Thursday, June 28, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Giselle

Hello, readers!

I'm bringing back my Throwback Thursdays series this week with names from Giselle. 177 years ago today, the romantic ballet premiered in Paris and was instantly successful, prompting dozens of revivals across multiple continents. In addition to contributing the art world, Giselle is also chock full of names that haven't quite yet caught on in the US - let's take a look!

Carlotta Grisi as Giselle, 1841

Though it sounds like a member of the Isabelle-Gabrielle-Annabel group, Giselle actually comes from the German gisil, or "pledge." According to Behind the Name, the word may have originally referred to "a child given as a pledge to a foreign court." While the French form, Gisèle, has been in use since the Middle Ages, the name didn't garner attention from English speakers until the debut of the ballet. Today, Giselle is more likely to be linked to supermodel Bundchen or Amy Adams' character in Enchanted, but the tragic heroine of the ballet is inspiring in her own right.

One part of the ballet's love triangle is Hilarion, whose passion for our heroine takes a dark turn upon her death. The name is derived from Greek, and means "cheerful" - and bound to be related to "hilarity" in modern English usage. It's an unexpected choice, but I think it could work under the right circumstances - try the mid-century nicknames Hal or Larry, or something more contemporary, like Rio or Rion.

The evil queen of the story, Myrtha leads a group of female spirits called the Wilis, exclusively formed of maidens who have been betrayed by men. The name is an uncommon form of Myrtle, a plant which has long been associated with feminine goddesses Aphrodite and Demeter. While the English form seems unable to be revived, the Spanish Mirta remains quite pretty and usable.

One of the librettists of Giselle, Théophile Gautier was a prolific writer in nineteenth-century France, creating volumes of poetry, plays, and art criticism. The name comes from the Greek Theophilus, meaning "friend of God," but in French is pronounced "Tay-oh-feel." This could work as a long form route to the nickname Theo, if Theodore isn't your style.

The other librettist for Giselle was Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges (quite a mouthful), a French author known for dozens of operas and plays. The French form of Julius, Jules has long been a nickname for a number of masculine and feminine English names - Julian, Julie, etc. With short forms back in fashion - think Charlie, Jack, or Leo - Jules might be ripe for a return.

The role of Giselle was created in part for the ballerina Carlotta Grisi, an Italian dancer who often worked with Giselle choreographer Jules Perrot (another Jules!) (Her birth name was Caronna Adela Giuseppina Maria Grisi, and her two daughters were named Marie-Julie and Leontine, for any fans of Italian and French names). The name Carlotta is a form of Charlotte, but with a little extra attitude - and potential for nicknames! Carlotta hasn't been used often in the United States, and could appeal to anyone looking to honor a familial Carl or Carly.

Which name is your favorite? Tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Literary Names: Sharon Creech

Hello, readers!

One of my favorite YA fiction authors when I was growing up was Sharon Creech, best known for her novels Walk Two Moons and Love That Dog. In addition to writing fabulous books for tweens and teens, Creech is a master at choosing character names - and definitely one of my early inspirations!

Here are some particularly memorable character names, organized by each work.

Absolutely Normal Chaos

Mary Lou, Carl Ray, Beth Ann
Double names shine in Absolutely Normal Chaos, with three of the main characters sporting "four-letter, three-letter" names. Names like these were once more common in the middle and southern United States, but are few and far between these days (with one issue being that American name records don't keep track of second or middle names). Still, double names are especially attractive for those who LOVE names or those who want to honor multiple family members in one child's name.

Walk Two Moons

Salamanca Tree Hiddle (or Sal)
One of my favorite fictional names of all time, Salamanca Tree Hiddle's name is explained early in the novel - her parents wanted to name her after the Seneca tribe, but mixed up the names, and her mother loved trees. Salamanca is actually a city in Spain with an obscure etymology, housing one of the oldest universities in the world. Despite its  simplicity, I think Tree would be a great nature option in the middle spot for a real-life kiddo.

Chanhassen "Sugar" Hiddle
Sal's mother, a mysterious figure in the novel, is nicknamed Sugar because of the meaning of her true first name - Chanhassen comes from a Dakota word meaning "sugar-maple tree." Chanhassen is also the name of a city in Minnesota, and a nickname for a card game.

Phoebe Winterbottom, Margaret Cadaver, Ben Finney
I included these three character names because of their fabulous surnames, and overall "vibes": one can tell a lot about Phoebe Winterbottom just by reading her name!

