Thursday, March 17, 2016

Names on the Rocks

“My God, so much I like to drink Scotch that sometimes I think my name is Igor Stra-whiskey.”
Igor Stravinsky, composer

A friend jokingly asked me the other day if I had ever come across the name "Bourbon" in my name studies. At this point, I'm far less surprised at quirky names than I used to be, so I offered to look it up for real. Despite its similar sound to Brandon or Brayden, Bourbon has not surfaced as a name in US records. But it got me thinking - what other alcoholic names are on birth certificates?

Below, I've included a list of names and the number of babies born with the name in its most popular year. Be on the lookout for your favorite drink!

Brandy - 6,957 babies in 1981
This unisex name ranked high in the 1970's and 1980's, but now has been relegated to the back of the cupboard. Still, this might be the most popular alcohol-related name in English language history!

Champagne - 43 babies in 1991
I'm stumped - maybe I'm less imaginative than I thought. I suppose the French aura and elegant feeling add some positive traits, but I can't think of any nicknames. 

Chardonnay - 45 babies in 1999
The melody of Chardonnay is undeniable, and the nicknames Char and Donna are cute. Still, I'm having trouble separating this name from the wine entirely. 

Gin - 7 babies in 1973
I'm guessing the Jennifer wave included this related nickname; no word yet on whether any of these 7 little ones prefer this over other hard liquor. 

Guinness - 9 babies in 2009
I surprise myself with how cute I think this name is. Maybe it's because of Saint Patrick's Day! 

Hennessy - 78 babies in 2009
This Irish surname, like Kennedy, has that "first name feel". The name has been fairly stable over the last decade, but I can't attest to the staying power of cognac brands. 

Martini - 12 babies in 1981
Apparently 1981 was the year for drinking and naming! I'll admit, Martini is an adorable Martin honorific, but so is Marta. (Incidentally, the name Olive is currently climbing). 

Mead - 7 babies in both 1918 and 1924
A solid surname choice, and completely nickname-proof. Still, I'm having trouble visualizing this choice as anything other than a family name. 

Merlot - 5 babies in 2009
The same friend who asked about Bourbon thought that Merlot had a cute nickname, Meryl. I think the similarities to Margot and Marlowe helped popularize it for a brief moment in time. 

Porter - 889 babies in 2014
This is also an occupational and surname choice, so it's not strictly alcohol-related. Still, Porter might be the most popular drink name at the moment! (Port also showed up briefly in the 1910's). 

Rye - 48 babies in 2012
With Ryan and Ty recently added to the list of classics, it's no wonder Rye made it. I like the connection to Rey - definitely going to trend up - and it's just a sweet name altogether. 

Sangria - 11 babies in 1975
It literally means "bleeding" and pretty much always applies to alcohol when you hear it, but I suppose the euphonic qualities won out for a few parents. 

Sherry - 9,227 babies in 1962
Alright, Sherry seems to be the most popular drink name in history (sorry, Brandy!) It's just so merry and positive, albeit a little dated to modern ears. 

Tequila - 128 babies in 1977
I would have thought celebrity Tila Tequila was the inspiration, but not in 1977... I just looked it up, and a Mexican family comedy called Sor Tequila - "Sister Tequila" - came out that year. Could this rambunctious nun be the inspiration?

Drinks that didn't show up in name records:


Let me know if I missed any!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Ides of March

"A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March."
Brutus, Julius Caesar, Act I, scene 2

Today, in honor of the ides of March, I have a list of characters from Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar. Many of these Roman names are a bit too bizarre for use today, but some of them might be just what you're looking for! (Marcus? Portia? Cato?)

Octavius Caesar
Mark Antony
Marcus Brutus (Brutus)
Decius Brutus
Metellus Cimber
Caius Ligarius
Popilius Lena

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Rare Flower Names

Hello, readers!

With names like Lily, Violet, Rose, Daisy, Dahlia, and Hazel rising up the charts, it might be nice to find names to add to the garden!

Numbers in parentheses refer to the number of babies born with the name in 2014!

Amaryllis (49)
Similar sounding names like Amelia, Emily, and even classic Amy have been popular, so why not Amaryllis? It offers a few dozen nicknames and it's floral without being allergenic.

Tulip (9)
Quirky and fun, Tulip would make for an excellent middle name choice if you can't quite get behind it as a first name. Symbolically, tulips have been associated with love and fame.

