Melaena, not a name for your daughter

From time to time I ponder the names people assign their children. We all know people who have given their children what we might consider a strange name that the parents think is wonderful. You know, like Richard Head. Why would you consider Melaena, though?

Melaena Gary Lum

I’ve known a few children and at least one adult who are known as Melaena. I don’t mind if there is a slight variation in spelling like Meleana or Melina. The variations are important, and it’s so much better if the second letter is “a” or “i” rather than “e”.

Why does it matter?

Well, the prefix mel- is important. Think of the following words:

Melancholy has a dark sense to it and could come from ‘black bile’.

Melanesia stems from “the islands inhabited by blacks”.

Melanin is a black pigment found in animal bodies.

These words stem from the Greek melas (Genitive melanos) which means black or a dirty colour.

So do you know what melaena means?

I remember learning about melaena in third-year medical school and then I had my first clinical experience as a fourth-year student in the wards. Melaena is black tarry stool which is the result of faeces containing partly digested blood. This happens because of internal hæmorrhage usually high in the gastrointestinal tract like in the stomach or by consuming (orally) lots of blood.

Melaena Gary Lum

In gastroenterology wards, in the old days when gastric and duodenal ulcers were common and bleeding ulcers were difficult to control, you would have a few patients from time to time quite unwell and their bedpans would contain melaena. The smell was quite offensive. It’s a smell you don’t forget.

It’s for this reason that Melaena is not a name for your daughter.

Have you come across anyone named Melaena? Do you know anyone with an unfortunate name?

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14 Replies to “Melaena, not a name for your daughter”

    1. Names are so important, and I know parents put a lot of thought into them. There seems to be a disconnect when it comes to a name parents like and want for their child and then going the next step and thinking about the consequences for the child as he or she grows older with that name. At school, a boy was named Tracy. He turned into a horrible bully because of his name. As kids we didn’t appreciate the difficulty he had we just knew he was a bully and he had what was widely regarded as a girl’s name. I feel like I judged him badly back then.

  1. I laughed, too!!! Names are so important. Working in schools you see how creative people become with children. One friend hated his name. His mom allowed him to choose it when he was old enough. He chose, in the wisdom of preschool, Christopher Robin. Another person we called Chris couldn’t wait to marry and change her name. She was born in December. Mary Christmas Day. Montana was popular in my son’s class. There were two, a boy and a girl. My sister goes out on a limb with names, too. Her oldest is Jacit (Jah-sit) and the 12 year old is JaLeen (jay-leen). And then there is my friend who teaches in Southern CA. He deplores the liberal use of the letter ‘Y’ in names.

    1. I went to primary school with a kid and his name was Tracy. He turned into a bully because he got teased so much. He hated his name and turned on everyone.
      You’re right names are important, it’s important to get the names right.

    2. The male Tracy in my 6th grade class was a twin to a male named Stacy. They were hilarious and great fun. Although, when Tracy ate the stick of orange flavored lip gloss in my friend’s desk, we did tease him! (the mid 70’s were hard on all of us!)

    3. True, schooling in the 1970s as a Chinese looking kid with half the kids having Dads coming home from Vietnam was tough in terms of racism too.

  2. So that means Gonoril is out of the question too, plus many more? It’s never nice to call your children something with a slur, but most people didn’t know what those names meant when they named their beautiful newborns. There’s only a fraction of 1% left who learnt Latin. Please think a tad more in future before you give poor girls and boys, through no fault of their own, more ammo with which to be bullied at school. Thank you and kind regards, Laura

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