Friday, January 29, 2016

Name News 1/29/16

What Is Your Old Person Name? - Scott O'Conner, Knowable
This fun quiz had me laughing for awhile - I got Myrtle! Which I actually do like very much... maybe they're onto something? But a male friend of mine got Gladys, so who knows.

These are the Most Popular First Names for Geniuses - Simon Brew, mental_floss
While I doubt the conclusion of this article - correlation does not imply causation - it is fun to speculate on how names shape and are shaped by intelligence and culture.

Hottest Baby Names 2016 - Pamela Redmond Satran, Nameberry
This article has been making the rounds on other news sites, too! It's really cool to see the methodology for the predictions - let's see if these predictions translate to birth certificates!

One Direction Singer Louis Tomlinson Reveals Baby's Name - Cassandra Vinograd, NBC News
Another celebrity baby name making waves - Freddie Reign. I like the US-UK combination of a nickname first name and a word middle. And cute pics!

Here are the best and worst celebrity baby names of 2015 - Alexandra Zaslow, Today
I certainly don't like the idea of names being ranked "best" and "worst", and BabyCenter only surveyed 1100 moms - way too few. It is interesting to see the classic names getting the most love!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Throwback Thursday Series - American Given Names, V, W, X, Y + Z

Hello, readers!

This will be the very last American Given Names post! Thanks for sticking with me through this odd exploration of unusual names.

And of course, feel free to comment with your favorite name-related books!

Varina - depending on the origin, either "versatile", "integrity", or "foreign woman"

Wealthy - virtue name

Wrestling - virtue name

Zabdiel - "God endows"

Zadoc - "righteous"

Zebina - "bought" or "one who married foreign wives"

Zebulin - "exaltation"

Zedekiah - "God is just"

Zenas - "gift of Zeus"

Zillah - "shade"

Zoheth - "strong"

Zuriel - "God is my rock"

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tropical Cyclone Names 2016

Ahoy, readers!

Today I'll be looking at some of the tropical cyclone names for this upcoming year. To give context for why this information is important for naming - in 2005, Katrina was on the top 1000 at #246. By 2013, it was off the list entirely. So if you're thinking of choosing one of these names this year, maybe have a backup handy.

I've also included notes for some of the lesser-known names!

Atlantic Names

Gaston - Meaning "the foreigner", this name actually ranked in the US top 1000 until the 1930's. 
Hermine - Many origin possibilities, but too dated to be used as an alternative for Hermione.
Shary - Variations of Shari fell out by the 1990's.
Virginie - Super-cute French form of Virginia - if it's not used for a storm, go for it!

Eastern North Pacific Names

Blas - The Spanish variation of Blaise, but doesn't look quite finished to an English speaker.
Darby - This name means "from the deer town". 
Orlene - First time I've seen another vowel take the place of the A in Arlene
Paine - No records of this as a first name, and I'm not surprised. 

Do you think any of these names could weather bad press? Tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

POC Academy Award Winners and Nominees

Hello, readers!

I'll be the first to admit, I used to follow Oscar season semi-religiously - I tried to see every movie nominated, pre-printed and pre-predicted the official ballot, and spent all of Oscar night glued to my TV. But in recent years, as I've become more aware of racism and sexism in the film industry, I've put less importance on following the popular films and their related awards.

With the controversy this year around the all-white list of nominees - check out this article on Forbes for more context - I've decided to make this post about the POC actors and actresses who've won or been nominated.

Please let me know in the comments if I've missed any names! I'm using Wikipedia and Google to research. And an * indicates a winner. 

Best Actress First Names 

Halle *

Best Actor First Names

Sidney *
Denzel *
Jamie *
Forest *
Yul *
Ben *
José *

Best Supporting Actress First Names

Hattie *
Whoopi *
Dana (Queen Latifah)
Jennifer *
Mo'Nique *
Octavia *
Lupita *
Miyoshi *
Rita *
Mercedes *

Best Supporting Actor First Names

Louis *
Morgan *
Denzel *
Cuba *
Haing *
Anthony *
Benicio *

Monday, January 25, 2016

Top Baby Names in Italy

Ciao, lettori!

As Italian names are sweeping the US, I think it's a good time to look at their country of origin and find some new(ish) names to bring across the Atlantic. This is another part of my Global Names series, so check out the link to travel the world of naming!

I'm look at the top 30 baby names for Italy in the year 2014 (still no 2015 data yet for a lot of countries). I'll choose five for each gender, and include their English equivalents (if they exist). And there's a uniqueness factor - all but one of these names aren't in the US top 1000!

Female Names

Greta - Margaret
Currently at #7 in Italy and at #594 in the United States, Greta hits all the right notes - the old Hollywood feel, the hard and soft sounds, and the childhood sweetness that translates into adulthood elegance. Greta's previous peaks were in 1932 and 1967, and with the upswing of retro names it's been climbing back up the list since 2011. So while it's not unheard-of, its positive traits far outweigh its popularity!

