What made the name Napoleon popular in the Faroe Islands?

Nólsoyar Páll (1766-1808/9) on a Faroese 50 krónur banknote
Nólsoyar Páll (on a Faroese banknote)

Did you know that “Napoleon has been a common given name in the Faroe Islands since the 1800s”?

Neither did I, until I began researching Napoleon’s influence on names.

Apparently, it all has to do with Faroese national hero Nólsoyar Páll (“Paul from Nólsoy”).

Nólsoyar Páll — born as Poul Poulsen on the island of Nólsoy in 1766 — was a seaman/trader/farmer/poet who helped improve his country in various ways:

One of his most impressive achievements was his attempt to develop direct trade between the Faroe islands and the rest of Europe. To develop this trade, he bought and rebuilt a wrecked schooner. The ship was named Royndin Fríða (The Free Enterprise), and was the first seagoing ship built in the Faroe Islands and the first Faroese-owned vessel since the early Middle Ages.

Nólsoyar Páll had a strong admiration for Napoleon — who, at that time, was in the middle of trying to conquer Europe — and he wanted to name a son after the French leader.

His second child turned out to be a girl (his first child was also a girl), but that did not deter Nólsoyar Páll. He asked to name his daughter Napolonia, but the priest disapproved. Instead, she was named Apolonia after the Greek god Apollo.

Soon after, Nólsoyar Páll convinced his brother, Jákup Nolsøe, to name his son Napoleon. His brother agreed, calling him Napoleon Nolsøe. This is most probably the first Faroe Islander to be named Napoleon. Napoleon Nolsøe went on to become the first native certified doctor in the Faroe Islands.

Nólsoyar Páll’s nephew was born in 1809 — around the time Nólsoyar Páll himself was lost at sea.

I’m not sure how many Faroese Napoleons have been born since then, but my source noted that the Faroe Islands had 29 Napoleons and several Apolonias as of early 2018.

“Napoleon” didn’t pop up in the Faroe Islands baby name rankings for 2020, but if I look through the Faroese baby name data (2001-2020) for Napoleon and Apolonia specifically, I find…

  • Napoleon, b. 2002
  • Bárður Napoleon, b. 2004
  • Hanus Napoleon, b. 2006
  • William Napoleon, b. 2006
  • Sofus Napoleon, b. 2007
  • Ella Apollonia, b. 2008
  • Apolonia Ró, b. 2012
  • Napolion, b. 2013
  • Reimar Napoleon, b. 2019
  • Andrew Napoleon, b. 2020

It’s a short list, but the Faroe Islands only welcomes about 600-700 babies per year, so — proportionally speaking — these numbers are actually pretty impressive.

Sources: National hero inspired to name son after Napoleon Bonaparte, Nólsoyar Páll – Wikipedia, Statistics Faroe Islands, Births – Hagstove Foroya, FamilySearch.org

Babies named for Napoléon Bonaparte

Portrait of French Emperor Napoleon I (1769-1821)
Napoléon Bonaparte (circa 1812)

French military leader Napoléon Bonaparte may have spent his life trying to conquer a continent, but that life began and ended on islands.

He was born (as “Napoleone Buonaparte”) on the Mediterranean island of Corsica in 1769 — the same year that France took Corsica from the Republic of Genoa (now part of Italy). He died while in exile on the remote South Atlantic island of Saint Helena in 1821.

In between, Napoléon: attended military school on the mainland, began serving in the French Army, rose to prominence during the French Revolution and the French Revolutionary Wars, became the de facto leader of France in 1799, declared himself Emperor in 1804, and proceeded to build a vast empire via the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).

Needless to say, a large number of babies all over the world have been named “Napoleon” since that time.

I don’t want this post to get too crazy, though, so I’ve decided to collect namesakes from just two locations — France and the U.S. — and to stick to the years during which Napoléon was active.

Portrait of First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821)
Napoléon Bonaparte (circa 1803)

Napoléon’s namesakes in France

Thousands of French babies were named in honor of Napoléon from the mid-1790s to the mid-1810s.

In contrast with namesakes in other countries (like the U.S. and England), most of his French namesakes were given only his first name — not both names — and it was typically combined with one or more traditional French names (e.g., “Louis Napoléon,” “Jean Baptiste Napoléon”).

