Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Peaceful Names for Spring

Hello, readers!

In the springtime, we tend to hear a lot of lovely botanical names that celebrate the natural world - Daisy, Violet, and Lily included. Let's look at some less-obvious seasonal choices that relate to the beautiful concept of peace.


Image via Flickr

Some of these names mean "peace," and some are related indirectly. Let me know if I missed any in the comments!

Absalom - "father of peace"
Abel and Abraham are beloved today - why not Absalom? It can shorten to Abi or Sal, both excellent unexpected nickname for boys. Absalom, Absalom is a famous novel by William Faulkner, giving this name both Biblical and literary credibility. 

Callum - "dove"
Simple and handsome, Callum is an attractive Scottish choice relating to a major symbol of peace. It's an intriguing alternative to Caleb or Colin, but it's familiar enough to be on American playgrounds. 

Concordia - "peace, harmony"
If elegant and feminine is your style, Concordia hits all the right notes - it's unusual but not unheard-of; it has a wide range of nickname opportunities - Connie, Cora, or Cori; and it's formally similar to Cordelia, Victoria, and Georgia

Frida - "peaceful"
With Freya gaining traction, artistic Frida could find an audience. There's the fabulous Kahlo reference, but dozens of famous Fridas line the history books. This would also be a quirky way to honor a familial Frederick

Giotto - "pledge of peace"
Dapper Italian choices like Leonardo and Giovanni have become popular recently, and Giotto would fit right in. It's got an edgy O-ending and an art historical connection too: Giotto di Bondone was an early contributor to Renaissance painting. 

Humphrey - "peaceful warrior"
The phrase "so clunky it's cool" is used more and more these days in name articles - retro classics are being dusted off and revisited. Humphrey is definitely part of this trend, with its old Hollywood connections and eccentric sound. (Can't think of a good nickname... tell me your ideas in the comments!)

Iria - mythological name
Just one letter off from darling Aria, Iria is the Portuguese form of Irene. It may take a bit of explaining, but this gorgeous choice has a more ethereal and heavenly vibe. Irene is the goddess of peace in Greek mythology. 

Kazumi - "beautiful peace"
This sweet name is popular in Japan for both boys and girls. Americans may be more familiar with Kazumi via various anime/manga series, but it was also recorded periodically between 1915 and 1930. 

Mirela - "peace, world"
Something between Mira and Mila, Mirela is a pretty euphonic name used in Slavic countries. Mirela is also the name of a famous singer in Spain, a connection that's helped its popularity over the years. 

Paloma - "dove"
Both sophisticated and unembellished, Paloma is a wonderful middle ground between the feminine and the friendly. Nicknames Polly or Loma could spice it up, but it's not necessary - Paloma is positive and strong all on its own. 

Pax - "peaceful"
Though Paxton is in the top 300, Pax has yet to hit the top 1000. Yet the shorter form is far less faddish (-ton ending) and more historically grounded. Pax's Latin influence is mitigated by its aural closeness to Max or Paul, and its purity shines through. 

Poppy - botanical name
Well, it is spring, and flower choices abound. The white poppy is a symbol of peace and pacifism, hence its inclusion here. Poppy has become a huge success across the pond, but Americans have yet to follow suit. Still, this bright and beautiful name deserves some attention. 

Sadako - "child of integrity"
Sadako Sasaki is famous for her quest to fold 1000 paper cranes after being diagnosed with cancer from the Hiroshima bombing in 1945 - books and stories have been told about this little girl, and her desire to find peace in a war-torn world. Sadako's name is worth considering as a lovely honorific. 

Salem - "peace"
Place names like Brooklyn and Madison have found new homes on birth certificates, with Salem an uncommon new option. There are a few Salems in the US - including the site of the witch trials - but this name is independently amiable and appealing. 

Winifred - "friend of peace"
Nickname-name Winnie has been a celebrity fave recently, but long form Winifred still seems stuck in the mud. Could its meaning lend it some allure? It's got strength and substance, with an adorable vintage nickname, so Winifred may win eventually. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Happy National Beer Day!

Hello, readers!

On this day in 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, legalizing the sale of beer in the United States. Since then, beer aficionados have celebrated their freedom to imbibe on April 7th! Let's join in the excitement and look at some sudsy names, inspired by beer brands.


For more substance-related names, check out Names Up in Smoke and Names on the Rocks!

Bud
Though it ranked on the top 1000 from 1880-1965, Bud hasn't retained too many fans. Granted, it's a rather short word name that's almost too familiar. Still, I have a special place in my heart for Bud, since it was my grandfather's name - he wore an altered Budweiser hat, too.

