Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sun and Moon Names

Hello, readers!

The dichotomy between the sun and the moon has been on my mind lately - two of the most ancient extremes, appearing in every culture's history, and still a source of interest today. Why do we say someone who's happy has a "sunny" disposition? Why do we say an idle person is "mooning" about? Why are these two celestial orbs so polarized? Unfortunately, I won't be answering any of these questions, but I will be talking about names relating to the sun and the moon!

We can all agree that these symbols have different connotations. The sun brings to mind warmth, power, and positivity; the moon brings to mind serenity, coolness, and mystery. There are plenty of names, in and out of use, that tend to relate to the sun and moon directly. Let's check them out!

Sunny Names

Pronounced "Ahn-ya", this Irish name belongs to the Celtic goddess of midsummer. It literally translates to "brightness" or "radiance", and has the sound to suit it! While spelling and saying the name in the US might prove difficult, it really is a lovely heritage choice. 

Another sun god, Apollo was one of the major figures in ancient Greek mythology. Today, the name is attached to all sorts of things - the Apollo program at NASA, athlete Apolo Ohno, the fictional Apollo Creed, and technology/boats/songs to boot. It's at #751 now, and will probably rise sky-high over the next few years. 

Want an edgy alternative to Elias, Eli, or Elijah? Elio is the Spanish translation of Helios, another Greek sun god. Its form fits in with modern trends - the El-beginning and O-ending - but its history and melodic sound stand out. Elio has gotten popular in France, and it's only a matter of time before it crosses the pond. 

The French word for "sun", Soleil is straightforward but sophisticated. Actress Soleil Moon Frye (what a name for this post!) brought it to US attention in the 1970's, but its now no longer quite as attached to a single wearer. Over 100 girls were named Soleil last year, and the numbers are increasing! Nicknames Sol or Leila offer a little bit of personalization. 

This name peaked in 1977 at #119, but Summer still hangs on in the top 200. It's light, fresh, and upbeat - a nature name not mired in dirt or caterpillars. Summer is also nickname-proof, if that's your style, and has quite a few namesakes in fiction and reality. 

A personal favorite - it was my confirmation name - Sunniva is the patron saint of western Norway. Her name means "sun gift". Sunniva offers the short forms Sunny or Niva, and doesn't sound like too many names currently in use, despite its rhythm. Only ten little Sunniva's were born last year!

The Hindu sun god, Surya, represents courage, friendliness, and power - not a bad namesake for a little one! Fifty-one male Surya's and ten female Surya's were born in the US last year, and the name is accessible enough for all genders. Note - you may have to explain that Suri was not your inspiration.

Lunar Names

There are actually two origins for Ayla - in Hebrew, it means "oak tree", and in Turkish, it means "moonlight". It's fairly popular at #265, probably because it consists of two trendy syllables together. But usage aside, it's beautiful and feminine and classic, a name that will mature with the wearer.

It's everywhere lately - Luna has taken nations across the globe by storm. It works cross-culturally, for one thing, and it's also easy to spell, pronounce, and explain. Luna may also be desired for its Harry Potter connection, as well as its prevalence in other types of children's media - Stellaluna, Bear in the Big Blue House.

Meaning "gift of the moon", this unusual Greek name gains gravity through its use as a saint's name. It also provides a darker counterpart to Theodora or Isadora (my kindgom for a -dora sibset!) It might be difficult to explain, but it's well worth the effort! Nicknames can also help make this mouthful a bit more accessible.

While this name might be mixed up with Naomi a bit, it really does have its own style. Neoma means "new moon", and offers the cool Neo- opening (and short form option). It's short, sweet, and unique - a veritable name trifecta for any little one born in the right part of the moon cycle.

Only one letter apart, but these names have very different personalities. Selene is subdued, grown-up, and très française. Selena is bright, energetic, and muy española. Either choice is a name to be over the moon about!

Tell me any I missed in the comments!

Friday, June 17, 2016

First Names of the First Ladies #3

Hello, readers!

On to Part 3! Today's list includes current First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama, whose middle name comes from her grandmother. I haven't been able to find out what inspired her first name, other than its popularity - it was #23 the year she was born. That's like Zoey today!

If you haven't read parts one and two of this week's series, check them out here:

Let's begin!

