Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday Jams - Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

"Sally's Song", sung by Catherine O'Hara, composed by Danny Elfman, 1993

"Johanna", sung by Jamie Campbell Bower, composed by Stephen Sondheim, 2007

"Frederick's Soliloquy", sung by Roger Bart, composed by Mel Brooks, 2007

"Then Came Jonny", sung by Richard Roland, composed by Dana P. Rowe & John Dempsey, 1993

"Whatever Lola Wants", sung by Gwen Verdon, composed by Richard Adler & Jerry Ross, 1955

Friday, October 30, 2015

Film Names: Scary Movies

I was raised by Halloween parents.

Those of you who also had Halloween parents will know what I mean. For those of you who didn't - imagine your childhood, but with a lot more costumes, fake blood, and scary movies.

Halloween was our family's big holiday, and we went all-out with decorations, costumes, pumpkin-carving, and more. My sister and I, as a result, are now huge fans of scary movies - to the chagrin of friends and more distant relatives.

Today's post will be about cool names found in Halloween classics - or at least, my favorite classics.

Frankenstein, directed by James Whale, 1931
An indisputable classic, and a personal favorite, the original Frankenstein has influenced countless films over the years. Characters include classic names like Henry, Elizabeth, and Victor, all excellent and established choices. Actor names include the rarer Mae, Boris, Dwight, and Lionel - while Mae and Lionel have reentered the list, are Dwight and Boris too dated?

Dracula, directed by Tod Browning, 1931
I couldn't include Boris Karloff without Bela Lugosi! An early vampire film that of course led to later iterations, Dracula is timeless - and still creepy. Bela for a boy is unusual today, and might be confused with feminine Bella - the boy's version means "white", the girls' comes from Elizabeth, "pledged to God". Mina, a main character's name, is recently starting to rise back up the girls' list.

The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin, 1973
With eerie effects - including green slime - little actress Linda Blair shot into the spotlight in this religious ride through demonic possession. I find it interesting that the two main female characters are Chris and Regan, with gender-neutral names. Actor names include Ellen, Lee, Max, Jack, and Jason - nothing too unfamiliar.

Halloween, directed by John Carpenter, 1978
The beginning of Jamie Lee Curtis' career, Halloween spawned a series of sequels and remakes, with scary killer Michael Myers lurking through them all. A lot of the character names are nicknames - Laurie, Annie, Tommy, Richie - probably because of their young ages. Among the actresses, two have stereotypically male names: Jamie Lee and Kyle.

Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hooper, 1982
This movie triggers all sorts of relatable fears - clowns, shadows, ghosts, and more. The actors and actresses who played the central family have an interesting mix of names - Scottish Craig, combo JoBeth, French Dominique, classic Oliver, and flower-power Heather. I hadn't seen the director's name before, either; it's pronounced like Toby.

The Nightmare Before Christmas, directed by Henry Selick, 1993
One of my favorite movies of all time, this animated film can be watched at Halloween, Christmas - or any other time of year. Main characters Jack and Sally are my favorite fictional couple, hands down, with timeless names to match. In related name trivia, creator Tim Burton and ex-partner Helena Bonham Carter have a daughter Nell, which continues the matrilineal tradition on Helena's side - Hélène, Elena, Helena, Nell.

Scream, directed by Wes Craven, 1996
The best first 15 minutes of any scary movie, in my opinion. This 90's mashup of real terror and meta-comedy keeps you on the edge of your seat. Again, the female characters have gender-neutral names (why is this?) - Casey, Sidney, Gale, and Tatum. Star Neve Campbell's name means "snow", and it's climbing in the UK along with Gaelic spelling Niamh.

The Blair Witch Project, directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, 1999
The movie that started the "found footage" trend, it's a bit less scary than before the copycats followed - but only a bit. The actors share the names of their characters - Heather, Josh and Mike - which prompted the rumor to be spread that the actors had actually died.

What are your favorite scary movies?

Happy Halloween! Stay costumed and safe this weekend :)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Pagan Names

Happy Halloween week!

Today's name list is brought to you by Samhain, the Gaelic festival upon which Halloween originated. It's origins are pagan - check out a more thorough history here - but celebrations continue today! So I'll be looking at a selection of Celtic pagan names from the Pagan Name Dictionary - any more adventurous namers out there?

All-Gender Names

Aeron - from the Brythonic goddess of slaughter, Agrona. Strong and substantial, but could be confused with Erin or Aaron. Pronounce it "AY-er-on" for some uniqueness. 

Avalon - from a mythological Celtic island. It's also connected to the island off the coast of California, and provides a break from Aiden and Evelyn

Korrigan - from traditional Breton trickster fairy creatures. With Finnegan, Cora, and Reagan on the charts, I think Korrigan (or Corrigan) could stand tall. 

Seren - used for girls more, but I think this name could work well for the boys - it means "star", and has Welsh origins. It's also got a serene look to it. 

Female Names

Ailsa - from a rock in Scotland known as "fairy rock". I think it's a nice twist between Ada and Elsa, and it keeps its femininity without being frilly.

Ceridwen - meaning "blessed song", she was the mother of Taliesin (another great choice) in Welsh mythology. Friendly and accessible, but totally its own. 

Morrigan - pronounced "MOOR-ee-an", she was a War Goddess of Celtic lore. The pronunciation might trip people up, but the sound and meaning is fantastic. 

Rhiannon - in Welsh lore, the goddess of horses, but the name means "great queen". Any Fleetwood Mac fan has considered this name, and it's a haunting classic. 

