I was reading an article the other day about an American author named Celeste Ng. What a pretty name that is, I thought to myself. Her new book, entitled Little Fires Everywhere, looks like a good read.

And then somewhere, in the deep recesses of my mind, that name rang a bell. Celeste. Where had I heard that name before? I racked and racked my brain until it came to me.

But of course, the wife of Babar! Queen Céleste who bore him four baby elephants: Pom, Flore, Alexandre and Isabelle. They lived happily ever after in Célesteville, a fictional town in Babar’s Kingdom (supposedly in South Africa.)


The next day I asked a French colleague at work if she knew the name Céleste. “But of course,” she replied, “but it’s the generation of our grandparents. C’est un prénom très démodé !” It’s a name very out-of-fashion.

Céleste. Celestial. Derived from the Latin, Caelestis, which means “comes from heaven”, or “heaven-sent.”

A big success throughout the 19th century and then falling out of vogue, the name appears to be having a comeback. In 2006 in this country there were 302 births registered with this name. And in 2015, seventy-two baby French girls were christened Céleste.

There’s another French name that I like, also unusual and starting with a ‘C’, it’s Chymène (or Chimène). I once worked with a woman who had this name. When I commented on its originality, she replied “My parents loved Corneille.” Huh? I had to do some googling.

Pierre Corneille, considered one of the three great seventeenth-century French dramatists, along with Molière and Racine, wrote a five-act tragicomedy called Le Cid. In it, the main female protagonist is called Chimène.

I like the idea of taking names from famous works of literature. Mine too, a Shakespearian name (Romeo and Juliet).


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