Wednesday, 22 February 2012

From Wilhelmina to Jem

 File:Walter Sadler - Married.jpg

One of my main hobbies is reading so my friends are always recommending me things to get stuck into. One said friend told me about a book she thought I would like because, amongst other things, 'the characters have great names'. She knows me too well. I'm not a fan of ebooks, but since this one was so cheap, I thought I might as well give it a go. The book was Wake by an author I'd never heard of before, Abria Mattina. I'm currently only half way through, but I'm enjoying it very much (It's a very touching story). And my friend was right, there are some great names. edit: Finished the book. Loved, loved it.

Wilhelmina - The feminine form of the German Wilhelm, which shares its roots with the more common William, derives from the Ancient Germanic name Willahelm, meaning 'will, desire' and 'helmet, protection'.  Wilhelmina has been used throughout the centuries by the Germanic royal families. The heir apparent in the Netherlands had a daughter in 2007 and called her Ariane Wilhelmina Máxima Inés. Her first middle name was given to honour her great-great-grandmother Queen Wilhemina, who was on the throne during both World Wars. There are a number of established diminutives for the name, such as Mina, Wilma and Elma. However, my favourite has to be what the character in Wake goes by, Willa

Willa - It has become a more talked about name, perhaps because of similarities to Willow. In the US it made a steady appearance in the top 1000 from 1880 to 1962, and then it disappeared. It was only in 2010 that it once again took its place amongst the country's 1000 most popular names, although it is still at #968. In England & Wales, Willa is seeing modest use with only 19 girls being given the name in 2010; however, it has almost quadrupled in 'popularity' since 2005. While Wilhelmina is a commanding name, Willa is sweeter, even quainter, without being too simple or wishy-washy. Use one as a full name and the other as a nickname, and you have the perfect balance.  

Jeremiah - It comes from the Hebrew name Yirmiyahu which means 'Yahweh uplifted' or 'God uplifted'. Jeremiah appears in the Old Testament as a priest, and is also seen by Jews and Muslims as a prophet. Continuing with its religious links, Jeremiah was the name of three Patriarchs of Constantinople, a Greek religious leader and the most senior bishop of the Eastern Orthodox Church. In Wake the author describes it as 'outdated' name, and it certainly does have an old-fashioned feel to it. Nevertheless, its popularity is actually on the increase in the US. In 2000 it was at #102, and in 2010 it had climbed fifty places to stand at #52. And it's done even better in England & Wales jumping from #616 in 2000 to #328 in 2010. Clearly, its religious connections have worked to its advantage. 

Jem - The name Jeremiah has only been mentioned once (so far, at least) in the book. The character actually goes by Jem. It is often used as a nickname for Jeremiah, Jeremy, James or Jerome, but Jem is also a medieval form of James, so it can be seen as a legitimate stand-alone name. Harper Lee fans will recognise it from To Kill a Mockingbird. With the book helping to increase the popularity of Harper and Atticus, could Jem be next? Additionally, it is also a homophone of gem, which adds a rather lovely feel to it.

Both Wilhelmina and Jeremiah can be seen as serious, straight-laced, and rather 'big' names, but they certainly would appeal to anyone who likes traditional names with long histories. Willa and Jem are the complete opposite; they are fun, cool, and flow well with the other big players of the name world right now. They each have their own pros and cons. I would just love to know how the author came up with them.

Image: Married by Walter Sadler.