Male Names

Bran - meaning "crow" or "raven", connected to Welsh and Irish mythology. Similar-sounding Bram is also brought up around Halloween due to its connection to the writer of Dracula

Fergus - from Irish folklore, meaning "strong man". Recently seen in Pixar's Brave, cute nickname Fergie might give it a boost. 

Oisin - a boy turned into a deer in Irish mythology, his name means "little deer". Adorable, and a great alternative to Owen or Oliver

Puck - a name for a mischievous spirit, found in cultures worldwide. Accessible as a nickname, but I think it isn't substantial enough to be a formal first name. 

Thoughts? Any great Gaelic/Celtic names I've missed?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Halloween Costume Names, Part Two

Let's continue with Day 2 of costume names!

Check out Part 1 here.

Tell me in the comments what costumes you're planning. My boyfriend and I will be going as Cosmo and Wanda from the Fairly Oddparents this year!

"Devil" - Teivel, Diablo, Velna, Deuce

"Terrible" - Ugra, Uther, Bhima

"Sharp" - Shamir, Berach, Jasna, Min, Asika, Acucio

"Red" - Ruby, Rowan, Garnet, Edom, Flannery, Rufus, Shani

Famous devils and demons - Damien, Lucifer, Mephistopheles

"Magic" - Taika, Jinx

"Purple" - Lavender, Violet, Ianthe, Porfirio, Amethyst

Witch names - Grimhild, Armida, Sabrina, Kiki, Wanda, Hermione, Ginevra, Glinda, Tarba, Cassandra, Circe, Morgan, Jenny, Hecate, Moll, Alice, Agnes, Entjen, Märet, Minnie, Elphaba, Jadis, Bellatrix, Melisandre, Medea, Ursula, Wendy

"Hero/Heroine" - Bertille, Conlan, Finley, Sweeney, Valda, Vero

"Super" - Aristotle, Naren, Adi, Prasert

"Savior" - Messiah, Salvador, Björg

"Strong" - André, Brian, Ethan, Evander, Melisande, Valencia

Famous heroes/heroines - Natasha, Selina, Clark, Bruce, Peter, Tony 

Horse-related names - Phillip, Destry, Baylor, Xanthippe, Ahearne, Eachna, Eowyn, Marshall, Rider, Chevy

"Free" - Amadi, Charles, Fanya, Franklin, Kermit, Liberato

"Country" - Fielder, Paine, Gladys

Famous cowboys and cowgirls - Annie, Jane, John, Bill, Jack, Frank

"Reborn" - Renata, René, Anastasia, Tassia

"Alive" - Vito, Viva, Aisha, Idir, Tural, Živa

"Large" - Grant, Brady, Titania

Names from characters/actors in the original Frankenstein - Henry, Elizabeth, Victor, Colin, Mae, Boris, Edward, Frederick, Dwight, Fritz, Lionel

I'll see you tomorrow to continue the celebration!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Halloween Costume Names, Part One

Happy Halloween week, friends!

And happy birthday to my wonderful mom, Nancy Kay. I love you and I hope you enjoy your holiday birthday!

Today's post is more fun than particularly insightful. I've taken some of the top Halloween costumes worn every year (pop culture costumes aside) and found names that match each of them. While I normally stick with Latin/Greek/Hebrew based names, I'm including names from other cultures to round things out.

Here's the list I'm using, but you can find other lists and continue the game!

Top ten Halloween costumes of all time, by Christina Caldwell


"Ghost" - Drogo, Lilith, Aparicia

"Spirit" - Dusana, Dušan, Enid, Anima, Kokoro, Esprit, Janan, Kamali

"Soul" - Alma, Linh, Psyche, Duska

"White" - Alba, Bain, Bianca, Fiona, Ivory

Famous ghosts - Casper, Jacob, Mary, Clytemnestra, Myrtle

"Death" - Morana, Mot, Thanatos, Chiwa, Lefu, Anubis

"Eternal" - Khalid, Amari, Niran, Eilam, Nitya, Samad

"Return" - Ayda, Shevi, Yashuv

"Green" - Emerald, Oran, Peridot, Verdi, Zelenka

Famous zombies - Ash, Ed, Michael, Kat

"Blood" - Muhjah, Djimon, Eztli

"Bat" - Adan, Stellaluna (couldn't resist)

"Fang" - Niv

"Pale" - Chloris, Gauri, Paley, Blasco

Famous vampires - Vlad, Edward, Claudia, Lestat, Angel

"Cat" - Faline, Felinus, Bastet, Leander, Numair, Fahd

"Omen" - Lakshmi, Ugur, Dalili, Sisay, Lakshman

"Domestic" - Damiana, Damario, Damon, Laka

"Black" - Caliban, Ebony, Ciaran, Melanie, Nigel, Kali, Sable

Famous black cats - Salem, Jiji, Felix, Berlioz, Figaro, Lucifer

"Vegetable" - Fennel, Masamba, Kazuna, Moena, Topwe

"Round" - Cade, Knox, Dudda, Viên, Ballard, Maru

"Smile" - Basma, Hande, Ibtisam, Erendira, Susmita

"Orange" - Cam, Sienna, Alani, Amber, Nerola, Azahar

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown names - Charlie, Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, Sally, Violet, Frieda, Patty

Check out more costume names tomorrow - Halloween Costume Names, Part Two

Monday, October 26, 2015

Literary Names: Stardust

Welcome to Day One of Halloween week!

To celebrate my favorite holiday, each post this week will have a Halloween connection. For today's Literary Names installment, I'll be focusing on Neil Gaiman's fantasy novel (complete with witches), Stardust!

