Yoŭnik and Yara

Copyright Natalia.sk

Yoŭnik (also called Yovnik) is an adorable farmstead creature in Belarusian mythology. He lives in a drying barn, called yoŭnya or yovnya in Belarusian. Here the sheaves of grain were dried before threshing. Yoŭnik is rather small, and perpetually blackened from smoke and soot. He’s also frequently covered in spider webs.

He’s very ashamed of his appearance, and so always hides from people. However, he’s very hardworking, and always serving his people. Yoŭnik starts the fire in the oven, airs out the sheaves, sweeps the floor, and protects the harvest from evil spirits and bad people.

Sometimes, he comes to the barn window to cough up the soot and dust. More rarely, he crosses the threshold to inspect the sheaves in the warehouse, deflect or direct the wind during winnowing, or look at the people working in the barn.

Copyright Natalia.sk

If a bad person comes into the barn, Yoŭnik waits for him or her to fall asleep, and then disturbs the person’s sleep, sends smoke, or sometimes even burns the barn down or strangles the person. Yoŭnik himself can’t burn in the fire, unless lightning strikes. If that happens, he leaves behind no dust.

A parallel figure is Ovinnik, a protective barn spirit in the shape of a black cat, as big as a standard dog, with eyes burning like coals.

Copyright Oosoom

Yara (also called Iara, Uiara, or Mãe das Águas) is a water nymph, mermaid, or siren in Brazilian mythology. Her form changes depending upon the story. Yara originated in Guarani and Tupi mythology.

Yara is described as green-haired, brown-eyed, with copper or light brown skin (either a native Brazilian or a caboclo, someone of mixed-race ancestry). She sits on a rock by the river, combing her hair or napping in the sunlight. When she feels the presence of a man, she begins to softly sing to him.

Once under Yara’s spell, a man will leave anything to join her in her underwater world forever. This was no trick, as Yara is very beautiful, and will cater to all of her lover’s needs for the rest of his life. Though Yara is immortal, her lovers eventually get old and die.

The Yara legend was one of the more common explanations behind the disappearance of those who got lost in the jungle.

Yara means “water lady,” derived from Old Tupi y (water) and îara (lady). The name is very popular in Brazil, both as Yara and Iara.

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The many forms of Anastasia

The Russian name Anastasiya has long been my favouritest female name, though only with the proper Slavic pronunciation, Ah-nah-STAH-see-yah. The Anglo mangling Ann-a-STAY-zha is like nails on a chalkboard! This name has equivalents in a number of other languages, even if some people don’t think of it as particularly universal across the various Indo–European languages.

1. Anastasiya is Russian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian, with the lovely nicknames Nastya, Stasya, and Asya. I honestly never saw Nastya as containing the English word “nasty” until it was pointed out many years after I’d learnt the nickname. It’s pronounced NAHST-yah, not Nas-tee-a! I actually found the nickname Asya stranger and more potentially rude in an Anglophone country at first.

2. Anastasie is French. This is the middle name of my character Justine Troy (later Ryan).

3. Anastasia is Greek, Italian, Spanish, and English. Greek nicknames are Tasoula, Tasia, and Natasa. The variation Anastàsia is Catalan, and Anastasía is Icelandic.

4. Anastasija is Serbian and Macedonian, with the nickname Staša.

5. Anastazija is Slovenian and Croatian. Slovenian nicknames are Nastja and Staša, and the Croatian nickname is Staša.

6. Anasztázia is Hungarian. Nicknames include Anci, Neszti, Tázi, Aszti, Sztázi, Sztáza, Anaszi, Nesztike, Anaszti, Anaszta, and Sztázus.

7. Anastázie is Czech, with the last two letters pronounced separately instead of as one. It can also be written without the accent mark.

8. Anastazja is Polish.

9. Anastázia is Slovak.

10. Anastácia is Portuguese.

11. Anastagia is an Italian variation, as well as Haitian Creole.

12. Anastase is Basque.

13. Annstás is Irish, with the nickname Stéise.

14. Naśtaśśi is Chuvash, a native Siberian language.

15. Naśtuś is also Chuvash.

16. Nashchtuk is a third Chuvash form.

17. Nasta is Mordvin, a Uralic language spoken in Russia.

The many nicknames for Katherine

In addition to being a venerable, versatile, timeless classic, Katherine also seems to be tied with Elizabeth as having the most nicknames, both in English and many other languages. It also has options for child-like nicknames vs. more grownup nicknames the bearer can eventually graduate to.

1. Kate/Cate is a nickname that works well on all ages.

2. Katie/Katy/Kati suggests a more youthful Katherine, the kind of nickname a young girl would go by before graduating to Kate.

3. Kathi/Kathie/Kathy/Cathy/Cathie might seem a bit dated now, since so many Boomer women have that nickname, but I’ve never found it intrinsically middle-aged. It helps when you’ve known people your age with a name more commonly associated with an older generation.

