Supposedly geriatric names I like

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It’s no secret many of the names that are currently quite popular (e.g., Sophia, Isabella, Max, Henry, Emma, Isaac) were not too long ago derided by more than a few people as too musty and geriatric to use on a baby. However, some names still frequently garner scorn instead of an enthusiastic, “ZOMG, that was my grandma/grandpa’s name!”

Here are some of these unpopular, supposedly geriatric names which I’ve always liked.

Female:

1. Ernestine. I’ve absolutely loved this name from the very first time I saw it!

2. Irene. As I said recently, I don’t think of this as an old lady name, in spite of its greatest popularity being quite some time ago, because it didn’t explode in popularity overnight and then sink just as rapidly. It’s still used somewhat regularly.

3. Justine. I’ve always loved this name, as well as the variations Justina and Yustina.

4. Ida. I don’t understand all the hate this name gets, though I agree the English pronunciation isn’t as soft and pretty as it is in all the other languages with this name.

5. Beatrice. It’s hardly a secret I adore this name, after how many posts I’ve written about it! Like many other name nerds, I was worried it might suddenly get trendy and overused after Paul McCartney and that gold-digging second wife of his used it on their child, but that fear thankfully wasn’t realised.

Male:

1. Stanley. Yes, I’m biased because this was the name of my favouritest comedian, Stan Laurel, but it’s still a very distinguished, charming name. I also love the cute nickname Stan.

2. Harold. I’ve adored this name for years, long before I became a fan of the great comedian Harold Lloyd. I’m also very moved by the section of the Bayeux Tapestry declaring, “Here sits Harold, King of the English.” The people knew who their real king was, even under foreign occupation.

3. Leon. This name has such a charming, snappy ring to it. It’s short and to the point, like Ida.

4. Leonard. My main reason for liking this name is probably the fact that it was Chico Marx’s real name. It’s been said Chico is the one who sneaks up on you, since he tends not to be the one most people are immediately hooked by. But then, over time, you’re more and more drawn to him.

5. Philip. This name feels both sweet and serious to me, evoking a kind, quiet, caring, intelligent fellow.

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The many forms of Beatrice

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This is my third Beatrice post on this blog, since I love the name that much. It’s such a beautiful, timeless, versatile classic, and hasn’t gotten über-trendy like certain other names which were once considered too musty and geriatric (e.g., Ava, Max, Sophia, Emma, Henry, Oliver). I and many of my fellow name nerds were worried Beatrice might suddenly become trendy and shoot up the charts after Paul McCartney used it on his surprise fifth child, but that thankfully didn’t happen.

I also love this name because Beatrice was Dante’s great unrequited love, his muse, his inspiration, his guide through Paradise and the final leg of Purgatory. He wrote The Divine Comedy to immortalize her for all time.

Beatrice is used in English, Italian, and Swedish. Other forms include:

1. Beatrix is Dutch, German, Hungarian, and English. Trixie is the Dutch and English nickname, while Trixi is Hungarian.

2. Beatrisa (my favorite alternate form) is Russian and Georgian.

3. Beatriz is Spanish and Portuguese.

4. Beatrise is Latvian.

5. Béatrice is French.

6. Beatriu is Catalan.

7. Viatrix is the original Latin form.

8. Beatrycze is Polish, and quite odd for a Polish feminine name. It’s the only one that doesn’t end in A.

9. Betrys is Welsh.

10. Beitris is Scottish.

11. Batirtze is Basque. This is a modern, not traditional, name.

12. Beatrica is Serbian and Croatian.

13. Béatris is Gascon. The alternate form Beatris is Medieval Occitan, Spanish, and Flemish.

14. Beatricia is Middle English.

15. Beatrijs is Flemish and an alternate Dutch form.

16. Beatrisia is Medieval Italian, Occitan, French, and German.

17. Beatritz is Provençal.

18. Beatrys is Medieval and West Flemish.

19. Bétry is a local variant used in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of France until the 18th century.

Beatrice and Brunetto

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Beatrice (Bice) di Folco Portinari (1266–90), as painted by Marie Spartali Stillman

Beatrice was my female B name last year as well, but it’s only right to use it again, since she’s the most important female character in the entire Divine Comedy. Not only is she Dante’s guide through Paradise and the final stages of Purgatory, but she’s also mentioned many times before she appears. It was Dante’s passionate, enduring, unrequited love for her that inspired this great work of literature. He wanted to immortalize his muse, the love of his life, for all time. Mission accomplished!

Beatrice is the Italian form of Beatrix, which probably derives from Viatrix, a feminine form of the Latin name Viator, which means “voyager” and “traveller.”

Also painted by Marie Spartali Stillman

Beatrice was the daughter of Florentine banker Folco Portinari, and first met Dante when she was eight and he was nine. In 1287, she married banker Simone del Bardi, and passed away just three years later, in June 1290, aged only 24. Her death absolutely devastated Dante, though he’d married another woman (Gemma Donati) in 1285 and begun having children with her.

Dante described Beatrice as having emerald-colored eyes, but apart from that, didn’t discuss her physical appearance. This was a higher form of love, not mindless lust. Dante saw Beatrice as a force for good, his saviour, someone who could make him into a better person. They only had two real meetings (as well as many greetings in the street), but these two meetings were so special and profound, Dante never forgot her.

It’s also noteworthy how Beatrice is the only person in The Divine Comedy who addresses Dante by name. Through the entire poem, he’s only called by name once, when Beatrice rebukes him for his disloyalty to her. She begins her rebuke when he’s crying like a scared, confused little child upon discovering Virgil has left him.

“Dante, that Virgil leaves you, and from your view
“Is vanished, O not yet weep; weep not yet,
“For you must weep, another stab to rue.”

(Brunetto Latini, 1210–94)

Brunetto, a member of a noble Tuscan family, was the son of Buonaccorso Latini. Following the death of Dante’s father, Alighiero di Bellincione, between 1281–83, he became Dante’s guardian. In Italian, he signed his name as Burnecto Latino, and in Latin, he signed himself as Burnectus Latinus. He was a philosopher, statesman, member of the Guelph party, a notary, and a scholar.

Among Brunetto’s writings are Italian translations of Cicero, the Italian encyclopedia Tesoretto, and the French encyclopedia Li Livres dou Trésor. The lattermost volume is regarded as the very first encyclopedia in a modern European language.

Brunetto appears in Canto XV of Inferno, and is treated more respectfully and lovingly than almost anyone else who appears in The Divine Comedy. Dante lovingly speaks of Brunetto as his teacher and mentor, and offers to sit with him while the rest of Brunetto’s group runs off. Brunetto has to refuse because he’s condemned (in the Third Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell) to keep aimlessly moving. He then tells Dante’s future.

Brunetto seems to be a diminutive form of Bruno, a name found in many European languages. It derives from the Germanic word brun, which either means “brown” or “protection/armour.” I really, really love this name, since it calls to mind a sensitive artist, poet, or musician.

Beltramo and Beatrice

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Beltramo seems to be the old Italian form of the Ancient Germanic name Bertram, which means “bright raven.” Beltramo di Rossiglione appears in the ninth story of the third day of The Decameron, where he’s very unwillingly married to Giletta of Narbonne. Giletta and Beltramo grew up together, but Beltramo has never returned the passionate love she’s felt from a very young age.

Giletta, who was trained by her doctor father, heals the King of France of a fistula, and in reward requests Beltramo as her husband. The King grants her request, and Beltramo is so upset over this forced marriage, he leaves for Florence immediately. He says he’ll only accept Giletta as his wife if she holds his son in her arms and wears his ring, conditions which are seemingly impossible when they’re physically separated. Not easily deterred, Giletta goes to Florence and impersonates a woman Beltramo is in love with, and in this way gets the ring and becomes pregnant with twin boys.

Beltramo finally accepts her as his wife when he realizes how much she loves him and what an effort she went through for him.

Beatrice is the Italian form of Beatrix, which in turn may derive from Viatrix, a feminine form of the Latin name Viator, which means “voyager.” She appears in the seventh story of the seventh day, the wife of Egano de’ Galluzzi of Bologna. A man named Lodovico falls hopelessly in love with her, so much so he moves to Bologna and adopts the name Anichino.

While Anichino is right beside Beatrice and Egano’s bed, on the night Beatrice promised to give him his desire, Beatrice starts telling Egano all about the inappropriate passion Anichino feels for her. As she’s talking, she’s got Anichino’s hand in a death grip, so he can’t escape. She tells Egano to see what a loyal servant Anichino is by putting on her clothes and going into the garden, where she supposedly told Anichino they’d have a rendezvous.

After Egano has left, Anichino and Beatrice take their pleasure of one another, and then Anichino goes into the garden to give Egano a good beating, berating him for trying to test his loyalty in this way. Egano returns to Beatrice soundly licked, under the firm delusion that he’s got the most loyal wife ever. Beatrice and Anichino continue to enjoy one another, Egano none the wiser.