Thursday, December 12, 2013


Photo courtesy of Kristen Privett Photography

"On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, four colly birds"

Like many other people, I always thought this line of the carol 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' was four calling birds. Don't ask me what I thought calling birds were, maybe I just thought they were particularly loud and vocal birds. Anyway, a colly bird is a European blackbird, which were considered a delicacy in Medieval times. Which helps to make a little more sense of why a king would want four-and-twenty blackbirds baked into a pie in the nursery rhyme 'Sing A Song of Sixpence'.

People usually associate blackbirds such as crows and ravens with Halloween more so than Christmas. For example, Rook was one of the names I profiled just this October. So I thought that since people often think calling birds rather than colly birds, a name that is also not instantly recognisable as a blackbird - such as Brannon - would be fitting.

Brannon (pronounced BRAN-un) is thought to be a variation of the name Brandon, which means 'gorse hill' in Old English or 'sorrow' in Irish. It's also possibly a variant of Bran. There's an old 8th century Irish legend called 'The Voyage of Bran', and since Brannon was the name of Brans son it's thought the name could simply mean 'son of Bran'. Another meaning (Possibly Gaelic or Celtic) given to Bran though is 'raven'. It's also a name from Welsh mythology in the form of Bran the Blessed. It would be this origin that George R.R. Martin had in mind when he named one of the younger Stark sons Bran (Brandon) in his 'Song of Ice and Fire' series (a.k.a. 'Game of Thrones' on television). Without spoiling too much, this Bran has the gift of sight, and is thought to be the foretold three eyed crow. The crow reference makes Bran a very fitting name for the character.

Long form Brannon is one of those names that grows on you the more you say it (well, at least that's true for myself). It's more often heard as a surname - chances are you've never met a Brannon, but they're out there. It's charted in the U.S every year since 1960, just in small numbers. In 2012, it was given to just 35 boys.

One of my favourite things about Brannon is that it is familiar sounding but different, and has a similar feel to some other rising Irish/Gaelic names such as Ronan, Declan, Callan and Cillian. It also has a bit of a tough guy feel to it if you like that in a name, maybe due to its similarity in sound to Cannon. But without the weapon/name word appearance, which is a plus.

Brannon would be a fresh way to honour a Brandon or similar in your family tree, if Brandon feels a little dated for you or you just want to put your own stamp on it. It's also worth considering if you like Bram but want a more substantial name on the certificate - and you're not keen on options such as Bramwell. For that fact, it's a great alternative if you like Bran but want to minimise the cereal references, which tend to make Bran a little undesirable by itself (even though I love the sound of Bran as a name).

A couple of warnings though - be prepared for a Brannon to be mistaken for Brandon. A lot. And while some girls were given this name from the seventies though to the nineties, they do tend to be mistaken for boys when people first hear their name. Probably a lot more so that a Riley or Bailey would, which can be very annoying.

But if these things don't deter you, Brannon has all the makings of a good name. It could even be a way for you to bridge the gap between your love of Halloween and your love of Christmas. Brannon definitely deserves a place on more peoples' short lists.

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