In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, during the Dutch Revolt against the Spanish Hapsburgs, several Dutch port towns were handed over to England temporarily so they could be better defended against Spain.
One of these towns was Brielle, which was called Brill by the English. The name can be traced back to the Celtic word brogilo, meaning “marshland.”
Englishman Edward Conway was the governor of Brill for twenty years (1596–1616). In 1598, he and his wife Dorothy had a baby girl. They named her Brilliana after the town.
She went on to marry Robert Harley and have seven children: Edward, Robert, Thomas, Brilliana, Dorothy, Margaret, and Elizabeth. She’s remembered today because of her prolific letter-writing. In the letters, she addressed her own daughter Brilliana by the short form, “Brill.”
Several of her descendants and her siblings’ descendants, including Ethel Brilliana Tweedie (1862–1940), also got the name.
In early 1898, the St. Landry Clarion (and other newspapers) ran the following story about a baby boy who has named after the train on which he was born:
When the St. Paul train No. 4, the through Omaha and Chicago express, rolled into the Union depot at Chicago the other day it brought one passenger who had neither ticket nor pass and who had not boarded the train at any station. The extra passenger was a baby boy, the child of Mr. and Mrs. George Morrow, born on the train near Elgin. The young couple came from Nora Springs, Ia., and were on their way to visit relatives in Chicago. They were passengers in the day coach, but the young woman was given the drawing room in the sleeper and a doctor telegraphed ahead for. He got on at Kirkland and came on to Chicago with the young mother. When the station was reached the coach was switched in a side track and later mother and boy were taken to the home of friends. The child has been named St. Paul.
Do you like that they went with “St. Paul,” or do you think they should have gone with “Paul” by itself?
Where did Bombay-born English writer Joseph Rudyard Kipling, most famous for The Jungle Book, get his memorable middle name?
His parents, John and Alice, got engaged in the summer of 1863 on the shores of Rudyard Lake in Rudyard, Staffordshire, England. Wedding planning finally started in late 1864, after John secured a job in India. The pair married in March of 1865, set off for India a month later, and welcomed Joseph Rudyard, nicknamed “Rud,” at the end of December.
Rudyard Lake had been created in 1799 by damming a brook. It was named for the surrounding settlement of Rudyard, which had existed since at least the early 11th century, when it was called Rudegeard (derived from a pair of Old English words meaning “shrub rue” and “enclosure”).
According to the SSA data, dozens of U.S. baby boys were named Rudyard during the 20th century. Do you like the name Rudyard? Would you consider giving it to a modern baby boy?
Roald Amundsen was the first explorer to verifiably reach the North Pole (in 1926, with the help of a dirigible). But he wasn’t the first explorer to claim to have reached the North Pole.
One of those early claimants was Robert Peary, who said he reached the Pole in 1909. While no one knows for sure if this is true, other facts about Peary’s travels are not in question.
For instance, there’s the fact that he brought his pregnant wife Josephine to northern Greenland in 1893 so that she could give birth to their first child in the Arctic. The baby girl, who arrived in September, was the first Caucasian baby to be born at that altitude.
The baby’s name? Marie Ahnighito. She was often called the “snow baby” by the media.
This costume was made by a woman named AH-NI-GHI-TO; so, when the baby was christened, she too was called AH-NI-GHI-TO. She was also named Marie for her only aunt, who was waiting in the far-off home land to greet her little niece.
(I wish she’d included a translation/interpretation of Ahnighito, but alas she did not.)
Marie Ahnighito was probably the first non-Inuit baby to get that particular Inuit name, but she wasn’t the last. So far I’ve found four U.S. babies (two male, two female) named Ahnighito. Two were born in the late 1930s, not long after Marie’s book “The Snowbaby’s Own Story” (1934) was published, and the other two were born in the late 1950s. (One was Ahnighito Eugene Riddick.)
…Oh, and I know of one more thing named after Marie Ahnighito: A meteorite. Or at least a big chunk of one.
About 10,000 years ago, a meteorite entered the atmosphere, broke up, and landed in pieces close to Cape York, Greenland. For centuries the Inuit of the region used iron from the fragments to make tools and harpoons.
Peary discovered these meteorite fragments around 1894. A few years later, he sold the three largest pieces — called “Tent,” “Woman” and “Dog” by the Inuit — to the American Museum of Natural History for $40,000. (Essentially, he profited from stealing/selling the Inuit’s only source of metal.) At some point Peary renamed the largest fragment “Ahnighito” in honor of his daughter, and today all three pieces — Ahnighito, Woman and Dog — remain on display in New York City.
Well, it’s similar to the story behind the name Posthumous.
Fathergone Dinely was born in late 1638, just after the death of his father, William (a barber-surgeon). On the 1638 baptismal list, Fathergone is described as, “son of William Dynely our gone brother”:
After Fathergone himself was gone, the story of his name took on a life of its own. (The same thing happened to Ono Titchiner.)
The earliest account I found was in a 1869 speech by Oliver Wendell Holmes:
A little incident throws a glimmer from the dark lantern of memory upon William Dinely, one of these practitioners with the razor and lancet. He was lost between Boston and Roxbury in a violent tempest of wind and snow; ten days afterwards a son was born to his widow, and with a touch of homely sentiment, I had almost said poetry, they called the little creature “Fathergone” Dinely.
Here’s another account, from a 1885 book by the American Antiquarian Society:
William Dinely is perhaps remembered by most people rather through his son, Fathergone Dinely, than in his own personality. He was a barber-surgeon, and combined with this vocation the art of drawing teeth, as was then customary. He was a favorer of the heretical doctrines advanced by Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, and on account of his peculiar calling had a very great opportunity to instill these doctrines into the minds of his patients. But being sent for on a winter’s night by one of Roxbury (and may be read in Johnson’s Wonder-Working Providence, Book II. chap. xv.) to draw a tooth, he went forth with the maid who had summoned him, and there being a violent snow-storm, they both lost their way on going over the Neck, and died in the snow. His son, born shortly after this event, was baptized with the name of Fathergone.
I won’t list all the others, but here’s a smart-alecky one from 1922:
This grotesque naming habit [of the Puritans] overlapped into nonsectarian camps and all sorts of descriptive cognomens were hung about the necks of newly born babes. When Dinely, Senior, of Boston rushed for the doctor he fell in a snow-drift, and was brought home a stiffly frozen corpse on a shutter. It seemed infinitely appropriate to name the infant “Fathergone Dinely,” and throughout a long life Fathergone Dinely strode the Boston streets.
American Antiquarian Society. Transactions and Collections of the American Antiquarian Society. Vol. 7. 1885.