Chasing Redbird

Zinnia Taylor (or Zinny)
An exquisite flower name that should be used far more frequently, Zinnia is the main character's name in Chasing Redbird. Zinnia flowers are associated with "thoughts of absent friends" in floriography, which is fitting for our heroine - her thoughts often center around lost family members and reappearing friends.


Domenica Santolina Doone (or Dinnie)
After reading this book, I desperately tried to convince my parents to send me to boarding school in Switzerland - but they wouldn't budge. Shy Dinnie is given this opportunity in Bloomability, and ends up making friends from around the globe (with great names!) Domenica is the Italian feminine form of Dominic, meaning "belonging to the Lord."

Peter Lombardy Guthrie III (or Guthrie)
While this outgoing friend of Dinnie's is referred to by his last name, it got me thinking - could Guthrie work as a first? At least one person has proven this: Guthrie Govan, an accomplished guitarist, was born into a musical family in 1971. It's a Scottish surname originally, but could shine in the first spot for fans of Arlo, Woody, or even Govan.

Stella and Crick
Dinnie's oft-mentioned siblings are Stella and Crick. Stella was given another Italian name like Dinnie, honoring their mother's heritage. Crick, on the other hand, was named by his father "after a clear little crick that ran beside the house they'd lived in at the time." I like that both names are honor choices, in a way, but I can't decide if Crick is too concise to work as a first.

Ruby Holler

Dallas and Florida
The novel centers on troublesome twins Dallas (boy) and Florida (girl), whose names look coordinated on the surface. In fact, Dallas ranks among the top 300 names for boys in the U.S., while Florida hasn't ranked on the top 1000 since the 1930's. Still, with place names popping up from all kinds of sources, it wouldn't surprise me if Dallas rose further and Florida got more attention.

Tiller and Sairy
A kindly old couple who adopts the twins, Tiller and Sairy have names that suit their offbeat, country personalities. While Sairy may be harder to explain - a nickname for Sarah, perhaps? - Tiller seems like an ideal addition to modern occupational names like Tucker or Miller.

I won't include all of Sharon Creech's books here (just my favorites!) but I would love to hear if any readers are also fans. Which names do you like best?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Honorific Names: Baby Boomers

Hello, readers!

One of my favorite "types" of names is the honor choice - naming one's child after a family member, friend, or personal hero. Being in a close-knit family myself, I love the idea of including a nod to those that matter most when picking a name for my future child (sorry, Mom, not yet).

Honorific choices used to be fairly straightforward - a father Joseph might have a Joseph Jr, or a mother Nicole might have a son Nicholas - but these days, variety is in demand. Plus, if five cousins want to honor Grandma Mary with the fourth generation, there can be fighting within families (if you don't believe me, read more advice columns).

This blog post series is designed to spark conversations about honor names - do you think an honor name should be a straightforward Junior or III? What's more important, seeing a familiar name on paper or recreating it altogether? Does naming a child something that means the same thing as another name count? Your answers may vary!

I've divided the posts by generation - now that Baby Boomers fall closer to the "grandparent" category, they'll be included first. I've listed the top 20 names for each gender during the 1950's (the middle of the generation date range), along with two sets of names: other popular variants of the name, and name variants that aren't in the current US Top 1000.


1. James - "supplanter" or "holder of the heel"
Current contenders: Jacob, Jake, Jamie, Diego, Jay
Below the charts: Giacomo, Akiva, Jago, Seamus, Jem

2. Michael - "who is like God"
Current contenders: Miguel, Mitchell, Micheal, Mikael
Below the charts: Misha, Mickey, Mika, Mitch, Mykolas

3. Robert - "bright fame"
Current contenders: Roberto, Bobby
Below the charts: Rupert, Robbie, Berto, Hopkin, Robin

4. John - "God is gracious"
Current contenders: Jack, Ian, Juan, Evan, Owen, Sean, Ivan, Giovanni, Shane
Below the charts: Jens, Yanick, Keoni, Giannino, Jovan

5. David - "beloved"
Current contenders: None other than David!
Below the charts: Daveth, Dewey

6. William - "resolute protection"
Current contenders: Liam, Billy, Will, Willie, Guillermo
Below the charts: Willem, Pim, Gwilym, Vilko, Illiam

