Friday, October 21, 2016

Unusual Names from the Lost Generation - Fitzgerald and Hemingway

Hello, readers!

The "lost generation" was a term coined by Gertrude Stein in describing the generation of men and women who had survived World War I, coming of age then and in the subsequent Jazz Age. Referring to the sense of wandering and melancholy that plagued many during the era - especially the expatriates - this term now often applies to artists of the time.

In their books, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway included a variety of characters who personified the period in different ways. Here are some of the names of those "lost" souls who have influenced American literature today.

Ernest Hemingway, his wife Hadley Richardson, and friends in Pamplona, Spain, 1925

Hemingway's names: 

Not a name he picked, but this name was a unique choice for women of the era - the name had been used rarely for boys, and wasn't even recorded for girls until 1964. Her birth name was Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, Hadley being a family name. In 1998, this pretty English choice began its ascent up the top 1000, and now ranks at #102. It means "heather field."

Another name more often associated with men, the female protagonist of The Sun Also Rises is named Lady Brett Ashley. Her name identifies her as "one of the boys," and she's very much an equal in their social group (unusual for 1926). Now that Brett is on the decline for boys, the girls could make a claim for it - it's not too far off from Brynn or Kate, either. 

Though he's a minor character in A Farewell to Arms, Ettore Moretti has an unusual name for an American - hence the addition to this list. Ettore is the Italian variant of Hector, and it means "holding fast." It currently ranks at #64 in Italy, but is incredibly rare in the United States. Ettore would be an attractive and uncommon alternative to names like Giovanni or Leonardo.

A beautiful Spanish choice that's never ranked in the US top 1000, Pilar can be found in literature, religious texts, and films. It comes from the word for "pillar," referring to a moment when the Virgin Mary appeared on a pillar in Spain. The character in the novel is known for her strength and compassion - not a bad namesake for any little one.

Often linked to the eponymous saint, Anselmo is a rare but long-standing choice for speakers of Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. It means "divine protection," and has two very cute short forms: Ansel and Elmo. With it's soft sound and o-ending, this name could fit in nicely with today's trends.

Fitzgerald's names:

Like Hadley, this woman has been referenced in history as the wife of a great author - but she herself was a great writer and artist (check out Save Me a Waltz). Zelda recently jumped onto the top 1000, as feminine vintage names become more and more popular. Will Zelda shoot to the top 100 or maintain a low profile? Only time will tell.

An incredibly romantic name, Amory Blaine makes it clear that the protagonist of This Side of Paradise is ruled by passion. Though the name has been growing in use in recent years, it's still a unique choice. But it's closeness to Avery and Emory make it more than viable for today's youth. The etymology is unclear, but Amory is related to either "beloved" or "industrious."

Another name signifying that this woman is on par with the men in the novel, Jordan Baker is a minor female character in The Great Gatsby. She was named for two contemporary car companies, representing her modern personality. Though Jordan has always been more popular for boys, both genders have the name on a decline since their heyday in the 1990's and 2000's.

A variation of an English name meaning "coal miner," Collis fits right in with Colin or Silas. The character in Tender is the Night doesn't stick around for too long, and Collis itself has been on the decline for awhile. Still, it's an uncommon option that isn't too far from the trends.

Names I've missed? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dynasty Names

Hello, readers!

While researching names for articles, I've learned to recognize patterns - how long it takes names to go from the top 100 to the top 10, how quickly a named is deemed "passé," how names are discussed whether they're Hebrew, Japanese, or Spanish in origin. One tiny thread I've noticed between quite a few names? The 1980's soap opera, Dynasty.

Dynasty premiered in 1981 and ended in 1989, spanning a hugely important decade in American culture, politics, and style. At its height, it was the #1 show in the United States, with over twenty-one million homes watching (thanks, Wikipedia!) It's certainly no surprise then that the series popularized quite a few names - with the data to prove it.

Now, the parents who picked these names weren't all inspired by the show - but when a name starts becoming more prevalent in social conversation, it spreads ("So-and-so had a baby last month, and named him Blake. Isn't that unusual?") While Dynasty certainly prompted interest, it wasn't the deciding factor every time. But let's look at some choices that link directly to the show that "has it all and more!"

