About Names: Beatles song accelerates Michelle’s boom

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Michèle and Michelle are French feminine forms of Michel, French version of “Michael.” Michael is Hebrew for “Who is like God?”, a rhetorical question implying “No one’s like God.” One of only four angels mentioned by name in the Bible, St. Michael was popular throughout medieval Europe. Occasionally girls were named after him, though in medieval England there was no separate feminine form. Listed as “Michaela” in official records, they were called “Michael” in everyday life.

Though a few French girls were named Michelle before modern times, it was very rare, not coming into regular use until 1920. Before 1940, Micheline was the more common French feminine for Michel.

“Michelle” was one of the Beatles’ greatest hits, winning the 1967 Grammy for Song of the Year. Versions were recorded by many other artists. Though Michelle would probably have soon been a Top 10 name without it, there’s no doubt the song accelerated its boom. It peaked at #2 in 1968, when 2.6% of American girls were named Michelle or Michele.

About Names: Country singing sensation momentarily revives Garth’s popularity

LOS ANGELES – MARCH 14: Garth Brooks arrives for the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards on March 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Glenn Francis/Pacific Pro Digital Photography)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his December 20th column, he looks at the history of the name Garth.

Garth is an English surname derived from Middle English “garth,” itself from Old Norse “garðr,” “enclosure,” indicating one’s ancestor lived by a garden or orchard. Only 402 people with Garth as a last name were listed in the 1940 United States census. However, actress Jennie Garth (Kelly Taylor on “Beverly Hills, 90210”) has made it well-known.

When the custom of turning last names into boys’ given names began around 1800, Garth became a first name. The 1850 census includes three Garths, all in Kentucky, with the oldest, Garth M. Kimbrough, born Jan. 1, 1820.

Garth left the top 1,000 names in 1983. Then in 1989 Garth Brooks became a country singing sensation. His second album, “No Fences” (1990), containing “Friends in Low Places,” the Country Music Award’s Single of the Year, sold 17 million copies. Boys named Garth skyrocketed 360% to rank 658th in 1992. The name then collapsed, leaving the top 1,000 again in 1994.

About Names: Maud’s best chance for a comeback lies with Hollywood

Bea Arthur as Maude Findlay in 1973

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

Maud is a medieval form of Matilda, a Germanic name linking words for “power” and “battle.” Brought to England by Norman conquerors, it was best known through Empress Matilda (1102-1167), daughter of King Henry I, whose title came from her first marriage to Holy Roman Emperor Henry V.

When Henry I died in 1135, he wanted his daughter to be Queen. The English weren’t ready to accept a woman monarch, so a civil war between Matilda and her cousin Stephen ensued. This was settled in 1153 by declaring Stephen king, but making Matilda’s son Henry Plantagenet his heir. Though official records called her Matilda, in everyday English she was Empress Maud. Around 1380, “Matilda” was the fourth commonest woman’s name in English records, but was still “Maud” in spoken English.

Tennyson and Whittier made Maud popular, though by 1875 Americans preferred the spelling “Maude.” The first nationwide baby name lists in 1880 showed Maude ranking 21st and Maud 70th. Combined they would have been 13th.

The city of Naples will name the stadium to Diego Maradona

The city of Naples will name the municipal stadium to Diego Armando Maradona. Laura Bismunto, the president of the Toponymy Commission of the City Council of Naples, announced the change of title of the San Paolo Stadium in Naples.

The Neapolitan stadium, initially called Stadio del Sole and renamed with today’s title in 1963, will be the second stadium in the world to bear the name of Maradona. The other is the Diego Armando Maradona in Buenos Aires, where Argentinos Junior plays. Maradona’s death is a mourning that will leave its mark in the Neapolitan community and dedicating the Stadium of Naples to what many have called the greatest footballer of all time is an essential gesture.

About Names: Marvel’s Black Widow helped Scarlett reach its greatest popularity yet

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his November 22nd column, he looks at the history of the name Scarlett.

Scarlett is an English surname derived from the Old French “escarlate,” “scarlet-colored cloth,” designating one who sold expensive fabrics. Will Scarlet has been one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men since the ballad “A Gest of Robin Hood” was written around 1450. In modern times, he’s usually portrayed as Robin’s youngest outlaw.