Fern (63)
The name of the kind and caring little girl in Charlotte's Web, Fern sounds down-to-earth without being dated. Fern abounds in other popular media as well, like Fern Gully and Arthur.

Daffodil (0)
I'm surprised this name hasn't been used - there is a veritable dearth of D names in my opinion, and I think the nickname Daffy is way too cute. Daffodils are also associated with new beginnings.

Lavender (46)
Usage in the Harry Potter books has kept this name alive, but just barely. I personally think the connection to the fragrant flower and pretty color is enough to make Lavender a winning choice.

Freesia (0)
There were seven baby Freesia's in 2000, but the name didn't make it into records at any other time. It's much more unusual, but the "free" sound reminds me of Frieda or Freya.

Chrysanthemum (0)
Any fan of Kevin Henkes' children's books knows the little mouse Chrysanthemum, who came to love her long name. It's a mouthful, but very sweet!

Aster (23)
I first heard this name on HBO's Dexter, but the name has been in use since the early twentieth century. It seems very grown-up, and sounds a bit like up-and-coming Astrid.

Hyacinth (7)
While Cynthia has been popular for decades, original flower name Hyacinth has never ranked in the top 1000. Variations Jacinta and Jacinda are also in use, but Hyacinth is much more elegant.

Lilac (10)
The recent trend of the double-L sound - Lily, Layla, Lola - has helped Lilac gain footing, but the uncommon -c ending has kept it rare. And wouldn't Lilac and Violet be an adorable set?

Lotus (94)
The most-used name on my list, Lotus is gaining popularity with the resurgence of New Wave names: Serenity, Genesis, etc. It was recorded for both boys and girls in 2014!

Calla (139)/Canna (0)
Calla was in the top 1000 in the nineteenth century, and Canna has been recorded a few times, but I'm not convinced. Somehow neither name seems finished to me.

Amaranth (0)
My favorite on this list, I've come across the name a few times. The name Amaranth comes from the Greek meaning "eternal, everlasting", in reference to a flower that never fades.

Fleur (0)
Another Harry Potter name, Fleur hasn't quite made a comeback the way Flora and Florence have. But it's a lovely, French option that's nickname-proof!

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

16 Gothic Literary Names for Your Baby

Hello, readers!

I'll be writing two columns a month for On the List, a column at the Baby Name Wizard blog! I may be reducing my weekly blog posts here to about 3-5, rather than 6.

Here's a link to my post!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Happy International Women's Day!

Hello, readers!

Today, March 8th, is International Women's Day! Started as a political celebration within the Socialist Part in the early 20th century, the day has since grown to a worldwide celebration of women and gender equality. The UN designated it an official holiday in 1977.

Below, I've listed some of the names of women who started the holiday. Tell me if I missed anyone in the comments!

Luise Zietz - German Socialist politician

The proposer of Women's Day, Luise Zietz sought to bring further attention to women's suffrage through the new holiday. Socialists around Europe immediately promoted this idea, and the proposal was passed at the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in 1910. 

Luise is the German feminine variant of Louis, meaning "renowned warrior". 

Clara Zetkin - German Marxist activist

The chairwoman of the Second International Conference of Socialist Women, Clara Zetkin was a German Socialist activist, writer, and leader. Focusing on class and equality, she sought radical change to improve the lives of all women. 

Clara comes from Latin for "bright" or "clear", and currently stands at #108 in the US. 

Alexandra Kollontai - Russian Bolshevik politician

A Russian radical, Alexandra Kollontai later became the highest ranking female official in Lenin's government. Like Zetkin, she emphasized the relationship between wealth, class, and gender, and believed in the power of the people. 

Alexandra is the Greek feminine name for "defender of men", and stands at #92 in the US. 

Female names that mean "strength": 


Female names that mean "power": 


Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Artist Names: Dutch Golden Age

Hallo, lezers!

Today's post is another installment in Artist Names, this time focusing on the Dutch Golden Age! In the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic (now more or less the Netherlands) had entered a time of prosperity, leading to increases in cultural wealth. Artists and artisans flourished during this time, and some of the most iconic paintings were created during this century.

Again, there are a lot of old white men listed, and one white woman. Tell me what other eras, places, and people you'd like me to focus on for this series!

