About Names: “Sports, music, and works of fiction helped popularize Andre”

French author and poet André Breton (Attribution: public domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 2nd column, he looks at the history of the name Andre.

Andre starts the beginning of the end Tuesday.

“Black-ish,” the popular ABC sitcom about a wealthy African American family, premieres its final season Jan. 4. Anthony Anderson, starring as advertising executive Andre “Dre” Johnson, has been nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series all seven seasons.

André is the French form of Andreas, a Greek name derived from “andreios” (“manly”), known as Simon Peter’s brother, the first Apostle of Jesus. In English, he’s of course called St. Andrew.

Before the 19th century, it was normal to translate given names when moving from one culture to another. Men born André in France would naturally be called Andrew when visiting or immigrating to an English-speaking country. It’s only around 1800 that different forms of common saint’s names from other languages started being adopted into English.

The 1850 United States census, first listing all free residents by name, found 475 men called Andre. Eleven percent were born in France or Quebec, and 38% in French-influenced Louisiana.

The names of slaves weren’t listed in the census. The 1870 census included 670 Andres. Twenty-two percent of those were Black, mostly freed slaves and their sons. Forty-two percent of them were born in Louisiana.

Andre increased slowly over the next 70 years, though it didn’t maintain its popularity with Black parents. In the 1940 census, the latest with names available, only 5.4% of the 3,673 Andres were Black men, though Black men made up 9.8% of the population.

Meanwhile André had boomed back in France. Between 1910 and 1935, it was second only to Jean as a name for French boys.

Andre entered the top thousand baby names in the United States in 1924. Starting in the 1930s, it was helped by orchestra conductor Andre Kostelanetz (1901-1980). Born Abram Kostelyanetz in Russia, he’s credited with inventing “easy listening” light classical arrangements years before the term was created. Albums with him conducting the New York Philharmonic billed as “Andre Kostelanetz and his orchestra” sold millions.

About Names: “From stage to screen to athletics, Evan celebrates pop culture popularity”

Figure skater Evan Iysacek at the 2004 Four Continents Championships in Hamilton, Ontario; Photo by Vesperholly (CC-BY-2.5)

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

Evan is celebrating the new year in Omaha.

“Dear Evan Hansen,” the Broadway musical about a high school loner who falsely claims he was the best friend of a classmate who committed suicide, will be at Omaha’s Orpheum Theater Dec. 28 through Jan. 2. In 2017, it won the Tony Award for Best Musical, and Ben Platt became the youngest winner of Best Leading Actor in a musical for playing Evan. A film version starring Platt premiered in September.

Evan is the English spelling of Welsh Iefan. (Welsh “f” is pronounced like English “v”.) Iefan is a Welsh form of John, the Biblical name derived from Hebrew Yochanan, “God is gracious.”

Just as John was common in England after 1250, Evan was common in Wales. The Welsh were late in adopting hereditary surnames, and so a few family names based on given names became overwhelmingly popular. The surname Evans today ranks fourth in Wales and seventh in the UK. The 355,593 Evanses in the 2010 United States census ranked 53rd.

The first British census in 1841 included 14,985 named Evan in Wales out of a population of just over a million, and 1,706 in England among almost 15 million. The 1851 United States census found 3,082, with 21% born in Wales.

The popularity of Evan with those of Welsh ancestry led to a surprising number of men named Evan Evans. Fifteen percent of those named Evan in Wales in 1841 were surnamed Evans, and 291 (7%) of 1851’s Americans were “Evan Evans.” Mathematician Evan Evans (1827-1874) was the first professor at Cornell University at its founding in 1868. Evan Evans (born 1965) is a champion off-road racing driver while using hand controls as a paraplegic.

About Names: “In song or in prayer, Maria is ‘beloved’ by many”

Physicist and chemist Maria Skłodowska-Curie, renowned for her work in radioactivity

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his December 5th column, he looks at the history of the name Maria.

Maria and Tony meet on screen again Friday.

Steven Spielberg’s remake of 1961’s “West Side Story” premiers Dec. 10. Based on 1957’s Broadway hit with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021), who died Nov. 26, it’s the story of star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria, who fall in love despite being connected to rival New York City street gangs.

Maria is the Latin form of Miryam, the Hebrew name of Moses’s sister in the Bible. The origin of Miryam is unknown. The most common guess used to be “bitter sea,” because Mara is a Hebrew name meaning “bitter.” Today “rebellious” and “wished for child” are thought possible. Some modern scholars think Miriam was based on Egyptian “mry,” “beloved.”

Whatever its origin, Maria is famous as Jesus’s mother, venerated as the “Mother of God” by Christians for two millennia. Today it’s her name in most European languages. English (Mary), French (Marie), and Irish Gaelic (Máire) are among the few where Maria isn’t the traditional name of the Virgin.

Though Orthodox Christians have named girls Maria since ancient times, in the Middle Ages Roman Catholics thought it too sacred to give to babies, as Christians outside the Spanish speaking world still think of “Jesus.” When Orthodox Princess Maria of Kiev married Duke Casimir of Poland in 1040, she was rebaptized “Dobroniega,” because Catholic Poles found calling her “Maria” offensive.