A classic Biblical name already on the rise, Adam's highest rank at #18 occurred during the Dynasty show run - when long-lost son Adam Carrington entered the scene. The name means "earth" or "man" in classical Hebrew, and it's been in the top 100 since 1970.

This trendy unisex name jumped eighty places when the estranged ex-wife and mother came on the scene: Alexis Carrington is often credited with helping this name become a household name. The name rose, fell, then rose again, ultimately reaching its peak in 1993 at #3.

In the top 10 from 1976 through 1995, Amanda had a good two decade run as an American favorite. Dynasty capitalized on this popular choice - the character arrived when Amanda was at #4. Still an English standard, Amanda has been updated today via Amelia, Amandla, and Amada.

Though Anders is a more modern pick in the United States - it only debuted in the top 1000 in 2006 - it has long been a Scandinavian favorite. Now that Andrew is more common, however, international variants are on the rise! Anders more than doubled in average usage during Dynasty's run, as the last name of multiple characters.

While this name isn't unusual, Blake's steepest jump in popularity was between 1980 and 1981 - seventy-nine places up the top 1000, and over 700 *more* boys born. It's now in the top 100 for boys, and in the top 500 for girls. Other than its Dynasty link, Blake is liked for it's brisk sound and friendly vibe.

Never a top 1000 member, Carrington did septuple in use between 1980 and 1989 - from nine boys a year to sixty-three. The name was also used for girls occasionally during the decade. This surname is English in origin, and could work as an alternative to Harrison or Carson.

Though it was strictly a surname on Dynasty, Colby moved from #546 to #250 during the series. Since then, it's gone up and down, but now is mostly on the decline. Colby gained more fans during the run of Survivor in the early 2000's - another TV show with clout!

Dexter "Dex"
This name has two origins - from the Latin for "right-handed", and from an occupational English surname meaning "dyer." Dexter also has two television shows to thank for its popularity - the 1980's spike from Dynasty, of course, and the eponymous HBO show about a serial killer. While Dexter is often associated with devilish characters, the name is a solid yet uncommon choice.

With a name like Dominique Deveraux, it's no wonder audiences took notice. The name moved up almost 250 places on the top 1000 from 1983 to 1984 - when Dominique's character debuted. It peaked at #83 in 1985, but may never have made the top 100 without the Dynasty boost.

Now more likely to be associated with Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, this Irish surname made waves when connected with the Carrington daughter. Fallon only ranked between 1981 and 1995, however, declining along with average hair volume.

Like Fallon, Kirby only lasted a few years on the girls' top 1000. For boys, on the other hand, the name had long been in use, receiving a boost during the run of the show. Today, Kirby is close enough to Keira and Shelby, Kieran and Kobe, to be used for any gender.

With probably the most creative spelling on this list, Krystle had been recorded as far back as 1969. But only twenty-six baby girls were named Krystle in 1980; in 1981, that number soared to 446. Today, that number is down to six, as most variations of Crystal begin to wane.

Sabella "Sable"
In 1986, Sable ranked #904 - never before or since. With animal names, like Bear or Fox, on the rise, it could definitely make a comeback. Sabella has been in use since the show's debut, with seventy-one babies born last year - an almost-too-close alternative to Isabella.

Samantha Josephine "Sammi Jo"
The last name on the list, with a rather interesting statistic - "Sammijo" was recorded a total of forty times between 1983 and 1991. Samantha had been on the rise by the time the character appeared on the show, ending up as one of the top names of the 1990's and 2000's.

Any names I missed? Other shows with a big impact? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rainy Day Names

Hello, readers!

It's finally raining in California (at least in the Bay) and I've had "Singin' in the Rain" stuck in my head all morning. Also acceptable musical choices - "Rainy Days and Mondays," "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" and "It's Rainin' Men." A dear friend suggested I write about about names for rainy days, so here we go!

