The ancient name Cybele first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in relatively modern times — the 1960s.
1965: 14 baby girls named Cybele
1964: 16 baby girls named Cybele
1963: 15 baby girls named Cybele [debut]
The variant spelling Cybelle debuted the same year.
Where did they come from?
A 1962 French film called Les dimanches de Ville d’Avray (The Sundays of Ville d’Avray), which was later re-titled for English audiences: Sundays and Cybèle. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in April of 1963.
The movie followed an emotionally damaged war veteran named Pierre (played by Hardy Krüger) as he starts an innocent friendship with a neglected schoolgirl named Cybèle (played by 11-year-old Patricia Gozzi). Their relationship “ultimately ignites the suspicion and anger of his friends and neighbors in suburban Paris,” with tragic results.
Cybele was pronounced sih-BELL by the American media at the time. The name ultimately comes from the name of the Greco-Roman mother goddess, Cybele.
A reader named Virginia is expecting a baby in September. For a boy, she’d selected the name Phineas. She liked “that it was unusual without being bizarre,” and that it started with ph. But now she’s not so sure about the name:
All was fine and dandy until I read an article about violence in the Bible. It vaguely mentioned Phineas as a name from the Bible used as a talisman by white supremacists. What!?!
That was a shock to me too. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Phineas Priesthood is “a violent credo of vengeance that has gained some popularity among white supremacists and other extremists in recent years.” I’d never heard of the Phineas Priesthood before–not even when Julia Roberts named her son Phinnaeus a few years ago.
Virginia doesn’t want to give up her favorite name, but she also “can’t live with such an association,” so she was hoping for some name suggestions. Other names she’s considering include Joel and Samuel (for boys) and Sigrid, Phoebe, Elisabeth, and Anne (for girls). All are family names.
First, a few thoughts:
I doubt many people are aware that white supremacists use Phineas as a code word. It’s an odious association, but maybe it’s also obscure enough that it’s not worth worrying about…?
I really like Sigrid and Phoebe–they’re both significant and unusual. Especially Sigrid. (Phoebe is being used more and more every year, so it might not be unusual for long.)
And now, name suggestions. Here are some unusual-but-not-bizarre boy names that I think Virginia might like:
Amos Barnabas Baxter Ephraim Ezra
Felix Horatio Humphrey Lazarus Matthias
Maximilian Moses Peregrine Ralph Raphael
Rufus Silas Simeon Ulysses Zephaniah
And some girl names:
Clotilde Cybele Daphne Dagny Delphine
Drusilla Esther Fabiola Georgia Josephine
Lucretia Ophelia Penelope Phyllis Ruth
Salome Seraphina Talulla Tryphena Verena
What other names would you suggest to Virginia? (And, what’s your take on the Phineas dilemma?)
Update: The baby has arrived! Click here to learn the baby’s name.