Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day Names

Happy Leap Day, readers!

In honor of this extra day, I'll be looking at names associated with the traditions and quirks of February 29th. Let's have some fun!

Notable February 29th Birthdays

Emmeline Wells - American activist
Jimmy Dorsey - American musician and bandleader
Balthus - Polish-French artist
Khaled - Algerian musician
Ja Rule - American rapper

St. Oswald's Day 

Oswald: "divine power", nicknames Oz or Ozzy

Variations: Osvaldo, Ožbalt, Oswell, Ox

Names associated with Saint Oswald: Oda, Osulf, Frithegod, Osgar, Germanus, Oskytel, Æthelwine, Dunstan, Edgar, Benedict, Otto, Ethelred

Chinese Zodiac - 生肖

Leap years only occur in the years of the monkey, dragon and rat!

Names that mean "monkey": Hari, Harisha, Kapila, Hanuman, Harita

Names that mean "dragon": Draco, Drake, Long, Ryuu, Kaida, Tatsu

Names that mean "rat": Couldn't find any! Tell me your discoveries in the comments :)

Leap Day

Names associated with "jump": Pakuna, Springer, Alula, Horst, Sacheverell, Tallulah, Zophar

Enjoy your extra day!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saturday Jams: Curious GEORGE

Songs about George for your weekend :)

"George Jackson", Bob Dylan, 1971

"Yo George", Tori Amos, 2007

"Poor Georgie", MC Lyte, 1991

"The Killing of Georgie", Rod Stewart, 1976

"George of the Jungle" theme, Stan Worth and Sheldon Allman, 1967

Friday, February 26, 2016


As of last night, my blog hit 10,000 views! Thank you, readers, for your support!!!

Names from the Novels of Victor Hugo

Bonjour, mes lecteurs!

Happy 214th Birthday, Victor Hugo! In honor of this legendary French author, I'll be looking at names from some of his more famous novels. I made a similar post about Charles Dickens last year.

Hernani, 1830


Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), 1831

Esmeralda (Agnes)

Les Misérables, 1862


L'Homme Qui Rit (The Man Who Laughs), 1869


Tell me your favorites in the comments below!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Ph Names of the 1880's

Hello, readers!

Today's post is a list post of names that start and end with "Ph"! The only names on the current top 1000 lists that start with these two letters are Phoebe, Phillip/Philip, and Phoenix, and the only one that ends with "ph" is Joseph. But some of these names below might be the next retro trends!

Names that start with Ph-


Names that end with -ph


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Devilish Names

Greetings, readers!

This past weekend I went to see Robert Eggers' The Witch, an excellent (albeit scary and really unusual) film about a Puritan family dealing with the supernatural. The references to the Devil got me thinking - are there any devilish names in use out there? I found some below!

I'm using data from 2014, since the 2015 records haven't been released yet! The names have been ordered by popularity, greatest to least (the numbers in parentheses show how many babies were given the name).

Lilith (447)
The popularity of cheerful Lily has given this name a boost, but the original Lilith was Adam's first wife in Jewish folklore. She refused to be subservient to him and left him, turning into a demon (I'm personally on her side in this debate). The connotation is preserved mostly in the Jewish tradition, but it's interesting to see such an innocent-looking name with such a diabolic origin story.

Loki (119)
The popularity of the Avengers character has surely boosted this name for both boys and girls. Loki is a trickster god in the Nordic tradition, but his name is attached to certain interpretations of the devil. Aurally and visually, it's a stand-out choice, and it will probably get even bigger as the Marvel movie universe grows!

Leviathan (24)
I can see why this name is especially appealing today - it looks like a mash-up of Levi and Jonathan. The name literally means "twisted", and often references sea monsters (some translate Leviathan as "whale"). In the Old Testament, or Tanakh, Satan appears in the form of a whale, hence the connection. I do like the name, though it's a lot to live up to!

Azazel (12)
Literally meaning "scapegoat", the name is associated with sacrificial rites in Judaism, and some traditions refer to Azazel as a fallen angel. I'm sure a lot of parents choose the name for the cool double-z sound - like Aziz or Aziza - and many are unaware of the demonic link. Still, the name hasn't been used enough for me to predict how it will fair in the future.

Lucifer (11)
The first name I thought of on this list, Lucifer has been recorded almost annually since 2002. The auditory similarity to Lucy or Lucian probably has more to do with its popularity than any devilish reasons. I tend to associate this name with the cat from Cinderella, but the name does have a positive meaning: "light-bearer".

Demon (8)
I'm surprised at the longevity of this name - Demon has been recorded as far back as 1969. It's similar to Damon or Damian - the name of the cursed child in The Omen - but Demon more directly references evil than any of the other names on this list. If anyone has a theory of how this name stayed on the books so long, tell me in the comments!

Yama (6)
The name of the god of the dead in both Hindu and some East Asian mythologies, Yama also translates to "mountain" in Japanese. I'd advise against any Western parents using it - see cultural appropriation - but it's a lovely, friendly name.

I'm including Diablo on the list, since it was recorded in 1975 - 5 babies were born that year named Diablo. Recently screenwriter Diablo Cody has jumped on the scene - she picked her name - and it's up for debate whether the name is okay to use.