7. Richard - "brave ruler"
Current contenders: Ricardo, Ricky
Below the charts: Rico, Dickon

8. Thomas - "twin"
Current contenders: Tomas, Tommy
Below the charts: Toma, Teoma

9. Mark - "warlike"
Current contenders: Marcus, Marc, Marcelo, Marco, Marcel
Below the charts: Marek, Mars

10. Charles - "free man"
Current contenders: Charlie, Carlos, Carl
Below the charts: Chaz, Karol, Kalle, Chip, Carlo

11. Steven and 20. Stephen - "garland" or "crown"
Current contenders: Esteban, Stefan
Below the charts: Stefanos, Etienne, Stevie

12. Gary - "spearman"
Current contenders: None at all!
Below the charts: Geary, Gearing, Gerrins

13. Joseph - "God increases"
Current contenders: Jose, Joey, Joe, Yosef, Yousef
Below the charts: Joss, Giuseppe, Ze

14. Donald - "proud chief"
Current contenders: None at all!
Below the charts: Domnall, Donnie, Donal

15. Ronald - "ruler's counselor"
Current contenders: Ronnie
Below the charts: Reginald, Reynaud, Reinhold, Reino

16. Kenneth - "handsome" or "born of fire"
Current contenders: Kenny
Below the charts: Kennet, Kenith

17. Paul - "small"
Current contenders: Pablo
Below the charts: Paolo, Pavel, Paulus, Pavo

18. Larry - "from Laurentum"
Current contenders: Lawrence, Lorenzo
Below the charts: Lars, Larkin, Lorencio, Laurent

19. Daniel - "God is my judge"
Current contenders: Danny
Below the charts: Dan, Danko


1. Mary - "bitter"
Current contenders: Mia, Maria, Molly, Miriam, Malia
Below the charts: Meike, Mariska, Ria, Marietta, Moira

2. Linda - "beautiful"
Current contenders: None other than Linda!
Below the charts: Lindy, Linette, Lynna

3. Patricia - "nobleman"
Current contenders: None other than Patricia!
Below the charts: Patrice, Patrika, Pattie

4. Susan - "lily"
Current contenders: Lily
Below the charts: Susannah, Suzanne, Suzette, Sukie, Shoshana, Zuza

5. Deborah and 7. Debra - "bee"
Current contenders: None other than Deborah!
Below the charts: Devorah

6. Barbara - "foreign woman"
Current contenders: None other than Barbara!
Below the charts: Varvara, Varya, Basia, Bara

8. Karen and 15. Kathleen - "pure"
Current contenders: Katherine, Catherine, Kate, Katie, Katelyn, Catalina, Kaylee, Kailyn, Kaia
Below the charts: Katya, Kitty, Ekaterina, Kateri, Catriona

9. Nancy - "grace"
Current contenders: Anna, Hannah, Anika, Anya, Annie, Ana, Grace
Below the charts: Anouk, Anais, Ninon, Anita, Annetta

10. Donna - "lady"
Current contenders: None at all!
Below the charts: Donella

11. Cynthia - "woman from Kynthos"
Current contenders: None other than Cynthia!
Below the charts: Kynthia, Cinzia

12. Sandra - "defender of men"
Current contenders: Alexandra, Alexa, Alexia, Lexi, Alessandra, Sasha, Alexis, Alejandra
Below the charts: Sandrine, Zandra, Sanya, Aleka, Alexandrine

13. Pamela - invented in the 16th century, "all honey"
Current contenders: None at all!
Below the charts: Pamelia, Pamelina

14. Sharon - "plain, expanse"
Current contenders: None at all!
Below the charts: Sharona

16. Carol - "free man" (see Charles)
Current contenders: Charlotte, Charlie, Caroline, Carly
Below the charts: Lottie, Carola, Carlotta

17. Diane - "divine"
Current contenders: Diana, Dayana
Below the charts: Dinah

18. Brenda - "sword"
Current contenders: Brenna
Below the charts: Brenn

19. Cheryl - invented in the 20th century
Current contenders: None at all!
Below the charts: Cherie, Cherette

20. Janet - "God is gracious" (see John)
Current contenders: Jane, Joanna, Johanna, Gianna, Giovanna
Below the charts: Ivanna, Siobhan, Jovana, Jean, Joan

Here are some great articles about honor names from other writers:
Named after Grandma
The Namesakes Everyone is Hunting For
6 Great Reasons to Use Family Names
9 Creative Ways to Honor Loved Ones With Your Child’s Name
Family Names: Why They’re Most Important for Parentless Parents

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Arroyo Grande Cemetery, Part 2

Hello, readers!

