Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pokemon Names... For Kids

Hello, readers!

If you live under a rock, or in a dark cave away from civilization, you probably haven't noticed the hordes of Pokemon Go players who've flooded the streets in the past week. This virtual reality game has gotten virtually everyone playing - 47 million, last I heard - and it's hard not to get into it once you start playing. I myself am a level 15 on Team Mystic, and I'm not sure where I found the time.

There are a few hundred Pokemon types currently, with names ranging from Squirtle to Charmander to Bulbasaur. It got me thinking - are there any kids with Pokemon names?

Based on the original 150 pokemon - I found the list here - I'm going through to see which Pokemon names have been deemed worthy enough to bestow on children. Of course, not all of these names were chosen for their connection to the franchise! 

Disclaimer: I never played Pokemon as a kid, so bear with me on the descriptions. 

Human Characters

Ash Ketchum
Though Ash was used a handful of times for girls during the height of Ashley, the name didn't come into use for boys until 1996 - the year Pokemon premiered in the United States. Since then, the name has been used for boys every year, growing steadily along with long-form Asher. With new starbaby Ashe Olson Meyers (son of Seth) in the spotlight, Ash may soon enter the top 1000!

This name peaked during the late 1970's, far before Pokemon came into the cultural consciousness. Along with Heather and Dawn, Misty was part of a trend towards natural names. Though data doesn't show any effect of Pokemon on the name, Misty could have a resurgence as kids who grew up with Pokemon - the Millennials - become old enough to have children of their own. 

A relatively popular name in the 1990's - at least in the top 350 or so - Brock also didn't get much of a boost from Pokemon. Brock means "badger" in Old English, and currently ranks in the top 1000 at #449. It's been on the decline, but with Jack and Luke moving upwards, Brock could fit right in. 


#46 - Paras

This Pokemon is a Bug/Grass type, with a couple of healing mushrooms growing on its back. While the name Paras comes from its identity as a "parasite", the name used for humans is much older. The current crown prince of Nepal is named Paras, from the Hindu term for the "philosopher's stone" of mythology. The name can also be a creative spelling of Paris

#63 - Abra

This Pokemon is a Psychic type, sleeping a lot to counteract its intense psychokinetic powers. Abra evolves into Kadabra, then Alakazam - hence the magical title. The name Abra, however, is a feminine form of Abraham, meaning "father of multitudes". It can also be translated as a West African name for girls born on a Tuesday. Abra was also featured as a main character in the book and film version of East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. 

#95 - Onix

This Pokemon is a Rock/Ground type... and it pretty much just looks like a string of rocks. Onix is a creative spelling of Onyx, a mineral that has become an increasingly popular name. Thirty-seven girls and 118 boys were named Onyx in 2015 - it's got the X-factor, and unusual first initial, and a strong but natural meaning. Onyx (and its variant, Onix) will rise to the top 1000 in no time. 

#114 - Tangela

This Pokemon is a Grass type, and resembles a knotted-up ball of yarn - though it can tangle just about anything it touches. The name Tangela arose around the time Angela and Tamara were most popular, and it reached #756 in 1971. I have to say, I am a little stumped by its popularity. If you've got a case to make for Tangela, please persuade me in the comments!

#133 - Eevee

This Pokemon is a Normal type, and looks not unlike an adorable baby fox - which probably has something to do with its popularity. Its name comes from the first two letters in the word "evolution". The human name Eevee is a creative spelling of popular Evie, #513 in the United States and #14 in the United Kingdom. While I would recommend the original spelling, the sound of this name is classic and lovely. 

Which Pokemon could make it onto birth certificates next? 

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Brief History of Emily

Hello, readers!

It's my birthday, and I'm celebrating by talking about one of my favorite names - my own! Truly, I'm very pleased with the name my parents gave me, despite its popularity and prevalence. So here's a history of the name, as well as facts and statistics around Emily!

Despite their similar sounds, Emily and Amelia are not actually of the same origin. Emily comes from the Latin Aemilius, a Roman family name that might have derived from the Latin aemulus, which means "rival, enemy, or emulous" (thanks, DMNES!). The male form is Emil, which is used very little in the US today. I was surprised to find out that my relatively positive-sounding name had a bit of a dark side, but perhaps that's what sparks my competitiveness!

The name was not common in the English-speaking world until the eighteenth century, when the German royal family, the House of Hanover, merged with the British royal family, the House of Stuart. King George III - recently brought into the spotlight via the character in Hamilton - nicknamed his youngest daughter "Emily", though her full name was Princess Amelia. She was her father's favorite, by many accounts, and it's no surprise that the most famous Emily's known today were born in the immediate decades after her birth. 