Image via Pixabay

Why not start with the obvious? Though it's never ranked on the top 1000, Rain has been used for girls since 1956, and for boys since 1971. It's a simple, sleek nature name that would also work as an unexpected middle choice. 

Generally regarded as too girly or too bohemian, Rainbow's image may be changing. There are more Rainbow's than ever, from pop culture to celebrity status, and even the oldest Rainbow's (born in 1971) are only 45 years old. This may be a name to watch!

Strong in sound and meaning, Storm was first recorded for both boys and girls in the same year - 1946 (Any theories on why that year?). The name is also popular for boys in Scandinavia, and there's a female Storm in the X-Men. 

With Grayson and Grace among 2010's favorites, why not pick a similar-sounding understated color choice? Grey currently ranks at #916 for boys, but the sophisticated moniker works for all genders. Like Rain and Storm, this would also make an attractive middle name.

Names that mean "rain"

A feminine Basque option, Euria has never been recorded in US name history. It's euphonic and melodic, and doesn't sound like many other names out there (with the exception of Slavic Yuri). For more Basque options, check out this list - Basque Names

In its original Sanskrit usage, Indra was given to boys. But in the United States, more girls than boys have been given this elegant, substantial name. Indra refers to the Hindu god of lightning, storms, and rain - dynamic, but not too daunting. 

An Arabic name for boys, Mazin sounds like an amped-up alternative to popular Mason - and it may get mistaken as a "kre8tiv" spelling. Its meaning is "rain clouds", and it's originally pronounced "Mah-zahn" - though that may get corrupted in the US. 

This pretty Hindi choice gained more popularity via Bollywood star Varsha Usgaonkar - thirty girls in the United States were given the name last year. Varsha is soft and unique, yet still accessible to English speakers - a multicultural choice, perhaps?

Names that mean "rainbow"

Both vintage and contemporary, Iris is a pretty botanical choice that doesn't come across as overly feminine. The name for the flower comes from the name of the Greek goddess of the rainbow, and there's a beautiful van Gogh painting of irises - great for a nursery!

Also spelled Ixchel, Itzel is the Mayan goddess of midwifery and medicine. The name is popular with Latin American families, and now ranks at #492 on the top 1000. The "Itzel" spelling helps with the pronunciation, and the name is definitely fresh and vivacious. 

An uncommon Hebrew name that's yet to be recorded in the US, Keshet ("Keh-shet") has a sound outside the norm. The "sh" sound softens the name, but the "k" and "t" sounds on the ends give it some substance. While Keshet may require some repetition, it's truly a lovely choice. 

No, not like the actor Christopher Walken. This Australian Noongar Aboriginal name is pronounced "Wall-ken," and is used for boys. Though the explanation might grow to be tiring, this is a cool pick to fit in with "en" trends and similar name Walker

An Armenian name in recent pop culture news - a short film with a character and title Ziazan premiered in 2014 - this choice is bold and adventurous. Nicknames Zizi or Zaza make it even more fun!

Other names related to this lovely weather: Raina, MistyCloud, Thunder, and Autumn

Friday, October 14, 2016

Super-Heroine Names

Hello, readers!

If the Disney villains earlier this week weren't your type, why not try a super-heroine? Many of our favorite female fighters came out of mid-century comics, like Superman or The Avengers. But these badass ladies are timeless, and can be found all over pop culture today!

Diana Prince (Wonder Woman)
Though her first appearance was in 1941, Princess Diana of Themyscira has gotten quite a lot of attention lately - a live action Wonder Woman film is set to hit theaters next year. With super strength, the power of flight, indestructible bracelets, and a lasso of Truth, it's no wonder Diana Prince is so popular. The name Diana has been on the decline, but it has quite a few positive traits - its Roman goddess mythology, multicultural appeal, and dozens of wonderful namesakes, to start.

Katherine "Kitty" Pryde (Mutant, X-Men)
Canonically, she's the youngest member of the X-Men, and she may be one of the youngest superheroes on this list - her first comic book appearance was in 1980. Her main power is "intangibility," the ability to move through solid objects, though she also can communicate with her alien pet dragon (#goals, amirite?) The Katherine spelling is currently the most used in its family, but Kitty hasn't ranked on the top 1000 since 1966. With both animal and vintage names on the rise, could Kitty return?

