About A Name: Raffi
September 29, 2012 § 3 Comments
I’m sure that many of you are scoffing at this post. To some, the name Raffi is too weird, and to others, it’s just a nickname, not a real name. Truthfully, it’s both and neither all at the same time, but it might have some legs of late as trends go.
This August, upon the internationally-reported death of Kavna, a beluga whale at the Vancouver Aquarium, I discovered through Twitter that the whale, who lived in my backyard and whom I’d seen at the aquarium dozens of times, was the inspiration behind my all-time favourite children’s song, “Baby Beluga.” The classic known worldwide was written by Raffi Cavoukian, a Cairo-born Canadian folk singer-songwriter turned child activist of Armenian descent who has been regarded as the most well-known children’s performer in the English-speaking world. In my youth, the name Raffi was synonymous with him. His mother named him for the poet Raffi (born Hakob Melik Hakobian, Raffi was his pen name), one of the most important contributors to Armenian culture and identity in the 19th Century. A well-known phrase in Armenia states, “There are no Feddayines (Armenian freedom fighters) who have not read Raffi.”
Before I recently deleted my Twitter account (I just can’t say what I need to say in 140 characters or less; it was frustrating), I did manage to squeeze out a message pumping up how amazing Twitter was for teaching me that Kavna was Baby Beluga, which Raffi himself retweeted. Like it once meant something to get the autograph of a favourite celeb, the 21st Century equivalent would appear to be the retweet!
Recently I’ve also noted an upswing in baby boys named Raphael/Rafael, though almost entirely outside of North America. British director Guy Ritchie and girlfriend Jacqui Ainsley – she looked to be expecting again at a recent premiere – welcomed a son named Rafael in September 2011, but they have revealed they call him Raffie. Australian actor Richard Roxburgh and his Italian actress wife Silvia Collocca welcomed son Raphael Jack Domenico in February 2007, and they call him Raffi, as well.
And while there is nothing distinctly masculine or feminine about the name Raffi apart from association, if it can stand in as a nickname for Raphael, why then couldn’t it work as a nickname for a young Rafaella? In the celebrity world, plenty of both have been welcomed of late. Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte, Belgian model Nele Somers, and Argentinean actor Mauricio Dayub welcomed sons named Rafael this summer, while Belgian footballer Daniel Camus and model Alizee Poulicek welcomed Raphael in August, and Australian flautist Bridget Bolliger welcomed a son named Luca Raphael in January. Former Ugly Betty star Ana Ortiz had a son named Rafael last September, and British-born Girls star Jemima Kirke, who’s expecting her second child, has a toddler daughter named Rafaella Israel.
Then again, renowned 16th Century painter Raphael never went by Raffi, as far as we know. Raphael is a Hebrew name meaning “healing God,” and was the name of one of the archangels mentioned in the Catholic Book of Tobit. Raphael was also the party-loving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in red; as I recall they never called him Raffi, either. Fans of elegant Raphael might in fact prefer the solid, strong-sounding Rafe.
But if you kinda like Raffi, but you don’t want Raphael, you could always try Raffi as a short form of Rafferty, a la Rafferty Jude, 15-year-old son of Jude Law and Sadie Frost, and 3-year-old Rafferty David, son of Australian comedian Dave Hughes. This one’s definitely been gaining more steam of late in the English-speaking world than Raphael, and perhaps the Laws are the reason. Rafferty is a name of Irish Gaelic origin meaning “wielder of prosperity,” indicating great wealth.
And while it might seem ridiculous to examine potential silly nicknames for a name that may already be considered a silly nickname by the reader, posh English Raffles nightclub brings to mind one teasing alternative to a name that’s dripping in nostalgia for new parents of our generation. Alternately, if you do like Rafferty or Raphael but don’t like Raffi, unless you establish Rafe early, you may not be able to avoid the nickname Raffi for your kid.
Would you ever consider Raffi as an alternative for Raphael or Rafferty? Have you ever been RT’d by someone famous? (It was so cool, I can’t lie; it was Raffi!)