Louisa (Adams)
After a 35-year absence, Louisa jumped back on the top 1000 in 2014. Why the comeback? Louisa has that lovely combination of vintage style, literary credibility, and strength in sound - even the meaning is "renowned warrior". Louisa also lends itself to nicknames Lulu or Louie, since Steel Magnolia's "Ouiser" is a little out of the question. 

Lucretia (Garfield) 
The most famous namesake is probably Lucrezia Borgia, whose reputation as a femme fatale has been called into question recently. Still, the name has an air of Machiavellian intrigue to it; it helps that the name most likely comes from Latin for "wealth". There are a few Lucrezia's born each year, but Lucretia hasn't returned on the heels of Renaissance recreations. 

Lucy (Hayes)
The slightly-less-popular antiquated alternative to Lily, Lucy has been revived in recent years because of its adorable aura. Dozens of Lucy's, factual and fictional, pepper historical records. There are songs and television shows and comics about Lucy - beware of name fatigue! However, Lucy is a definite classic, and won't be out-of-date for a very long time. 

Mamie (Eisenhower)
Originally a short form of Mary, Mamie joins sisters Sadie and Maisie in the category of "Cute, Friendly, and Retro". Only 22 little girls were named Mamie last year, so it's far from trendy, but it maintains familiarity and accessibility. Mamie could be an excellent unexpected honorific, too! Fun fact: Mamie Eisenhower had the middle name Geneva

Margaret (Taylor, Wilson)
Like Elizabeth and Mary, Margaret is a top-tier timeless English name. The name means "pearl" or "daisy", and has dozens of international variants - Margarita, Margot, Marguerite. Margaret is also notorious for its nickname options: Peggy, Maggie, Mae, Rita, Greta, and Daisy. If you're looking for a beautiful but flexible feminine name, Margaret is fabulous. 

Martha (Washington, Jefferson)
While it ranked in the top 100 until 1965, Martha has been on the decline for awhile. Does that mean it's dated or ready for revival? Positives - the pretty vintage sound, the many namesakes, and its relative lack of use. Negatives - for some, Martha Stewart owns the name, and it's not far from less popular retro names like Bertha or Maureen

Mary (Lincoln, McElroy, McKee)
The number one girls' name for hundreds of years, Mary was the unparalleled choice for English speakers (especially those who were/are Christian). These days, however, Mary is almost unique among little girls - even though it's at #124 in the top 1000, many go by their middle names. Still, it's well-established and well-worn by hundreds of inspiring women. 

Michelle (Obama)
A go-to seventies name, along with Jennifer and Melissa, Michelle is the feminine variation of boys' classic Michael. It's French sound and delightful affability made for a popular pick, but alternate variation Michaela (and its many spellings) have won out in recent years. For a rarer choice, check out other Michael-related options: Mischa, Mika, or Mickey

Nancy (Reagan)
"No angel could replace / Nancy with the laughing face" sang Frank Sinatra in 1944. Indeed, Nancy was irreplaceable for the 1930's through the 1960's. But Nancy is now the lowest it's been on name charts, with little sign of resurgence in the US. In the UK, however, Nancy is at #90, with Brits loving the cute, old-fashioned nickname for Ann

Priscilla (Tyler)
What I would argue to be the most frilly name in the Bible, Priscilla has been in use for centuries. It means "ancient", fittingly, and there are tons of namesakes who've donned it with pride: Priscilla Presley, Priscilla Tolkein (yes, that Tolkein), and Priscilla Chan, to name a few. The nickname Cilla is preferable to "Miss Priss", in my opinion, but to each their own!

Rose (Cleveland)
Floral and feminine, classic and cultured, elegant and enduring - Rose has championed the flower names for years. While Lily and Violet win out these days, Rose is perfect for any age in any era. International variations and pet names abound, but the original is lovely. "A rose by any other name" might not smell as sweet as this choice!

Sarah (Jackson, Polk)
According to the Old Testament, God changed Sarai's name to Sarah, and a womanly standard was born. Sarah, meaning "princess", has never dipped below #120 on the top 1000. It's pretty and polished, but might be too commonplace for some name aficionados. Variations include Zara, Sallie, Tzeitel (of Fiddler on the Roof fame), and Sarita.

Thelma (Nixon)
The origins of this name are murky, but it became popular in the late nineteenth century after it was used for the heroine of a British novel. Thelma today is associated with the decades of the 1910's through the 1930's - retro but still a little too close. While many know the name as Geena Davis' character in Thelma and Louise, it may be too early to tell if this name could have a comeback.