Jean Grey (Phoenix, X-Men)
Another female mutant (and founding member) in the X-Men, Jean Grey possesses both telepathy and telekinesis. She was recently portrayed by Sophie Turner in X-Men: Apocalypse - though Sophie was born after Jean dropped off the top 1000 (1994 vs 1996). Jean got all the way up to #12 in the late 1920's and early 1930's; it's chic, concise, and sassy. It's derived from John, if you're looking for an unexpected honorific - but if it's still too dated, Phoenix is another excellent choice.

Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle)
A disabled female genius computer hacker... in 1967? Barbara Gordon broke new pop culture ground, to say the least. Her character is still a favorite among comic fans, and her kick-ass abilities are inspiring for young women today. The name Barbara peaked at #2 in the 1930's and 1940's, and has been declining ever since. While the name is considered fairly dated, foreign variations could honor an aunt or grandma - Babette, Basia, and Varenka among them.

Selina Kyle (Catwoman)
This Batman villainess is a cultural icon - from Michelle Pfeiffer to Halle Berry to Anne Hathaway, Selina Kyle's portrayals have been influential. In fact, Selina's stint on the top 1000 started in 1959, with the 1960's Batman television series bringing the name to a wider audience. Though it's been off the list since 2008 (Selena and Celine still rank), Selina is a lovely, feminine choice that means "moon goddess" or "heavenly", depending on the origin.

Jessica Jones
Her first appearance was in 2001, making her younger than Kitty Pryde, but Jessica Jones reached new levels of popularity just this year - the eponymous Netflix show has created a new fan base. Jessica has super strength, the power of flight, and some telepathic powers; while she appears in Spider-Man and New Avengers storylines, she's got an attitude all her own. Though Jessica is still in the top 10 across the pond, the name is on the decline in the USA. Similar names that aren't quite as ubiquitous include Jessa, Jessenia, and Jerica.

Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow)
Another super-heroine who's gotten a bit of attention in recent years - thanks, Scarlett Johansson - Natasha Romanoff is a Russian-spy-turned-American-spy and a member of the Avengers. Known for her fighting and weaponry abilities, she first debuted in 1964 with black hair (later changed to red). Natasha currently ranks at #666 (happy Halloween!) and is a great alternative to trendy Natalie. Fun fact: First Daughter Sasha Obama's first name is Natasha - Sasha is her nickname.

Kara Zor-El (Supergirl)
Superman's cousin and another alien from Krypton, Supergirl has jumped in and out of DC Comics since her debut in 1959. She now has a hit series on the CW, with guest appearances on other DC television shows. Kara has similar abilities to Superman - strength, flight, etc - as well as numerous mental powers. Kara is just below the top 500, with variant Cara further down the list. It's pretty, simple, and classic - a lovely choice for any "super girl"!

Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk)
Though she's a counterpart to the Incredible Hulk, she has better powers - she retains her intelligence and emotional control when transformed. However, there has never been a live-action She-Hulk, only animated versions and video game characters. Jennifer, of course, was the top name of the 1970's and maintained popularity into the 1990's, only now declining (as moms named Jennifer choose other options). Ginevra and Juniper are more modern, beautiful choices today.

Susan "Sue" Storm (Invisible Woman, Fantastic Four)
With three Fantastic Four film reboots in the last 25 years, the Invisible Woman is visible everywhere. Sue Storm, in addition to being invisible, can project invisibility and manipulate force fields. While Susan is a long-time classic in English speaking countries, it's had quite a run - let's look at other related names! Susannah, Suzette, and Zsazsa are intriguing options, with Lily being a subtle honorific (based on Susan's meaning).

