Wednesday, September 12

California Names

two shots from our last road trip

Inspired by our last road trip, here are some of the more accessible names taken from towns & cities in California —  

Anselmo — one of the "San-" cities, Anselmo struck me as a particularly usable choice. I've always liked Anselm, a name derived from Germanic elements meaning "god" and "protection." Saint Anselm himself was a philosopher monk who held the title of Archbishop of Cantebury. If you like Elmo, using it as a nickname might help avoid the red-puppet connotations somewhat
Atherton — suitable for a boy or a girl (actor Don Johnson has a daughter named Atherton Grace) this name might appeal to the surname-loving set. It's got Madison-vibes with a less-stale, 21st century preppie twist 
Avenal — named by Spanish soldiers & explorers, Avenal means "oat field." This is one I see when we drive from Los Angeles to Sonoma, and I always wondered if it was named for someone with the surname Laneva (read it backwards). Nice to know the real meaning, though, and I think it might be a good way to use the popular "Av-" element in a less frilly way
Beaumont — Beau's a guilty pleasure of mine, for boys & girls, and I've never really thought much about its longer forms. Beauregard is nice, but a little better suited to like, a race horse. Or a sailboat. Beaumont is a bit more rugged and unexpected, plus it opens up the Monty-nickname possibility
Blythe — another one from road-trip-city. Ironically, Blythe (meaning "cheerful") is a pretty dismal place, good for 2 things: Popeye's Chicken and filling up the gas tank. Also, I think it has a Starbucks. But the name is lovely. I've met a few and it's always so nice to hear it used
Ceres — the Roman goddess of agriculture (in Greek myth, she's called Demeter), this name means "to grow"
Clarita — my favorite of the "Santa-" city names, I think Clarita deserves a closer look. Traditionally a Spanish nickname for Clara, meaning "clear," I think it has a sweet, old-lady feel without being too dusty. I can totally picture it on a baby, young girl and grown-up
Clovis — though Clarita's starting to sound fresh again, Clovis probably has a way to go. I've seen a few Clovers pop up here and there, but I think Clovis has more substance. Love that unusual, retro "-vis" ending. Not sure if I prefer this on a boy or girl, though
Colma — I actually went to high school with a girl named Colma. Here's a creepy factoid: Colma, CA has so much land dedicated to cemeteries that the dead outnumber the living by over a thousand to one. (Its town motto is "It's great to be alive in Colma!") It's the feminine form of Irish name Colm, meaning "dove"
Gilroy — okay, Clovis and Gilroy! Stay with me. They're like two guys sitting on a front porch playing banjo. I can't resist. Gilroy is known as "the garlic capital of the world," a delicious claim which prompted my husband and I to stop there for dinner once. That garlic pizza may or may not be the reason I kind of love this name ...
Indio — Indio just oozes cool. I prefer it to Indigo and Indiana, which I see on lists from time to time. Robert Downey, Jr. used it for his first son, a funny choice since Downey is also the name of a California town
Elsinore — love Shakespeare? Love California? Can't decide between Elsa and Eleanor? Then this is the name for you. It was the name of Hamlet's castle, and comes from the Danish word for "narrow strait"
Morro — this word means "pebble" in Spanish, which is sort of a sweet meaning. I think its similarity to trendy choices like Arlo and Milo could help it get some traction as a first name
Ojai — named by the Chumash indians (from a word meaning "moon"), Ojai is known as the "Shangri-la of southern California." I love that it manages to sound sharp and lyrical at the same time
Reedley — this one struck me as particularly trendy-sounding. It's not generally my thing, name-wise, but I can see lots of people being intrigued by it
Tiburon from the Spanish word tiburón, meaning "shark." This one falls into the category of "uber-masculine nature names" like, say, Everest, Tahoe, Eagle or Falcon
Tustin — Dustin and Justin have been done to death, why not Tustin?


  1. Elsinore is a seriously pretty name. Schools here in the UK are obsessed with Shakespeare (I even did a Shakespeare exam paper), but for some reason Hamlet was one of the few plays we didn't cover.

  2. Great list of names, and a great road trip! Blythe, Clovis and Indio all seem very usable.

  3. We have a town called Elsinore where I grew up as well. I've always liked it and I love the nickname Elsie. I kind of like Anselm too, but I don't see it as usable. Blythe is wonderful and I love Demeter, Ceres is growing on me. I also agree with you on Clarita. I can see an appeal to Gilroy, actually, and have such a different image with that name (to me Gilroy is in a dusty Oxford library, not playing a banjo on the porch). I think Avena is more usable than Avenal, personally. (avena being the word for oats)


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