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Friday
Jan142011

“That which we call a Rhoda, by any other name would smell as sweet”

Perhaps the quote is taking it a little far, but given that the meaning of ‘Rhoda’ is ‘Rose’ it is not completely far fetched.

While researching today I came to ponder the usage of the name 'Rhoda'.

How many have you ever met?

I have made the acquaintance of two. One, a lovely colleague; the other, an elderly Great Great Great Aunt. The latter was in fact christened ‘Lilian Rhoda’ but was known by her middle name. I only remember meeting her once – a very sharp old lady I recall - and she died, at the respectable age of 101, when I was only eight. I can trace my love of family history back to her as she spent many years tracing the ‘Walne’ family line long before I was thought of. She inspired my father to investigate our heritage, who in turn inspired me.

Still, back to the topic of the blog.

Rhoda (or Rhodeia, Rhodia, Rhodie, Rhody, Roda, Rodi, Rodie, Rodina). According to thinkbabynames.com, of Greek origin and meaning ‘Rose’ or ‘woman from Rhodes’ (‘Rhodes’ was also derived from the Greek for ‘rose’).

A quick search on my own family tree reveals three women on my direct line with the first name ‘Rhoda’ since 1800 – about 10% of my Grandmothers after that date. Hardly as common as ‘Elizabeth’ (over a third of them, without counting those with Elizabeth as a second name – to think my parents didn’t think it was a family name when they christened me…!) but prominent no less.

In 1880 the name featured in the top 200 girls’ names. Perhaps for its biblical connotations I wonder? Rhoda was noted as a servant girl in Acts 12:12-15.

By 1930 however its popularity dropped to about 300th most common name. By 1940 it had fallen to approximately 500th and by 1960 had crashed to around 900th. Since then it has likely fallen even further.

A quick search of Wikipedia reveals a 1970s sitcom of the same name - but I admit I’ve never seen it. There is also a brief smattering of ‘famous’ Rhodas and a couple of prominent female characters in books of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

I imagine, as so many other things, the name simply fell out of fashion. Still, with names such as ‘Stanley’ and ‘Florence’ resurging in popularity over the last couple of years, perhaps it is only a matter of time before the name reappears.

“Rhoda?” 

“Here, Miss.”

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