The book is an adventure story through a magical land, complete with action, romance and humor. The film version - made in 2007 - is also a great family film.

Rather than reimagine the names of the characters, I'll be focusing on the already-excellent names in the book (and a few from the movie).

Let's begin!

The origin of this name may very well be from the novel Stardust! While Yvain was used in Chrétien de Troyes' medieval texts as a form of Eugene ("well-born"), Yvaine is listed in a few places as meaning "evening star", from Neil Gaiman's book. It's a lovely combination of Yvonne and Elaine, and not too far from boys' favorite Evan. The character in the story is a strong and stunning - not a bad namesake for any child.

The name Tristan of course calls to mind the doomed romance of Tristan and Isolde, but our protagonist in the fantasy novel has a different fate. The name came into use in the US in the 1970's, and is currently ranked at #101 - not uncommon by any means. However, the nice sound and similarity to favorite Christian will probably continue the popularity trend. The meaning is "sorrowful", but Tristan, to me, connotes a hero.

Meaning "dark stone", Dunstan sounds like a cool combination of retro Duncan and trendy Austin - classic but modern, in a way. The character in the book is a supportive and loving father, wishing his love Una would come back to him. If you like Dustin, but think it's a little passé, try Dunstan!

A personal name crush, Una fits in with the rest of the old-fashioned three-letter names returning to the charts - Ava, Ivy, Ida. Depending on its origin, it can mean "one" or "lamb" - either is cute. In Stardust, Una is the name of Tristan's mother, held captive by an evil witch. It also has an unusual first initial, if you're looking for some uniqueness - and sister spelling Oona isn't bad either.

Primus, Secundus, Tertius, Quartus, Quintus, Sextus, Septimus
These are the names of the princes, alive and dead, who are vying for the crown in Stardust. I'm grouping them together since each is a "number name". Names like these are more personal - some have favorite or lucky numbers, so using one of these names would be a great honorific. But I'd suggest staying away from Sextus. Check out this Nameberry article for more number names!

The Witches - Lamia, Mormo and Empusa
The book version of Stardust doesn't give names to these characters, but the film does - and only Lamia has etymology information online. She was a monstrous figure in Greek mythology. I wouldn't suggest any of these for children, but if you're looking for character name inspiration, these are really fun to play around with.

I didn't include every name from the book - any favorites that I missed? Or are fantasy names not strong enough to stand up to a real-life attendance sheet? Tell me what you think in the comments!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Saturday Jams: I Want ANDY

Songs about Andy's and Andrew's this week! Comment with a name to see it show up in future Saturday Jam posts...

"Andy You're A Star", The Killers, 2004

"Andrew", Bowling for Soup, 2000

"Andy Warhol", David Bowie, 1971

"St Andrews", Bedouin Soundclash, 2007

"Hey Andrew", Oak and Gorski, 2006

Friday, October 23, 2015

Film Names: The Musical

I can't help it, theater runs in my veins - my dad is an amateur actor, my aunt is a singer, and my cousin is a soon-to-be Broadway star. So I'm happily familiar with musicals from the 1930s onward!

Today, I'll be focusing on the names of actors in the film versions, instead of the names of characters (though that would be a fun post). Let me know who I missed in the comments!

Let's check out some unusual names from the 1930's-1960's musicals!

Female Names

Cyd Charisse - Singin' in the Rain (1952), Brigadoon (1954)
I've actually met someone who named her daughter Charisse after the actress!

Shirley Jones - Oklahoma (1955), The Music Man (1962), Carousel (1956)

Hermione Gingold - The Music Man (1962), Gigi (1958)

Mitzi Gaynor - South Pacific (1958)
A cute nickname, and underused today. 

Juanita Hall - South Pacific (1958), Flower Drum Song (1961)

France Nuyen - South Pacific (1958)

Fay Bainter - State Fair (1945)

Claramae Turner - Carousel (1956)
With the popularity of Clara and Mae in 2014, this combination sounds modern. 

Marjorie Main - Meet Me In St Louis (1944)

Billie Burke - The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Isobel Elsom - My Fair Lady (1964)

Charmian Carr - The Sound of Music (1965)

Portia Nelson - The Sound of Music (1965)

Glynis Johns - Mary Poppins (1964)

Male Names

Russ Tamblyn - West Side Story (1961), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Tucker Smith - West Side Story (1961)

Yul Brynner - The King and I (1956)
First name Yul comes from the Mongolian for "on the horizon" - Youl or Yuli.  

Rossano Brazzi - South Pacific (1958)

Jacques D'Amboise - Carousel (1956), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Chill Wills - Meet Me in St Louis (1944)

Rex Harrison - My Fair Lady (1964)
Rex could fit in well with Max, Dax and Pax. 

Wilfrid Hyde-White - My Fair Lady (1964)

Gert Fröbe - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

Vassili Lambrinos - The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Presidential Names #1

As the race for the 2016 election revs up, I've decided to devote two Throwback Thursdays to presidential baby names. While it's also probable that the presidents' first names were given a boost during or after their terms, I'll be focusing on presidential last names found in the 2014 top 1000.

I've decided to go in chronological order, so none of the names this week have correlating data (Grant was president until 1877, three years before the top 1000 data began to be collected). November 5th, we'll be able to see if presidential terms line up with popularity - stay tuned!

#609 - Jefferson 
As the Jeffrey's of yesteryear become fathers and grandfathers, Jefferson might be a great way to honor a paternal relative. Sure, the nickname Jeff could still be used, but why not try Sonny to ensure some uniqueness? Jefferson has been hanging low on the list for awhile, but it's a well-established formal name that deserves some use. 

