I was chasing down a completely different name when I stumbled on Synfye. It appears to be the given name of one of British politician James Christie’s daughters. She could have been born in the early twentieth century. Synfye had siblings named James, Beatrice, and Fraunces. That’s their portrait in this post, and that’s really all I can find on the family.
But I did find an 1875 edition of The Church of England and Lameth Magazine, including a lengthy essay on English Gipsies, by the Reverend S.B. James. James spoke of the “gipsies” and their affection for the letter y, and this sentence: “A Gispy has an eye for a wild or fancy name.” He wrote:
Deliah is evidently a maimed name, the one missing letter having been unskillfully removed by some experimentalist who thought it might look better without, while Camillia, and its surplusage of one letter and one syllable, shows that a letter or syllable more or less is of little account.
He then mentions Sanpriel and Synfye, disliking them as gender neutral names.
And then, in 1906, a book called The Romany rye, talking about given names. The names listed are Jasper, Ambrose, Sylvester, Culvato “which signifies Claude,” Pakomovna, Ursula, Morella, Ercilla, Leviathan “was named after a ship, so don’t make a wonder out of her,” Camillia, Lydia, Synfye and Sanpriel.
The first writing is obviously a harsh and ugly judgment, evidence of discrimination. But the second writing is devoid of that sentiment – if anything, it seems appreciative of the unusual names. But there’s significant overlap between the magazine and the later writing in terms of names listed.
Could there have been some list of Romany given names in the late nineteenth century?
If it existed, how did the name get from that list to a child of a future Member of Parliament?
Names are baffling things, and endlessly fascinating, too. If you know anything more about Synfye, please share it in the comments.
- The snobbish S.B. James has a twenty-first century heir: Katie Hopkins, she of the morning show ugliness about keeping her exquisitely named children from playing with kids called Tyler. Yes, she has her own baby name book now. I’m not linking to the book, but I will link to Lou’s write-up, including some excerpts. I can imagine the rest …
- Alder Wild and Macon Hayes – proof that boys’ names can be masculine and inventive at the same time at For Real Baby Names. Can’t you hear them as grown up, becoming successful whatever-they-wants? The idea that only William and James can go to law school, win elected office, or be heart surgeons, is fading. (Take that, Katie.)
- More great ideas for boys’ name borrowed from Hollywood, via Nameberry: Crosby, Flynn, Rooney, Gable, and more surnames to ponder.
- Elea’s birth announcements from the UK Telegraph make me incredibly happy: Isla, Esme, Ivy, Nell, Nico, Hugo Basil, Felix Beau and, no surprise, a whole bunch of boys named George.
- This article on the Oxford Words Blog about our affection for a good portmanteau has me thinking – have we simply become more playful with language? I think about names so much that sometimes I forget they exist in a larger world of words, and that world is always changing, too.
- Nancy explores what her name means in Chinese – sort of. Years ago, I took French using the Capretz Method, and I vividly remember Pierre Capretz explaining that there’s no such thing as true translation in one of the early French in Action videos. Names can be translated sometimes – Alexander becomes Alejandro becomes Aleksandr – but when they can’t, well, they that’s an interesting situation, too, isn’t it?
- So many fantastic, fabulous names starting with the letter F. Why aren’t we using them?
- I think Ceres could make a great name for a daughter. I remember a Nameberry story about parents who went with Cere – sort of Siri. Does anyone else remember that?
- Let’s end with some flashbacks. In 2008, the featured name was Arthur – my husband’s name! 2009 was Donncha, and a year later, it was Dacia. Seamus took center stage in 2011, followed by a reboot of Abel in 2012.
That’s all for this week. As always, thank you for reading – and have a great week!