With that in mind, I went out of my way to find combinations that were a bit more varied…

  • Napoléon Baillot, b. 1793 in France
  • Jacques Napoléon Desiré Campa, b. 1795 in France
  • Napoléon Stéphanie Joseph Therin, b. 1797 in France
  • Napoléon Joseph Buttin, b. 1799 in France
  • Napoléon-Jean Demeester, b. 1800 in France
  • Napoléon Nicolas Senelar, b. 1801 in France
  • Guillaume Napoléon Pelletier, b. 1802 in France
  • Willebrod Napoléon Désiré Degrave, b. 1803 in France
  • Charlemagne Napoléon Lambert, b. 1804 in France
  • Napoléon Louis François Richounne, b. 1805 in France
  • Napoléon Parfait Furpille, b. 1806 in France
    • parfait means “perfect” in French
  • Bienaimé Napoléon Le Cagneux, b. 1807 in France
    • bienaimé means “beloved” in French
  • François Desiré Prosper Napoléon Loiseau, b. 1808 in France
  • Napoléon La Paix Lemasson, b. 1809 in France
    • la paix means “peace” in French
  • Gustave Napoléon Fichet, b. 1810 in France
  • Esprit Napoléon Houdry, b. 1811 in France
    • esprit means “spirit” in French
  • Napoléon Bonaventure Dusautier, b. 1812 in France
  • Auguste César Napoléon Decoene, b. 1813 in France
  • Napoléon-Etienne Vernoni, b. 1814 in France
  • Fructueux Napoléon Artigue, b. 1815 in France
    • fructueux means “successful” in French

Almost all of the namesakes in this group were boys, but a handful were girls with feminized forms of the name (like Napoléonne, Napoléonide, and Napoléontine).

Several dozen more boys — most of them born early on — were given only the surname:

  • Jacques Dominique Bonaparte Venkirch, b. 1796 in France
  • Augustin Bonaparte Joseph Galle, b. 1797 in France
  • Jean Baptiste Bonaparte Mollard, b. 1798 in France
  • Séraphin Adolphe Bonaparte Decorne, b. 1799 in France
  • Alexis Sébastien Bonaparte Poirée, b. 1801 in France

Napoléon had usually been called “General Bonaparte” or “citizen Bonaparte” before mid-1802, when the people of France went to the polls to decide: “Should Napoléon Bonaparte be consul for life?” Millions voted yes, and, after that, “he was generally known as Napoléon rather than Bonaparte.”

Napoléon’s namesakes in the U.S.

Napoléon didn’t wage any wars on North American soil (though he did sell a lot of that soil in 1803, when he let go of the Louisiana Territory for $15 million). Nonetheless, U.S. newspapers paid close attention to him:

French plebiscite mentioned in U.S. newspaper (July, 1802)
The “consul for life” vote mentioned in a Virginia newspaper, 1802

Americans were clearly impressed by Napoléon’s achievements, judging by the hundreds of U.S. namesakes born in the late 1790s and first decades of the 1800s. Many of these babies received both his first name and his surname:

Others were given only his first name:

And a good number simply got his surname:

  • Buonapart Manly Towler, b. 1796 in New York
  • Buonaparte Bennett, b. 1797 in Maryland
  • Buonaparte Mann, b. 1798 in Rhode Island
  • William Bonaparte Wood, b. 1799 in Massachusetts
  • Charles Bonapart Hunt, b. 1800 in Maine
  • George Washington Bonaparte Towns, b. 1801 in Georgia
  • Louis Bonaparte Chamberlain, b. 1802, probably in Mississippi
  • Lucion Bonaparte Keith, b. 1803 in Massachusetts
  • Consul Bonaparte Cutter, b. 1804 in Massachusetts
    • Napoléon Bonaparte served as Premier consul from 1799 to 1804
  • John Bonaparte Dixon, b. 1805 in North Carolina
  • Erastus Bonaparte White, b. circa 1806 in Rhode Island
  • Socrates Bonaparte Bacon, b. 1807 in Massachusetts
  • Bonaparte Crabb, b. 1808 in Tennessee
  • Madison Bonaparte Miller, b. 1809 in Vermont
    • James Madison served as 4th U.S. president from 1809 to 1817
  • Bonaparte Hopping, b. 1810 in New Jersey
  • Israel Bonaparte Bigelow, b. 1811 in Connecticut
  • Joseph Bonaparte Earhart, b. 1812 in Pennsylvania
  • Ampter Bonaparte Otto, b. 1813 in New York
  • William Bonaparte Steen, b. 1814 in South Carolina
  • Leonard Bonaparte Williams, b. 1815 in Virginia

A few of the people named Bonaparte (but not Napoléon) did have other given names — like Lucien, and Jerome — that could have been inspired by other members of the Bonaparte family. I found a Josephine Bonaparte Evans (b. 1815), for instance, who was probably named after Napoléon’s first wife.