I have to say, I'm relieved the following names never showed up in data: Satan, Devil, or Beelzebub.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Name of Thrones: Liechtenstein

Hello, readers!

Welcome to the fourth installment of my Name of Thrones series! I've been looking at modern monarchies from around the world and focusing on the names that don't have much use in the US. Princess and Queen have only recently left the top 1000, and I think that there are definitely more imaginative choices!

To Liechtenstein!

Notice that many of the male family members have Maria in their names! Many Christian monarchies include the name as a tribute to the Virgin Mary

Marie Aglaë - Princess of Liechtenstein
I've only come across this middle name once or twice, but I already love its classic French sound and the tréma over the last "e". Aglaë comes from the Greek for "splendor", and fits in nicely with vintage Agnes and Agatha. It has only been recorded in the US once in history: seven baby Aglae's were born in the US in 1992. 

Alois - Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein
A distant form of Louis, Alois is a handsome alternative. It means "famous in war", and it's a great sibling to the feminine Eloise. It's also distant from the fusty Aloysius. Alois has been incredibly rare in the US since the 1930's, but has the positive attribute of having a long history while maintaining its individuality. 

Joseph Wenzel Maximilian Maria - Prince of Liechtenstein, Count Rietberg
This young prince was named for ancestor Prince Joseph Wenzel Lorenz of Liechtenstein, who reigned during the eighteenth century. Wenzel is the German form of Wenceslaus (as in the Good King of song), meaning "great glory". I can see the similarities to Wendell, but I can't decide if either name is ripe for the picking. 

Marie-Caroline Elisabeth Immaculata - Princess of Liechtenstein, Countess Rietberg
Another name honoring the Virgin Mary, Immaculata means "pure" and has rarely been used in the US. It's very strongly Catholic, and could be an alternative to Chastity or Purity. Still, it's a difficult name to live up to, and would take a lot of explaining. 

Alfons Constantin Maria - Prince of Liechtenstein
I reviewed Alonso last week in my Top Names in Chile post, and now we'll look at another variant! Alfons means "noble and ready", and has been used more often in Romance-language communities. With Alfie getting popular in the UK, I think names like Alfred and Alfons might offer more formal long-form options. 

Moritz Emanuel Maria - Prince of Liechtenstein
A variation of the English Maurice, Moritz often conjures up images of the resort town in Switzerland. I think the name could work with today's geographical trends, as well as for its unusual -itz ending. The name means "dark-skinned", from the Moors. 

Georgina Maximiliana Tatiana Maria - Princess of Liechtenstein
Every name here has a feminine ending! Firstly, Georgina is a great alternative to Georgia, Regina, or Virginia. It could also honor a familial Gina. Maximiliana is a sweet, if slightly long way to get the nickname Max for your little girl - of course, Maxine and Maxima are other established options. Tatiana is a personal crush due its namesake, Tatiana Romanova (Anastasia's sister). 

Benedikt Ferdinand Hubertus Maria - Prince of Liechtenstein
None of these names are in the US Top 1000 (for boys, at least). Benedikt was named five years before Pope Benedict XVI ended his papacy, so that could be a religious honorific. Benedict has become better known in the US recently because of actor Cumberbatch. Hubertus is the Latin form of Hubert, meaning "bright-hearted". 

There are some really excellent choices here! Which are your favorites?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Literary Names: Anne of Green Gables

Hello, readers!

In this week's installment of Literary Names, we'll be looking at the beloved children's classic, Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery!

Along with many other readers, I identified with Anne in many ways when I read this book for the first time. Who hasn't felt like the awkward but endearing member of their family? I also liked her insistence that her name be spelled "with an E" - it's the little things in life that mean the most. 

Let's begin!

Lucy Maud Montgomery
The author's name is just beautiful, so we're starting there. Lucy is only just now returning to its popularity levels from the late nineteenth century, when LMM was born. This classic name means "light", and it's popular in almost every English-speaking country. Maud (without an E), on the other hand, hasn't been seen in the US Top 1000 since the 1930's. With vintage names making a comeback, I think that could change for this sweet moniker. Montgomery made the news last year when celebrities chose it for their son, and its numbers have been slowly rising over the past 20 years. It's got the cute nickname Monty among other positive attributes. 

Anne Shirley
Protagonist and everyone's favorite literary redhead, Anne Shirley leaps from the page as the unexpected orphan who comes to live with the quiet, conservative brother and sister Cuthberts. She also tends to romanticize names - Cordelia and Geraldine among them - but doesn't mind her own too much. While the name Anne has never made the top 50, it's been decreasing in popularity over the years, with Anna on the rise. Anne is a perfect middle name (and one of the most popular), and in a few years, it might feel just as adorably retro as Maud.

Marilla Cuthbert
Anne's stern but caring female guardian, Marilla Cuthbert initially is annoyed with Anne but finds quite a few similarities between herself and the young girl. She's an excellent example of "tough love", but provides the steadfastness to counter Anne's wayward spirit. The name Marilla was originally a diminutive of the floral Amaryllis, and means "to sparkle". Either the shorter or longer forms are pretty options, with Marilla fitting in aurally with Isabella or Arabella. Only 9 little Marilla's were born in 2014, so it's definitely unique!