This name comes from the Greek goddess who ruled over the earth in mythology - feminine and powerful, Gaia is not a bad namesake! Sound similarities to Maya and Naya will help it fit in on the playground. Also, for those of you ecologically-minded, the earth connection is a major plus. Gaia is currently at #11 in Italy, but it's never ranked in the US!

Ginevra - Guinevere, Jennifer
This name has sparked more interest lately due to its Harry Potter connection - Ginevra is the full first name of spunky Ginny Weasley. But that interest hasn't yet translated to popularity charts, so this name is a very unique pick! Meaning "white spectre", Ginevra also has many of the same sounds as Virginia - a not-too-distant honorific possibility?

Viola - Violet
While Violet verges on overabundance, the alternative Viola is an excellent almost-unused choice (its at #19 in Italy). The name was used in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, and it was a very popular name in the late 19th and early 20th century. If you're looking for a name that's retro but classic, strong but lovely, and established but not trendy, Viola is a great option. 

Ludovica - Louisa
Unusual to the ear of an English speaker, Ludovica is glamorous and transoceanic (its English equivalent isn't too popular either). At #29 in Italy, it's never been on a US list. And while its length is effeminate and graceful, the nickname possibilities are fantastic: Lulu, Louie, Dove, Vicky. It's another example of a subtle honorific for any familial Louis'!

Male Names

Mattia - Matthew
Both Mattia and similar Matteo are at #6 and #7 in Italy, with the latter rising up the charts in the US. So let's look at sweet Mattia: the a-sound-ending ties in with well-loved Noah and Elijah, the initial syllable lends itself to classic nickname Matt, and statistics say your Mattia will be the only one in his class. It's also a great unisex choice!

Federico - Frederick
Take this road-less-traveled to get to the cute nicknames Freddie or Rico. Federico was in the US top 1000 on and off for over 100 years before disappearing entirely in 1992. Its exciting sound and masculine feel make it totally usable now, especially next to Leonardo and Alessandro. Portuguese variation Frederico is another great pick!

Pietro - Peter
As Peter continues to slide off the charts, look abroad for better alternatives - Pietro, Pierre, Pedro. Meaning "rock", the Biblical connection may be positive for some namers, but the sound is anything but old-fashioned. There are quite a few historical Italian artist namesakes as well, giving Pietro a more well-rounded aura. 

Simone - Simon
While Simone has become a feminine option in English-speaking nations, I say, why let the girls have all the fun? Simon has been a classic, religious option, and changing the pronunciation to See-MONE adds oomph. Meaning "he has heard", Simone could be a great option for musically-inclined families or relative honorifics. 

Filippo - Philip or Phillip
A whimsical Italian name that offers a bunch of fun nickname opportunities, Filippo livens up the old-fashioned Philip. It means "lover of horses", but doesn't have the dude ranch sound of Austin or Blake. Spanish variation Felipe is also a viable option.

Which are your favorites? Tell me in the comments!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Saturday Jams: MICHELLE My Belle

Songs about Michelle for your weekend!

"Michelle", The Beatles, 1965

"My Michelle", Guns N Roses, 1987

"Fly High Michelle", Enuff Z'Nuff, 1989

"Seasons in the Sun", Terry Jacks, 1974

Friday, January 22, 2016

Baby Name Apps!

Hello, readers!

I recently downloaded 14 different free baby name and name generator apps (for iPhone). This post is a review of my top three!

I myself have toyed with the idea of creating an app, and of course I think Nameberry should create one based on their website!

"Finding a name for your baby can be as fun as making it" - cool slogan, but kind of a tall order. Ultimately, this app is like the Tinder of name apps - you and your partner make accounts, connect them, and start swiping left or right to favorite and reject names. When you both favorite the same name, you receive a match notification! Aesthetically, this app is super sleek, and I like that the name meanings are included with each name. However, there's not much functionality for researching or looking up names. 
This app is great if: you and your partner can't agree on a name. 


Baby Names
Search by popularity, origins, gender and more! This is probably my favorite app that I've tried, and tons of names are included. The interface is easy to use, and you can save names to a personal list. I also like their charts and graphs. The only drawback are the many advertisements on the screen - they can be a little distracting. But such is the case with free apps!
This app is great if: you want a lot of name information but can't get to a computer. 

Baby Names
Another great app to search by origins and letters, but less user-friendly and less information. I really do like the Random Names generator function - pick a gender, and you'll be given a totally random list! I found a few cool names I had never heard of. 
This app is great if: you want a few less ads in favor of random names. 

What are your favorite apps? Anything I'm missing? Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday Series - American Given Names, R, S, T + U

Hello, readers!

