December is over and so is 2016. So, as we leave behind a turbulent and interesting year, here are some of the names which have struck my fancy this month:
One of my favourite actresses is Anna Maxwell Martin, and this month I came across a supernatural-thriller three part television series called Midwinter of the Spirit in which she plays the main role. The character's name is Merrily Watkins, which immediately caught my eye for its pretty appeal and rarity. It reminds me very much of another love of mine: Verily. Not only do they both rhyme, they both have a delicate virtue heritage.
Another character in the show is a young woman named Rowenna, a friend of Merrily's daughter Jane (which is also pleasing in its lovely simplicity and how rarely we hear it on now). The name is row-EN-a (rhyming with Lowenna) but looks similar to familiar Rowena. The name likely started out as an alternative pronunciation for Rowena itself, as it appears in records as early as the 1840s. Given that the name was invented by Sir Walter Scott for Ivanhoe, the pronunciation would have originally been down to reader's discretion -- even though row-EE-na eventually became standard. By the 1920s, the spelling Rowenna is mostly confined in records to Wales. This makes sense, as Rowena would mostly have been pronounced this way in Wales.
And sticking with -enna names, Menna is an interesting name which ranked #203 in Wales in 2015, which has recently come to light thanks to the ONS's regional data release this month. It's a curious name, which has routes in several languages, but is particular to Wales in the United Kingdom.
The reason for this is its use by John Ceiriog Hughes (1832-87) as the love of Alun Mabon in one of his poems. The name is also borne by contemporary Welsh poet Menna Elfyn. It isn't clear where Hughes got the name from. It may be a contraction for a name such as Morwenna, or he may have coined it from the Welsh menyw "woman".
While looking through the regional data, Damla caught my eye on the girls list for London. It's a Turkish name which means "water drop" in Turkish, ranking #54 in Turkey itself.
2016 marked the bicentenary year of the birth of Charlotte Bronte, which prompted a new BBC biopic To Walk Invisible this month. When watching it, I was not only reminded of a Brownie camping trip where I visited the Bronte house as a child (I grew up an hour drive away from their village of Haworth), but also of the Bronte sisters' original pen names: Currer Bell, Ellis Bell and Acton Bell. Ellis is already in the top 100, but it's Currer that has me intrigued. It sounded awkward to me on first hearing, but the more I say it, the more pleasing it sounds.
Speaking of authors, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without several adaptations of Roald Dahl's works, and this year has been no exception. It has me thinking again if Britain is ready to embrace the name Roald, with names like Roman, Rowan, Ronnie and Reggie in vogue.
Earlier in the month, I stumbled across (and became obsessed with) visitfinlands Finngenerator. It's tremendous fun, but also a great delve into the world of fabulous Finnish name. I didn't get my favourite -- Lumi "snow" -- but I did at one point get Suvi, which means summer. Part Lucy, Part Evie, I think this is an import that the English-speaking world is very ready for.
Another import ripe for picking is Elian, a variant of Elias, which is used in some parts of Continental Europe, having been used in France and the Netherlands since the Middle Ages. With Elijah, Elliot and Ellis all in the top 100, and all the multitude of popular names ending with -n, it seems like we're missing a trick with Elian.
Happy New Year, everyone. May your 2017 be full of happiness and laughter.