Roxanne

Does this name put on a red light in your head? No need to call the police. But it does have something sexy about it, doesn’t it? For one thing, there’s that central x, /ks/, a sound a little reminiscent of a kiss (though feeling somewhat like Pop Rocks on your tongue), represented by a mark that can indicate a kiss… or, in multiples, something rather more explicit. There’s also the rich /r/ (which, in its capital letter R, looks a bit like the profile of a courtesan from the neck down). The effect of the anne may vary from person to person.

The name Roxanne, to me, bespeaks luxury and red lipstick – no doubt aided by the nickname Roxy, which may be a name for a theatre with red velvet all over, or a glam rock band (Roxy Music), or a glam rock song (Roxy Roller). Those more into literature than music may think sooner of the love interest of Cyrano de Bergerac, of course – the luminous beauty wooed by a noble, intelligent, but visually disadvantaged poet through the proxy of a good-looking airhead dude. (Steve Martin did a modern take on the theme with the movie Roxanne, featuring Daryl Hannah as the starlet.)

The name in Edmond Rostand’s original play is actually spelled Roxane, which is also the spelling used for the heroine of a novel by Daniel Defoe – a beautiful adventuress who, deserted by her husband, becomes a courtesan and enjoys a glittering career… but repents in the end, having felt the sting of debt. (One might wonder if Sting’s song is indebted to Defoe.)

But the original name is Roxana. Well, no, actually, that’s not quite true. Roxana is the Latin version of the Greek version (Roxané) of the name of the wife of Alexander the Great (and do not the names Roxana and Alexander – or Roxané and Alexandros – sound great together?). But she was not Greek; she was Persian.

As it happens, there is disagreement and uncertainty as to the Persian original of the name. It may be from a word meaning “dawn”; it may be from a word meaning “little star”; or it may be from a name meaning “luminous beauty”. One may wonder whether it could be a name for a beautiful, luminous little star of dawn… But that would be either Aurora (the personification of the dawn; a radiant name, but one associated in Toronto with an exurb, and one I personally associate with a wicked good Scrabble player of my acquaintance) or the planet that is called the morning star when it shows just before sunrise: Venus. Ah, Venus. Speaking of sex…

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