Tuesday, September 20

Panning for Name Gold: 1890

A decade has passed since my last uncommon names post — what’s new in names? For the most part, not much. The lists for 1880 and 1980 are very similar. Here are ten that stood out from the beginning of the Gay Nineties.
Ignatius — a family name from ancient Rome, popular with writerssaints, and Cate Blanchetts (her youngest son is Ignatius Martin). Call him Iggy or Nate and it becomes less imposing. Use one of the many variants and it can suit just about any boy — there’s Basque Iñaki, French Ignace, short and sweet Slovenian Nace, and Spanish Ignacio
Sampson — I personally prefer Samson, which seems to be the older spelling, but there’s something about that middle “P” that makes Sampson feel a little more complete and down-to-earth. This Biblical name means “sun” and is an interesting alternative to the classic, but very common, Samuel
Sumner — occupational surnames make for some very trendy baby names, but Sumner is one I haven’t seen used. It sounds kind of humbly Southern, doesn’t it, and escapes being too pretentious
Zeno — totally unlike good old front-porch-sitting Sumner, Zeno goes right to the top (it’s derived from the name Zeus). It’s the name of a number of philosophers — perhaps most closely associated with Stoicism — and has ties to astrology and quantum mechanics
Worth — virtue names are usually reserved for girls, so I think Worth is … worth looking at. “Useful or important to the world” isn’t too onerous a meaning, and I could see it paired with a classic (think William or George) or something more hip
Clemence — Clémence is in France’s top 30, and it’s the name of an up-and-coming young actress. These things spell “popularity rise” to me, though I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say Clemence won’t go shooting up the US charts anytime soon. It’s also a virtue name, meaning “merciful,” or “gentle,” and variant Clemency is lyrical and sweet
Magnolia — popular Lily can’t hold a candle to dark and mysterious Magnolia. It’s not just a pretty floral name — the magnolia tree is a notoriously tough cookie. Also, I have a tree name, therefore, tree names are the best
Persis — though its meaning is unremarkable (from a Greek word meaning “Persian woman”) I can’t help but be drawn to its fluid, unusual sound
Portia — well, it means “pig,” and please, for chrissakes, don’t spell it Porsche, but Shakespeare thought it was cool enough, and so did the person who got the plum job of naming Uranus’ moons. (Uranus is a bit of a moon hog, with 27 of the things, and many of them have nice names. OberonFerdinandCressida and Mab, to name a few)
Rosamond — one of the lesser-known Rose variants, Rosamond’s double “O”s give it personality, and it sounds old in that “Iris and Maude” way that many forefront-namers dig these days. The French spelling — Rosemonde — is also very nice

1 comment:

  1. Persis and Rosamond are gorgeous.

    I know someone called Magnolia, it's a nice name, but not as pretty as the tree it's named after.


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