Let's cut right to the chase, shall we?

And as always, this is my weekly call for name-related books! Let me know what you're reading.

Reliance - virtue name

Repentance - virtue name

Salma - "safe"

Scipio - "walking stick"

Shearjashub - "the remnant shall return" or "he that is before the king of Assyria shall take away the riches"

Starr - "star"

Thankful - virtue name

Theron - "hunter"

Tremble - virtue name

Troilus - "Trojan"

Urien - "of privileged birth"

Uzziah - "my power is God"

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Literary Names: The Thief Lord

Ciao, lettori!

In this week's look at Literary Names, we'll be focusing on a favorite children's book of mine, Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord!

The Thief Lord is about two young boys who run away from their aunt and uncle's home to live on the streets of Venice, and they get entangled in a fantastical mystery. I recommend it to all readers 9 and up! 

Unlike other Literary Name posts, I'll be looking at the original names of the main characters. The Italian names in this book are too delightful to pass up!

Prosper "Prop" Hartlieb
The older of our two fraternal protagonists, Prosper is responsible, smart and kind. His name, which is laughed off in the beginning of the book by his aunt, is a result of his late mother's eccentricities. It actually ranked in the US top 1000 in 1881 - a mere blip, but that's established enough for me! Prosper is also popular in France, and it's meaning is understood across dozens of languages.

Boniface "Bo" Hartlieb
Sweet and enthusiastic Bo causes all sorts of trouble in The Thief Lord, mostly as a result of copying his favorite older child, Scipio (see below). Like his brother, his name means "fortunate", and is commonly associated with the many saints and popes Boniface. It's an adorable and unexpected way to get to the nickname Bo!

Scipio Massimo
Pronounced "SEE-pee-oh", Scipio is the leader of the group and the one with the most secrets to hide. He's daring, witty, and ambitious - not a bad namesake! Scipio means "walking stick", and dates back to Roman times.  You'll be hard-pressed to find a nickname, but that might be a positive attribute, depending on your taste.

Caterina "Hornet" Grimani
Independent and intelligent, Hornet is the only female in the group - and more than holds her own against the boys. The name Hornet is a little too aggressive (and the first syllable could definitely cause teasing), but the name Bee or Bea is a cute work-around. Caterina is also a lovely, feminine moniker that updates now-tainted Katrina, and separates itself from popular Catherine.

Small but fiery Riccio is nicknamed "Hedgehog" by the group because of his unruly hair - coincidentally, his name means "curly"! I like this name as a nickname or derivative of Richard, and its sound ties it to other popular Italian names - Gianni, Angelo, Leo. Riccio is pronounced "REE-kee-oh", but it may be mistaken as "REE-chee-oh" in the US.

Aspiring boater and mechanical whiz, Mosca is another thief in the children's gang. His name means "fly", as in the insect, and despite its less-than-ideal definition, I love the sound of the name. It joins a small but elegant group of boys' names ending in A, like Noah, Jonah, and Ezra.

Since I'm only writing about the names of the children, I should mention that the adult's names are just as cool - Ernesto, Max, Esther, Victor, and Ida.

Which names are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Artist Names: Pop Artists

Hello, readers!

I'm continuing my series on Artist Names - click the link for past posts - and today we'll be looking at another one of my favorite periods, Pop Art!

Pop art came out of the increasing materialism and industrialization in the 1950's and 1960's in postwar Europe and the United States. Faced with the rise of graphic design and advertising, artists asked the question, "what is art?" This style of art ranged from paintings to collages to sculpture, with no singular style winning out; this wide variety of aesthetics is part of the reason I like the period so much! And while I myself am an Andy Warhol junkie, I'll be trying to include a few different artists of the era. 

*Disclaimer - as in the rest of lauded Western art history, there is a disproportionate amount of old white men below. Just warning you.*

Andy Warhol (Andrew Warhola)
Arguably the most well known artist on this list, Andy Warhol was known for both his art and avant-garde lifestyle (I've read three books on him, and each is more surprising than the last). His Campbell's Soup Cans and colorful Marilyn's are recognized today - UniQlo recently came out with a clothing line based on his work. As for his name - while I generally prefer the longer versions of names with nickname options, I think Andy works well on its own. And any little one would be happy to share the moniker with Andy from Toy Story! Warhol, on the other hand, is a bit too aggressive for a first name, so if you must use it, keep it in the middle. 

Jasper Johns
I've reviewed the name Jasper before, but it's nice to look at it through a new lens. Artist Jasper Johns is known for his colorful prints and paintings, especially Three Flags, 1958. Like Warhol, he used popular iconography of the time, but turned it on its head, making the viewer think about the icon itself. The name Jasper is currently at #218, and trending upwards quickly. I think it's a great alternative to overused Jason and ghost-themed Casper. The name means "bringer of treasure" - not a bad definition for an artist!