Matthew Cuthbert
The strong and silent type, Matthew Cuthbert falls under Anne's spell almost instantly, becoming the foil to Marilla's toughness - who can forget the moment he buys her a dress with fancy sleeves? He's one of Anne's "kindred spirits", and his transformation into a doting father-figure is absolutely adorable. The name Matthew has been in the top 20 since 1971, with hundreds of namesakes, literary and real. International variations Matteo and Mathias are become more popular now, especially as multicultural choices.

Diana Barry
Anne's best friend and loyal confidante, Diana Barry is also the only character we see get drunk in the novel - and what a fiasco that scene is! She's much more even-keeled than Anne; almost every summary I've found about the character contains the word "agreeable". Diana's name is on the decline after 80 years in the top 200. Diana means "divine", so here are some alternative godly names: Deva, Astrid, or Rhiannon.

Gilbert Blythe
The boy we love to despise! In spite of a years-long feud with Anne, Gilbert and she have a lot in common, and their similarities lead to friendship (and romance). After reaching the bottom of the US top 1000, Gilbert is on the upswing again. Its nerdy vintage sound is fun and accessible, plus the name lends itself to cute nicknames - Gil and Gib among them. Blythe is also a fabulous option - it means "happy", and has been a lovely choice for a few little girls.

Any other fans of Anne out there? Tell me in the comments!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday Jams: Go Ask ALICE

Songs about Alice for your weekend :)

"Alice", Moby, 2008

"Alice's Restaurant", Arlo Guthrie, 1967

"All the Girls Love Alice", Elton John, 1973

"Her Name is Alice", Shinedown, 2008

"White Rabbit", Jefferson Airplane, 1967

Friday, February 19, 2016

Unique Q Names in 2014

Hello, readers!

Today's post is brought to you by the letter Q! I had a similar list post a few weeks back, found here: Unique Z-Names in 2014. Here are some very unusual Q names, with less than 10 babies named each name in 2014.

Male Names


Female Names


Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Happy Discovery Day, Pluto!

Greetings, readers and space aficionados!

Today is the 86th anniversary of the discovery of the ninth planet, Pluto! While Pluto may have been demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006, it was not demoted in our hearts. For this post, I'll be looking at the names associated with the planet and its discovery.

Pluto made the news last summer, when the New Horizons spacecraft flew by the planet for the first time. Most pictures of Pluto are from this voyage!

I have to admit, I'm incredibly surprised that Pluto has never been recorded as a name in US history (I look forward to being proven wrong in the comments!) It means "wealthy", and was the Roman name for the god of the underworld, versus the Greek Hades. Sure, it's now connected to the eponymous Disney dog (see the Norm connection below), but with the recent rise of O-names and trends toward individuality, I think Pluto could work in the right context. 

The largest of Pluto's five moons, the two celestial bodies are often connected because of their gravitational lock. Charon's name was inspired by discoverer James Christy's wife, Charlene, as well as the connection to the mythological underling of Hades. Officially pronounced "KAR-on", Christy's initial mispronunciation have led many at NASA to switch to "SHAR-on". It's an unusual, rather quirky choice, but a lot of people will pronounce it like Sharon

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, an American astronomer at the Lowell Observatory. He later discovered and named hundreds of asteroids after his family members. The most visible feature on Pluto's face is named the Tombaugh Regio in his honor. The name Clyde has been rising up the charts rapidly since 2013, probably due to the current retro trends. The name originated in Scotland, and is now associated with the notorious duo Bonnie and Clyde.

The name of the observatory from where Pluto was discovered, Lowell also refers to Percival Lowell, an astronomer who tried for years to find evidence of a ninth planet. While unfortunately he didn't live to see the discovery, his wife Constance fought to uphold his legacy, and it was due to their tenacity that the planet saw the light of day (for lack of a better phrase). Putting aside that both Percival and Constance are excellent vintage choices, Lowell has been off the top 1000 for awhile, and could have a lovely comeback as an aristocratic family name. 

At the ripe old age of 11, Venetia Burney was the first to suggest the name Pluto when scientists were deliberating. She mentioned it to her grandfather, Falconer Madan (reviewed below), and he sent the suggestion through colleagues to the Lowell Observatory. It received every vote in the name election, not only for its mythological connotation but also because its first two letters corresponded to Percival Lowell's initials. Venetia herself later became a mathematician and professor in economics. The name Venetia references the Italian city of Venice, and is a lovely unusual choice. 

Most famous for his position as Librarian of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, Falconer Madan was also instrumental in the naming of Pluto (see above). His connections to astronomer academics facilitated his granddaughter's suggestion getting to the Lowell Observatory. An occupational name, Falconer hasn't been recorded in US name logs - but it would be a strong, nature-themed option!

The leader of the New Horizons project, which was the first mission to fly by Pluto, Sol Alan Stern is an engineer and planetary scientist. He is also on the forefront of advocating for Pluto's promotion back to its original status as a planet (yay!) While he goes by Alan, I think Sol is a fabulous name. It's historically a diminutive of Solomon, but the connection to the sun makes it a great choice for any space fan! It also fits in with the recent trend towards short male names, like Jack, Ben, or Kai.

