Monday, November 28, 2016

Names from Narnia - Aslan, Caspian and more

Hello, readers!

The holiday season is truly upon us, and with food and celebration comes another of my favorite winter elements - the culture! The stories, songs and art associated with winter and the holidays are so unique: "Christmas Songs" are their own genre.

While it's not exactly a holiday series, The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, are often brought up this time of year. Perhaps it's because of the long winter in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or because of the Christian themes in the series. So today's post will look at some of the names in the series - all recorded in US name data between 1880 and 2015.

These names range from English classics to total inventions - let's explore!

In 2006, six little girls were given the name Narnia, following the late 2005 release of the film The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. While this is a level of bookish devotion I may never achieve, I do like the sound of the name - not unlike Nora or Nina. The fictional land was named after a small city in Italy, Narni - whose most famous resident, incidentally, was Blessed Lucy Brocadelli.

A female character in The Horse and His Boy, Aravis has been used a handful of times for little girls since 2005. There's a real-life mountain range in France with the name, but it's still an incredibly rare find. It's like Avery, Aria, or Alexis without feeling too trendy or hopelessly inaccessible.

If Leo isn't your style, why not try another leonine name - Aslan (Turkish for "lion")? It's been growing in popularity since the 1970's, and fits well with modern boys' name trends. While it may raise a few eyebrows, Aslan is bound to make a positive impression with such a magnificent fictional namesake.

Breezy and bright, Bree is a fresh, concise alternative to declining Briana and faddish Brielle. It's originally a short form of Bridget, but in The Horse and His Boy, it's short for Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah. While Bree has been on and off the top 1000, it's currently off, making it a perfect choice for those who want something recognizable but not trendy.

Both a beautiful inland sea and a dashing heroic prince, Caspian has a lot of positive connotations. With its handsome sound and amicable tone, it's also growing in popularity - 103 boys born last year were named Caspian. Other names with this feeling include Crispin and Casper.

One of the less-common "Ed" names, this English classic is sweet and boyish, but ages well with its wearer. It means "fortunate protector," and could make a great alternative to Edward or Eden. There are dozens of Edmund's throughout history who would make excellent namesakes, from the first man to climb Everest to a handful of saints.

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it." This opening line from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader shows us that even in 1952, Eustace was a thing of the past. The name hasn't ranked on the top 1000 since 1885, though it has a lovely meaning - "fruitful."

The name of the infamous White Witch of the series, Jadis is incredibly sophisticated and cool. It can be thought of as an updated version of Jade or Jasmine, though the name may come from the Persian word jadu, meaning "magic." Jadis has been used for both boys and girls since 1999.

At #55 in the US, Lucy is the most popular name on this list. Lucy Pevensie, of Narnia fame, is only one of the many literary Lucy's that have inspired this trend, as well as it's retro sound and friendly vibe. Lucy means "light," and isn't it fitting that Lucy Pevensie was the first of the children to reach the lampost? Longer forms include Lucia, Lucille, and Lucinda.

Another vintage find, but this time with fewer fans - Polly hasn't been on the top 1000 since 1977. However, it's been growing very slowly since the early 2000's - could it make a comeback? It's pretty and peppy, in the same vein as Sadie or Molly. It's also been on the rise in the UK, along with similar-sounding Poppy.

A Native American people and place name, Shasta has been used for girls since 1926 - though the character in the Narnia series is male. It briefly ranked in the late 1970's and early 1980's, but has fallen in usage. It could be a lovely alternative to Dakota or Cheyenne, if your name tastes tend towards honoring Native American peoples.

The last king of Narnia, Tirian transcends what could be a tyrannical name. It shouldn't be confused with Tyrion, of Game of Thrones, or Tirion, of the Lord of the Rings series - I'm sensing a pattern here. Tirian was used for six boys in 2008, but it's doubtful that the name will gain many more mainstream fans - unless an inevitable reboot mixes things up!

Other excellent names from the series include the following: Corin, Digory, Emeth, Frank, Glozelle, Helen, Hwin, Jill, Miraz, Peter, Rabadash, Ramandu, Rilian, Susan, Tumnus

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thankful Names

Hello, readers!

This week the United States celebrates Thanksgiving; though it's hard not to be cynical about it, taking time to be thankful for what we have and who we spend our lives with is a worthy tradition. So, in this year of trials and tribulations, let's look at the good people and parts of our life that make us truly happy.

Here are some names from around the world that mean "thankful."

Alright, so this name may be a bit on the nose. Thankful was actually a not-uncommon name in Puritan communities, where virtue names flourished (Emily Dickinson had multiple Thankful's in her family). Today, it may not work as seamlessly, but check out some related options below. 