Miller 
Another well-known choice, but for surnames - Miller is the seventh most common last name in the United States. That hasn't kept parents from choosing this handsome, friendly name. Miller has joined Carter and Parker in the surname trend, but it's still fresh enough to stand out.

Guinness
The best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland, Guinness has more than a few supporters in the US, too. Guinness has actually been recorded as a first name a few times since 2000. Perhaps Nessie or Guy work as nicknames? Either way, this eccentric choice was assuredly inspired by beer.

Corona
It's Spanish for "crown," but many Americans know this brand as the top-selling imported beer in the United States. Corona was recorded a handful of times between 1912 and 1980 - could it work as an alternative to Cora or Corinne? It's still "miles away from ordinary," to be sure.

Stella (Artois)
This Belgian beer was named for the Christmas star, since it debuted in winter 1926. Stella is even more popular today than it was then, currently ranking in the top 100. It's pretty and feminine, yet maintains a vintage sound and sassy vibe.

Samuel (Adams)
Though the real Samuel Adams focused his work in politics and government, he dallied a bit in beer production. The beer sold under his name today was named in honor of this! Samuel is a Biblical classic, having never left the top 100. It's simple and attractive, as well as a great cross-cultural pick.

Sierra (Nevada)
A nature name that calls to mind adventure and exploration, Sierra has begun to decline since its peak in the late 1990's. It's a beautiful and resolute choice, with a feminine bend. The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company was established in 1979, and has become the seventh-largest in the US.

Foster 
Despite its reputation as the quintessential Australian beer, Foster's Lager is most enjoyed in the United Kingdom. Foster, like abovementioned Miller, is a very popular surname that's recently been discovered by baby namers - it's numbers are on the rise!

Beck
The fourth largest brewery in Germany, Beck's Brewery has been in American news recently - drinkers report disappointment at the varieties made in the US. As a name, Beck is a great, boyish option, perfect for fans of Jack and Ben. The eponymous musician adds an edge to this name as well.

Asahi
This Japanese name has a gorgeous meaning: "morning sun." It's also the name of one of the most popular Japanese breweries. If Asa isn't your taste, why not Asahi? It's been used a few times since 2005, with ten boys last year given the name.

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Name News - 3-20-17

There’s a name for it — racism - Vanessa Hua - San Francisco Chronicle

"When I got married, it would have been the perfect opportunity to change my last name to my husband’s Serbian one. But I’d spent years building my byline, and I didn’t want to give up the name or the heritage my father had passed down to me."

An excellent look at name bias in the US. Sidenote: the middle names Huajin and Huaren for her twins are so beautiful and meaningful!

Dear Prudence - What's in a name? - Mallory Ortberg, Slate

"Some people love getting nicknamed, but it would give me more than a little pause if someone I had just started seeing told me, “I don’t like your name. Let me call you something else,” no matter how they tried to soften it or dress it up."

Despite the fact that I have very strong opinions about names, I don't think I've ever disliked someone's name so much I asked to call them something else. Anyone else familiar with this issue? Conversely, if you dislike your own name, do you tell other people to call you a nickname?

How Scarlett Got Its Groove Back - Ben Blatt, Slate

"The Social Security Administration has never, since its starting history in 1880, recorded a baby Frodo. It’s not the same for female characters in fantasy series. Though the name suffered an 80-year drought between 1923 and 2002, in 2003 the United States welcomed five baby Hermoines."

Though there are a LOT of unsubstantiated claims in this article, I like the idea of looking at name spikes based on pop culture trends. Perhaps we'll one day see if movies or books influence namers more?

What's Your Starbucks Name? - Svati Kirsten Narula, The Atlantic

"I'm not ashamed of my name, but I prefer to reserve conversations about it for less hurried, less public interactions. A back-and-forth about the spelling, pronunciation, origin, and meaning of "Svati" can be fun, even necessary—at a cocktail party, during an interview, on a date. While ordering coffee? Not so much."

I find it interesting that those with "Starbucks' Names" in this article tend towards either end of the popularity spectrum - John vs. Svati, for example. My name has yet to be so common, but as more Emily's grow up and head to coffee shops, perhaps I'll need to find an alter ego...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Welsh Names from Hinterland

Hello, readers!

As an avid Netflix fan and self-taught television critic, I tend to find myself binge-watching programs I hadn't heard of the week before. My current addiction? The Welsh crime drama Hinterland (Y Gwyll). According to its Wikipedia page, the show is part of a movement to show more Welsh language and culture on the BBC. Thanks to this diversity push, Netflix audiences (myself included) get to hear more awesome Welsh names!


Though the show has both English and Welsh versions (I've been watching the English), the names of characters, towns, and regions are primarily Welsh. Below I've compiled a list of Welsh names featured on the series, with a few notes on their origins and popularity. 

***Note - Any tips on finding accurate name etymologies is appreciated! I have a feeling a few of my sources aren't entirely trustworthy.***

Awn ni!

Awen - Means "muse," a pretty mix between Owen and Arwen

Sian - Pronounced "shahn," this variation of Jane is so sophisticated

Dafydd - Variant of David, a popular choice

Hywel - Means "eminent," used for royalty

Catrin - Variant of Catherine, simple and sweet

Mared - My personal favorite, a unique version of Margaret

Idris - Thanks to Elba, Americans already recognize this rugged choice

Caradog - Derived from the Celtic for "love"

Ffion - Almost too popular in Wales, but perfect for import - pronounced "FEE-on"

Ceri - A unisex pick that sounds like Kerry

Enid - Fits the "so clunky it's cool" trend, and means "spirit" or "life"

Nia - A short form of Niamh, very popular in the UK

Gwilym - Variant of William, unusual in the States

Dic - Nickname for Richard, but wouldn't work in many English-speaking communities

Lowri - This variant of Laurel could make a great honor name

Wyn - Meaning "fair," this concise choice is one to watch

Gwyneth - Not just for Paltrow anymore!

Iwan - Classic Welsh choice, similar to Ian or Owen

Winfred - Another addition to the "so out that it's in" group

Mari - Variant of Mary, popular nickname option

Rhodri - Means "wheel," cool alternative to Riley or Rory

Siwan - Variant of Joan, pronounced "sheh-VAHN"

Iori - Short form of Iorwerth (?), also found in Japanese

Bedwyr - Arthurian name unlike any I've seen!

Alun - Variant of Alan, also a river in Wales

Endaf - Possible meaning of "goods"? (See above note regarding sources)

Geraint - Another Arthurian name, uncommon alternative to Garrett

Morgan - Quintessential Welsh name, still timeless and attractive

Glyn - Means "valley," variant of Glen/n

Bethan - Chic version of Elizabeth, an update to fading Bethany

Branwen - Means "beautiful raven," a great find to bring to the US!

Huw - I really love the spelling of this name, it's so friendly

Esyllt - Variant of Isolde, bit too close to Ethel in sound for modern usage

Aled - Another river in Wales, with an uncertain etymology

Eluned - Ethereal and beautiful, Eluned sounds like a princess' name

Harri - Fabulous spelling variation of handsome Harry

Gareth - Popular in Wales, could gain American fans in a snap

Medi - Means "September," but a bit too medical in my opinion

Rhian - Pronounced "REE-ahn," a lovely name meaning "maiden"

Arwyn - Variant of Arwen, but still traditional

Abi - Short form of Abigail, stylish and sleek

Delyth - Means "pretty," and the sound stays true to that!

Annes - Variant of Agnes, means "pure"

I was also delighted to see a pair of brothers named Caleb and Aron!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Barbie Names

Hello, readers!

On March 9th, 1959, Barbie made her debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York, and an icon was born. This classic doll has become a constant object in the lives of little girls all over the world - from her fashion sense to her career forays, Barbie has become a medium for imaginative play.

As a Barbie girl growing up - I had ninety dolls at one point - playing Barbies was one of my first experiences experimenting with names. I made extensive Barbie families of my own, and I memorized Barbie's friends and family names. Let's look at some of these names surrounding the classic toy!



I've included relevant full names and surnames in parentheses. Since many of these have a rather mid-century style, I've included international- and nickname-variants. 

Barbie (Barbara Millicent Roberts)
Named for founder Ruth Handler's daughter Barbara, Barbie has now become almost-unusable thanks to the eponymous icon. The name ranked on the popularity charts throughout the 1960's, but dropped off once the doll became a household name. More uncommon forms of Barbara include Babette, Basia, and Varenka

Ken (Carson)
Barbie's longtime boyfriend Ken has been available for purchase since 1961, and available to other single dolls since 2004, when he and Barbie broke up. Ken reached its height in the early 1960's, along with top-twenty contender Kenneth, but it has a dated feel now as well. Alternatives include Kent or Kendall, if you like the sound of the name!

Midge (Midge Hadley Sherwood)
The first best friend for Barbie debuted in 1963, but made waves in 2002 - her character was married to male doll Alan, and Midge was sold with a removable pregnant stomach and baby inside. Though the "controversy" around this died down, Midge might have more problems these days as a name. Surname Hadley, however, is becoming a new attractive favorite.

