About Names: Phyllis flourished thanks to poetry, prose and TV

Phyllis Diller

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his July 17th column, he looks at the history of the name Phyllis.

Phyllis is Greek for “foliage.” In Greek myth, Thracian princess Phyllis marries Demophon, King of Athens. She kills herself when he abandons her. An almond tree on her grave blossoms when Demophon returns. Classical poems retold Phyllis’ tale. When Renaissance Englishmen rediscovered these in the 1500s, Phyllis was confused with Felis (a form of Felicia) and became an English girl’s name. Romantic poets in the 17th century loved the name. John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-1680), wrote “Phillis, be gentler, I advise; make up for time misspent. When beauty on its deathbed lies, ’tis high time to repent.”

Phyllis peaked in 1929 at 24th. It stayed in the top 50 in the United States until 1950. It then fell, leaving the top thousand in 1985. It had one minor uptick in 1975, when “Phyllis,” Cloris Leachman’s “Mary Tyler Moore Show” spinoff in which snobbish Phyllis Lindstrom has to move in with in-laws and get a job, debuted. Only 21 American babies were named Phyllis in 2017.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Phyllises in history!

Say goodbye to AdWords and DoubleClick: Google rebrands

After 18 and 22 years, respectively, the AdWords and DoubleClick brands will soon cease to be. As part of a comprehensive effort to streamline its offerings, Google’s flagship advertising products are getting new names and reorganizing to better reflect their current capabilities and where the company sees trajectories for growth.

There will now be three primary brands:

  • Google AdWords is now Google Ads.
  • DoubleClick advertiser products and Google Analytics 360 Suite are now under the brand Google Marketing Platform.
  • DoubleClick for Publishers and DoubleClick Ad Exchange are integrated into a new unified platform called Google Ad Manager.

Along with the new names, these Google brands are getting new logos. To find out more, read this informative article at Search Engine Land!

Pluto Was Named by an 11-Year-Old Girl

Venetia Burney

The English names for our nearest neighboring planets come from the Romans, who named Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, and Mercury after their gods and goddesses. So what about Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto? These outer planets were officially classified as planets in 1781, 1846, and 1930.

An 11-year-old girl from Oxford, England is credited for naming Pluto. Venetia Burney suggested the name to her grandfather after being inspired by the Roman god of the underworld. Her grandfather, Falconer Madan, was the Librarian of the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford. Madan passed the name to Herbert Hall Turner, an astronomy professor, and Turner cabled the suggestion to colleagues at the Lowell Observatory.

To learn more about how the outer planets were named, click through to this article at Curiousity.com!

Open Position: Place Name Research Associate, University of Glasgow

Job description: To make a (leading) contribution to the project: ‘The Place-Names of the Galloway Glens’ working with Prof. Thomas Clancy and Dr Simon Taylor. Specifically, the job requires expert knowledge in the areas of Scottish place-names, and place-name survey. The successful candidate will also be expected to contribute to the formulation and submission of research publications and research proposals as well as help to successfully deliver this project as opportunities allow.

This position is part time at 17.5 hours per week and has funding until 31 May 2019.

Deadline for applications is 31st July 2018.

To apply, please visit the website at Jobs.ac.uk

To read more about the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership, please visit their website.

Tronc finally changes its name back to Tribune Publishing

Tronc, one of the most lambasted corporate name changes of the digital era, is going to return to its original name, Tribune Publishing. Ex-chairman Michael Ferro pushed for “Tronc” in June 2016. It supposedly stood for Tribune Online Content, but was widely ridiculed at the time of the announcement. Even Soon Shiong, the second-largest shareholder in Tronc after Ferro, had called the name “silly” in a tweet and urged a change back to Tribune Publishing.

The Tronc name has been seen as an out-of-touch way to modernize the look and feel of a company partly responsible for the waning relevance and resource depletion of the country’s major daily newspapers. The name change took place back in 2016 as part of a broad rebranding of the Chicago-based business, which at the time was grappling with its outdated business model, lackluster public image, and its inability to adapt to a media landscape increasingly less dependent on traditional newspaper publishing. The change was also a way for Tronc to differentiate itself from the Tribune Media company from which it was spun off.

Read more about reactions to this name change here.

“Amazon Alexa has changed the world, but it’s ruined my name”

Alexa Giebink is Argus Leader Media’s food and entertainment reporter. (Photo: Jay Pickthorn/Argus Leader)

What’s it like to be named Alexa, now that Amazon Alexa is well, everywhere? In this article in the Argus Leader, writer Alexa Giebink says its “both a blessing and a curse”:

Thankfully for my parents, the device’s “wake word” can be changed to ‘Amazon’ or ‘Echo.’In the first month they had the speaker, there were several unsettling instances the Echo answered my parents when they called out my name.

