Why Is “Keniel” Trendy in Puerto Rico?

The name Keniel is curiously popular in Puerto Rico. In fact, Keniel has been one of the top 100 names for baby boys born in Puerto Rico since 2005.

Despite being roughly 100 times larger than PR in terms of population, the U.S. currently has less than half the number of Keniels:

Year # of Keniels born in U.S. # of Keniels born in PR
2015 24
(7 in FL)
66
(ranked 31st)
2014 23
(8 in FL)
74
(ranked 31st)
2013 25
(5 in FL, 5 in PA, 6 in NY)
95
(ranked 18th)
2012 18
(5 in FL)
103
(ranked 23rd)
2011 15
(5 in FL)
94
(ranked 28th)
2010 18
(7 in FL)
65
(ranked 60th)
2009 8 86
(ranked 51st)

The U.S. states with the most Keniels also have particularly large Puerto Rican populations, which isn’t surprising.

We see the same pattern with the double-n version Kenniel:

Year # of Kenniels born in U.S. # of Kenniels born in PR
2015 17
(6 in FL)
not in top 100
2014 13 39
(ranked 83rd)
2013 8 38
(ranked 87th)
2012 6 38
(ranked 96th)
2011 7 39
(ranked 96th)
2010 fewer than 5 not in top 100

And I expect a similar pattern to emerge for Kendriel, which was new to both the U.S. and the PR lists in 2015:

Year # of Kendriels born in U.S. # of Kendriels born in PR
2015 8 41
(ranked 68th)
2014 fewer than 5 not in top 100

I’m not sure what kicked off the trendiness of Keniel in Puerto Rico, if anything. The popularity of Keniel might simply be part of the general trendiness of nontraditional –iel names (like Abdiel, Jadiel, Yeriel, Joniel and Yandiel) in PR lately. Names with –iel endings made up a whopping 17% of PR’s top 100 in both 2010 and 2011.

Do you know what might have kicked off a Keniel trend in Puerto Rico?

Do you like the name Keniel? (Or Kendriel?)

Source: SSA (U.S., Puerto Rico)


The Curious Name Tanaquil

Last week’s post on Vera Zorina helped me discover another interesting name: Tanaquil (pronounced tan-a-keel). It belonged to French-born American ballerina Tanaquil “Tanny” Le Clercq (1929-2000) who, like Zorina, had been married to famous choreographer George Balanchine.

Thanchvil, Etruscan, female, nameTanaquil Le Clercq was named after the legendary Etruscan prophet Tanaquil, whose omen-reading abilities helped her husband become the fifth king of Rome (616-578 B.C.).

The Etruscan rendering of the name Tanaquil is “Thanchvil.” The Etruscans had a relatively small pool of first names (praenomina) to draw from, so it’s possible that many Etruscan women were named Thanchvil. In fact, the MFA in Boston owns a sarcophagus (dated 350–300 B.C.) for Thanchvil Tarnai and her husband Larth Tetnies.

The Etruscan language has long been extinct, so there’s no telling what Thanchvil means. (In lieu of that, here are some of the other Etruscan female names that we know about: Thana/Thania, Ramtha/Ranthia, Hastia/Fastia, Aula/Aulia, Vela/Velia, Setha, Arnthi, Larthi.)

Getting back to Tanny…tragically, her professional career was cut short when she was stricken with polio in 1956 at age 27. She was paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of her life. The “stranger-than-fiction twist” is that, at age 15, she had actually danced the part of a polio victim at a March of Dimes benefit, and Balanchine had danced the part of polio itself:

In the final movement — a sunny allegro — she reappeared in a wheelchair, children tossed dimes, and she rose and danced again. What at the time was a simple exercise in entertaining a charity audience acquired in retrospect the weight of an omen or a hex. Balanchine, who was deeply mystical, was haunted by the notion that he had somehow brought on her fate.

Makes the fact that she was named after a noted omen-reader seem rather foreboding, doesn’t it?

Sources:

Image from Sarcophagus and lid with husband and wife © 2017 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

How Do You Say-Zoo “ZaSu”?

zasu pitts, say zoo, pronunciationComic actress ZaSu Pitts may be best remembered these days for her curious name.

How was it pronounced? Say-zoo.

This pronunciation may seem illogical given the placement of the consonants, and yet it’s what ZaSu herself said in her cookbook Candy Hits published in 1963 (the year she passed away).

The name ZaSu was invented by her mother. It was based upon the names of Zasu’s maternal aunts Eliza and Susan.

Many sources claim that ZaSu’s birth name was actually “Eliza Susan,” but all the records I’ve seen (going back to the 1900 U.S. Census) call her “Zasu” — or something pretty close. This makes me think that ZaSu wasn’t merely a nickname, but her actual legal name.

When she was a child, her peers (predictably) teased her about her unusual name, calling her things like “Zoo-Zoo,” “Zoo-Loo,” “Zay-Zoo,” “Jazz-Su,” “Hey You,” and “ZuZu Gingersnaps.”

Incidentally, her daughter (b. 1922) was legally named “ZaSu Ann,” but always called Ann.

Source: Stumpf, Charles. ZaSu Pitts: The Life and Career. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2010.

[Other posts about pronunciation: Risë, Ove, Jacqueline.]

Several Kazakh Names: Aisholpan, Almagul…

aisholpan, eagle huntress, kazakhThe Eagle Huntress (2016) is a documentary film about a 13-year-old Mongolian girl, Aisholpan, who trains under her father to become an eagle hunter.

