Friday, December 30

Friday Faves

Name dreams: I have them. Often, too, though most of the time they involve a stressful situation where I've named someone the wrong thing, and I'm trying to explain to someone my good intentions to uninterested blob-people. I'm filing the name dreams for when I'm in my 30s and realize that I need therapy. In the meantime, I'm enjoying them.

Annina featured prominently in a recent name dream. Though Annina is my preferred spelling, I also like German Anina and Finnish Anniina. I do love how the Finnish double-up their "I"s. They are diminutives of Anna, a truly classic name (currently 28# on the US charts) that is pretty hard to dislike — I mean, it's a palindrome, after all.

Here are some other lovely Anna variants — Dutch Anouk and Annelien, Finnish Anneli,  Annikki and Annukka, Hungarian Anikó, Anca and Anka, Norwegian Anniken, brilliant French Anaïs and Breton Annick

Wednesday, December 28

Aleph & Phyllon

Sin Aleph in wood type, by M J M on Flickr

With the exception of sharp, short Delphi, I don't find the "ph" element very aesthetically pleasing, for girls. When it comes to Philippa vs. Filippa, for instance, I much prefer the look of Filippa. In Sophia vs. Sofia, Sofia always wins. But for boys, it's growing on me. On a boy, the "ph" is refreshing, but on a girl, it can get lost in frilly-sweet pretty quickly.

As 2011 comes to an end, I've been seeing a lot of posts about the best and worst celebrity-used baby names. It occurred to me that the two celebrity names I found most memorable this year both contain the "ph" element.

Aleph Millepied, born last June, is the son of Natalie Portman and her French ballerino boyfriend Benjamin Millepied. She's gotten a lot of flack for the name, but I think it's interesting. Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is tied to many words, with varied meanings — including "ox," "tame," "teach," "ruler," and "one/thousand." It is pronounced "AH-lef," and makes for a pretty rare name with rich mystic, religious and even mathematical connections. For a firstborn son it seems a pretty fitting choice, one that stands out from a pack of Henrys and Jacks without being too ostentatious. It has nice variants, too — my favorite is Elif, a Turkish girl name popular in France and the Netherlands.

Dutch model Doutzen Kroes (her name is derived from a Frisian name meaning "dove") had a baby boy last January. His name is Phyllon Joy, and that, my friends, is probably my favorite celebrity name of the year. Predictably, it did not get a very warm reception — but I kind of love it. Joy is just a word, and though as a name it's generally reserved for girls in the US, it's not specifically feminine, and I don't see why it can't be used for boys as well. As far as virtue names go, it's one of the lighter ones, and, paired with Phyllon, whose meaning is probably tied to the Greek word phileo ("to love"), makes for a super-sweet combination. I'm not sure if Kroes and her husband Sunnery James are pronouncing it with a long "I' sound or more like a mashup of Philip + Dylan, but either way I think it's a standout choice.

There were a couple other naming highlights this year — Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr's son Flynn comes to mind, and so does Selma Blair's new son Arthur Saint. I'd do a post  about my favorite girl names, but really, there weren't very many that wowed me. Agnes Lark, used by Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, is very nice, and Tina Fey's second well-named child, Penelope Athena, was a crowd-pleaser. But both of those lose me somewhere. Model Sophie Dahl had a Lyra, but without a middle name, it's hard to get excited about. Is there something out there I've missed, or was this year kind of a dull one in celebrity-baby-name land? 

Sunday, December 25

Christmas Eve Name Game Families

Merry Christmas, namers! I hope everyone's had a lovely day and is busy breaking in all sorts of new goodies with loved ones and cookies everywhere. 

Thanks to those who played the Christmas Eve Name Game — it brought back memories of playing it with my sisters, and I even got them to join in, too.

To come up with the names, I used the full list of statistics for the year 1925 (in the US) and randomized them. I then generated a random number for every name I chose. There are some pretty weird finds here, but I think the retro vibe suits the holiday.

Here are your results!