David Hockney
Having attended David Hockney's retrospective at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco a few years back, his art is fresh in my mind: bright colors, intense portraits, and striking landscapes. He began with painting, but now makes art on his iPad (Google some of his work!) David, of course, is a classic name with a long history. Hockney, however, doesn't have an established presence in naming - yet. It's similarities to Henry, Hadley, or Harvey make it a sound worth pursuing, and it feels positively English. It also has never made a recorded list, so it's very unique as a first name!

Roy Fox Lichtenstein 
Famous for his larger than life comic-style paintings, Lichtenstein also worked with the idea of pop art as parody, transforming popular images into fine art for audiences. His style is prominent today in clothing, copycat art, and design - and some great Halloween costumes come from his paintings! I'll put aside the classic Roy and difficult Lichtenstein in favor of his middle name - Fox. Fox has been growing in popularity since 1995 - there were 163 boy and 7 girl Fox's born in 2014. I suspect it's also used as a middle name more often. I personally love the name for its associations with Fox Mulder of The X-Files, and it fits in with nature name trends. 

Wayne Thiebaud
Thiebaud's vibrant paintings of gumball machines, hot dogs, and even Superman, catch every viewer's eye - my favorites of his are housed at the de Young Museum and SFMOMA in San Francisco. Another artist of mass culture, his works feel less overt with their subjects, and more interested in engaging audiences. Now, onto his name - Wayne is still too mid-century to return (and on a more personal note, there's an unscientific study relating the name to criminal propensity). Thiebaud, however, is related to the Shakespearean Tybalt - a definite possibility. It means "from bold people", and has the cute nickname Ty. Other variants allow for the nickname Theo!

What do you think of these names? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Names

Hello, readers!

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I've made a list of names associated with activists in the Civil Rights Movement. These names represent strong, remarkable individuals who paved the way for our world today - and their sacrifice and message stands today.

Maya Angelou
Ella Baker
Unita Blackwell
Stokely Carmichael
Medgar Evers
Myrlie Evers-Williams
James Farmer
Prathia Hall
Fannie Lou Hamer
Lorraine Hansberry
Jesse Jackson
Coretta Scott King
Martin Luther King Jr.
John Lewis 
Thurgood Marshall
Robert Parris Moses
Diane Nash
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Rosa Parks
A Philip Randolph
Malcolm X
Whitney Young

Friday, January 15, 2016

Name Roundup!

Hello, readers!

Today I'll be looking at unusual names I've heard in the past few weeks - some way or another, they always find me!

A combination of Melanie and Berniece, Melaniece stood out to me because of it's aural similarities to Anneliese. It's also not too far from 80's darling Melissa! I haven't been able to find any origins, which suggests to me it might be a modern invented name. And one drawback - any little Melaniece will be asked about their aunts and uncles more than the average kid. 

Ladawn (or LaDawn)
Ladawn has a lot of positive traits: a similar meaning to the trending Aurora and classic Dawn, an ends-in-N sound like London or Lauren, and a French La-beginning. It sounds more Southern to me - and country singer Toby Keith agrees (his daughter is Krystal Ladawn). There's also something about it that's confident - but that could be my bias towards its namesake!

I recently spoke with a customer service representative who had this name, not long after my International Names post was published. I will say, I prefer Irish to Ireland - it seems more friendly and accessible. It could also be an honorific for family heritage or for an Irene or Ira in the family. 

As Welsh names are trending upwards again - Bronwen, Tegan, Bryn - Olwen comes along to join the fun! It means "white footprint" and can be found in medieval romance stories. The nickname Ollie is also enticing, and variants Olwin and Olwyn add more options. It's not currently ranked in the UK or the US, but I think it might show up soon!

Mei is a pretty name already popular in the US, though it originated in China - it means "beautiful". Sumei adds an extra layer, meaning "very beautiful". With Maya and Mae shooting up the top 1000, I think Sumei could fit in well - alternate spelling Sue May is another Southern option. 

A more feminine variation of classic Audrey, Audrina keeps the sound concise and pretty, without the extra vowels of Audriana or Audrielle. The original name means "noble strength" - a real blessing for a little one. One drawback is that the most famous Audrina is a character on reality TV, but the name stands on its own with or without a namesake. 

Have you heard any unusual names recently? Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Throwback Thursday Series - American Given Names, O, P + Q

Hello, readers!

It's Thursday again! Which means it's another American Given Names post :)

Also, I'm collecting name-related books, so please let me know your favorites! Baby name collections, books on the history of names, even books with cool names in them!

Onesimus - "beneficial"

Onesiphorus - "beneficial"

Oriana - "golden" or "dawn" (Thanks, DMNES, for Orienta!)

