Poll: Which “Sporty Girl” Name Do You Like Best?

The ship Endurance sinking in Antarctica in 1915, Ernest Shackleton
The Endurance sinking in Antarctica, 1915
I’m in the middle of Alfred Lansing’s 1959 book Endurance, which tells the story of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917).

One intriguing detail Lansing mentions early on is that, of the 5,000+ people who applied to be part of the expedition, three were women: Peggy Pegrine, Valerie Davey, and Betty Webster.

They applied together in a single letter dated January 11, 1914. In the letter, they referred to themselves as “three sporty girls” who were “willing to undergo any hardships that you yourselves undergo.”

The names of these “sporty girls” aren’t particularly sporty, but which of the three — Peggy, Valerie, or Betty — do you like best?

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P.S. Which of Shackleton’s actual shipmates had the best name, do you think?

Source: A letter of application to join Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition – Scott Polar Research Institute


What in the Werly?

While looking for facts on Faron, I unearthed a Werly:

werly fairburn, 1955
Werly Fairburn in Billboard magazine, 1955

I think the song “It’s a Cold Weary World” should have been titled “It’s a Cold Werly World” instead. I bet Werly himself would have appreciated the wordplay — after all, another song he wrote was called “Love Spelled Backwards Is Evol” and a label he later launched was called Whirlybird.

Werly Fairburn was a rockabilly musician born in Louisiana in 1924. His birth name was Lewi Werly Fairburn, but evidently he preferred his middle name.

Speaking of preferences…if you were having a son, and you had to name him either Werly or Faron, which would it be?

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Source: Werly Fairburn, Rockabilly HOF

What Would You Name These Rams?

Entrances are typically guarded by lions. But in downtown Denver, I’ve found an entrance guarded by a pair of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep:

denver bighorn sheep statues
Bighorn sheep statues from the left

The entrance is to the Byron White Courthouse on 18th Street, and the rams were sculpted by Gladys Caldwell Fisher in 1936, making them a few decades younger than the NYPL lions.

denver bighorn sheep statues
Bighorn sheep statues from the right

I wondered whether the rams had names, so I emailed the courthouse. I was told that the sculptures are titled “White Ram” and “Rocky Mountain Sheep” — but no one knows which is which.

Titles aren’t names, though. So let’s come up with some potential names for these rams, shall we?

Should they be virtue names (like Patience & Fortitude)? Should they be symbolic of the city or state in some way (Pike & Peak; Cheech & Chong)? Should they just be random (Mario & Luigi)? Leave a comment with your ideas…

Source: Byron White Courthouse – Architectural Style

Could “Unicorn” Become a Baby Name?

could unicorn become a baby name?

The baby name Unicorn: Ridiculous? Inevitable? Both?

I’m not asking because I think Unicorn should become a baby name. I’m asking because I think there’s an outside chance that it could see some usage this year, thanks to the sudden trendiness of unicorns.

The word “unicorn” is being used to market all manner of colorful, sparkly products at the moment. In fact, Google searches for “unicorn” hit an all-time high last month.

The word has also acquired some positive associations over the last few years. According to Elizabeth Segran of Fast Company, “unicorn” is now being used to denote uniqueness (e.g., unicorn startup, unicorn boyfriend) and also to signify anything “happy, fun-loving, and cute.”

So if this unicorn fad lasts long enough, and if American parents are daring enough, do you think we could see a Unicorn or two in the birth announcements this year?

For the record, Unicorn has been used as a name in the U.S. before, but only a handful of times. The youngest I found was a male born in the ’90s with the middle name Unicorn.

Mythical creature names (like Phoenix, Griffin, and Dragon) — not to mention real-life creature names (like Bear, Fox, Wolf, and Wren) — are on the rise right now. So what are the odds that we’ll see some some baby Unicorns in 2017?

Source: The Unicorn Craze, Explained

Lalage: Chatterbox Baby Name?

lalage, baby name, greek

Lalage’s quirky definition is what first caught my eye.

Horace, the Roman poet, created the name Lalage over two thousand years ago from the ancient Greek word lalagein, meaning “to chatter,” “to prattle,” “to babble,” or (in the case of a bird) “to chirp.” He invented it as a fitting alias for the “sweetly laughing, sweetly talking” woman described in Ode 1.22:

dulce ridentem Lalagen amabo,
dulce loquentem.

The name Lalage has since appeared in other literary works, including the play Politian (1835) by Edgar Allan Poe, the poem “Rimini” (1906) by Rudyard Kipling, and the novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) by John Fowles.

In The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the mother of the child named Lalage “pronounced it as a dactyl, the g hard.” So: LAL-a-ghee. But I checked other sources (such as this one) and found a variety of pronunciation suggestions.

There are two distinct camps regarding the G, for instance — the hard-G camp (lal-a-ghee) and the soft-G camp (lal-a-dgee). I think the soft-G makes the most sense for English-speakers, as the English forms of other Greek-origin names (like George and Eugene) also tend to have soft G’s, but that’s just personal opinion.

Lalage has since become the name of an asteroid (822 Lalage) and a genus of birds (the trillers), but my favorite association so far is the mid-20th-century circus performer.

Lalage — whose real name was Hedwig Roth — was an aerialist with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. According to one circus program, she was a “dusty blonde of French-Swiss origin” and she pronounced her name lä-lä-gay, but she had “given up trying to sell people that idea” because most people assumed it was lä-LÄZH. (See what I mean about the various pronunciations?)

Here’s the first stanza of the poem “Lalage!” (1946) by American poet Charles Olson:

The legs of Lalage toss, and toss, and toss
(l’esprit de femme)
against the canvas of the circus sky

What do you think of the name Lalage? Would it be a good alternative to popular girl names like Lillian or Lily?

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