Saturday, March 1, 2014


In Celebration of Women’s History Month, all the posts in March will have to do with famous historical women.

The name of the most infamous flapper of them all, this is a name that is ready for a comeback.

Zelda (pronounced: ZEL-dah) has one of two meaning. One version is that it is a name of Yiddish origin meaning ‘happy; blessed’ and a feminisation of the Yiddish Zelig while the second version is of Germanic origin, being a shortened form of Griselda meaning ‘dark battle’. The most famous person to be bestowed the name was a flapper and author but in the last decade or so it has been the use of the name in a video game has both helped and hindered the use of this name.

Zelda Fitzgerald was the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the American Author most famous for his work The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald would write numerous novels and the inspiration for many of his male female characters came from his wife. Despite being locked into a sanatorium, I find Zelda quite talented and a role model. An author herself, she wrote the novel Save Me This Waltz in six weeks. A semi-autobiographical piece, Scott was furious when he read it because a lot of this was the basis for his upcoming work, Tender is the Night. While originally a failure since then she has had a critical reappraisal. She was also a talented artist, has become an icon of the 20th century and a feminist icon.

It was this Zelda that inspired the name of the video game character of Princess Zelda in The Legend of Zelda. A high fantasy adventure game, Zelda in this is beautiful and while she was designed to be a damsel in distress character, later games have showed her with magical powers and she has fought in battles.

A name frequently used in novels, including Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’,  as well as another pseudonym for Marilyn Monroe, being Zelda Zonks as well as being the aunt of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Zelda has a lot of representation in culture.

The name reached the height of its popularity during the late 1910s, early 1920s but was last seen on the charts in 1967, just sneaking in at #990. That being said with a rise in the popularity of Fitzgerald, his works and the 1920s, Zelda could come back, especially with the 100-year-rule in play. The last five years show a steady increase, though a larger one in 2012:

  • 2008 - 54
  • 2009 - 59
  • 2010 - 69
  • 2011 - 86
  • 2012 - 136

I wouldn’t be surprised that in 2013 there was even more than that thanks to the release of The Great Gatsby film last year as well as three fictional books on the life of Zelda including Z, Beautiful Fools and Call Me Zelda all released in 2013.

With such a rich history, Zelda is ripe for a big comeback and that seems to be the way it is going. I wouldn’t be surprised if it reached the Top 1000 in the next year or two. It is a 1920s gem seemingly following the 100-year-rule.


In Celebration of Women’s History Month, all the posts in March will have to do with famous historical women.

A name given to many a noblewoman back in the day, this French name has seemingly gone out of style.

Hortense (pronounced: or-TAWNS) is the French form of the Ancient Roman name Hortensia, and is derived from the Latin word ‘hortus’, with the overall meaning being ‘of the garden’. This name seems to be a huge turnoff for people outside of France and I assume that is from a mispronunciation of the name, as this happened to me as the King Charles II song on Horrible Histories made me believe, (and excuse me for lack of a better translation) – ‘WHORE-tense’ and really that pronunciation is not very good. As the French language does not pronounce ‘H’ you can see why with their pronunciation and added with the meaning, it could be a much prettier name that people give credit for.

Throughout history though there have been women who were bestowed the name Hortense. While there was an anthropologist and a reggae singer named Hortense, two of the most famous Hortenses where noblewomen. The first one was Hortense Mancini, an Italian Noblewoman in the 1600’s who was favourite niece of Cardinal Mazarin and one of the famous Mancini sisters. Despite a failed marriage, Hortense went on to become the maitresse en titre of King Charles II before having an affair with Charles’ illegitimate daughter Anne and then the Prince of Monaco.

The second Hortense was Hortense de Beauharnais, pictured, who was the daughter of Josephine Bonaparte and the stepdaughter of Napoleon. A skilled musical composer and a celebrated member of Parisian society, Hortense married Napoleon’s brother Louis and became Queen of Holland. Mother to both Louis II of Holland and Napoleon III of France, Hortense even carried out an affair and bore an illegitimate child.

Despite two significant and celebrated beauties bearing the name, it has never been an overtly popular name though its popularity is more significant in France where in 2011 it was ranked #311 and used 204 times, the most times it has been used in France between 2000-2011 though not its highest ranking. In America however, the name has not ranked since 1941 where it was just inside the Top 1000 at place #948 and today, less than 5 babies were given the name if any at all. The highest it ever ranked was back in 1883 at spot #386.

It has got to be the pronunciation that stops people using this name, or is it because the first three letters match the first three letters in Horse. I say the former but people can be turned off a name by the strangest ways. With two productions seemingly to be in the works on the life of Napoleon, maybe people will be enlightened with the pronunciation of this name. In the meantime, I am now a strong defender of the name Hortense. It may not be my all-time favourite name, but I would celebrate someone using this name. 
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