Names on the Verge: Tiana

Nov 24th 2007

Shh...listen. What's that sound? Could it be the tooth-gnashing of hundreds of parents who named their daughters Giselle?

With the release of Disney's new film Enchanted, the classic French name Giselle -- already associated with beauty and glamour via model Gisele Bundchen -- has been officially Princessized. Princessization isn't necessarily fatal. Take the name Aurora, still uncommon and and artistic-sounding despite its title role in Sleeping Beauty. But it's a fair bet that few moms of a toddler Giselle were banking on the 1000-pound gorilla that is the Magic Kingdom when they chose the name for their babies.

What name is next in the Princess Pipeline? Funny you should ask. In 2009 Disney plans to go back to its roots with a hand-drawn, 2D princess tale. This time the story is American, set in New Orleans in the 1920s. Having pretty much exausted all other racial options (Arab, Native American, Chinese, White, White, and White), Disney is finally introducing its first African-American princess. As originally announced by executive John Lasseter, the film was to be titled The Frog Princess and to tell the tale of a chambermaid named Maddy.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Mr. Lasseter! The announcement was met by a slew of angry blogs, complaining variously about this long-awaited Black princess being a maid to a White character; about the movie's title (offensive to the French?); and about the lead character's name.

Maddy is, of course, a wildly fashionable nickname today. Every imaginable spelling of Madeline and Madison fills America's schoolyards with little Maddies. Disney's critics, though, heard Maddy and thought "slave name." To them, Maddy seemed like an amalgam of Mammy and Addy -- a put-down rather than a royal uplift.

So years before the movie was even set to hit theaters, Disney found itself in damage-control mode. In a letter to multiple websites, the company addressed some "incorrect information" about the new princess. The movie, retitled The Princess and the Frog, now tells the tale of "a heroine in the great tradition of Disney's rich animated fairy tale legacy": the glamorous Princess Tiana.

Tiana. It's a contemporary name with an undeniable sparkle that appeals to many parents. (To adult-film producers, too. Word to the wise...do NOT do what I just did and run a Google image search for "Tiana" in the middle of a public cafe. Hoo-boy.) The resemblance to "tiara" also makes the name a natural for a princess. But one thing Tiana is not: a plausible name for an African-American girl in 1920s New Orleans.

The 1920 U.S. Census reveals a heyday of nicknames as given names, especially among African-Americans. As I've noted in the past, the baby name Willie was more popular in 1910 than any name is today. By 1920 that meant ten thousand Black males named Willie in Louisiana alone, more than were named William. The 1920 Census counts tens of thousands of Madelines and well over a thousand Maddies and Maddys, including 150 Black females in Louisiana. So Maddy is a realistic period name for the character, as well as one familiar and appealing to modern girls.

As for Tiana, it's a popular choice of African-American families today. While the name doesn't appear to have African roots, it does echo the style of some African names. (Among them is the Kenyan name Kiara, which is also a Disney Princess of a sort. It's the name of Simba's daughter in The Lion King II.) Take a look at the 1920 census, though, and you'll find only 14 women named Tiana in the United States -- none of them in Louisiana, and almost all of them White.

In other words, in their scramble to honor African-American history Disney switched from a historically accurate African-American name to the complete opposite. But perhaps that abandonment of realism is the true sign of Princesshood. Tiana, welcome to "the great tradition of Disney's rich animated fairy tale legacy."

Comments

1
By Princess Gertrudis (not verified)
November 24, 2007 5:10 PM

Tiana could be a nickname for Christiana, I guess?

I dunno, I don't expect much historical accuracy from Disney in any direction. This probably won't make my teeth hurt anymore than Pocahontas or Anastasia did.... and those were worse, to me, because they were ostensibly telling stories of real people. Fairy tales have a different standard--they're always a bit "out of time." Anachronisms are part of the genre.

Giselle, hm? I had a neighbor once who was called "Gazelle." Hard G. Like the animal. I think it was a translation of her real name in Urdu, rather than a variation of the French name.

