I’ve only recently started watching hockey, so the first time I heard about Canadian player P. K. Subban was when he announced his retirement a few months ago.
He’s not the only player I know of who goes by his initials. One of the Colorado Avalanche players is called J. T. Compher, for instance. But I’d say P. K. has the most intriguing set of initials. (In contrast, the combo “J.T.” is so common that some parents simply register “JT” as a legal name.)
So, what do Subban’s initials stand for?
Here’s the answer, courtesy of Sports Illustrated:
P.K. stands for Pernell Karl. When he was born, his mother, Maria, thumbing through a movie magazine in her hospital bed, spotted a story about actor Pernell Roberts. The name clicked. Pernell for Adam Cartwright from Bonanza. Karl for his father.
When he was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 2007, P. K. was asked what his initials stood for, and he cheekily replied: “Penalty-killer.” (In fact, you do hear hockey announcers say “PK” — an acronym for “penalty kill” — during televised games sometimes.)
P. K. Subban has four siblings: two older sisters and two younger brothers. Both brothers are also professional hockey players with hyphenated names:
Nastassia (pronounced nah-STAH-zee-ah)
Pernell-Karl, or “P. K.”
Malcolm-Jamaal, or “Malcolm” (drafted in 2012 by the Boston Bruins)
Jordan-Carmichael, or “Jordan” (drafted in 2013 by the Vancouver Canucks)
I have to imagine that Malcolm’s name was somehow inspired by actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who played Theo on The Cosby Show, though I haven’t found any proof of this yet.
What are your thoughts on these names? And, have you spotted any interesting sets of initials recently?
Some explanations and/or potential influences for a few of the above:
Anangokaa means “there are (many) stars” in Ojibwe.
Arendelle is the name of a kingdom in the movie Frozen.
Brome refers to various types of grass in the genus Bromus.
Eberle — given to one girl and one boy last year — could refer to hockey player Jordan Eberle, who played with the Edmonton Oilers during the 2010s.
Fidel Castro was the revolutionary/statesman who led the island nation of Cuba for nearly five decades.
Gambit (besides being a word) is an X-Men character.
Heimdallr (besides being a Norse god) is a Marvel character.
Kikinaw means “our house/home” in Cree.
Kihêw means “eagle” in Cree.
Lunafreya is a character from the video game Final Fantasy XV.
Makisig means “elegant” or “gallant” in Tagalog.
Malësor means “highlander” in Albanian.
Nicêhis means “my little heart” or “my dear heart” in Cree.
Raistlin is a Dragonlance character.
Skadi (besides being a giantess in Norse mythology) is a character in the TV series Vikings.
Te Ahumairangi is the name of a hill in Wellington, New Zealand.
Valvatorez is a character from the video game Disgaea 4.
Waseskwan means “the sky is clearing (after a storm)” in Cree.
One other name that stood out to me is Bauer, given to 7 baby boys and 1 baby girl in 2021. I was paying close attention to the hockey playoffs this year, and I couldn’t help but notice “Bauer” everywhere — on sticks, on gloves, on helmets, etc. It makes me wonder how many of the baby Bauers out there (both in Canada and in the U.S.) have been named — either intentionally or inadvertently — after the ice hockey equipment brand.
Finally, here are the 2020 rankings for Alberta, if you’d like to compare.
Back when sea voyages were the only way to reach distant lands, many babies ended up being born aboard ships. And many of these ship-born babies were given names that reflected the circumstances of their birth. A good portion of them, for instance, were named after the ships upon which they were born.
I’ve gathered hundreds of these ship-inspired baby names over the years, and I think it’s finally time to post what I’ve found…
Emma Abergeldie Walsh, born in 1884
Eva Abernyte Congdon, born in 1875
Herbert Bealie Abington Tait, born in 1884
Abyssinia Louise Juhansen, born in 1870
Abyssinia Elfkin, born in 1872
Louise Abyssinia Bellanger, born in 1874
John Achilles Denchey, born in 1871
U. Actoea Jones, born in 1868
John Adriatic Gateley Collins, born in 1879
Adriatic O’Loghlin Gould, born in 1880
Agnes Adriatic Cook, born in 1880
Frederick Agamemnon Dingly, born in 1876
Mary Alaska Magee, born in 1884
Gertrude Alcester Dart, born in 1884
Mary Duncan Alcinosa Greenwood, born in 1887
Aldergrove Andrew Fullarton Feathers, born in 1875
He in turn gave his name to Medford, Minnesota, in the 1850s. His father, Englishman William K. Colling, was an early Minnesota settler who “said that he had a son who was born on board the ship Medford, and was named Medford, in honor of the ship, and proposed that the town should be named Medford in honor of the boy.”
I want to draw your attention to two of these contestants, Safira Afzaal and Yarden Levinson, because the rare names Safira and Yarden both debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1984 specifically:
Girls named Safira
Girls named Yarden
(Safira may be based on the Arabic name Safeerah, meaning “messenger”; Yarden, the Hebrew name of the Jordan River, is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “descend” or “flow down.”)
Here are Safira and Yarden introducing themselves at the start of the program…
Over the course of the two-hour program, the field of contestants was reduced three times: from 21 to 10 (by a panel of judges), from 10 to 3 (again by the judges), and finally from 3 to 1 (by popular vote).
Both Safira and Yarden survived the first cut. The second portion of the show featured the ten remaining women modeling in swimsuits, modeling in evening gowns, and, rather unusually, doing aerobic exercise. (How ’80s is that?)
Here’s Safira doing aerobics:
And here’s Yarden:
Before the three finalists were announced, David Hasselhoff explained that each of the three would be assigned a specific “1-900” phone number.
To cast a vote for your favorite girl, you simply dial her phone number. It’s that easy. Your vote will automatically be registered in the phone company’s computer in Kansas City, Missouri, and there’ll be a telephone charge of 50 cents. The total number of calls received at the end of the ten-minute period by the phone company’s computer in Kansas City will be transmitted to us, five thousand miles away, in Hawaii, and we will know our winner.
The three finalists? Debi, Jaqueline, and Yarden. (Not Safira, sadly.)
Here’s Yarden, right after being named a finalist:
During the next ten minutes, viewers saw (among other things) clips of the finalists talking about themselves. Yarden mentioned that, in Israel, every girl goes into the military and “learns how to fight,” and that she “served in a rescue unit in the Air Force.” She also said:
I come to the competition and they look at me and they say, ‘You’re Israeli? You’re blonde, I mean, how can that be?’
Alas, Yarden finished in third place with just 17.48% of the vote.
The winner was Debi Brett, the Brit, with 53.46% of the vote. (She received over $100,000 in cash and prizes, including a 30-day round-the-world trip, a full-length mink coat, a grand piano, a diamond ring, a Dodge 600 convertible, and a Ricoh 35mm camera.)
So, neither Safira nor Yarden won the pageant. But their names live on the U.S. baby name data, which is arguably far cooler. :)
I’m not sure what became of Yarden after the pageant, but I can tell you a bit about Safira (whose last name is actually spelled Afzal). She was born in Pakistan, raised in England, and went on to earn a law degree and become a barrister.
(Other post-pageant careers: Debi became photographer; Antonia became a model/TV personality; Deborah won Miss Universe 1985 and became an actress/TV personality; “Jaqueline” (actually spelled Jacqueline) became a model/TV personality; and “Julie” (Julia) became an actress — in fact, she played the female lead in the second Rambo movie.)
So what are your thoughts on the names Safira and Yarden? Which one would you be more likely to use for a baby girl?