Thursday, December 19, 2013


Photo Courtesy of Milk & Honey Photography

"On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eight maids-a-milking"

Whenever I think of milk maids, I picture an attractive Swiss girl with long blond plaits who loves to yodel. I put this down to some very effective Swiss chocolate advertising on television when I was a child in the 80's. But of course milk maids were an actual thing, and existed in plenty of countries other than Switzerland. A milk maid was a girl or woman who milked cows and then turned that milk into cream, butter and cheese.

There aren't a lot of famous milk maids - probably because it's not particularly glamorous work. But there is one famous milk maid in literature, and that is the main character Tess in Thomas Hardys' 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'. It is when working as a milkmaid at Talbothays Dairy that Tess makes her best friends, and she and her husband Angel fall in love.

Tess is a name I have been fond of since primary school, when one of my friends was named Tess. Most of my associations with the name are due to her, and for this reason I find it to be a pretty and sweet yet spunky and fun little name. And for some reason I always think of Jemima when I hear this name - Tess and Jemima would be gorgeous as sisters.

This name is thought to have originated as a diminutive of the Greek name Theresa. As Theresa means 'to harvest' or 'harvester', so too does Tess. But although it started as a diminutive, it certainly holds up on it's own these days. There are plenty of characters called Tess in movies, TV and literature. In the U.S it has been a top 1000 name since 1983, although it's position at #997 in 2012 means it looks likely this name will slip out of the top 1000 this year.

Why would this be? Well, there's a slight problem with some words that start with Tess. Say Tess tickles out loud and you'll see what I mean.

However there are also cute nicknames a Tess can use, such as Tessie or Tessa. And if you're not not a fan of Tess as a "formal" name, other suggestions besides Theresa that I've seen include Tesla (my favourite pick), Therese, Contessa, Terry and even Destiny.

Tess is a cute little name, simple and free from fanciful adornments. If you like your names short and pretty why not consider Tess?

1 comment:

  1. I love the name Tess - it's so cute and spunky, but also sounds soft and romantic.

    I went to school with a Tess, but she never got teased with "testicles" - having a surname starting with T might put it in some people's minds though.