Another list of fabulous names collected at the Arroyo Grande Cemetery!

Word names: Council, Saint, Floss, Squire, Bliss, Constant

Place names: Louisiana, Columbia, Vienna, Nevada

Japanese Names


Non-Japanese Names

Bliss (M)
Burr Zill
Carroll (M)
Celestia Adella
Ethel Addie
Eudora "Dodie"
Lottie June
Maude Verena
Vida Grace
Vie Jane

Friday, June 1, 2018

Yet Another Post About Cemeteries - Arroyo Grande Cemetery

Hello, readers!

You may have not read the first post I made about my new hobby - combing the local cemetery headstones for unexpected names. My first few forays into this world were less fruitful - but today's visit to the Arroyo Grande Cemetery proved to be an amazing look at local history!

I only went through two segments of an incredibly large area, but I found dozens of first names I hadn't seen before, as well as some I rarely see these days. Many Latino, Filipino, Italian, and Portuguese families were represented in this area, from as far back as the late 1800's. My own family emigrated from the Azores (Portugal) around 1900 or so, and I recognized many of the last names as local Portuguese families.

Common themes:
  • Feminizations of traditionally male names: Albertine, Loydene, Haroldeene, Aloisia
  • Unusual Marian names: Purificacion, Encarnacion, Rosarie, Epifinia
  • Double names for women: Della Mae, Jimmie Lou, Lindy Lou, Wilda Rose
  • Latinized forms of Greek names: Nemesio, Apolonio, Achille, Tranquillino
  • Spanish virtue names: Esperanza, Felicitas, Modesta, Prudencio

What trends of yesteryear can you find?

Della Mae
Jimmie Lou
Lindy Lou
Marquis "Marq"
Wilda Rose

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Somber cemetery selfie

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"Hey, Khaleesi" - Are today's parents inspired by the shows of their youth?

Hello, readers!

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, it's full of engagement announcements and new baby pictures. Of course, this could have something to do with the generations represented; I'm surrounded by younger Gen X and Millennial individuals. Statistically, it's our age group's turn to make those life-changing decisions - and pick the names of the next generation.

The average age of a first-time mother in the United States is just over twenty-six years old, but many parents are waiting until their early thirties. It got me thinking - I see a lot of articles in the name community about today's television shows influencing names (Game of Thrones often cited), but very rarely do I find articles mentioning the names these parents grew up with. Alright, so Spongebob is out, but the fact that Ross and Rachel named their daughter Emma as early as 2002 gives some credence to my theory.

Today, I'll be looking at some of the most popular shows that aired in the decade 2000-2010, and see if there are any correlations in the names of characters and baby names rising through the top 1000.

The cast of Buffy, 20 years later

*Note: I don't think these parents are naming children after these characters; rather, I think just getting exposure to a name increases the likelihood it could be used. If you have warm memories associated with laughing at TV shows with family and friends, why not pick a name that keeps those memories alive?*

Though Emma has been the number one girl's name for four years running, it's not necessarily to do with the show - Emma had been rising for years before Rachel took the name from Monica. Still, I think the name's presence in the cultural zeitgeist might have something to do with its continued popularity.
Phoebe gained hundreds of fans in the years after Friends aired - my guess is that many young women were inspired by the funny, offbeat character. It remains in the top 500 but has declined ever-so-slightly over the past two years.

Malcolm in the Middle
Handsome and distinguished Malcolm had a peak in 1992, then declined for about seventeen years, during which the show about wacky family antics aired (2000-2006). After Malcolm had been off the air a few years, suddenly the name started rising again.
The popularity of Reese for girls has something to do with Witherspoon, and the boy's name is in decline. Admittedly, Hal, Lois, Dewey, and Reese (M) don't fit my theory. But Francis began to rise marginally in the year 2009, the same as Malcolm. Since the new pope didn't come on the scene until 2013, those gains can't all be chalked up to him.

That '70s Show
Sure, Mr. Kutcher popularized the name Ashton for years, but remember that his character in the show was named Michael Kelso - not exactly a modern trend in the making. The show purposefully used names common to the era - Eric, Donna, Steven, and Jackie among them - making it a bit difficult to show any meaningful links.

