Delphine was my aunt's name, my mother's sister. It was on the short list of names we had chosen, and one day I mentioned to my mother that we were trying to pick a name. "It won't be 'Delphine Veronica', I suppose," my mother said.
"Actually, we were thinking about 'Delphine'," I said. And my mother said she would like it if we chose 'Delphine', and that was that. (I didn't go with Veronica as a middle name; I don't really like it, and it seems weird to give a baby someone else's entire name.)
My aunt was six years younger than my mother. She died of cancer when I was six, at the age of 40. We were living in South Africa at the time, and my aunt was in England. No-one had told my mother how seriously ill my aunt was, and so she didn't go back home to see her; she was very upset about that.
Delphine Newton was a firebrand. During her short life she was a police officer, a private investigator, and ran her own driving school. She was married and divorced, and had one daughter. She was clever, and had a beautiful singing voice. I don't think I ever met her, but my mother says I would have loved her, and that I'm like her in many ways.
Delphine is a huge hit as a name; almost everyone we have told it to has said how much they like it. Many people seem to recognize it, more than I expected; it's a name which people know, but is still uncommon.
The funny thing is, people seem to claim it as their own. My friend Pierre said "I see you have chosen a good French name for your baby!" My doctor said that it's an old Quebecois name. Someone who lives in the building said that it's very English.
In the 1910s, Delphine was the 611th most popular name in the US.
In the 1920s, it was number 493.
In the 1930s, it was number 536.
In the 1940s, it was number 843.
In the 1950s, it was number 894.
Delphine doesn't appear in the top 1000 names after the 1950s. (Stats from the US Social Security's Office of the Chief Actuary.)
As for the meaning of the name, as Diana Goodman says on her site, Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing,
Some meanings originate because the name evolved from real word (usually in a foreign language). And so their meanings are somewhat interesting.
And then some names have arbitrary meanings that for all I can tell were pulled out of a dead monkey's ass."
"Delphine" is German for "dolphins", but I don't think that's where the name originates. More convincing is the argument that it's somehow related to the Greek Delphi, perhaps meaning "of Delphi"? Some baby name references also associate it with the flower delphinium, but I'm sceptical.
If you Google "Delphine" you get a lot of stuff in German. The first link I get is a page on whales and dolphins. The next one is a software company.
If you limit your search to English sites only, the software company comes up first, and the next link belongs to a native singer named Delphine Tsinajinnie.
The name "Delphine" appears in Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac, and The Blue Afternoon by William Boyd. My grandmother got the name from a book she read, and I suppose the book might have been the Balzac, but I'm not sure if my grandmother was the Balzac-reading type. It's also the name of a French saint.
We chose Elizabeth because we liked the sound of it. It was mostly Blake's choice -- I'd have preferred a name with more significance. But I have grown to like the choice. Elizabeth is like a well-cut trench coat, or a diamond ring. It's timeless, elegant, never goes out of style, and works just as well with jeans or a little black dress.
Here's how it has ranked over the last century:
Since the 1990s it's hovered around the 10th spot. (I didn't realize it was so popular until just now.)
Elizabeth is of Hebrew origin and means "consecrated to God", or "God's oath", or some other God thing. The less said about that the better.
If you Google Elizabeth the first link is to this site about Queen Elizabeth. The next is to the Elizabeth City State University website (I didn't even know there was an Elizabeth City), and the third is to another site on Good Queen Bess.