Sunday, 5 January 2014

Latin Birds

File:Henrik Gronvold Mealy Redpoll.jpg


There are so many nature names out there now. You can't breathe without seeing someone somewhere picking a fabulous nature inspired name for their child. There's Sky, Bay, Clover, Laurel... the list truly is long. Some of my favourite nature names tend to be connected with birds, such as Wren, Lark and even Starling. I wouldn't be doing Names Yesteryear justice if I didn't manage to mix names and history into a list. The following names were taken from A Classified List of Names and Latin Synonyms of the British Birds, published in 1853. I've only picked the Latin names as they provided much more exciting and unusual choices. They aren't mainstream, and may even be too much for many, but they are interesting.

Strix - The Roman and Greek word for owl, it's connected with the white owl, given the Latin name Strix Flammea in the Classified List. Some mythology and belief systems consider the owl to be a bad omen, often associated with death. However, it's not all bad. The owl has been associated with both goddess Athene and Lakshmi, and it has become a symbol for wisdom. St Jerome is often shown in paintings with an owl, representing both wisdom and scholarship. It's definitely not a name that is often encountered, but it may appeal to the more adventurous namers. It has an ultra-modern, sci-fi feel to it.

Anthus - Another bird with mythological connections. The name Anthus is linked with the Pipit, a small brown bird. Anthus appears in mythology as the son of Autonous and Hippodamia. He somehow found himself devoured by hungry horses but was kindly turned into a bird by Zeus and Apollo. Unlike Strix, this name has a more mainstream sound and look, a sort of hybrid between Anthony and Atticus, or something along those lines. It may have a lot of hidden potential.

Alauda - Mentioned in the Classified List as a Red Lark or a Skylark, it's a pretty name that is both feminine and strong. There is something about it that screams Victorian to me, a similarity to Ida, Edna and Alma. The lark often symbolizes daybreak in literature and has been mentioned by some of literature's greatest writers including Shakespeare, Coleridge, Browning, Milton, Shelley and Wordsworth. Alauda, and Lark of course, are therefore not simply nature names but also names with long literary histories.

Linaria - This is a double nature name! It is the name of a genus of plants, but in the Classified List it appears as the Linota Linaria, or a Lesser Redpoll (which now has a different Latin name). They are such gorgeous, bright little birds that it's easy to see why someone would want to use this name. Not to mention that there are some very sweet little nicknames to be gotten, such as Lin, Linnie, Lina and Lira. A name that can be shortened to suit a variety of tastes.

File:Nuthatch Grönvold.jpgSitta - Simple, short and strong; it will certainly appeal to many. Sitta is the name of the genus which is comprised of the nuthatches, of which there are quite a few different species. However, Sitta also falls under the 'location' category - it was one of the names given to the ancient capital of Sittacene, located between Babylonia and Assyria. Alexander the Great marched through the city on his way to Susa.

Ceryle - Mentioned in the Classified List as a Belted Kingfisher, it is another genus name. Not completely certain on pronunciation, but I imagine that it may resemble Cyrille. I've mentioned the kingfisher before, in the myth of Alcyone. Ceryle could easily be sitting alongside frilly but stylish Cecilia and Coralie.

Ortyx - Just like with Strix, I can see Ortyx coming straight out of a sci-fi film or The Hunger Games. It's the Latin name of the Virginian Colin, which I believe is a sort of quail (the Ancient Greek word for quail is Ortyx). The name has a slight connection to the famous Trojan Horse. Anticlus, a Greek warrior who hid inside the horse, is most often known as Anticlus, son of Ortyx. If the unusual spelling and sound are a bit too daring, there is always the somewhat similar Basque name Ortiz, which also has a nature element and means 'sky'.

Anser - Not exactly the most glamorous of connections, the Anser is the name of the genus to which most geese belong to, but it has many qualities that could be very trendy. It just seems like he would be friends with Jensen, Jace and Archer, and  all that crew. I personally like how it's a homophone of answer. It's as if he is the Anser to his parents' prayers (sorry, a bit cheesy...), but that was my initial thought. Additionally, the connection with the geese is not as lowly as it might first appear. The goose has a presence in Greek and Celtic mythology. It's quite fascinating how symbolic the common goose really is. If you are interested in more information, this website has some very interesting facts about geese in mythology.

Aythya - Ducks. People love them, people hate them. I'm not too keen, but I do like to walk around a lake and see happy little ducks floating by. The Aythya is the genus to which the Pochard, a diving duck, belong to. For many, ducks are a reminder of childhood, of going to the park to feed the duckies with their parents. The duck is a symbol innocence. Aythya, therefore, has quite a sweet connection going for it. There is also that unusual spelling that is still grounded in legitimacy. For something that isn't as wild, there's Anthea and Alisya, both of which have some resemblances to Latin Aythya.

Rissa - A name that has many nice aspects to it, particularly its link to the sea. Rissa is the genus name of the Kittiwakes, a seabird that resembles a seagull. Whereas the other bird names mentioned tend to evoke images of green forests or forests covered in snow, Rissa reminds us of oceans and cliffs. For many who want a name to have a sea element, Rissa is an under the radar gem. Many websites have Rissa down as a nickname, but I definitely think that it can stand alone. It may stem from the Latin word risio, meaning laughter, which is another point in its favour.

Larus- This one might be a keeper. It has the same great sea connections as Rissa, but this name above all others mentioned in this post appears to be the one that is the most familiar, the one with the most mainstream appeal. The Larus is a seagull, a creature that is often seen as a bit naughty... they do always try to take your food, it's true. But the seagull is also rather beautiful and their cries instantly bring the seaside to life. If you like the name but not the whole seagull thing, there is always Lárus, the Icelandic form of Laurence.

Image: An Illustration of the Mealy Redpoll and An Illustration of Eurasian Nuthatches, both by Henrik Grönvold