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Euphemia

Euphemia (f) Greek, ‘well spoken of.’ The name of a
saintly martyr, and a name which has been used far more
often in Scotland—where it occurs frequently in the
histories of the Scottish clans—than in any other English-
speaking country. It was the 20th most frequently used
name in Scotland in 1858, 39th in 1935. In 1958, however, only 3) Scottish girls were given the name, and none received its Gaelic form, Oighrig. In earlier times, when its diminutive Effie was commonly heard, it became
confused with the Gaelic name which is anglicised as
Africa. The best-known literary Euphemia is Effie Deans, in Scott’s Heart of Midlothian (1818).

Robert Burns serenaded Eppie Adair, which shows another diminutive of the name——one also used by George Eliot in Silas Marner (i86i), though in her case it was used as a pet form of Hephzibah. The Phemie in A. J. Cronin’s Hatter’s Castle (1931) is really a Euphemia. Etta, Euphan,
Euphie and Fanny occur as other pet forms. H. G. Wells made gentle fun of the name in Kipps (1905). When Kipps is about to become a father, and is discussing possible names with Buggins, he thinks of Euphemia, his mother’s name. ‘It isn’t a name common people would give to a girl, is it?’ It isn’t the name any decent people would give to a girl,’ said Buggins, ‘common or not.’ ‘Lor!’ said Kipps. ‘Why?’ ‘It’s giving girls names like that,’ said Buggins, ‘that nine times out of ten makes ‘em go wrong. It unsettles ‘em.’ Gordon McGill, in his novel Arthur, recounts that as a small boy he thought his aunt had the single letter F as a Christian name. Later he discovers that she is being addressed as Eph, another short form of Euphemia.

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