Phew! Tell me what you think of this series in the comments :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

First Names of the First Ladies #2

Hello, readers!

Today's post is Part 2 of yesterday's post - First Names of the First Ladies #1. Check out the first post if you haven't yet, and tune in for the third and final post tomorrow!

The above photo includes First Ladies (from left to right) Nancy Reagan, Lady Bird Johnson, Hillary Clinton, Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford, and Barbara Bush, taken in May of 1994. 

Let's begin!

Florence (Harding)
This lovely name is on the rise again, and I predict it will break into the top 1000 next year (bets, anyone?) Florence means "blooming" or "prosperous", and it quite fits in with the retro trends - Daisy, Beatrice, and Dorothy, for example. While it is rather flowery and feminine, it still holds an air of elegance and strength - perfect for any little girl. 

Frances (Cleveland)
Once old-fashioned, Frances has managed to rise quickly thanks to more than a few celebrity babies. More stylish than Francesca but not as dowdy as Fran, Frances walks the middle ground with grace and poise. The nickname Frankie is also uber-cute and tomboyish. There are millions of historical namesakes, so just pick your favorite!

Grace (Coolidge)
A beautiful virtue name without impossibly high standards - Chastity, Prudence, Modesty - the name Grace has always been an American favorite. It's simple enough for complicated middle or last names, but doesn't lack anything in having only one syllable. Grace is short and sweet, and will probably be used for my future kid(s) - my middle name is Grace

Harriet (Lane)
Classic and abundantly literary, Harriet hasn't made the top 1000 in awhile; it's been surpassed by its nickname, Hattie. But Harriet is a force to be reckoned with - namesakes Stowe and Tubman give it a courageous history, the meaning of "estate ruler" grounds it in power, and its sound is ladylike but determined. Pretty soon, we'll all spy Harriet on our lists. 

Helen (Taft)
While I reviewed English variation Ellen yesterday, Helen is closer to the original Greek. The daughter of Leda and Zeus, Helen of Troy is known as the most beautiful woman of her time. Today, Helen is on the decline, but it's by no means dated or fusty. Names Helena, Nellie, Leni and Olena are among the many versions of this established choice. 

Hillary (Clinton)
She really needs no introduction - if you haven't heard, she's running for president - and she may be the most famous Hillary in history! The name began to decline when it was associated with her as the First Lady in the 1990's, but its meaning of "cheerful" and upbeat sound are still nice to consider. I do warn against choosing this name, at least until there are a few more namesakes attached to it. 

Ida (McKinley)
With names like Ava and Ada sweeping through birth announcements, Ida would fit right in! It means "hardworking" and has a kind of vintage tenacity about it. Ida is simple and easy to pronounce, and it is currently rather popular in Scandinavian countries. Namesake Ida Lupino was an early director in Hollywood at a time when women were even less accepted as bosses - girl power!

Jacqueline (Kennedy)
It jumped almost 70 places in the first two years of the Kennedy administration - needless to say, Jackie Kennedy had a major impact. Jacqueline only recently left the top 200, and might still be too popular for some namers to choose. However, Jacqueline is a distant female form of James, and could be used as a familial honorific. 

Jane (Pierce)
With over 1100 little Jane's born last year, its no surprise that this once plain name has totally reworked its image. Jane, like Jean and Joan, is a feminine variation of John, but somehow surpasses the other three names in grace and fortitude. Jane Austen is one literary example, but Jane abounds in all aspects of popular culture. 

Julia (Tyler, Grant)
It's only recently traded popularity with sister Julie, but Julia has a long history of loveliness. Ancient Rome was full of powerful Julia's, Julia's are plentiful in athletics and theater, and even the Beatles wrote an ode to one (John Lennon's mother, Julia Lennon). It means "youthful", and will age well with the wearer. 

Laura (Bush)
A solid, upstanding, womanly name, Laura only recently began to fall out of favor - don't worry, it's still in the top 400. Another name found in all contexts, Laura comes from the Latin for "bay laurel". It's been in use since at least the ninth century, though I'd imagine many young female Americans were introduced to the name via Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

Letitia (Tyler)
I was very surprised to find Letitia on this list - it's so much more ornate than many of the subdued classics here! It means "happiness", and offers cute nicknames Lettie and Tish. The original, even more decorated form is Laetitia, and Lettice was used occasionally in England (though the whole vegetable connection is a bit too close for comfort). 

