Monday, October 15, 2012

Diverted by a Name: Hortense

Hortense de Beauharnais, step-daughter of Napoleon I, via Wikipedia

My sister-in-law requested I do name-studies on random names. I have thought about doing this as well, but several name bloggers do it (and do it well), and I was a bit hesitant. But I find it's unavoidable, especially since my interest lies in names and the history of them. I actually already did one when I got stuck on Wallis last week, and therefore I already have a name for the series: Diverted by a Name. And thank you, Daisha, for giving me a name to study: Hortense.

Hortense is a French name.  It is probably not one American parents often use due to the look of the first three letters and the word it represents, but Hortense is actually pronounced or-TAWNS. According to Behind the Name, it is the French form of the Roman name Hortensia, which is the feminine form of the name Hortensius.

First, let's look at some famous Hortenses:

Hortense de Beauharnais (1783-1837) - the daughter of Josephine de Beauharnais, the first wife of Napoleon I. She married Napoleon's brother and was Queen of Holland from 1806 until 1810.

Hortense Mancini (1646-1699) - a mistress of Charles II, King of England, Scotland and Ireland and the fourth of five beautiful sisters from Italy. She was born Ortensia, and her sisters were Laure, Olympe, Marie and Marie Anne. She also had three brothers: Paul, Philippe, and Alphonse.

Hortense Calisher (1911-2009) - author of In the Absence of Angels.

Hortense Powdermaker (1900-1970) - an anthropologist.

Hurricane Hortense - a category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic in 1996. As I've researched, when a storm is severe enough, the name is retired. The name Hortense has been retired as a hurricane name.

Hortense McDuck - fictional Disney character, sister to Scrooge McDuck and Matilda McDuck, mother to Donald and Della Duck (twins), and grandmother to Huey, Dewey and Louie.

Hortense Briggs - fictional character from An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser.

Mademoiselle Hortense - fictional character from Bleak House, by Charles Dickens.

The name is derived from the Latin for "garden" and has the meaning "gardener". If you are looking for a nature name, Hortense may be an option you haven't considered. More directly related would be Hortensia (or-TEHN-syə), which is the common name for the flowering plant Hydrangea.

Hortense seems to be consistently used in France, where it ranked #338 (132 babies) in 2010. Not surprisingly though, it is not currently in the Top 1000 in the United States. In 1894 and 1903, it was #378 (55 and 49 babies, respectively), which is the highest it ranked since 1880. It fell off the list in 1941, and the last time it was recorded was in 1976, when 6 girls were given the name. Hortensia, on the other hand, has been recorded as recently as 1995, when 5 girls were given the name. It has been ranked twice, once in 1928 when 66 girls were named Hortensia and it was ranked #909. It was ranked #929 the previous year, with 65 babies given the name.

The Spanish spelling, Hortencia, has been more widespread than both Hortense and Hortensia, but never ranked as high as Hortense. It ranked from 1922 until 1942, peaking in 1931 when it ranked #748 (81 babies), and is still used currently, as 8 babies were given the name in 2011.

Other alternates recorded in the United States throughout the years but never ranked: Hortence, Ortensia, and Ortencia.

If you love the sound of the name but are worried about the way people who speak English would pronounced it, you could use the Italian alternate spellings Ortense, Ortensia, Ortencia or Ortensa. Famous Ortensias include a Disney character as well as an Australian race horse. If you like names with "z" in them, you could also go with Hortenzia (Hungarian) or Ortenzia (Italian). Ortenzia Borre is an Australian newscaster.

And finally, possible nicknames could be Tawny, Tenny, Tenzy. Cute!

What do you think of Hortense? I did not think the name was attractive until this study, although I would probably go with a variant spelling if I had to use it. Do the spelling and possible pronunciation totally turn you off or do you see a hidden beauty?

Side note: Feel free to contact me with a name or two to divert me!  I like to be diverted.  :)


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