A major animator at Walt Disney Studios in the 1930's and 1940's, Norm Ferguson was one of the artists who brought the cartoon canine Pluto to life. While reports vary on how the dog was named, most believe it was the planet's fame as Pluto that inspired the Disney staff. Ferguson brought puppy Pluto to fame as well through the animated short Playful Pluto, now a Disney classic. Short for Norman, Norm is now associated with other names in the first half of the twentieth century, and notably the character in Cheers. 

This has been one of my favorite posts to research and write! Tell me what you think in the comments.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Top Baby Names in Chile

Hola, lectores!

Let's take a trip to the Southern Hemisphere (if you're not there already) for this week's chapter in Global Names! The top names of 2015 for Chile were released last month, and there's quite a few gorgeous options we rarely hear in the US!

I'll be looking at the top 25 names for boys and girls in Chile, choosing five each of my personal favorites that I think could work in the US. I'll also include their English equivalents (if relevant). Vamonos!

Female Names

Florencia - Florence
Currently at #4 in Chile, Florencia is a beautiful, feminine name that isn't ranking on any English-language lists. I think it's a pretty aural mix between retro, adorable Florence and trendy, melodic names like Victoria or Sophia. Florencia means "flourishing", and of course has a lovely floral connotation. It also lends itself to some great nickname options: Flo, Lori, or Sia, for example!

A short-form combination of Maria and Teresa, Maite (pronounced "my-TAY" or "MY-teh") is a fabulous, unexpected choice for English speakers. It seems familiar enough with Maddie or Maya, but unique in feeling. I like that Maite is not too frilly or mature, and that it works as an honorific for it's long-form inspirations. According to some sites, it also means "beloved" in Basque. 

Antonella - Antonia
This Italian version of Antonia ranks high in Chile but hardly anywhere else. I think Antonella is a great alternative to Annabella, Isabella, or really any other trendy name that ends in -ella. It could also be a nod to a beloved Anthony! The name has unknown origins, but its mystery doesn't stop it from being an excellent cross-cultural choice. 

Agustina - Augustine
Along with Agatha and Agnes, Agustina is another beautiful long option to get to the cute nickname Aggie. There were 15 little Agustina's born in the US in 2014, so choosing this name would be an uncommon pick! The name comes from Augustus, meaning "esteemed", so there's another plus. Agustina is currently at #9 in Chile. 

Trinidad - Trinity
This name didn't show up on my International Names post, but it definitely should have! Christian favorite and Matrix pick Trinity is currently at #110, so finding alternatives is ideal. The island of Trinidad is just off the coast from Venezuela, giving the name a lovely, geographic connotation. It's also auditorily close to a personal name crush of mine - Soledad

Male Names

Agustín - August
Number 1 in Chile, and number 879 in the US, Agustín is a handsome alternative to English-language favorite August. It's also one letter off from fashionable Austin (they both come from the same origin, too). Like the feminine version reviewed above, Agustín has fantastic nickname potential and an elegant meaning.

Alonso - Alphonse
While zippy Alonzo is firmly in the US top 1000, softer Spanish Alonso is a bit further down at #708. But its cool o-ending and extensive series of historical namesakes make it a great find. Meaning "noble and ready", both the Spanish and English variations of the name are exciting picks for any strong little one!

Gaspar - Casper
One of the three Wise Men in the New Testament, Gaspar (and English Casper) is far more wearable than Melchior or Balthasar. Fun fact: it means "treasurer", so it could be a cute pick for any parents with money-related jobs. The initial syllable might turn away some, but it's pronounced "Gahs-PAR". Another popular variant is Jasper!

Having only heard the feminine version Renata, I was excited to see the masculine equivalent - Renato! It means "reborn", very strong and intriguing - it's definitely a perfect choice for an Easter baby! In addition to Chile, Renato is well-used in Italy and Brazil, so it would be a lovely cross-cultural option.

Ignacio - Ignatius 
Having only recently left the US Top 1000, I think Ignacio could jump right back on the list. St. Ignacio of Loyola is the patron saint of soldiers, and the name could honor any military family members. Ignacio also has a bunch of adorable nicknames: Iggy, Nacho, and Nasi among those I'm familiar with.

Which are your favorites? Tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Name News 2/16/16

Here Are The Most Popular Baby Names Of Every Decade Since The 1880s - Ryan Kristobak, HistoryBuff
It's interesting to see how little the boys' names change! And the girls are always mixing things up. Do you think any of the older names like Milton or Bertha could come back?

The subconscious bias of 'unisex' baby name trends - Kasey Edwards, Daily Life
Good to see more people thinking deeply about name trends! Why is it considered normal to name a girl Jordan, but not name a boy Isabella?

Names and Other Fashions Are Enjoying the Downton Abbey Effect - Amy Feinstein, Inquisitr
Marigold and Violet are some of the more well-known options, but this article does show how pop culture name choices affect real life!

Weird Baby Names: Most Random Names Americans Have Given Their Kids - Isabelle Khoo, HuffPost Canada
While I'm against characterizing any names as "weird", it's interesting to see that babies were given each of these names - English? Catch? Baby?

Illegal Baby Names: This Province Can Reject Your Baby Name - Isabelle Khoo, HuffPost Canada
Another article by Ms. Khoo! I'm sure I've linked to these articles/stories before, but it's always interesting to read about naming laws :)

Monday, February 15, 2016

President's Day!