Christie 
The first "black Barbie" was Christie, Barbie's best friend since 1968. It seems especially meaningful now that she debuted that year, and that her character is one of the longest-running in the franchise. While Christie and its many forms are no longer as popular, rarer variants include Ina and Kiki

Teresa (Rivera)
Another best friend was introduced in 1988 - Teresa, a Latina/Italian doll (her heritage is ambiguous). Teresa is still included in today's Barbie World, but her name has been on the decline. Teresa has some beautiful religious connotations in addition to its pretty form - to honor a familial Teresa, try Tessa, Terra, or Therese

Nikki (Nicole O'Neil)
For over ten years now Nikki has been a part of Barbie's long line of best friends, and her presence is especially notable in web and television series. Nikki continues to be a cute nickname choice, but more unusual long forms like Nikita and Nicolina offer more flair. 

Summer (Gordon)
Blaine's little sister (see below) and friend to Barbie, Summer is known for her athleticism. The name has been relatively common since the 1970's, with fans appreciating its positive and warm feeling. There are dozens of real and fictional Summer namesakes, too!

Raquelle 
A mixed-race Asian-American doll, Raquelle is fairly new to the franchise - she debuted in 2007. With Rachel a consistent classic, Raquelle and Raquel could gain name fans looking for a more unique vibe. Raquel is popular especially in Spanish-speaking countries. 

Skipper (Roberts)
Barbie's little sister appeared in 1964; smaller and "younger" than Barbie, she was meant to look more like a teenager. The name Skipper was recorded sporadically for boys throughout the twentieth century - while it does fit in with surname and occupational name trends, it's still very much attached to the doll (or Gilligan's Island). 

Stacie (Anastasia Tutti Roberts)
Another sister for Barbie, Stacie first appeared as "Tutti" in the 1960's and was reinvented in 1990. While the long list of Stacie names and spellings have subsided, long form Anastasia is still elegant and feminine. Could it be the next Victoria?

Todd (Roberts)
Barbie's little brother hasn't been too prevalent in Mattel's franchise, but he's worth noting. Todd was originally the twin brother of Tutti (or Stacie, depending on the packaging), and remains a rare doll today. The name Todd peaked in the early 1970's, but could make a comeback today with its concise sound and friendly vibe. 

Kelly (Roberts)
Toddler-sized Kelly - known as Shelly in Europe - was a huge hit in the late 1990's and early 2000's, before the doll was discontinued. Another of Barbie's many sisters, Kelly's name is slightly more modern, but already on the decline. Similar energetic Irish names include Riley and Kennedy

Blaine (Gordon)
Australian Blaine appeared on Barbie's arm after her breakup with Ken. Though their romance was a bit shorter - two years versus forty-three - Blaine had an effect on Barbie fans worldwide. Today, Blaine dolls are no longer being produced, but the name Blaine continues to shine. It's similar enough to Blake or Lane, but has a personality all its own. 

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Names from Calvin and Hobbes

Hello, readers!

Today's post is a study of one of my favorite comic strips, Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. If you aren't familiar with this excellent artistry, check out any of the compilation books and enjoy! The strip focuses on precocious six-year-old Calvin and his tuna-loving tiger Hobbes, and it explores everything from philosophical concepts to religious doctrines to terrible babysitters.


The strip ran from 1985-95, and it's still regarded as a classic, with its influences extending into today's funny pages (see the adorable documentary Dear Mr. Watterson for more about its impact). Let's look at some of the names associated with this great comic!

Calvin
Named for John Calvin, a major player in the Protest Reformation (and the founder of Calvinsim), six-year old Calvin more than lives up to his name - he's intelligent, funny, and very observant. The name Calvin has never been far from the top 200, and it even shows a bump in popularity during the strip's run. Nickname Cal is cute, but the full form has strength and tenacity. 

Hobbes
Calvin's stuffed (or real?) tiger is named for Thomas Hobbes, a seventeenth-century founder of modern philosophy. Though this English surname is now more associated with the comic strip, Hobbes has begun to appear in name records - it was given to twelve boys in 2015 (it's like we're watching Millennials begin to name their children). Hobbes is a diminutive of Robert, and fits in well with today's trends towards surnames. 

Susie Derkins
Calvin's nemesis (and possible crush) is Susie, a match for the boy in intelligence, wit, and cunning. Fans of the series have even created a sequel comic strip in which Calvin and Susie end up married.
While Susie is associated with mid-century name Susan, the nickname could gain more of a following now that Sadie and Maisie are back in the mix.