Emily is now very much characterized by its many literary associations, based on the big three Emily's born in the nineteenth century - Emily Brontë, Emily Dickinson, and Emily Post. The author of Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë was born in 1818 to a family of future writers. Though she wrote fewer published works than her sisters, her legacy and contribution to the Romantic movement was (and continues to be) majorly influential to English authors. Emily Dickinson, now a giant of American poetry, was reclusive and independent during her lifetime, achieving fame after her death and the posthumous publication of her writing. Though she only lived from 1830-1886, the poems she produced during her 55 years and her early example as a successful unmarried woman have inspired writers, feminists, and bookworms alike. Emily Post, while now synonymous with proper etiquette, actually wrote five novels and a travelogue in the early 1900's before embarking on Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home, published in 1922. 

Since the United States government began recording first names in 1880, Emily has never left the top 300; it's lowest point to date was in 1962, when it ranked at #274 for girls. It's been in the top 20 continuously since 1987, and ranked #1 continuously from 1996 through 2007. Similar-sounding Emma and Italian favorite Isabella bumped it to #3 in 2008, and it's been slowly declining. As of 2015, Emily ranks at #8 in the United States, #1 in Ireland and in Northern Ireland, #4 in England and Wales, #3 in Canada, #7 in Australia, #1 in Scotland, and #5 in New Zealand. 

In American Given Names, by George R. Stewart, Emily is described as "highly euphonic", meaning it exhibits characteristics of euphony, "the quality of being pleasing to the ear" (thanks, Google!) Features of euphonic words include use of the consonants L and M, as well as more vowel sounds than consonant sounds and the use of semi-vowels, including Y. It would seem that we humans are predisposed to find Emily pleasant and melodic - hence its popularity! Other top ten favorites including Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava, and Mia have clear euphonic traits, too. 

As for middle names - it's rare that I've heard Emily as a middle, but that doesn't mean it's not prevalent (SSA, please start recording middle name data!) I'm an Emily Grace, and I've met two others; Emily Marie, Emily Elizabeth, and Emily Rose are among the more common I've heard as well. 

Now for my personal name history! I'm told that Emily was the only name my parents could agree on - my mom's other picks included Celeste or Quinn, and my dad liked Lisa or Barbara. My middle name Grace was picked mostly because my parents liked the sound, but there were a few other factors at play - my mom's name, Nancy, means "grace", and my parents had acted together in a play a few years before my birth called Amazing Grace. My younger sister (and only sibling) is Clare Elise, and I didn't realize until joining the name community what a great sibset my parents picked - all first and middles are five letters each, with English spellings of first names (as opposed to Emilie or Claire), and 7/10 of our names share the same letters. I don't think this choice was on purpose, but it does show how name preferences come through even when unplanned!

So that's the story of Emily! If you're an Emily, have an Emily, or love the name, tell me your experiences with it in the comments below. Any other histories are welcome, too! I also highly recommend checking out your own name history. This post was a blast to write!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Corny Country Song Names

*In this context, "corny" is used lovingly!*

Howdy, readers!

I grew up on country music - living in a small town with a finite number of radio stations will do that. Now, much of it was fun and beautiful, but some of it was downright cheesy. Depending on your tolerance for twang, you may have heard one or two of the best corny ones; if not, just check out some top ten lists online for a chuckle. Today, I'll be looking at a few of those tunes that include names prominently!

A bit of history - country music started out in the Southern United States in the 1920's, blending a few musical styles together (blues, folk, western, etc). Wikipedia counts at least six "generations" of country music as the styles evolved with American culture and politics. Today, it's one of the most popular musical genres in the world!

I'll be looking at a few choice country tunes with names in their titles - some of them have even had an influence on baby names over the last century!

"Is Zat You, Myrtle?", Bill Carlisle, 1953
An old-fashioned name that will probably not come back into style, Myrtle peaked at 27 in the 1890's and slowly descended before dropping off name records entirely in 1966. Interestingly, the year that this song debuted, the name briefly went up again - thanks, Bill Carlisle! The myrtle plant has significance in both Roman and Jewish mythology, but there are better botanical names out there. 

"Ode to Billie Joe", Bobbie Gentry, 1967
Sadly, the US does not record middle names, so data around Billie Joe is a bit skewed. Billie jumped 30 spots between 1966 and 1967, so the song may have helped! It was originally recorded by a Bobbie, and both names have been out of use for awhile. But tomboyish names could definitely make a comeback for girls! 

"A Boy Named Sue", Johnny Cash, 1969
I'm with Johnny Cash on this one - Sue isn't the greatest name for a little boy. But there are many who'd disagree, seeing as it's been recorded for between 5-19 boys in 51 separate years. Better names to honor the Man in Black? Quentin, Porter, Jackson, and, of course, Cash

"Me and Bobby McGee", Roger Miller, 1969
The song was originally written about a female Bobby, but the famous cover by Janis Joplin switched the gender to male. Today, little Robert's are more likely to go by their full name or Robbie, but Bobby could be a cute vintage nickname again. Fun fact: this song has the famous line, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

"Carolyn", Merle Haggard, 1971
While Caroline may be more popular now, both names have a distinctly Southern sweetness that make them timeless. This name is a feminine variation of Charles, meaning "free man." Callie or Lina would be more accessible today.  

