Veruca: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on July 25, 2014

VerucaShe’s a reprehensible child who meets a bad end in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Could this ever be the name of a real child?  Our Baby Name of the Day is Veruca.

In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Veruca Salt is the very spoiled daughter of wealthy parents.  Both of the movie versions make her British, and in the Tim Burton version, her interview is filmed at a huge stately home outside of London called Hatfield House, which you can tour.

It’s fun to watch Veruca’s tantrums, but you wouldn’t want to raise your child to become so difficult and demanding.

But you might admire that vibrant V name.  Victoria, Veronica, Vivica, Valentina … there are some great names starting with the letter V.  It’s not a stretch to imagine Veruca fitting right in.

The trouble is that Roald Dahl didn’t borrow the name from earlier uses, nor did he invent the name from thin air.  Veruca comes from verruca – the Latin word for wart.

More broadly, verruca can refer to a growth, or even just a flaw or failing.  It’s obscure in the US, but still very much used in British English.

That’s not just a horrible meaning – that would be a serious challenge if your California-born daughter decided to study abroad in London.

Has any one ever been brave enough to borrow Veruca?

Looking at US Census records, it appears that there have been a very few, but they all predate the 1964 publication of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  They could be mis-recorded.  And there have never been five or more children given the name in any single year.  So Veruca is just about unknown as an actual child’s name.

But there have been two uses that come to mind:

  • Let’s start with a relatively obscure reference.  In season four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the kids have graduated from high school and headed off to a (fictional) local campus of the University of California.  Shortly after their arrival, musician-werewolf Oz falls for the lead singer of another band.  She also happens to be a musician-werewolf, but of the rather badly behaved variety.  So there’s no redemption for the name here.
  • Then there’s indie band Veruca Salt, who scored their biggest hit with “Seether” in the mid-1990s.  They add some edge to the name, but they’re clearly named after Dahl’s demanding schoolgirl, so I’m not sure that makes a big difference, either.

The phrase “Vercua Salt” is sometimes used as a synonym for “spoiled brat.”  Since the movie adaptations of the book came out in 1971 and 2005, and are frequently shown, it is tough to claim that this reference is fading.

All of this makes me think that Veruca might be best left alone, and yet I can’t escape her quirky-cool sound.  I’d put her on the same list as Djuna or Luscinia - seriously daring names that might fit in better than we expect.

Names4Real mentioned a few sightings of Veruca, as well as a Veruka Nine - I’d love to meet those parents!

Maybe all that’s missing is a fictional character or two called Veruca, characters who have lots of good traits.  And yet, with the British use of the term to refer to warts, I have a hard time imagining that happening anytime soon.

What do you think of Veruca?  Is she wearable, or would it be unfair to saddle a child with a name with such a negative meaning?

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