About Names: It’s not the popular name it used to be, but Rita is the patron saint of lost causes

Rita Moreno, actor

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his March 28th column, he looks at the history of the name Rita.

Rita is a short form of Margherita or Margarita, Italian and Spanish forms of Margaret, from Greek margarites (pearl). The fame of legendary St. Margaret of Antioch, swallowed by a dragon that burst open because of her holiness, made her name common across medieval Europe.

Rita became a name in its own right through St. Rita of Cascia (1381-1457). Born Margherita Lotti, Rita was married against her will at age 12 to wealthy but violently abusive Paolo Mancini. Over 18 years, her patience and prayers reformed him. After Paolo was stabbed to death in a vendetta, Rita’s example of forgiveness ended the feud. She entered a convent at Cascia, legendarily levitated into its courtyard by her patron saints.

Rita ranked between 52nd and 60th all through the 1940s. As Rita Hayworth’s reign as “Love Goddess” waned, the name began its inevitable retreat, finally leaving the top 1,000 in 2003. Novelist Rita Mae Brown (1944), recording artist Rita Coolidge (1945) and comedian Rita Rudner (1953) are famous Ritas born during Hayward’s heyday. Actress and film producer Rita Wilson (1956) is newsworthy now, as she and husband Tom Hanks were among the first celebrities to announce that they had tested positive for COVID-19.

Rita Moreno, now 88, won a best supporting actress Oscar in 1961 for “West Side Story.” She went on to win a Grammy, a Tony and two Emmys, one of only 12 artists to win all four.

About Names: ‘Peter Pan’ gave Wendy wings, but the name has fallen back down to earth

Guitarist Wendy Melvoin

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

“Peter Pan” began as a 1904 play by Scottish author J.M. Barrie (1860-1937). He named Wendy in honor of Margaret Henley (1888-1894). Daughter of poet William Ernest Henley, Margaret died of meningitis at age 5. She called Barrie “Fwendy-wendy,” inspiring Wendy Darling’s name. Many names (including Vanessa, Pamela and Dorian) are author creations, and “friend” is a great meaning. Still, many commentators seem embarrassed by Wendy’s baby-talk origin and insist it’s a form of Gwendoline. There really isn’t good evidence that Wendy was used as a pet form of Gwendoline before Barrie’s play.

Wendy is an English place name and surname. Wendy is a hamlet in Cambridgeshire, meaning “island at a river bend” in Old English.

Today’s most famous Wendy is probably “Wendy” Thomas (born 1961), whose father, Dave, named his hamburger chain Wendy’s after her in 1969. Befitting a name created from baby talk, Wendy is a nickname from her childhood mispronunciation of Melinda.

Shall we rename Spanish Flu ‘1918 Influenza Pandemic’?

President Trump has recently taken to referring to the coronavirus outbreak, also known as Covid-19, as the “Chinese Virus,” and has been accused of racism and xenophobia for doing so.

A common response is to point out that the Spanish Flu is the most common name for the flu outbreak that took place after the end of the First World War – so, of course, this is being retconned.

On the Talk page for the “Spanish Flu” Wikipedia article, there is a raging debate going on as to whether to rename the page to the “1918 Influenza Pandemic.” Some commentors claimed that the name “Spanish Flu” is racist, just as “Chinese Flu” is racist, with others swearing that they definitely hadn’t referred to the pandemic as the “Spanish Flu” before.

The Army doesn’t plan on renaming 10 installations named for Confederate leaders

In the wake of news that the Marine Corps is banning Confederate paraphernalia from its installations, the Army says it does not plan to rename its bases and facilities that were long ago named after Confederate leaders.

The Confederate history of several Army installations was brought back into the news following the publication of a new order from Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger which directed any and all Confederate-related paraphernalia be removed from Corps installations.

As military historian Army Maj. Mark Herbert wrote in 2017, the first wave of new installations named after Confederate leaders emerged after the U.S. entered World War I. Those bases were originally named after “war heroes or prominent figures in American history,” Herbert wrote, but in several instances the naming decisions “were left up to local commanders.”

About Names: Albert means ‘bright,’ and Einstein wasn’t the only one to live up to his name

Scientist Albert Einstein

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his March 14th column, he looks at the history of the name Albert.

Albert is an ancient Germanic name combining “adal” (noble) and “beraht” (bright). Albert was a French form brought to England by Norman conquerors in 1066. It replaced Old English Æelbriht, source of the surname Albright.

The first famous Albert was St. Albert the Great (1193-1280), who resigned as Bishop of Regensburg in 1262 to devote his life to scholarship. Albert wrote works on astronomy, chemistry, physiology and other subjects. One of the first since ancient times to record careful observations of nature, he’s patron saint of natural scientists. By 1400, Albert was very rare in England. It’s often assumed that it only revived when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840.