"My Maria", BW Stevenson, 1973
This song's cover got a lot of airplay in the 1990's, proving once again that Maria is a fun name to sing! Of course, Maria is a classic variation of an already classic name - it's pretty, friendly, and feminine to boot. It's also never left the top 200, if you're looking for a name that's ageless. 

"Amanda", Waylon Jennings, 1974
Amanda was already in the top 50 when Waylon Jennings recorded the song, and it would go on to be one of the most popular names of the 1980's and 1990's. Appropriately, it means "much-loved". While similar-sounding Amelia and Amaya are in use today, celebrity couple Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes welcomed a baby Amada last year. 

"Amie", Pure Prairie League, 1974
While this particular spelling is also French for "female friend", the singer's pronunciation makes it clear that this tune is about his wayward lover, "Ay-meeeee." During the 1970's, Amy very nearly made it to the top of the US top 1000, but was thwarted every time by Jennifer. Various spellings including Aimée and Ami ranked in the 1970's, but Amy has the most staying power today.  

"Jolene", Dolly Parton, 1974
Now a country music standard, "Jolene" has been covered by dozens of artists - young people today can enjoy Miley Cyrus' and Jack White's respective versions in addition to the original. The song bumped the name up almost 300 places in 1974, despite the arguably negative connotations of the name in the song. But Jolene really is charming and lovely, with a recent uptick in popularity! Now, if only Dolly would follow suit...

"Lucille", Kenny Rogers, 1977
Today's little Lucille's are more likely to be called Lucy, but there's something to be said for bringing back the full French prénom. It brings to mind the fabulously funny Lucille Ball - not a bad namesake! - and adds a bit of a lilt to an already-cute name. 

"Elvira", The Oak Ridge Boys, 1981
By the time The Oak Ridge boys sang about those "lips like sherry wine", Elvira was on its way out. It will be a few generations yet before Elvira loses its vampiric image and comes back into vogue, if ever. Funnily enough, the name currently ranks in the top 100 in both Norway and Sweden. 

"Goodbye Earl", Dixie Chicks, 1999
Before Duke, King, and Prince topped the boys' charts, Earl was the chosen title. But Earl still has a bit of a hayseed reputation, and it's been out of the top 1000 for a decade. Intriguingly, Earl's last jump was the year before the Dixie Chicks' song debuted, but the lyrics "'cause Earl had to die" seem to have helped the name continue its decline. 

"Me and Charlie Talking", Miranda Lambert, 2005
Far be it from me to refer to Miranda Lambert as "corny", but her folk-pop 2005 tune is included to show the continuation of names in the titles of country music songs. Charlie is now a favorite unisex pick, in both its short form and as a nickname for longer forms Charles and Charlotte. What names will be on the radio next?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Patriot Names

***Reposted from 9/11/15 in honor of Independence Day!***

Today, I've put together a list of "American" names, perfect for any little one born in the great US of A. Could a national pride name be what you're looking for?

Though the country was named after explorer Amerigo Vespucci, I went a little further to find its etymology - it comes from the German name, Emmerich, meaning "work" and "power". Not bad as far as meanings go, and the A-a sound is feminine - the name is currently at #961 for girls. But unless you want to receive a whole lot of red, white, and blue baby gifts, I'd find another name - Carolina, Georgia and Dakota are excellent alternatives.

This name was used in colonial times by Puritan settlers, excited about life in the New World. But it's never shown up on the top 1000. Why? The name isn't easily associated with male-female genders, like other popular names, and its length is a drawback. I'd choose a name that had "independent" as a meaning: Isra, Avasa, or even Maverick.

This word name has an interesting popularity history; it was on the list for 1918, 1976, then continuously since 2001 - possibly in response to September 11th. Short form Libby, often associated with Elizabeth, can be used for Liberty as well. Very pretty and independent, but still more noun than name. Try Eleuteria or Saoirse!

Flat no for me. The sound isn't right, there's no easy nicknames, and no namesakes jump to mind. To keep the meaning, check out Amadi, forms of Charles/Charlotte, forms of Francis/Francesca, or Malaya.

The sound is similar to Prescott or Prewitt, so that's a plus. The name might be a little strong for a child, so I'd look at the names of famous patriots - Susan B Anthony, Benjamin Franklin or Paul Revere to start. Or why not Patton?

Already the name of a celeb-baby, Honor hits all the right notes: a sound like the established Hannah, the popular r-ending, and an excellent visible meaning. It's currently charting in the UK, and I think it should move up in the US (it's still outside the top 1000). Other pretty variations include Honora (with the nickname Nora) and Honoria.

A unisex name - #525 for boys and #452 for girls - that is both substantial and meaningful, Justice could be the name of a future lawyer (or chief justice?) Not ready to embrace the virtue name directly? Try Justina, Adlai or Zedekiah.

Lovely sound and meaning, but somehow not substantial enough for a first name - perhaps for a middle? Names that mean "peace" are abundant: Pax, Concordia, Frederick, Irina, Salome, and Solomon are just a few nice options.

What are your favorite American names?