Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Photo courtesy of Merrifield Phototgraphy

"On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, seven swans-a-swimming"

As much as I love the idea of Swan as a name, I thought I'd take a detour from the bird names on this one. So instead I have for you a name that many people immediately associate with a white swan.

Odette is the main character in the Tchiachovsky ballet 'Swan Lake'. She is a princess who was turned into a white swan by an evil sorcerer, doomed to remain a swan during the day and only return to human form at night. Only true love can save this Swan Queen and her followers (fellow humans afflicted with the same curse), but the path to true love proves rocky and ultimately both she and her suitor die so they can be together eternally.

Pronounced oh-DEHT, Odette has French and Old German origins and means wealthy. She was quite popular in France in the 1900's to 1930's, which is why many famous Odettes are French. It's much rarer to see it used these days, both in France and the U.S, but it still retains that feeling of French chic and mystique.

For better or worse, it also seems that the name Odette is inextricably linked to swans. The 1994 animated movie 'The Swan Princess' (based on 'Swan Lake') and it's several sequels also used Odette as the name of the main princess character. She also has literary connections as Odette de Crecy, the wife of Charles Swann in Proust's 'A la Recherche du Temps Perdu'.

This association has had quite an influence on people's impression of the name Odette. Many people describe the name Odette as romantic, strong, graceful, peaceful, beautiful, elegant and feminine.

However Odette doesn't strike all people this way, mainly because of its' sound. It reminds some people of dead or death, some of odour, some of the dog Odie from the 'Garfield' comics, odd, the term OD (for overdose), the word debt, or owe debt, or even old debt, and all are possible sources of teasing. And others will say they just don't see the appeal, that it seems aged.

I tend to think of Odette as a prettily timeless name though. If you're of a similar mind and aren't deterred by the several possible sound associations, you will find that an Odette would also receive plenty of compliments on their name. And if you feel Odette might be a bit on the "fancy" side for a cheeky little girl to wear, a cute and spunky nickname is a possibility. Detty, Dottie, Ettie, Etta are all fun options. Or maybe you could even call her your little swan.

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