2
By Princess Gertrudis (not verified)
November 24, 2007 5:15 PM

Okay, got curious, looked it up--my Pakistani neighbor was probably Ghazal, which is a form of Persian poetry (ghazals are sometimes written in Urdu). But the word does refer to the animal--it literally means the "cry of the gazelle," and we do get our word for the animal from theirs. Huh! It's a literary name then, like naming your daughter Lyric or Sonnet... pretty meaning.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghazal

3
By Lee (not verified)
November 24, 2007 5:44 PM

Speaking of German names (see previous thread), when I first started studying German, I saw the name Gisela in my text book and thought it looked nice. Come to find out, however, that it wasn't pronounced "jee-ZEL-a" or "zhee-ZEL-a" as I imagined, but was a hard 'g' "GHEE-zel-a." The actual pronunciation made me think of "geezer."

I'm sure it sounds fine to a German ear.

Gisele/Giselle is derived from the Germanic source though, but wound up with the soft "g" sound (or the "zh" sound eventually). The etymology of the name is a little troublesome too--since it comes from a word meaning "hostage" (although some sources give a more appealing etymological option, "pledge.")

Anyone who remembers 50s TV, of course, will think of Gisele MacKenzie. Maybe it IS about time for Gisele to reenter our "HIT PARADE."

4
By Kath (not verified)
November 24, 2007 7:38 PM

I went to school with a girl with the middle name of Tiana, named after her grandmother. She was white (German), but I always thought her name had a more ethnic flair to it.

I have always loved the name and hope that it doesn't become too popular.

5
By Aiea (not verified)
November 24, 2007 7:51 PM

I've met a Tijana (variant of Tihana, which I believe is Croatian...?), but never a Tiana. I agree with Princess Gertrudis that is seems like it could be a nickname for Christiana rather easily.

It doesn't sound right to my ears for that time period. Oh well. Bothers me just as much as the character Meg from Hercules (full name Megara, which, if I'm not mistaken, was a city and not a mythological figure).

6
By Jan (not verified)
November 24, 2007 8:24 PM

This reminds me of the post about tv shows starring middle-aged women with generationally inappropriate names--such as Addison on Grey's Anatomy and the forme r Commander-in-Chief, Mackenzie was it?

7
By Christiana (not verified)
November 24, 2007 9:03 PM

I've used the nn Tiana before - It's my preferred version if one MUST nick my name - (my parents have always called me Christy - something I cannot seem to outgrow despite my protests). Interesting that Disney chose it, etc. Why not go with Addy or Lucy instead of Maddy or Tiana?

I agree with above - I don't really expect historical accuracy from Disney, though it does surprise me that they would switch from something accurate and go to non-accurate.

8
By Elly (not verified)
November 24, 2007 9:14 PM

As long as we're discussing oddly inaccurate character names, I have to bring up Peyton on CSI:NY. She's supposed to be a 30-something Brit! Generationally and nationally wrong.

9
By Lisa (not verified)
November 24, 2007 9:41 PM

Aiea - Megara is a city, but it was also the name of the oldest daughter of the king of Thebes. Her father married her off to Hercules as a reward for him defending the city from their enemies all by himself. They had two kids, Hercules accidentally killed them, and he performed his twelve labors as penance.

I think Giselle will survive being princessized since it was already pretty well established, as opposed to, say, Ariel. Jasmine has fared well for the same reason. I am seriously disappointed about the serious anachronism going on with Tiana, though. A Swedish girl in Minnesota, sure, but not an African-American in Louisiana. It's just so jarring.

10
By RobynT (not verified)
November 24, 2007 9:53 PM

I know a Tiana whose full name is Christiana. She is Hawaiian and I assumed it was sort of a Hawaiian/Pacific nn as I know another Tiana from Hawai'i. I know that Kiana is a Hawaiian version of Diana (b/c Hawaiian has no D). And I know that T and K are interchangeable in a lot of Polynesian languages, like they'll have similar vocab but one language uses k and the other uses t. Hawaiian also has used k in my lifetime for some words that were written with t in the past.