Giebink looks into why Amazon chose the name Alexa, and reports on the name’s decline in popularity:

My name was never really that popular to begin with, but Amazon’s device has made it less so. In 2015, the year the Echo was released, 6,050 baby girls in the United States were named Alexa, or 311 for every 100,000 female babies born. Since then, the name has declined in popularity 33 percent, according to new data from the Social Security Administration. Last year, just 3,883 baby girls were named Alexa.

Click through to read more from a real-life Alexa!

South Africans can expect more place name changes in the coming years


The South African city of Grahamstown, currently undergoing its 44th National Arts Festival, will soon be called Makhanda, after a Xhosa warrior. The Arts and Culture department said on Friday that there had been a 20-year call for the name change, which is going ahead because some people are opposed to the painful history the founder of Grahamstown, Colonel John Graham, epitomized.

Graham is a figure who was praised by the British for “breaking the back of the natives”.

“The battles he waged were not only against soldiers. Everyone, including women, children and the elderly would not be spared. Even post-battle, he and his soldiers would employ the ‘scorched earth policy’ against those he had already brought violence and misery against, by burning their fields and killing their cattle; starving them into submission, before killing them”, said Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s statement.

The name Grahamstown is to be replaced by Makhanda, named after the great Xhosa warrior, philosopher, prophet, and medicine man. Makhanda is also known as Nxele and his name can also be spelled Makana. During the Xhosa Wars, he led an attack against the British garrison at Grahamstown in 1819.

You can read more about the controversial decision here.

About Names: There’s no doubting Thomas’ enduring popularity as a baby name

Thomas Jefferson

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his July 3rd column, he looks at the history of the name Thomas.

Thomas, one of Jesus’s original apostles, is famous for refusing to believe Christ’s resurrection until he’d touched His wounds. It’s believed he was martyred in India on July 3, 72. Thomas is from the Aramaic Ta’oma, “twin.” Its popularity with medieval Catholics was reinforced by renowned theologian St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).

In England, a bigger influence was St. Thomas Becket (1119-1170). Becket, Lord Chancellor for his friend King Henry II, became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162. Conflicts over church rights led four of Henry’s knights to misinterpret the king’s angry rant as an order to kill. Becket’s murder in the cathedral led Pope Alexander III to canonize him in 1173. His Canterbury tomb became a place of pilgrimage, and Thomas became a hugely popular name. By 1380, it ranked third. It was second or third every year between 1538 and 1850, much more common in England than the rest of Europe.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Thomases in history!

The Verrazano Bridge may finally get its missing “z” back

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge: A colossal expanse linking Brooklyn and Staten Island, once the longest suspension bridge in the world and a proud symbol of New York City’s history and urban geography.

Language of origin: Italian. Part of speech: noun.

Spelling: Wrong.

The iconic bridge, with one Z, was christened in 1960 in honor of the 16th-century explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, with two Zs. After the better part of a century of wrangling over the spelling of the name, the state seems poised to finally rectify what is possibly the biggest unintentional slight in the annals of American public architecture.

Now a bill is making its way through the New York State legislature seeks to add back that truant “z”. Read more about it in this New York Times article. What do you think – one “z” or two “z”?

About Names: Owen owes its recent popularity to TV, movie stars

Chris Pratt as Owen Grady

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his June 19th column, he looks at the history of the name Owen.

Owen is a name with two origins. It’s the English form of Welsh Owain. Some experts think Owain is from Welsh “eoghunn” (“youth”), but more say it’s the Welsh form of Eugene (Greek “well-born”). Owain Glyndwr (1359-1415), last native Welsh Prince of Wales, began a decade-long revolt against Wales’ English rulers in 1400. Owen Tudor (1400-1461), probably named after Glyndwr, was grandfather of Henry VII, founder of England’s Tudor dynasty.

Owen became a Welsh and English surname in medieval times. Many early American examples of the given name come from that. The mother of anti-slavery leader Owen Brown (1771-1856), father of famous abolitionist John Brown (1800-1859), was Hanna Owen. Even more American Owens derived from Celtic tradition. There were 8,842 Owens listed in the 1850 census. Meanwhile, 41.5 percent were born in Ireland and 3.1 percent in Wales, compared with 4.1 percent and 0.1 percent of all Americans.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Owens in history!