Arguably the most accurate medical show on television - I recently confirmed this with a med student friend - Scrubs is iconic for combining zany fantasies and real-life heartbreak. Another of its major achievements is introducing the character Elliot Reid - just a few years after the show's end in 2010, the name hit the top 1000 for girls and continues to rise.

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
Like Emma, I'm sure that one of the reasons Olivia continues to rank on the top 10 is due to Detective Olivia Benson, a fictional heroine for many of us. Still, Olivia was already on the rise before Mariska Hartigay originated the role. The name Elliot (M) had also been increasing during the run of the show, and continues to rise after Detective Stabler left.
One note - Benson jumped onto the scene in 2010, and rose about 350 spots in seven years - not bad for a surname pick! Could the TV detective have this kind of influence as well?

Boy Meets World
Topanga was an inspiration in how to own an unusual name and wear it with pride - and after the show's air, the name increased from total obscurity to adorning about 20-30 girls per year. The other prominent names on the show - Cory, Shawn, Morgan - reflect the names of the 90's, and have been declining over the past few years.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Before Joss Whedon became a household name, before Twilight ushered in the era of vampire TV, there was Buffy. Granted, the protagonist's name didn't quite catch on - this nickname for Elizabeth is a little too over-the-top, in my opinion - but other names have.
Only two years after Buffy the Vampire Slayer hit the airwaves, the name Willow jumped onto the top 1000 and rose quickly. This sweet nature choice now ranks in the top 1000, and could easily get into the top 50. Xander followed suit in 1999, increasingly annually - it's currently at #163 on the US Top 1000. While Cordelia doesn't currently rank on the list, it did hover in the 900's for two years recently.
The popularity of names like Kendra, Angel, and Faith aren't as clear in their peaks and valleys and can't be tied to the show definitively, but their prominence in the top 500 is noted.

Gilmore Girls
The fast-talking ladies of Stars Hollow are absolutely to blame for the rise of Lorelai (and Lorelei) - both spellings of the name appeared in the top 1000 during the final years of the show's original run, and have continued to rise through today. The show also featured characters named Dean, Luke and Logan, all of which rank in the top 200 today (though Dean's rise may have something to do with the never-ending show, Supernatural).
The names Sookie and Jess (M) also appeared on the show but have yet to make a splash in the popularity charts. I think Sookie, with its other connection to True Blood, could rise with the current trend towards nickname-names, like Sadie and Charlie.

I'll stop for now, since I could probably talk about every show of the decade. But this type of amateur study is interesting to me - the names of beloved characters are often wrapped up with positivity in our minds, and therefore make excellent contenders for name inspiration.

Tell me your favorite TV shows and character names in the comments!

Monday, May 28, 2018

So I've been hanging out in cemeteries...

Hello, readers!

Name inspiration can often be found in odd places - overhearing a conversation at a cafe, noticing an unusual name on a sign-in sheet, or even peeking at local cemeteries! Alright, so the latter activity isn't quite as common, but local cemeteries can offer a host of information about your community's history.

A local cemetery in need of care (and visitors)

I'm from the central coast of California, and I've noticed some patterns in these final resting places: many families emigrated to our area from Mexico, France, Ireland, the Philippines, and Portugal. Granted, I've been wandering through mostly Catholic cemeteries, which in itself adds another dimension to the names on headstones. Overall, it's been a unique way to learn more about my town's humble origins as well as providing new name inspiration!

Crosses at a Catholic mission cemetery

Here are some of the best names I've found

Albina - It comes from Albus, meaning "bright" or "white," and Albina is also the name of a third-century saint.

Amby - Possibly a surname, or a nickname for Ambrose.

Delfina - It means "of Delphi," and was also used by an early Christian nun.

Gracia - While Grace has long been an Anglophone classic, this Latin variant adds a little extra attitude and sophistication.

Laurianno - I haven't found out too much about this name, but I'm guessing that it's a park of the Lauren family - Lawrence, Laura, etc.

Luiza - I'm looking to honor my Portuguese heritage as well as use a form of Louis in a future child's name, making Luiza particularly attractive to me.

Maximina - A lovely, feminine option for fans of the nickname Max for girls.

Pagerio - A surname-name with little information online...

Petra - I've always wondered why Petra doesn't get more attention in the US - it's so pretty and refined.

