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A Girl Named Galena

Galena (Lead Sulfide) Crystals

I met a little girl named Galena the other day. I was surprised at her name, which is also the name of a common, shiny, silver mineral. The young girl was about ten years old and knew all about the mineral after which she was named. Apparently, her mother is a geologist who now teaches Middle School Earth Science.

Children are a long way off for me, if I ever have them. If I do have kids, though, giving my children geological or scientific names appeals to me. Admittedly, most minerals are not the prettiest-sounding names (I mean, who wants to name their kid Orthopyroxene or Smithsonite?), but Galena isn’t such a bad choice. I bet there are other geological and scientific terms that would also make good names.

Even without being too adventurous, one can come up with good scientific names. “Charles Darwin” as a first and middle name, for instance. Charles is a perfectly normal name, and most people don’t use their middle names on a day-to-day basis. I think it’s okay to go a little or even very crazy with middle names. My own middle name is Martinique. I was given this name because my mom is a history buff and Napoleon’s wife was born on this tropical island, but I like the name because Martinique is a volcanic island that in 1902 erupted violently. The hot volcanic gas clouds from this eruption wiped out the entire town of St. Pierre. Now, that’s a powerful name!

Even if I never have children, I still plan on giving my pets scientific names. Currently, my small Boston apartment and my travel schedule don’t allow even for a goldfish. One day, though, I plan on having dogs, cats, fish, and maybe even a kinkajou, which is James Randi’s favorite animal. I’ve always wanted to name a dog “Pavlov” and have fish named after nuclear particles. I plan on having a tank full of a dozen or so colorful fish named “neutrino,” “muon,” “tau,” “proton,” et cetera. Though, I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell you which name goes with which fish. Maybe I’m a little strange, but these sorts of names really appeal to me. They’re fun and also contain a message as well as a story of sorts.

Don’t worry, though. I promise not to name my human children after nuclear particles… well, at least not for their first names.


Evelyn is a geologist, writer, traveler, and skeptic residing in Cape Town, South Africa with frequent trips back to the US for work. She has two adorable cats; enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking; and has a very large rock collection. You can follow her on twitter @GeoEvelyn. She also writes a geology blog called Georneys.

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  1. You have to be careful when doing that. "Gallina" (pronounced exactly like "Galena") is also the Italian word for "hen." As in 'egg laying chicken.'

  2. I always found Unununium to be a very interesting element (Uuu, Atomic number 111). It has something, … symmetrical about it :D

    Regarding your middle name, how can you be sure it's not simply the place you were, … uhm, … initiated :P

  3. I've got family that lived and mined in/around Galena, Kansas for many years. Tiny, tiny place.

    I love the idea of naming pets after scientific names, I may have to steal that idea. With kids, it's probably better to name them after science things than say, celebrities. I'm named after Jim Morrison, which would be cooler if I was actually into the Doors at all.:P

  4. Exarch, I don't think my parents have never been to Martinique.

    So far as I know, my sister and I were conceived in petrie dishes. My parents and I have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy about this sort of thing.

  5. I have a cat named Copernicus. How's that?

    –He's a real sweetie, but he's nowhere near as intelligent as his namesake. Even for a cat.

  6. Well, Evelyn, at least you don't have one of those moms who repeats, at nauseum, how long it took to squeeze you out, and that you should be thankful for what she had to endure, etc…

    Or is that just Jewish mothers?

  7. I, for one, will be quite upset indeed if I don't get to pass the middle name "Tesla" to one of my hypothetical off-spring. As far as I'm concerned, middle names exist purely to serve the vanity of a child's parents. I mean, they have no official function or meaning, right? So what else are they for?

  8. It helps differentiate between all the John Smiths. (Or, as was the case in the movie, between different Private's named Ryan).

  9. exarch my mom does the "it was a beautiful day when we brought you home" bit usually at 6:00am on my birthday…

    I had a student last semester named Beryl … she had no idea…

    My favorite mineral name….

    wait for it…..


    ok now that I've offended everyone my work here is done..

    (I'm serious it's a real mineral I've nevder even seen it but it sure sounds like fun)

  10. My favourite mineral name is Detritus, cos he's one of my favourite characters in the Discworld series. :P

  11. I'm a chemist, and I've always toyed with the idea of naming my hypothetical future children Ethyl or Ester. I haven't decided if I'm entirely serious about it, though. I guess it partly depends on whether I marry someone who is as much of a nerd as I am.

  12. Esther is an existing name. That is to say, I knew at least one girl in primary school who was named "Esther", and it's probably not that uncommon since it's derived from "Eostera" or "Aestera" (or something like that, off the top of my head) which is the pagan godess of fertility that was celebrated at the beginning of spring (which the Romans later replaced with "Easter").

  13. Hmmm I always wanted to name my kids after superheroes but of the wrong gender.

    Yeah…. no one give me kids, no matter how much I beg.

  14. I've always liked literary names, personally, but that's likely only natural given my BA in English. Desdemona has a nice ring to it, and my inner nerd has long desired to use Galadriel as a middle name for some prospective daughter.

    And then, of course, there's Alucard or 'Dracula' backwards, as used in some Castlevania games. I think it'd be a funny male middle name, especially if I let the boy figure out on his own what reversing the name would spell. Perhaps that'd be even funnier accompanied by some subtle hits at a nocturnal blood-feeding spree. I could put fake fang marks on my neck, some fake blood on his pillow…oh, that'd be great!

    (Note to self: remember that children are people and not meant to be used as practical jokes or experiments!!)

  15. Isn't "Galina" also a Russian name or a Spanish name? I seem to remember that….

    Did you know the name "Annie" is pronounced the same way as a bad word in Farsi? I think it's "ass", but I can't remember. The first time my Iranian friend brought a girl named "Annie" home from school, her parents were horrified – they could barely keep the shock off their faces!

  16. Josh it's not that I can't use the right genders I'm just a horrible person to children. Anyone under 11 creeps me out so messing with their names is my little sliver of revenge…. of which im entirly entitled to.

  17. exarch – Esther and Ethel are both pre-existing names. Which is why I chose them, but also a reason against using them – people might think I just don't know how to spell! Or worse, that I'm of the mentality that deliberate misspellings without any particular meaning count as being unique and creative (the kind of thinking that led to people I know being named "Lynse" and "Mykkyla").

    Hmmm… does it count as unique and creative if the deliberate misspellings have a nerdy meaning?

    Or I could just go with naming my kids after famous scientists and feminists. I've always loved the name Lucretia, but I don't think I'm cruel enough to impose that on a baby.

  18. Expatria: Even if I resist naming my children after Tesla, I doubt they’ll be able to escape getting named after characters from Pushkin novels. Every time I need to come up with a name for an RPG character these days, I pull a name from Evgeniy Onegin. So I’ve had multiple characters by now named Evgeniy or Vladimir or (especially) Tatyana/Olga Larina. Once or twice, I’ve even gone so far as to use the name Mariya Troekurova, from Pushkin’s unfinished novel Dubrovsky.

    Yeah. I’m one of those.

    At least I tend to use the right genders, though, unlike N.R. ;P

    Ariel: Galinha is Portuguese for chicken. The Spanish for chicken is, of course, “pollo”, as in “El Pollo Diablo” from The Curse of Monkey Island. Funny, those Iberians, for what they disagree on when they share quite a bit in common besides.

  19. Well, you could always middle-name you kid benzene or something. At least then people would know what you're on about.

    Of you'd have to have at least two for people to get it …

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