Since we all know how important names are, let’s learn to discuss them more in depth. For all the aspiring name geeks, onomasticians, and etymologists out there who are just like me, here’s a guide to name-related vocabulary.
- Nom: the Latin root for ‘name.’ This root can be found in a number of words and phrases including:
Nomenclature: the devising, labeling, or choosing of names for various things, particularly for certain systems
Cognomen: any name, especially a surname or a nickname
Nominate: to name a nominee to be in the running for an office, award, or duty
Denomination: a name or designation for one of a set of things
Misnomer: a misapplied or inappropriate name or designation
Nom de plume: pen name, alias, or alternative name
Binomial: consisting of two terms, usually used in genus and species classification or in algebra
- Onym: the Greek root for ‘name.’ This root can be found in a number of words and phrases including:
Antonym: a word having the opposite meaning as another in the language
Synonym: a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another in the language
Anonymous: without a name; of unknown name; whose name is withheld:
Pseudonym: pen name, alias, or alternative name
Acronym: a set of initials representing a name, organization, or the like
Eponym: a person after whom a discovery, invention, place, etc., is named or thought to be named
Metonymy: the substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant
Patronymic: the father’s name
Metronymic: the mother’s name
Homonym: a word that has the same-sounding name as another
- Name synonyms: see how I did that?
Appellation: an identifying name or title
Epithet: an adjective or descriptive phrase expressing a quality characteristic of the person or thing mentioned
Moniker: a personal name or nickname
Sobriquet: a nickname or descriptive name
Handle: alias, fictional or false name
- Tee’s name-related words (to be added to):
Namelty: a person with an amazing or unique name
Namerific: a truly terrific name
And of course, Curionomastics!
Thank you for being patient with me last week, as I was quite busy with visiting family and Bearded Chum’s graduation. Please stay tuned for another Sunday Spotlight a week from today!
Idris Elba! Skillful, suave and second-to-none!
Who wouldn’t fall in love with the smooth voice and handsome features of actor/musician Idris Elba? I know I certainly don’t have the will to resist either. But he is so much more than his looks and his accented baritone voice. Highly versatile, Idris Elba has achieved success in multiple arenas and treated a number of countries to his talents as well as his melodies.
Born and raised in London, England, Idris Elba was the star of Luther, the BBC crime drama beginning in 2010. Recently, he has put out an album, Murdah Loves John, that was inspired by the show, and he continues his musical career as a singer, rapper, and international DJ even as he lands new acting roles on a regular basis. He has also starred in Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom, Beasts of No Nation, Pacific Rim, and the Thor movies, among other credits. He will soon be seen in Star Trek Beyond and The Dark Tower, where he will undoubtedly shine as The Gunslinger.
I also hope this award-winning talent will get to play James Bond someday soon, as he would be perfect for the role.
Idris’s Trivia Trio:
- He has lent his awesome voice to a few recent films including The Jungle Book, ZooTopia and the forthcoming, Finding Dory.
- He is the father of Isan Elba and baby Winston Elba.
- His disc jockey name is Big Driis.
Idris is both an Arabic name of a prophet and a Welsh name meaning ‘lord,’ but Idris Elba was actually born Idrissa Akuna Elba. Of African origin, the names were bestowed by his parents, his father being from Sierra Leone and his mother from Ghana. Idrissa means ‘immortal’ and if his performances are any indication, Idris Elba has already achieved this status.
Elba contains the right combination of consonants to complement Idris nicely. This name seems to be of either Indian or Italian origin and is most often seen as a female first name. The information is sparse and somewhat contradictory. Regardless, it’s a strong, eloquent surname for a very eloquent individual.
Thanks for stopping in for this week’s amazing Spotlight! Stay tuned for more cool people with interesting names that will be spotlighted in the future. For now, head on over to Tee’s page to check out the latest happenings of our fearless writer.
And in case you missed the title:
“If any one thing is universal, it is a name.”