#9 - Madison
While this name is connected more to the movie Splash than the fourth president, Madison is much more than a trend. It was a well-used name for boys between 1880 and 1940, returning briefly in the 1990's. I think the name still works for any gender - see the above nickname Sonny - but the girls have claimed Madison wholeheartedly for the time being. 

#787 - Monroe
This name has gotten a lot of buzz recently, with a few celebrities choosing Monroe for their daughters. Like Madison, it was on the list for boys for awhile but dropped off in the 1970's. Another multi-gender name, it's connected to the Roe river in Ireland, and might be a great heritage choice. Check out Monroe's write-up in Nameberry's Hello, Baby! O-Ending Surname Names for Girls.

#17 - Jackson
With Jack, Jaxon and Jaxson following Jackson on the top 1000, it seems that parents are more interested in the sound of the name over the connection to Andrew Jackson. Jack was originally a nickname for John, but has now created a class all its own. Jackson has been steeply climbing upwards since the 1990's, and I don't expect it to drop anytime soon. 

#127 - Harrison
The popularity of movie star Harrison Ford pushed this name back up the charts through the 1980's and 1990's, but this name has never left the top 1000. The name started climbing again around the time Showtime's serial killer Dexter named his son Harrison after his father, Harry. It's got multiple positive connotations and some great nicknames, so Harrison will definitely stick around. 

#72 - Tyler
This trend of the 1990's is finally starting to disappear - for the boys, at least. I think the girls could claim Tyler due to its similarity with Taylor and Skyler. Ty, Tyson, Tyrone, and Tyree are moving up the list with a fresher sound, too. I'd skip this name and look for something more unique. 

#77 - Taylor
Another name originally for boys overtaken by the girls, Taylor reached its peak in the 1990's and has started to fall back down the list. Its sound is definitely popular - Baylor and Saylor have recently joined the list. But I think there are are newer occupational names that will fit the bill - Weaver, Fletcher, Jagger, Sawyer, and Draper

#470 - Pierce
Pierce has been up and down the top 1000 over the years, but is now hovering in the middle. The strong, single-syllable sound and the dangerous connection to weaponry will appeal to some parents, but I think Pierce is better as a middle name. Sidenote: Pierce is viewed by many historians as one of the worst presidents in American history, so make sure you're not choosing it to be patriotic. 

#87 - Lincoln
One of the nation's favorite presidents, Lincoln is now at the highest it's ever been on the list. The similar sound to other ends-in-N names and the excellent history make it very popular. Abraham is a bit further down the list, at #180, and could also be a great way to honor the sixteenth president. And now that one celeb-baby girl has been christened Lincoln, it might be more accepted as unisex. 

#155 - Grant
With a steady sound, Grant is a name that can transition from childhood to adulthood gracefully. While its etymology connects it to the French for "large", it can also be seen today as an English word name. And it's a much better choice than old-fashioned Ulysses!

Check out the continuation of this list on November 5th!

Next week is Halloween-themed :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Top Ten Alternatives - Girls

To continue with yesterday's post, I'll be focusing on the top ten names for girls in the US and finding similar-sounding and similar-meaning alternatives.

What do you think, readers? Are these names popular for a reason? Or should we be looking outside the box when choosing names?

Emma - "universal"
I'm pretty sure this name skyrocketed due to Ross and Rachel using it for their daughter on Friends. But the short, classic sound and cross-cultural possibilities have kept Emma a favorite. 

Sound: Ima, Embeth, Emmeline, Amara, Amina, Imelda
Meaning: Irma, Ermelinda, Armina, Kosma, Evren

Olivia - "olive"
Another cross-cultural name, Olivia is feminine, melodic and strong. References on Law and Order and the children's book series Olivia the Great will help its popularity for awhile. 

Sound: Olive, Orlanda, Oona, Livia, Octavia, Aurelia
Meaning: Zetta, Zayit, Zayitah

Sophia - "wisdom"
This sound and meaning combination is almost unmatched (except by Emma, of course). Sophia is pretty but mature and compelling all at once. 

Sound: Seraphina, Suria, Sapphira, Sernia, Fiona
Meaning: Dara, Pallas, Sonia, Hye, Zosia

Isabella - "pledged to God"
The Latin variation of Elizabeth updates a classic and surfs the Twilight wave of Bella names. Its many nicknames allow for some uniqueness, but I think other names will be even more personable. 

Sound: Isolde, Iseult, Arabella, Isabeau, Estella, Estrella, Esmeralda
Meaning: Eilis, Elisaveta, Elixane, Ilsa, Zizi

Ava - "life", "breath", "desired"
This simple but hauntingly beautiful name has origins from three different cultures, namesakes galore, and an ability to go with any last name. I'm definitely a fan of Ava!

Sound: Eva, Avalon, Avril, Avon, Aveline, Alma
Meaning (life): Asha, Chava, Shivani, Viva, Zenaida
Meaning (breath): Abelia, Psyche, Spirit, Urja, Ahelia
Meaning (desired): Aimée, Avila, Desirée, Kanta, Nahia, Zody

Mia - "mine"
Originally a short form of Maria or Amelia, Mia has become an option all its own - short and sweet, easily accessible, and friendly. But there are names out there with a bit more staying power. 

