Think there’s no such thing as a Canadian heritage name?
Thanks to Christina for suggesting one that might just live up to that description. Today’s Name of the Day is Lorne.
While some names conjure up Pilgrims or the Wild West, few are quintessentially American. Ditto Canadian appellations. While some bring to mind famous citizens or places on the map, only a handful are exclusive to the country.
Lorne is the exception. He comes a Scottish place name, possibly derived from Loarn mac Eirc, a 5th century ruler. There’s a Marquess of Lorne, too – it is the title customarily given to the Duke of Argyll’s firstborn son and heir.
- Despite his lower rank, in 1871, he won the hand of Princess Louise – a daughter of Queen Victoria herself;
- In 1878, he was appointed Governor General of Canada. Much excitement surrounded the arrival of the Marquess and his royal Marchioness.
His six years in office were generally considered successful. Lorne led the country out of a recession, and he seemed to genuinely appreciate Canada’s physical beauty. (Princess Louise was a let down. She preferred a quiet life, preferably in a warmer climate.)
But Lorne caught on as a boy’s name, presumably given in honor of the Marquess.
And yet the name may have been in occasional use earlier. In the 1900 Summer Olympics, Lorne Currie brought home a gold medal for England. He was born in 1871. There’s also Lorna, the feminine equivalent, created by RD Blackmore for his 1869 novel, Lorna Doone.
The Marquess’ rule in Canada clearly inspired the name’s use from sea to sea. Along with politicians and hockey players, the most famous Lornes are probably Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels and actor Lorne Greene.
Greene was actually born Lyon Greene, the son of Russian immigrants. He started out on CBC radio, but is best known as patriarch Ben Cartwright on television’s Bonanza. The family’s adventures on the Ponderosa ran from 1959 through 1973.
Bonanza’s broadcast boosted Lorne in the US. The name debuted in the rankings in 1961, peaked at #561 in 1966 and disappeared after 1972.
While Lorne Greene’s career continued – he played Commander Adama on Battlestar Galactica and served as a pitchman for Alpo – the name has been headed towards obscurity ever since. That’s true in Canada as well as the US.
Lorne did attract some notice in the early 2000s, when television’s vampire-detective series Angel added a character wearing the name. Unfortunately, he was a green-skinned, red-horned demon using Lorne as a nickname for Krevlornswath. Little wonder it didn’t catch on.
Overall, Lorne is gentle but with a bit of cowboy charm. While he might’ve sounded strangely out of place on the same playground as Jason, Kevin and Brian, the rise of single-syllable, Western-inspired appellations like Cade and Beau might open the door for Lorne again.
And, of course, if you’re Canadian, this is as natural a fit as maple leaves and Don Cherry.