4. Kay/Kaye might be out of fashion now, but I’ve always loved this name. It’s so cute.

5. Kit is a nickname I’ve always loved, in no small part because this is the name of one of my favoritest characters.

6. Kitty is rather out of fashion, though I’ve never understood why it’s not used so much anymore. It’s so cute, and has really nice vintage vibes. The Hungarian version is Kitti, short for Katalin.

7. Kasia (KAH-shah) is the Polish nickname for Katarzyna.

8. Kaja is the Scandinavian and Slovenian nickname for Katarina, and an Estonian nickname for Katariina.

9. Kari is Norwegian.

10. Kaia is Estonian and Norwegian.

11. Katya is the Russian nickname for Yekaterina.

12. Karin is Swedish.

13. Katrin is Estonian, German, and Swedish.

14. Kadri is Estonian.

15. Kati (with a long A, not like the English Kati) is Estonian and Hungarian.

16. Käthe is the German nickname for Katharina.

17. Kätchen is German.

18. Katja is Scandinavian, Slovenian, Dutch (for Katrijn), and German.

19. Trijntje is Dutch. I think Dutch nicknames are just adorable!

20. Rina is Dutch and Italian (for Caterina).

21. Ina is Dutch, German, Scandinavian, Limburgish, and Croatian.

22. Carine is French.

23. Kát’a (pronounced like Katya) is a Czech nickname for Kateřina and a Slovak nickname for Katarína.

24. Katka is Czech and Slovak.

25. Kačenka is Czech and Slovak.

26. Katuška is Czech and Slovak.

27. Kat’ka is Czech and Slovak. The letter T’ is different from plain T, and pronounced like the TY in Katya.

28. Káča is Czech and Slovak.

29. Kačka is Czech and Slovak.

30. Katika is Hungarian.

31. Kató is Hungarian.

32. Kata is Hungarian, Finnish, and Croatian.

33. Katica is Hungarian, Slovenian, Serbian, and Croatian.

34. Karina is Scandinavian.

35. Ríona is an Irish nickname for Catriona.

36. Cáit is Irish.

37. Kajsa is Swedish.

38. Katyenka is Russian.

39. Katyusha is Russian.

40. Katrė is the Lithuanian nickname for Kotryna.

41. Tina is Dutch and Croatian.

42. Cadi is the Welsh nickname for Catrin.

43. Kaisa is Estonian and Finnish.

44. Riina is Estonian and Finnish.

45. Triinu is Estonian.

46. Karen is Danish.

47. Iina is Finnish.

48. Rini/Riny is Dutch.

49. Cato is Dutch.

50. Tineke is Dutch.

51. Eka is the Georgian nickname for Ekaterine.

52. Cátia is the Portuguese nickname for Catarina.

53. Kaatje is Dutch.

54. Kat is English.

55. Katici is Hungarian.

The many nicknames for Elizabeth

Elizabeth seems to be tied with Katherine as the name with the most nickname forms. Instead of only one or a few, there are numerous choices. Some of these might feel a bit dated, while others are more modern or timeless. There are also nickname forms for the many foreign versions.

1. Betty/Bettie was extremely popular both as a nickname and a given legal name during the first half of the 20th century.

2. Betsy not only is a nickname, but also works well (at least in my opinion) as a full name. It’s one of those nicknames that can go both ways, like Ella or Jack.

3. Bessie was very popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, but was gradually displaced by Betty.

4. Bess was never super-popular like Betty or Bessie, but it was more common in the late 19th century.

5. Buffy comes from a lisped or childish mispronunciation of the last syllable of Elizabeth.

6. Beth seems like one of the most timeless nicknames, not tied to one particular era.

7. Eliza can work as both a nickname and full name.

8. Elisa works as both a nickname and full name.

9. Ella seems more popular as a nickname for names like Isabella, Gabriella, and Arabella nowadays, but it also has precedence as a nickname for Elizabeth.

10. Ellie/Elly/Elli seems a little old-fashioned, but it’s been experiencing quite a comeback in recent years.

11. Elle probably got more popular after the Legally Blonde movies.

12. Elsie is a nickname I’ve always liked, though I know many people think it’s more of a cow’s name.

13. Elyse is a more uncommon nickname.

14. Elsa obviously got more trendy after a certain massively overplayed Disney song and overrated movie.

15. Lisa works as both a nickname and full name.

16. Libby/Libbie is a more old-fashioned nickname, but I think it’s cute.

17. Liddy is also rather old-fashioned.

18. Lise has never been particularly common.

19. Liza works as both a nickname and full name.

20. Liz is like Beth, very timeless and versatile.

21. Lizzie/Lizzy seems like more of a nickname for a young girl. I like how some names have nicknames that work for young children, as well as more mature nicknames one can graduate to (e.g., Lizzie and Liz, Joey and Joe).