~Pierre Le Rouzie
Every person, animal, object, place, and concept has a name, whether it’s formal or informal, whether it’s used by one person or known by many. It’s human nature to bestow labels to everything in order to understand the world and communicate understanding with others. Etymology is a fascinating subject within itself, and onomastics, the study of names, is truly an intriguing sub-topic.
Not only are names of people used to establish unique identities but they are also what connects us to families, regions, and cultures. Our history is riddled with tales about how having the ability to name someone or something gives you power and dominion over them. Names are often symbolic and metaphorical and sometimes so sacred and secret that they cannot be spoken or a part of someone is lost. When a group of people wish to dehumanize another group, stripping them of their names is often a way they choose to begin. The incredible significance of names should never be discounted.
I possess a longstanding interest in names, naming processes, name meanings, and studying why we feel the need to name things. As a writer, I agonize over the names of my characters and it’s also one of my most favorite parts of beginning a new story or novel. I’m not sure why others take names for granted and don’t seem to put much thought into naming their characters…or their children.
For some reason, many people have not placed profound importance on the process of naming their children. “Astronomical sums of time and money are spent choosing the best brand name for laundry detergents, yet when it comes to naming a child, we follow current trends, family traditions, the whims of our near and dear ones, or even less sound methods!” (The Name Book) Some of those inspirations can be just fine, but people should understand just how a name defines a person, not to mention how often the name they choose will be spoken over and over again throughout someone’s lifetime.
When it comes to characters, I don’t mind telling you that if I read the description of a book or movie with one more hero named Jack or heroine named Kate, I’m likely to not be interested in it, just because of the name. Those are fine names, indeed, but when a creator can’t be bothered enough to be creative with their character names, I can’t help but think their plots aren’t going to be that creative, either.
So what’s in a name? A whole heck of a lot. After all:
“A name can’t begin to encompass the sum of all her parts. But that’s the magic of names, isn’t it? That the complex, contradictory individuals we are can be called up complete and whole in another mind through the simple sorcery of a name.”
― Charles de Lint, Dreams Underfoot
Names are magic, there is no denying it, and amazingly powerful.
You might have noticed that Curionomastics is going through some changes…out of infancy, it’s now losing some teeth, growing thicker hair, and getting into everything! What’s in store for the blog next?
The Sunday Spotlights are getting scaled back a little and will now be posted every other Sunday. Broader name content will be posted on alternate Sundays, including short essays, articles, anecdotes, and tips. There will also be some scattered fun posts and a giveaway every season, so make sure to keep checking in so you don’t miss the first one this spring!
Lin-Manuel Miranda! Prolific, profound, and unparalleled!
A long-time fan of the theater, I was so ecstatic when I heard about the recent Broadway show, Hamilton. Even though Bearded Chum was a bit skeptical of it, I thought it sounded like a really interesting idea and I’m happy to hear that it is so popular. I probably won’t be able to see it for years yet, but as I listen to Lin-Manuel Miranda on NPR and read about his accomplishments, I find that the anticipation keeps building. For now, I’m forcing myself to be content with the album, which won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
A talented performer, composer, lyricist, and playwright, Lin-Manuel Miranda also won a Grammy Award in 2009 for the original cast album of In The Heights. This show earned four Tony awards, too, was recognized as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2009 and more recently garnered three Olivier Awards for its original London production. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work can also be seen in Bring it On: The Musical, and of course, the previously mentioned Hamilton, which itself has captured numberless accolades including a record-breaking 10 Lortel Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New Musical, and an OBIE for Best New American Play. In addition to writing and composing the score, he also stars in Hamilton as the principal character. The book Hamilton: The Revolution which he co-wrote with Jeremy McCarter was just released a few days ago.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is also the co-founder and member of the hip-hop improv group, Freestyle Love Supreme, which puts on performances regularly in New York City. Last month he wowed people with his freestyle raps inspired by prompts held up by President Obama at the White House.
Lin-Manuel’s Trivia Trio:
- He has appeared on several television shows including House, How I Met Your Mother and Sesame Street.
