Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Names from Hamilton

Hello, readers!

Like many theatre geeks across the nation, I too have been swept into the Hamilton frenzy. If you aren't aware of this cultural phenomenon, it's a new musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda that retells the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton's life. But no, this isn't just another 1776, it's got rap, hip hop, R&B, and all sorts of rarely heard music (for the musical world). The actors are also all people of color - save for King George III - and the show will be touring the nation next year.

Today, I'll be looking at some of the character names from Hamilton, which are for the most part classic English names. But there may be a few you haven't thought of! And I highly recommend taking the time to listen to Hamilton on Spotify or YouTube. 

Let's begin!

Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda)
One of the few founding fathers that was never elected to the presidency, Alexander Hamilton was by no means less important to US history - see the musical for bio details. The first name Alexander is well-established in the US, currently at #8 on the boy's list, and it's never dipped below #250. But with surnames trending, could Hamilton be a contender? It's been recorded in use every year since 1880, but has never passed 100 children in any year. With the popularity of the musical only growing, I think this name is one to watch. 

Elizabeth "Eliza" Schuyler Hamilton (Phillipa Soo)
A humanitarian and political and social activist in her own right, Eliza Hamilton ties with Odysseus' wife Penelope on the long-suffering wife front. Like Alexander, Elizabeth has always been popular - but diminutive Eliza has been moving steadily up the popularity lists as well. It's livelier and more spirited than its original, and would be a lovely option as a first name or nickname. Schuyler, pronounced "SKY-ler", is the original Dutch spelling of the name, and adds an element of elegance to it (though it may take some explanation).

Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.)
Politician and Hamilton antagonist Aaron Burr may be remembered somewhat negatively today, but he was also instrumental in the early US government (the character in the show gets some of the best songs, too). Aaron, of course, is a classic Hebrew name meaning "enlightened". Burr actually did get some use as a first name from the 1880's through the 1970's - let's see if the empathetic portrayal of Aaron Burr in the musical brings it back.

Angelica Schuyler Church (Renee Elise Goldsberry)
Socialite and prolific writer Angelica Schuyler Church was Eliza's older sister, and it has been suggested that her friendship with Alexander was more than just friendly. In any case, her correspondence with some of the founding fathers shows more than just a career as a love interest. Angelica has long been loved alongside sister names Angela and Angelina. In a bit of related trivia, the city of Angelica in New York was named after her.

George Washington (Christopher Jackson)
First president and all-around American symbol George Washington needs very little introduction, so let's get to the names. After a slow decline, George has been rising back up the list, with a little help from Prince George across the pond (there might be some irony here). Washington has been used as a name for awhile, but it has a few drawbacks - no easy nicknames, and it's a mouthful. Still, if you have nickname suggestions, tell me in the comments!

That's all for today. Rise up, friends!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Names Up in Smoke

Hello, readers!

In honor of St. Patrick's Day last month, I wrote a post on alcohol-related names. In honor of today, 4/20, the unofficial holiday of marijuana imbibers, I will be looking at names associated with everyone's favorite Schedule I drug, cannabis!

Again, this post is meant to be silly and fun, regardless of your personal feelings on marijuana. Check out what the laws are in your state/country surrounding this medicinal plant!

One common species of marijuana is Cannabis indica, named in 1785 by French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck after its location (India). With names like India and Indigo gaining notoriety, it's no surprise that the -ica ending (Angelica, Erica, Jessica) tagged along! While Indy is a cute nickname, Indica might be pushing a little too far.

The other common species of marijuana is Cannabis sativa, named in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus, with "sativa" coming from Latin for "cultivated". I'm really surprised to see that this name has been in recorded use since 1970, and nothing is coming to mind that's particularly similar - Satchel? Satine? Akiva? Still, the same Indica warning applies.

That's right, friends, five little girls were named Marijuana in 1972. Either their parents had reefer madness, or there was a misprint of Mariajuana five times that year. There are MANY other ways to get the nickname Mari or Juana, so unless you're ready to make a political statement out of your child's life, I'd avoid this name.

