About Names: “Iris loved as a flower, worshipped as a goddess”

A Blue Iris flower (Public Domain)

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

Give someone a rainbow of flowers for Mother’s Day.

May 8 is Iris Day, celebrating flowers of the genus Iris. It’s also a legal holiday in Brussels, Belgium, where the regional flag features a yellow iris.

Iris is the Greek word for “rainbow.” Linguists trace it back to an Indo-European word for “bend,” referring to a rainbow’s distinctive curve in the sky.

Ancient Greeks personified Iris as a goddess. Iris was messenger for the chief Greek deities and served them nectar on Mount Olympus. Romans adopted her into their pantheon as special agent of goddess Juno. Iris is featured in both the Iliad by Greek poet Homer and the Aeneid by Latin poet Virgil, two of literature’s most famous works.

The flower’s been called iris since medieval times because it comes in a rainbow variety of colors. “Iris” has also been the colored part of the eye since the early 15th century.

Many assume Iris’ use as a girl’s name was taken from the flower, just as names like Hazel, Heather and Holly were inspired by plants. However, British historian George Redmonds believes the first rare use of Iris in the 18th century was after the goddess. Iris fit in with Doris and Phyllis, Greek names revived by 17th century poets. Iris then helped inspire other “flower” names.

Redmonds’ theory is supported by the oldest Iris in the 1850 United States census (first listing all free residents by name), 88-year-old Iris Amelotte, a Black woman born in Africa living with a white family in New Orleans. Iris was probably a freed slave named by a former owner. Some slave owners showed off their learning by giving slaves classical names like Hercules and Venus.

Announcing the official ANS YouTube channel!

The ANS is pleased to announce the launch of its official YouTube channel, home to videos from the 2021 and 2022 annual conferences. Currently we have 53 videos available, and will be adding more content from ANS events as they happen.

We are delighted that the amazing content from our conferences will now be available to everyone interested in onomastics. Please share on social media and with anyone who is fascinated with names.


About Names: Goldwater’s loss sends Barry on downhill slope

Barry Goldwater photo1962

Barry Goldwater, 1962. Trikosko, Marion S., photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his April 24th column, he looks at the history of the name Barry.

As a surname Barry has several origins, including Scottish place-names meaning “grassy hill,” Welsh “son of Harry,” and Norman French “rampart.” Since surnames began becoming given names in the 17th century, some boys have been named Barry because of connections with Barry families. In Ireland, though, given name Barry is an Anglicized spelling of Bairre, a medieval pet form of Barrfind and Finnbarr, Gaelic names combining “barr” (top, head) with “finn” (fair).

In the 1850 United States census 30% of the 318 men with first name Barry were Irish-born. Many others had Irish ancestry. Like other immigrant names, Barry lost favor after 1900. It wasn’t even among the top thousand names between 1915 and 1922.

Barry peaked at 68th in 1946, and then plateaued at about 70th until 1961. After Arizona’s Senator Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) was on the cover of “Time” in 1961, Barry had its best baby name rank at 61st in 1962. Goldwater’s devastating loss to Lyndon Johnson in 1964’s Presidential election started Barry on its downslope. It left the top thousand in 2005.

Want to learn more? Read on to find out more the history of the name Barry!

About Names: “Old Testament or modern use, Jonas continues to ‘give'”

The Brothers Jonas with Former U.S.Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne (Photo: Public Domain)

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

Jonas begins receiving memories in Omaha next week.

“The Giver,” a play by Dan Coble based on Lois Lowry’s 1993 young adult novel, opens at the Omaha Community Playhouse Friday. Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a society that eradicates pain by forbidding color, memory and individuality. Dissidents and the unwanted are “released” by poison. Jonas is chosen to be trained as the “Receiver of Memory” by The Giver, the present Receiver. They make a dangerous plan to reform their society and stop the “releasing” by restoring memory to all.

Jonas is the Greek form of Jonah (Hebrew Yonah, “dove”), the Old Testament prophet swallowed by a fish or whale. In the King James Bible, Jonah is used in the Old Testament, but nine mentions of the prophet in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke use “Jonas.”

After the Reformation, when parents turned to the Bible for names, Jonah and Jonas both appeared. Though not popular in Britain as a whole, Jonas was a top 10 name in West Yorkshire in the 1670s.

Britain’s 1851 census found 5,100 Jonases. The 1850 United States census, when the two countries had about the same population, found 8,039. Much of Jonas’ popularity in America was due to immigration from continental Europe. Jonas is the Old Testament as well as the New Testament form in most European languages. (Jonas is also the Lithuanian form of John.)

Like many Biblical and immigrant names, Jonas went out of style in the 20th century. It ranked 323rd in 1880 when Social Security’s yearly name lists start. By the 1930s it was rare; in 1958 and 1961 it wasn’t even among the top thousand.

Call for Papers: II International Onomastic Symposium on Turkic world onomastics (Online)

The Department of Kazakh Language and Turkic studies of Nazarbayev University (Republic of Kazakhstan) together with the Institute of Turkic World Studies of Ege University (Republic of Turkey) will host the II International Symposium of Onomastics May 20-22, 2022 with the support of International Turkic Academy.

The purpose of the symposium – to discuss topical issues of Turkic world onomastics, to unite scientists working in this field, to stimulate scientists to new scientific research, to resume scientific discussions and debates, to define and bring to a unified system of naming principles in the Turkic world. We urge scholars and researchers working directly with onomastics, young specialists to contribute to the symposium.

Abstracts are due by 1 May 2022. For more on themes, directions, timelines, and contact information, see the full Call for Papers for the II International Onomastic Symposium.

