Name change: Bob Miller to Ben Lexcen

Winged keel of the Australia II racing yacht, winner of the 1983 America's Cup
Winged keel of the Australia II

In 1936, Robert “Bob” Miller was born in the Australian outback — “in bone-dry Boggabri, a long day’s voyage from the sea.”

So it’s intriguing that, in his teens, Miller developed an interest in sailboat design. He went on to become a professional marine architect.

In the early 1960s, Bob Miller and his friend Craig Whitworth founded a boat-building and sail-making company called Miller & Whitworth in Sydney.

Miller continued doing his own design work on the side, though. Most notably, he began collaborating with Australian millionaire Alan Bond on a series of racing yachts in the late 1960s.

The most famous of these yachts was the Australia II, which, in 1983, became the first non-American yacht to win the America’s Cup. This was the cup that Thomas Lipton had failed to win 5 times in a row, from 1899 to 1930, and that Bond and Miller themselves had also failed to win 3 times previously, from 1974 to 1980.

Except…by 1983, Bob Miller wasn’t “Bob Miller” anymore. He was Ben Lexcen.

Why the name change?

Because, in the mid-1970s, Miller and Whitworth had had a falling-out:

Miller left the firm, but found he could not take his name with him. “I had had a great design business, a fantastic business, and I lost all that,” says Lexcen. “They were advertising everywhere, and all my mail was going to them. I tried to get the post office to change it. Noooo. I just had to do something, so I changed my name. Lexcen was one of my wife’s family names from way back. I had a friend who had a computer check it against the mailing lists of the Reader’s Digest and American Express to see if there was anybody with that name, and there wasn’t, at least not in Australia.” And Ben? “I wanted the same number of letters.”

But that’s not the only version of the name-change story.

In another variation, when the time came Lexcen borrowed a word from the project he was working on at the moment — Lexan hatch covers — and added it to the name of his recently deceased dog, Benjie.

Specifics aside, Ben Lexcen (formerly Bob Miller) and the other members of the Australia II team became national heroes following their historical victory. In fact, a baby born in Melbourne around the time of the win was named Charles Australia II John Bertrand Ben Lexcen.

Sources:

Image: Adapted from Winged Keel of Americas Cup Yacht Australia II by Ken Hodge under CC BY 2.0.

Baby names associated with purple: Violet, Tyrian, Zi

plums

Looking for baby names that are associated with purple — including baby names that mean “purple”?

If so, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve collected dozens of options for you in this post.

Before we get to the names, though, let’s take a quick look at what the color purple represents…

Symbolism of purple

What does the color purple signify?

In Western cultures in particular, purple can be symbolic of:

  • Royalty
  • Nobility
  • Wisdom
  • Luxury
  • Imagination
  • Mystery
  • Spirituality

The color came to be identified with royalty and nobility during ancient times. In those days, creating purple dye for fabric was laborious and time-consuming, so the dye was very expensive. As a result, only the wealthy could afford to wear purple-colored clothing.

Top baby names associated with purple

Determining the top names in a category isn’t difficult when you’re working with a well-defined category, like PH names. When it comes to names that have a connection to the color purple, however, we need to account for the fact that certain names have a stronger connection than others.

With that in mind, here are the top baby names that have an obvious association with the color purple:

  1. Violet
  2. Iris
  3. Violeta
  4. Violette
  5. Amethyst

Now here are the same five names again, but this time around I’ve added some details (including definitions, rankings, and popularity graphs).

Violet

The word violet refers to any flowering plant of the genus Viola — particularly the fragrant species Viola odorata — or to any similar-looking flowering plant. By extension, it also refers to the bluish-purple color of these flowers.

Violet is currently the 35th most popular girl name in the U.S.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Violet in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Violet

Iris

The word iris can refer to several things, including flowering plants of the genus Iris, the name of which comes from the ancient Greek word for “rainbow.” The showy blooms of these plants come in a variety of colors (as the name suggests), though we often think of irises as being shades of purple.

For instance, did you know that all of the irises in Vincent van Gogh’s various paintings were once purple? His irises now appear blue only because the red pigment he used to create the purple has faded over time.

Iris is currently the 107th most popular girl name in the nation.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Iris in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Iris

Violeta

The name Violeta is a form of Violet used in Spanish, Romanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, and other languages.

