The Tiffany Efffect

NamesNicola here! As readers and writers we all know the importance of a character’s name. The right name can fit perfectly with our view of that person; the wrong one can completely pull us out of a story. With historical fiction it’s even trickier because not only do names have to fit the character but they also need to be historically correct. Nothing breaks my enjoyment more than a Regency heroine called Tiffany.

And that is where I am wrong, as I discovered a couple of weeks ago when I heard about “The Glasses Tiffany Effect.” The Tiffany Effect is the belief that something is more modern than it actually is. So, for example, central heating could be an example of The Tiffany effect if you thought it was a modern invention and not a technology originally introduced by the Ancient Greeks and Romans . Or glasses, which were first worn in 1290.

TiffanyI thought that the name Tiffany simply had to be a 20th century introduction, popularised in 1961 by the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” which was based on the book by Truman Capote.  I vaguely knew that Tiffany had been a surname before that – Tiffany & Co. the jewellers was founded in 1837 by Charles Lewis Tiffany.  So I thought I was clear on the timeline. But it turns out I was wrong because the name Tiffany was recorded in 1200 as a first name, traditionally given to girls born on 6th January, the Feast of the Epiphany.  The spelling in Old French was “Tifinie” and it derives from a Greek word, Theophaneia, which originally mean “manifestation of god.”  By 1600, the name Tiffany appears in English. By this time it was also the name for a light, gauzy sort of material (like the one in the picture) as well as a first name and a surname.

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