Procopio - Derived from a Greek word meaning "progress," this was my favorite find. It's also an uncommon saint's name option.

Saloma - A variation of Salome, this sweet name is also reminiscent of Paloma.

Ymilia - Having never come across this version of my name, I do like an unexpected first initial.

Have you ever found name inspiration in an unexpected place? Do you also like hanging out in cemeteries? Tell me in the comments!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

New Name Trends - Scandals and Superstars

Hello, readers!

The new name data is in - and the results are astounding. Not only have quite a few new names come onto the scene, some classics have begun to fall: both Michael and Emily left the top 10 this year, the former after about 70 years and the latter after about 25 years.

With all of this hubbub, let's look at some names that might not have gotten the positive attention they deserved. If you have more ideas on what constitutes a "Scandalous Name," tell me in the comments!

Scandalous Names:
These names were in the news, for rather complicated reasons. How did they fare on the charts?

Harvey - Baby Name Wizard's Name of the Year jumped from #412 to #382! I'm shocked!!! I was always a fan of the name, but last year's events certainly colored my perception of it.

Syria - Though this name had been rising through the early 2000's, the violence and turmoil plaguing the region have affected the name - only 9 girls last year were named Syria. Consider helping the victims of this tragedy through organizations like UNICEF

Russia - Too complex to sum up in a sentence, the events surrounding Russia haven't really affected the name's use in the United States - about 5-10 girls every year are given the name.

Melania - While the president's name is dropping, the First Lady's name entered the Top 1000 for the first time this year, coming in at #930. Melania vibes with raindrop names and cross-cultural picks, but I'll admit I'm surprised at its popularity.

Griffin - Though Kathy Griffin's comedic choices didn't quite hit the mark, the personality's last name wasn't affected too badly. Griffin fell from #229 to #243, but it's well within normal use.

Tomi - The first name of "white power Barbie," Tomi Lahren's public comments gained more attention for her first name, too - 24 baby girls were named Tomi, the highest number since 2003.

Milo - I've loved this name for a long time, but recent events make me want to bury it underground for ten years then re-release it. What do you think, readers? Can Milo's image be saved?

Kardashian Family Names:
Almost American royalty, this family has incredible potential to change the name landscape.

Saint - A celebrity favorite - for Kanye West and Pete Wentz, at least - moved from 115 to 138 boys born. Similar in style to Royal or King, this is a title name to watch.

Dream - It's the name's first time in the US Top 1000, coming in at #828. I guess Rob and Blac Chyna are true (forgive the joke) trendsetters!

North - This iconic choice is still too close to Kimye for parents to consider, in my opinion. It's also been more commonly used for boys throughout history.

Mason - Still in the top 10, Mason has become a quintessential 2010's name - will it stay in the top 10 through 2020? My guess is that Mason is on its way out.

Reign - A great mix of modern influences - royal names, word names, and simple sounds - Reign is rising for both boys and girls. It would make a fabulous choice in the middle spot!

Penelope - This Greek choice continues to rise - could Penelope make it into the top 10? Next to classics like Amelia, Charlotte, and Abigail, I believe so.

Jenner - On the decline, this name might have worked as an update to Jennifer or Connor, but the many "scandals" surrounding the family have certainly hurt Jenner's style.

Pop Star Picks:
If you've got a catchy tune stuck in your head, you might associate it with one of these names.

Kehlani - Thanks to rising star Kehlani Parrish, this beautiful Hawaiian name that entered the top 1000 in 2016 has nearly doubled in use in just a year. A great successor to Melanie or Leilani, Kehlani's wagon may be hitched to Parrish's star, to use an old phrase.

Alessia - A euphonic name and a style sister to Alyssa and Alexis, Alessia moved up over 200 places this year. Singer Alessia Cara has help popularize the name, but it's less associated with the individual than current trends as a whole.

Maren - Moving up over 300 places, this Dutch variant of Marina has attracted a lot of attention in the United States. Singer Maren Morris currently has a song in the Billboard Top 10 - might she influence the name for next year?

Camila - A favorite in Spanish-speaking communities, Camila has that cross-cultural appeal so crucial for modern families - it's no wonder the name made it into the top 25 this year.

Malone - Though the name is admittedly rare - only 17 boys given it last year, and 22 girls - it did technically double in use for boys since Post Malone came onto the scene.