Lou (Hoover)
What luck! I completed a whole post on Lou last week - check it out here!

Tune in tomorrow for the final post on this topic!

Monday, June 13, 2016

First Names of the First Ladies #1

Greetings, readers!

Today's post is the beginning of a three-parter, inspired by an article I read last week - Do First Ladies Influence the Popularity of Baby Names? The answer is, incidentally, a little bit: names tend downward in the years after an American First Lady enters the public sphere, but they were going to trend downward anyway because of generational differences. In any event, their first names are no less interesting!

Because of the overlap in names, I'll be listing the first names in alphabetical, not chronological, order. Some presidents had multiple First Lady counterparts, too! If you're interested in their respective husbands, check out my past post on presidential last names: Throwback Thursday: Presidential Names #1

Let's begin!

Abigail (Adams, Fillmore)
This lovely classic needs no introduction - it's in the top ten in the US and the top 100 everywhere else! (English-speaking countries, of course). It's got nice nicknames, an abundance of namesakes, and an elegant sound. It's only drawback is its popularity! Still, this name could make it all the way to #1, next to Charlotte or Amelia - only time will tell. 

Angelica (Van Buren)
While it hasn't reached the popularity of sister names Angela and Angelina, I think Angelica might be rising sooner than later. The fantastic character of Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton is one reason, with the other being that Rugrats has been off the air for quite a few years now... (can you tell I'm a Millennial?) Angelica is currently at #425, and has ranked in the US since 1959. 

Anna (Harrison)
A personal favorite (my mom's name is Nancy, so I tend towards the Ann names), Anna is the leading member of its family - save for the Hebrew original, Hannah. It means "grace", and it more than embodies its meaning with a melodic sound, simple structure, and historical usage. There are dozens of less popular variations with excellent qualities, too!

Barbara (Bush)
Another classic, but the prevailing opinion among name experts is that it's still too soon for the name to come back into fashion (I happen to agree). It still has a housecoat on, in my view. If you're looking for a way to honor a familial Barbara, try these on: Varvara or Varya, the Russian variants; Babette, a French diminutive; Elodie or Xenia, which include Barbara's origin meaning, "foreign". 

Caroline (Harrison)
We've got songs about its sweetness and a bunch of presidential street cred. Caroline currently ranks higher than both Carolina and Carolyn, and manages to stay timeless unlike decade-oriented Carol or Carly. It's a fabulous name that can be personalized with a million pet names: Carrie, Cara, Carla, Callie, Lina, you name it!

Claudia (Johnson)
While the First Lady was better known as "Lady Bird", her actual prénom was the strong and feminine Claudia. As a fan of meanings, I was disappointed to find out the name means "crippled", but it might work for an uncommon type! Other finds - Gladys is a version of this name, and variants Claudina or Claudette might help the name express more individuality. 

Dolley (Madison)
With Molly and Holly so widely used, it is unfortunate that similar Dolley has been tainted by the musical (and references to toys). It's a short form of Dorothy or Dolores, both of which look better on paper, admittedly, but it's so spunky and retro that I find myself liking it more and more. The extra E in the middle relates it directly to Mrs. Madison, too!

Edith (Roosevelt, Wilson)
Riding the wave of the vintage trend, Edith has been jumping up the top 1000 list since 2009. It's sturdy but stately, retro but refined, unmistakable but unpopular (all right, I'll stop). Edith could honor an Ed (-ward, -win, or -gar) in your family, or stand on its own as a substantial pick. Diminutives Eddie or Edie are also cute on a little girl. 

Eleanor (Roosevelt, Carter)
Along with a few names listed below (and some not on this list), Eleanor is one of the names in the top 100 with the trendy Ellie nickname. If you want to choose this beautiful, independent-woman name, I recommend trying a different short form, like Nora or Leni. Eleanor has been my favorite for awhile, and I still haven't given up on it yet!

Elizabeth (Monroe, Truman, Ford) and Eliza (Johnson)
While I briefly considered giving Eliza its own entry, it really is too closely linked to its originator. Elizabeth, the era-less epitome of feminine names, is currently at #13. It manages to age with its wearer while not leaning too old or young, and offers a ton of nicknames and variations to help it achieve a sense of uniqueness. Eliza, one of those short forms, is upbeat and passionate, a lovely choice. This name will never go out of style. 

Ellen (Wilson)
It's been on the decline for awhile, but it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility. Ellen is the English form of Helen, and ranks a bit higher overseas. There are quite a few namesakes in the past and present to draw inspiration from - Ellen Degeneres, Ellen Page, Ellen Pompeo - as well as fictional idols, too!

Emily (Donelson)
As a lifelong bearer of the name, I highly recommend it. Yes, it was the top girls' name for about 20 years, and yes, you probably know about ten Emily's other than me. But it's so feminine, pretty, and friendly! (Not-so-subtle nudging to name your kid after me, friends who are reading this!)

Sidenote: I am realizing just now that my preferred name aesthetic for girls appears to be First Lady first names. More on this story as it develops. 

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Saturday Jams: I Want BRANDY

Enjoy listening, readers! Happy Saturday :)

"Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)", Looking Glass, 1972

"Brandy", the O'Jays, 1978

"Brandy", Scott English, 1971 (the original version of Barry Mainlow's "Mandy")

Friday, June 10, 2016

Name News: 6/10/16

Hillary, Donald and Bernie Don’t Catch On as Baby Names - Jeremy B. Merrill, The New York Times

The most popular names for each letter in 2015 - NewsFix
Is it irony that the most popular name for girls beginning with the letter U is Unique?

10 Baby Names For June Babies - Julie Sprankles, Bustle
My sister Clare is a June baby, as well as my cousin Zachary. From this list, I like the classic Harvey.

The Reddest and Bluest Baby Names - Pamela Redmond Satran, Nameberry
Super interesting way of looking at name stats! (Glad to be in a blue state myself)

Do First Ladies Influence the Popularity of Baby Names? - GoLocalProv
Ooh, interesting idea for a post - First Lady names! Tune in next week!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Les Paul

Rock on, readers!

Today would have been the 101st birthday of inventor and musician Les Paul, one of the creators of the solid-body electric guitar. For Throwback Thursday, I'm including below some of the famous names who used Gibson guitars!

Duane Allman
Billie Joe Armstrong
Chuck Berry
Eric Clapton
Sheryl Crow
Bob Dylan
Don and Phil Everly
Peter Frampton
Jerry Garcia
Dave Grohl
Woody and Arlo Guthrie
Emmylou Harris
George Harrison
Jimi Hendrix
Joan Jett
Brian Jones
BB King
Mark Knopfler
Lenny Kravitz
John Lennon
Bob Marley
Paul McCartney
Ted Nugent
Roy Orbison
Jimmy Page
Elvis Presley
Keith Richards
Carlos Santana
Saul "Slash" Hudson
Rosetta Tharpe
Pete Townshend
Eddie Van Halen
Neil Young
Frank Zappa

Any musicians I missed? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Sounds Like a Winner: Lou

Hello, readers!

In an effort to expand my name knowledge, I'm starting a series of posts based on certain sounds in popular (and soon-to-be popular) names! This is all based on the General American accent, and is not intended to exclude varying pronunciations of names.

The key to the above map of accents can be found here. Today's post will focus on the lovely sound, Lou! Many names including this element come from Louis and its ancestors. 

Girls' Names

Lucy, Lucia, Lucille 
All of these names are in the top 300, and for good reason. They're feminine, vintage, and have the inspiring meaning of "light". Nicknames Lu and Lulu are optional, but Lucy was originally a diminutive of the latter two names anyway. Namesakes Lucille Ball and Lucy van Pelt are other positive traits attached to these names. 

Louise, Louisa 
The French variant (former) hasn't been seen in the top 1000 since 1991, but the English variant (latter) jumped back on the list after a 40-year hiatus in 2014. Both offer distinctly retro vibes, and statistically probably honor at least one relative in your family. On a personal note, there's an upbeat song in the musical The Bandwagon called "I Love Louisa" - give it a listen!

Emmylou, Bettylou, Marylou
Compound names often go unrecorded in the United States, but putting them together in one word keeps the friendly, old-fashioned traditions alive. Musician Emmylou Harris is the most notable namesake, with Marylou of Kerouac's On the Road providing a literary connection. Interestingly, Marylou and Marilou are also popular in France. 

Lilou, Milou
Speaking of French (and generally European) names, Lilou currently ranks at #12 in France. It's a diminutive of Lily or Liliane, and gained a huge boost in popularity via the Bruce Willis/Milla Jovovich scifi film, The Fifth Element (another personal favorite). Milou is a short form of Marie Louise, and was not used for any American children last year. 

Luna, Luz, Guadalupe
Onward to Spain and Latin America! Luna has been popular worldwide throughout the 2000's, and the inclusion of Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter books has given the name extra positivity. Luz, another form of Lucia, is a bit more mature than its sister names, and has been relatively popular in Spanish-speaking communities. Guadalupe is another Spanish-language classic, honoring the Virgin Mary.

Boys' Names

Louis, Lewis, Luis
This name has an incredibly long history across multiple continents, so if you're looking for something with gravitas, the buck stops here. Louis means "renowned warrior", another plus, and has hundreds of excellent namesakes to choose from - athletes, rulers, actors, scholars. Lewis is the English variant, and Luis the Spanish.

Luke, Luca, Lucas
The above three names - and their many spelling variations - rank throughout the US top 1000. Chances are you know a couple of Luke's other than Skywalker! There's a Gospel named Luke, dozens of fictional and actual famous people named Luke, and more than a few dogs named Luke (Lucy is also the second most popular female dog name).

Lucian, Lucien, Lucius
More elegant and old-fashioned than its shorter counterparts, Lucian jumped back on popularity lists in 2005 after 50 years off the list. It's still hovering at the bottom, which is helpful if you're looking for something recognizable but not popular. Lucien is the French version, and Lucius, while often attached to movie villains, is not totally unusable.

While its origin meaning is "army people", the name is now used by many to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. It's another name with a plethora of namesakes, including the eponymous current BBC drama starring Idris Elba. Luther is classic and demure, but definitely strong. Sidenote: creative spelling Luthor references a Superman baddie, so I suggest sticking to the original.

It should really be in a unisex column, because Blue is ranking fairly evenly for boys and girls. It's the "starbaby middle name du jour" (thanks Nameberry) and might rise through the ranks like other color names - Violet, Scarlet, Rose. But many parents are still stuck on the "blue = boy" idea, which has been thoroughly debunked, for the record.

There are plenty of names I didn't include above - Plumeria, Tallulah, Louanne, Lupita, Toulouse, Ludwig - and I look forward to finding more in the comments!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

California Namin'

What's up, readers?

I've made no secret in past posts about my state of choice - the Golden State, California. I'm a fifth-generation Californian on both sides of my family, and pleased as punch to be from the West Coast (Best Coast). In honor of today's Presidential Primary election, I'll be looking at some great choices that honor the place I know and love!

Place Names

With over 38 million people and 480+ cities, California has a lot of place names to choose from. Names from larger cities often show a distinct Spanish influence, named after saints and churches built by early Catholic settlers. These include Francisco, Diego, Barbara, Angel/Angela, Jose, Rosa, Ana, and Clara, to name a few. Cities with non-Latin names that offer moniker potential are Berkeley, Irvine, Carson, and Hawthorne. Looking for something more eco-friendly? National park names range from Sequoia to Joshua to Sierra, and bodies of water include Feather, Shasta, Trinity, and Isabella. Explore the terrain on Google Maps (or on a paper map), and see what other classic or unusual names you can find!

Historical Names

While many of the place names indicate complex histories, there are some names as Californian as, well, In N Out. Father Junipero Serra explored much of the coast and established tens of missions - both Junipero (a masculine equivalent to floral Juniper) and Serra (as a variant of Sarah) are rare in name records. Sutter's Mill in northern California was the first location at which gold was discovered, prompting the Gold Rush - not a bad occupational choice, Sutter. Only a few decades later, Hollywood's influence swept the nation, introducing us to stars like Shirley Temple, Gregory Peck, and Clint Eastwood (all native Californians). This state's role in American history cannot be overestimated, and offers dozens of inspiring namesakes!

Symbolic Names
Of course, there are some very state-oriented options here: Eureka, after the state motto; Goldie, after the state nickname; even California - eleven girls were named after the state last year. But looking at more subtle honorifics might please fans of classic namers. Names that mean "bear" include Bernard, Arthur, and Ursula; names that mean "sun" include Soleil, Elio, and Mehri; names from state symbols include Poppy, Joaquin, and Bodie. Unofficial motifs indicating California abound as well in name records - Summer, West, and Oceane, for instance. To get ideas for more symbolic names for this state and others, brainstorm the first images you think of for your region of choice!

