The Hawaiian name Lehua (pronounced leh-HOO-ah) refers to the showy flower of the ‘ōhi’a lehua plant, Metrosideros polymorpha. The flower’s petals are very small, but its stamens are long and typically bright red.
The plant is endemic to the Hawaiian islands and has great cultural significance among Hawaiians. The word lehua refers not just to the flower, for instance, but also (figuratively) to various types of people: “warrior, beloved friend or relative, sweetheart, expert.” The plant even has its own creation myth: the goddess Pele created the plant by transforming human lovers Ohia and Lehua into the tree and the blossom, respectively.
This cultural importance no doubt stems from the plant’s ecological importance. The ‘ōhi’a lehua is a keystone species in Hawaii that’s often the first to colonize barren lava. The adaptations that allow for this include: year-round flowering, lightweight seeds, roots adept at growing vertically (i.e., in cracks and fissures), and the plant’s ability to close its stomata when volcanic gases are around — to hold its breath when the air turns toxic, in other words.
So Lehua, like other flower names, refers to an object of beauty…but this particular object of beauty is also a genuine symbol of concepts like resilience and adaptation. Which makes Lehua rather unique among flower names, I think.
What are your thoughts on the name Lehua?
(The photo is of a young ‘ōhi’a lehua inside the Kīlauea Iki pit crater, which my husband and I visited a few years ago on a trip to Hawaii. That particular lava flow happened in 1959.)
Did you know that the teenage characters of the cartoon Scooby Doo, Where Are You! — Fred, Shaggy, Daphne, and Velma — were based directly on four of the teenage characters in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis — Dobie, Maynard, Thalia, and Zelda?
(And, did you know that Shaggy’s real name was Norville?!)
So let’s try a poll. Which set of names do you like better, the Dobie Gillis names or the Scooby Doo names?
In the early 1970s, the Internet as we know it didn’t exist. But people back then were just as fascinated by scandalous celebrity baby names as they are today.
For example, in 1971, Grace Slick and Paul Kantner, both of the band Jefferson Airplane, welcomed a baby girl. Grace told the press that her daughter’s name was “god” with a small g:
“It’s a small ‘g’ because with a name like that you have to show some humility.”
The story was widely reported…but it wasn’t true. It was a rumor that Grace herself had concocted and started spreading well before the birth.
The baby’s real name was China.
China Kantner had a brief acting career, including a recurring role on the TV sitcom Home Improvement in the late ’90s as character Willow Wilson. In one episode Willow says, “My full name is Willow Branch Leaf Wilson. But I pruned it back.”
Here’s a girl name that might be a good fit for a Halloween baby…
The name is Rhoda, which comes from the ancient Greek word rhodon, meaning “rose.” Which is lovely…but, for many, the strongest association isn’t roses but Rhoda Penmark, the “murderous moppet so cold she could practice her piano lessons methodically while her latest victim was burning to death in the basement below.” Not so lovely.
The character of Rhoda was played by 11-year-old Patty McCormack in the movie The Bad Seed (1956), which was successful at the box office and earned McCormack an Oscar nomination. McCormack had originated the role* in the 1954 Broadway play, which was adapted from the 1954 book by Alabama author William March.
Evil children are now a horror trope, but back in the ’50s, Rhoda was breaking new ground. She “was a character with no precedent in film history” who had inherited her homicidal tendencies from her serial killer grandmother.
The movie gave the name Rhoda a lot of exposure, and as the result — despite the character’s sinister nature and obnoxiously perfect braids — the name saw a temporary rise in usage in 1957:
1959: 259 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 619th]
1958: 265 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 611th]
1957: 356 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 504th]
1956: 241 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 617th]
1955: 238 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 598th]
What are your thoughts on the name Rhoda?
*Another young actress who played Rhoda early on was Kimetha Laurie, who we talked about yesterday.