Kane - Moving up 50 places, Kane may partially owe its rise to country musician Kane Brown. Related to the Biblical Cain and the Gaelic Cathan, it's got a macho image that's here to stay.

Bonus - Names from Hamilton:
Now that this musical is thoroughly embedded in the zeitgeist, let's "look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now," and give Theodosia the attention it deserves.

Theodosia - Alright, so the name moved from 6 girls born in 2016 to 11 girls born in 2017. Not quite the influx I expected, but hey - maybe I'll be able to use it someday!

Hamilton - Somewhere between 80 and 100 boys are given this name every year. The musical didn't influence Hamilton's usage too much, but it ought to be recommended as an alternative to Jackson, Jefferson, Franklin....

Eliza - Moving up about 30 places, sweet and vintage Eliza has a lot going for it - the Hamilton connection, the popularity in other Anglophone countries, and the many lovely literary characters with the name.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Uncommon Names from Ancient Persia

Hello, readers!

Along with at least 40 million other fans, I've become a Civilization player. For those who don't know, this game allows you to create your own country and expand throughout the globe - power IS intoxicating. With dozens of world leaders to choose from - Queen Victoria, Gandhi, Gilgamesh - I recently picked Cyrus and was thrust into Ancient Persia.

Jean-Charles Nicaise Perrin, "Cyrus and Astyages," 18th century

One cool aspect of Civilization VI is the amount of named individuals with whom players can interact; as Cyrus, I have a number of spies, delegates, and allies reporting to me with names like Amytis, Drypetis, and Laleh. I'm taking this opportunity to research these awesome names and perhaps find something usable for today!

Male Names:

Ariomardus - A son of King Darius I and his wife Parmys

Arsames - "strength of a hero"

Arsites - "the best"

Bardiya - "highest"

Cambyses - The name of two kings of Persia

Gaumata - A usurper to the crown who may or may not have existed

Hydarnes - Form of the name Vidarna

Otanes - "having good descendents"

Oxyathres - "of a good reign"

Sogdianus - A brief king of Persia who died by "suffocating in ash." Yikes.

Arash - An heroic archer

Dariush - "to possess goodness," a form of Darius

Firdaus - "paradise"

Jalal - "greatness"

Kianoush - "royal"

Rostam - Unclear etymology, but a possible route to the nickname Ross?

Saam - "dark," unrelated to Sam

Soheil - "level, even"

Vahid - "unique"

Zubin - "spear" - one of my favorites from the boys' list!

Female Names:

Artistun - "pillar of Arta," also spelled Artystone

Cassandane - Wife of Cyrus the Great

Drypetis - Daughter of Darius III and Stateira (below)

Parmida - Form of Parmys

Parysatis - Possibly related to "swallow (bird)"

Phaedymia - Daughter of Otanes

Roxana - "dawn," a lovely choice for a modern girl!

Sisygambis - Mother of Darius III

Stateira - Three major Stateiras rank in world history, but the etymology of the name is unclear.

Amytis - "having good thought"

Banu - "lady"

Darya - Form of Darius; another contender for today and a personal favorite.

Firuzeh - "turquoise"

Golnar - "pomegranate flower"

Laleh - "tulip." Just a mite too breathy, but very sweet.

Niusha - "good listener," also a contemporary Russian pop star

Roghayeh - Two possible meanings of "ascent" or "incantation"

Simin - "silvery," serene but a bit too close to Simon

Yasamin - "jasmine flower"

Zareen - "golden" - Oh my gosh, Simin and Zareen would make a great sibset!

Which is your favorite? What Persian names do you find particularly attractive? Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Names from Paul Simon Songs

Hello, readers!

Alright, so I'm a little young to be a Paul Simon fan, but this is what happens when your parents play a little too much 70's and 80's music in your childhood. (If anyone out there knows of a support group for James Taylor fans, let me know).

Mr. Simon included tons of names in his lyrics, and was definitely ahead of the game when he and his wife named their son Harper James in 1972. (His other kids are Adrian Edward, Lulu Belle, and Gabriel Elijah). I've also included names inspired by his music.

This classic Biblical choice increased in use right along with Paul Simon's career, from the late 1960's onward. With this attractive surname in the zeitgeist, it's no wonder that Simon hit all the right notes for so many boys.

