Tuesday, November 29

Panning for Name Gold: 1950

Thora and Steve play Enid and Seymour, in Ghost World

Head for your fallout shelters, it's the 1950s. Here are some names that just barely snuck onto the charts, used less than 10 times in the first year of the decade.

Leonidas — like most "Leo-" names, Leonidas means "lion." I was surprised to find that it broke into the US top 1,000 in 2008, and has stayed on the list ever since (it's currently at #927). I should do a post about Leo itself, but I find its variants so much more interesting. Leonidas has the strongest sound of the bunch, but I'm also drawn to its obscure feminine counterparts, like Léonide, Leonille and Leontine
Merrick — an English surname, Merrick is comprised of Germanic elements which mean "fame" and "power." It may also be connected to Marek, the Polish and Czech form of Mark, which is from the name Mars. I think it's a surname that transitions particularly easily to first-name status
Rafe — Rafe is an alternate spelling of Ralph, reflecting a variant pronunciation that is hardly ever used in the US. (I'm looking at you, Mr Fiennes — PS: the Fiennes family is full of wildly great names.) So, Ralph is derived from Norse elements meaning "counsel" and "wolf," which is pretty wicked. Wolf Counsel. If they were a band, I'd listen to 'em
Selwyn — also spelled Selwin, this name means "friend of the castle." It's a place name in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and remains quite unusual as both a first and last name
Truitt — I don't know much about Truitt that I can confirm with a cursory Internet search, but what's most important or notable about it is its sound. A sonic combination of True + Wyatt, I often see it grouped with "cowboy" sounding names like Colton, Cooper, Beau, Garrett and Tex, and that's where it may find a niche, I think

Elodie — I mentioned this one when I wrote about choosing my daughter's name. It was a very  serious contender for us, and still holds a special place in my heart. It is a French form of Alodia, which is a name derived from Germanic elements meaning "other" and "riches." Saint Alodia (and her sister, Nunilo) were child martyrs in 9th-century Spain. Though I dismissed the name due to meeting one in real life, Elodie has never been popular in the US, and hasn't appeared in the top 1,000 since 1886. However I wouldn't be surprised if this one is a quick-climber in the coming years, given its popularity with namer-types and its familiar "rhymes with Melody" sound. In France, once-popular Élodie (pronounced with the first syllable "ay") is now at #189, and seems to be falling steadily
Faustine — I first came across Faustine in a book I read elementary school, somewhere, and it's stuck in my mind ever since. Speaking of French popularity, who'd have thought that Faustine is currently more popular than Elodie, and, at #68, is on the rise? It comes from the Roman name Faustus, which means "auspicious," or "lucky," though its  literary ties (Faust is a legendary German character connected to plays by Christopher Marlowe and Goethe) carry a much darker connotation, which isn't a bad thing
Freya — Freya is the goddess of beauty and love in Norse mythology. Extremely popular in England and Scotland, where it's in the top 20, Freya has yet to crack the US charts, though I wouldn't be surprised if it does. Freja Beha Erichsen is a successful fashion model whose name has been used on designer handbags and shoes. Alternate spellings include Freyja and Frea, and masculine form Freyr is pretty cool
Thora — a modern form of an ancient Scandinavian name, Thora is the feminine form of Thor, which means "thunder" (great meaning for a girl)  actress Thora Birch has a younger brother named Bolt
Vivica — Vivica is an alternate spelling of the Swedish name Viveka, which comes from a Frisian name meaning "war," and not from popular, similar-looking Vivian, as you might guess. It's also similar in sound to the Sanskrit male name Vivek, meaning "distinction," which makes for a nice cross-cultural sounding name that is distinctive yet not too weird (and actress Vivica A. Fox helps with the familiarity factor)


  1. Freya is one of our top girl names right now. I think it will gain in popularity over here though. I can't see why it wouldn't.

  2. Every time I hear Leonidas I see Gerard Butler yelling "This... is... SPARTA!" I like Merrick and Truitt. I agree with you about Truitt sounding like a cowboy name. I think Merrick could fall into that category too, but I also get a preppy vibe from the name. It could go either way, I think.

    Freya could definitely get popular in the US. Thora has potential too.

    I know identical twins named Selwyn and Delwyn.

  3. I'm seeing a lot of Merrick lately. He's making an apperance on quite a few lists. On the girls side, Thora grabs my attention, as does Elodie. But I think you're right, Elodie is bound to go shooting up the charts.

  4. You can't turn the corner without bumping into a Freya 'round my parts of England. It seems every other girl is named Freya or Imogen in my little part of the world.

  5. One of my current student's name is Marek....one of my favorite names to date.

  6. Freya is popular here, and Elodie is very fashionable. Rafe is another "on trend" name here (and rather dashing, I think). I'm also seeing a fair few bubs called Leonidas in BAs etc.

    (I'm guessing rare names of today will be doing great in 60-odd years).

    Vivica is rather lovely.

  7. I think the thing Freya needs to skyrocket it onto the US charts is a famous association. The model isn't very well-known, but if there were a teen vampire or something named Freya, then it would almost certainly gain popularity over here.

  8. Freya is the name of a lingerie company from the UK that we had a work, so when I see Beha Erichsen on the runway, that's what pops into my head.


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