- He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Yeshiva University in 2009, being the youngest person to be awarded such an honor in the history of the school.
- He can be heard in the audiobooks The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
Lin-Manuel is an attractive and gentle name that was apparently inspired by Puerto Rican José Manuel Torres Santiago’s poem, “Nana Roja Para Mi Hijo Lin Manuel.” The Chinese origin of Lin means ‘forest’ or ‘beautiful jade,’ but it also has roots in German, Old English, and Welsh languages. Manuel is the Spanish and Portugese form of Emmanuel, the Hebrew name meaning ‘God is with us.’ Together, the names produce a breezy sound with their soft l’s and n’s, pleasing to say and hear.
Miranda is most likely a place name that was adopted as a surname from one of several locations in Spain, Portugal, and Catalonia. It has connections with the Latin root ‘mirandus’ which means ‘wondrous’ and certainly could not be more fitting for a more amazing individual. To me, it also evokes the lovely Miranda of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, perhaps foreshadowing future Mirandas in the realm of theater.
Also, if you’re interested in other names from Hamilton, check this out.
Thanks for joining me for another Sunday Spotlight! Be sure to head on over to my main page when you get a chance as I will be adding a lot of new content there. Have a wonderful week!
N.C. Wyeth! Masterly, moody, and well-monikered!
As I was growing up, I have wanted to be so many things…okay, that hasn’t changed one bit. One of the careers that always stood out to me was illustration and in fact, I wrote and illustrated my own middle grade novel way back in my undergrad years. Obviously, then, one of the most illustrious American illustrators to bring text to life in pictures caught my attention, as did his unique name.
A student of Howard Pyle’s, N.C. Wyeth rapidly rose to fame in the early 1900s as an illustrator of classics, particularly adventures. He painted pictures for the novels of Robert Louis Stevenson, James Fenimore Cooper, and Jules Verne. In addition, he also sought to be a revered ‘fine artist,’ though his illustrations are some of the finest I have seen. Sadly, Wyeth’s car was struck by a train when he was out driving with his grandson and both of them were killed. He left behind a legacy of artists and engineers among his descendants, including the renowned landscape painter, Andrew Wyeth.
N.C.’s Trivia Trio:
- His biography was written in 1998 by David Michaelis that shed light on some mysterious parts of his life, including his depression, a possible affair, and his death.
- He was born in 1882, the same year as fellow artiste extraordinaire, Edmund Dulac.
- Besides illustrating classics and painting murals, this Renaissance man even painted maps for the National Geographic Society.
Initialers abound throughout history, but N.C. is a pretty unique set, unless you count the state of North Carolina. Paired with his surname, the N and the C balance out the humming and hissing sounds very well. Still, his original names, Newell and Convers, are even more appealing.
Newell, sometimes spelled Niewheall, is an Old English name that means ‘from the new hall,’ and is sometimes referred to as a variation of Neville. Originally an occupational or place surname, it traversed into masculine first name status, though it has never been very popular. This is surprising considering it’s not far off from Neil and Noel.
Convers is most likely a surname that originated from someone who converted to a religious way of life. From the Middle English or Old French, it is usually spelled Converse.
Wyeth has become an esteemed name among the art crowd in the U.S., but it is originally a variation of the topographical surname Wythe. Meaning ‘someone who lived by a willow tree,’ Wyeth couldn’t be a better fit for N.C. who once claimed that “Those great, old trees that I learned to know so well last summer mean more to me than most human beings. I could just hug them! And I will!”
Who are some of your favorite illustrators? Do they have names as unique as N.C.?
Don’t forget to subscribe to see who’s going to be spotlighted next!
Gwendoline Christie! Talented, towering, and terrifically titled!
Game of Thrones has long been a favorite show of mine and with this season kicking off in a couple weeks, I had to feature one of the most skilled actresses to appear in the fantasy hit. But Gwendoline Christie isn’t just glamorous and gutsy, she also possesses a musical name, perfect for a woman reaching new heights with each accomplishment.