Sound: Malia, Amalia, Samia, Euphemia, Damia, Alia
Meaning: Nerea, Liat, Lihi, Lelac, Ronli

Emily - "rival"
I'll admit it, I really do love my name. But so has every other namer for the past 20 years! I think it's time to move beyond Emily

Sound: Amity, Emory, Emmeline, Bellamy, Millie
Meaning: Emlyn, Emiri, Nadida, Emilia, Aemilia

Abigail - "my father is joy"
Classic and cute, Abigail and Abby will be all over playgrounds for years to come. Let's see if we can't find some equally amicable and feminine alternatives. 

Sound: Annabel, Abilene, Adelaide, Avigail, Amabel
Meaning: Adanna, Hephzibah, Asenath, Giliah, Hija

Madison - "son of Maud" (Maud - "battle-mighty")
One of the few names that can connect its popularity directly to a moment in time - the 1989 release of Splash. I think we ought to finally move beyond the 80's, though...

Sound: Madeleine, Maisy, Matilda, Mamie, Emerson, Malin
Meaning: Maude, Mathilde, Alessia, Louisa, Malou

Charlotte - "free man"
Now that Princess Charlotte has made her debut, I think this name might reach the number one spot. It's cute and retro - but if you're looking for something unique, I'd check out the alternatives. 

Sound: Carlotta, Charlene, Cherie, Lottie, Harriet
Meaning: Amadi, Carolina, Françoise, Malaya, Lolo

Let me know your favorites in the comments!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Top Ten Alternatives - Boys

I was inspired to write this post by Nicole Aube's article for Berry Juice - Avoiding Names Your Teenager Will Hate. But instead of finding alternatives to unique but dated names, I thought I'd try the same treatment for the most popular. As an Emily, I'm all too familiar with the exasperation that comes with being called Emily C., when there's an Emily A., Emily B., etc. If you like the sound or meaning for names in the top ten, let's see if I can recommend some more exciting alternatives!

After each name below, I'll include similar-sounding and similar-meaning names.

Noah - "rest, comfort"
Rising since the late 1960's, Noah made its biggest jump in the 1990's - why so in-demand? The trendy ah-ending, the cool Biblical history, and The Notebook, of course!

Sound: Joah, Jonah, Noel, Noam, Naaman, Noach, Noaz, Nehemiah
Meaning: Rocco, Rahat, Rati, Kamaha, Jagur, Aza

Liam - diminutive of William, "resolute protection"
The Irish origin of Liam, as well as it's prevalence in Hollywood, have pushed it up to #2. We'll see if the UK lists continue to predict the US ones in years to come!

Sound: Levi, Lionel, Leon, Linus, Noam, Willem, Emilio, Eliam
Meaning: Anselm, Bruno, Edmund, Hammond, Raymond

Mason - "stone worker"
Occupational names are trending, and Mason is at the top of the list. The bell-tone sound and on-ending are bound to keep it at the top for awhile.

Sound: Marlon, Marlow, Jameson, Massai, Massimo, Max
Meaning: Dunstan, Axton, Eben, Rochester, Granger

Jacob - "supplanter"
This name may still be riding the Twilight coattails, but the unusual B-ending and Biblical heritage have kept Jacob's numbers high.

Sound: Jacoby, Caleb, Jericho, Corbin, Cobalt, Coby
Meaning: Diego, Giacomo, Hamish, Seamus, Thiago

William - "resolute protection"
Never far from the top 20, this classic is bound to stick around for a long time to come.

Sound: Willem, Willis, Wilbur, Wilson, Wilder, Waylon, Eliam
Meaning: Anselm, Bruno, Edmund, Hammond, Raymond

Ethan - "steadfast"
A personal favorite, Ethan's popularity has really surprised me - though the Mission Impossible connection might have something to do with it.

Sound: Eden, Edmund, Nathaniel, Easton, Elton, Elias
Meaning: Constantine, Abelard, Faisal, Ernest, Hamza

Michael - "he who is like God"
Michael hasn't left the top 10 since 1943. It's acceptance as a classic will keep it in use, but I think there are some names out there with more personality.

Sound: Mitchell, Micah, Mikkel, Myron, Malachi, McKinley
Meaning: Micajah, Osgood, Oswald, Osric, Deva

Alexander - "defending men"
Names including "Alex" have dominated the 1990's and 2000's - is it the x-factor, the warrior history, or the countless namesakes that keep it going?

Sound: Lysander, Alistair, Alessandro, Alexei, Leander, Anders
Meaning: Thurman, Titan, Narendra, Amyntas, Vahagn

James - "supplanter"
The English variation of Jacob, but more firmly in the top 20, James is classic. Its popularity has also extended it to the female side, as well as prompted some newer nicknames.

Sound: Jameson, Jem, Jesse, Jonas, Miles, Ramses, Massey
Meaning: Diego, Giacomo, Hamish, Seamus, Thiago

Daniel - "God is my judge"
Another classic, it seems that every other boy I knew growing up was named Daniel - I was born in 1992. I think it's time to find some alternatives, and let this name become a more unique choice.

Sound: Dalton, Dale, Dashiell, Dorian, Nathaniel, Dennis, Duncan
Meaning: Nilo, Eliphalet, Joaquin, Ramiro, Abidan

Monday, October 19, 2015

Top Baby Names in Israel

To continue with an exploration of global names - check out Top Baby Names in Russia from 9/28 - I'll be moving ahead to Israel! Names with Hebrew origins are very popular in the US - Ethan, Noah, Abigail, Sarah - so why not check out more modern Hebrew choices?

Because Israel splits up statistics by religion, this post will be about Jewish names - perhaps Muslim and Christian posts will follow? Let me know if you're interested, readers!

Source: List of most popular given names

Male Names

An excellent alternative to Noah, Noam is more substantial and has a great meaning - "pleasantness". Quite a few famous Noam's have popped up in history, if you love a name with traditional roots.