Janet van Dyne (Wasp)
She's got the power to shrink, fly, and shoot electric energy - not bad for a super-heroine based on a bug. Janet cameoed in 2015's Ant-Man, with Marvel suggesting that there may be more of Wasp in films to come. Though Janet peaked in the 1940's and 1950's, its sound is still cute and girlish, not grandma-ish. If you'd rather have a bee-related name, there are plenty available: Bina, Erlea, Deborah, and Melissa.

Pamela Isley (Poison Ivy)
The only character on this list to share her initials with her alter-ego, Poison Ivy is a force to be reckoned with. She can control plant life and release botanical toxins - fitting that she debuted in 1966, just as the green movement was getting underway. She's often paired with Harley Quinn, and wouldn't Harley and Ivy be an adorable nerdy sibset? The name Pamela, on the other hand, dropped off the top 1000 in 2011, and may need some time off before jumping back on. To contrast with the above-mentioned bees, Pamela means "honey" - as does Melina, Permilia, Esti, and Yaara.

Any super-heroines that I missed? Which is your favorite? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Emily Dickinson Names

Hello, readers!

I just finished reading a fantastic biography of Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite poets. The book is My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson, by Alfred Habegger. Though it's quite a long read at 800 pages (which includes notes, appendices, etc), I highly recommend it. It's got every detail related to Dickinson's life, as well as substantial comparisons to other Dickinson biographies. The other great thing about it - there were a lot of amazing names!

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Early nineteenth-century New England was full of all kinds of names - rare Biblical, virtuous Puritan, classic English. As I was reading, I kept a list of all of the great names I came across; some are friends and family of Dickinson, some are other figures around her life and time. There may be a few fictional - character names were excellent in 1800's novels! A few have notes attached if I felt the name was super rare or unique, or had cool data.

Let's begin!

Asahel Nettleton - Asahel means "created by God"

Osmyn Baker

Theophilus Packard

Betsey Fay Norcross

Claudius Herrick

Jemima Montague

Zebina Montague - Very little data available

Perley Gunn

Thankful Dickinson - One of the most common Puritan virtue names in the seventeenth century

Kingsley Underwood

Seneca Holland

Appleton Dickinson

Lucretia Dickinson

Gertrude Graves

Sabra Howe - Sabra means "prickly pear"

Orril Munn

Erasmus Norcross

Lamira Jones

Eudocia Carter Converse

Theodora Ward

Abiah Root - Abiah means "God is my father" - this could be a nice alternative to Abigail

Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps

Samuel Learned

Brainard Harrington - Brainard means "courageous raven"... not highly recommended, though

Edward Payson Crowell

John Long Graves

Elbridge Gridley Bowdoin

George Frisbie Whicher

Hiram Adolphus Hawkins

Phydelia Kellogg - Possibly means "faithful," though it's rarely been recorded

Fanny Boltwood

Abby Sweetser

Ebenezer Snell

Eliel Gilbert

Sophia Van Vranken

Phinehas Cooke

Rufus Choate

Ithamar Conkey - Incredibly rare Biblical name, one of the sons of Aaron

Eudocia Flynt

Fidelia Hayward Cooke

Frazar Stearns

Régis Gignoux

Cerinthia Inghram - Very little data available

Orvis F Bigelow

Ellery Strickland

Mariette Jameson

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Name Consultations

Looking for a name for your new baby or book character? Overwhelmed by books and websites? Want something personalized just for you?

A name consultation might be just the solution!

How it works: 

Email me at with your name criteria. Tell me about family names you might like to include, activities and places important to you, and values you hold dear. Let me know of any names that you can't use (cousins, siblings, etc) or any styles that you especially like or dislike. In short - tell me what you're looking for, and I'll help you find it. 

I'll write out a personalized list of ten names based on your criteria, with explanations on how I chose them and how they might work for you. If you have any questions, we can follow up via email, too. 

Because I'm new to name consultations, I'm offering the following special: the first twenty-five name consultations will be $25 each (I'm on Venmo and PayPal). You'll be getting well-thought-out lists for a low price, and I'll be gaining experience in this exciting field. 

Remember to specify in your email which gender of names you're looking for - 10 male, 10 female, 10 unisex, or 5 male/5 female. 