Violeta is currently the 893rd most popular girl name in the U.S.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Violeta in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Violeta

Violette

The name Violette is a form of Violet used in French.

Violette is currently the 1,033rd most popular girl name in the nation.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Violette in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Violette

Amethyst

The word amethyst refers to a purple variety of the mineral quartz. (The ancient Greeks thought that amethyst — perhaps due to its wine-like color — would prevent drunkenness, so they called it amethustos, meaning “not intoxicating.”) By extension, the word also refers to the purple color of these crystals.

Amethyst will only form in quartz that: (a) contains trace amounts of iron, and (b) is exposed to low-level gamma radiation. The radiation will oxidize the iron, and thereby change the crystal’s color from clear to purple.

Amethyst is currently the 1,148th most popular girl name in the U.S.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Amethyst in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Amethyst

More names associated with purple

Ready for the rest?

All the names below are associated with the color purple. The names range from traditional to unusual, and their associations range from strong to slight.

Those that have been popular enough to appear in the U.S. baby name data are linked to their corresponding popularity graphs.

purple flowers (Aubrieta)
Aubrieta
  • Amaranth flowers are sometimes purple. The genus name Amaranthus is derived from a combination of the ancient Greek words amarantos, meaning “unfading,” and anthos, meaning “flower.”
  • Aster flowers are often purple. The genus name Aster, derived from the ancient Greek word aster, meaning “star,” is a reference to the shape of the flower head.
  • Aubrieta flowers are commonly purple. The genus Aubrieta was named in honor of French botanical artist Claude Aubriet.
  • Banafsha is a Persian feminine name meaning “violet.”
  • Betony flowers are usually purple. “Betony” is the common name of plants in the genus Stachys.
  • Bíbor (pronounced BEE-bor) is a Hungarian masculine name based on the word bíbor, meaning “purple.”
    • Bíborka is a feminine form of Bíbor.
  • Bora is a Korean feminine name meaning “purple.” (Though the name has appeared in the U.S. data, this probably reflects the usage of the identical Albanian name, which means “snow.”)
  • Fjóla (pronounced FYOH-lah) is an Icelandic and Faroese name meaning “violet.”
    • Fjólar is the masculine form of Fjóla.
  • Gladiola refers to Gladiolus, a genus of plants with flowers that are sometimes purple. The genus name, meaning “little sword” (a diminutive of the Latin word gladius, “sword”) refers to the shape of the leaves.
The Jimi Hendrix album "Are You Experienced" (1967)
Jimi Hendrix album
  • Haze (besides being a vocabulary word) is part of “Purple Haze” [vid] — the title of the song by Jimi Hendrix. “Purple Haze” was the opening track of the iconic album Are You Experienced (1967).
  • Heather flowers are usually purple. “Heather” is the common name of plants in the genus Calluna.
  • Honesty (besides being a vocabulary word) is also the common name of the plant species Lunaria annua, which has flowers that are frequently purple. The common name is likely a reference to the translucence of the seed pods.
  • Hyacinth flowers are often purple. The genus Hyacinthus was named for the plant’s association with the myth of Hyacinthus (who was one of the lovers of Apollo in Greek mythology).
    • Giacinta is the Italian feminine form of Hyacinth.
    • Giacinto is the Italian masculine form of Hyacinth.
    • Jacinta is the Spanish and Portuguese feminine form of Hyacinth.
    • Jacinto is the Spanish and Portuguese masculine form of Hyacinth.
  • Ianthe, which means “violet flower,” is derived from a combination of the ancient Greek words ion, meaning “violet,” and anthos, meaning “flower.”
    • Iantha is a variant of Ianthe.
  • Iole (pronounced IE-oh-lee) is based on the ancient Greek word ion, meaning “violet.” In Greek myth, Iole was one of Heracles’ many objects of desire.
    • Iola is a variant of Iole.
  • Ione (pronounced ie-OH-nee) is also based on the ancient Greek word ion, meaning “violet.”
    • Iona could be considered a variant of Ione, though more often it’s a reference to the Scottish island of Iona.
  • Jacaranda flowers are purple. The genus name Jacaranda is derived from a Tupi-Guarani word meaning “fragrant.”
  • Lavender flowers are typically purple. “Lavender” is the common name of plants in the genus Lavandula. The genus name is derived from the Latin word lividus, meaning “bluish,” and/or the Latin word lavare, meaning “to wash” (due to aromatic lavender being used in washing and bathing).