Salutations, readers!

Today I'll be copying two posts from last October and November - Presidential Names! It seems most pertinent to look at the names of US presidents on this national holiday.

#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.

#17 - Jackson
With JackJaxon 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 JacksonJack 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 SkylerTyTysonTyrone, 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 - WeaverFletcherJaggerSawyer, 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!

#545 - Hayes
An early last-name-turned-first-name, Hayes started on the charts at #708, then shot up and down after President Hayes left office in 1881. It's definitely got a highbrow sound and classic feel, with an albeit lackluster meaning - "hedged area". Still, it could work well as a more traditional response to trendy Hayden or Hayley

#306 - Arthur
It seems to me that Arthur has been an established first name for so long that a simple president wouldn't influence its popularity. Arthur, meaning "bear", topped out at #14 in the 1880's, 1890's and 1900's, but it's been decreasing since the 1940's. It just skyrocketed up the charts in the UK, however, so it won't be too long before Arthur is back on top!

#381 - McKinley
Oddly enough, McKinley's steep rise for boys stopped when the president took office in 1901, then plateaued and dove. For girls, McKinley began rising through the 1990's, as an alternative to McKenzie or McKaylaMcKinley has been in the news recently - Mount McKinley will be officially renamed Mount Denali

#594 - Wilson
An excellent alternative to the well-loved WilliamWilson did get a boost between 1913 and 1921 - Woodrow Wilson's years in office. Wilson has been on the decline for awhile, but with dozens of namesakes and an American sound, I think it's a great choice. 

#961 - Truman
Meaning "loyal one", Truman today is more often associated with writer Capote or Will of Will & Grace. The first president after twelve years of FDR, Harry Truman brought on a jump of almost 200 places in 1945, but began declining steeply right after. Though it's got a great nickname - "True" - it's still a little clunky. 

#54 - Kennedy
Kennedy briefly appeared on the boy's list in the 1960's, but skyrocketed for girls starting in the mid-90's. Why so long after JFK? I'm on the hunt for reasons - the name didn't make the list until 30 years after his death, and started halfway up the list before climbing. If you've got a theory or factoid about Kennedy, let me know in the comments!

#587 - Nixon
Interestingly enough, Nixon is only on the list because of its popularity in Utah, where it's at #85. It jumped on the scene in 2011, over 10 years after Richard Nixon's death. I think the closeness to Jackson, Nolan and Nicholas may be why. 

#883 - Ford
Ford is on the list this year for the first time since 1951. The solid single-syllable sound, masculine feel, and trend towards brand names may be the culprits. Ford could make a standout middle name, or honor a familial namesake.

#27 - m - Carter; #785 - f - Carter
Carter is an example of what happens when a president isn't so well liked - when Jimmy Carter was president, the fairly stable name dropped off the list completely, only to return in full force when Carter left office. For boys, it follows the occupational trend, as well as being the name of many pop culture characters. Girls often get the names second - Carter entered the girls' list in 2013

#106 - f - Reagan; #999 - m - Reagan
Reagan was used a few times for girls in the 1970's, but didn't catch hold of the list until the early 1990's on either side - perhaps as a response to the Clinton presidency? (Just a theory). On the boy's side, Reagan has stayed in the lower ranks, while it's been climbing for the girls, peaking in 2012.

#923 - Clinton
Clinton began dropping in the 1990's during the presidency, perhaps due to the current trend of uniqueness - when your child's name is in the news everyday, it seems to lose its personality. Clinton is currently plateauing at the bottom of the list, and with the upcoming elections, it may fall out of use for awhile.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday Jams: Cup of JOE

Songs about Joe for your weekend :)

"Joe the Lion", David Bowie, 1977

"Joe's Garage", Frank Zappa, 1979

"Joey", Sugarland, 2008

"Joey", Concrete Blonde, 1990

"Waitin' on Joe", Steve Azar, 2002

Friday, February 12, 2016

Artist Names: Abstract Expressionism

Hello, readers!

On this lovely Friday, we have our next installment of the Artist Names series! Click the link for past posts on some of my favorite artists. Today we'll be focusing on relatively the same era as Pop Art, but a different style entirely - Abstract Expressionism!

My favorite Rothko, "No. 14, 1960", currently at the SFMOMA!

Emphasizing the process over the result, abstract expressionism sought to illustrate the inner mind of the artist, and of man itself. Rejecting conventional forms and subjects, their art was radical and innovative for its time. Today, many abstract expressionist paintings are denigrated - "my kid could do that!" - but the ideas, training, and work behind the canvas prove historically important. 

*Disclaimer - a lot of old white guys (and one white woman) below! *

Mark Rothko (Markus Yakovlevich Rotkovich)
Known for his striking, vibrant canvases, Mark Rothko sought to express grandiose ideas of feeling, philosophy and mythology through his use of color. He was known as a revolutionary, politically and artistically, and his art continues to make waves today. Mark, of course, was a majorly popular name throughout the twentieth century, but in this age of uniqueness, I think Rothko could be a contender. The origin meaning seems to be "red", but any more definitive data would be welcome! Rothko fits in with the ends-in-O trend, and sounds quite a bit like rising star Rosco.