11
By Cleveland Kent Evans (not verified)
November 24, 2007 11:14 PM

Tiana can be short for either Christiana or Tatiana. It's also the Cherokee language version of Diana.

I'm a bit suspicious about Kiara being a "Kenyan" name in the sense of being a real feminine given name in Kenya. Googling does give many examples of Kiara as a _surname_ in Kenya, but that would normally imply it was a male given name originally, not a female one, if it was a given name at all. The only website I found on short notice giving a Kenyan "meaning" for Kiara says that it was a word that means "finger" in the Kikuyu language, not a name. That seems like an odd meaning for a girl's given name, though stranger derivations have occurred, I suppose.

The "hostage" and "pledge" derivations of Giselle go back to the same concept. It was common for leaders of Germanic tribes to send one of their children to be raised by the leader of another tribe as a way to try to solidify a peace treaty -- the child was both a hostage and a pledge. May not sound good today, but does fit in with a "princess" idea.

12
By calliope (not verified)
November 24, 2007 11:38 PM

That's interesting about Kiara, but is there much point in discussing the onomastic accuracy of a film about talking lions?

:P

13
By arnica (not verified)
November 25, 2007 12:50 AM

While the name nerd in me finds Tiana's name jarring, another part of me is OK with the historical inaccuracy. Maddy is such a white-dominated name--it should be acceptable for Tiana to be exalted to princess status without having to give up her "black-sounding" name in favor of a "whiter" one. Plus, the realism of her name in today's world may make it easier for very young viewers to identify with her, and that's what Disney wants.

14
By Jaime (not verified)
November 25, 2007 12:52 AM

I know a (white) girl named Tiana who would be about 12 years old now. If I remember right, her mother got the name from a romance novel. I used to think it was cute back then, but now it seems rather vapid. I'm sure we will see plenty of little Tianas in the future, just as we have seen plenty of Ariels, Jasmine/Jasmyn/Jazmins, and even a handful of Kianas after the movies came out.

I'm not a fan of Disney or their whole princess thing, but they sure seem to have a lot of pull.

Grey's Anatomy seems to have two different writers choosing the character names. We have the perfectly normal and plausible for their age range - Meredith, Cristina, Derek, Miranda, George, Richard, Alex, Preston, Isobel (which is not as plausible as the others, but realistic enough)... And then women named Addison and Ellis. Totally not realistic.

15
By Beth (not verified)
November 25, 2007 2:01 AM

Bah. I hate those Disney princesses, which means that my daughter will likely prance around in lavendar and pink sparkles and rename herself Tinkialanalu or something.

Laura, what do you think of the American Girl dolls? My sense is that they are historically accurate names -- the black girl of the 19th c. is Addy, I believe, and I remember that the Swedish immigrant is Kristin or Kirstin and the 70s girl is Julie. I'm much more fond of these toys as they engage with real history, however sanitized, but I'm curious as to whether the names are "history-ish" (like "truthiness") or historical.

16
By nina (not verified)
November 25, 2007 3:37 AM

Beth: Tinkialanalu - ha! I too despise all the princess-themed stuff out there today. My 3 daughters aren't too into it all (for now). I secretly donated some Disney books they received as gifts. Not sure I want them thinking that a new dress will impress everyone at the ball. (I do love that Tinkerbell though, but she's not really a princess.) And for what it's worth, I also despise the "Future Diva!" or "Spoiled Rotten" or "Daddy's Girl" stuff as well.

Anyway, back on topic: Barbie also has a bunch of drippy characters -- the twelve dancing princesses. The names are actually interesting though:

Genevieve
Blair
Courtney
Ashlyn
Delia
Edeline
Fallon
Hadley
Isla
Janessa
Lacy
Kathleen

Genevieve, Lacy, Isla, Janessa, and Ashlyn sound kind of princessy. But Hadley, Fallon, Blair, Courtney, Kathleen? Not so much. And I love the name Hadley, so it was very annoying to discover it here. Had to take it off my list when pregnant with my third little girl!