I've got many options here that remind me of my favorite home - tell me your picks for California (or any of the other 49 states) in the comments!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Basque Names

Good morning, readers!

While scrolling through the 2015 names list (because what else would one do in their spare time?) a lovely name caught my eye - Arantxa. Also spelled Aranza or Arantzazu, it's a Basque name meaning "thornbush". I've never seen this name before, and a cursory glance around name sites showed it indeed to be a rarity.

As a matter of fact, Basque names are few and far between. Here are some choice picks (other than Arantxa) for your consideration!

Most X's are pronounced as "sh" in Basque. English (or well-known) equivalents are included in italics!

Girls' Names

Pronounced "al-az-neh", it means "miracle". While the pronunciation might be a bit difficult for English speaking audiences, the name feels like an updated version of Alana. It's also a roundabout way to get to the nickname Ally! Other feminine names meaning "miracle" include Harika or Nasia

Elixane - Elizabeth
Pronounced "El-i-sha-neh", it looks a lot like "elixir", and may be mistaken as such. Still, it could be a pretty way to honor a familial Elizabeth or Elaine. It also sounds like the female equivalent of Elisha. Elixane means "pledged to God", and has one celebrity endorsement - a French tennis player, Elixane Lechemia. 

Joska - Josepha
Mariska Hartigay introduced us to the adorable "sk" sound, and Saskia has been trending overseas. This cute variation of Josepha offers the same unexpected sound, as well as the nickname Jo or JoJo. And it's never been recorded in US data, for all you fans of the uncommon!

The form may fool you, but Leire actually sounds like Lay-ree and fits in with popular "ay-ee" names: Kaylee, Daisy, Abree. It's the name of a mountain in Navarre, where a monastery has sat since the eighth century. Leire and its alternate spelling Leyre were given to 14 girls each in the US last year. 

Xuxa - Shoshana
Want to accentuate the x-factor but keep a soft sound? Xuxa is for you! Pronounced Shoo-shah, Xuxa means "lily" and was only used for about 30 children total in the 1990's. An eponymous Brazilian entertainer brought the name to US attention, but I haven't been able to find out whether the name ranks highly in Brazil. 

Boys' Names

With both Archer and Arthur in the top 300, Argider may not be as absurd as one might think. It means "beautiful light" in Basque, and it could use Darry or Argie as nicknames. It would definitely raise some eyebrows, but its meaning and heritage are fantastic. 

Eneko - Inigo
A sweet name with a sweet meaning: "my little one". It fits in with the current ends-in-O trend - think Nico, Diego, Emilio - and has an easy spelling-pronunciation connection. Not super relevant, but I like that the Japanese word for cat, "neko", is included too. 

Both Ilario and Ilaria are recorded names, but Ilari is elusive - the Basque name means "cheerful", and definitely has an upbeat vibe. It may be confused with Hilary, so I'd recommend waiting until after the election to use it (#feelthebern). 

While Unai ranks in the top 50 in certain parts of Spain, it's all but unheard of in the US. It's an attractive, vowel-heavy name meaning "cowherd", and fits in with other new classics like Noah and Kai. Feminine Una has been slowly increasing on the charts, so why not Unai?

Like Ilari, Zorion means "happiness". It may sound like a modern invented name, but it has a history overseas and has been used occasionally in the US since 2001. I personally think Zor and Zori are cool nicknames, too! If you like Orion, try adding a Z!

Tell me what you think in the comments? Any cool Basque names I missed?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Saturday Jams: On a CLARE Day

My sister Clare celebrates her birthday next week! Here's a Saturday Jams devoted to my favorite (and only) little sister <3

*Of course, since the spelling is less common, I'm taking liberties with songs!

"Clair", Gilbert O'Sullivan, 1972

"Claire's Kitchen", Soho, 1992

"O Claire", Cheap Trick, 1978

"Planet Claire", the B-52's, 1979

"Clarabella", the Beatles, 1963

Friday, June 3, 2016

Names from LA Neighborhoods

Hello, readers!

I had the fortune of spending Memorial Day weekend in Southern California - Malibu, Fullerton, and San Diego, for the most part. Some of the neighborhoods in the Los Angeles Metro Area have excellent names, so here are my top picks!

All of these names have been recorded at least once in US history!

















Any I missed? Tell me in the comments!