Ozias - "salvation"

Pelatiah - "God-delivers" or "refugee of God"

Peleg - "division"

Penuel - "face of God"

Perez - "burst forth"

Persis - "Persian woman"

Preserved - virtue name

Quash, Quashey - "born on Sunday"

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Name News: 1/13/16

Zoo Names New Baby Penguin After David Bowie - Marie Lodi, Jezebel
The day after David Bowie's death was announced, this little penguin was named in his honor. I'm predicting that Bowie will skyrocket as a name this year, as many fans honor the glam rocker who performed his way into our hearts and minds.

Name of the Year 2015: Caitlyn Jenner - American Name Society
The word of the year may be "they", but the American Name Society has announced that its name for the year honors trans individual Caitlyn Jenner. Check out the other honorees: Star Wars was also influential, and a few hashtags have made the list, too!

Baby names since the 1900s: the endangered, the resurrected and the long gone - Inga Ting, Sydney Morning Herald
An interesting look at name trends in New South Wales! It's interesting that a lot of news reports will say a name is "endangered", when I see a lot of members of the name community who love pulling names from obscurity! Who knows, maybe in 50 years, John will be unique!

Sorry, Person Named Chanel, You Can’t Use Your First Name As An Instagram Handle - Laura Northrup, Consumerist
Who wins when corporations and individuals are vying for the same social media recognition? The billion-dollar corporation, of course :( I hope Chanel-the-person strikes back!

Google Your First Name and Glamour Shot: Best Funny Photos - Sam Prince, Heavy
This game is too fun! Love some of the 90's pics I came across with "Emily Glamour Shots"!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Names from the plays of Tennessee Williams

Hello, readers!

Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III was one of the biggest playwrights of the twentieth century- he wrote such classics as The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire. Today, I'll be including a list of the names in his more famous plays. Check out this Southern, midcentury style!

The Glass Menagerie, 1944


A Streetcar Named Desire, 1947


Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1955

Margaret (Maggie)

Suddenly, Last Summer, 1958


The Night of the Iguana, 1961


What are your favorites? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Names for Hard Times

Hello, readers!

Today's post is a bit more reflective than my normal style, so heads up!

Something I've come across since beginning my foray into the world of baby names is the concept of a "rainbow baby" - a baby born after a previous miscarriage or otherwise unsuccessful pregnancy. I've seen parents use the names Rainbow or Iris (meaning "rainbow") in their new baby's name, to honor their experience.

It got me thinking - in this exciting community where names are equated with new life and births, there's often an element of loss or death included. We honor now-gone relatives with our new baby's names (I've learned a bit about the Jewish traditions around this idea), we honor our past familial homes with origin names; in a way, we even reinvigorate names from eras we've never experienced - Emma is a prime example.

It's not as "fun" to think about these concepts, but I think it definitely is helpful, even therapeutic, to use names to act as transitions between darkness and light. For without our past, our hard times, we would not be able to appreciate the hope ahead.

So, for my own personal reference and for any of you readers who might be interested, I've compiled a list of names whose meanings are more solemn, sad, or reflective. There's a reason so many of these names exist in the first place - for generations, we've been honoring the bad times as well as the good. I believe that these names don't portend a negative future for their recipients; rather, they remind us that the most happy, hopeful things - like new babies - can spring from unexpected places.

Brenna - "descendent of the sad one"

Brennan - "descendant of the sad one"

Deirdre - "sorrowful"

Diggory - "lost one"

Dolores - "lady of sorrows"

Duald - "darkness"

Jabez - "borne in pain"

Layla - "night"

Lilith - "of the night"

Malala - "sad"

Mirra - "sea of sorrows"

Morana - "death"

Perdido - "lost"

Perdita - "lost"

Rajani - "dark, of the night"

Shivani - "life and death"

Thana - "death"

Tristan - "sorrowful"

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Saturday Jams: Can't CHARLIE Wait

Songs about Charlie! (And only one about Charlie Brown, I promise!)

"Champagne Charlie", originally by George Leybourne, 1866
Performed by Leon Redbone, 1978

"Charlie", Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2006

"Charlie Brown", the Coasters, 1959

"Charlie Darwin", the Low Anthem, 2009

"Charlie Don't Surf", the Clash, 1980

Friday, January 8, 2016

Top Baby Names in Estonia

Tere lugejad!

Today we have another installment in my Global Names series! In the past, I've looked at Brazil, Germany, Sweden, Israel, and Russia - but now we'll be looking at names from a slightly smaller nation.

I've chosen a few names from each gender's top 25 list from 2014 - not too many nations have released official 2015 lists yet, so hang tight! I'll also be including any relative English equivalents, for clarity's sake. 

I've also already reviewed some of the other names (Artem, Kirill, Arina) in the top 25 - check out the Swedish and Russian lists if you're interested in similar names!

