Monday, January 23

Panning for Name Gold: 1980

Here are 10 names to ponder, taken from the bottom of the popularity charts in 1980.

Amory — I've liked this name since reading it in F. Scott Fitzgerald's debut novel, This Side of Paradise. The main character, Amory Blaine, is a lovelorn college student, totally self-absorbed except when it comes to pretty, stuck-up debutantes. It embodies a "literary/unusual" style that I see more and more of in the naming world — under-heard classics ready for comebacks. I pronounce it with a long "A" (AY-mer-ee) but have heard it pronounced with the "am" sound at the beginning, too
Elston — the name of a small village in Nottinghamshire, England. Elston was originally named Elveston, for an early leader named Elva, the Anglicanized form of Irish name Ailbhe, meaning "white"
Fenton — also a place name (it means "marsh town"), there are cities/towns called Fenton in Canada, the US and Britain. More common as a surname, I think Fenton could appeal to those looking for a trendy-sounding name that has actual history. The "-ton" ending makes it accessible and familiar
Severin — German and Scandinavian form of Severinus, from the Roman family name Severus, meaning "stern," Severin makes a chic and striking boy name. I can't hear it without singing, "I am tired/ I am weary/ I could sleep for a thousand years"
Shem — Biblical Noah (of Ark fame) had 3 sons, and the best-named one was Shem. His name means "name" (that's so meta) and I think it's perfect for people looking for something Biblical but not too common

Easter —  from the name of the holiday, which comes from the Germanic pagan goddess of the spring, Ēostre (also called Ostara). Eostre is from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to shine." As far as holiday-names go, I think Easter is sweetest
Fleur — this group of girl names feels very "springtime" to me. Fleur is the French word for "flower," and it ranks in the top 40s of Belgium and the Netherlands, and in the 400s in France. I like a lot of its variants, including Welsh Fflur, Dutch Floortje, English Floella, cute nickname Florrie, and masculine Florian
Jonquil — see, it's a theme! Jonquil is an unusual flower name, from the Latin iuncus, meaning "reed." I like alternate spelling Jonquille, as well as possible nicknames Joni or Quil
Oona — variant of Úna, meaning "lamb," I think this one has comeback written all over it. I've met two young Oonas and both wore their names with sass and sweetness. Oona O'Neill was the daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill and writer Agnes Boulton — she dated Orson Welles and JD Salinger before meeting Charlie Chaplin, whom she married before she turned 18, despite the fact that her parents disapproved of their 36-year age difference. Charlie and Oona were married for 35 years and had 8 children: Geraldine, Michael, Josephine, Victoria, Eugene, Jane, Annette & Christopher
Philomena — from the Greek philos, meaning "friend" and menos, meaning "strength." The name of a matryred  4th-century princess saint whose bones were discovered in the Catacombs of Priscilla in 1802. I like French form Philomène just as much


  1. I think Amory would be cool on a modern baby. Fenton strikes me as pretty wearable too.

    I've come across Easter a few times going through old census records - it was unisex back in the day. Fleur and Oona would be cute on a little girl, and if Philippa gains some ground in the US, Philomena could certainly be next.

  2. A woman named Severin used to work for my dad a few years back. She was incredibly awesome and strong and smart and I always thought her name was so beautiful.

    Elston is a great name. Just last night I was listening to a basketball game on the radio and a player for Texas A&M is named Elston and I drove home thinking about how that name needs to come back around.

    I work in a law office that's been around for 40 years, and the Will/Estate file is predominantly full of clients who were born in the 20's and 30's, and I love the names I come across.

    -Kate N.


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