Thursday, October 30, 2008

The naming of things and why I'd like thank Mr Sleigh and Mr Johnson

Here is a photo of Cynthia Bluebell-Legs. She was made by Violet Fenn of the
Ugly Owl. Why is she called Cynthia Bluebell-Legs? Well, she looked like a Cynthia to me and she has blue legs - simple as that.

I love naming things. I would love to have had ten children just so I could give them all names. As it is I have two with reasonably traditional names although my daughter's is a little more unusual. Has to be said that my progeny are very fortunate that they weren't born during my early twenties when I wanted to call my first born son Angel (after Angel Clare in 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles) and my first daughter Fanny (after various literary Fannies - ahem).

What I don't know about names isn't worth knowing. As a child I read 'Names for Boys and Girls' by the rather donnish Charles Johnson and Linwood Sleigh from cover to cover, several times over. I still have a copy and still read it and still learn from it. You see, it isn't your ordinary names book but an education in itself, covering Reformation literature (see Amanda) and ancient Aramaic (see Thomas) to Irish mythology (see Kevin) and hagiography (see Agatha). Other books about names just don't stand up to it and I baulk at some of the ones I see where the authors clearly don't share Johnson and Sleigh's encyclopedic knowledge of Anglo-Saxon, the Bible and the great works of literature. Frankly, I think I learned more from those two gentleman than from any teacher at school!

Cynthia Bluebell-Legs might be pleased to learn that her name was used by the Latin poet Propertius and later extensively used by the Elizabethan poets, even being applied to the Queen herself. You're in exalted company Cynth!