Also spelled Shaqir, this Arabic name was first recorded in the US in 1971. It's highest rate of usage was in 1993 - around the same time Shakira started getting popular in the states. The Colombian singer definitely had an impact on this name, so the male form may feel more unique and less iconic. 

Though origin stories differ, some sites list this mega-popular name as coming from the Hebrew word for "thankful." Jadon and it's dozen spellings have dominated the top 1000 for awhile, replacing John, Jason, and Justin. What will the next J---n name be? (Jefferson has my vote!)

This Disney Channel star single-handedly brought her lovely Z-name to the top 1000 - it debuted in 2014, and now ranks at #801 and rising. Zendaya means "to give thanks" in the Shona language (spoken in regions of south-central Africa). Another name from this origin? Tendai

Only recorded in the United States once - five babies in 1978 - this name from Malawi's Yao language is another zippy choice with personality and promise. Being that it's so rare, it may raise a few eyebrows - but families with a Yao background may find Zikomo inspiring. 

Rising in popularity for the past few years, Merci is a creative spelling of virtue name Mercy - but it's also French for "thank you." It's a fun twist on multiple names, from mid-century Marcy to pretty Marisol to the aforementioned Mercy, and may work well for a quirky individual. 

Tell me what you're thankful for in the comments!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Top Baby Names in Belgium

Hallo, lezers!

After a rather long and unintended hiatus, I'm back to posting articles on global names. Today, we'll be looking at the top baby names in Belgium (specifically Flanders). This is the Dutch region of the country, home to Brussels and Antwerp. They're also known for their chocolate!

I'll be looking at seven names from each gender that are popular in Belgium (in the top 50) but uncommon in the United States. I'm taking my data from Baby Name Wizard's lists - for Belgian boys and Belgian girls. This data is from 2014. 

Laten we gaan!

Female Names

Meaning "light" in Arabic, Noor has begun to find favor among American parents - it reached the top 1000 for the first time last year. It's been most common in Muslim families, but its similarity to Nora and Eleanor make it even more desirable for all types. 

While it's long been a popular choice among French speakers, Americans haven't followed suit - the most Manon's born in the US at one time were twenty-six girls each year during 1999 and 2000. Still, this diminutive of Marie is soft and friendly, a pretty alternative to Madison or Madeline

Though Charlie has taken off for girls in the states, Lotte hasn't - the foreign pronunciations of LAH-tah, LAH-teh, or LAH-tee can be difficult for native English speakers. Parents worried about Charlotte's popularity may take the plunge, while Lottie is another adorable option. 

This name can be found in languages all over the globe, from Japanese to Arabic to Hebrew to Dutch. It takes the current vowel trend to a new level, but its subdued sound makes it more sophisticated than faddish. Aya currently ranks at #36 in Belgium and #886 in the US. 

Originally a nickname for Jozefien, this short form has now surpassed the longer classic. Though it may raise some eyebrows, it could work well as a feminine alternative to Finn. In the US, Josephine and Josie are the more common variations. 

Another French choice, Anaïs has ranked on the top 1000 a few times over the past few decades. It comes from the name Anne, meaning "grace," and there are a few notable namesakes with the moniker - author Anaïs Nin and musician Anaïs Mitchell among them. 

Ranking in eight different European countries, this variation of Agnes is especially popular due to its association with a Spanish love story. Pronounced "AYE-ness" or "EE-ness," it's short, elegant, and traditional without being overused. 

Male Names

Alternatives to Biblical favorite Matthew are on the rise everywhere - from Mateo to Mathias to Matt. This French version is pronounced like the artist Matisse, though many Americans may sooner connect the name to mid-century singer Johnny Mathis.

Looking for an unusual longer name with the nickname Max? Maxime is one uncommon choice, though it may be confused with the feminine Maxine. Still, it's been slowly increasing in popularity: thirty-eight baby Maxime's were born last year.

Though it's never been recorded in the United States, it's already at #25 in Belgium. Seppe is originally a short form of Giuseppe or Joseph, and is pronounced "SEP-pah." I'm interested to see how it will take off in the US - there's a great discussion about it on this Nameberry forum!

While Stanley has been on the decline for a few decades, bright and friendly Stan may still find an audience. With short boys' names like Sam and Jack on trend, Stan could definitely fit in on the playground while maintaining its retro air.

Pronounced "Vowt" or "Wowt," this Dutch nicknamed for Wouter (Walter) may have a hard time in the United States. On the other hand, it's close enough to Wyatt to merit a mention! Walter itself has been on the rise in the US as well - thanks, Breaking Bad?

Are you a fan of Mateo, but looking for something less common? Timeo may be right up your alley! It comes from a Greek name meaning "honor," and could honor a familial Timothy. It's also related to the Disney favorite Timon and can be found in Shakespeare.

Another Greek choice, Yanis is actually a relative of John, meaning "gift of God." It's got a unique sound and form, setting it apart from most trends. Yanis was given to twenty-nine boys in the United States last year - and six girls.

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Friday, November 18, 2016

"Oy" Vey - Dated Fad, or Vintage Find?

Hello, readers!

Looking through old name data and saying names out loud, you begin to hear the changes in trends. Try saying the top ten names from each decade in order, and see what you find! This post is about one sound that's all-but-vanished from birth certificates: "oy".

The sound "oy" or "oi" is a diphthong, which means it consists of two adjacent vowels in a single syllable. While the sound shows up quite a lot in English, it's been decreasing on name records. Check out this graph showing the decline (thanks, Expert NameVoyager!)

Let's look at some historical "oy" names, then move onto today's favorites!

Past "oy" Names

In 1905, this name peaked at #44 - but it's been off the top 1000 since 1999. Today, it's attached to numerous American boxers, from Patterson to Mayweather, but has a bit of trouble standing on its own. In my opinion, it's too early for a return, but Floyd may one day rise again!

Slightly less dated, but still relatively unpopular, Lloyd's peak happened in 1918 when it reached #51. Also like Floyd, Lloyd dropped off the charts entirely in 2003. Still, its sound is fairly subdued and its namesakes are more wide-ranging. Lloyd would be a classic Welsh choice.

Though the futuristic cartoon The Jetsons premiered in 1962, character Elroy was already rather out-of-date. The name had peaked in 1922, and didn't last beyond the 1960's. Elroy has a zany, eccentric vibe, but it may not return for awhile. Slightly different Leroy is still in style, though!

This Irish variation of Mary never got as far as Molly or Maureen, but it was attached to a character in Peter Pan - Wendy Moira Angela Darling. It's been used more frequently in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and could fit in well with names like Nora and Cora today.

This name dominated charts in the 1970's and 1980's, but was out of fashion by 1995. Singer and actress La Toya Jackson is almost single-handedly responsible for this trend. LaToya is actually a diminutive of Victoria, meaning "the winner."

Present "oy" Names

While this name was more popular in the mid-century decades, it's begun to rise up the charts again. Along with its happy, upbeat sound, it was also featured as the name of a main character in Pixar's Inside Out. Like other virtue names, Joy is likely to (positively) increase! Similar-sounding Joyce may follow it up as well.

At #465 for boys and #755 for girls, Royal is a unisex moniker that joins the hierarchical name group - King, Princess, and Royalty among them. While it's sophisticated enough to age well, it still hasn't quite permeated pop culture yet - but give Royal time!

With dozens of real and fictional namesakes, Troy is one of the few names on this list that's lasted through every year of name records in the United States. It's now at the same popularity level it had in 1957, just before getting a boost from Troy Donahue.

Luxurious but accessible, familiar but unique, Royce manages to balance between multiple name categories. It means "son of the king" and fits in with Jace and Reese, but goes beyond them with noble flair. Shorter form Roy is close behind - both names are classics, but float just under major popularity lines.

This Slavic/Arabic/Persian form of Zoe could be the next hit - it can be pronounced similarly in multiple languages, it's short but refined, and it sounds feminine without feeling overly done. Only 173 baby girls were given the name last year, so it will be awhile before Zoya reaches the charts.

Other names with the sound include: Doyle, Boyd, McCoy, Loyal, Noya, and Oyindamola.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Where Have All the Consonants Gone?

Hello, readers!

Alaya, Arianna, Isabella, Elisa - names with these sounds are dominating the girls' top 1000. Vowel-heavy, melodic choices seem to be the fashion, with 77% of names in the top 100 starting or ending with a vowel. What about the other twenty-three names?


Despite the vowel trends, these names have their own kind of sounds. Let's look at this list of names and see where smaller trends may lie, as well as more unique options that fit their individuality. 

Ending in N - Madison, Lillian, Brooklyn, Madelyn, Caroline, Peyton, Katherine, Madeline, Vivian, Quinn, Reagan

The suffix of the decade may be -lyn! It's a familiar sound with feminine overtones, and can honor familial Linda's, Lynn's, and Lindsey's. Though the Katelyn trend is subsiding, plenty of other names have risen to take its place. Less common examples include: Gwendolyn, Roselyn, and Coralyn. Names like Vivian and Lillian lend themselves easily to nicknames, like Vivi and Lily. Other names with this suffix include Charmian, Marian, and Gillian

Ending in R - Harper, Skylar, Claire, Piper, Taylor

A unisex style that allows for mix-and-match prefixes, ending in -or and -er is not just a contemporary idea: names like Esther, Jennifer, and Amber have been on record for decades. Looking for something less prevalent? Try Sailor, Lavender, or Tamar

Ending in T - Charlotte, Scarlett, Violet

While these names seem more old-fashioned, all three reached their highest level of popularity this last year. The -ett suffix seems more sophisticated and polished; feminine without being frilly. Other lovely names ending in T include Merritt, Garnet, and Yvette

Virtue names - Grace, Genesis, Faith

Though more virtue names overlap with vowel-heavy names - Nevaeh, Serenity, Trinity - there is a certain elegance that these polished options offer. Other virtue names in this trend include Hope, Justice, and Constance

Unisex names - Harper, Skylar, Peyton, Taylor, Quinn, Reagan

All of these name rank within the top 100 for girls, and the top 1000 for boys. Many are also occupational choices, which tend to be less gender-normative and allow for more imagination. Another common trait? Many happen to be popular last names, which let parents honor figures in their life more directly (at least, more so than the infinity of John's). Other options include Thatcher, Lincoln, and Copper

Color names - Scarlett, Violet, Hazel, (and Skylar, indirectly)

If Rainbow is too much, don't worry - there's plenty of names in its wide range of hues. The trick is to choose a color name that's also a retro choice: while Aquamarine is a bit over the top, Lilac and Navy feel more vintage. Gemstone names like Ruby and Pearl also fit into this trend. Other uncommon options include Saffron, Indigo, Amethyst, and Opal

French origins - Charlotte, Claire, Madelyn, Madeline

Even though these names are used often in English-speaking countries, they still maintain a bit of that je ne sais quoi. It can be hard to force the transition - choosing Mireille or Anais may result in some interesting pronunciations in the states. But there are other names with French origins who would stand out gracefully: Juliette, Simone, and Mauve among them. 

What other trends-within-a-trend do you see? Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Why I'm Going to Keep Writing About Baby Names When the World is Crashing Down Around Me

Hello, readers.

I use exclamation points a lot. I get very excited about name origins and nicknames. But this week, I'm having trouble bringing myself to end a sentence with even a period or ellipses. A lot of thoughts just trail off, spoken or written.

Like many of my fellow Americans (more than half of the country, according to the popular vote), I woke up on Wednesday with the combination of shock, sadness, and anger weighing me down. It took a lot of energy yesterday and today to get out of bed, get dressed, and go to work. My emotions are on a roller coaster - from low points where I contemplate self-medicating for four years, to high points where I feel physically ready to yell, fight, and win against 50 million people single-handedly. I have depression so I'm used to a bit of emotional turbulence. But no amount of Cymbalta can take the edge off our dire situation.

On Facebook and Tumblr, I'm constantly commenting, sharing, and signal-boosting political articles -How to Channel Your Post-Election Anger, Sadness, and Fear Into Action and 20+ Resources to Help You Process After the Election of Donald Trump among them. Through the stream (or tidal wave) of political articles, I've been catching more common posts, like "Happy Birthday to my mom!" or "10 Kittens Wearing Bow Ties You Must See." Part of me recoiled - how can we pretend the unthinkable didn't happen? But then I talked to my loved ones.

My best friends told me they loved me, and we shared thoughts and articles and jokes. My mom reminded me about the power of meditation and the importance of self-care - "you cannot pour from an empty vessel." My sister made me laugh - she's good at that. My dad insisted that fear and the unknown can be worse than reality, that our government and our people can work through terrible divides. My Ethan - partner, boyfriend, bestest friend, foil - got me out of bed two days in a row, let me cry into his shoulder, shared inspiring articles with me, and already has plans to lead the country into a better future.

Suddenly, those 50 million people shrunk in size compared to the strength, courage, and love of those I care about. The act of choosing to be happy - to take in positive media, to reach out to family and friends, to refuse to be defeated - those are radical acts.

Names make me happy. And here's another thing about them - there are thousands of name origins. Every name I click on in research reminds me of past immigrant populations - from every continent and every country, who came here and made a life and spread their culture. I see Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish names on the rise; I see Aztec and Tagalog and Polish names popping up on lists and discussed in forums. Through racist immigration quotas, Japanese internment camps, Jim Crow laws, multiple waves of feminism, the AIDS crisis, and countless wars, Americans have been naming their children radically and uniquely, celebrating their heritage and their heroes. We have over 130 years of name data supporting the trend towards diversity and inclusion, and the next four years won't destroy that.

So I'm going to get excited about Kythe - a Scottish name I heard for the first time yesterday. I'm going to get excited about Suzume, and Mei, and Yael, and Itzel, and Priya, and Artem, and Genevieve, and Seraphina, and Joao, and Sofia, and Amihan, and Emily.

And I'm going to use exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!