Ori is the perfect male complement to the more feminine Ari. It means "my light", which is adorable for any little one. It might be too short for a US name, so try it as a nickname for Orion or Orlando.

Also spelled Ithai, this Old Testament name means "with me". It could be a great alternative to Ethan, Isaac or Ty, but it's definitely unique!

Yosef - Joseph
Currently ranked at #709 in the US, this name is accessible but could be an uncommon way to honor a grandpa Joe. Nicknames Seff or Sefi are also cute.

Originally a male name meaning "lion of God", this name was claimed for the girls in 1989 with the release of The Little Mermaid. Perhaps Ariel could return to the boys side in another few years?

Yonatan - Jonathan
I'm more of a fan of the English variation, but Yonatan could work if you're looking for something more unique in the US - bonus points for adorable nickname Yoni!

Eitan - Ethan
Pronounced AY-tahn, this is a cool mix between popular Ethan and unusual Eden. Few English boys names begin with "Ei", to add to the rareness.

Moshe - Moses
Most popularly associated with the Biblical prophet, Moses has been on the US Top 1000 since 1880. The Hebrew variation softens the name a bit, but the original feels more usable.

Female Names

While this name has a history and meaning all its own - "movement" - it might be too close to boys' #1 Noah to find footing in the US. Noemie, Genoa, or Inoa would be more accesible as a full name.

Meaning "my song", this could be a great alternative to Shay, Shelby or Shiloh. It has only appeared on the US Top 1000 once, in 1985.

Tamar - Tamara
Dropping the A at the end of popular Tamara invites a much cooler interpretation. Next to other ends-in-R names like Skyler or Harper, Tamar will fit right in.

On its own, this name is pretty and strong without being overused. As a nickname of Natalia, it's also a unique option. Talia would also work as a cross-cultural option.

An intriguing name with no parallels in the US, Yael is the name of a female warrior in the Old Testament - tenacious and exotic, this is a great choice!

Edel - Adele
From the Hebrew for "ornament", this Yiddish name will fit in with the other trendy E-names without giving up any personality. Note - other languages also claim Edel, but with different meanings.

Avigail - Abigail
Meaning "my father is joy", this could be a nice alternative to Abigail - but you'll be asked to spell it almost every time it's said. Avi or Abbie might work better.

This name is a feminine and friendly alternative to Aaliyah or Aria. It means "doe" in Hebrew - other variations include Aya or Ayelet.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Saturday Jams: I Love LUCY

Let's begin with the most obvious, shall we?

"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", The Beatles, 1967

"I Love Lucy" theme song, Eliot Daniel and Harold Adamson, 1951 

"Lucy Can't Dance", David Bowie, 1993

"Lucy", The Hollies, 1975

"Watch Out for Lucy", Eric Clapton, 1978

"Loose Lucy", Grateful Dead, 1974

Friday, October 16, 2015

Name News: 10/16/15

Red panda cubs get fiery names - Angie Haflich, The Garden City Telegram
This week in cute animal news! Names inspired by fire are way too cool, and I think these red panda cubs were given great monikers. Click for adorable pictures!

Baby Name Meanings: 20 Names That Mean Thankful - Isabelle Khoo, Huffington Post
Another great set from Ms. Khoo - I featured an article of hers on the last Name News installment - that arrive just in time for those expecting Thanksgiving babies!

These Are the Most Attractive Names in the World - Sean Griffis, Brit + Co
The title of this article promises a lot, but check out the comments for some valid critiques. Are these names really the most dateable, or just popular?

A Linguist Explains the Grammar of Shipping - Gretchen McCulloch, The Toast
For any fans of fanfiction out there, this is a hilarious article on how mashing together names of your favorite fictional couples works - Castiel or Faberry, for example.

Battle of the Baby Name - Emily Yoffe, Slate
What to do when a family member names their baby the same name as yours? Act like an adult, of course! Thanks Prudie for the frank advice!

Snorri’s Trollwives - William Sayers, Scandinavian-Canadian Studies
This academic article explores the names of the female trolls in Snorri Sturluson’s Skaldskaparmál - I'd be lying if I said I understood all of it, but it's fascinating.

More Names Approved and Rejected - Paul Fontaine, The Reykjavik Grapevine
Iceland has released more names approved for public use, and rejected a few as well. For those of you following naming laws, here's an update!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Throwback Thursday: First Female Physicians

If you're looking for names that honor strong, pioneering women in history, check out this list! It's obviously incomplete, being that only 35 out of 197 countries are listed. I'd appreciate hearing about any I missed in the comments!