Rosalyn
Possibly the only person Calvin truly fears and respects is Rosalyn, his teenage babysitter. Though she does seem to enjoy spending time with him, she is a no-nonsense kind of girl - and Calvin is all nonsense. Rosalyn has begun to rise again, thanks to True Blood and the -lyn trend, and this pretty name could reach fans of both vintage and modern sensibilities.

Moe
The school bully, Moe is a kid of few (monosyllabic) words. Though Moe is still connected with the Three Stooges and The Simpsons, it could make a comeback in a few years - its simple sound and (mostly) friendly vibe is appealing. Moe is also a common nickname for M names for both boys and girls.

Max 
Calvin's uncle makes an appearance in one or two strips, visiting Calvin's family. Funnily enough, there are a few Uncle Max's in cinema and television, prior to the resurgence of the name for kids.
Handsome and traditional Max is now at #118, with longer forms like Maxwell, Maximilian, and Maxim providing support.

Tracer Bullet
One of Calvin's alter-ego's is Tracer Bullet, a noir-style detective. Though Trace became a favorite in the last couple of decades, it's on the decline - perhaps active Tracer could gain some fans? It's been recorded sporadically between 1996 and 2015, and trades the country music association for a creative and boyish feeling.

Mabel Syrup
The author of Calvin's favorite book, Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie, Mabel Syrup isn't incredibly prevalent in the strip (though she seems to be very creative!) While Mabel had a long hiatus from the top 1000, it's been steadily moving back up the list since 2013. This sweet and retro name deserves its resurgence!

Charlie
Rosalyn's boyfriend (and Calvin's competition for her attention) is named Charlie. This standard nickname for Charles has extended to the girls in recent years, with kids of all genders receiving the names Charlie, Charlee, and Charley.

Maurice 
One of the monsters under Calvin's bed identifies himself as Maurice. This name has been on the decline for awhile - better variants include Morrison or Moss.

Winslow
Another monster under Calvin's bed, but this time with a cooler name - Winslow fits in well with Willow and Wyatt. Nickname Win is fantastic, too!

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Unique U Names

Hello, readers!

Vowel-heavy names seem to be the trend these days - from Isabella to Emma to Ava, parents are enjoying the open sounds. One vowel that's rather less-used? U.

Only 4/2000 names in the top 1000 (for both boys and girls) begin with U: Ulises, Uriah, Uriel, and Urijah. Notice that they're all male - no U names rank for girls! Let's look at some rare options that could make a comeback in today's world.


Uli
A short and snappy gender-neutral choice, Uli was originally a diminutive of Ulrich. Today, this name would fit in with other cute concise picks, like Leo or Ari.

Ultima
With brand names like Armani and Chanel in the mix, why not try Ultima? It's Latin for "last", and it has a strength and determination not found in many names.

Uma
Though Uma is Sanskrit in origin, it's most associated with American actress Uma Thurman. In 2015, sixty-six girls were given this lovely name - it's not just for Hollywood types!

Umber
While Amber and Ember have stayed in the girls' lane, Umber is a more distinctive choice that could side with the boys. It's a beautiful color choice with links to the classic Italian Umberto.

Umeko
Pretty and unusual (at least in the US), this Japanese name has two notable namesakes - Tsuda Umeko, a pioneering feminist educator, and Umeko Ando, an Ainu musician.

Una
Many will recognize the connection to "one", but Una has another origin - it's an ancient Irish name meaning "lamb." It's beautiful and unique, a fantastic alternative to Anna or Luna.

Unity
Modern virtue names have been sweeping the top 1000, from Serenity to Trinity. Friendly and fierce Unity fits in with this trend, and especially works with Una as a nickname.

Upton
Preppy and posh, Upton has been sporadically recorded in the United States. It's associated with writer Upton Sinclair, as well as model Kate Upton.

Urban
Once a papal choice, now connected with country music - Urban is a name that spans multiple styles and tastes. It's a cool alternative to the current ends-in-an names, too.

Ursula
Relatively popular in the 1960's and 70's, Ursula's fame diminished with the prevalence of Disney's eponymous sea witch. But today, strong and uncommon feminine names are appreciated again.

Usain
Olympian Usain Bolt brought this name to national attention in recent years. It's a variant of Arabic Hasan, meaning "handsome" - and it starts with the letters USA!

Uzziah
An Old Testament choice with two Z's? Uzziah could very well join such names as Elijah and Isaiah on the popularity charts, with the machi nickname Uzi (not required).

Any names I missed? Tell me in the comments!