Female Names

Lisandra - Millicent, Melisande, or Lysander
Currently at #5 in Estonia, this long and feminine name was only given to 15 baby girls in the US in 2014. But there are plenty of reasons Lisandra should be more popular: the aural cadence like Samantha and Amanda, the honorific possibilities for Lisa or Andrea, and the substantial meaning- "strong in work".

Mirtel - Myrtle
A botanical name that isn't Lily, Rose, or Violet? Sign me up! While the English version is still a little dated, the Estonian spelling seems softer and more amicable to nicknames - Mira or Tilly, for instance. And given that it's never been recorded in US name data, the odds of running across another little Mirtel on this side of the Atlantic are highly unlikely. 

Meaning "from Milan", this name is already rising in the US - at #762 in 2014. Milana's melodic sound and M-beginning help it fit in with other popular names, but somehow this name seems more classic. It's also a great alternative to trendy Mila, Amelia, and Melanie. Sister name Milan is even higher on the charts, for fans of London and Paris

Lenna - Lena or Leona
Pronounced like Jenna, this name can also be considered a more feminine alternative to Lennon. It definitely has more of a Scandinavian aura, but works cross-culturally for a variety of languages. Personally, I'm more of a Lena fan, but Lenna is too interesting to pass up!

Marleen - Marlene
While the English equivalent can be pronounced Mar-LEEN or Mar-LEE-Na, the Estonian name is the former. I'm a huge fan of Marlene, especially because it's a combination of Mary and Magdalene, two infinitely intriguing women in the Christian faith. And while Marleen was more popular in the 1940's and 1950's, the similarities to cute Marley can't be ignored. 

Male Names

Rasmus - Erasmus 
This name means "beloved", and it's topping the charts in northern European countries - why hasn't the US gotten ahold of Rasmus yet?! There are dozens of incredibly cool namesakes, the sound is close to Russell, Amos, and Roman, and it's virtually unknown in the states. With or without the E-beginning, this name is a fantastic choice. 

While I can't find a definitive meaning/origin for the name, it seems to be close to the Estonian word for "joy". I think this name could definitely fit in with current trends - the -et ending like Everett or Bennett, the Rom-beginning like Rome or Roman, and the easy pronunciation. You might raise a few eyebrows, but I much prefer Romet to Rocket!

Maksim - Maxim
I included Maksim not because it's an unusual name, but because the Estonian spelling is unusual. For those who like creative spellings, this one has a linguistic base! Maxim means "greatest" and is currently on the top 1000 in the United States. 

Marten - Martin
This is another less-heard spelling for a popular name, but with a twist: for fans of Fox and Bear, a marten is a ferret-like animal native to the northern hemisphere.  If you're looking for a nature name that doesn't belong in a zoo, why not Marten? It also means "warlike", and could honor a familial Martin

Sander - Alexander
A cute diminutive that sounds like an occupational name, Sander fits well next to Sawyer or Sailor. It means "defending men", and has a friendly, down-to-earth quality about it. A personal plus is that it could be an homage to my favorite presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders!

Tell me your picks in the comments!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Throwback Thursday Series - American Given Names, K, L, M + N

Hello, readers!

I'm returning to my series on George R. Stewart's American Given Names! Today is brought to you by quite a few letters - some of the most popular in current trends!

And again, I'm collecting name-related books, so let me know your favorites in the comments!

Katina - "pure"

Kerenhappuch - "horn of antimony"

Keturah - "fragrance"

Laban - "white"

Loammi - "not my people"

Ludmilla - "favor of the people"

Mahalah - "tender"

Mahershalalhashbaz - "quick to plunder and swift to spoil"

Mahlon - "sickly"

Malvina, Melvina - "smooth brow"

Manasseh - "causing to forget"

Mehetabel - "God rejoices"

Melanchthon - "black earth"

Mingo - unknown

Naphtali - "wrestling"

Noadiah - "meeting with God"

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Literary Names: The Odyssey

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns, driven time and again off course...

The man referred to above is literary idol Odysseus, whose story is still taught in high schools across the country and referenced in hundreds of books and films - including one of my favorites, O Brother Where Art Thou? Today we'll be looking at just a few of the names of characters in his epic journey.

While some etymologies of this name list the meaning as "hate" or "wrath", the Odyssey itself lists the meaning as "trouble" - and one would really have trouble either wearing or pronouncing Odysseus. His character, however, is a persevering, brave warrior delayed by divine circumstances. The variation Ulysses or Ulises (in the top 1000) is a bit more usable, especially with the namesake Ulysses S. Grant, US general and president

Another name of uncertain meaning - either "weaver" or "duck". But Penelope is infinitely more wearable. In the epic, she's the faithful wife of Odysseus who fends off suitors and raises her son alone while waiting for her husband to return from war. Today, this feminine name is in the top 50 in the US, and only slightly less popular in England and Australia. There are also quite a few nicknames and variations to choose from: Penny, Nell, and Poppy, for example. 

