass (Lion paw) and Grön (green) were three of the new names requested last year. Sweden may be strict about names for babies, but name changes for adults are approved around 99% of the time.