  • Lilac flowers are frequently purple. “Lilac” is the common name of plants in the genus Syringa.
    • Lila is the Swedish form of Lilac, though the name also has other possible meanings (e.g., “play” in Sanskrit, “night” in Arabic).
    • Liila is the Finnish form of Lilac.
  • Lupine flowers are often purple. The genus name Lupinus is derived from the Latin word lupinus, meaning “wolfish” (from lupus, “wolf”).
  • Magenta is a reddish-purple color. A French chemist first synthesized magenta-colored dye in the late 1850s, and the color was eventually named “Magenta” in honor of the French-Sardinian victory at the Battle of Magenta (1859).
  • Murasaki is a Japanese feminine name meaning “purple.” Originally it referred to the gromwell plant, the root of which was used to make purple dye.
  • Orchid flowers are sometimes purple. Orchids are all members of the Orchidaceae family of plants.
  • Phoenix refers to the mythical bird, but the name of that bird was based on the ancient Greek word phoinix, meaning “purple” or “crimson.”
  • Plum fruits are commonly purple. Plum trees are part of the genus Prunus.
  • Porphyrios was an ancient Greek name derived from the word porphyra, meaning “purple dye, purple.”
    • Porphyrius is the Latinized form of Porphyrios.
    • Porfirio is the modern Spanish masculine form of Porphyrios.
    • Porfiria is the modern Spanish feminine form of Porphyrios.
    • Porfiriy is the modern Russian masculine form of Porphyrios.
  • Purple, which can also be traced back to the ancient Greek word porphyra, is rarely used as a given name…though I did spot a girl named Purple in Los Angeles’ baby name data a few years back.
rebeccapurple
  • Rebecca is part of “rebeccapurple” — the name of the shade of purple with the hex value #663399. The color name pays tribute to Rebecca Meyer, the daughter of web design pioneer Eric Meyer. Rebecca, whose favorite color was purple, passed away on her 6th birthday (in mid-2014). The biblical name Rebecca is ultimately derived from the Semitic root r-b-q, meaning “to tie” or “to secure.”
  • Sigalit is a Hebrew feminine name meaning “violet.”
  • Sumire (pronounced soo-mee-reh) is a Japanese name that can mean “violet,” depending upon the kanji being used to write the name.
  • Temenuzhka is a Bulgarian feminine name meaning “violet.”
  • Thistle flowers are usually purple. “Thistle” is the common name of various prickly plants, most of which are in the Asteraceae family.
  • Twila may be based on the English word “twilight.” During twilight, the sky can turn various shades of purple.
    • Twyla is a variant of Twila.
  • Tyrian (pronounced TEE-ree-uhn) is part of “Tyrian purple” — the name of the expensive purple dye used during ancient times that I mentioned earlier. The source of the dye was a type of sea snail found in the Mediterranean, near the city of Tyre (now part of Lebanon). The city name can be traced back to the Hebrew word tsor, meaning “rock,” as the settlement was originally built upon a rocky formation.
twilight
  • Verbena flowers are sometimes purple. The genus name Verbena is derived from the Latin word verbena, which referred to the leaves, twigs, and branches of specific plants (like laurel, olive, and myrtle) that were used during religious ceremonies.
  • Vernonia flowers are typically purple. The genus Vernonia was named in honor of English botanist William Vernon.
  • Viola is based on the Latin word viola, meaning “violet.” In fact, the genus Viola includes many (though not all) violet flowers.
    • Ibolya is a Hungarian form of Viola.
    • Violia is an elaboration of Viola.
    • Violanda is another elaboration of Viola.
    • Viorica is a Romanian form of Viola.
  • Violett is a variant of Violet.
  • Violetta is an Italian and Hungarian form of Violet.
  • Wisteria (pronounced wuh-STEE-ree-uh) flowers are frequently light purple. The genus Wisteria was named in honor of American physician and anatomist Caspar Wistar.
  • Yolanda may have been derived from the medieval European feminine name Violante, which was based on the Latin word viola, “violet.”
    • Yolande is the French form of Yolanda.
    • Jolanda is the Dutch form of Yolanda.
    • Iolanda is the Portuguese and Italian form of Yolanda.
    • Iolanthe may be a variant of Yolanda influenced by the name Ianthe.
  • Yukari is a Japanese feminine name that can mean “purple,” depending upon the kanji being used to write the name.
    • Yukariko is a Japanese name that can include the element Yukari.
  • Zi (third tone) is a Chinese name that can mean “purple,” depending upon the glyph being used to write the name.
    • Ziming is a Chinese name that can include the element Zi.
    • Ziyang is another Chinese name that can include the element Zi.
  • Zinnia flowers are sometimes purple. The genus Zinnia was named in honor of German botanist Johann Gottfried Zinn.

