Monday, April 16

Inspired By: Joni Mitchell

born with the moon in cancer
choose her a name she will answer to
call her Green and the winters cannot fade her
call her Green for the children who've made her
little Green, be a gypsy dancer

Those are the lyrics to a song called "Little Green" from Joni Mitchell's album Blue, one of my all-time favorite records. It's about how she decided to give her child up for adoption, and I've always found it particularly sad because the little girl in the song is called Green, and Mitchell named her daughter Kelly. A subtle connection, a secret nod to the bond she was terribly ambivalent about severing. I never thought of Kelly as a nature name, but Mitchell paints it as one, and I wonder if the color was her inspiration — she often describes herself as a painter first and musician second.

Here are 10 names found in the titles of various Joni Mitchell songs — 

Cactus — Mitchell uses a lot of desert imagery, particularly in her later albums. I'm from Arizona and have often considered words taken from desert flora as potential given names. Cactus is straightforward and could make a pretty memorable middle name. One pairing I had on my list for some time years ago was Jasper Cactus. Cacti are wonderful plants, little oases unto themselves, hardy and beautiful and ancient. Some other cactus-related names include: Saguaro, Pricklypear, Aloe, Didirae and Agave
Carey — another one from Blue, Carey's "a mean old daddy but I like you fine." This is one of those names that used to be all boy, transitioned over to the girls' side pretty solidly, and in my opinion is ready for a masculine comeback. It's great, I think of the song and Cary Grant, and it just seems so classically handsome. Singing this song in my head reminds me of another great one: "But let's not talk about fare-thee-wells now/ the night is a starry dome/ and they're playin' that scratchy rock and roll/ beneath the Matala moon" Matala refers to a place in Crete where hippies like Mitchell lounged around wicked caves being hippies 'n stuff, at the end of the '60s
Indigo — from the name of the blue dye, this one's always seemed a little try-hardy, but it's been growing on me nonetheless. I've seen it mostly on girls, but prefer it for a boy. The color is hard to beat. Similar Ingo and Inigo are more grown-up choices, but Indigo has a certain allure
Jericho — a little Biblical for my tastes but a cool sound, anyway. At least it's a good Biblical association — it's the place where Joshua led the Israelites after they escaped bondage in Egypt. May be related to the Hebrew word for "moon," or "fragrant" 
Otis — this one's from the song "Otis and Marlena," and Marlena's featured below. Funny thing, though, after I chose the names to feature for this blog, I met a woman at Trader Joe's talking to her son (my daughter liked his Yellow Submarine shirt, these are the things that force me to talk to strangers in public) who was named Otis Cary. Two on this list! Couldn't exactly explain it to her, but there you go. He was the first Otis I've met and carried the name quite nicely despite being a little drooly

Ballerina —  boys got Cactus, girls got Ballerina. This one's in the name-iverse off and on thanks to Jeremy Sisto's daughter Charlie Ballerina. I think it's a little silly but the sounds are actually quite pretty and it could work on the right girl. From the song "Ballerina Valerie," which always makes me want to say "Ballerina Valerina"
Darling — if we're going with a super-femme middle name possibility, I prefer Darling to Ballerina. Makes me think of Peter Pan's "Wendy Moira Angela Darling," and has a slightly stronger sound that makes it a bit more substantial
Hana — my personal favorite Hannah variant, Hana is a name with many meanings. It means "bliss, happiness" in Arabic, carries the Hebrew meaning of "favour" or "grace," and is written with the character for "flower" in Japanese. It's also a Hawaiian name, though I'm unfamiliar with that meaning. I first came across it as the heroine of Michael Oondatje's The English Patient
Marlena — here's Marlena, which is a name borne of combining two names, Maria and Magdalene. I think it's a lovely old-lady name that's often overlooked, and I'm particularly drawn to even more dated Marlene and its various forms, like German Marlen, Dutch Marleen and French Marlène 
Spark — taken from the title of Joni Mitchell's album Court and Spark — get it now if you don't know it — this one jumped out as a great possibility for the fifth My Cakies sister, if she ever has another (she's a blogger with four daughters, True, Brave, Soul and Glow). I suppose you'd have to avoid the nickname Sparky, but it's so deeply connected to the album for me that it seems pretty special


  1. I really like most of these names, especially Cactus, Carey, Indigo (prefer this one for a girl), Jericho, Marlena & Spark.

    Kelly will always be a dated surname name to me. I know there is such a thing as kelly green, but I just can't get over its other associations.

  2. love this list. love Joni. I really like Spark a lot (I have my Mom's original Court and Spark on vinyl and love it so). And Jasper Cactus is singing to me, too.

  3. Ooh. I think this list is great!
    1) I know a guy named Kelly. He is really handsome and makes his name dashing.
    2) I know a 10 year old Cary. He wears this name well. (He had a twin sister named Justine).
    3) I adore Otis. There is a childrens book about a tractor namef Otis and it sold me on this name.
    4) I know a girl named Jericha and it feels more appealing to me than Jericho.
    I agree that Darling would be a great surprise middle name but I see Spark as more masculine for some reason.

  4. Spark would make a truly kick-ass middle name choice.


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