Argentina: Cecilia Grierson (1889)
Australia: Emma Constance Stone (1887)
Austria: Gabriele Possanner (1897)
Belgium: Isala Van Diest (1879)
Bolivia: Amelia Villa (1926)
Brazil: Marie Durocher (1834)
Canada: Emily Howard Stowe (graduated from American medical school 1867—Canadian license granted 1880)
Jenny Trout (first Canadian license granted to a woman 1875)
Chile: Eloísa Díaz (1886)
Cuba: Laura Martinez de Carvajal (1889)
Czech Republic: Anna Honzáková (1902)
Denmark: Nielsine Nielsen (1885)
Finland: Rosina Heikel (1878)
France: Madeleine Brès (1875)
Germany: Dorothea Erxleben (1754)
Hungary: Vilma Hugonnai (1879)
Italy: Dorotea Bucca (pre-1390)
Japan: Ogino Ginko (1882)
Korea: Seo Jang-geum (16th century)
Mexico: María Cristina García–Sancho y Álvarez–Tostado (1951) - First Female Neurosurgeon in Latin America 
Netherlands: Aletta Jacobs (1878)
New Zealand: Emily Siedeberg (1896)
Norway: Marie Spångberg Holth (1893)
Peru: Laura Esther Rodriguez Dulanto (1899)
Poland: Anna Tomaszewicz-Dobrska (1877)
Romania: Maria Cuțarida-Crătunescu (1884)
Russia: Varvara Rudneva (1876)
Singapore: Lee Choo Neo (1919)
South Africa: Jane Elizabeth Waterston
Spain: Dolors Aleu Riera (1882)
Sweden: Karolina Widerström (1888)
Turkey: Safiye Ali (1916)
United States: Elizabeth Blackwell (1849)
United States: Clara Raquel Epstein (1996) - First Mexican-American Woman US trained and US board certified in Neurological Surgery and the first woman Neurosurgeon and youngest recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in Neurosurgery
Uruguay: Paulina Luisi (1908)
Venezuela: Lya Imber (1936)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Gemstone Names - Part Three

All right, let's finish up this three-day look at gemstone names!

Gemstone Names - Part One
Gemstone Names - Part Two

Before I continue with specific minerals, there's all kinds of general options out there I wanted to briefly touch on: Jewel (with the singer associations), Rocky (a nickname name with cartoon namesakes), Rock (as in actor Hudson), Stone (solemn but has a great sound), and Pebbles (as in The Flintstones). Classic Peter means "rock" too!

Pearl was in the top 20's and 30's of the top 1000 during the from the early days of the list, from 1880 through the 1920's. It dropped off the list entirely and started to make a comeback in 2010 - and for good reason! The sound is unique, the stone is beautiful, and it fits in with the retro trends. Pearl is one of the June birthstones (wouldn't Pearl and Alexandrite be a cool twin set?) and the gem is associated with integrity and faith.

This beautiful green gem was introduced to me by the show Steven Universe, and in my research I've found it's the August birthstone. As a name, I think it could be a really cool, unique choice. Peridot is associated with compassion and renewal, and its color is refreshing and natural! The T-ending is trending for boys - on the girls side, I think it matures the name well. And Perri would be an adorable nickname!

My parents considered Ruby when choosing a name for me, and because I was born in July it ended up being my birthstone. So get ready for a whole lot of Ruby appreciation!
The name is at #90 in the US, but in most other English-speaking countries it's ranked much higher. The highest Ruby has ever ranked in the USA was at #22 in 1911. It's associated with nobility, energy, and leadership - it's been high in demand throughout history. Songs "Ruby Tuesday"and "Ruby Baby" have kept it on the radio, and it's the name of many famous pop culture characters. Ruby sounds like a nickname, but stands well on its own. Hooray for Ruby!

Like Diamond or Emerald, this is a very luxurious and sparkly name. It does share a sound connection to popular Sophia, and I think a foreign translation would fare better as a name in the US - Saffira or Sapphira, anyone? It's associated with creativity and hope, and is the September birthstone.

This name is the epitome of cool - the shining color and association with weapons and wealth is perfect for any badass kid. Silver is associated with the moon and determination. Closeness to Sylvan and Sylvia helps its accessibility, as does the trendy -er ending. It will definitely be a unique choice!

Gorgeous and mysterious, Topaz is a beautiful no-nickname option. The stone is associated with balance and calmness, and it's the birthstone for November. The reddish-gold color is perfect for an autumn baby, and the uniqueness of Topaz is unparalleled. The Z-ending is edgy too - an all-around hit!

A cool Z-name that fits in with Zachary, Zayden, or Zane, Zircon is one of the birthstones for December. It is associated with spiritual grounding and healing. Zircon has never been in the top 1000, but it's sound and form make for a cool choice!

Phew! That's it for a rocky week!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Gemstone Names - Part Two

Hello, all!

This is a continuation of yesterday's Gemstone Names - Part One post. Feel free to tell me in the comments if I missed a favorite rock* of yours!

*(thanks, Hank!)

This name dropped off the list in 1944, but I think a comeback is in order. The stone is associated with regeneration and stability, and it's the birthstone for January. The name comes from its color connection to the pomegranate fruit. Those of you looking for a class name that will age well and doesn't need a nickname, Garnet might be for you!

This strong single-syllable metal isn't a bad choice for a middle name of any gender. Gold symbolizes perfection and eternity, and it's associated with many positive ideas - "golden child", "pot of gold", etc. It connects to names such as Gilda, Gilderoy, or Goldman. I would be wary of using it first, but it might make a full name glitter.

I hadn't heard of Iolite before my research into these posts, but I fell in love with the sound of this name! It connects to Ione, Iolanthe, or Io - not a bad nickname at that! The stone is associated with imagination and exploration, and the color ranges from blue to indigo to purple. A definitely unique possibility!

One of the most popular gemstone/mineral names, Jade is firmly in the top 200, with siblings Jada, Jayla, and Jayden not far off. The stone is associated with healing and peace, and can be found all over the world. It's a great choice if you're looking for something well-established but very cool.

This classic British-style name has been trending upwards in recent years, a fresh antidote to the Jason/Justin frenzy. The stone is associated with nurturing and healing, and the meaning translates to "bringer of treasure". Jasper is definitely one of my favorites on the gemstone list!

Sib-name Malachi skyrocketed into the top 200 over a ten year span, so why not look for similar but unique options? This gemstone is associated with nature and amplification of energy. I thought there was also a Biblical connection, but I'm having trouble finding it in my research...