In the 1850 United States census, there were 252 people with the last name Scarlett. In the 19th century, a few boys received Scarlett as a first name. The first famous female Scarlett is Scarlett O’Hara, heroine of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel, “Gone With the Wind,” and the 1939 film based on it. In the novel, her full name is Katie Scarlett O’Hara, after her paternal grandmother, but everyone except her father calls her “Scarlett.”

Scarlett’s real boom began along with Scarlett Johansson’s career around 2002. The 8,343 born in 2019 ranked it 24th, its highest ever.

Antarctic place names recognise ‘modern explorers’

Antarctica is getting 28 new place names to recognise British individuals who’ve made a major contribution to advancing science in the polar regions. The list includes Jonathan Shanklin, co-discoverer of the ozone hole, and Alastair Fothergill, whose BBC films such as Frozen Planet have widened understanding of the White Continent.

The honourees will be associated with various mountains, glaciers and bays. These are features known previously only by their anonymous coordinates. It’s highly unusual for so large a group of people to be recognised in this way all at once. But the UK Antarctic Place-names Committee felt something special was required to mark the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the continent.

American History reflected in proper names bestowed on many birds

Read the Ruth Bass’ article here.

Lewis’s Woodpecker, Deschutes National Forest, Near Fort Rock, Oregon

Dozens of birds bear the names of those credited with identifying them, like the Bonaparte’s gull honoring Prince Charles Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon’s nephew; the Cooper’s hawk, familiar to New Englanders, named for William Cooper, one of the founders of the American Museum of Natural History; the Blackburnian warbler for pre-Revolution naturalist Anna Blackburn.

But, what’s ruffling feathers in the American Ornithological Society today is a growing number of their scientists protesting the old practice of giving people names to birds. They are focusing on some of the so honored who reflect colonialism and on the fact that Indigenous peoples had met birds named for Audubon and Wilson and Cooper before those men were born.

About Names: ‘Psycho’ killer led to a major drop in popularity for Norman

American artist Norman Rockwell

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his November 8th column, he looks at the history of the name Norman.

 Norman is a Germanic name meaning “North man.” It became common as a given name in England after Danish Vikings invaded Britain in the ninth century. When the Viking-descended Normans from Normandy, France, conquered England in 1066, the name was reinforced. Families named Norman had medieval ancestors with the first name. In the 2010 census, there were 67,704 Americans with the surname Norman, ranking it 495th.

In 1880, when Social Security’s yearly baby name data begins, Norman ranked 133rd. It steadily increased, helped in the 1920s by matinee idol Norman Kerry (1894-1956), the Clark Gable of his day. Norman peaked at 37th in 1931, the year director Norman Taurog won an Oscar for “Skippy.” In 1938, Taurog directed Spencer Tracy in his Oscar-winning role as Father Flanagan in “Boys Town.”

Norman fell back to 132nd by 1960, when Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller “Psycho” featured killer Norman Bates. The next year, Sue Thompson’s hit song “Norman,” where “Norman knows my heart belongs to him and him and only him,” countered that image, but after 1965 Norman resumed its fall, leaving the top thousand in 2006.

What Is a Proper Adjective?

You may have heard of proper nouns, but have you ever heard of a proper adjective? Typically, proper adjectives take proper nouns and shift their function to fill the role of an adjective, or a word that’s modifying another noun. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what that means.

Like all adjectives, a proper adjective describes (modifies) a noun. What makes proper adjectives unique is that they are formed from proper nouns. That means they must be capitalized. Many proper adjectives are formed using the names of countries (or other specific places), religions or people’s names.

Proper nouns are, in fact, the origin of proper adjectives. Shakespeare is a proper noun, so Shakespearean is a proper adjective.

  • Shakespeare is a specific writer. It is a proper noun because it is the name of a particular person.
  • Shakespeare had a unique writing style, which is referred to as Shakespearean. Shakespearean is not a noun. It is an adjective, as it describes a type of writing.

Renaming of Red Skins and Chicos is a shaky step towards leaving discriminatory ideas in the past

Last week, it was announced two types of Allen’s lollies, Red Skins and Chicos, will be known from January 2021 as Red Ripper and Cheekies.

The Swiss-headquartered Nestle Corporation decided the original names did not express their brand values, presumably because of the racist connotations of redskins (Native Americans) and chicos (Latin Americans).

But don’t be surprised if the Nestle marketing department requests a further name change. As the Daily Mail reported, “Red Ripper” was the moniker of a notorious Soviet criminal, Andrei Chicatilo, responsible between 1978 and 1990 for the violent deaths of 52 women, some of whom he ripped apart.