Pieter Claesz
A painter of still lifes, Pieter Claesz focused on portrayed light and texture in the most realistic way possible. Reflections and symbols are also a large part of his work - he followed the ideals of the Vanitas movement, which sought to remind the wealthy Dutch people that material prosperity could not compare to spiritual riches. The name Pieter is the Dutch form of Peter, from the Greek meaning "rock". Pieter is in the top 100 names in the Netherlands, and could be a cool ancestral honorific. Otherwise, the spelling might confuse native English speakers.

Aelbert Jacobsz Cuyp
Coming from a family of artists, Aelbert Cuyp was a leading painter in Dutch landscapes. He also focused on illustrating light, but sought to portray natural exterior light rather than interior light. Interestingly, his involvement with the Calvinist Church seems to have halted his career: the superficiality of art was not a spiritual ideal. Aelbert and Jacobsz are the Dutch cognates of Albert and Jacob. Jacob is obviously popular in the US, but Albert has also been trending up recently due to the retro trends and its many namesakes!

Carel Pietersz Fabritius
A pupil of Rembrandt, Carel Fabritius developed a lighter, more unique style than many of his colleagues before his untimely death in a neighborhood explosion. Only a handful of his paintings survived. One such painting (The Goldfinch, above) gained publicity recently when a fictional book about the painting topped the bestseller list in 2013 (it's excellent and I highly recommend it). The name Carel is a variation of Charles, and sounds a bit like the feminine Carol. However, I think Carel, nickname Cary, could be a nice alternative to Cory or Charlie!

Judith Jans Leyster
One of the few notable female names that survived history, Judith Leyster was known for her upbeat portrait paintings. Her work was ascribed to male artist Frans Hals for years until proven hers. She was greatly involved in the artist community during her life, and collaborated with many. The name Judith, after declining for decades, has recently begun to rise again. The name means "woman from Judea", and is mentioned in the Bible and Torah. The nickname Jude is a nice upgrade from dated Judy, and could be perfect for a strong little one!

Rembrandt van Rijn
Arguably the most important artist in Dutch history, Rembrandt van Rijn is well-known today for his paintings and etchings. Rembrandt himself identified his goal to produce "the greatest and most natural movement" on canvas, and his many landscapes, portraits, and etchings show his desire for naturalism. While the name Rembrandt is pretty much only associated with the artist, there were 5 Rembrandt's born in the US in 2011, and 10 born in 2013. I think the name would make an excellent middle name - as a first it would be heck to live up to!

Johannes Vermeer
Famous for Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer was not much of a success during his lifetime. He made few paintings and little money - only recently has much of his life and work come to light. Vermeer focused on domestic interior scenes, which makes sense, being that he had an extensive family - his ten children were named Maertge, Elisabeth, Cornelia, Aleydis, Beatrix, Johannes, Gertruyd, Franciscus, Catharina, and Ignatius. The name Johannes lives on in the US through John, and I personally think the names of his children are more unusual and interesting!

Tell me your favorite names in the comments!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Saturday Jams: Since U BEN Gone

Songs about Ben, Benjamin, and Benny for your weekend :)

"Bennie and the Jets", Elton John, 1973

"Ben", Michael Jackson, 1972

"Sayonara Anyway/Ben Lee", Klinger, 2000

"Ellen and Ben", The Dismemberment Plan, 2001

"Ben Lee", Ben Lee covering the Atari's, 2009

Friday, March 4, 2016

Name News 3/4/16

Girls’ Names from Medieval London (not the usual ones!) -
I love finding names that are old in use but unique to the modern ear! I think my favorite from this list is Isolda, the Spanish variation of Isolde.

Boys’ Names from Medieval London (not the usual ones!) -
And part two of the Medievalist's set! It's interesting to see that the -yn ending for names was popular in medieval times, too: Manekyn and Anketyn are on the list!

50 Non-Biblical Baby Names - Nancy Man, Nancy's Baby Names
What a cool project! I'm excited to see how the series continues. And I love that Edwin, my dad's name, is first on the list!

Leap Year Baby Names: 14 Unique Ideas For Your Little Leapling - Isabelle Khoo, HuffPost CA
Such cute names on this list! I love Delta and Sadie, the southern feel is adorable.

That's MY child's name! For some parents, baby-name theft is no joke - Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, Today Parents
What do you think, readers? I tend towards the opinion that no one person "owns" a name, but it can be disappointing when a friend chooses a favorite!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Throwback Thursday: World's Oldest People

Hello, readers!

