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!