22. Lizbeth/Lisbeth/Lisbet is an uncommon choice I’ve always liked.

23. Lizette/Lisette works as both a nickname and full name.

24. Lilibet/Lilibeth is a very distinctive nickname.

25. Lillian may have originated as a nickname for Elizabeth, but is now much more common as a name in its own right.

26. Liana is really cute, both as a nickname and full given name.

27. Lisie is really cute.

28. Tetty is obviously not a nickname I’d recommend in modern times!

German nicknames for Elisabeth:

29. Bettina.

30. Bettchen.

31. Ilse/Ilsa.

32. Liesel/Liesl.

33. Liese. This is also Dutch.

34. Else. This is also Scandinavian and Dutch.

35. Elise. This is also Dutch and Scandinavian.

36. Lilli/Lili.

37. Lies. This is also Dutch, and obviously not a name I’d recommend in an Anglophone country.

38. Liesa.

Dutch nicknames for Elisabeth:

39. Betje.

40. Els.

41. Elsje.

42. Liesje.

Other nicknames:

43. Babette is a French nickname for Élisabeth.

44. Špela is a Slovenian nickname for Elizabeta.

45. Eliška is a Czech and Slovak nickname for Alžběta.

46. Erzsi is a Hungarian nickname for Erzsébet.

47. Bözsi is an alternate nickname for Erzsébet.

48. Zsóka is another nickname for Erzsébet.

49. Elża is a Polish nickname for Elżbieta.

50. Elżunia is another Polish nickname.

51. Jela is a Serbian nickname for Jelisaveta.

52. Jelica is another Serbian nickname.

53. Liisa is an Estonian nickname for Eliisabet.

54. Liisu is also Estonian.

55. Liisi is another Estonian nickname.

56. Liis is also Estonian.

57. Eliso is a Georgian nickname for Elisabed.

58. Veta is a Macedonian nickname for Elisaveta.

59. Beti is also Macedonian.

60. Elzė is a Lithuanian nickname for Elžbieta.

The many forms of Helen

Once a Top 10 name in the U.S., spending many years as high as #2, the name Helen has now slipped to #419. It’s had a similar downward slide in Canada and the U.K. However, it’s a solid classic which ages very well, and has so many lovely forms in other languages.

1. Helena is my favorite form of the name, used in German, Czech, Dutch, Polish, the Scandinavian languages, Slovenian, Slovak, Catalan, Portuguese, Galician, Icelandic, Estonian, Finnish, and Croatian. The Hungarian form is Heléna. My favorite pronunciation is Heh-LAY-nah. It can also be pronounced with a silent H, as in Galician and Portuguese.

2. Elena is Spanish, German, Bulgarian, Romanian, Macedonian, Slovak, and Lithuanian.

3. Yelena is Russian. Besides Lena, one of the base nickname forms is Lyolya.

4. Jelena is Serbian, Estonian, Latvian, Slovenian, Lithuanian, and Croatian. An alternate Latvian form is Jeļena.

5. Hélène is French. This was one of my least favorite characters in War and Peace!

6. Heleen is Dutch.

7. Ellen was never quite as popular as Helen, though it enjoyed many years in the Top 100. As of 2015, it had dropped to #705 in the U.S. It’s more popular in Europe, at #18 in Sweden, #23 in Finland, #29 in Denmark, #56 in Ireland, #82 in the Czech Republic, and #89 in Northern Ireland.

8. Elin is Welsh and Scandinavian. This name is quite popular, at #16 in Switzerland, #25 in Iceland, #30 in The Netherlands, and #37 in Sweden.

9. Ileana is Romanian, Italian, and Spanish. Romanian diminutives are Ilinca and Lenuța. This was the name of the youngest daughter of the awesome Queen Marie of Romania, and from all accounts was a truly lovely, caring, compassionate person.

10. Ilona is Hungarian.

11. Elina is Swedish and Finnish. The Latvian version is Elīna, and the Old Norse form is Elína.

12. Elaine is English, adopted from an Old French form of Helen.

13. Elene is Georgian and Greek.

14. Eleni is another Greek form.

15. Helene is German and Scandinavian.

16. Eliina is Finnish.

17. Elen is Welsh.

18. Olena is Ukrainian.

19. Léan is Irish.

20. Alena is Belarusian.

21. Elna is a southern Swedish form of Elin, as well as a Dutch and Danish nickname for Helena.

22. Halena is an obsolete Ukrainian form.

23. Heghine is Armenian.

24. Héilin is another Irish form.

25. Heleainná is Sami, a native Siberian language. A simpler Sami form is Helená.

26. Heleni is Brazilian–Portuguese.

27. Heleno is Esperanto, and yes, that is supposed to be a female name. Traditionally, O is a feminine ending in Esperanto, though many female Esperantists have modified their names to end in the more familiar A.

28. Helina is a rare Estonian and obsolete Swedish form.

29. Helle is Estonian.

30. Léana is another Irish form.