Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Phoenix


Happy New Year!

As one year has ended and another one started, I thought it would be a good day to consider the name Phoenix. In Greek mythology, the Phoenix (pronounced FEE-niks) was a bird who would die by spontaneously combusting into flames. A new Phoenix would then rise from the ashes of the dead bird. Hence the Phoenix has long been a symbol of rebirth and immortality.It has also been associated with the colour purple and royalty, however the name means 'deep/bright red'.

The Phoenix makes many appearances in popular culture today. In the 'Harry Potter' series, Dumbledore has a Phoenix named Fawkes who comes to Harry's aid more than once. Harry actually gets to see Fawkes die and regenerate at one point. The fifth book in the series is also called 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix', The Order of The Phoenix being an organisation of good witches and wizards dedicated to bringing an end to the dark days of Lord Voldemort and creating a new, enlightened time when the magical world can live without fear.

Other places you may recognise Phoenixes from are:

  • Achilles' wise tutor in Homers epic 'The Iliad'
  • Phoenix McFarland, author of 'The New Book of Magical Names' (Phoenix is her pagan name)
  • The Phoenix family (think actors River and Joaquin) 
  • An alternative rock band from France
  • The city in Arizona, America
  • the 1965 movie 'Flight of the Phoenix' and it's 2004 remake 
  • Evil alter ego of X-Men comic book superhero Jean Grey
  • video game character Phoenix Wright from the Ace Attorney series
  • Phoenixes are also popular in movies and video games featuring mythological creatures. 

As a teenager in the 90's, I remember thinking that Phoenix was an extremely exotic, "out there", super cool name. These days it is still a special name (it also has that cool "X" factor), but far from a strange rarity. It has been in the American top 1000 for boys since 1997 and for girls since 2003. While quite a unisex name, for now at least this one is skewing towards the males - in 2011 it ranked #388 for boys in the US, and #645 for girls. It is also a top #1000 name in Canada.

One great aspect to this name is that it is somewhat of a nick-namers paradise. Suggestions I've seen thrown around are Nick, Nyx, Fifi, Fee, Pix, Pixie, Fire, Firebird, Pyre, Phoe, Ixxy, Ash, and Nikki. I've also seen the variant Fenix used in a birth announcement in the past year. Which I thought was someone looking for a more "modern" way to spell it, until I realised that this spelling is not only the Old/Middle English spelling of Phoenix, but also the last name of 'Gears of War' video game hero Marcus Fenix.

Whichever way you want to use it, Phoenix is unique without being too unique, futuristic sounding but classical. It would be a great way to symbolise the beginning of a new life, or even just a New Year.


3 comments:

  1. Happy New Year!

    It's amazing isn't it, how the rare, cool and daring names from 20 years ago are now so mainstream. I remember when I was a teenager, I liked so many names (especially for boys) that when I told them to people, they'd look at me as if I was mad, and now those names are in the Top 100, or seen all the time.

    I think Phoenix is such a great name, and although it's rising for both sexes in many places, I'm surprised how much this name seems to be left to the boys. Girls with his name often seem to have a variant spelling, like Pheonix or Feenyx, as if the regular spelling is too masculine.

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    1. I know what you mean! I remember as a teenager thinking that Cinnamon and Savannah would make great names, but my friends thought I was crazy! Now people wouldn't blink twice at Savannah, and Cinnamon would just be a quirky rarity, considering the popularity of herb and spice names and Cinna from 'The Hunger Games'

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  2. Yes. I think names like that are great! I used to think that Spice was a cute name and my friend's eyes would bulge. Now, I know 17 people with the name Spice. :/

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