Gwendoline Christie may be the tough-as-nails Brienne of Tarth on the HBO series Game of Thrones, but the role she plays in the show is just one element of her multi-faceted career. Born in England, the 6’3’’ star also makes appearances as Commander Lyme in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 and Captain Phasma in the current set of Star Wars movies. A fashion fan, she has modeled numerous times and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us in the new season of GoT.
Gwendoline’s Trivia Trio:
- She attended Drama Centre London and it’s high time they included her on their list of famous graduates.
- She dates another namelty, British fashion designer Giles Deacon.
- She will be seen in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, which comes out in July in the U.S.
Gwendoline is a Welsh name that means ‘white browed’ or ‘white ring,’ so it is an apt choice for the fair-haired actress. It’s triple syllables trip rhythmically from the lips. Gwendoline’s variant spellings include Gwendolyn, as held by Gwendolyn Brooks and the legendary wife of Merlin, and Gwendolen.
Christie is quite possibly a surname that originated in Scotland, and might have been derived from Christian or Christopher, which mean Christ bearing. It is sometimes heard as a first name, but as a surname, it has appeal. In this case, tt’s staccato notes bring some flair to the otherwise whispery Gwendoline. It complements another famous bearer, too. Who is that? Why, Agatha, of course!
I’m sure you’re all as stoked as I am about the next season of GoT. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re really missing out. Not only is the show visually stunning and chock full of plot twists and quotable dialogue, the characters possess some wonderfully inventive and inspired names.
The next trio of Sunday Spotlights will give those characters a run with their own unique names, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of them.
Dovey Johnson Roundtree! Classy, courageous and curiously called!
After visiting the Levine Museum in Charlotte, NC, I became interested in the woman whose unusual name headed a few of the blurbs found in some of the exhibits. Upon researching her later, I promptly marveled at her incredible lifetime achievements and unwavering fortitude in the face of adversity.
An inspiration to all women, Dovey Johnson Roundtree is a civil rights activist, attorney, and ordained minister, among other roles, including centenarian. Inspired by Mary McLeod Bethune, Dovey was among the first of the black women officers making up the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1941. She graduated from Howard University School of Law and won a landmark case in her first year of legal practice that was the first bus desegregation case brought before the Interstate Commerce Commission. She also became one of the first women of the African Methodist Episcopal Church to achieve ministerial status.
In 2009 Michelle Obama lauded her: “It is on the shoulders of people like Dovey Johnson Roundtree that we stand today, and it is with her commitment to our core ideals that we will continue moving toward a better tomorrow.” So it is that the First Lady commended the ultimate Lady of Firsts.
Dovey’s Trivia Trio:
- Her book, Justice Older than the Law: The Life of Dovey Johnson Roundtree was co-written by Katie McCabe and won the 2009 Letitia Woods Brown Award from the Association of Black Women Historians.
- For a fee of one dollar, she took on the case of Ray Crump, who was accused of murdering Mary Pinchot Meyer in the early 1960s and succeeded in clearing his name.
- The television show “Sweet Justice” starring Cicely Tyson featured a maverick civil rights lawyer that was inspired by Dovey Johnson Roundtree.
Dovey is such a sweet name, but there’s a certain strength behind it, too. Originally born Dovey Mae Johnson, it seems quite apt that she was named after the dove, a symbol for peace and hope. Dove itself has been used as a first name since the seventeenth century, but the pet form, Dovey, adds a little more spunk.
Johnson is a patronymic name that literally means ‘son of John’ and is of Anglo-Scottish medieval origin. Very common today, its syllables sit nicely between the nature names of Dovey and Roundtree.
Roundtree is a topographical surname of English origin, and crops up around the early medieval period. “Topographical surnames were among the earliest created since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognizable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages.” Variant spellings are Rountree, Roantree, and Rowantree. This particular last name “rounds” out the natural quality of Dovey and enhances the more common Johnson.
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