If girls born on December 25 are christened Holly and boys arriving on March 17th known as Patrick, why is that Valentine remains an obscure choice for both genders?
Sure, the name conjures up pink teddy bears and big sales at Victoria’s Secret, heart-shaped chocolates and cupid-themed Pez dispensers.
But it’s also an ancient name, with the appealing meaning “healthy, strong” and a saint who is patron to bee keepers, travelers and young children, as well as those in love.
Valentin is in use in Russian, French and a host of Slavic and Scandinavian countries, and ranked #911 for boys in the US in 2006. The Italian version, Valentino, came in at #967. Valery and Valeri are also popular variants elsewhere on the map, though not in the US.
The related name Valerie was once all the rage, back in the 1950s and 60s. The Monkees had a top ten hit with Valleri in 1968. Today, it is still in steady use, charting at #127. The more dramatic Valeria ranks #90.
The historical Saint Valentine is an obscure figure, and his link to romance is vague at best. Valentine almost certainly lived and was martyred in the third century, but the Feburary 14th holiday is a relatively modern invention. Geoffrey Chaucer is credited with linking the saint with true love, in an era when courtly love was as much an obsession as reality TV is today.
Regardless of the holiday’s origins, it must be said that it falls at a moment in the calendar when many of us could use a little love – the coldest, grayest month of the year.
So if your bundle of joy arrives the same week as a flurry of red foil-wrapped candy and conversation hearts, perhaps Valentine offers an interesting naming choice for a daring parent.
Or, better yet, Valentine makes a great middle name substitute for parents weary of Katherine and Elizabeth, but not bold enough to choose Blue or Romilly.
Now we’re off to open our love letters and do something about those dozens of bouquets piling up in the foyer here at ApMtn. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!