Monday, June 4

Inspired By: Elvis Costello

she gave a little flirt, gave herself a little cuddle 
but there's no place here for the mini-skirt waddle 
capital punishment, she's last year's model 
they call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie

Like the last two artists I've featured, Elvis Costello is no stranger to naming liberty. He was born Declan Patrick MacManus, a name that would probably fly for a punk musician with a big vocabulary today, but was much less accessible to American ears when he started out in the '70s. 

He took his stage name from a musical hero (Elvis Presley) and an alias his musician father once used (Day Costello) — he's used aliases for other characters he inhabits, including Napoleon Dynamite (he's the original) and The Imposter. He had his name legally changed to Elvis Costello, but in the late '80s changed it back to MacManus, adding Aloysius as a middle name. 

Here are 10 names inspired by Elvis Costello — 

Alfie — here's something that should shock non-namers: Alfie is currently the 6th most popular boys' name in Britain. Usually if a name's that popular somewhere else in the English-speaking world, it makes an appearance somewhere on the US charts, but Alfie was only listed for two years — at #915 in 1967 and number #968 in 1968. It was used on just 9 baby boys born in the US last year, but in Britain in 2010 it was used on 5,557. I doubt we'll see it climb too much. Though many popular names are big in Britain first (Emma comes to mind), their love of nicknames as full names hasn't caught on for boys in the US just yet
Elvis — I thought a look at Elvis itself was warranted. It was a top 1000 presence before Presley, though it lingered in the 700+ range before dropping into the 900s and off the list entirely at the beginning of the 1950s. In 1955 it came back at #906, the next year it was #357 and in 1957 it reached its highest point at #312 — and that, folks, is what rock and roll can do for a dying name
Gus — Gus fell out of vogue in 1978 when it last appeared on the US charts at #997, though it's getting lots of love as a nickname for August (on the rise since 2002) these days — I know more than 3 little ones who go by Gus. In addition to August/Augustus/Augustine, it is also regularly used a nickname for Constantine. Augustine and Constantine have some great variants, including Croatian Tin, which has been on my mind lately, Dutch Guus, Finnish Kusti, Bulgarian Kosta and Romanian Costel and Costin
Oliver — another name from the British top 10, Oliver is currently #2. Unlike Alfie, it's also seeing newfound popularity stateside, and was #78 in 2011, though it's been rising steadily since 1995. Lots of nice variants here, too, including Finnish Olavi, Danish Ole, medieval English Noll, Portuguese Álvaro and Scottish Aulay
Romeo — Costello references Romeo and Juliet more than once. Romeo means "a pilgrim to Rome" and reappeared in the top 1000 (after a long absence) in 1996. In 2011 it clocked in at #360

Alison — though it made its first appearance in the top 1000 back in 1934, Alison dropped off the charts again until 1942, when it appeared at #872 and started a rather fast rise. I'd love to know what caused its jump from #867 to #678 in 1945. It rose steadily until 1986, when it reached its highest ranking at #96. It's fallen since then, and currently sits at #249. The alternate spelling Allison is much more popular -- currently it's #40. Allison is a more modern spelling, and first appeared on the list in 1946. Its highest ranking so far was pretty recent, in 2009 (#30)
Elsie — the next 3 names are all from "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" — Elsie's used in this case as kind of a diss, I think, like Natasha's the sexy stage name of the model in the mini-skirt who's real name is plain old Elsie. Costello is so obviously a namer (he does have 3 well-named sons). Anyway, Elsie can be a nickname for lots of beautiful choices and has lots of lovely variants (most ultimately come from Elizabeth). Some of my favorites are Czech Eliška, French Élise, Danish Else, Dutch Elsje and Ilse, Estonian Liisu, German Liese, medieval English Ibb and Scottish lovelies Elspeth and Lileas
Chelsea — from the name of a district in London (and also New York) Chelsea first saw use as a modern given name in 1969 when it appeared on the US list at a whopping #707. A true trendy name, by 1992 it had nearly reached the top 10 (it was #15) but it fell 10 points the next year and has fallen steadily ever since, currently sitting at #222. Chelsea Clinton was born in 1980 and probably helped its rise — apparently her parents heard the song "Chelsea Morning" (written by previously-featured Joni Mitchell) and Bill said, "If we ever have a daughter, her name should be Chelsea." I'd definitely have pegged him as the trendy namer …
Natasha — I like Natasha (a nickname for Natalya, the Russian form of Natalie, which comes from the Latin for "Christmas day") but every time I see it I think of something my husband told me, about when he went to school at Berkeley in the 80s and there was a rash of girls inexplicably changing their names to Natasha. He'd meet someone as Lisa or Debbie and see them later saying, "Oh, I go by Natasha now." Hilarious, though it's colored the name for me — oh well, I like Polish diminutive Natalka better, anyway 
Veronica — until recently I had no idea that Berenice and Veronica were basically the same name with different spellings. Veronica was inspired by the Latin phrase vera icon, meaning "true image," and was the name of the saint who wiped Jesus' face on his pre-crucifixion walk, which helped it gain use during the Middle Ages. It's been a top 500 mainstay since the 1880s. I love it spelled with a K, as Veronika

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