This attitude changed in Iberia and Italy by 1250. Soon so many Spanish and Portuguese girls were named Maria, they were given titles of the Virgin, such as “María de los Dolores” (“Mary of the Sorrows”) as their full name, with epithets like Dolores, Gloria “glory,” and Mercedes “mercies” becoming names themselves.

About Names: “It’s ‘clear’ why Claire remains a popular name”

Claire Windsor, an actress who found greater success during the silent film era than all of the talkies she filmed in the 1930s

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his November 21st column, he looks at the history of the name Claire.

On Tuesday, we learn how Claire gets through the Revolution.

“Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone”, the ninth book in Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series, will be released Nov. 23. In 1991, “Outlander” introduced readers to Claire Randall, an English nurse who time-travels from 1945 to 1743’s Scotland. In “Bees,” it’s 1779 and Claire’s married to Highlander Jamie Fraser. They’re now settlers in backwoods North Carolina, menaced by both sides in the Revolutionary War.

In 2018, “Outlander” was second to “To Kill A Mockingbird” in PBS’s “Great American Read” contest. Caitriona Balfe has played Claire in Starz’s “Outlander” series since 2014.

Claire is the French form of Clara, feminine of Latin Clarus, “clear.” Two early male saints were named Clarus. Clare first appears as an English female name around 1200. After 1300, veneration of St. Clare of Assisi (1194-1253), Italian founder of the Poor Clares nuns, made it more common.

Clare was eclipsed by Latin Clara after 1750. 1850’s United States Census found 13,349 Claras and only 90 female Clares and 74 Claires, with 58 Claires born in France or French-influenced Louisiana.

That census found 225 males named Clair, Clare, or Claire. Clare was a nickname for Clarence, and also came from surnames Clair and Clare, sometimes derived from English place names or “clayer,” a medieval term for “plasterer.”

About Names: “Joan and Joni’s popularity almost the ‘same situation'”

A statue of Joan d’Arc near the Plaines d’Abraham of Quebec City (Photo by Jeangagnon, CC-BY-4.0)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his November 7th column, he looks at the history of the name Joan.

Both opera and pop fans could celebrate today.

Famed coloratura soprano Joan Sutherland (1926-2010) was born Nov. 7 in Sydney, Australia. Nine-time Grammy winner Joni Mitchell was born as Roberta Joan Anderson in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada, on Nov. 7, 1943.

Joan was the original English feminine form of John, brought to England by the Normans in 1066. By 1380, Joan ranked third for English girls.

When parish birth records began in the 1540s, Joan was No. 1. However, it was already going out of fashion with the upper classes, who preferred Jane. In the 1610s, Jane was No. 5 and Joan No. 6.

By the 19th century, Joan was rare. The 1850 United States census found 269,741 Janes and only 1,075 Joans out of 23 million residents. The 1851 British census found 626,280 Janes and 3,397 Joans out of almost 21 million.

In the 1890s, Joan began rising again, partly as an alternative to the already fashionable Jean, but also because of a huge upswing of interest in Joan of Arc (1412-1431), the French visionary who led armies against the English before being convicted of heresy and burned at the stake. Though the Catholic church overturned Joan’s heresy conviction in 1456, she was only beatified in 1909 and canonized a saint in 1920.

When Social Security’s yearly baby name lists start in 1880, Joan ranked 508th. In 1909, Joan was 303rd. In 1917, after Cecil B. DeMille’s film “Joan the Woman” starring Geraldine Farrar as Joan of Arc was released, it was 182nd.

About Names: “Spencer has proven it’s a name for all ages”

Spencer Tracy (Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his October 25th column, he looks at the history of the name Spencer.

Will Spencer’s team win the state championship? Fans find out Monday.

“All American,” a television drama about high school football players in Los Angeles, starts its fourth season then. Starring Daniel Ezra as Spencer James, it’s based on the life of NFL linebacker Spencer Paysinger (born 1988). Last season’s cliffhanger ended with Spencer’s team running onto the field to face Beverly Hills High.

Spencer is an English surname meaning “dispenser,” the official on a noble estate who disbursed provisions. All estates had a spencer, so it’s a common surname. Almost 140,000 Americans bore the last name Spencer in 2010, ranking it 199th.

Noble English Spencers trace their ancestry to Sir John Spencer, a wealthy livestock trader who purchased the Althorp estate in 1508.

King Henry VIII knighted him in 1519. One of his descendants married a daughter of John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. The surname changed to Spencer-Churchill, and the family spawned British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965).

About Names: “For men and women, Brett historically a ‘maverick’ name”

A photo of quarterback Brett Favre at Lambeau field (Photo by Mike Morbeck, CC-BY-2.0)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his October 10th column, he looks at the history of the name Brett.

Which NFL quarterback holds the record for most consecutive starts?

Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers, who started 297 regular season games between 1992 and 2010. Favre turns 52 today.