17
By AJ (not verified)
November 25, 2007 4:05 AM

Thank you! I have been snarking about how characters--especially on teen shows--have names that are fashionable *today* rather than appropriate for the characters' ages. And "GA" is the #1 offender. Isobel from a WA trailer park? No. Addison and Ellis? Absolutely not.
Great. If Disney adds a black princess, I've lost one of my complaints. But that's OK, I have plenty for that whole industrial complex. ;-P

Is Blair really that common in upper class circles? As a child it was the rich b*itch on "Facts of Life," and now it's Blacke Lively's Manhattan princess on "Gossip Girl," both blondes. (Ot course the chcaracter has been Blair for years in the books before GG the show was made.)

Tip: For some upper-middle class name trends, check out the names on the photos parents send in to Robeez shoes. I found both my sons names there, although I've yet to meet others with their names. I have a feeling that when they go to school, I'll find the names aren't as unusual as I thought.

18
By nina (not verified)
November 25, 2007 4:13 AM

AJ: Wait, Blair on "Gossip Girl" is a stunning brunette! Serena is the blond. It should be the other way around, imo.(I am too old to watch that show, yet I do anyway.) I do know a wealthy family here in Boston with a daughter named Blair. Other than that, it's all "Facts of Life" for me as well.

19
By Annie (not verified)
November 25, 2007 5:05 AM

The Barbie princess names are really interesting -- they seem to have covered all their bases, using names that fit into many of the current trends. Seems like there's something for almost everyone in there.

20
By Annie (not verified)
November 25, 2007 5:26 AM

I also just noticed that the Barbie names cover all the letters from A to L. That's sort of neat!

21
By KRC (not verified)
November 25, 2007 3:07 PM

AJ - thanks for the Robeez shoes site tip! Would you mind sharing your sons' names?

22
By Lee (not verified)
November 25, 2007 4:01 PM

There used to be a writer for the Village Voice named Blair Sabol.

She was writing for them in the late 70s or early 80s. She wrote gossipy, breezy pieces about her experiences working as an Ikette and about high colonics (I kid you not). So she would have had to have been at least in her 20s in the 70s.

With any trendy name, there would very likely be a live (or fictional) bearer of the name who would have chronologically been in the vanguard. A 30ish Addison would not be absolutely impossible--especially if the writers were smart enough to give her a back story (e.g. it was a family name, or her parents wanted a boy and then decided, "what the heck").

Girls' names derived from surnames often seem to have a connection to an existing name. Blair rhymes with Claire. Addison and Madison would have an apparent predecessor in Alison (although the "son" in that name is misleading, having nothing to do with being the MALE child of someone; it's actually a Fr. diminutive of Alice.

23
By Lee (not verified)
November 25, 2007 4:12 PM

As for Ellis as a fem. name, well, there would be some perceived connection to established feminine names like Ellen, Eleanor, Elaine, etc. You could also imagine "Ellison" being used as a variant of Alison.

I know of a Linda who named her daughter Lindsay back in the 80s--that's one way to kind of name your child after yourself but also keep up with the times, I suppose.

Tiana as a princess name doesn't work for me. Historic or no, its echoing of "tiara" (which Laura cites) seems to make it way to obvious a choice. As a nn for Christiana/Tatiana I can see its appeal though.

24
By Eo (not verified)
November 25, 2007 4:49 PM

Thank you, Jaime. "Rather vapid" is exactly the phrase that occurs to me with these frilliana names. Just for once, I'd like to see one of these mass-market movie productions go with something AGAINST the stylish grain. Maybe "Ruth" or "Henrietta" (Hetty). I would think either would be consistent with the period, place and ethnicity.

But if they wanted to be REALLY out of the box, maybe "Stockwell" or "Dimity" or "Zanzie". I'm so tired of focus-grouped, pre-digested, homogenized names and characters. "Princess Stockwell" --- has a nice ring to me...(?)

25
By Valerie (not verified)
November 25, 2007 5:26 PM

LOL, Eo,not to me. Stockwell is a rather downtrodden bit of London.

26
By Princess Gertrudis (not verified)
November 25, 2007 6:41 PM

Heh, yeah, I've got a cousin who's 44 named Kelsey--when we were kids, it was the MOST outlandish name, who ever heard of naming a girl Kelsey.... how times change! So she's a vanguard by at least a decade, maybe two. It might be hard to believe a 40-something mom character named Kelsey, if one appeared, but it wouldn't be completely impossible, really.

27
By Eo (not verified)
November 25, 2007 7:17 PM

Ha, that's funny Valerie-- I didn't know that! But all the more reason to "royal" it up!

Actually, I was thinking of Stockwell Day, a candidate the Reform party (to the right of the Tories) in Canada had put up some years ago. I immediately liked his name. What could be more unexpected than to find it on a dainty African-American princess in 1920's New Orleans? You could make up a whole interesting back story as to why she had that name. I love it- it's all fantasy. But, in the other direction, I'd equally love "Ruth". Anything to avoid the current cliche.

Re your cousin Kelsey, Princess Gertrudis. Reminds me of the aforementioned actress Lynn Fontanne. I THINK she was born before 1900, so had to be one of the first EVER Lynn(e)s. It too was probably considered preposterous to some people, yet daring and lovely in a Celtic vein (doesn't it mean "brook" or "streamlet" or something?) to others.

Yet, on the brink of the 21st century, her bold name would be considered "tired" by many...

28
By J&H's mom (not verified)
November 25, 2007 8:02 PM

My favorite princess name is Briar.
You'll recall Briar Rose was Sleeping Beauty's "real," name.
I've discovered on other name boards that I'm practically the only one in the world who likes it, but I figured I'd pitch it again anyway!
It's got a gender neutral sound, a nature connection, and princess credentials to boot-seems like someone should like it!

29
By Melissa (not verified)
November 25, 2007 8:08 PM

I have a Tiana (age 10) in my children's program. We are in California and when I saw "Tiana" I didn't think twice about it because of its similarity to Tatiana. Tiana is pronounced the same in English and Spanish so it fits with my demographic. Turns out she's Italian.

30
By Keren (not verified)
November 25, 2007 9:52 PM

I know we've mentioned her berfore, but I couldn't let this discussion go by without a mention of a recent celebrity baby in the UK: Princess Tiaamii

Here are her lovely parents: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6913310.stm

31
By Keren (not verified)
November 25, 2007 9:53 PM

My favourite bit of that link is this:

Jordan also revealed that she had considered calling the girl Tinkerbell, but rejected the idea because too many celebrities had chosen it for their dogs

32
By Beth (not verified)
November 25, 2007 10:39 PM

Well my daughter did get to be Tinkerbell for Halloween, not the prefab one but one amalgamated from a hand-me-down green skating outfit and a hand-knit hat shaped like an upside down crocus. I like the original Tink!

However, the princess phenom is a cynical bit of mass-marketing to very young girls (beats "Bratz" dolls I guess, and what about THEIR names?), and I'm hoping it's dead and gone by the time my daughter gets to that age.

PS: We had a fish named after Blair on The Facts of Life but she died.

33
By sdh (not verified)
November 26, 2007 1:01 AM

J&H's mom -- I know not just one, but 2 Briars (I think one is a Brier). They are both late 20s/early 30s. I had no idea it was Sleeping Beauty's name!

34
By Catherine (not verified)
November 26, 2007 1:45 AM

Last week the name Annika came up. We considered Annika until a friend alerted me to the Barbie Princess Annika. Also, I believe both Annika and Maya were listed in Freakonomics as possible up and coming names. I wonder if that is where your friend got them (I know one was from the wife and the other from the husband...).

I know a Blair who is 40ish from a WASPy family. She's blond and much more like Serena on Gossip Girls than either that Blair or from the Facts of Life. (I'm also too old to watch but it is my favorite show from this season.) The stiking name on that show to me is Chuck. It doesn't fit unless you factor in the "rich can be named whatever and be cool" factor. The other off name is Jenny (her mother is Allison, go figure).

35
By Hannah (not verified)
November 26, 2007 2:45 AM

Re: "Chuck" -- I believe someone mentioned this in an earlier comments section, but that nickname is everywhere lately, from the NBC sitcom to the female protagonist of "Pushing Daisies" to, it seems, "Gossip Girl." Also, "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" and "Good Luck Chuck."

(On a side note, I thought perhaps one of the lead characters in "Big Bang Theory" was named Chuck, but, no, just a creator. It does look like the protagonists were given names that seemed designed to designate nerdiness: "Sheldon" and "Leonard.")

36
By Jennie W. (not verified)
November 26, 2007 5:10 AM

I'm so glad someone brought up those 12 Dancing princesses! What a kooky collection of names. All I can imagine is that all the main writers got to pick a name. Someone must have named a princess after his/her mother (Kathleen), others must have picked names that their actual babies might have (Janessa or Lacey), while Courtney must be somebody's wife or sister. Only Genevieve and Delia sound vaguely regal.
Laura, can't you use your mighty name power and find out who came up with those 12 princess names?

37
By Christine (not verified)
November 26, 2007 1:32 PM

In Germany, Giselle is pronounced GEE-ZA-LA. If people knew that, I wonder if they would still be using that name for their daughters

38
By Lee (not verified)
November 26, 2007 1:46 PM

Speaking of Disney, at least in the film version of SLEEPING BEAUTY, she was born Aurora but became "Briar Rose" when she went off to live with the 3 kindly fairies (Flora, Fauna and Meriwether). But that was the Disney version.

Laura commented on the fact that Aurora never really took off as a princess name, but the fact that she's called something else when she's referred to at all (and a lot of people just think her name is Sleeping Beauty) was probably a factor there. That and the fact that Aurora is always some rich dowager in other old movies.

The picture book that I had as a child stressed that Aurora meant Dawn. I've sometimes wondered if the Disney film had any impact on the popularity of the latter name.

Briar by itself sounds a little too thorny to me, I have to say.

39
By TM (not verified)
November 26, 2007 2:49 PM

I have a little cousin named Tiana (maybe about 8-10 years old now?) after the character in a book by Lucia St. Clair Robson called "Walk In My Soul." Tiana was a Cherokee woman who Sam Houston fell in love with in the book. My mom actually is the one who read the book and helped name my little cousin.

40
By TM (not verified)
November 26, 2007 2:50 PM

Correction -- I believe they spell my cousin's name "Tianna" but the name really does come from the book. :)

41
By marjorie (not verified)
November 26, 2007 2:53 PM

I know of a Briar. I don't know her, but I know her mother and her brother who are both exceptionally fine people so she likely is too! I have always liked the name. Roses are beautiful and can take care of themselves - not bad attributes for a girl.

Off Topic - for those who like lists, here are the wee ones at my grandson's nursery school (all less than two and a half):
Maddie
Kate
Claire
Kai (girl)
Lizzie
Julianna
Macy (girl)
Gavin
Max (short for Maximus)

Care givers are Daniella, Beatrice and Nelly

42
By Sharon (not verified)
November 26, 2007 2:59 PM

Am I the only one who likes Gisela pronounced the German way? Despite the fact that Giselle is a family name (my grandfather had a sister named Giselle and it's also my aunt's middle name), I don't care for it--Giselle sounds like a floozy to me.

43
By Crystal (not verified)
November 26, 2007 3:07 PM

So glad Disney got the pressure to rewrite the story of their first African American princess. Kinda surprised they thought the original storyline appealing to Blacks. I certainly hope they weren't trying to appeal to whites with that original idea. Any "thinking" adult viewers would have been offended

44
By Megan W. (not verified)
November 26, 2007 3:27 PM

I've been thinking about the concept that "Maddy" sounds like a slave name.

Are there any historically black names of that vintage that don't seem like slave names. Possibly the names aren't historically black, but just historic. I can't think of any. Certainly this blog has discussed the American thoughts on Jemima.

Could this contribute to some of the creativity some African-Americans have when naming their kids?

45
By Cathie (not verified)
November 26, 2007 3:43 PM

LOL, I kind of like an African-American princess named Tiana, even if it is historically inaccurate. I guess because Disney is mostly fantasy and fun anyway, it doesn't bother me. There is enough out there on the slave/maid past, I figure why not give little girls an uplifting fantasy story? (no I don't work for Disney!)

CKE, I think of Kiara as the Americanized spelling of the Italian name. But I have no idea how that would explain the appeal to African-American families. Maybe just the sound? I really like Af-Am names, I think they are so creative and (mostly) beautiful. I know a black family with 7 year old twins named Kiara and Kiana.

Oh, and watch this space for name suggestion requests from me! We just found out we are expecting a 2nd baby boy (and yes, we do have a long girl list and no boy faves!)

46
By hyz (not verified)
November 26, 2007 4:21 PM

I like Briar, but I guess it's a bit too thorny for me to want to *use*. It reminds me of my friend Thistle--another pointy plant, but such a soft sound, and such a cool woman, I've really grown to love the name. Too bad I can't use it--we're not SUCH good friends that it wouldn't be a bit weird to name a baby after her!

I didn't know Briar Rose was Sleeping Beauty's real name--I knew the fairy tale was called "Dornro:schen" in German (that second O has an umlaut--meaning is something like "little thorny rose"), but I thought that was just a cultural difference or something (you know, like how in German, semi-sweet chocolate is called halb-bitter--half bitter--lol).

47
By lizpenn (not verified)
November 26, 2007 4:29 PM

Isn't Giselle already pre-princessized via its association with the heroine of the romantic ballet by that name? Or does no one else but me make that connection?

48
By Lee (not verified)
November 26, 2007 5:28 PM

Sharon, I don't actively dislike the German pronunciation of Gisela--although, as I said, it does remind me of the English word "geezer." CKE's explanation of the hostage/pledge etymology was very interesting, btw. Thank you.

The modern Ger. word for hostage, btw, is "Geisel," so you can see the connection fairly clearly.

Studying another language offers many rewards, of course, but it can affect your subjective reaction to words & names in your own lang. and culture. When I learned that "Mist" in German means, well, "crap" it put the damper on any poetic associations the English word "mist" had. Irish mist? No, Thank YOU! And while I never thought Misty as a given name was very classy, it became downright negative once I made the German association.
Liz, I've heard of the ballet, but I'm afraid I don't know the storyline. However, a ballet association would "princessize" almost ANY name (whether the bearer was actually royal or not).

49
By Kelly (not verified)
November 26, 2007 5:39 PM

When you're a teacher, you've heard practically every name in the book. I taught an African-American girl years ago named Tiana. It was a nickname for Titiana. Unfortunately, Tiana and I never warmed up to each other, and as a result, I have a negative association with the name.

50
By Wendy (not verified)
November 26, 2007 6:09 PM

I am estatic that Disney is finally getting around to an African American heroine. My friend's daughter has been wanting a princess who looked like her for years. And while my daughter loves all the princesses, I am so glad that Mulan is around so that we have a princess who is also Chinese.

It is interesting that Maddy wasn't acceptable... American Girl's black doll -- a slave who escapes to freedom is named "Addy". Is this also offensive?

It would seem that Disney could have done some research and chosen a more realistic name. I just looked up famous black women in the 1920s and came up with these possibilities (some were adults, some were born...):

Georgiana, Lucy, Bessie, Sadie, Zora, Josephine, Dorothy, Nella, Coretta, Althea, Maya, Regina, Maggie, Augusta, Rosa, Ella, Lena

Of course a lot of these names don't particularly sound "african american" these days...