The stone of strength and discipline, many associate this name with a more masculine energy - I think it could work for any strong kid, though. Onyx is edgy, hip and mysterious, and doesn't sound like any other name out there.

This multicolored gem is associated with hope, inspiration and achievement - quite the trifecta! It's one of the birthstones for October, and comes in all shapes and sizes. Opal is cute and vintage, like Maude or Dorothy, and could definitely return to the charts soon!

One more bejeweled installment arrives tomorrow!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Gemstone Names - Part One

I've recently been introduced to Cartoon Network's fairly new TV show, Steven Universe, about a boy named Steven who teams up with the Crystal Gems to save the world (in a nutshell)! It's a great show about friendship, family, young love, relationships, and being true to yourself (again, in a nutshell). The main Crystal Gems in the show are Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl - so I was inspired to make a post about gemstone (and mineral) names!

Since there are so many cool options, I'll be splitting up the gemstone and mineral names over three days. I also won't be splitting them up by gender, since many are unisex. 

Let's begin!

I included this name because of its connection to Alex, Alexander, and Alexis. This gemstone is associated with creativity and is considered a good omen - not a bad "meaning" at all! It could be a cool way to get the nickname Alex but keep a unique full name. It's also one of the birthstones for June.

This incredibly popular gem name peaked in the 1980's and is on its way back down. So it may be considered unique today, but many kids will recognize it as a "mom name". Amber is associated with healing and protection, and it's soft golden-orange color is beautiful for a summer or fall baby.

This name seems perfectly poised to pose as a prénom (sorry, but the alliteration was too enticing). It's similar in sound to Amy, Amanda, and Amelia, and connects via color to Violet and Indigo. It's the birthstone for February, and its history associates it with royalty and as an antidote to intoxication (who knew?)

Cards on the table - I originally included this name because of my love for The Fox and the Hound. After some thought, however, I think it could definitely work for a human child. It's not far from Connor, Cooper, or Carter, and the color is divine. The metal is associated with money and positive relationships - love and friendship, for example. The only drawback I've heard is the connection to a nickname for police officers, but even that slang term has died down quite a bit - and I think Copper could honor a cop in the family!

Recently used as the name of Nemo's mom in Finding Nemo, I think Coral could make a cool comeback (it's been at the bottom of the top 1000 list since the 1930's). It's close to Cora, or even as a Carol honorific? It's associated with meditation and visualization, and the ocean feeling might be perfect for a baby born by the sea.

This name immediately conjures up the feelings of luxury, wealth and power. The name comes from the Greek for "invincible". This name might not be totally accessible, but the cute nickname Dia will tone it down. Diamonds are also the April birthstone.

Growing up, this was one of my favorite stones - probably because of its similar sound to Emily! It will fit right in with Emma and Emerson too. The Latin variation Esmeralda is also well known. The stone is associated with "successful love", and it's the May birthstone.

Stay tuned for the next installment!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday Jams #8: Sweet Baby JAMES

Probably my favorite of the classic English names, James is the star this week! To start, my favorite James Taylor song :)

"Sweet Baby James", James Taylor, 1970

"James Dean", The Eagles, 1974

"James and the Cold Gun", Kate Bush, 1979

"Little James", Oasis, 2000

"James", Billy Joel, 1976

"My Names is James", Randy Newman, 1996

Friday, October 9, 2015


Hello, readers!

Since becoming more involved in the name community, I've wondered - is there a field of study that focuses on names? I'm an academic at heart - BA in History of Art, French Lit minor, Dec 2013, UC Berkeley - and I'd love to find classes or some kind of program to study names.

However, I haven't been too successful. Here are some of the sites I've come across:

First, to Wikipedia!

Onomastics - An excellent definition, but not too much more information.

Anthroponymy - More specific in what I'm interested in, but still not great.

George R. Stewart - Cool, a Berkeley reference. Interesting fact - he "prompted the National Weather Service to use personal names to designate storms".

Now to societies!

American Name Society - "The American Name Society was founded in 1951 to promote onomastics, the study of names and naming practices, both in the United States and abroad. It is a non-profit organization that seeks to find out what really is in a name, and to investigate cultural insights, settlement history, and linguistic characteristics revealed in names."

English Place-Name Society - "The EPNS was established in 1923 to conduct a county-by-county survey of the place-names of England." It's connected to the University of Nottingham, so I'm glad to see an academic reference.

Guild of One-Name Studies - "The Guild will strengthen its position as the centre of excellence for surname studies by educating the worldwide genealogical community in one-name studies and empowering members to share their knowledge and expertise." Genealogy and surnames, but not too much about first names.

International Council of Onomastic Sciences - Excellent! Academia! Wish I had known about the conference earlier, I would love to attend their symposium in Paris this December.

Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland - "A society devoted to the study of names (place-names, personal names, and other names) from linguistic, historical, and sociological perspectives". So I'm seeing a lot of conferences, but no real singular departments. I guess I should have expected names to be more interdisciplinary!

Dictionary of Names from Medieval European Sources - An excellent site that I discussed at length on my blog yesterday.

But are there classes?

Academic Courses on Onomastics - This thorough PDF lists classes in Great Britain, Croatia, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, Sweden and the Czech Republic - at least, as of 2002. I do notice that many of the courses fall under the relevant language departments - Scandinavian, English, etc.

But nothing in the USA!

Any more information on onomastics and its academic presence would be really appreciated! I'm wondering if working with a language or literature department and creating an interdisciplinary Masters or PhD in Anthroponymy would be possible?