So Albert was in use on both sides of the Atlantic before 1840. There’s no denying, though, that Prince Albert’s fame skyrocketed it. In 1850, Albert was No. 20 in England. In 1880, when Social Security’s baby name data begins, it ranked No. 15 in the U.S. Alberts in entertainment include film producer Broccoli (1909-96), Blue Oyster Cult drummer Bouchard (1947) and actor Molina (1953). Comedian Albert Brooks was born Albert Lawrence Einstein in 1947. If he used his real name, people would think it a bad joke.

The Neighborhood Name Game

By C. J. Hughes

Place names come and go — with help from (surprise!) the real estate industry — but a few that have stuck around offer a window onto the city’s past.

by Lindsey Spinks

Manhattan, for all its charms, can sometimes fail the imagination. From the “financial district” to “Midtown” to the “Upper West Side,” the names of neighborhoods can seem just-the-facts dull, seeming to prefer literal and safe over style and mystery.

It wasn’t always this way. Checkering the borough once were names far more novel, like Mackarelville (on the Lower East Side), San Juan Hill (on the Upper West Side) and Jones Wood (on the Upper East Side), names which frequently got wiped off maps with the help of developers.

Read more

About Names: Rooted in Irish mythology, Conor has a bright future

Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro – Conor Oberst – Luck Reunion in concert, SXSW Festival, Austin, USA – 16 Mar 2017

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

Conor is the modern form of ancient Irish Conchobar, from “con” (dog) and “cobar” (desiring, liking). In Irish myth Conchobar mac Nessa is a king of Ulster. His mother, Ness, convinces her husband, King Fergus, to make 7-year-old Conchobar nominal king for a year to cement his royal status. Ness makes such wise decisions for her son that Ulster’s nobles keep him king permanently. As an adult, Conchobar wins a war against Queen Medb of Connacht when she attempts to steal Ulster’s famous stud bull.

Conner is an English surname from Old English “cunnere” (“examiner”), indicating one’s ancestor was an inspector of measures in alehouses. It’s often been confused with Conor. Many American Conner families are probably O’Connors in disguise.

Connor first beat Conor as the top spelling in 1986 — probably because of the film “Highlander.” Christopher Lambert starred as Connor MacLeod, an immortal Scottish swordsman battling foes who can only be killed by beheading. “Highlander” was a cult hit, spawning several sequels.

Connor boomed, peaking at 38th in 2004. Conner had a smaller upswing, reaching 127th in 2005. Conor’s 1993 peak, at 232nd, is linked to Eric Clapton’s song “Tears in Heaven,” inspired by the death of his young son Conor in 1991.

Baby Names That Have Been Banned Around The World

Although the United States is pretty lax when it comes to baby-naming regulations, other countries are much stricter. In places like Italy, France, Malaysia and New Zealand, the government has the right to reject parents’ baby name choices, and in many cases, select more suitable alternatives.

Naturally, such cases have made the news over the years. HuffPost took a look and rounded up a number of interesting examples. Without further ado, here are 27 baby names that have been rejected or outright banned in different countries around the world: Lucifer, Nutella, Ikea, Messiah, Robocop, Prince William, etc.

Highway signs featuring shíshálh place names to be up by end of March 2020

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) of Canada plans to have the Shashishalhem-English dual language road signs installed along Highway 101 by the end of March. The sign project, with an estimated cost of $80,000, was one of the initiatives identified in the 2018 Foundation Agreement between the shíshálh Nation and the province. The 20 new signs will be placed along a 65-kilometre stretch of the highway between Roberts Creek, at the southern boundary of the shíshálh swiya, and Lang Bay, about mid-way between Saltery Bay and Powell River, at the northern end.

The sign installations are getting underway as the province’s Geographical Names Office begins consultations with local governments and other stakeholders on proposals for official name changes for the communities of Madeira Park and Wilson Creek.

Here’s how storms are named in the UK

While the US has been naming its storms since the 1950s, the UK only adopted the practice in 2014. Not all storms are given names – only those big enough to cause significant damage. Giving a storm a name also holds the added benefit of making it easier for people to follow the storm’s progress via news updates and social media.

In the UK, the Met Office is responsible for selecting each storm’s name, although they have asked members of the public to make suggestions as well. The 2015 campaign called #NameOurStorms prompted more than 10,000 suggestions in its very first year, providing a diverse list of potential names.

Suggestions are also taken from the Met Office’s Irish counterpart, Met Eireann. This year, they have also teamed up with the Dutch weather organisation, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) to provide the most eclectic list yet.

Once names have been submitted by the public, the Met Office takes the most popular entries to form a list, with one name beginning with each letter of the alphabet. They then move though the list in alphabetical order, alternating between male and female names as they go – that’s why Ciara was followed by Dennis this year. The Met Office also rejects names which are not “proper names” and these ones have been disregarded on that basis: Apocalypse, Baldrick, Big Boss, Bluetooth, Forkbeard, Gnasher, Hot Brew, Megatron, Noddy, root ripper, Stormageddon, Ssswetcaroline, Vader, Voldermort and branch wobbler.