About A Name: Pippa

September 14, 2011 § 6 Comments

Pippa Middleton Prince Philip

I debated doing this post. I questioned how enlightening it could be, considering it’s no secret that the name Pippa is just about the hottest thing of 2011. It’s been written and written about. Then I decided to do it anyway, because name educations don’t ever really end. Even Mary is an ever-evolving moniker.

So we all know who’s been popularizing Pippa: Her Royal Hotness, the bridesmaid of the year, Pippa Middleton. The 27-year-old event planner was, like her older sister Catherine (Kate) and younger brother James, given a traditional, even stuffy and aristocratic, English name – Philippa – but she has generally been known by her more sprightly nickname, Pippa. And since the April royal wedding and that figure-flattering Sarah Burton for McQueen white dress, Pippa Middleton has been everywhere. Kate spent summer touring North America and celebrating various occasions with her new, very public family, but it seems Pippa found just as many opportunities to make headlines, despite the fact she’s never given a formal interview to the press. Today it was even announced that a British film company is planning a documentary feature film about her. The company, Odyssey Videos, is known for creating direct-to-DVD films about the British Royal Family and has customers in Northern Europe, Japan, and the Commonwealth, and company founder Adrian Munsey claimed, “All the other Royal Family members have had well-documented lives, but now we are being inundated with requests to make a biopic about Pippa after the wedding.”

The fun, flirty socialite has presented a fresh image to a dwindling name. Though it, and Philippa, have remained fairly common names in Britain, it’s still not in the Top 100. (Similar sounding flower name Poppy is, however, at 22 – and it’s more well-worn internationally.) Middleton’s popularity has given North Americans their first real chance to wear the name Pippa, and get used to the sound and flavour. North Americans also never had pocket-sized Pippa dolls, as the UK did in the 1970s. Moderately popular, they were cheaper to produce and sell than Barbie dolls, but Palitoy stopped making them in 1980. In the US, pocket-sized “Dawn” dolls were available. But Barbie was gold currency back then, everywhere in the world.

Of Greek origin, Philippa, and the male form, Philip, means “lover of horses.” (Since Prince William’s grandfather is Prince Philip, look out for Philippa as a middle name if he and Catherine ever have a girl.) Diminutive Pippa came into common use in 19th Century Britain, following Robert Browning’s poem “Pippa Passes,” about a young Italian woman who works in a silk mill, though the name is not used in Italy. Robin Wright Penn and Blake Lively co-portrayed the title character in the dramatic 2009 film, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.

In North America, Pippa sounds surprising. In Britain, it’s an almost ho-hum selection due to longtime use, but what do we know about Pippa? The poetry of Robert Browning isn’t exactly de riguer, neither did the film make much of a splash. We’re familiar with the Swedish children’s book character of Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter “Pippi” Langstrump, and maybe it’s the sweet, childlike connection to the name that’s made similarly sprightly Pippa much more likely to succeed. In English, the eight-year-old heroine of Astrid Lindgren’s sunny series is better known as Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter “Pippi” Longstocking. Animal loving Pippi is headstrong and good natured, possesses superhuman strength, and much like Peter Pan, has no desire to grow up. In Swedish, pippi means “quirk,” and Lotte/Lotta is a common Scandinavian diminutive for the ever-popular Charlotte. Last year, 47 baby girls were given the name Pippi in Denmark (29), Sweden (14), and Norway (4). Don’t get me wrong, that still makes it fairly obscure, but it could rise with Pippa as similar sounding names always seem to do.

American young adult novelist Libba Bray wrote a trilogy of fantasy books centered around Victorian-era Gemma Doyle and her friends, Felicity, Ann, and Pippa “Pip” Cross. Pippa was beautiful and much loved, but she was epileptic, forced to hide her condition by her parents to make her more the marrying kind. The inclusion of a character named Pippa in a series of American novels about British ladies (the first was released in 2003) is further proof of this Greek name’s inherited “Britishness.” And in Australia, where posh British names have always had their very rightful place among more experimental favourites like Zara or Kai, Pippa shows signs of life. Two characters on Aussie soap Home & Away have been named Pippa, and Australian-born Pippa Black recently starred on the US comedy Outsourced.

All grown up Pippa Middleton proves that the name is just as wearable for adults as the traditional long form for which cute Pippa is usually a stand-in. But plenty of traditional P names, like Philippina, Patricia, Penelope or Priscilla, could be shortened with Pippa. You could even use it as a nickname if you want to use a P name that honours family or heritage, but your certain, whatever the reason, you don’t want your child to go through life in, say, Texas with the name Pradeepta (it’s Hindu for “glowing.”)

North Carolina-born Emily Procter, who plays Calleigh Duquesne on crime serial CSI: Miami, welcomed daughter Philippa “Pippa” Frances in December. 648 Pippa is a minor planet orbiting the sun, discovered by August Kopff at Heidelberg, Germany in 1907. It’s one of millions of small celestial bodies orbiting our sun with us, and Kopff gave many of his 68 discoveries female names.

My advice? Philippa might be heavy, and Philip’s not in fashion, but Pippa’s a fun, friendly, hip name with enough history to be taken seriously.

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§ 6 Responses to About A Name: Pippa

  • cleo says:

    I love the name Pippa, and I also like Philipa but I don’t think I could use it. Its lovely but as an American perhaps its too tied to Pippa Middleton. There are no other famous Philipa so I feel like it would be like naming a kid Madonna, at the moment there’s only one, and the kid would be constantly compared to the famous person with the name.

  • Pippa isn’t an unusual name for a child in Australia, but not really a popular one either. I mean, even though it’s not super-common, no-one would turn a hair if you said your new baby was called Pippa. I haven’t seen any new babies called Pippa in birth announcements so far, although Kates are definitely on the rise.

    However, over in New Zealand they seem to be having a field day with it. If you go to Anna’s blog (another Anna) babynamelover, she has birth announcements from New Zealand BAs, and there are Pippas in abundance – even Pippa Kates!

    Maybe our baby Pippas are still brewing …. ???

    • namemuststay says:

      I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we really start seeing a jump in Pippas come 2012! Right now the name is a lot of talk in North America, which usually translates to names on paper, but it has a longer way to go here!

      Heading over now – thanks for the suggestion!

      • I JUST saw a baby called Pippa, and she was VERY new! This suggests that the Pippa-boom is still coming.

        After all, the royal wedding was planned for ages, and parents had plenty of time to fall in love with Kate, but Pippa only came on the map on the day of the wedding itself.

        Obviously New Zealanders are ahead of the game!

      • namemuststay says:

        I think it will be pretty telling when next year’s name lists are released. Positive it will shoot up. But then I wonder if it’s a flash in the pan – like Shiloh only stayed in the US Top 1000 for 2 years – ’07 and ’08 – before dropping out again completely. It was entirely influenced by the publicity surrounding Brangelina. If and when Pippa gets overexposed, I wonder if this name will disappear.

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