Jazz Queen Diana Krall Photographed by Bruce Weber
Diana Krall: The Meaning of her Names
Diana Krall, born in Nanaimo, British Columbia, is the new female superstar of jazz vocalists. Her musical talent, her multi-husky honey-and-lemon voice and movie-star looks lend knock-out whammy to every concert Ms. Krall gives, from Japan to the Montreal Jazz Festival. Most recently Diana Krall won in three categories at the inaugural Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards: as female vocalist, as songwriter of the year, and for album of the year,“The Girl in the Other Room.” Diana shared her award for songwriter of the year with her equally famous husband, Elvis Costello. They wrote “Narrow Daylight” together.
The surname Krall begins in a Slavonic root meaning ‘king.’ Kral is the word for ‘king’ in Sorbian, the West Slavonic language of people whose traditional home in eastern Germany is called Lusatia, land of the Sorbs, lying between the Elbe and the Oder Rivers.
One diminutive reflex of the etymon pops up in the Sorbian surname Kralik, literally ‘little king,’ but in fact the word for ‘wren’ in Sorbian, with the thought that the lively wren is the little king of its neighbourhood. Or the Sorbian word may be a loan translation from the German term for wren, Zaunkönig, literally ‘fence-king.’
The krvl-root (italic v represents any vowel) is widespread in all the languages of the Slavonic family. Krol is ‘king’ in Polish. The Czech term for king is kral. In Russian the root shows up in korol ‘king’ and in the slang word for beauty, kralya. When Russians play cards, the word for the queen face card is also kralya, the ‘beauty’ card.
Diana was an ancient Italian divinity when the Romans were still plucking Romulus and Remis off a wolf’s tit. Diana was first of all goddess of the moon worshipped as Luna, protectress of essential femininity, bringer of moon-stirred menses, patroness of childbirth and man-hating guardian of female virginity. When guys approached virgins, it was Diana who gave them the chastity belt or kick right in the tender cojones.
Diana, goddess of the hunt, never married.
No male god was god enough or good enough.
Diana represents one early, disruptive ripple of female freedom in the stale, dank musk of primordial male privilege. Diana is midwife and lunar luminary, woman as chthonic quick-change artist, she who cannot be defined by men. Both comely and deadly, Diana continually reinvents herself, just as that silvery shape-shifter, the moon, changes from night to wondrous night.
Those who kept her holy shrines, her misandrous priestesses and simpering priestlets, were bound by Diana’s oath to stay chaste and live pure until death. One or two accomplished that dubious goal. The Roman poet Horace suggests that Diana loathed the very sight of men and forbade them on pain of death from ever setting one testosterone-tainted tootsie inside her temples.
Diana’s popularity as a girl’s given name has waxed and waned throughout the centuries since the fall of Rome. From a strictly Christian perspective it is an odd, pagan label to pin on a baby girl. In the Bible (Acts 19: 24 -41) the crazed worshippers of Diana of the Ephesians broke out in riotous uproar against Saint Paul who had denied their goddess her very divinity.
The Ephesian Diana is shown below, an hysterical representation of fertility, hung with pendulous breasts, teeming with fecund bounty. Some experts deem the boobish balls to be necklaces of bull testicles! Those boys should get out of the ivory tower more often; attend an orgy now and then. Learn to play the zither. Anything, guys.
The goddess's ceremonial apron (ependytes) is adorned with fertility symbols. Some scholars think they are multi-breasts, others that they are ostrich eggs or bulls' testicles. Diana is surrounded by representations of bees, roosters, and bulls’ heads, all emblems of a rich and uberous lushness.
Outside of the circle of femaleness, Diana was goddess of the hunt and particularly of the chase with bow and arrow. The first surge in popularity for Diana as a girl’s name swept through wealthy aristocratic families during the Renaissance. Hunting was their preferred sport, whether of wild boar or peasant, and they loved the image of their daughters as Diana, twanging the bow and sending the mortal arrow thrusting deep into the heart of their prey.
Diana as a girl’s name reached new peaks of popularity in the middle of the 20th century. The nearly worldwide affection for Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997), insures that new generations of girls will keep this lively name alive. The French form, Diane, is also now widely used.
The etymology of the Latin name points to Diana the word sharing a root with deus Latin ‘god.’ Even the chief Greek sky-god Zeus--one early form of his name was Dyaus--shares this root. Related to these divine names is the humble Latin word for ‘day’ or ‘daylight’ and that is dies. Delving back to a time when the Latin language had not yet emerged as a separate entity from its unwritten mother tongue, Proto-Indo-European, we find the kernel of these words in the root di-, whose basic meaning is ‘bright, full of light.’
For the earliest migrants to the Levantine littoral, spellbound by the sweet clear light of Italian and Greek skies, it was quite natural they should name a few gods after such a divine gift, namely, being alive in fair weather on a Mediterranean day.
Thence such sky-god names and words as deus, Jupiter (originally *Diu-pater ‘father of the day’), Zeus (originally perhaps *Dyaos ‘sky-male’), dies, and Diana.
Reubens' Diana relishes the coming hunt and gives a cringing dog strokes of encouragement.
If this subject fascinates you, there are hundreds more startling stories about famous Canadian names in my book, What’s in a Canadian Name? Click on the bookcover for more samples or to order the book online.
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© 2012 William Gordon Casselman