• Grace A. Johnson

Name of the Week: Crimson

So, I think we can all agree that, yeah, Crimson is a name. Only, it's not a person name; it's a color name. Specifically, a very red color name. (Believe it or not, it's been in use as a given name since sometime in the 1800s...so maybe Crimson wasn't likely to have been named Crimson in the 1600s, but at least it was a name at some point.)

I think we can all also agree that Crimson was aptly named. With 50% Scottish blood coursing through her veins, this girl is redheaded, freckled, and feisty. (Shout out to all the reds and Scots out there--love ya, cuz! 😉)

Even still, despite disputes over the tangibility of Crimson as a human being name, the heroine of my last novel, Prisoner at Heart, will be the focus today.

Diving back, firstly, into the history of Crimson, I can't rightly tell you what possessed me to name her that. Or, really, what possessed me to invent her at all! She came about on a whim whilst I was writing Chapter 5 of Held Captive--her very first appearance. Timothy Wilde needed someone to hold him in check, some reason to spare Julius, some...something. Some sign of tenderness or humanity. Something like that. And Crimson was it. Two months later, Crimson has two half siblings, Tomas and Scarlette. Tomas is the Scottish/Irish (and Spanish/Portuguese) form of Thomas, so there's nothing special about his name...and Scarlette was named for her own red hair. Apparently hers and Crimson's mothers thought very much alike. *shrugs shoulders with a imp of a smile*

I'd venture to say her name--all three names, in fact--came about much as they did: without warning. And it was without warning that the idea to have Crimson be a main character and the kindling to Elliot's spark formed in my mind.

Of course, I'm getting off track now, so we'll nip that intriguing conversation in the bud.

Diving back, secondly, into the history of crimson (as in the word), it comes from the many Old Italian forms (i.e., carmesi, cremesi, etc.) of the Arabic word qirmizī. Qirmizī meant a "highly chromatic deep red color," according to Etymoline. All other European languages featuring a word with the same definition come from the Italian--like the later variant carmine, the medieval French form cramoisin and the Spanish carmesí. So, yeah, nothing fun about that there, I suppose, but it is interesting to learn which words in English came from languages like Arabic or Persian, considering most of English is Latin, Greek, or Germanic in origin. Crimson also has many usages--as a noun, meaning the color itself or fabric dyed this color, as an adjective (of course), and also as a verb, to make something crimson. The verb also has other tenses--crimsoning and crimsoned. Definitely not a word we're used to using, is it? Try it sometime, when reddened/reddening is too plain.

Digging even deeper, you'll find that the Arabic comes from the word kermes, a shield louse (a bug you can google with the keywords kermes and genus) "producing" red dye, the tree on which they lived, and, even further, the dye from a worm.

I eventually gave Crimson an actual name for her middle name--Màiri--a Scottish form of Mary. So, yes, her full name (Crimson Màiri Wilde) could translate to mean "wild sea of red bitterness," which I think suits her much better than "bug juice." 🤣 Oh, and it can be pronounced crim-sin or crim-sun, but I prefer the latter, despite how easily the first rolls off of my very Southern tongue. At least then I have some distinction between the girl and the bug juice--excuse me, dye.

Well, there you have it, folks! The origin of the name (and word) Crimson. Which name would y'all like me to feature next?

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