Nicole Trager
Georgina Brooke and Aelred Mathias
-- Mariam Fayette & Wilma Annabel 
-- Cary Halvor
-- Eleonora Roseanna

Anonymous @ 12:55PM
Lona Parthenia and Jame Prospero
-- Teofilo Lambert & Eufemia Elyse
-- Abbott Levin
-- Nana Zane 
-- Eustolia Arnette

Lorna Kate and Alfonse Hayne
-- Frieda Daphne
-- Erla Barbara
-- Myla Ottilie
-- Camilo Harold

Meg C. 
Phoebe Laurice and Fowler Penrose
-- Denver Thurlo
-- Shafter Marshall
-- Achille Edd
-- Bessie Corona

Hyacinth Eloise and Jesse Jacobo
-- Viola Yvonne
-- Cresencia Ysabel
-- Wilmer Marcos 

jess s
Lovis Demetria and Eutha Palestine
-- Daniel Corbit
-- Mozel Cornelius
-- Mazie Avo

Elea @ BBN
Louisa Arlene and Everal Durrell
-- Eva Carlotta
-- Veria Minnette
-- Waylon Yutaka
-- Nero Solomon

Aleta Goldine and Vester Pierce 
-- Hercules Yancy
-- Rolfe Byrne
-- Maggie Corinne
-- Burke Timothy & Carlton Atley
-- Truly Royce

Nena Runette and Lincoln Hendrix
-- Adela Clarice
-- Hoyt Erastus
-- Beryl Aurelia

Lella Marilyn and Dolph Mordecai
-- Russel Kilbourne
-- Zina Pauline
-- Keller Geoffrey

Viola Palmina and Culver Montgomery
-- Goldie Garnet
-- Benno Roosevelt

Rosalina Dainty and Thornton Eldo
-- Ansel Foy
-- Drexel Gleason
-- Mabel Carmen

Anonymous @ 3:16AM
Zenona Imogen and Llewellyn Bailey
-- Rowland Buck
-- Nilo Vesper
-- Merrel Aristide
-- Gretna Constance
-- Evajean Venice

Saturday, December 24

A Christmas Eve Name Game

our Christmas tree

I have two younger sisters (hi, Morgan and Rebecca!) and as kids, one of our holiday traditions was that we'd all sleep in the same bedroom on Christmas eve. We did lots of silly things as we tried to fall asleep, of course, but one thing we always did was play a names game. (Having a namer for an older sister = hours of fun.) I enjoyed doing the Thanksgiving name game so much that I thought I'd extend our little holiday tradition to this blog, as well. 

In our version of the Christmas Name Game, we created imaginary families by shutting our eyes and choosing random names out of name books. For this version, you leave a comment with the size and shape of your desired family (for example: mother, father, two daughters and one son) and I'll use the same method to randomly choose their first and middle names from the full list of names used on babies born in 1925. 

 Your families will be revealed tomorrow, on Christmas day, in a new post.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Monday, December 19

let's talk about: Frances/Francis

the Francis B-Foods: Frances Bean and Francis Bacon
Francis is the English form of Franciscus, a Late Latin name referring to a Frenchman. It gained popularity in the middle ages, perhaps due to the influence of Saint Francis of Assisi, who was christened Giovanni, but nicknamed Francesco by his father. However, the name wasn't regularly used until the 16th century, in Britain. Interestingly, the Francis spelling was used for both genders until the 17th century, when the "-es" spelling became more common for girls.
In the US, Francis was at its most popular in 1915, when it cracked the top 30. It stayed consistently around the 30-50 range from the 1880s until the 1940s, when it began to lose ground. Steadily falling since 1949, it had fallen to the 200s by 1970, and today it rests at #669. The days are not long for Francis in the top 1,000, I fear. Some hope rests in Spanish and Portuguese form Francisco, currently at #196, though it's falling, too.

Frances is even less popular (it's #782), though it was once a top 10 name — from 1912 to 1921, it held the #9 spot. Its downfall began a decade earlier than Francis', in 1937, so perhaps we can look to Frances to see where Francis might be headed.

Some other forms of Francis that appeal are Basque Paxti, Croatian and Serbian Franjo, Italian Franco, Hungarian Ferenc, Aragonese Francho, Asturian Xicu, and Limburgish Frens. Some more female forms are Czech Františka, Francisca (I prefer it with a "K," as Franciska), Franca, FrancieleFrancine and, of course, popular Francesca. I like nickname Fran for a girl or a boy, and lots of the feminine diminutives are sweet — I can never choose between Franny, Sissy or Frankie.

Sunday, December 18

Olympic Names IX

This will be the final installment of Olympic Names — I'll be sure to start again this summer, using names of athletes competing in the London '12 games!

Alo (Estonia) 
Antipass (Zimbabwe)
Flavius (Romania)  
Gergo (Hungary)  
Ignatas (Lithuania
Jagson (Brazil)
Kurban (Uzbekistan)
Leony (Cameroon)
Roel (Netherlands) 
Savvas (Greece)
Susumu (Japan)
Wolfram (Germany)
Zaur (Russian Federation) 

Aluissa (Romania) 
Bronwen (Australia) 
Eliska (Czech Republic)
Fanni (Hungary) 
Franciela (Brazil)
Ieva (Latvia)
Kabran (Côte d' Ivoire)
Lindita (Albania)
Nanthana (Thailand) 
Nike (Israel— very appropriate for an athlete, don't you think? 
Noeki (Netherlands)  
Paulini (Greece)
Peoria (Palau) 
Sarolta (Hungary)
Smaro (Greece) 
Un-Sil (DPR Korea)
Villo (Hungary) 

Thursday, December 15


As the year draws to an end, I'm thinking of all the names I've mentioned since the inception of this blog in September, and wondering how they work not as a random, eclectic jumble of styles and sounds, but as a group. 

