While reading about the 1,500-metre run for yesterday’s post on Kipchoge Keino, I discovered an interesting name-related fact: In the summer of 1957, three Finnish runners named Olavi (pronounced OH-lah-vee) — all running the same 1,500m race in Turku — all broke the 1,500m world record.
The record had been 3 minutes and 40.6 seconds, set by a Hungarian runner (named István) in 1956.
The photo-finish winner of the Finnish race was Olavi Salsola, with a time of 3:40.2. In second was Olavi Salonen, who technically finished with the same time. In third was Olavi Vuorisalo, who (at 3:40.3) was just a tenth of a second behind the first two Olavis.
The new record didn’t last long, though, because the very next day a Czechoslovakian runner (named Stanislav) clocked in at 3:38.1.
The Finnish name Olavi, which popped up in the U.S. data a handful of times in the 1910s and 1920s, is a form of Olaf, which evolved from an Old Norse name comprised of the words anu, meaning “ancestor,” and leifr, meaning “descendant.”
Do you like the name Olavi? (Do you think it might be a good substitute for the trendy name Oliver?)
A few months ago, I got an email from a reader who’d spotted an obituary for a man named “King David.” Even more intriguing, King David’s father’s name was “King Solomon.” The reader wondered what other famous kings had inspired similar first/middle name combinations.
Historical records reveal that, long before the name King became trendy in the 2000s, hundreds (perhaps thousands?) of people in America were given the first name “King.”
While most that I saw had middle names that didn’t create a special pairing (e.g., King Clyde, King Terry), a good number did have middle names that — whether intentionally or not — turned the pairing into the name of some historical, biblical, or legendary king.
Here are some of the pairings I spotted, plus links to a few examples:
Last week we went on a road trip, mainly to Minnesota and Missouri. Here are some names I spotted while we were out and about:
Ole & Lena
At the Mall of America, I noticed a display of “Ole and Lena” branded items — joke books, mugs, jams, jellies, even fortune cookies. Apparently the characters Ole and Lena are well-known in the Upper Midwest, where there are a number of Scandinavian-Americans.
Ole is a short form of Olaf.
Lena is short form of Helena, Magdalena, and other names that end with -lena.
In Kansas City, we toured the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank.
We saw the huge cash vault, and the three robots that carry large containers of cash into and out of storage.
I noticed that robot #2 was named Dewey. That made me think of George Dewey, so I told my husband, “I bet all three names have some sort of military connection. Maybe they’re all named after naval commanders, or war heroes.”
And then we saw car #1, Huey. Then car #3, Louie.
He laughed at me.
Not war heroes. Just Disney. Figures.
Also at the money museum, we watched a short movie about how Kansas City fought to be chosen as one of the nation’s Federal Reserve cities back in early 1914.
The movie featured a lot of old black-and-white photographs, one of which was a building with “Uneeda Biscuit 5¢” painted on the side.
The male names below appeared in the Open Domesday database just once, except where noted. (For the record, I overlooked entries in which one person’s name was used to refer to another person, e.g., “Aelfric’s uncle.”)
The most-mentioned name within each letter group is in bold.
If you make it all the way to the bottom, your reward is a top ten list. :)
Which male were mentioned most often in the Domesday book? The #1 name was William, followed by Robert and Ralph:
1. William (166)
2. Robert (127)
3. Ralph (124)
4. Aelfric (88)
5. Alwin (76)
5. Hugh (76)
7. Roger (73)
8. Godwin (72)
9. Walter (64)
10. Godric (59)
Though the names in the book aren’t necessarily representative of name usage in England overall, it does make sense than William took the top spot. The Domesday Book was created a couple of decades after the Norman Invasion, at a time when the name William was very fashionable, thanks to William the Conqueror.
Wondering which baby names are illegal in Portugal? (Sure you are!) The Portuguese government maintains an 80-page list of baby names–a mix of the permitted and the forbidden. Here are some of the names (and weirdly specific name combinations) Portuguese parents are not allowed to give their babies: