Monday, October 8

Arizona Names

photos my husband took in Arizona

Another road trip, another inspired post. These names are from towns and cities in my home state, Arizona. Arizona has a lot of charmingly kooky place names Buckeye, Globe, Show Low, Surprise — but I also noticed a lot of names that are pretty trendy-popular today — like Hayden, Page, Parker and Taylor. Maybe one of these could be the next AZ-name success story?


Bisbee — named after Judge DeWitt Bisbee (and a more perfect judge name there never has been) who was a financial backer of the Copper Queen Mine, which turned Bisbee into a pretty rocking little mining town back in the 1880s. The mine is no more, and the Bisbee of today is home to a bunch of artsy types who appreciate its fantastically incongruous architecture, relics of past prosperity. As a name it feels "cowboy" without being too hokey, it's a little juvenile but I think as a middle name it has the potential to shine
Eloy — the city is not much to speak of — sorry, Eloyians, but nobody does depressing small towns quite like the desert does depressing small towns. The name, however, is charming in that old-man way, with the vibe of Lloyd but none of the datedness. In HG Wells' The Time Machine, the Eloi are a society of human beings living 800,000 years in the future. It comes from the Latin name Eligius, meaning "to choose," and was actually in the US top 1,000 from 1927 to 1986, though the highest it ever ranked was #696 in 1947. It had a very brief resurgence moment, appearing back onto the list at #1000 in 1993
Gilbert — Gilbert, AZ is currently the most populous incorporated town in the US. I lived there for a time, and have always liked the name, which is derived from Germanic elements meaning "bright" and "pledge." It's in the top 1,000 (currently #869) and has been since at least 1880. It was pretty popular at the beginning of the 20th century, ranking around the #100 mark and even within the top 100 from 1927-1932, putting it in the prime "old-fashioned but not too dusty for a comeback" territory
Mesa — the history of Mesa goes back 2000 years, when the Hohokam people built some of the largest and most sophisticated canals the prehistoric New World had ever seen. (Way less remarkably, I was born there.) The name means "table," in Spanish, and refers to the flat, elevated geography the city was built on. I think it has a lovely sound and, despite the meaning, would make a great girls' name
Payson — here's my bet for the next trendy success. Known for being the landscape of Zane Grey's novels, Payson is a beautiful town located smack-dab in the middle of Arizona. It was named for Levi Joseph Payson, an Illinois congressman who helped establish the Post Office there. It's Aidan/Mason-adjacent — so it could potentially get very popular — but it'll stands out from the crowd a bit with that softer "-son" ending 
Phoenix — I had to include Phoenix, though I've never gotten into it as a name. I totally love the meaning, of course, and think it makes a fabulous city name, but somehow, on a person, it comes off a little too intense and dark — almost religious, with all that background myth. It's been on a steady rise since the mid-1990s, though, so expect to hear it more and more. In 1999 it was at #914, but it's gone up every year since, and in 2011 it ranked at #388
Prescott — I met a Prescott at the neighborhood park a while back (his parents weren't aware of the city) and it came off quite nicely, as a given name. The town was the capital of the Arizona Territory before Phoenix, and was named for historian William Hickling Prescott. It's preppy without being stodgy, distinguished without sounding like wannabe new-money (ahem, Barrons Hilton and Trump …) It's also quite unusual and has never made the top 1,000
Safford — Safford is a modern-day mining and agricultural town, nothing very exciting except a couple of prisons. I love the sounds of the name, though, and the potential for the nickname Ford. Its namesake has a great name -- Anson Pacely Killen Safford was the third governor of the Arizona Territory
Sedona — ahh, Sedona. Beautiful, mystical Sedona. Glowing red rocks, spiritual vortices, horrible bloody history. Sedona Arabelle Miller Schnebly was the wife of the town's first postmaster, and she was known for her hospitality and industrious nature. Reportedly, Mrs Schnebly's mother "made up" the name Sedona because she thought it sounded pretty — see, it was even named by a namer!
Tempe — though Tempe, Arizona was named after the Vale of Tempe, a beautiful gorge in northern Greece, the only Greeks I ever met there were drunk frat boys and sorority girls wearing sweatpants and eighty layers of makeup (no one has ever adequately explained this phenomenon to me). I think the name could be really great on the right girl, if you can overlook the slightly "pee"-ish ending
Tolleson — another "-son" ending name that might appeal to trendy namers. I love the "Tol" sound (an old favorite of mine was Ptolemy, which I liked before Gretchen Mol used it on her son, thanks very much) and the potential nickname Tol is a big draw
Tucson — pronounced "too-sawn," the name derives from the Spanish Tucsón, which was taken from the O'odham name Cuk Ṣon, meaning "at the base of the black hill," which refers to a volcanic mountain near the city. Pretty great meaning there — I love those super descriptive place names, they seems so ancient and evocative. Unless it's something like "out back near the dung heap," of course. I'd love to hear this one used on a person
Winslow — you know this one, right? Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizonathe city was named after either a railroad man or a prospector, depends on whose story you believe, and it has a meteor crater. I've always loved the name of painter Winslow Homer, and with the popularity of names like Harlow and Marlow on the rise, I could see Winslow coming back. What about it on a girl? Call her Winnie? Suggesting that might make me a bad name-blogger …
Yuma — I've always liked the sound of this one (the city is tough to take, though, as I remember it). Yuma is one of the English names of the Quechan people, and it may refer to their tradition of burning huge fires to induce rain — the Spanish word for smoke is humo — but its etymology is very vague. It is also a Japanese name which, depending on the kanji used to write it, can have many different meanings  my favorite is "dark horse"

6 comments:

  1. So many great ones! I don't know why but Yuma really, really appeals to me. I don't particularly like the sound, but there's just something about it. Prescott reminds me too much of John Prescott, and that just puts me off completely. And I like Tempe - I don't even mind the 'pee'.

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  2. Tempe is a fabulous name! And I do rather like Winslow too...

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  3. I'm an AZ native (I've lived in Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, and Tucson), and I've always loved the name options in our state (I named my cat Sedona!). To your list I'd like to add Benson, Florence, Marana, Maricopa, Peoria, and Pima!

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  4. I don't mind Phoenix and I think I suggested Sedona to someone recently. Not so sure about the rest. I like Winslow, but it seems like a name a boy would be teased about.

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  5. We briefly considered the Spanish name Eloy for our son, but figured it might cause confusion in the US, pronunciation-wise ... or the other way around: upon hearing it pronounced, people would not know how to spell it.

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  6. I have met a little boy named Bisbee! I thought it was really cute, even before I found out where it was from. His little sister is named Lulu. Too sweet.

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