These are some combinations I've been fiddling with, trying to find something to inspire my own favorites list. The master list is here, feel free to come up with a few mismatched matches yourself  — 

Alfred Philo 
Horatio Crosby 
Ingus Delphin 
Jethro Crake 
Louis Rodion 
Malo Raphael 
Otto Luluk 
Percival Beau 
Rens Frederick 
Winston Worth 

Deva Violante 
Gala Maialen 
Ilune Tassadit 
Isola Vedette 
Iver Romaine 
Lieselot Elleve 
Maris Halcyon 
Nieves Ludivine
Thora Nandelle 
Zoia Lailatou 

Tuesday, December 13

Panning for Name Gold: 1960

Awkward virgin statue

All right, finally, the '60s. We can all relax, right? The hippies'll figure everything out. 

Eamon — a variant spelling of the Irish form of Edmund (Éamonn), pronounced "AY-mon," this name means "rich protector." Irish names are reliably popular choices here in the US and though Eamon hasn't made the top 1,000 like, ever (at least in the past 131 searchable years on the SSA list) I think it's ready for a bit of attention
Imre — almost unheard-of in the US, Imre ranks in the top 100 for Hungary. It's the Hungarian form of the German name Emmerich, a name that's also due for some consideration. The meaning is wonderful ("universal power") and its unusual (for English) elements make it a real standout choice. Musician Alanis Morrissette recently chose it as a middle name for her son, Ever
Kjell — pronounced "chell," Kjell is the Swedish and Norwegian form of an Old Norse name meaning "kettle," or "cauldron." It has quite a history as a popular name in those countries (it's also used regularly in the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland). Other forms include Ketill, Kjeld and Keld
Ogden — "the cow is of the bovine ilk/one end is moo, the other, milk" Ogden Nash is probably the most well-known bearer of this name. It's from an Old English surname meaning "oak valley"
Remy — from the Latin name Remigius, meaning "oarsmen." Remy is a name I'll be watching when the SSA releases its statistics for 2011. It appeared on the list in '09 at #968 and jumped to #874 in 2010. It's hard to say whether or not it'll advance further, but I hope it does, as it's an interesting name with a great, unusual masculine sound

Lyra — sometimes I'm such a space-freak that names I might not like seem intriguing just because they're connected to outer space. Lyra is one of them — Lyra is a constellation in the northern sky, named by Ptolemy for its resemblance to the shape of Orpheus' lyre, which was thrown into the Hebrus after his death. Its principal star is Vega, and it's sometimes referred to as Aquila Cadens, meaning "falling eagle"
Minna — a Finnish short form of Vilhelmina, Minna currently makes the top 100 in Sweden. I like a lot of the short forms of this name, like Mimmi, Helmi, Vilhelmi and Willemijn. Minna was a rather steady presence in the US top 1,000 from (at least) 1880 'til 1916. The highest it ever rose was #369 in 1889 (the current-day equivalent of Bethany) — it's also the name of a city in Nigeria
Nieves — I love names that mean "snow," or that have snowy meanings. Perfect for a winter baby (though I've never had a snowy winter) — Nieves is a Spanish name referring to the Virgin Mary as she's known as Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, or Our Lady of the Snows. A variant is Nieve, a name I first came across as a child (it was one of the first names of someone I met that surprised and delighted me because I'd never heard it before)
Tanis — from the Greek name Tanith, this name means "serpent lady," and was the name of the Phoenician goddess of love, fertility, the moon and the stars (and all that good stuff) — also found as the Greek name of Djanet, a city in the Nile delta. A lovely variant is Tanit
Trilby — a literary name, Trilby is the title of a popular novel by George du Maurier and an 1822 novel by Charles Nodier. Both novels have ballets based on them, and the du Maurier novel is probably more famous for its hypnotist/musician character, Svengali. du Maurier's heroine, Trilby O'Farrell, is often depicted in stage-form wearing a short-brimmed hat now called a "trilby," a type of fedora

Sunday, December 11

Not-So-Friday Faves

I spent the weekend visiting my in-laws in Sonoma, where there is no internets, and the air smells like air. 