Brett is a surname indicating one’s ancestor was a Celtic-speaking Breton or Briton. In southern England, Bretts are descended from settlers from Brittany who arrived after 1066’s Norman conquest. In Scotland, Bretts had ancestors from Strathclyde, a kingdom along the Scottish-English border where Cumbrian, a language akin to Welsh, was spoken when Scots conquered it around 1030.

When the custom of giving boys surnames as first names was established, Bretts began to occasionally appear. The oldest of the five in the 1850 United States census, Brett Stovall of Patrick County, Virginia, was born in 1766.

Author Bret Harte (1836-1902) was born as Francis Brett Hart in New York; Brett was his paternal grandmother’s maiden name. He went to California in 1853, later becoming famous for short stories and poems about miners and gamblers of the California Gold Rush.

About Names: “Television fueled the Meredith comeback”

While Meredith was not his first name, James Meredith was the first African-American man admitted to the segregated University of Mississippi

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his September 27th column, he looks at the history of the name Meredith.

What new crises will Meredith have this fall?

“Grey’s Anatomy” begins its 18th season Sept. 30. The medical drama, set in a large Seattle hospital, revolves around the professional and personal lives of surgeon Meredith Grey and her colleagues. An immensely talented doctor with a messy emotional life, Meredith almost died from COVID-19 last season. “Anatomy” maintains high ratings; Ellen Pompeo, who plays Meredith, is one of television’s highest-paid actresses.

Meredith is the modern form of medieval Welsh Maredudd, combining words meaning “great, splendid” and “lord.” Maredudd, son of King Owain of Deheubarth in southwestern Wales, seized the northern kingdom of Gwynedd for his father in 986. When Owain died in 988, Maredudd became king of most of Wales until his death in 999. The name stayed popular in Wales and English counties bordering it for centuries, spawning the surname Meredith.

In 1851, the British census found 264 men with the first name Meredith. The 1850, the United States census found 776, though the total population was about equal. Some American Merediths may have been named after Jonathan Meredith (1772-1805), a Marine killed in the First Barbary War after saving an officer’s life. Four U.S. Navy ships have been named “Meredith” in his honor.

Though more used in America than Britain, Meredith was never common for boys. Its highest rank on Social Security’s yearly lists was 582nd in 1941, while actor Burgess Meredith (1907-1997) was at the top of his Hollywood fame.

Iowa-born Meredith Willson (1902-1984), who wrote hit Broadway musicals “The Music Man” (1957) and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” (1960) and the song “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” (1951), is probably the most famous American male Meredith.

About Names: “Are you reading ‘What happened to Lacey’?”

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 29th column, he looks at the history of the name Lacey.

‘You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey,” by Omahan Lacey Lamar and her sister, comedian Amber Ruffin, is the Omaha Public Library’s 2021 Omaha Reads selection. They humorously present the serious subject of how racism has impacted their lives as Black Omahans. The library will hold an online discussion with the authors Sept. 2.

Lacey is an English surname from the town of Lassy in Normandy. Lassy is 42 miles south of D-Day landing site Omaha Beach.

The first Laceys came to England in 1066 with William the Conqueror. One branch included John de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln (1192-1240), a leader of those who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215.

An Irish branch was founded by Hugh de Lacy, who King Henry II appointed Lord of Meath when he invaded Ireland in 1172. Most Irish Laceys are Hugh’s descendants, though some get the name from Gaelic Ó Laitheasa, “grandson of the prince.”

When the custom of turning surnames into given names became established around 1700, men named Lacy appeared. The 1850 U.S. Census reported 603.

The spelling Lacy was commoner for boys. In 1880, when yearly baby name data starts, Lacy ranked 662nd. It peaked at 392nd in 1900, leaving the male top thousand in 1969.

About Names: “The romantic — and rebellious — history of Guy”

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 15th column, he looks at the history of the name Guy.

Right now on movie screens a Guy is saving his world.

“Free Guy” premiered Friday. In this fantasy film, a new program makes Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a minor nonplayer character in video game “Free City,” self-aware. He then must save his virtual world from being erased.

Guy is the French form of Wido, an ancient Germanic name from either witu (“wood”) or wit (“wide”). Brought to England in 1066, it stayed in use partly because of the legend of Guy of Warwick, retold in ballads since around 1200.

In his story, Guy is a lowly cupbearer who loves Felice, daughter of the Earl of Warwick.

To become worthy of her, he travels the world slaying dragons and other monsters. After wedding Felice, Guy makes a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, returning just in time to save Winchester from Danish invaders by defeating giant Colbrand in single combat.

The name’s heroic reputation was ruined by Guy Fawkes (1570-1606).

In 1605, Fawkes joined several other Catholics in the Gunpowder Plot, planning to blow up King James and Parliament on Nov. 5. Though Fawkes wasn’t the leader, he was first arrested, and his name came to exemplify treason.

Parliament declared Nov. 5 an annual celebration. Effigies of Fawkes made of old rags were tossed into bonfires. Soon these were called “guys”. Around 1830 “guy” became slang in England for any shabbily dressed man.