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
These are simple names with single syllables and rhythmic sounds - Jack, Stan, Roy, Gus, Lee. While Jack is the current favorite, I think Gus will rise in popularity over the next few years. Personally, I'm a big fan of Stan :)

Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard
As a Californian, I've met quite a few Julio's in my day - and this handsome Latin name is sure to endure. The song also includes "Rosie, the queen of Corona" - but I'm sure I don't need to tell Anglophone readers how sweet the name Rosie is!

I've been listening to this song for the last few days - check out this amazing cover by The Tallest Man on Earth - and I'm now convinced that Graceland would make a great name. Memphis is the other wearable city name in the song, and it toes that line between Southern and ancient.

You Can Call Me Al
According to Wikipedia, the famous line "I can call you Betty / And Betty when you call me / You can call me Al" came from a mishearing of the names Paul (as in Simon) and his first wife Peggy. I'm a proponent of bringing sassy Betty back - but should it return on its own or as a nickname for Elizabeth again?

The Obvious Child
Sonny is a rare example of a 70's name that would wear very well today - it has that cute nickname sound, it works as a short form for a bunch of longer "-son" options, and it's not too attached to any one individual (anymore.... Some of us remember Sonny Bono, but many do not).

"Lincoln Duncan is my name / And here's my song" - I'll give $20 to anyone who names their son Lincoln Duncan X, just send me a copy of the birth certificate. Duncan is used far too infrequently, and makes a fabulous alternative to Dylan or Declan.

Kathy's Song
A lovely romantic ballad, this song helps us forget the unfortunate dated qualities that Kathy still has. Now that Katie is also in decline, what's the best option for a Katherine? Kate, Kitty, Kit, Kat, Katya, Rina, Kateri?

Oh, Marion
Marion and its many forms - Mary Anne, Marian, Marianne - have been on my mind lately. A classic combo name, Marion et al could honor quite a few family names as well as bringing a vintage vibe to the table.

There's a few hundred more Paul Simon songs I didn't include - tell me your favorites in the comments!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Lucky Names

Hello, readers :)

It's March 17th, which means it's Saint Patrick's Day! Here in the US, this holiday is often used as an excuse to paint everything green and drink a ton of beer - but that's not what this post is about. (For color names or alcohol names, I have other posts). Today, I'll be looking at lucky names!

While there aren't any names I'm aware of that bring luck - unless anyone has a great story they want to share in the comments! - here are some choices that embody that sense of excitement and positive feeling.

Image via Pixabay

My first association with this name is as a pet name - much to my surprise, the name has been used for human baby boys most often in the past two decades! Perhaps its aural similarities to Luke, and the rise in new virtue names like Destiny and Journey, have helped Lucky gain attention.

This adorable botanical name deserves more love than it gets - Clover is sweet and natural without feeling dusty or frilly. With Chloe and Clara topping the charts, it's also a great alternative to more popular names, too - Clover is outside the top 1000.

The Beckhams made waves when they named their daughter Harper Seven, after father David's jersey number. But Seven seems to fit right in with modern bell-tone choices, as well as similar-sounding names like Evan or Kevin. I'm guessing Seven will be the name to watch!

This name is quirky and charm-ing as heck, but lacks the X-factor that turns nouns into names, I think. It's been used sporadically for girls since 1937, with the most usage over the past five years. Individuality above all, I suppose!

Bright and shiny Penny has a lot going for it - its retro sound, simplicity, and femininity lend it modern credibility. Long form Penelope is an option, but short and dynamic Penny stands well on its own. And with Lane as a unisex name, we may be seeing more Beatles homages on birth certificates...

Latin in origin, Fortune was used more often as a name in ancient Rome. Today, it blends well with virtue names like Patience or Faith, but also jumps out as an unconventional pick. I'm joining the other name writers who recommend Fortune as a middle name, probably because of its uniqueness, and the lack of ready nicknames.

It briefly joined the top 200 in the 1990's, but that blip made Chance a well-established choice for later generations. Chance is friendly and energetic, but possibly a little too light (or maybe this is just another dog-name association for me).

I would never have guessed that this country name would get so popular, but then again about 10% of Americans identify as at least partly Irish (I'm one of them!) Ireland is of course noted as a celebrity baby name, but now that that baby (Ireland Basinger Baldwin) is 22, I think Ireland is officially on the table for everyone else.

Other names meaning "luck" or "fortune":
Dalia, Felix, Felicity, Gad, Bonaventure, Otto

Any I missed? Tell me in the comments!