Today's Throwback Thursday post will be looking at the list of the hundred oldest people in history! (Those verified, of course, since Methuselah's birth certificate is hard to come by). The majority are American and Japanese, though the oldest in history was French.

Jeanne Calment
Sarah Knauss
Lucy Hannah
Marie-Louise Meilleur
Misao Okawa
María Capovilla
Gertrude Weaver
Susannah Mushatt Jones
Tane Ikai
Elizabeth Bolden
Besse Cooper
Emma Morano
Jiroemon Kimura
Jeralean Talley
Violet Brown
Maggie Barnes
Dina Manfredini
Christian Mortensen
Charlotte Hughes
Edna Parker
Nabi Tajima
Mary Ann Rhodes
Margaret Skeete
Bernice Madigan
Gertrude Baines
Emiliano Mercado del Toro
Bettie Wilson
Julie Winnefred Bertrand
Maria de Jesus
Susie Gibson
Augusta Holtz
Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper
Maude Farris-Luse
Marie Brémont
Koto Okubo
Antonia Gerena Rivera
Chiyono Hasegawa
Annie Jennings
Eva Morris
Kama Chinen
Maria Gomes Valentim
Mary Bidwell
Chiyo Miyako
Mary Josephine Ray
Goldie Steinberg
Kiyoko Ishiguro
Maria do Couto Maia-Lopes
Ramona Trinidad Iglesias-Jordan
Eugénie Blanchard
Venere Pizzinato-Papo
Neva Morris
Hide Ohira
Blanche Cobb
Ethel Lang
Mathew Beard
Yone Minagawa
María Antonia Castro
Carrie Lazenby
Ura Koyama
Myrtle Dorsey
Anna Eliza Williams
Walter Breuning
Eunice Sanborn
Grace Clawson
Tase Matsunaga
Yukichi Chuganji
Kame Nakamura
Lydie Vellard
Wilhelmina Kott
Adelina Domingues
Mitoyo Kawate
Charlotte Benkner
Camille Loiseau
Anne Primout
Ettie Mae Greene
Dominga Velasco
Irene Frank
Christina Cock
Toshie Yorimitsu
Eudoxie Baboul
Olivia Patricia Thomas
Matsuyo Kageyama
Ana María Vela Rubio
Anna Henderson
Emma Verona Johnston
Mamie Rearden
Bettie Chatmon
Odie Matthews
Chiyo Shiraishi
Asa Takii
Florence Knapp
Elena Slough
Lucy Jane Askew
Mary Anna Boone
María del Carmen López
Waka Shirahama
Delma Kollar
Joan Riudavets
Suekiku Miyanaga

My favorites from the list include Jeralean, Augusta, Eugénie, Venere, Lydie, Ettie Mae, Eudoxie, Odie, Delma, and Chiyo. Tell me yours in the comments!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Over the Garden Wall Names

Somewhere, lost in the clouded annals of history lies a place that few have seen- a mysterious place, called the Unknown, where long-forgotten stories are revealed to those who travel through the wood.

Narrator, Over the Garden Wall, "The Old Grist Mill"

In 2014, Cartoon Network broadcast a miniseries entitled Over the Garden Wall, created by Patrick McHale. This ten-episode animation focused on two brothers trying to get home through a mysterious land, dealing with fantastic events and characters along the way.

Featuring the actors Elijah Wood, Christopher Lloyd, Melanie Lynskey, Tim Curry, John Cleese, and Bebe Neuwirth (among others), the miniseries won quite a few awards. I highly recommend watching! It's rated PG, so use discretion when showing the series to kids.

Until watching Over the Garden Wall, I had never heard the name Wirt before. According to various sources, it either means "host" or "one who is worthy". Wirt was recorded as a name in the US in the first half of the 20th century, but hasn't been used since 1959. I'm not sure how much I like the sound of the name, but the connotation with the coming-of-age main character is a plus!

The name Gregory has been declining in recent years, but adorable little brother Greg in OTGW might give the name a boost! Greg means "watchful" and aurally connects to gregarious, meaning "sociable". It's less expected than George or Gary, but it still has a classic vibe.

The bluebird who helps Wirt and Greg through the Unknown is, of course, called Beatrice - a reference to the guide in Dante's Divine Comedy. Beatrice means "she who brings happiness", and its vintage sound and literary links will keep it rising in popularity. Beatrice is also a personal favorite, and the nickname options - Bea, Betty, Trish - are lovely, too!

