Two marble lions have been guarding the entrance of the New York Public Library since it opened in May of 1911. These days, the lions are usually called Patience and Fortitude. But over the years they’ve had various nicknames, including a number of male/female nicknames (despite the fact that both lions are clearly male). Some examples:
Ainsley and Rollo
Leo Astor and Leo Lenox
The NYPL was created by combining the Astor and Lenox libraries.
Lord Lenox and Lady Astor
Leo and Leonora
Peter Cooper and Horace Greeley (famous for their whiskers, among other things)
Plato and Lily
Pyramus and Thisbe
Uptown and Downtown
The NYPL attributes the “Patience” and “Fortitude” to former NYC mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who was in office from 1934 to 1945.
Mayor LaGuardia…nicknamed The New York Public Library’s lions Patience and Fortitude for the qualities he felt New Yorkers needed to survive the Great Depression.
While it’s a nice story, I can’t find any record of LaGuardia suggesting that the library lions be called by those particular nicknames. He did, however, use the phrase “Patience and Fortitude” repeatedly in his weekly WWII-era radio talks (1942-1945) on WNYC. So LaGuardia may be the ultimate source of the names, but it’s more likely that his radio audience began associating the two words with the two cats during the 1940s — after the Depression was over.
Speaking of Fiorello…the lions were carved by the Piccirilli Brothers, immigrants from Italy. The six brothers were named Ferrucio, Attilio, Furio, Masaniello, Orazio, and Getulio, plus they had a kid sister named Iola (according to the census).
Do you like the nicknames Patience and Fortitude for the lions? If not, what names would you prefer?
Eikel, Vera, Susan Lardner, and Brendan Gill. “Recovered.” The New Yorker 3 Sept. 1960: 20.
Larkin, Susan G. Top Cats: The Life and Times of the New York Public Library Lions. San Francisco: Pomegranate, 2006.
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:
# of Keniels born in U.S.
# of Keniels born in PR
24 (7 in FL)
66 (ranked 31st)
23 (8 in FL)
74 (ranked 31st)
25 (5 in FL, 5 in PA, 6 in NY)
95 (ranked 18th)
18 (5 in FL)
103 (ranked 23rd)
15 (5 in FL)
94 (ranked 28th)
18 (7 in FL)
65 (ranked 60th)
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:
# of Kenniels born in U.S.
# of Kenniels born in PR
17 (6 in FL)
not in top 100
39 (ranked 83rd)
38 (ranked 87th)
38 (ranked 96th)
39 (ranked 96th)
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:
# of Kendriels born in U.S.
# of Kendriels born in PR
41 (ranked 68th)
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?
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.
Tanaquil 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?
Bonfante, Giuliano and Larissa Bonfante. The Etruscan Language: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002.
Comic 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.
The 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).
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:
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?