Saturday, March 11, 2023

The Victorians called trendy names "romantic names"

 I have been enjoying articles on tagged "Twas Ever Thus". They are all clippings from old newspapers, magazines and sections from books on the topic of baby names from 100 to 200 years ago in the UK.

There are many articles written on the theme of how ridiculous it is when the lower classes chose upper class names. They should be choosing John not Frederick, Sarah not Eugenie, James not Theodore. But the article writers also look down their nose at the working class who choose "romantic names".

Here's a quote from a 1869 London periodical called Belgravia:

"Apropos of romantic names, I have it from a registrar of great experience that these are enormously affected by the lower orders, who get them from the romances in the penny papers."

Examples of these romantic names from the Victorian era included Yolande, Gladys, Beatrice, Ethel, Gertrude, Blanche, Eva, Dora, Mabel, Amy, Evelyn, Maud, Florence, Marguerite, and May.

The writer from 1869 also drops this little tidbit about names used for both sexes:

"Happily there is one folly in christening which has never strengthened into a fashion, namely, that of confounding the names proper to the two sexes. This has been done to a slight extent, however. I once knew a lady named Charles; Joey has been bestowed on a female infant; and Brown, the author of Britannia's Pastorals, is said to have married a Miss Timothy Eversfield, of Den in Sussex. Evelyn is one of the bewildering names without sex."

So there you have it. Not only was Evelyn a trendy Victorian name for girls, it was also unisex (plus it was also the alternative spelling of Eveline, a spelling which C.M. Yonge warned against using in 1863).

Twas Ever Thus. 

Source:  Belgravia, "Concerning M. or N." page 389, United Kingdom, 1869

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