The Greek goddess of wisdom and warfare, Athena is Odysseus' personal guardian throughout his troubles in the Homeric epic. As a name, Athena is fantastic - the a-ending and beginning help it fit in with Arianna, Alyssa, etc; the meaning is strong and inspiring; and the namesake is a literal divinity. I'm definitely a fan (and not just because it's also rife with pop culture references!)

Meaning "she who hides", Calypso's character in the Odyssey is that of a lovesick nymph who tricks Odysseus into staying with her for seven years - so not super positive. However, the name itself holds a lot of possibilities: the reference to Calypso music, the nicknames Cal or Callie, and the completely unique sound and spelling. Other trivia: her father is Atlas, and her symbol is a dolphin. 

I include this name in the list because of the aural similarities to Tyrese and Tyson, both in the top 1000 over the past 10 years. In the epic, Tiresias is the prophet of Apollo who meets Odysseus in his journey to the underworld. According to some sources, his name means "seer" or "sign", which is very auspicious. Of course, there are plenty of nicknames that go along with Tiresias too!

Always on the lookout for E-names, Eumaeus stood out to me because of its many vowels - with names like Noah and Aaliyah at the top of the charts, I predict the vowel-heavy names will get longer! In the Odyssey, Eumaeus is a loyal shepherd and friend to Odysseus who helps him reclaim his throne (spoilers, sorry). While this name might not be modern enough, there might be some other Eu-names that could make a comeback: Euphemia, Eulalia, or Euan.

Meaning "far from battle", this name is also a mouthful. But the devoted son of our noble hero Odysseus is a great namesake, and there are quite a few nickname possibilities: Tel, Mac, Clem (?). Established names that sound the same include Theophilus, Thelonius, or Timotheus. Other warlike names include Marcus, Ptolemy, and Arrio.

Odysseus' greatest enemy throughout the epic, the god Poseidon throws obstacle after obstacle in front of him throughout the Odyssey. However, the god of the sea has an aurally appealing name that would fit in with the current -don names, like Brandon or Jadon. I'm a little skeptical of Poseidon, because unlike Athena, it seems to be associated only with the divinity. But if your child has a confident nature, Poseidon might hit all the right notes.

Her name sounds perfectly formed to stand on its own while fitting in with trends like Sydney or Sierra. But her character leaves much to be desired: like Calypso, she tricked Odysseus into staying with her for a year before returning to his wife and son. Still, this goddess of magic is mentioned in all sorts of stories, and Circe is more complicated than Homer makes her out to be.

Meaning "mighty mind", Alcinous is an interesting character to inspire a name. In the Odyssey, he helps Odysseus return to his wife and son; in the story of Jason and the Argonauts, he protects Jason's wife Medea. As a name, Alcinous may be hard to swallow, so similar-meaning alternatives might be a better bet: Aydin, Akira, or Hugo.

Are any of these names totally unusable? What about Homer? Tell me what you think in the comments!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Names from How to Get Away with Murder

Hello, readers!

After binge-watching seasons one and two, I'm officially addicted to the Viola Davis mystery-drama How to Get Away with Murder. It's funny, smart, and jaw-dropping - but don't worry, I won't be posting any spoilers below!

I'll be looking at the names of the ten main characters (the actors are shown above). But since this drama is full of guest stars, these names aren't the only ones to watch out for!

Sidenote: Why isn't Viola more popular? It's gorgeous. 

Annalise Keating
Now firmly in the top 500, Annalise has been moving slowly up the popularity list since its debut in 1997. It's originally a combination of Anna and Elizabeth, two very popular names, but the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts - Annalise is sophisticated, elegant, and smart. 

Nate Lahey
While full names Nathan and Nathaniel are in the top 100, diminutive Nate isn't on the top 1000 at all. It's a fantastic nickname-name, like Jack or Liam, and not too far from the adorable Tate. Nate's lovely meaning is "gift from God". 

Wes Gibbins
Another nickname-name, Wes has become more visible recently thanks to various athletes and two major film directors, Wes Anderson and Wes Craven. It can be short for Wesley or Westcott (?) - this name on its own isn't quite as substantial as Nate. But it's positively posh!

Connor Walsh
This name has been in the top 100 since 1992, and I think it's long overdue for an update. Connor means "lover of hounds" - try Madden, Madigan, or Connelly for a similar meaning. If you like the sound, check out Casper, Collier, or Casimir

Michaela Pratt
The original spelling Michaela is now seen everywhere as Mikayla, McKayla, etc. The original spelling is more classic and honorific, but like Connor, its sound is a little overused. Alternatives include Mila, Magnolia, or Marisol

Asher Millstone
As a fan of Hebrew names, Asher has always been a crush - this is also the name of the main character's best friend in The Giver. It means "happy" and the sound is just as uplifting. Of course, both Asher and Ashton are in the top 200, so it's far from unique. 

