Field of Science

A Rose by any other name might be a Heather

The Chi-town Trib had an article today about botanical names for people, well, actually for babies because that's when they get named, and it seems only for girls. Why are flower and plant names perceived as feminine?  Do Maple and Clover sound like girls?  What about Lilac?  What about Filbert?   That sounds rather masculine, but a bit nutty.  How about Nellia?  That one is basically undiscovered both as a flowering shrub and a baby name.  Does it have potential?  Yes, on both counts.  But it's true, quite a few flower names get used a girl names; everyone can remember when every other woman you met was Heather (#8 in the 1970s).  Rose was #16 in the 1910s.  Here's the 10 plant/flower names that are becoming more popular of late (according to the article): Lily, Violet, Willow, Hazel, Ivy, Iris, Olive, Dahlia, Juniper, and Azalea.  A couple of these are a surprise; Juniper?  Really?  Apparently Jasmine was number 29 in the 2000s probably a credit to Disney's Aladdin movie. Holly was popular some years back as TPP discovered via google.  Violet is at its most popular rank in 100 years. Poppy remains rather uncommon; only one comes to mind - Poppy Montgomery, although this is a bit of a truncated version of her given name - Poppy Petal Emma Elizabeth Deveraux Donaghue. TPP also knew women called Linnea and Nyssa, which reminds him that Dr. Chips names his pets after plants, e.g.,Typha (do you need to be told it was a cat?).  Of course a number of plant names are derived from the names of goddesses, so these might be very appropriate names for little girls.  For example, how about Hebe?  It does sort of suggest a middle name as well.  Or maybe just Flora or Terra (daughter of a former colleague) to cover a lot of bases?  Just happened to think of Laural. But no one is naming their little boys Nemestrinius or Radish. Why not? Ah, finally thought of a plant used as a boy's name: Ash.  Do readers have any good examples?  Let's hear them.


Christopher Taylor said...

For boy's names, you forgot about Rowan.

nycguy said...

There is a prominent 19th century American female Clover. A nickname, but that shouldn't affect the issue:

Anonymous said...

My mother had a friend named Fern and as a child I thought it was a beautiful name. I lost out on Linnaea (my mom's choice) because I had two grandmothers tussling over passing on their similar names - the amalgam never pleased me so I think of myself privately as the shy flower of the northern woods.