Meaning "son of lord Rama" or "sacred grass" in Hindi, this name has a less-noble vibe in the United States. Kush refers to a substrain of Cannabis indica, found in the Middle East. Similar-sounding Cash or Kasey would be a little more wearable.

Related names with other connotations:


Names not used:


Monday, April 11, 2016

SCMS Names

Hello, readers!

One of the reasons I've been posting less is because I was on a business trip with my day job! I attended the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference in Atlanta this past week, and enjoyed the city/events so much!

Being the kind of person who would have fun reading the phone book, I came across a bunch of cool first names I hadn't seen before (or had seen only rarely). This is more a fun personal find, but check these out to see if you find a new fave!


Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Friday, April 8, 2016

College Names

Hello, readers!

When you are just so gosh darn proud of your alma mater, how do you express your school spirit? By naming your child after your college, of course!

Some of theses names were undoubtedly chosen because of their sound, or just because they were liked - not all of them relate to the particular alma maters of parents. But naming your child something collegiate could associate them with higher education early on - no word yet on whether being named Harvard increases your likelihood of studying there. 

Here are the numbers for 2014!

Berkeley (my alma mater) - 85 girls, 14 boys
Meaning "where birches grow", the name is now associated with the number one public university in the world (can you tell I'm spirited?) and its tumultuous history. It definitely fits in with the -ley trend - Hailey, Paisley, Riley - but there's more than a little pride attached. 

Harvard - 6 boys
Probably the most "pretentious" of the college names out there, but it's been in use for a lot of history. It's only really come back in recent years after petering out through the late 1960's - early 2000's.

Stanford - 20 boys
While this name was fairly well-used in the 1950's, it's now on the decline. The two elements "Stan" and "-ford" are less used now, so putting them together makes for a dated name. 

Cornell - 45 boys
This name actually ranked fairly high in the mid-century, and isn't only associated with the university - a few famous Cornell's in history provide excellent opportunities for homage. Cornell also comes from Latin for "crow". 

Princeton - 535 boys
Incredibly popular, Princeton currently ranks at #517 in the United States. With names like Kingsley, Reign, and Messiah on the rise, perhaps it's not so much about the school as it is about the royal vibe.

Yale - 6 boys
I'm more than a little surprised by this name choice - sure, it sounds a bit like Dale or Cale, but I can't get past the Ivy League connotation.

Emory - 373 girls, 252 boys
Meaning "brave" or "industrious", Emory is one of those rare fantastic unisex names that fits in but isn't overused or boring. The university in Georgia is one of the oldest in the nation, adding a classic air to the name's lovely style.

Duke - 382 boys
Another title of nobility making its way into the name realm, Duke is #666 on the name charts (a little spooky, but what can you Duke?) Like some other collegiate names, Duke has so many connections that it won't be too recognizable as a university.

I'll stop with these eight names, but tell me in the comments if I've missed anything glaring! Do you know anyone who's honored their alma mater this way? Any funny stories about little Berkeley applying to Berkeley?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Name News: 4/7/16

VA family names 4 kids after presidents - Julie Zauzmer, Daily Gazette
I found this through Appellation Mountain's Sunday Summary! I really like this trend, it's subtle but very unique! Who will join Grant, Madison, and McKinley?

The Most Unisex Names in US History - Nathan Yau, FlowingData
Great graphs on the most common unisex names for boys and girls. I've noticed a lot of names start out for boys, then end up on girls. Anyone know of a name with the reverse effect?

Baby Names Can’t Be Stolen—but It’s Not Surprising That Some Parents Think They Can - Elissa Strauss, Slate
An excellent article on "name-stealing", which I think says a lot more about the parent than the name. Can't we all just get along?

From Twitter:

Let's get personal - Nancy Friedman, Fritinancy
Super cool comparison between corporate names and personal names - it's hard to imagine, but there was a time when Siri was more likely to be a name than an iOS.