Every few years a story pops up about the “unusual” names Singaporeans are bestowing upon their children. This year, The Straits Times uncovered such gems as the modified Greek Dyanthus, the unfortunate Zeremy and the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding Abcde. Rather than the usual appalled reaction, however, we were actually kind of disappointed. If you want a name that’ll set your kid apart, you don’t have to go trawling through lists of ancient gods or Game of Thrones deep lore. Why not tap into the rich history of Singapore itself? So here you are, new parents, 10 unique names brimming with Lion City pride.
A mythical folk hero who supposedly lived during the era of the Kingdom of Singapura, Badang “gained his superhuman strength by eating the vomit of a water demon whom he caught stealing his fish”. As the story goes, the Singapore Stone was hurled from modern-day Fort Canning to the mouth of the Singapore River by Badang during a titanic tussle against another warrior sent from India.
You get a two-for-one deal with this one. Two men named Cecil Clementi served as Governor of the Straits Settlements – Sir Cecil Clementi Smith and his nephew Sir Cecil Clementi.
Whether you want your child to grow up to be an artist, a money-spinning entrepreneur or an adventurer, Gaston Dutronquoy is your guy. Arriving in Singapore in 1839, he opened up a hotel on High Street, became the colony’s first photographer and heroically helped put out a fire in Kampong Glam before disappearing in a possible murder mystery while searching for gold along the Muar River. What a character.
The great Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book, was only a brief visitor. But he did have time in 1889 to describe the then-new Raffles Hotel as a place “where the food is as excellent as the rooms are bad”.
If you’d rather your son have a connection to a CBD artery than a heartland suburb, look a little further down the list of governors to find Sir Shenton Thomas.
Ashkhen Hovakimian is better known as Agnes Joaquim, an Armenian Singaporean who cultivated a particularly good looking orchid in the garden of her family’s Tanjong Pagar mansion in 1893. The Vanda Miss Joaquim would become Singapore’s national flower in 1981.
No, not the Egyptian ruler. We’re talking about the butt-kicking titular character of They Call Her Cleopatra Wong, a 1978 martial arts flick starring Singaporean actress Marrie Lee.
A nurse who served as a volunteer in World War I, Ida Simmons came to Singapore in 1926 to become the island’s first Health Sister. Faced with a rural population that distrusted western medicine and an infant mortality rate of 263 out of every 1,000 births, she travelled out to every kampung, educating residents and setting up welfare centers. At the time of her retirement in 1948, the infant mortality rate had dropped to 57 for every 1,000 births.
When Bombay-born Shirin Fozdar arrived in Singapore in 1950, polygamy was all the rage and women barely had a voice. Already a pioneering women’s rights activist, she began to change the status quo, co-founding the Singapore Council of Women in 1952 and helping to establish the Women’s Charter in 1961.
Back in the day, sports clubs were domains of men, and while they enjoyed the thrills of football, hockey, cricket and golf, girls were expected to take part in activities like “balloon catching”. That was until Zena Tessensohn stepped up to the plate and co-founded the Girls Sports Club in 1929. The club paved the way for the many sportswomen who have gone on to fly the flag for Singapore.