We all know that names come in and out of fashion, but we’re particularly charmed by a group of appellations that are all-but-extinct circa 2008, and yet sound primed for a revival.
Thanks to Elisabeth for suggesting a promising member of this club: Eulalie.
Eulalie is the French version of the marginally less obscure Eulalia. Eulalia was a 4th century saint, martyred under Diocletian despite her tender years. Most reports place her age at no more than thirteen when she met her grisly fate. There were either two Eulalias with similar stories – one in Merida and one in Barcelona – or two Spanish cities eager to claim this virtuous girl. Barcelona has the edge; Eulalia is one of the city’s patron saints and her earthly remains are housed in the city’s cathedral.
Obscure saint she may be, but Eulalia and Eulalie were bestowed with some frequency into the 19th century and beyond. Eulalia ranked in the US Top 1000 most years between 1880 and 1938; Eulalie doesn’t fare as well, disappearing after 1899.
From the Greek eulalos, most agree that the name means eloquent. Some speculate that the Middle English Hillaria, feminine forerunner of Hillary, may be a merged form of Eulalia and the masculine Late Latin Hilarius.
Actress Marcia Gay Harden named one of her daughters Eulala, a variant that appears along with the other spellings sparingly into the early 20th century.
We can’t help feel that Eulalia and Eulala are a bit trickier on the tongue than Eulalie. Eulalie also has a strong literary link. In 1845, Edgar Allan Poe chose the name for the heroine of a poem, writing:
My soul was a stagnant tide ’till the fair and gentle Eulalie became my blushing bride.
Speaking of novels, the 19th installment in Brian Jacques’ Redwall series is titled Eulalia! – but get this – it’s the war cry uttered by badgers. Let’s sidestep that fascinating piece of trivia and simply say that we think it’s another reason to opt for the -ie ending.
Another creative Eulalie is the Harlem Renaissance’s Eulalie Spence. Originally from the British West Indies, Miss Spence won acclaim as a writer, actress and playwright.
The pronunciation of Eulalia in English is clear: yoo LAH lee ah. We assume – and favor – a similar yoo LAH lee pronunciation for her cousin. But we’ve also stumbled across sources suggesting she ought to properly be said uh LAH lee. What with more familiar names like Eugene and Eustace using the yoo, it seems unlikely that the uh sound would catch on, but there is room for interpretation – and confusion.
So let’s class Eulalie with two promising clusters of names for girls: Obscure Saints and French appellations. For more on these categories, visit:
- Obscure Saints’ Names, Girls Edition, here at ApMtn;
- You Can’t Call It It’s weekly updates on upcoming saints’ days;
- The definitive resource at www.catholic.org, their Saints’ directory;
- Les Mademoiselles, back at You Can’t Call It It;
- Ooh La La, French Names for Girls, again here at ApMtn.
Eulalie could be just the thing for parents seeking something underused but historic, literary and virtuous and quite cutting edge, too.