Another of the relatively few females in this group was Federal Anne Buonapart Gist (b. 1799), the daughter of Joshua Gist, who served in the Maryland Militia during the Revolutionary War.

Defining “Napoléon” and “Bonaparte”

Other famous men named Napoléon Bonaparte (including Napoleon III) also had namesakes, but it was the original Napoléon Bonaparte who put these two unusual names on the map.

So…what do they mean?

The Italian forename Napoleone has obscure origins, so the meaning isn’t known for certain. One popular theory is that it’s made up of the elements Neapolis, the original name of Naples, and leone, meaning “lion.” When Bonaparte was born in 1769, the name was “relatively common around Genoa and Tuscany,” though it was spelled a variety of ways (e.g., Nabulio, Nabulione, Napulione, Napolionne, Lapulion). The name had been used in his family before; his father’s uncle, for instance, was also named Napoleone.

The Italian surname Buonaparte, on the other hand, is much more straightforward: it’s made up of the elements buona, meaning “good,” and parte, meaning “part, share, portion.”

Was anyone in your family tree named after Napoléon?

Sources:

Babies named for the Battle of Waterloo

Battle of Waterloo (June 18, 1815)
Battle of Waterloo

The Battle of Waterloo — which marked the final defeat of Napoleon and the end of the Napoleonic Wars — took place on June 18, 1815, near the village of Waterloo (located south of Brussels).

Fighting against Napoleon were two forces: a British-led coalition that included Germans, Belgians, and Dutch (all under the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley) and an army from Prussia (under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher).

Hundreds of babies were given the name “Waterloo” — typically as a middle — during the second half of the 1810s. Most of them were baby boys born in England, but some were girls, and some were born elsewhere in the British Empire (and beyond).

  • William Wellington Waterloo Humbley*, b. 1815, in England
  • Isabella Fleura Waterloo Deacon †, b. 1815, Belgium
  • John Waterloo Todd, b. 1815, England
  • Fredrick Waterloo Collins, b. 1815, Wales
  • Jubilee Waterloo Reeves (née Davis), b. 1815, England
  • Dent Waterloo Ditchburn, b. 1815, England
  • Joseph Waterloo Hart, b. 1815, England
  • Henry Waterloo Nickels, b. 1815, England
  • Sophia Waterloo Mills, b. 1815, England
  • Henry Waterloo Prescott, b. 1815, England
  • Richard Waterloo Renny, b. 1815, England
  • John Waterloo Posthumous Brittany, b. circa 1815, England
  • Charlotte Waterloo Grapes, b. circa 1815, England
  • Louisa Waterloo France, b. circa 1815, Belgium
  • James Waterloo Clark, b. 1816, England
  • Henry Waterloo Johnson, b. 1816, England
  • George Waterloo Holland, b. 1816, England
  • Charles Waterloo Wallett, b. 1816, England
  • John Waterloo Wilson, b. circa 1816, Belgium
  • Frederick Waterloo Jennings, b. 1817, England
  • William Waterloo Horford, b. 1817, England
  • George Mark Waterloo Smith, b. 1817, England
  • Edward Waterloo Lane, b. 1817, England
  • Robert Waterloo Cook, b. 1817, England
  • Eleanor Waterloo Whiteman, b. 1817, England
  • Ann Waterloo Barlow, b. 1818, England
  • Wellington Waterloo Teanby, b. circa 1818, England
  • William Wellington Waterloo Jackson, b. circa 1819, England

Interestingly, babies were still being named Waterloo long after the battle was over. Many more Waterloos were born from the 1820s onward:

The place-name Waterloo is made up of a pair of Middle Dutch words that, together, mean “watery meadow.” Since the battle, though, the word Waterloo has also been used to refer to “a decisive or final defeat or setback.” (It’s used this way in the 1974 Abba song “Waterloo” [vid], for instance.)

The Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) followed the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-c.1802), which followed the French Revolution (1789-1799), which gave rise to a number of revolutionary baby names in France.