Though Aisholpan’s family lives in western Mongolia, they aren’t ethnically Mongolian — they’re Kazakhs. (The Kazakhs were pushed into western Mongolia by Russian troops during the 19th century; the westernmost Mongolian province of Bayan-Ölgii is currently almost 90% Kazakh.)

So, Aisholpan isn’t a Mongolian name. It’s a Kazakh name. What does it mean? The ai– element refers to the moon, and the –sholpan element refers to Venus.

Aisholpan’s mother is Almagul. In her name, the alma– element means “apple” and the –gul element means “flower.”

So far I haven’t been able to define the names of her other family members: her father Nurgaiv (nur– apparently means “shine”), her older brother Samarkan (whose name could be based on Samarkand?), her younger sister Saigulug, and her younger brother Dinka.

Aisholpan’s eagle also has a name (White Feathers) but traditionally Kazakh eagle hunters do not give their birds names. Instead the eagles are known by their ages, and these age-names differ from region to region. Examples given in my source article include Balapan (one year old), Tastuluk (two), and Tirnek (three).

Sources: Breaking free: meet the first girl eagle huntress in Mongolia, Kazakhs – Wikipedia, Names – Kazakhstan Adoptive Families

Andrea No Longer “Disgraceful” for Italian Girls

Andrea is considered a girl name in most countries, but in Italy it’s solidly masculine. In fact, Andrea is the 6th most popular boy name in Italy right now, and it was the #1 boy name as recently as 16 years ago.

So why hasn’t Andrea caught on as a girl name in Italy? Mainly because Italian law forbids native-born Italian parents from giving traditionally male names to baby girls (and vice versa).

But the situation changed a few years ago when a couple in Florence resolved to name their baby girl Andrea. As expected, the Florence court rejected the name (and assigned the name “Giulia” instead). The couple appealed the decision all the way up to Italy’s Supreme Court, which ruled in 2012 that the name Andrea could be given to girls as well as to boys:

“The name ‘Andrea’, taking also into account its lexical peculiarity, cannot be deemed ridiculous nor disgraceful when given to a female, nor can it bring about any measure of ambiguity in the person’s sexual recognition,” the court said.

As a result of the ruling, the number of Italian baby girls named Andrea more than quintupled in 2013:

baby name, andrea, girl name, italy
Usage of Andrea as a girl name in Italy, 1999-2015

Here are the numbers:

  • 2015: 212 baby girls named Andrea in Italy
  • 2014: 237 baby girls named Andrea in Italy
  • 2013: 281 baby girls named Andrea in Italy
  • 2012: 55 baby girls named Andrea in Italy
  • 2011: 55 baby girls named Andrea in Italy
  • 2010: 72 baby girls named Andrea in Italy

Because Andrea’s popularity for boys was already in decline (more or less) it’s hard to say if the ruling had any corresponding negative impact on male usage.

Do you think Andrea will ever become more popular for girls than for boys in Italy? If so, by what decade?

Sources: Ten rulings that will make you think Italy’s judges are crazy, “E se chiamassimo nostra figlia Andrea?” Ecco i nomi che si possono dare a bimbi e bambine

Baby Names Inspired by “Waiting for Godot”

American journalist Franz Lidz gave his two daughters the unusual names Gogo and Daisy Daisy, nickname “Didi.”

The names were inspired by the two male protagonists in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot: “Didi,” or Vladimir, and “Gogo,” or Estragon. (Estragon is the French word for the herb tarragon.)

Today, Gogo Lidz is a writer like her father, and Didi’s full name is Daisy Daisy Lidz-Ritz.

[Similar names from the archives: Gogi, Dodo.]

Source: Papanek, John. “From the Editor.” Sports Illustrated 8 Apr. 1991.

Ti-Grace, ‘Tit Carl, and T-Rex – Cajun Nicknames

A number of Cajuns have nicknames prefixed with “Tee” “Ti,” “Tit,” “T,” and so forth — all pronounced tee. This prefix is derived from the French word petit, meaning “small” or “little.” It typically denotes a namesake/junior, or else the youngest child in a family.

In a blog post about Cajun French, writer Ramona DeFelice Long noted that “[o]n the bayou, a T-Rex would not be a dinosaur. T-Rex would be a boy named Rex who was named after his father named Rex.”

Linda Barth, author of The Distinctive Book of Redneck Baby Names, compared the prefix to the diminutive suffix -ie and gave the example of ‘Tit Carl as being “sort of the Cajun version” of Carlie.

Speaking of examples…Ti-Grace Atkinson (b. 1938) played a prominent role in the early radical feminist movement. She was born “Grace” in Baton Rouge, but has always gone by “Ti-Grace.” Here’s why:

My mother’s family was from Virginia. I was named for my Grandmother, whom I adored. My father’s family was from Pennsylvania. I kept the “Ti” which is Cajun, and I kept it because I knew I was going to live in the North and I did not want to forget or let anybody else forget that that was part of my heritage.

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Ti-Grace was mentioned in articles about militant feminism in Life, Newsweek, the New York Times, Esquire, and elsewhere. Though her name never ended up on the SSA’s baby name list, I did find records for two non-Louisiana females born in the early ’70s and named Ti-Grace, thanks to her influence.

Her name came in particularly handy (from her perspective) when she ran away from home as a teenager:

They had hired detectives to find me, but because my first name is so difficult, the detectives kept getting lost. Nobody would ever put it down right, thank God.

Have you ever met someone with a Cajun T- (or Ti-, or Tee-, etc.) nickname?

Sources: