Monday, March 20, 2017

Name News - 3-20-17

There’s a name for it — racism - Vanessa Hua - San Francisco Chronicle

"When I got married, it would have been the perfect opportunity to change my last name to my husband’s Serbian one. But I’d spent years building my byline, and I didn’t want to give up the name or the heritage my father had passed down to me."

An excellent look at name bias in the US. Sidenote: the middle names Huajin and Huaren for her twins are so beautiful and meaningful!

Dear Prudence - What's in a name? - Mallory Ortberg, Slate

"Some people love getting nicknamed, but it would give me more than a little pause if someone I had just started seeing told me, “I don’t like your name. Let me call you something else,” no matter how they tried to soften it or dress it up."

Despite the fact that I have very strong opinions about names, I don't think I've ever disliked someone's name so much I asked to call them something else. Anyone else familiar with this issue? Conversely, if you dislike your own name, do you tell other people to call you a nickname?

How Scarlett Got Its Groove Back - Ben Blatt, Slate

"The Social Security Administration has never, since its starting history in 1880, recorded a baby Frodo. It’s not the same for female characters in fantasy series. Though the name suffered an 80-year drought between 1923 and 2002, in 2003 the United States welcomed five baby Hermoines."

Though there are a LOT of unsubstantiated claims in this article, I like the idea of looking at name spikes based on pop culture trends. Perhaps we'll one day see if movies or books influence namers more?

What's Your Starbucks Name? - Svati Kirsten Narula, The Atlantic

"I'm not ashamed of my name, but I prefer to reserve conversations about it for less hurried, less public interactions. A back-and-forth about the spelling, pronunciation, origin, and meaning of "Svati" can be fun, even necessary—at a cocktail party, during an interview, on a date. While ordering coffee? Not so much."

I find it interesting that those with "Starbucks' Names" in this article tend towards either end of the popularity spectrum - John vs. Svati, for example. My name has yet to be so common, but as more Emily's grow up and head to coffee shops, perhaps I'll need to find an alter ego...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Welsh Names from Hinterland

Hello, readers!

As an avid Netflix fan and self-taught television critic, I tend to find myself binge-watching programs I hadn't heard of the week before. My current addiction? The Welsh crime drama Hinterland (Y Gwyll). According to its Wikipedia page, the show is part of a movement to show more Welsh language and culture on the BBC. Thanks to this diversity push, Netflix audiences (myself included) get to hear more awesome Welsh names!

Though the show has both English and Welsh versions (I've been watching the English), the names of characters, towns, and regions are primarily Welsh. Below I've compiled a list of Welsh names featured on the series, with a few notes on their origins and popularity. 

***Note - Any tips on finding accurate name etymologies is appreciated! I have a feeling a few of my sources aren't entirely trustworthy.***

Awn ni!

Awen - Means "muse," a pretty mix between Owen and Arwen

Sian - Pronounced "shahn," this variation of Jane is so sophisticated

Dafydd - Variant of David, a popular choice

Hywel - Means "eminent," used for royalty

Catrin - Variant of Catherine, simple and sweet

Mared - My personal favorite, a unique version of Margaret

Idris - Thanks to Elba, Americans already recognize this rugged choice

Caradog - Derived from the Celtic for "love"

Ffion - Almost too popular in Wales, but perfect for import - pronounced "FEE-on"

Ceri - A unisex pick that sounds like Kerry

Enid - Fits the "so clunky it's cool" trend, and means "spirit" or "life"

Nia - A short form of Niamh, very popular in the UK

Gwilym - Variant of William, unusual in the States

Dic - Nickname for Richard, but wouldn't work in many English-speaking communities

Lowri - This variant of Laurel could make a great honor name

Wyn - Meaning "fair," this concise choice is one to watch

Gwyneth - Not just for Paltrow anymore!

Iwan - Classic Welsh choice, similar to Ian or Owen

Winfred - Another addition to the "so out that it's in" group

Mari - Variant of Mary, popular nickname option

Rhodri - Means "wheel," cool alternative to Riley or Rory

Siwan - Variant of Joan, pronounced "sheh-VAHN"

Iori - Short form of Iorwerth (?), also found in Japanese

Bedwyr - Arthurian name unlike any I've seen!