Sources:

*William Wellington Waterloo Humbley was born on the day of the battle (while his father, an army officer, was abroad taking part). He was baptized the following summer, and the Duke of Wellington himself stood godfather. Several years after that, in 1819, his parents welcomed daughter Vimiera Violetta Vittoria Humbley — named after the battles of Vimeiro (1808) and Vitoria (1813).

† Isabella Fleura Waterloo Deacon’s father, Thomas, had been wounded in the previous battle (Quatre Bras, on the 16th). Her mother, Martha — who was traveling with the army — searched the battlefield for him all night. Eventually she discovered that he’d been transported to Brussels, some 20 miles away, so she walked there with her three young children. (Through a 10-hour thunderstorm, no less.) She reached Brussels on the morning of the 18th, located her husband, and gave birth to Isabella on the 19th.

Popular baby names in Argentina, 2020 & 2021

argentina

According to data from Argentina’s Registro Nacional de las Personas (RENAPER), the most popular names in the country in both 2020 and 2021 were Emma and Mateo.

First, here are Argentina’s top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2020:

Girl Names, 2020

  1. Emma, 7,966 baby girls
  2. Olivia, 5,409
  3. Martina, 5,236
  4. Isabella, 5,214
  5. Alma, 4,620
  6. Catalina, 4,099
  7. Mia, 4,084
  8. Ambar, 3,730
  9. Victoria, 3,722
  10. Delfina, 3,574

Boy Names, 2020

  1. Mateo, 7,750 baby boys
  2. Bautista, 5,237
  3. Juan, 5,125
  4. Felipe, 4,785
  5. Bruno, 4,440
  6. Noah, 4,428
  7. Benicio, 4,225
  8. Thiago, 3,772
  9. Ciro, 3,663
  10. Liam, 3,516

And, second, here are Argentina’s provisional 2021 rankings (which cover the year up to November 16):

Girl Names, 2021 (provisional)

  1. Emma, 5,201 baby girls
  2. Olivia, 3,958
  3. Alma, 3,579
  4. Martina, 3,475
  5. Isabella, 3,447
  6. Catalina, 3,025
  7. Mia, 2,651
  8. Roma, 2,389
  9. Sofía, 2,317
  10. Emilia, 2,316

Boy Names, 2021 (provisional)

  1. Mateo, 5,166 baby boys
  2. Bautista, 3,783
  3. Felipe, 3,673
  4. Noah, 3,563
  5. Juan, 3,381
  6. Liam, 3,114
  7. Benicio, 2,952
  8. Bruno, 2,821
  9. Thiago, 2,611
  10. Lorenzo, 2,256

My source article noted that the 2020 boys’ rankings included the names of all three of Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi’s sons: Thiago, Mateo, and Ciro.

It also noted that the girl name Roma was rarely used in the country until actress Dalma Maradona — daughter of Argentine soccer player Diego Maradona — welcomed her own daughter, Roma, in March of 2019. The next year, the name jumped to 15th place on the girls’ list. The year after that, it entered the top 10.

Finally, the name Lautaro — the Hispanicized version of Leftraru that we saw in the rankings for next-door neighbor Chile last week — ranked within Argentina’s top 20 in both 2020 and 2021. The name’s trendiness in Argentina right now probably has less to do with the original Lautaro (a 16th-century Mapuche warrior from Chile) and more to do with Argentine soccer player Lautaro Martínez.

Sources:

What influenced the baby name Sanjana in India in the 1990s?

The character Sanjana/Sanju (played by Aishwarya Rai) from a Lehar Pepsi commercial that aired in India in 1993.
“Hi, I’m Sanjana. Got another Pepsi?”

In her fascinating essay “The Namesakes,” author Sanjana Ramachandran tells the story of how a soft drink commercial that aired In India in 1993 popularized the baby name Sanjana.

Before we get to that story, though, a bit of background:

India, upon attaining independence in 1947, established a state-controlled economy that was essentially closed to the outside world. Under this system, the Indian consumer had very little choice in the marketplace and had to endure long wait-times for goods like cars, scooters, and wristwatches.

Even television — which introduced in the late 1950s, but didn’t go national until the early 1980s — was controlled by the state; government-owned Doordarshan was India’s sole broadcaster for over three decades.

All this changed in mid-1991, when India was forced (due to an economic crisis) to initiate a series of reforms. With economic liberalization came choice for the consumer, who could now start buying imported goods at the store and enjoying new content on television.

