Wednesday, December 28

Aleph & Phyllon

Sin Aleph in wood type, by M J M on Flickr

With the exception of sharp, short Delphi, I don't find the "ph" element very aesthetically pleasing, for girls. When it comes to Philippa vs. Filippa, for instance, I much prefer the look of Filippa. In Sophia vs. Sofia, Sofia always wins. But for boys, it's growing on me. On a boy, the "ph" is refreshing, but on a girl, it can get lost in frilly-sweet pretty quickly.

As 2011 comes to an end, I've been seeing a lot of posts about the best and worst celebrity-used baby names. It occurred to me that the two celebrity names I found most memorable this year both contain the "ph" element.

Aleph Millepied, born last June, is the son of Natalie Portman and her French ballerino boyfriend Benjamin Millepied. She's gotten a lot of flack for the name, but I think it's interesting. Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is tied to many words, with varied meanings — including "ox," "tame," "teach," "ruler," and "one/thousand." It is pronounced "AH-lef," and makes for a pretty rare name with rich mystic, religious and even mathematical connections. For a firstborn son it seems a pretty fitting choice, one that stands out from a pack of Henrys and Jacks without being too ostentatious. It has nice variants, too — my favorite is Elif, a Turkish girl name popular in France and the Netherlands.

Dutch model Doutzen Kroes (her name is derived from a Frisian name meaning "dove") had a baby boy last January. His name is Phyllon Joy, and that, my friends, is probably my favorite celebrity name of the year. Predictably, it did not get a very warm reception — but I kind of love it. Joy is just a word, and though as a name it's generally reserved for girls in the US, it's not specifically feminine, and I don't see why it can't be used for boys as well. As far as virtue names go, it's one of the lighter ones, and, paired with Phyllon, whose meaning is probably tied to the Greek word phileo ("to love"), makes for a super-sweet combination. I'm not sure if Kroes and her husband Sunnery James are pronouncing it with a long "I' sound or more like a mashup of Philip + Dylan, but either way I think it's a standout choice.

There were a couple other naming highlights this year — Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr's son Flynn comes to mind, and so does Selma Blair's new son Arthur Saint. I'd do a post  about my favorite girl names, but really, there weren't very many that wowed me. Agnes Lark, used by Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, is very nice, and Tina Fey's second well-named child, Penelope Athena, was a crowd-pleaser. But both of those lose me somewhere. Model Sophie Dahl had a Lyra, but without a middle name, it's hard to get excited about. Is there something out there I've missed, or was this year kind of a dull one in celebrity-baby-name land? 


  1. I don't mind Phyllon Joy at all. There's always the nickname Phyl/Phil! I also thought that I didn't really know the name climate in the Netherlands where the kid was going to grow up, so for all I know it's perfectly acceptable there!

    I'm fairly in agreement with you on the scope of good names this year - if the worst name people can come up with is Bear Blu (which I disagree with anyway!) then it wasn't exactly a controversial year! That said, there were plenty of opportunities to discuss, and eyeroll at baby names like Press ;)

  2. I found Phyllon Joy very intriguing, actually. As for Aleph, I really dig it. I know it didn't get the warmest reception but I think it works! Flynn is awesome.

    Others I liked: Clover Elizabeth Mcdonough (can't spell his name!) and Mrion Cotillard's Marcel (oh how I wish I knew his middle name!).

  3. @Jo - I'm not sure Marcel Canet has a middle name. It's less standard in France to use a middle name, or at least less standard to announce one.

  4. oh yeah, Marcel's great -- I also liked Gael Garcia Bernal's Libertad, but man, I really need a middle name to get into either of them.

  5. Good spot on the 'ph' trend. There was a Delphine born this year to a German celeb.


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