Jackson Pollock (Paul Jackson Pollock)
One of the most famous artists of the Abstract Expressionists, Jackson Pollock today is known for the style of drip painting, or splattering rather than swiping paint across a canvas. His desire to show action, emotion, and especially aggression, comes out in frenzied lines and curves of color. The name Jackson today is at #17 in the US - hardly a new choice - but could be an accessible way to honor the influential artist. Being that his last name sounds a bit like a slur, I'd avoid putting Pollock on a birth certificate.

Willem de Kooning
Combining multiple styles of painting into a radical individualized style, Willem de Kooning was known for his abstract works and portraits of women, created throughout his career. His art focused very much on movement and process, often leaving the finished product with an unfinished feel. As for his name: de Kooning might be a bit strong on paper, but I think Willem is an excellent choice. It's close enough to William or Liam to fit in, but definitely stands on its own. Many people today will recognize it through actor Willem Dafoe.

Arshile Gorky (Vostanik Manoug Adoian)
Arshile Gorky was a major founder of the Abstract Expressionist movement, and excelled in conveying the emotional context of his art. A survivor of the Armenian genocide, an immigrant to the US in the 1940's, an avant-garde artist: his experiences were captured and illuminated in his paintings. He picked his name to sound like a Georgian noble - I haven't been able to find any background on Arshile or Archil - and both his chosen name and his birth name might have issues in translating to the US. His daughters are Maro and Natasha, both excellent choices.

Lee Krasner (Lena "Lenore" Krassner)
One of the few women prominent in this movement, Lee Krasner's oeuvre varied greatly in style throughout her life. She took inspiration from all kinds of artists and artistic movements, working extensively in collage, painting, and drawing. She is one of only four women to have had a retrospective at the MOMA (as of 2008). Born Lena, a name that's recently been trending up, she was also known as Lenore or Lee during her life. I think that after years of Ashley, Hailey, and Emily, going back to the basics of Lee would be unique and innovative.

What are your favorites? Any artists I'm missing? Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Sylvia Plath

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my eyes and all is born again.

On this day in 1963, American poet Sylvia Plath was found dead in her home of an apparent suicide. Her works have inspired generations of feminists and women authors - from her poetry to The Bell Jar, her legacy lives on. Today I'll be looking at some of the women's names surrounding Sylvia Plath's life and work.

Melodic and classic, Sylvia is back on the rise after having declined for many years - it just jumped back into the top 500. Could the trend be due to Ms. Plath's legacy for many young feminists having children today? Is it connected to the rise in Italian names? Or is Sylvia part of the retro trend along with Rose and Alice? I think it's probably a combination of all three. Sylvia means "from the forest", and variants Sylvie, Sylvette, and Silvina are also nice options. 

Sylvia Plath used the name Victoria Lucas to publish her semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar in 1963. It's comparable ranking in 1962 and similar vibe to Sylvia - euphonic, feminine, elegant - are among the reasons I believe she picked it, though I haven't found her reasoning in online sleuthing. Victoria has remained popular since the early 1990's, and ranks in the top 20 today. 

The title of Plath's posthumous collection of poetry, Ariel is also the name of a poem in the book (arguably one of the better-known of Plath's poems). According to her husband, Ted Hughes, the poem was named after a horse Plath rode in riding school. The name Ariel has long been used as a Hebrew boy's name, but jumped up the girls' charts in the 1980's and 1990's, boosted by Disney's mermaid princess. Ariel means "lion of God". 

Sylvia Plath's daughter and a poet in her own right, Frieda Hughes is a working artist in the UK today. When Frieda was born in 1960, the name wasn't ranking in either the US or the UK, so I'm curious as to how it was chosen (perhaps a Plath fan can help me out in the comments?) It's beautifully German and artistic - think Frida Kahlo - and certainly rare today. Variations Freya and Freja have been rising in the UK, and are beginning to make their way across the pond. 

Sylvia Plath's mother Aurelia was a major force in her life, raising her alone after the death of Plath's father. Their tumultuous relationship was explored in both The Bell Jar and Plath's poetry. The name Aurelia declined slowly in the US at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, making a comeback in 2013. It means "the golden one", and it has a royal, charming quality. 

A writer and philanthropist, Olive Higgins Prouty supported Plath during a medical stay and through a scholarship at Smith College. Herself a sufferer of mental illness, she championed psychotherapy at a time when few others did. Plath is believed to have based the character of Philomena Guinea (another excellent name) in The Bell Jar on Prouty. Olive ranks in the top 300 today, rising due to its association with star Olivia. It's a sweet nature name, especially next to Lily and Ivy

The protagonist of The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood is not-so-loosely-based on Sylvia Plath herself and her experiences as a young adult between college and marriage. The last name Greenwood was her grandmother's maiden name, anglicized. Esther, a name popular in Christian and Jewish families, has been slowly on the rise since 2000. And despite its perpetual popularity, Esther still has a vintage, retro vibe that makes it even more alluring.

Any Plath fans out there? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Names from Parks and Recreation

Hello, readers!

Today's post is about one of my all-time favorite TV shows, NBC's Parks and Recreation. For those of you who haven't seen it, it stars Amy Poehler as a civil employee doing her best to keep her hometown of Pawnee, Indiana running.