Can you think of any other names that have a connection to the color purple?

Sources:

First, second, and last images by congerdesign from Pixabay, Hans from Pixabay, and Chapman Chow from Unsplash

What gave the baby name Madalynne a boost in 1921?

Newspaper photo of accused murderer Madalynne Obenchain (nee Conner).
Madalynne Obenchain (née Conner)

In 1921, the baby name Madalynne saw a curious spike in usage:

  • 1923: 8 baby girls named Madalynne
  • 1922: 25 baby girls named Madalynne
  • 1921: 39 baby girls named Madalynne
  • 1920: 10 baby girls named Madalynne [debut]
  • 1919: unlisted

Why?

Because of 28-year-old society beauty and femme fatale Madalynne Obenchain, who was accused of murder that year.

Born Madeline Connor in Wisconsin in 1893, she changed the spelling of her first name to “Madalynne” sometime before heading off to college at Northwestern University. There, at least two classmates fell in love with her. After college, while living in Los Angeles with her mother, she gained yet another admirer. The three men were:

  • Arthur C. Burch
  • J. Belton Kennedy
  • Ralph R. Obenchain

All three wanted to marry her. Finally, in 1919, she made her decision: it would be Obenchain (who was, by then, working as an attorney in Chicago).

But the marriage didn’t stop her from seeing Kennedy on the side. After a few months, Madalynne decided she preferred Kennedy, and her “extremely understanding husband allowed her to divorce him, gave her $80 a month in alimony and blank checks as needed.”

Madalynne and Kennedy had a tumultuous relationship, though, and Madalynne became frustrated by Kennedy’s refusal to commit. At some point in the summer of 1921, she wired Burch, who, himself recently divorced, “hopped on the next train [from Illinois] to Los Angeles to aid the woman he called his “goddess.””

On August 5, 1921, Kennedy “was found shot to death on the stairs of his cabin on Beverly Glen Boulevard, in a then-rustic neighborhood near the Los Angeles Country Club.”

A few days later, both Madalynne and Burch were charged with first-degree murder.

Obenchain, the generous ex-husband, left his job in Chicago to come to Madalynne’s defense.

Over the course of 16 months, five trials were held — two for Madalynne, three for Burch. The public — fascinated by the idea of these “cultivated, college-bred folk in the grip of overwhelming passions” — followed along via the newspapers.

Here’s one paper’s summary of the goings-on during Madalynne’s second trial (in July of 1922):

“Dream Girl” Accused of Perjury Plot! — Madalynne Obenchain, whose love brought death to one man, divorce to another and prison to a third, is now, during her own trial for murder, embroiled in charges of conspiracy by which it is said she tried to lure a fourth man to commit perjury that she might be free.

(This fourth guy to come under Madalynne’s spell was Paul Roman.)

All five of the trials ended in hung juries. “Legal experts interviewed at the time theorized that the male jurors who voted for acquittal in Madalynne’s trial were all in love with her.”

What are your thoughts on the baby name Madalynne? (Do you like this spelling?)

Sources:

P.S. The debut of the name one year earlier may be due to unnamed baby girls born in 1920 finally being named “Madalynne” after Madalynne Obenchain became a fixture in the news in mid-1921. Delayed baby-naming wasn’t uncommon in the early 20th century.

Popular baby names in San Diego (California), 2020

san diego

According to San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency, the most popular baby names in the county two years ago were Olivia and Noah.