In the early days of India’s newly invigorated economy, American company PepsiCo — using the Indianized name “Lehar Pepsi” (lehar means “wave” in Hindi) — launched a marketing campaign in India that featured the Hindi-English slogan “Yeh Hi Hai Right Choice Baby, A-Ha.” (It was a spin-off of the “You Got The Right One Baby, Uh-Huh” campaign in the U.S.)

One of the commercials in that campaign was a 50-second spot that aired in 1993. It starred Bollywood actor Aamir Khan and two then-unknown female actresses, Mahima Chaudhry and Aishwarya Rai (pronounced ash-WUH-ree-ah RIE, roughly).

Here’s the commercial:

Here’s a description of the commercial, in case you don’t want to watch:

A young man is alone in his apartment, absentmindedly singing to himself, when the doorbell rings. He opens the door to find a pretty young woman, who enters and says, “Hi, I’m your new neighbor. Can I have a Lehar Pepsi?” He responds, “Uh, yeah, sure.” As he heads to the kitchen, he shows his excitement with a jump and a quiet “Yes!” She is idly looking around his apartment when he reaches the fridge…only to discover an empty bottle of Lehar Pepsi. He calls out (in Hindi) to ask if something else would suffice. She responds (in Hindi) that no, only a Lehar Pepsi will do. He already has one leg out the kitchen window as he calls back, “No problem.” He goes out onto the fire escape — the window slams shut behind him — and jumps down to the street. It’s raining outside. He spots a store selling Pepsi across the street. He tries to cross, but nearly gets hit by a car, so instead he jumps roof-to-roof over the traffic to reach the store just before it closes (diving beneath the security shutter as it comes down). He has a bottle of Pepsi in his hand as he runs up the fire escape steps. He finds the window locked. Just as the woman starts walking toward the kitchen (calling, “You okay in there?”) there’s the sound of glass shattering. The man comes out of the kitchen — soaking wet, out of breath — and hands her the bottle, saying, “Your Lehar Pepsi.” Then there’s a knock at the door. The woman says, “That must be Sanju.” “Sanju?” the man repeats, with a worried look on his face. A second woman suddenly comes into view behind them. She leans seductively against the wall and says, “Hi, I’m Sanjana. Got another Pepsi?”

The man’s moment of distress toward the end stems from the fact that “Sanju” is a gender-neutral diminutive. He assumes that Sanju must be male — probably the woman’s boyfriend — but is pleasantly surprised to see that this is not the case.

The Lehar Pepsi commercial was edgy and young, and TV audiences loved it:

The immediate reaction to the commercial was so overwhelming that the makers had to disconnect their phone lines. “Everyone aged 12 and above was calling to ask, ‘Who is this Sanju?’” [director of the commercial Prahlad] Kakar recalled.

Among the admirers were a number of expectant parents. According to voter rolls from the 2015 Delhi assembly elections, “more than twice as many Sanjanas [were] born in 1993 [than] in the preceding three years.” In fact, data indicates that the names Sanjana and Aishwarya both saw an increase in usage thanks to the commercial. Sanjana Ramachandran says that this “points to an interchangeability in markers of aspiration between character and actor. It was the aura — the ‘vibe’ — that parents were going for.”

Ramachandran spoke to nearly 50 other Sanjanas via the internet, and discovered that many of these Sanjanas were born years after the commercial had stopped airing:

Sanjana Parag Desai’s mother had known what she was going to call her daughter for eight years. Sanjana Harikumar’s mother had known for nine. […] Arun Thomas, who named his daughter Sanjana in 2009, vividly recalls the first time he heard the name.

Oddly, the name saw higher usage in the U.S. as well in 1993:

Sanjana usageAishwarya usage
199633 baby girls15 baby girls
199525 baby girls8 baby girls [debut]
199413 baby girls.
199316 baby girls.
19928 baby girls.
19915 baby girls.

Perhaps the commercial influenced U.S. baby names via Indian-Americans who were traveling back and forth between the two countries that year…?

If the commercial was indeed the influence, then it didn’t have the same effect on the name Aishwarya, which wouldn’t debut in the U.S. baby name data until 1995 — after Aishwarya Rai won the Miss World pageant in late 1994.

What are your thoughts on the name Sanjana? Do you know any Sanjanas named after the Pepsi commercial?

P.S. If the Lehar Pepsi commercial seemed eerily familiar to you — as it did to me at first — stay tuned for tomorrow’s post!

Sources: