A primer on Dante and his name

In honour of my love Dante’s 696th Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I’m rerunning the first half of my post from 5 April 2016. Dante is my next-greatest literary idol, after only Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn.

Fresco of Dante Alighieri (May/June 1265–13/14 September 1321), by Andrea del Castagno

Dante Alighieri, né Durante degli Alighieri, was one of the greatest writers of all time, and the greatest writer of the Italian language. His choice to write in Italian instead of Latin was a huge influence on those writers who came after him. Because of this, he’s been called the Father of the Italian Language.

Dante was born in Florence, to a pro-Guelph family. His mother, Bella, died before he was 10, and his father remarried quickly. At age 12, Dante was betrothed to Gemma Donati, though he’d been in love with Beatrice Portinari since age nine. Beatrice remained the only woman in his heart, and he never mentioned Gemma in any of his poetry. Indeed, you’d never guess he had a wife from reading La Vita Nuova, the autobiographical work documenting his love for Beatrice.

Dante’s father died when he was a teenager, and Brunetto Latini became his guardian. In 1285, aged about 20, Dante married Gemma and had four children with her. On 11 June 1289, he fought in the Battle of Campaldino with the Guelph cavalry. The Guelphs were victorious over the Ghibellines, but then the Guelphs split into two factions, and Dante’s faction, the White Guelphs, got in lots of trouble with the Black Guelphs.

Dante in Exile, by Domenico Peterlini

To make a long story short, Dante was condemned to perpetual exile in March 1302, and risked being burnt at the stake if he returned to his belovèd Florence. He’d initially only been condemned to two years of exile and a huge fine, but Dante refused to pay. Not only did he feel he weren’t guilty, but all his assets had been seized by the Black Guelphs. In June 2008, Florence’s city council finally rescinded Dante’s sentence.

Recent reconstruction of Dante’s face reveals he didn’t have that famous aquiline nose after all. His nose was probably hooked, but it was pudgy and crooked, not pointy and straight.

Dante now rests in a tomb in Ravenna, in spite of repeated pleas from Florence to return the bones of one of their greatest native sons. The empty tomb in Florence, still waiting for him, bears the inscription Onorate l’altissimo poeta (Honour the most exalted poet), from Canto IV of Inferno. The next line, L’ombra sua torna, ch’era dipartite (His spirit, which had left us, returns), is hauntingly absent.

Dante is a Medieval short form of Durante, the Italian form of the Late Latin name Durans, which means “enduring.”

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The many forms of Andrew

Andrew is a perenially-popular classic which has never been out of the U.S. Top 100 since records began in 1880. It started at #24 in 1880, and slowly dipped lower, until reaching #86 in 1945. It then began slowly making its way back up the charts, and was in the Top 10 from 1986–94 and 1996–2007. The name then began moving back down slowly. In 2016, it was #34.

Andrew is also Top 100 in Scotland (#46), Canada (#62), Australia (#87), Ireland (#60), and Northern Ireland (#83).

The name is derived from the Greek Andreas, which comes from andreios (masculine, manly), a derivative of aner (man).

Other forms include:

1. André is French and Portuguese.

2. Andrey is Russian and Bulgarian, with the base nickname Andryusha.

3. Andrej is Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, Macedonian, Serbian, and Croatian.

4. Andrés is Spanish and Icelandic. The variant Andres is Estonian.

5. Andriy is Ukrainian.

6. Andrus is Estonian.

7. Anders is Scandinavian.

8. Andreas is German, Scandinavian, Dutch, Welsh, and Greek.

9. Andries is Dutch, with the nickname Dries.

10. Andrejs is Latvian.

11. Andrius is Lithuanian.

12. Ander is Basque.

13. Andreu is Catalan.

14. Andria is Georgian, Corsican, and Sardinian. The Georgian nickname is Andro.

15. Andrzej is Polish.

16. Antero is Finnish. Nicknames include Antti, Atte, and Tero.

17. Andrei is Romanian.

18. Andraž is Slovenian.

19. Ondrej is Slovak. The variant Ondřej is Czech.

20. Aindréas is Irish.

21. Aindriú is also Irish.

22. András is Hungarian, with nicknames including Andris and Bandi. The variant Andras is Welsh.

23. Andor is a Hungarian variant.

24. Endre is often seen as a possible Hungarian form of Andrew, though it’s an etymologically unrelated pre-Christian name.

25. Andris is Latvian.

26. Andreja is Serbian.

27. Andrija is Serbian and Croatian.

28. Andro is Croatian.

29. Andrea is an exclusively male Italian name.

30. Aindrea is Scottish.

31. Ándaras is Sami.

32. Anaru is Maori.

33. Andrėjus is Lithuanian.

34. Andryu is Mordvin.

35. Andrieu is Occitan and Gascon.

36. Andriü is Medieval Occitan.

37. Entri is Chuvash.

38. Handrij is Sorbian.

39. Jynrek is Vilamovian.

40. Andri is Albanian.

All about the name Valentino

In honour of Rudy Valentino’s 91st Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I present a post celebrating his adopted surname and all its various forms. Though most Anglophones think of Valentino as a surname, and don’t typically encounter forenames like Valentine or Valentin, this is very much a common, established name in many other languages. It also comes in both male and female forms.

The originating form is the Latin cognomen (surname) Valentinus, which in turn derived from Valens (strong, healthy, vigourous). A related cognomen was Valentinianus. It later morphed into Valentine, the name of several Roman Catholic saints, most notably the third century martyr after whom Valentine’s Day is named.

Because the most famous St. Valentine’s feast day fell out on 14 February, coinciding with the Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, an association between St. Valentine and love was forged.

Valentine began to be used as an English name in the 12th century, almost always for boys. The name was in the male U.S. Top 1000 from 1880–1944, again from 1947–53, and finally in 1955. It hasn’t charted since. On the girls’ side, Valentine has only charted in 1885 and 1917.

In France, Valentine is an exclusively female name. It was in the Top 100 from 1900–14, and stayed in the Top 500 until 1972, after which it dropped off the charts. In 1975, it returned, and slowly began moving up the charts. To date, its highest position has been #44, in 1997, In 2016, it was #64.

In Belgium, where the name is also feminine-only, it was in the Top 100 from at least 2000–06, and again in 2008.

Other forms of the name include:

Male:

1. Valentin is Russian, Romanian, Czech, Scandinavian, Bulgarian, Slovenian, French, Macedonian, German, and Croatian. The variant form Valentín is Slovak and Spanish. Nicknames include Tine and Tinek (Slovenian), Valya, Valyusha, Valyushka, Valyechka, and Valentulya (Russian), Vali (Romanian), and Valent and Tin (Croatian).

2. Valentino is Italian.

3. Valentijn is Dutch.

4. Walenty is Polish.

5. Walentyn is also Polish.

6. Bálint is Hungarian.

7. Folant is Welsh.

8. Ualan is Scottish.

9. Valentyn is Ukrainian.

10. Balendin is Basque.

11. Valantín is Aragonese.

12. Valentinas is Lithuanian.

13. Valentīns is Latvian.

14. Valyantsin is Belarusian.

15. Valentí is Catalan.

16. Valentim is Portuguese.

17. Valentinià is Catalan.

18. Valentinian is Russian, Bulgarian, German, and English.

19. Valentynian is Ukrainian.

20. Valentiniano is Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician.

21. Valentinianos is the modern Greek form of Oualentinianos.

22. Valentinien is French.

23. Valentinos is modern Greek.

24. Valentinijan is Croatian.

25. Valentínus is Icelandic.

26. Valentýn is Czech.

27. Valintinianu is Sicilian.

28. Walentynian is Polish.

29. Valente is Italian and Portuguese.

Female:

1. Valentina is Russian, Spanish, Greek, Romanian, Italian, Slovenian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Czech, and Croatian. The variant Valentína is Slovak and Icelandic, and Valentīna is Latvian.

2. Valentyna is Ukrainian.

3. Walentyna is Polish.

4. Valentine is French and English.

5. Balentina is Basque and Latin American–Spanish.

6. Valantina is Aragonese.

7. Valantine is Picard.

8. Valentini is an alternate Greek form.

9. Walenekina is Hawaiian.

Olive names

Oliver has barreled up the U.S. charts in recent years, going from #173 in 2006 to #12 in 2016. The name is #1 in Canada, England and Wales, New Zealand, and Australia. It’s also very popular in Denmark (#4), Finland (#5), Norway (#2), Sweden (#7), Scotland (#3), Iceland (#6), Northern Ireland (#6), Hungary (#21), Ireland (#31), Galicia (#40), and the Czech Republic (#33).

The alternate form Olivér is Hungarian, and Ólíver, or Óliver, is Icelandic.

Olivia has likewise barreled up the U.S. charts, going from #248 in 1985 to a so far three-year reign as #2 from 2014–16. Olive, not too long ago largely written off as a musty old lady name, may be poised to become a replacement for Olivia, the way Jessica supplanted Jennifer and Amelia supplanted Emma supplanted Emily. It fell off the U.S. charts in 1951, and re-entered at #989 in 2007. In 2016, it was #272, while in Australia, it was #90, and in New Zealand, it was #43. In England and Wales, it was #176.

The alternate form Olívia is Hungarian, Slovak, and Portuguese. Ólivía is Icelandic.

There are several possible etymologies for Olivia, among them the possible connection to the Latin word oliva (olive). And though Oliver comes from either an Old Germanic name like Alfher (elf army, elf warrior) or an Old Norse name like Áleifr (ancestor’s descendant; the original form of Olaf), the spelling came to be changed by association with the Latin word oliva.

If the trendiness and popularity of those names puts you off, there are plenty of other forms of these names.

Male:

Oilibhéar is Irish.

Oliber is Gascon. This spelling is considered archaic today.

Ólivar is Faroese.

Oliverio is Latin American–Spanish.

Olivers is Latvian.

Olivey is modern Gascon.

Olivier is French and Dutch.

Oliviero is Italian.

Olivur is Faroese.

Oliwer is Polish.

Oliwier is an alternate Polish form.

Oliwjer is also Polish.

Ölu is Swiss–German.

Female:

Moria was the word for a sacred olive tree in Ancient Greek.

Oliivia is Estonian.

Oliva is Latin.

Olivera is Serbian, Macedonian, and Croatian.

Olivette is French, from the title character of Edmond Audran’s 1879 opera Les Noces d’Olivette.

Oliviana is English, Spanish, and Italian.

Olivie is French and Czech. In Czech, the last two letters are pronounced separately instead of as one.

Olivienne is English.

Oliviera is Italian.

Oliviette is English.

Olivija is Macedonian, Lithuanian, and Croatian. The alternate form Olīvija is Latvian.

Olivina is Faroese.

Oliviya is Bulgarian.

Oliwia is Polish.

Ouliva is Asturian, a language spoken in northern Spain.

The various forms of Roger (Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day!)

To mark this special holiday (which is very much real), and because Roger is my favourite member of the band, I thought I’d do a post about the name Roger. This isn’t a name I used to have a high opinion of (since at least when I was younger, it frequently seemed to be given to characters who were bullies and thugs), but I’ve really grown to love the name.

Roger was on the Top 100 in the U.S. from 1921–75, and the Top 50 from 1932–62 and again in 1964 and 1965. It attained its highest rank of #22 in 1945. The name has steadily plummeted in popularity, and was down to #643 in 2016. The alternate spelling Rodger, always less popular, last charted at #921 in 1985.

Roger is used in English, French, the Scandinavian languages, Catalan, Dutch, and German. It means “famous spear,” from the Old Germanic elements hrod (fame) and ger (spear). The name came to England after the Norman conquest of 1066 and the resulting occupation. It replaced the Old English Hroðgar (Hrothgar), which was the name of the legendary Danish king featured in Beowulf.

During the Middle Ages, Roger was a common name in England, though had become rare by the 18th century. Later on, it enjoyed a resurgence in popularity.

Other forms include:

1. Ruggieri is Medieval Italian.

2. Ruggiero is modern Italian.

3. Ruggero is an alternate Italian form.

4. Rogel is Spanish.

5. Rüdiger is German. The parents of my character Roger Brandt-van Acker wanted to name their son this name instead, after his great-great-uncle, but they were pressured into choosing the English form.

6. Rutger is Dutch and Limburgish. The Limburgish nickname is Ruth.

7. Rogier is also Dutch.

8. Rogério is Portuguese.

9. Roar is Norwegian, and obviously not a name I’d recommend in an Anglophone country.

10. Hrodger is the original Ancient Germanic form.

11. Hróarr is Old Norse.

12. Hróðgeirr is also Old Norse.

13. Dodge is a Medieval English nickname.

14. Hodge is another Medieval English nickname, spelt such because of the way in which the English mispronounced the occupying Normans’ R.

15. Roschi is Alsatian.

16. Ruđer is Croatian.