Thursday, July 05, 2012

nia rest and deer rest

Normally the fact that I live in Wales while I work and occasionally socialise in England doesn't have any major impact on my life, except for the regular need to pay the bridge toll. There are little things you notice on the English side of the bridge, of course - the road signs only being in one language, the difficulty getting hold of ready supplies of Brains SA and Welsh cakes - but generally it's a fairly seamless transition. They even drive on the same side of the road and everything.

People's names is another obvious point of difference - while plenty of people in Wales are called Brian and Colin and Karen and the like, significantly fewer people in England are called Ieuan and Illtyd and Arianwen and Rhianedd and stuff like that. That all seems obvious, but there are name differences that are perhaps less obvious. For instance, when we decided to call our beautiful baby daughter Nia, not a name you run into every day in Wales but not exactly unusual either, it seems we underestimated how exotic and baffling it would be to non-Welsh people.

The two most usual mis-renderings are either to assume it's Mia, or to mispronounce it as Nye-ah (it's Nee-ah, rhymes with Mia and fear and beer. No-one's gone with Nina yet, but it's probably only a matter of time. I would guess the Nye-ah pronunciation thing may be influenced by the character of that name in Mission: Impossible II, as played by the lovely Thandie Newton, although I should point out that was actually spelt Nyah. I should also point out that M:I-2 is one of the stupidest films I've ever seen, though interestingly not the stupidest film in John Woo's oeuvre, since he also directed Face/Off.

The Welsh name Nia is of similar derivation to the Irish name Niamh, as it happens, though the latter is probably more well-known in England. Similar pronunciation issues exist, of course (it's "Neve", to rhyme with "Steve"). Both names mean "radiance" or something similar. Anyway, I thought I'd do a quick internet survey, so as to be all scientific and shit. Google's intelligent query-prompting thing offers the following results:

Note that there isn't actually a person called Nia Birmingham, as awesome as that would be; it's actually a large entertainment complex. As for the others, Nia Griffith is the Labour MP for Llanelli, Nia Long is an actress and Nia Parry is a TV presenter.

Wikipedia reveals a few more Nias - broadly these divide into four categories:
  • Proper Welsh people like Nia Griffith and Nia Parry as mentioned above, but also Nia Caron (actress), Nia Davies (politician), Nia Medi (actress), Nia Roberts (actress) and another Nia Roberts (TV presenter).
  • People who have the given name Nia but were given it because there is a name Nia of Swahili derivation, like Nia K├╝nzer (footballer) and the aforementioned Nia Long.
  • People who go by the name Nia but actually have a different given name for which Nia is either a shortened form or a nickname, like Nia Peeples (actress, short for Virenia), Nia Dinata (film director, short for Nurkurniati), Nia Ramadhani (just a nickname) and, lastly and probably most famously, Nia Vardalos (writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, short for Eugenia).
  • Things that are not actually people, like Nia vibrissa, which is a fungus, and Nia Nia and Nia Khorram, which are both places, one in Africa and one in Iran.

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