Nomenclator: Ancient Roman Name Remember-er

In ancient times, well-to-do Romans didn’t have to worry about remembering people’s names. Why? Because they had special name-remembering slaves to do the job for them.

These slaves were called nomenclators, from the Latin words nōmen, meaning “name,” and calō, meaning, “call together, summon.”

Essentially, a nomenclator was a social secretary. He accompanied his master in public and reminded him of the names and details of important individuals, such as business acquaintances. Nomenclators were particularly useful to politicians soliciting a votes in elections to public office.

The Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum owns a 1st century epitaph for a guy named Aristarchus who worked as a nomenclator. (The name Aristarchus is based on the Ancient Greek words aristos, meaning “best,” and archos, meaning “master.”)

Are you good at remembering names? Would you have made an efficient nomenclator?

Sources: nomenclator – Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, Nomenclator – Wiktionary, ‘Working IX to V’ in Ancient Rome and Greece

P.S. I learned about this interesting ancient job from episode 51 of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast.


Will Japan’s Next “Era Name” Influence Baby Names?

heisei, 1989, japan, era name
“Heisei” announced, 1989
© Kyodo
Japan has been using a system of “era names” continuously since the 8th century. Each era name “is said to represent an ideal of an era and in principle consists of two auspicious kanji, including hei (peace), ei (eternal), ten (heaven) and an (safety).”

In modern times, each era name has corresponded to the rule of a single emperor. Here are the four most recent era names and their meanings:

  • Meiji (1868-1912) – “enlightened rule”
  • Taishō (1912-1926) – “great righteousness”
  • Shōwa (1926-1989) – “radiant peace”
  • Heisei (1989-) – “peace everywhere”

The current emperor, 83-year-old Akihito, hinted last summer that he wanted to step down from the throne. (He would be succeeded by his son, Prince Naruhito.)

If he does, Japan will transition to a new era name. And this could have an impact on baby names.

Data released by Japan’s Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Company (est. 1881) indicates that during the early Taisho era, the most popular names for baby boys (e.g., Shoichi, Shoji, Shozo) all started with Taishō’s shō character, which means “right” or “just.”

And during the early Shōwa era, there was strong usage of Shōwa’s (different) shō character, which means “bright” or “calm.”

These days Japanese parents are less tradition-bound and more influenced by “look and sound,” said a Meiji Yasuda Life spokesperson. But if Japan’s next era name includes an attractive kanji character, who knows — Japanese parents might just start using it and kick off a new baby name trend…

Sources: Imperial abdication talk poses question of Japan’s next era, What to call baby?, Businesses await Japan’s new era name as Emperor’s abdication looms

Names in the News: Jedi, Ahmed, Kadri

Here are three Canadian baby name stories leftover from 2016:

  • Jedi: The first baby born in Terrace, British Columbia, in 2016 was a boy named Jedi. His other brothers are Jared and Jade.
  • Ahmed: In August of 2016, a baby boy born to Syrian refugees in Canada was named Ahmed in honor of Ahmed Nasir, “a physics student from Egypt who has been volunteering his time as a translator for the family.” The name was chosen by the baby’s 6-year-old brother, Moa’ath.
  • Kadri: In October of 2016, a baby girl born in Ontario was named Kadri after Maple Leafs hockey player Nazem Kadri, whose family came from Lebanon. Her four older siblings are also named for Maple Leafs players. (The shared names are Tucker, McCabe, Domi, and Colton Orr.)

One source reporting on baby Kadri ended with this interesting fact: “Leaf great Ron Ellis still exchanges Christmas cards with a man who was named Ron Ellis Lucas in his honour for his play during the 1960s.”

Sources: Star Wars baby named Jedi by Terrace parents, In a maple-leaf onesie, baby Ahmed is a ‘proud Canadian’ born to Syrian refugee family, Kingston couple name all 5 of their kids after Maple Leafs players, Family names newborn after Maple Leafs’ Nazem Kadri

Baby Names Have Become More Female-Sounding

In 1995, researchers Herbert Barry and Aylene S. Harper invented a way to score personal names to determine how “male” or “female” they sounded. Names with positive scores on the scale were more female-sounding, and names with negative scores were more male-sounding.

“Female” attributes:

  • +2 points if the accent is on the 2nd or later syllable (Elizabeth)
  • +2 points if the last phoneme is unstressed and schwa-like (Sarah)
  • +1 points if the last phoneme is some other vowel sound, not a schwa sound (Melanie)
  • +1 points if the accent is on the 1st of 3 or more syllables (Emily)

“Male” attributes:

  • -1 points if the name has 1 syllable (Mitch)
  • -1 points if the last phoneme is S, Z, F, V, TH, CH, ZH, or DZH (James)
  • -2 points if the last phoneme is P, B, T, D, K, or G (Jacob)
  • -2 points if the accent is on the 1st of 2 syllables and the name has 6+ phonemes (Robert)

The authors looked at Pennsylvania baby names from 1960 to 1990 and discovered that the average phonetic gender score for girl names and boy names had become more “female” over time.

