Midori

Kiko Mizuhara as Midori in "Norwegian Wood"

Origin: Japanese
Gender: Female
Meaning: "Green"
Pronunciation: MEE-DOH-REE
Other Forms: N/A

Today's name is long-standing guilty pleasure of mine - Midori!

Midori comes from the word midori, which first came into the Japanese language during the Heian period (794 AD-1185). Before that, there was no word for green in Japanese, and the word ao, which is used for blue or a blue-green color, is often used to refer to green plants and vegetables and even the green light at an intersection! Midori originally represented the "freshness" of newly grown things, and people who are young and inexperienced are called "blue" instead of green, like we say. In fact, students weren't taught the word midori as something separate from ao until WWII!

I think it is very pretty, especially once you know the history behind it. Midori brings to mind the character from Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, as seen in the photo above from the 2010 adaption of novel. But there is a wealth of namesakes, from violinist Gotō Midori to Itō Midori, who won Silver at the 1992 Olympics for figure-skating, and the young actress Midori Francis. 

For most English-speakers Midori is probably recognized as a type of green liqueur with a melon taste, which I've noticed some count as a mark against the name. Personally, I never even heard of the stuff until after becoming interested in the name, so I wouldn't let that keep you from using it!

Sora

Korean ballad singer, Lee So-ra

Origin: Japanese and Korean
Gender: Unisex in Japan and Female in Korea
Meaning: Japanese: "Sky"; Korean: "Conch Shell"
Pronunciation: SOH-ruh, SOR-ah
Other Forms: So-ra

For those who weren't aware, May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so I thought it would be a wonderful idea to feature some Asian names! I admit to not knowing as much about them as I would like, so if any native speakers know the correct pronunciation, spelling, etc., please don't be afraid to let me know in the comments below!

Our first name of May is Sora. Sora, for the Japanese, is a unisex name meaning "sky". One of its oldest bearers is that of poet Kawai Sora, who famously wrote of his journeys with his Master, Matsuo Bashō, a renowned poet of the Edo period in Japan. His recordings of the middle of this period are seen as the most detailed and exact on record.

In Korea, it is more commonly So-ra, with Sora being the common Romanization. It has the lovely meaning of "conch shell". Conchs have all sorts of purposes, across many, many cultures. The nagak (also called na, godong, and, of course, sora) is an instrument made of a large sea snail's shell, that is played during military processions. They have similar ones in Japan, and in Hinduism they have the shankha, and its call is used as a victory over suffering. In Buddhism, it is one of eight auspicious symbols. Of course it has more material values as well, such has being made into jewelry (Bengali brides are adorned with conch shells and coral bangles), being used as shell money, and food.

Sora has two beautiful meanings, and a wealth of history, making it a poetic choice, especially for those drawn to the ocean.

Matsuo Bashō, being followed by Sora
 
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