Laurel Castillo
With Laura and Lauren finally declining, it might be time for a new Laur-name to take the spotlight. This names is also nature-related, with the laurel tree being associated with victory and success. Laurel is also almost nickname-less, for any purists out there!

Frank Delfino
This retro nickname-name is very cute, and might be on the rise with the popularity of Pope Francis. It's also likely to be somewhere in your family (statistically) if you're looking to honor your ancestry! Frank means "Frenchman", and is also a word name meaning "earnest". 

Bonnie Winterbottom
While "My Bonny Lies over the Ocean" is playing in my head, this name is far from associated to any one item. It means "pretty" and has a full, melodic sound. And there are plenty of Bonnie's, real and imagined, in history - take your pick of a namesake!

Rebecca Sutter
A Biblical name that has never left the top 200, Rebecca is classic and feminine. But there might be more unique options out there to differentiate your little one: Rebel, Revka, River, or Ruby, for example. Rebecca means "servant of God".

Tell me your favorite names in the comments! And are there any shows you're watching that merit a name review?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy Birthday, Sterling Holloway!

Hello, readers!

Today I'm celebrating the birthday of Sterling Holloway, one of the most well-known Disney voice actors of the mid-20th century. He passed away in 1992, but his characters will live on forever in the hearts of his audiences.

Here are the names of some of his most popular characters - would they work for a child today?

Meaning "silver penny" or "high quality", this retro name has been shooting back up the popularity list. It's currently at #508 - not bad for such a unique-sounding name! There are plenty of fictional and real-life namesakes other than Mr. Holloway - even Mad Men had a Sterling or two. 

It's got the trendy o-ending and a long history, but it may not be able to shake the Where's Waldo? connotation. Waldo means "to rule", and was also writer Ralph Emerson's middle name (what a fun literary sibset!) If your child has the confidence, though, Waldo could be magnificent.

If Lily and Violet are too mainstream, why not try a direct nature name? The cute nickname Flo is also a plus. It's also been rarely seen in name data - 5 babies were named Flower in 2013, but less than that in 2014. It would also make a daring middle choice!

Holloway was the original voice of the favorite children's character, Winnie the Pooh. Winnie dropped off the official top 1000 in the 1950's, but has seen a comeback recently in celebrity baby naming. It's a great nickname for a variety of longer names, too - Gwyneth, Winifred, etc. 

Although the short and strong sound gives this name a lot of oomph, the rhyming possibilities make it all but totally unusable. Try Brock, Tucker, Burke, or Jack.

Let me know what you think of these names in the comments!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Saturday Jams: Hey There DELILAH

Songs for the lovely, euphonic Delilah!
"Hey There Delilah", Plain White T's, 2005

"Delilah", Tom Jones, 1968

"Delilah", Florence + the Machine, 2015

"Delilah", Queen, 1991

"Delilah", Blake Shelton, 2010

"Delilah", The Dresden Dolls, 2006

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Years' Day Names

Happy New Year, readers!

I hope 2016 is good to every one of you! I, for one, could use a new start and a new philosophy. Tell me your New Year's resolutions (name-related or not) in the comments!

Naveen - "new"
Disney's Princess and the Frog brought this name to our collective consciousness, but only 45 boys and 31 girls were named Naveen last year - if you're looking for uniqueness, here it is! Naveen is Hindi, and works well cross-culturally for any US baby. 

Neo - "new"
Another name made popular by movies, but this time it's the sci-fi classic The Matrix. It's slowly rising for boys, but it isn't nearly as trendy as Leo or Noah. I think Neo could also be a cool nickname for a New Year's baby, first names aside. It's origin is Latin. 

Nova - "new"
This celestial name is concise but holds great power - associating your baby with a bright star isn't a bad way to start off the year. Nova is also a retro name made cool again, and it's steep rise up the charts in recent years shows that it's not going anywhere. 

Zera - "seeds" or "beginnings"
A Z name I haven't seen before, Zera (pronounced ZEH-rah) is a cool, confident name that any little girl could pull off. I like it's closeness to Vera, but the visual connection to Zero might be problematic for some (or a positive!)

January - month name, from the Roman god Janus
I reviewed this name in my Winter Names a few weeks back, but it's too relevant to pass up for a New Year's post. Janus is the god of beginnings, so naming a child in his honor fits with the New Year's theme. Janan is also in this name family!

Harish - "lord of monkeys"
From a Hindi name that also refers to the god Vishnu, I thought including a monkey post for the Year of Monkey was pertinent. Harish has been used on and off since the 1970's, and its closeness to Harrison or Hamish will help it fit in.