Tuesday, February 7

Panning for Name Gold: 1990

Best name-change ever? You decide.

It's the beginning of the end — of a millennium, and here are 10 names from the very bottom of the charts.

Macaulay — Macaulay Culkin was 10 years old in 1990, and coincidentally this is the same year that Home Alone was released. I wonder if the sudden arrival of Macaulay on the popularity charts (there were 5 born in '90, and a name must be used at least 5 times to get listed) can be credited entirely to his pop culture emergence — it certainly seems so. His parents chose  interesting names for their brood — Macaulay's siblings are Shane, Dakota, Kieran, Quinn, Christian & Rory
Ruffin — almost always found as a surname, possibly derived from Rufus, which means "red-haired." It's also the name of a town in North Carolina which is named after Edmund Ruffin, who seems to have been a pretty despicable human being, and is credited with firing the first shot of the civil war … weirdly, I had no idea about this connection when I chose it along with Sojourner, mentioned below
Tolliver — derived from an Italian surname meaning "iron cutter," Tolliver struck me for its similarity to trendy/new classic Oliver, which I see all over the place here in LA. I like the idea of it as an Oliver-spinoff and the nickname "Toll" or "Tolly" for a young boy is pretty cute
Wing — obviously a word name, I was surprised to see Wing listed on the boy side of things, then wondered, why not? It's a nature name and I like the images it conjures up of angels and other mythical beings and beasts. It's fun to say, sharp and quick, and, paired with the right middle and surname, could be something quite special — could work as a choice for parents interested in sailing, aviation or nature
Zephan — probably a short form of Biblical name Zephaniah, which means "Yahweh has hidden," and is the name of one of the twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament. Zeph's a pretty cool nickname, dontcha think?

Fanchon —  a diminutive of the name Françoise, which means "from France," Fanchon Moreau was an opera singer at the turn of the 17th century. Who knew operas have such great names in them? Moreau sang the parts of Astrée, Oriane, Sidonie, Créuse and Hésione, to name just a few
Leota — there's a place called Leota Township in Minnesota, and town lore says that it was named for a young Native American woman, though its similarity to names like Leta and Leona make me think that might just be a story
Moya — I've found Moya listed as a variant of Maia, Moira and as a Hebrew name. However it seems to be found mostly on Irish and British women as a first name, or as a Hispanic surname. It's also a place name, and can be found in the Canary Islands, Comoros, Peru, Niger and Spain. There's a municipality in Catalonia, Spain called Moià, which I think makes a very attractive spelling. It's a term found in Japanese architecture, as well (referring to the core of a building, which is a nice added meaning)
Sojourner — the dictionary definition of this word name is "a person who resides temporarily in a place" and its most famous bearer was abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth, whose birth name was Isabella Baumfree. A bold choice but what a fantastic namesake she would be
Tehani — Tehani is one I've come across in real life -- it's a Tahitian name meaning "the sweet smelling caress of flowers," though I've also seen it listed as meaning "celebration," from various sources. In any case it gets some regular use in the US, though it's very uncommon, and it has a lovely musical sound


  1. Oo, Tolliver is lovely. I love the idea of the nn Tolly. Very, very cute. Although I'm not all that taken with Fanchon, I do like the parts Fanchon Moreau sang, especially Astree and Sidonie.

  2. Moya is used as a phonetic Anglicized form of Máire -- the Irish form of Mary; Enya's sister (singer with Clannad as well as doing solo work) goes by Moya instead of Máire so that people pronounce her name properly (Enya did the same -- her name is properly Eithne).

  3. Tolliver nn Tolly is fantastic, and Sojourner, apart from the wonderful namesake, sounds very attractive to me. It isn't really any more different than Sigourney, and the nn Journey would fit right in with Story.


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