Several years ago, linguist Anika Okrent used the same scale to analyze national baby name data from 1880 to 2013. She noticed the same trend — stretching back to 1950 and continuing until today.

Her theory is that the shift was essentially fueled by shifting trends in boy names. As names like Donald gave way to names like Elijah, the result was an overall rise in the average phonetic gender score for boy names. This in turn triggered a corresponding rise in the average phonetic gender score for girl names “in order to maintain the gender distinction” (i.e., Janet giving way to Olivia).

Do you agree with this theory?

Sources:

Names in the News: Wrigley, Donald, Vaibhavi

Three recent baby name stories from the news:

  • Wrigley: The first Chicago-area baby born in 2017 was a baby girl with a Chicago Cubs-inspired name: Wrigley Rose. She arrived 12 minutes after midnight.
  • Donald Trump: In August of 2016, a baby boy born in Kisumu, Kenya, was named Donald Trump after the U.S. presidential nominee (now president-elect). His older brothers are Robert Kelly (after an American comedian) and Prince Charles.
  • Vaibhavi: In August of 2016, a baby girl born in Uttar Pradesh, India, was named Vaibhavi upon the suggestion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The baby’s mother had written to Modi asking for a name, and Modi telephoned a week later to recommend Vaibhavi, as it contained letters from the names of both parents, Bharat and Vibha.

In December, Narendra Modi indirectly named a baby Khazanchi, or “treasurer.”

Sources: Little Wrigley among suburbs’ first 2017 babies, Kisumu Couple Names Baby Donald Trump and the Internet Can’t Cope, Young UP couple become celebrity of sorts after PM Modi names their daughter

Scotland’s “Senga Syndrome”

Leslie Hills worked as a teacher in Scotland for several decades starting in the 1960s. Writing about her experiences in the 1990s, she mentioned Senga Syndrome:

Years later I heard my experience summed up by a very senior official in Lothian Region. The Senga Syndrome he called it and when pressed for an explanation by his male east-coast audience, explained that Senga, a name found only among the working classes in the West, was Agnes backwards and Senga was the typical Glasgow working class girl from a state school, who goes to Glasgow University, does an Ordinary degree, goes to Jordanhill College and returns, if she has ever left, to live near and teach in her old school or very close to it. Unfortunately this cruel description was largely accurate.

Senga Syndrome reminds me of Germany’s Kevinismus and of Sweden’s y-name syndrome. In all three cases, a certain name or type of name emerged to symbolize (in a derogatory way) a particular group or class.

Senga, FWIW, might be Agnes backwards, or it might be based on the Scottish Gaelic word seang, meaning “slender, lanky.”

Sources:

  • Hills, Leslie. “The Senga Syndrome: Reflections on Twenty-One Years in Scottish Education.” Identity and Diversity: Gender and the Experience of Education, edited by Maud Blair, Janet Holland, and Sue Sheldon, The Open University, 1995, 51-60.
  • Senga – Behind the Name

Names in the News: Cubs Edition

Chicago Cubs logoA couple of weeks ago, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in dramatic fashion (with a score of 8-7 in the 10th inning of the 7th game).

So will we see a rise in the number of babies with Cubs-inspired names (like Wrigley) this year? Probably! Here are some recent examples:

  • Wrigley – Katie Stam Irk (a former Miss America) and her husband Brian welcomed a baby boy several days before the final game of the series. After the Cubs emerged victorious, they named the baby Wrigley Oliver.
  • Wrigley – “Bachelorette” couple Chris Siegfried (a former Chicago Cubs relief pitcher) and his wife Desiree welcomed a baby boy in October and named him Asher Wrigley.
  • Faith Victory – Chicago parents Jason and Kristy Amato welcomed a baby girl in October and named her Faith Victory.
  • Clark and Addison – Cubs fans Scott and Amber McFarland welcomed boy-girl twins in late June and named them Clark (son) and Addison (daughter), “after the iconic intersection outside Wrigley Field.”

The names Clark and Addison were also given to a pair of male-female red panda cubs born at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo last year.

And here’s the most impressive set of Cubs-babies I’ve seen so far: A generation ago, Cubs fanatics Julie and Ralph Dynek named their five children Addison (son), Clark (son), Sheffield (son), Grace Waveland (daughter), and Ivy Marie Wrigley Diamond (daughter). The first four were named after the four streets that surround Wrigley Field, and the fifth was named after the field’s famous ivy-covered brick outfield wall.

And don’t forget this 2007 baby named Wrigley Fields. (Visitors who commented on that post mentioned three more Wrigleys, an Addison, and a Clark.)

Have you encountered any other Cubs-inspired baby names lately, either in the news or in real life?

Sources: ‘Wrigley’ is becoming a popular baby name among celebrities, Couple who met on ‘The Bachelorette’ gives baby Cubs-inspired name, Family Fandom: Cubs Fever Prompts Baseball Baby Names, Chicago Cubs Fans Charmed by Twins, Addison and Clark, Cubs fans hit streets for baby names, Announcing Names for Our Red Panda Cubs