Here are San Diego County’s top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2020:

Girl Names

  1. Olivia, 220 baby girls
  2. Emma, 197
  3. Isabella, 181
  4. Mia, 178
  5. Sophia, 172
  6. Camila, 171
  7. Luna, 140
  8. Sofia, 137
  9. Charlotte, 129
  10. Gianna, 126

Boy Names

  1. Noah, 217 baby boys
  2. Liam, 206
  3. Mateo, 197
  4. Benjamin, 162
  5. Sebastian, 161
  6. Oliver, 149
  7. Alexander, 135
  8. Santiago, 132
  9. Elijah, 131
  10. Ethan, 128

In the girls’ top 10, Gianna replaced the Amelia/Victoria tie.

In the boys’ top 10, Santiago and Elijah replaced Lucas and Julian.

In 2019, San Diego’s top names were Olivia and Liam.

Source: Top 10 Leading Baby Names in San Diego County, By Gender, 1996 – 2020 (PDF)

What popularized the baby name Tristan in the 1990s?

The character Tristran Ludlow (played by actor Brad Pitt) in the movie "Legends of the Fall" (1994).
Tristan Ludlow from “Legends of the Fall

The baby name Tristan saw an impressive jump in usage in the mid-1990s:

  • 1997: 4,196 baby boys named Tristan [rank: 92nd]
  • 1996: 5,458 baby boys named Tristan [rank: 68th]
  • 1995: 3,088 baby boys named Tristan [rank: 121st]
  • 1994: 492 baby boys named Tristan [rank: 452nd]
  • 1993: 567 baby boys named Tristan [rank: 409th]

The name’s rise in 1995 was the second-largest of the year (after Austin), and it reached the U.S. top 100 for the first time ever in 1996.

Here’s a visual:

Graph of the usage of the baby name Tristan in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Tristan

Many variant forms of the name saw higher usage during those years as well…

1994199519961997
Tristen736181,1881,078
Triston48372726666
Tristin34288630549
Tristian36157304287
Trystan1899182178
Treston31585860
Tryston.426975
Tristyn.286048
Trysten28†4862
Trystin6133742
Tristain.112521
Trestan.1176
Trestin511610
Trystyn.7*125
Tresten..810
Tristion..5*6
Tristine..5†.
Thristan..5*.
*Debut, †Gender-specific debut

Tristen, Triston, Tristin and Tristian all entered top 1,000 in 1995, and Trystan followed a year later.

The name that saw the largest relative increase in usage in 1995 was Tristin. In second place? Tristen.

(…And this doesn’t even account for all the Tristan-related girl names that got a mid-’90s boost.)

So, what was the influence?

The character Tristan Ludlow (played by Brad Pitt) from the movie Legends of the Fall — a saga set in rural Montana during the early decades of the 1900s.

Tristan was the rebellious middle son of rancher Col. William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins). He and his brothers — the older, ambitious Alfred (Aidan Quinn), and the younger, naïve Samuel (Henry Thomas) — all fell in love with the same beautiful woman, Susannah (Julia Ormond).

Released at the very end of 1994, the “big, robust Western love story” ranked #1 at the box office for four weeks straight in the early months of 1995.

Regarding Tristan Ludlow’s first name, one incredibly prescient reviewer noted that we should “look for [it] to be given to more than a few babies over the next few years.”

Tristan Ludlow didn’t end up with Susannah, but he did get married — to a Native American woman named Isabel (Karina Lombard). The name Karina saw it’s highest-ever usage in 1995, and the usage of Isabel also increased — though it was already on the rise, so there’s no telling how much of the increase was due specifically to the film.

Speaking of Isabel’s rise…

The fact that Legends of the Fall featured both a character named Isabel and an actor named Aidan, and that forms of these names (Isabella and Aiden) went on to reach the U.S. top 10 — peaking almost simultaneously a decade and a half later — is very interesting to me. It makes me wonder whether the movie’s impact on U.S. baby names wasn’t substantially greater (but also more complex?) than what the mid-’90s data would have us believe.

Isabella ranking, U.S.Aiden ranking, U.S.
20123rd10th
20112nd9th*
20101st*9th*
20091st*12th
20082nd16th
*Peak usage

(I began wondering about this after a friend of mine, who has a son named Aiden, mentioned that she’d had the name in the back of her mind ever since seeing Legends of the Fall as a teenager.)

What are your thoughts on this theory?

And, do you know anyone with a name that was inspired by Legends of the Fall?

Sources: