Published August 3, 2014 | By Greg Hodgson-Fopp
I first heard Verity as a name when I was flying back from Los Angeles after the 20 week ultrasound. I was watching television on the in-seat entertainment, and there was a special docudrama about Doctor Who playing. You can look it up if you like, it’s called “An Adventure in Time and Space”, and it tells the story of the struggle to make and air the first episodes of the now iconic science-fiction staple. Great stuff.
I was jetlagged, and sleepy, and being distracted and tuning in and out of the show a bit. I was also awash with thoughts and emotions that I was feeling from having seen the girls so clearly in the ultrasound. This was the scan that we were joined by Matt’s mum Heather for, as well, and we’d also had the chance to meet Natasha’s family properly at a big gathering at a restaurant in Del Mar.
So I was kind of drifting between thinking about the girls, and half-watching the Doctor Who special. The lead character in the mockumentary is Verity Lambert. She was the first Producer of Doctor Who, and the actress who portrayed her did an amazing job of capturing the sense of a strong woman fighting to make her mark in a male-dominated industry in a male-dominated world in general. In the course of the special, she really impressed me as an incredibly strong woman, with a feminine strength that sacrificed nothing to fight for her chance, and her recognition and the credit she was due.
She impolitely kicked doors open rather than waiting for opportunities, or politely waiting for her turn. She wasn’t afraid to get things done by walking into the Lion’s Den of the world of media and planting herself squarely in people’s way until they gave in to her just to get some peace. She also stood up for others in ways that really meant something – standing up to a racist bartender who wouldn’t serve her Indian friend is the example in the TV show. And near the end of the show, she shows a caring, more traditionally feminine side in the way she handles the aging William Hartnell as his own challenges make it harder and harder for him to keep turning up on set.
After we landed, I did some research on Verity Lambert and where she ended up in the world. As I somewhat expected, it turns out that her career start at Doctor Who was just the start. She went on to found her own production company, was instrumental in the world of British television for about 3 decades holding senior and controlling roles mostly in Thames Television, and was ultimately awarded an OBE and a handful of life-time achievement awards.
Importantly, there’s even geek credentials – Monty Python did a homage to her in a skit called “Buying a Bed” where they featured two characters called “Mr Verity” and “Mr Lambert”.
This struck me as the kind of woman who was exactly who she meant to be, and in being that happened to be a role-model.
The name’s origin is in the Puritan virtue naming of the 17th Century. So around the time that Grace, Hope, Faith, Chastity, Patience, Prudence and Constance were becoming popular, so was Verity. But unlike the first few of those names, which have become more and more common, Verity remained present in the name lists but never got more popular. Verity of course, is the virtue “Truth” turned into a name via the latin Veritas.
I researched the name a bit more thoroughly and found that it had never appeared in the American lists at all. So I imagine my US friends have probably never heard the name, despite it’s centuries of age. This may have changed a little in the last 10 years, when JK Rowling had a Verity in one of her god-awful books, and more recently, a New York Times best-selling novel “Code name Verity” tells the story of a redoubtable British Spy captured in Nazi occupied France in 1943.
However, despite never having appeared or become popular in America, it has never really fallen out of favour in Britain or Australia. It’s been in the top 400 girl names for decades, but has never ever made a bid for the top 100, so it’s always been there, but never been “popular”. This is a good thing, as it means it’s not associated with a particular era or age the way some other names have become.
Plotting the name geographically, it also clusters around Yorkshire and the North. So it’s not just a British name, it’s also a Northern name, and some websites traced it’s density there to the fact that centuries after it first appeared it was being used as a last name as well as a first name. There’s probably still Verity’s in the area where my Grandmother grew up.
The final link that made it all fall into place for me was the Australian one. Verity is more popular in Australia than anywhere else, and Australia has had two members of parliament with the name in the last decade. Both were highly regarded women, by the looks of it – Ministers for Science and the Environment (before our current thug of a PM abolished the positions) and the more predictable Minister for Women’s affairs, as well.
So yeah, these things all seemed like traits it was nice to admire and to wish for, in our daughters. Intelligence, wit, and a sense of inner fire that kicks open the doors of opportunity. I want that for my girls!
That, and the fact I really like the sound of the name and it’s almost UNSHORTENABLE. This is important, as Australian culture can make an abbreviation out of just about anything. Note to my piss-taking friends – please do not see this statement as a challenge.
Anne is the first middle name of both of our girls, because it resonates from both sides of the family. From my side, my grandmother Anne (Annie) Cartildge was an incredible woman, and has the strength, wit and intelligence that I want to pass on. I have spoken so often of my grandmother, that I’m sure plenty of people have tired of hearing me say it. She was ahead of her time in some ways, and the archetype product of her time in others. Raised between the world wars, coming to adulthood in the midst of the second world war, and thriving despite it – bringing her family to Australia, to Adelaide to find a better life. She was a huge influence on me, and in essence was my moral and ethical anchor in a lot of ways. She was named after her own Grandmother, who was named at least in part after her mother, who was Emily Anne. So the name keeps repeating itself through the generations of family, and I’m really happy to continue that tradition.
There is also another Anne in my direct lineage from my Dad’s side – my Grandmother Florence’s Grandmother (born in 1860) was Anne McGiveron. So it has some history on the Hodgson side as well.
From Matt’s side of the family, Anne is both his Mother and his Sister’s middle name, as well as the name of at least one cousin on the Scottish side (and probably two, I lose track!). It heralds the Scottish side of his ancestry, and it also makes a connection between both of the girls and their Nanna Heather Anne and their Aunt Kelly Anne.
Family is important to me, and it’s important to Matt. We both agreed this double-barrelled connection was appropriate to give both girls.
Anne is a name as old as time itself, and is listed as the name of the mother of the Virgin Mary in biblical texts. It’s meaning and origin trace to “Hannah” meaning graceful and merciful both.
Evelyn was Matt’s paternal grandmother’s name. She was born Evelyn Dulcie Jones in Pontypridd in Wales, and emigrated to Australia as a tiny child just a couple of years later. Although I didn’t know her, she seems to have left her mark on Matt and he was very emotional when he discussed with me using her name as a middle name for one of our daughters.
Evelyn is another old name (are you sensing a theme, here?) dating back centuries and believed to be originally French in origin (Aveline). There is some debate about the meaning, whether it was ‘little bird’, or ‘radiance’ or ‘life’ but we’ll take it whatever. It’s becoming more popular at the moment as well, but that won’t matter as a middle-name. I think that’s most likely due to movies. The feisty female lead in “The Mummy” movies played by a curvaceous buxom Rachel Wiecz is an Evelyn, as is the female lead in the Pearl Harbour movie. Also more geek credible in character leads in American Psycho, and Natalie Portman’s excellent lead female (the role for which she shaved her head) in “V for Vendetta”.