“When a College Becomes a University”: The Economics of an Institutional Name Change

The seal of Daemen University, formerly Daemen College (Photo by Daemen University, CC-BY-4.0)

According to a study in the journal Economics of Education Review, a “College” that takes the “University” moniker is making a good financial move. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education reviews the study, noting that a name change often finds institutions experiencing “a near-immediate bump in enrollment.” Institutions saw increases of an average of 5.2% in the first five years and 7.2% after six years.

Read more over at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

About Names: “Remembered as popular slang, Trey continues as a nickname, or signifying the third”

Trey Parker, co-creator of “South Park” at the 65th Annual Peabody Awards Luncheon (Photo by Peabody Awards, CC-BY-2.0)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his March 13th column, he looks at the history of the name Trey.

Just how mad will March be for Nebraskans? One Trey and his team find out today.

March 13 is Selection Sunday, when teams for 2022’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament are chosen. Creighton University’s basketball team, which has a Trey in its starting lineup, has a good chance to be chosen.

On March 5, Creighton’s Trey Alexander, along with teammates Ryan Nembhard and Arthur Kaluma, was named to the Big East’s all-freshman team.

(The Huskers of Nebraska also have a Trey, Trey McGowens, but the team’s win-loss record this year wouldn’t let them even sniff the tournament.)

Since the 14th century, “trey,” (from Old French “treis,” or “three”) has been the English word for a playing card or domino with three pips or spots. By 1887, it was slang for any group of three things.

Sometime in the 20th century, Trey became a nickname for a man or boy with the same name as his father and grandfather and suffix “III”. Though so far the earliest example I’ve found of this is in Texas in 1942, it probably started a couple of decades earlier. Back then, the nickname had a preppy upper-crust image.

In Social Security’s baby name data, including names given to five or more boys born in a single year, Trey first appears in 1948. Since back then a Social Security number came along with one’s first job, it’s possible some Treys on the list in the 1940s and 1950s weren’t born with the name.

About Names: “Evelyn historically popular for both men and women”

Olympic gold medalist Evelyn Ashford (Photo: public domain)

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

Ann Campbell of Omaha, whose granddaughter Evelyn Campbell turns 5 today, asks about the name Evelyn.

Evelyn is a rare English surname derived from the Norman French woman’s name Aveline. Aveline is from ancient Germanic Avi (perhaps “desired”) with affectionate suffixes -el and -in added.

Emmett (from Emma) and Beaton (from Beatrice) are other examples of surnames derived from women’s names. It’s likely this happened when a woman was widowed when her children were young.

Around 1656, Elizabeth Evelyn — daughter of Sir John Evelyn — married Robert Pierrepont, a nephew of the Earl of Kingston-upon-Hull. In 1665, they named their third son Evelyn, one of the first examples of a mother’s maiden name used as a first name.

After his great-uncle and older brothers died childless, Evelyn Pierrepont became Earl in 1690. A chief advisor to Queen Anne, he was made a Duke in 1715 by King George I. His fame led other upper-class British families to name sons Evelyn. One later example was novelist Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966).

However, the Duke himself turned Evelyn into a female name in 1691 when he named his third daughter Evelyn. She married the Earl Gower and bore 11 children, including Lady Evelyn Leveson-Gower (1725-1763), wife of the Earl of Upper Ossory.

In 1841, England’s first census found 42 men and 42 women named Evelyn. In 1851, there were 196 women and 88 men. The 1850 United States census found 310 female and 53 male Evelyns. The girls have been far ahead on both sides of the Atlantic ever since.

Call for Contributions: “Decolonizing Our Names in the 21st Century: Place, Identity, and Agency”

Dr. Lauren Beck and Dr. Grace Gomashie announce a call for contributions for a volume titled “Decolonizing Our Names in the 21st Century: Place, Identity, and Agency”. The call for papers describes the volume:

“The last three decades have resulted in broad efforts to address the coloniality of the names that designate our communities and the people who live in or come from them. Calls to consult and give greater voice to marginalized groups, whether in Australia, Canada, Latin America, or Africa (among other nations and regions that have experienced or continue to experience colonization), shine light on the need to address harmful naming practices that have impacted and shaped our identities. Names have also been used to resist the settler-colonial normativity implied by maps, toponyms, street signs, institutional names, and even individual and collective names given to people. Furthermore, tools such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People—which many countries have adopted or are considering embracing—are transforming into calls to action so that marginalized groups choose and adopt their own names, and society more broadly subscribes to decolonized names and naming practices.”

“This collection of essays will offer both case studies that demonstrate how names are (or are not) decolonized, as well as theorizations about decoloniality at its intersection with names and identity. The book will bring together scholars working in Indigenous Studies, Critical Race Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Postcolonialism, Onomastics, among other fields interested in decolonizing names. The book will attempt to offer tools to marginalized groups around the world so that they can pursue the decolonization of their names while challenging the so-called authorities who claim to govern naming conventions and practices.”

Abstract and submission instructions can be found on the call for papers here. Proposals are due by April 15, 2022. Completed chapters (8,000 words) are due in October 2022 for a 2023 publication.

On Kyiv/Kiev, Zelenskyy/Zelensky, and the Spelling of Ukrainian Names

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Benjamin Dreyer writes about the various spellings of Ukrainian place names and personal names. “Kyiv” and “Zelenskyy” are transliterations of Ukrainian spellings, whereas “Kiev” and “Zelensky” represent Russian spellings. Adding the definite article before “Ukraine” evokes a colonial past, when the now-sovereign state was a territory. Dreyer writes, “Those of us who follow publishers’ usages and standards at least as much as we set them out will continue to watch the Zelensky(y) matter with interest — and will be reminded that words, even “the” small ones, even their smallest components, can carry a big meaning.”

Read more in The Washington Post.