The shy young caretaker of Auntie Whispers, Lorna has an unusual secret that surprises Wirt and Greg in episode 7. The name Lorna was a literary creation for Lorna Doone, based on Lorne, Scotland (which also seems to have unknown origins). It's a pretty alternative to Laura or Lauren.

The most popular Q-name for many years, Quincy was associated with stuffy nobility for awhile - hence the snobby character in the miniseries. But today, Quincy is at #622, so not too shabby! There are plenty of non-elite Quincy's out there that would make for excellent namesakes. And of course, the Q initial is quirky and fun!

This version of Marguerite has been in use for awhile, but the single-T version is more established. It's the French form of Margaret, meaning "pearl". Marguerite is a personal name crush - I love it for its French sound, feminine vibe, and beautiful meaning.

With Eli and Noah topping the charts, it's no surprise that Enoch is moving up the top 1000 very quickly! Enoch comes from the Hebrew for "dedicated", and a few Enoch's are listed in the Torah and Bible. There are a lot of cool historical namesakes, and the name has come up in pop culture recently - see Boardwalk Empire and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

Other names in the series include Jimmy, Fred, Jason, Sara, and countless nicknames for Greg's pet frog. Watch if you can!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Literary Names: The Divine Comedy

O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?
Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, Canto XII, line 95

Today's Literary Names will continue the classical theme - see the Iliad and Odyssey posts - with a look at Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. Set in three parts, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, the epic poem is a story of one man's journey through the afterlife.


Born Durante degli Alighieri in 1265, Dante is now considered one of the fathers of the Italian language, and is counted among their greatest poets. In the Divine Comedy, he styles himself as a pilgrim touring through Hell, Purgatory, Heaven, taking lessons from their inhabitants. The name Dante means "enduring", and was originally a diminutive of Durant or Durante. It's now at #314, well in use in the US. With the current Italian trends, I'm guessing the name with continue to rise!

Dante's guide through the afterlife, Virgil was actually an ancient Roman poet who inspired the author. His character in the poem is that of a teacher and mentor. The name Virgil was incredibly popular in the US until a slow decline began in the 1930's. Despite the name's true meaning - "staff bearer" - it does sound like "virgin", which could make teasing easier. However, there are many namesake Virgil's throughout history, and this name would be a unique honorific.

The love of both fictional and real Dante's life, Beatrice represents the divine love to which he aspires. She acts as his guide through heaven, when the pagan Virgil must leave. The name Beatrice means "she who brings happiness", and has recently been on the rise with other vintage names. Her character in the Divine Comedy is certainly saintly, but there are many other great (and real) Beatrice's out there. On a personal note, Beatrice is the name of the bird-slash-guide in my favorite animated miniseries Over the Garden Wall, a reference to Dante's work.

One half of the tragic adulterous duo in Hell, Paolo Malatesta is based on a historical figure who had an affair with his brother's wife. Though their story is meant to be a cautionary tale, it has been romanticized over the years, like Romeo and Juliet, and Tristan and Isolde. The name Paolo is beautiful and friendly - a much more unique alternative to the English Paul. The name means "small", yet the effect will be anything but!

The other half of the adulterous duo, Francesca da Rimini was the doomed lover of Paolo trapped in a loveless marriage. Their story has also been immortalized in Auguste Rodin's sculpture, The Kiss. Unlike Paolo, the name Francesca has been embraced wholeheartedly by American audiences - it's currently at #426 on the US top 1000. It means "from France, or free [wo]man", but the sound is undoubtedly Italian. Frances and Frankie are two other cute options.

Dante's last guide through paradise, St. Bernard helps Dante in his quest to meet God. In life, St. Bernard was an abbot and doctor of the church - and no, he's not the same St. Bernard after whom the breed of dog was named. The name Bernard has been declining in recent years, so it's definitely an individual choice. Bernard means "strong as a bear", and has the adorable (and politically relevant) nickname Bernie!

One of the two pagans who wait in Purgatory for Judgment Day, Cato the Younger was really a statesmen in the Roman Empire. He's remembered for his moral integrity, which inspired Dante to write his character positively in Purgatorio. The name Cato has recently received attention for its prominence in The Hunger Games, though the character in the book is an antagonist. The name means "all-knowing", and it should definitely be on popularity watchlists!

Which names are your favorites? Tell me in the comments!