Being that the character of Leslie Knope is one of my personal heroes, I decided to take a look at the list of main characters (excluding Mark) and review their names. Let's go!

Popular from the 1950's through the 1980's, Leslie has only begun to decline in recent decades. It was originally used for boys, and still has an upbeat, unisex vibe. Next to similar newcomers Rosalie, Harley, and Aurelie, I think Leslie's sound will keep it in the top 1000 for awhile.

Primarily short for Benjamin, Ben is now its own stand-alone name at #723 in the US. It's concise and friendly sound has made it more popular in the UK and Germany, too. I personally like the long form of the name, but Ben packs a lot of punch in only three letters!

This is a very bright and springy name for a less-than-enthusiastic character. April has now been surpassed by other month names, but the connotation of sun and flowers will keep it around. Sisters Heather and Dawn have also been on the decline.

Like Ben, Andy is a nickname-turned-name, but doesn't quite have the same gravity. I still think of goofy Andy from Parks and Rec, or young Andy from Toy Story - a little immature. Still, it's very sweet and accessible for any little one.

Arguably among the simplest of names, Ann is still well-known, but not well-used. Variants Anna or Hannah are the current favorites, and somehow sound more complete. Still, Ann makes a fantastic middle name, especially for long last names.

Short for Christopher or Christian, the name Chris spiked in the 1960's but declined slowly afterward. The religious-based, multigender appeal has kept it in use for all kinds of babies. But many Chris names seem overused at this point, so I'd look for a less-common option.

All of his appellations are on the decline, after peaking in the 1940's. But these could be quirky, unexpected nicknames for a new baby! Longer names like Jerome, Garrett, and Terrence are preferred today.

The savvy, luxurious businesswoman of the show, Donna's strong and feminine name suits her well. These days, another Italian word referring to a woman has been on the rise: Ella. And somehow I'm having trouble seeing the name Donna getting popular again anytime soon.

Long-form Thomas has never left the top 100 in the US, so while some points are lost for lack of creativity, other points are gained for staying power and elegance. There are dozens of namesakes, real and fictional, throughout history, so pick your favorite!

The no-nonsense libertarian of the bunch, Ron Swanson has some of the more memorable lines on the show. His first name, however, is not quite as notable - both Ron and Ronald have been declining in popularity for years. Variants Reynold or Renaldo are a bit more enticing.

Tell me your favorite names in the comments!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Futuristic Names

Greetings, readers!

Before the new name data for 2015 is announced, I've seen a lot of name blogs and websites making predictions for what the new top names are going to be.  We're certainly not the first writers to imagine names from the future! Below I've included some of the most well-known sci-fi books about the future, and the names chosen for their characters.

From the Earth to the Moon - Jules Verne, 1865

J. T.

The Time Machine - H. G. Wells, 1895


Interestingly, the main character is known only as the "Time Traveller" in the book, but here are the names given to him (or her) in subsequent adaptations:


Brave New World - Aldous Huxley, 1932


Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell, 1949


Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury, 1953

Mildred "Millie"

2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke, 1968


Stand on Zanzibar - John Brunner, 1968


What are your favorites? Any futuristic books you love but don't see here? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Literary Names: The Iliad

We everlasting gods . . . Ah what chilling blows
we suffer—thanks to our own conflicting wills— 
whenever we show these mortal men some kindness.

The above is a line from Homer's Iliad, an ancient Greek poem about the Trojan War, and the precursor to the Odyssey. A few weeks ago I reviewed some of the names in the Odyssey, so today I'll be looking at the great options found in the prequel!

It hadn't occurred to me that this could be a viable name until I saw it on the French name site, JolisPrénoms, as Achille. In English, unfortunately, the "Achilles' heel" connotation might be hard to shake. In the Iliad, Achilles is a powerful and confident warrior, albeit with a few minor weaknesses (his heel and women among them). But this name could be a nice alternative to Axel or Asher! The name meaning is unknown, but could be related to "pain" or the Achelous River in Greece.

Another warrior and the son of Aphrodite, Aeneas is the protagonist of another classical epic, the Aeneid. While I would recommend this name based on its similarities to Elias or Ansel, the sound is too similar to a human body part for me to recommend it wholeheartedly. Instead, here are some other Trojan warriors I'm not reviewing below: Polydamas, Glaucus, Agenor, Dolon, Pandarus, Antenor, Asius, Asteropaeus, Cebrionus, Deiphobus, Euphorbus

The Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite is a supporter of the Trojans in this epic. As a namesake, she suggests strength, femininity, and compassion - but that might be a hard name to live up to. There are a few fictional Aphrodite's floating around, and at least one with the cute nickname Afy. Roman form Venus has been used far more often, especially during the mid-twentieth century. What do you think, readers? Is Aphrodite wearable or best left to the classics? 

The mightiest warrior in the Trojan army and brother of Paris, Hector has a typically masculine feel. Hector means "holding fast", and works well cross-culturally. Its popularity in the Spanish-speaking community has made it popular in the US, UK, and Spain. I think it could be a great substitute for trendy Hunter or Victor, with the same warlike connotation. 