Thank you!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Names of Disney Villains

Hello, readers!

Halloween is coming up, and that means costumes! If you're thinking about being one of these scary Disney villains for the holiday, check out their names! And tell me your costume plans in the comments :)

Our first villain has arguably the best name-oriented song in Disney history: he uses antlers in all of his decorating! He eats five dozen eggs a morning! Ev'ryone's favorite guy! From the French for "foreigner", Gaston has been recorded in US name logs since 1881. While the film didn't show Gaston in such a positive light, the name stats weren't changed much by the release of Beauty and the Beast in 1991. Twenty-seven boys were named Gaston last year - my, what a guy!

This all-powerful sea witch was in part inspired by the singer and drag queen, Divine. And the name Ursula is truly religious - one of the first recorded wearers was Saint Ursula, a fourth-century patron saint of female students and archers, among other things. While Ursula also has a cute meaning - "little bear" - the name had been declining for a few years already when Disney used it. While many still associate Ursula with the villainess, it could make a comeback with it's many positive traits!

The conniving butler who competed with the Aristocats for Madame's wealth, his character also created a sleeping potion named after himself: "crème de la crème à la Edgar." The name Edgar is fairly popular - #317 in the top 1000 - but it's at its lowest rank in history. Will the name continue to decline, or will literary fans bring it back up the list? Creative Edgar's Degas, Burroughs, and Poe would have something to say about it.

This nefarious name was recorded in the US for the first time last year - five baby girls were named after the villainess in Sleeping Beauty. Of course, this could have something to do with the recent Angelina Jolie film - the actress has also said that the character was her favorite as a child. I know of one person whose parents considered Maleficent for her name, looking for a namesake that was a strong, intelligent woman. While the name seems to have quite a lot against it, we may see it rise in future generations of women.

A scheming hunter in Tarzan, Clayton's first name is never revealed - he's only called by his last name in the film. Though its origins are more traditional, Clayton fits into the modern trends - two syllables, ends in "ton" - and isn't completely attached to any one individual. The film had little to no effect on the name's statistics, either. Perhaps Clayton is the most usable name on the list!

When a main character is introduced as Madame Medusa, you know she's going to be up to no good. In The Rescuers, she's a greedy, diamond-obsessed pawn shop owner; the Greek goddess Medusa was known for having snakes for hair and turning mortals to stone with a look. Though the name has never been recorded in US name logs, it's certainly not impossible - as namers look for more and more unique options, names like Medusa are bound to appear! 

As the smooth-talking god of the Underworld, Hades' role in Hercules is hardly admirable. Still, the name was used for more than five boys a year in both 2014 and 2015. With a sound like Hayden and a cool s-ending - Silas, Nicholas, Jonas - it's no wonder that the name was picked. But I can't help but think a quick look at the history of Hades might turn off potential fans...

The creepy, obsessive control-freak-in-the-guise-of-a-religious-zealot had a rather common first name - Claude ranked on the top 1000 for over a century. It's the quintessential French male name, often with Jean in hyphenate. Though the film didn't have much of an effect on name stats - 108 boys in 1996 and 89 boys in 1997 - the character was often referred to by his last name, Frollo. The name Claude means "crippled," and is Roman in origin.

The scheming Royal Vizier of Agrabah certainly has a bad reputation, but his name is actually a lovely Arabic choice. Jafar means "stream", and one famous Jafar was a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. It's been used since 1975 in the United States, and actually started rising in popularity when the film Aladdin debuted - up from 7 boys to 13 to 33 in a two-year span. Perhaps the character isn't a great namesake, but the spreading the awareness of this classic name has pushed some fans to pick Jafar.

Well, if Gaston doesn't win for the best name song, Cruella De Vil certainly takes the cake! All of the 101 Dalmatians (and some human and animal friends) had to band together to get this baddie defeated. Though Cruella is a bit too cruel and devilish to catch on, it must be said that trendy Ella features in her first name. And check out this past post on Devilish Names (also featured on Nameberry) for more sizzling suggestions!

Which names did I leave out? Tell me in the comments!