Alun - Variant of Alan, also a river in Wales

Endaf - Possible meaning of "goods"? (See above note regarding sources)

Geraint - Another Arthurian name, uncommon alternative to Garrett

Morgan - Quintessential Welsh name, still timeless and attractive

Glyn - Means "valley," variant of Glen/n

Bethan - Chic version of Elizabeth, an update to fading Bethany

Branwen - Means "beautiful raven," a great find to bring to the US!

Huw - I really love the spelling of this name, it's so friendly

Esyllt - Variant of Isolde, bit too close to Ethel in sound for modern usage

Aled - Another river in Wales, with an uncertain etymology

Eluned - Ethereal and beautiful, Eluned sounds like a princess' name

Harri - Fabulous spelling variation of handsome Harry

Gareth - Popular in Wales, could gain American fans in a snap

Medi - Means "September," but a bit too medical in my opinion

Rhian - Pronounced "REE-ahn," a lovely name meaning "maiden"

Arwyn - Variant of Arwen, but still traditional

Abi - Short form of Abigail, stylish and sleek

Delyth - Means "pretty," and the sound stays true to that!

Annes - Variant of Agnes, means "pure"

I was also delighted to see a pair of brothers named Caleb and Aron!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Barbie Names

Hello, readers!

On March 9th, 1959, Barbie made her debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York, and an icon was born. This classic doll has become a constant object in the lives of little girls all over the world - from her fashion sense to her career forays, Barbie has become a medium for imaginative play.

As a Barbie girl growing up - I had ninety dolls at one point - playing Barbies was one of my first experiences experimenting with names. I made extensive Barbie families of my own, and I memorized Barbie's friends and family names. Let's look at some of these names surrounding the classic toy!

I've included relevant full names and surnames in parentheses. Since many of these have a rather mid-century style, I've included international- and nickname-variants. 

Barbie (Barbara Millicent Roberts)
Named for founder Ruth Handler's daughter Barbara, Barbie has now become almost-unusable thanks to the eponymous icon. The name ranked on the popularity charts throughout the 1960's, but dropped off once the doll became a household name. More uncommon forms of Barbara include Babette, Basia, and Varenka

Ken (Carson)
Barbie's longtime boyfriend Ken has been available for purchase since 1961, and available to other single dolls since 2004, when he and Barbie broke up. Ken reached its height in the early 1960's, along with top-twenty contender Kenneth, but it has a dated feel now as well. Alternatives include Kent or Kendall, if you like the sound of the name!

Midge (Midge Hadley Sherwood)
The first best friend for Barbie debuted in 1963, but made waves in 2002 - her character was married to male doll Alan, and Midge was sold with a removable pregnant stomach and baby inside. Though the "controversy" around this died down, Midge might have more problems these days as a name. Surname Hadley, however, is becoming a new attractive favorite.

The first "black Barbie" was Christie, Barbie's best friend since 1968. It seems especially meaningful now that she debuted that year, and that her character is one of the longest-running in the franchise. While Christie and its many forms are no longer as popular, rarer variants include Ina and Kiki

Teresa (Rivera)
Another best friend was introduced in 1988 - Teresa, a Latina/Italian doll (her heritage is ambiguous). Teresa is still included in today's Barbie World, but her name has been on the decline. Teresa has some beautiful religious connotations in addition to its pretty form - to honor a familial Teresa, try Tessa, Terra, or Therese

Nikki (Nicole O'Neil)
For over ten years now Nikki has been a part of Barbie's long line of best friends, and her presence is especially notable in web and television series. Nikki continues to be a cute nickname choice, but more unusual long forms like Nikita and Nicolina offer more flair. 

Summer (Gordon)
Blaine's little sister (see below) and friend to Barbie, Summer is known for her athleticism. The name has been relatively common since the 1970's, with fans appreciating its positive and warm feeling. There are dozens of real and fictional Summer namesakes, too!

A mixed-race Asian-American doll, Raquelle is fairly new to the franchise - she debuted in 2007. With Rachel a consistent classic, Raquelle and Raquel could gain name fans looking for a more unique vibe. Raquel is popular especially in Spanish-speaking countries. 

Skipper (Roberts)
Barbie's little sister appeared in 1964; smaller and "younger" than Barbie, she was meant to look more like a teenager. The name Skipper was recorded sporadically for boys throughout the twentieth century - while it does fit in with surname and occupational name trends, it's still very much attached to the doll (or Gilligan's Island). 

Stacie (Anastasia Tutti Roberts)
Another sister for Barbie, Stacie first appeared as "Tutti" in the 1960's and was reinvented in 1990. While the long list of Stacie names and spellings have subsided, long form Anastasia is still elegant and feminine. Could it be the next Victoria?

Todd (Roberts)
Barbie's little brother hasn't been too prevalent in Mattel's franchise, but he's worth noting. Todd was originally the twin brother of Tutti (or Stacie, depending on the packaging), and remains a rare doll today. The name Todd peaked in the early 1970's, but could make a comeback today with its concise sound and friendly vibe. 

Kelly (Roberts)
Toddler-sized Kelly - known as Shelly in Europe - was a huge hit in the late 1990's and early 2000's, before the doll was discontinued. Another of Barbie's many sisters, Kelly's name is slightly more modern, but already on the decline. Similar energetic Irish names include Riley and Kennedy

Blaine (Gordon)
Australian Blaine appeared on Barbie's arm after her breakup with Ken. Though their romance was a bit shorter - two years versus forty-three - Blaine had an effect on Barbie fans worldwide. Today, Blaine dolls are no longer being produced, but the name Blaine continues to shine. It's similar enough to Blake or Lane, but has a personality all its own. 

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Names from Calvin and Hobbes

Hello, readers!

Today's post is a study of one of my favorite comic strips, Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. If you aren't familiar with this excellent artistry, check out any of the compilation books and enjoy! The strip focuses on precocious six-year-old Calvin and his tuna-loving tiger Hobbes, and it explores everything from philosophical concepts to religious doctrines to terrible babysitters.

The strip ran from 1985-95, and it's still regarded as a classic, with its influences extending into today's funny pages (see the adorable documentary Dear Mr. Watterson for more about its impact). Let's look at some of the names associated with this great comic!

Named for John Calvin, a major player in the Protest Reformation (and the founder of Calvinsim), six-year old Calvin more than lives up to his name - he's intelligent, funny, and very observant. The name Calvin has never been far from the top 200, and it even shows a bump in popularity during the strip's run. Nickname Cal is cute, but the full form has strength and tenacity. 

Calvin's stuffed (or real?) tiger is named for Thomas Hobbes, a seventeenth-century founder of modern philosophy. Though this English surname is now more associated with the comic strip, Hobbes has begun to appear in name records - it was given to twelve boys in 2015 (it's like we're watching Millennials begin to name their children). Hobbes is a diminutive of Robert, and fits in well with today's trends towards surnames. 

Susie Derkins
Calvin's nemesis (and possible crush) is Susie, a match for the boy in intelligence, wit, and cunning. Fans of the series have even created a sequel comic strip in which Calvin and Susie end up married.
While Susie is associated with mid-century name Susan, the nickname could gain more of a following now that Sadie and Maisie are back in the mix.

Possibly the only person Calvin truly fears and respects is Rosalyn, his teenage babysitter. Though she does seem to enjoy spending time with him, she is a no-nonsense kind of girl - and Calvin is all nonsense. Rosalyn has begun to rise again, thanks to True Blood and the -lyn trend, and this pretty name could reach fans of both vintage and modern sensibilities.

The school bully, Moe is a kid of few (monosyllabic) words. Though Moe is still connected with the Three Stooges and The Simpsons, it could make a comeback in a few years - its simple sound and (mostly) friendly vibe is appealing. Moe is also a common nickname for M names for both boys and girls.

Calvin's uncle makes an appearance in one or two strips, visiting Calvin's family. Funnily enough, there are a few Uncle Max's in cinema and television, prior to the resurgence of the name for kids.
Handsome and traditional Max is now at #118, with longer forms like Maxwell, Maximilian, and Maxim providing support.

Tracer Bullet
One of Calvin's alter-ego's is Tracer Bullet, a noir-style detective. Though Trace became a favorite in the last couple of decades, it's on the decline - perhaps active Tracer could gain some fans? It's been recorded sporadically between 1996 and 2015, and trades the country music association for a creative and boyish feeling.

Mabel Syrup
The author of Calvin's favorite book, Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie, Mabel Syrup isn't incredibly prevalent in the strip (though she seems to be very creative!) While Mabel had a long hiatus from the top 1000, it's been steadily moving back up the list since 2013. This sweet and retro name deserves its resurgence!

Rosalyn's boyfriend (and Calvin's competition for her attention) is named Charlie. This standard nickname for Charles has extended to the girls in recent years, with kids of all genders receiving the names Charlie, Charlee, and Charley.

One of the monsters under Calvin's bed identifies himself as Maurice. This name has been on the decline for awhile - better variants include Morrison or Moss.

Another monster under Calvin's bed, but this time with a cooler name - Winslow fits in well with Willow and Wyatt. Nickname Win is fantastic, too!

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Unique U Names

Hello, readers!

Vowel-heavy names seem to be the trend these days - from Isabella to Emma to Ava, parents are enjoying the open sounds. One vowel that's rather less-used? U.

Only 4/2000 names in the top 1000 (for both boys and girls) begin with U: Ulises, Uriah, Uriel, and Urijah. Notice that they're all male - no U names rank for girls! Let's look at some rare options that could make a comeback in today's world.

A short and snappy gender-neutral choice, Uli was originally a diminutive of Ulrich. Today, this name would fit in with other cute concise picks, like Leo or Ari.

With brand names like Armani and Chanel in the mix, why not try Ultima? It's Latin for "last", and it has a strength and determination not found in many names.

Though Uma is Sanskrit in origin, it's most associated with American actress Uma Thurman. In 2015, sixty-six girls were given this lovely name - it's not just for Hollywood types!

While Amber and Ember have stayed in the girls' lane, Umber is a more distinctive choice that could side with the boys. It's a beautiful color choice with links to the classic Italian Umberto.

Pretty and unusual (at least in the US), this Japanese name has two notable namesakes - Tsuda Umeko, a pioneering feminist educator, and Umeko Ando, an Ainu musician.

Many will recognize the connection to "one", but Una has another origin - it's an ancient Irish name meaning "lamb." It's beautiful and unique, a fantastic alternative to Anna or Luna.

Modern virtue names have been sweeping the top 1000, from Serenity to Trinity. Friendly and fierce Unity fits in with this trend, and especially works with Una as a nickname.

Preppy and posh, Upton has been sporadically recorded in the United States. It's associated with writer Upton Sinclair, as well as model Kate Upton.

Once a papal choice, now connected with country music - Urban is a name that spans multiple styles and tastes. It's a cool alternative to the current ends-in-an names, too.

Relatively popular in the 1960's and 70's, Ursula's fame diminished with the prevalence of Disney's eponymous sea witch. But today, strong and uncommon feminine names are appreciated again.

Olympian Usain Bolt brought this name to national attention in recent years. It's a variant of Arabic Hasan, meaning "handsome" - and it starts with the letters USA!

An Old Testament choice with two Z's? Uzziah could very well join such names as Elijah and Isaiah on the popularity charts, with the machi nickname Uzi (not required).

Any names I missed? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March Names

Hello, readers!

Happy first day of March! Today, I'll be looking at names related to this fabulous month. From etymological origins to birthstones, March has a lot to offer.

The month was named for the Roman god of war, Mars. While this may have been unusual in previous decades, it's beginning to attract attention - it was given to twenty-seven boys in 2015.

This classic Latin name has never gone below the top 400, and for good reasons. It has a substantial sound, a plethora of notable namesakes, and a bunch of excellent variations and diminutives: Marco, Mark, Marcia, Marcel, and more.

While Cosette has begun to find favor, this Les Mis name has yet to take off. Marius is handsome and unassuming, perfect for fans of Maximus or Moses.

Though aquamarine is the official gemstone of March, it's a form of the mineral (and retro first name) Beryl. This name was more popular in the UK, though its associations with Cheryl and Meryl may not make it ripe enough for re-use yet.

March's birth flower is the daffodil, a cross-cultural symbol of springtime. The name Daffodil hasn't been recorded in US name data, but it has been given to one or two individuals in history.

The genus of plant that includes the daffodil is narcissus - Harry Potter fans will recognize the name as that of Draco Malfoy's mother. Unfortunately, Narcissa is a bit too close to "narcissist" for use today.

The zodiac sign Pisces covers about two-thirds of March; while fish-related names aren't terribly common, Fisher is a great choice for a few reasons. There's the religious connection - "I will make you fishers of men", the surname attraction, and the verb-ends-in-er trend.

For Catholics, March is the month honoring Saint Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary and the foster father of Jesus. Aside from its religious links, Joseph is a traditional, masculine choice, ideal for those who like strong, timeless names.

The Spring Equinox takes place in March, also called the Vernal Equinox. Verna now has a dated image, but with Vera on the rise, Verna may follow.

March is Women's History Month, an international designation honoring the many women written out of male-centric history. Gerda Lerner, an historian and author, was part of the initial movement to establish this holiday.

Tell me your favorites in the comments!