The "face that launched a thousand ships", I think Helen has gotten a worse reputation than she deserved - it's not her fault that childish men chose to fight over her. The name Helen has also been incredibly desirable - it was in the top 10 for about 40 years. Nowadays, variation Elena is more popular, with similar Eleanor, Ella, and Helena not far away. But this name is a classic, and will connote elegance, maturity, and beauty for years to come. 

Queen of the gods and wife of Zeus, Hera is the goddess of marriage and motherhood. While she's often painted as jealous or vengeful, I see her as another powerful goddess standing up for herself. The name Hera is a nice combination of Hannah and Sarah, aurally, and won't raise eyebrows like some of the other Greek goddess names. Hera has also been used in a few sci-fi TV shows and video games, for other nerds like me out there. 

Now a very common name for girls, the original Paris was a Trojan prince whose actions were guided by self-interest (not "love for Helen"). Personally, I think the name works better for boys, and a few celebrities have agreed. The undertones of a Trojan warrior might be missed in favor of Ms. Hilton or the city, so beware of confusion surrounding Paris

The king of Troy and a wise and benevolent leader, I'm surprised this name hasn't gotten more popular with its similarities to Liam. It's certainly unique - I haven't found any records of its use in SSA data - and it means "exceptionally courageous". His wife, on the other hand, has a less euphonic name: Hecuba. Priam may surprise some, but I think it's a winner. 

The devoted mother of Achilles, Thetis is also known as the goddess of water - an unexpected option for babies born near oceans or lakes? It's an uncommon alternative to -is names, like Paris, Isis, or Alexis. Thetis' grandmother was also an "aquatic sea goddess", similarly named Tethys (a great option). To me, there aren't many drawbacks to this ethereal name!

Ruler of the gods and all-powerful deity, Zeus ends up on the side of the Trojans in the Iliad. As a name, however, it would be pretty difficult to wear. Still, 99 babies were born Zeus in 2014, and the numbers have been rising over the past decade. Like Aphrodite, I'll leave this up to you, readers! Is Zeus going too far, or is it a rising star?

Other names related to the Iliad include Troy, Homer, and Ilia (a region of Greece). What are your favorites? Tell me in the comments!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Saturday Jams: ABBY There for You

Songs about Abby and Abigail for your weekend :)

"Dear Abby", John Prine, 1973

"Gaslighting Abbie", Steely Dan, 2000

"Dear Abby", The Hearts, 1963

"Abigail", The Embers, 1962

"Abby Never", Mike Lombardo, 2010

Friday, February 5, 2016

Unique Z-Names in 2014

Hello, readers!

Another list post for this week, brought to you by my favorite name database :) Here are the names that just barely made the record books in 2014 - only 5 baby girls were named each Z name.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Throwback Thursday: What the Ella

Greetings, readers!

Ella names are incredibly popular today - Isabella, Gabriella, Anabella, even Ella. The -ella ending has long been used to add an element of femininity and flair to any name that needs pizzazz. For this post, I'll be looking at the lesser-known -ella names found in the history books!

My criteria: names for girls that end in Ella, found in records between 1880 and 1889, with less than 25 babies born with the name any given year. 

A variation of Ida, meaning "industrious", Idella is a great alternative to Isabella without losing the cool first initial and melodic ending. Idella dropped off the US top 1000 in the 1940's, so it's got some retro charm that should definitely make a comeback. 

I have yet to find an origin source for Ozella - perhaps linked to Oswald or Osgood? In any case, Ozella is an enchanting vintage name with the cute nickname Ozzie. It has the added bonus of a unique first initial, and could make a great substitute for Olivia

Another name with mysterious origins, Ardella could be a great alternative for Arden or Adele. Like Idella, Ardella bounced around the top 1000 until the 1940's. An aural connection to the word "ardent" makes this name stand out today. 

A feminine diminutive of Joel or Joseph, Joella almost sounds like a two-part name: Jo Ella. Similar-sounding Joelle (and Joëlle) have been popular in the US and French-speaking countries, so why not switch out the last A for an E?

From the Italian for "young", Novella is a beautiful name that works in many ways: there's the literary connection for writers, the auditory connection to Nova, and the sweetness of the meaning for any new baby. Novella is definitely my favorite on this list!

Meaning "warlike", I'm surprised that this name hasn't stayed high in popularity. The M-beginning, -ella ending, and similarities to Marisol and Mikayla make it a total winner by today's trends. But Marcella's lack of visibility might appeal to those looking for a unique -ella name!

I'll admit, I don't understand with this name was used so often in the 1880's - the clunky L-sounds, the lack of visible connection to other names, the total drop-off in usage by 1901. I highly recommend finding a different -ella name. 

Somehow this name doesn't have the sweetness of Lily or the femininity of Layla. It's origins are also unknown, but it might have been a nickname for -ella names. Try Lillian or Laura for vintage L-names instead. 

Fans of Shakespeare who think Juliet, Viola, and Portia are too popular should check out this feminization of Othello. You'll have to explain it almost every time you say it, but Othella is way cool for any other literary nerds out there. 

As a fan of bird-related names, I'm always on the lookout for appellations like Wren, Sparrow, and Robin. But Birdella takes the cake! I'm not sure that this could (or should) make a comeback, but it's definitely worth knowing about in name history.

What are your favorites? Tell me in the comments!