I watched the lunar eclipse in the clear sky above the dark forest, with a friendly hooting owl (and my husband) for company. 'Twas a lovely time, but not one conducive to name-blogging. 

Sonoma is said to mean "the valley of the moon." I'm from outside Phoenix, Arizona, a place often referred to as "the valley of the sun," so I've always liked the connection. 

And speaking of valleys, here's a name — Echo. I've met two under the age of 5 here in LA. Pretty song by Blitzen Trapper, too.

if you knew what a fool i've been
you'd strike a match for every day that's been lost
what I wouldn't give to see you make a living breaking even
or just counting the cost

'cos every day is like a newborn, still as the sun
and if no one is watching does our love leave any trace
or just an echo out in space

Happy Sunday night, all.

Wednesday, December 7

Names from Jordan

textile detail from Petra, Jordan, by Carl Welsby

Recently, I came across a site which lists (in Arabic) the top 49 names for girls and boys in Jordan for the year 2009. I love finding lists from countries whose naming culture I know little to nothing about, because I always learn something. Beautiful new sound combinations, popular suffixes (like "-as" and "-een") or prefixes (like "Gh-" and "Lam-") that are almost unheard of in the US, and lyrical meanings that refer to images I've never seen and stories I've never heard. 

Information like this is why I can't understand it when someone says, "Oh, but ________ is such a weird name." Rimas might seem unfamiliar to you, but it's the #1 girls' name in Jordan, a country of nearly 6.5 million people. Once you're aware of that, it's hard to look at a name you've never seen and automatically write it off as bizarre or unusable. So broaden those naming horizons, open your mind to new sounds — you never know where you might find something you really love.

Here are a few of the names I loved from the list. I asked a friend with knowledge of the country and language for some background. Thank you, Laura (and Trad!) —  


Laith — means "young lion." I also like the similarity it bears to the English word "lathe," which, on a totally nerdy note, I find to be a very aesthetically-pleasing word

Malek — means "owner," or "proprietor." I see Malik more often, but somehow switching the "I" for an "E" makes a world of difference, for me. I love the "-lek" ending — it manages to sound soft and strong at the same time

Saleh — related to an Arabic word meaning "fixed," but refers to someone who is upstanding and virtuous

Tareq —  similar ending here, though the "Q" lends it a bit more bite. Means, "knocking," or, "the one who knocks"

Other boy standouts: Aiham, Fares, Qais and Wissam


Batoul — another name for the Virgin Mary, I love the look   

Jude — I was surprised to see Jude listed at #18 on the girls' list, but apparently it is a name commonly used for both boys and girls in Jordan, and it means "the highest generosity" (and is pronounced more or less like it is in English)

Layan —  may be from the name Lena, meaning "soft," or "tender"

Lojain —  the sound here is so fresh and sweet, like a name smush of Lo and Jane. Its meaning is lovely, too ("silver")

Mais — this one reminded me of the Greek name Thais/Thaïs which also enjoys some popularity in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries, as Thaís. It has a great meaning: "to walk swaying side to side"

Malaak/Malak — listed at numbers #14 and #15, respectively, Malak has actually been a favorite of mine for quite some time (I do slightly prefer that spelling). I may have first heard it as the name of comedian Chris Rock's wife (whose name is, therefore, Malaak Rock — greatness). It means "angel" 

Other girl standouts: Aseel, Mayar, Roa and Touleen

Monday, December 5

Olympic Names VIII

Ara (Armenia) 
Badou (Gambia)
Bakary (Gambia)  
Bayano (Panama)  
Cadeau (Liberia  the French word for "gift"
Devoe (Canada)  his brother, also an athlete, is named Cregan
Helio (Brazil)
Idir (Algeria)
Iljo (Belgium) 
Ingus (Latvia)
Kew (Netherlands)
Klete (United States)
Milko (Bulgaria) 
Movses (Armenia)
Sakaria (Botswana)
Sunbae (Korea)
Taesul (Korea)
Tariel (Georgia) 
Toureano (Bahamas)
Trinko (Netherlands)
Urs (Germany)
Zaza (Georgia) 

Arantxa (Great Britain) 
Cvetelina (Bulgaria) 
Elvira (Russian Federation)
Helalia (Namibia) 
Kaie (Estonia)
Karishma (Nepal)
Lasma (Latvia)
Liene (Latvia)
Luuka (New Zealand) 
Mariami (Georgia)
Mineka (Sri Lanka) 
Nesria (Tunisia)
Paschalina (Greece) 
Sutiya (Thailand)
Thilini (Sri Lanka) 
Triantafyllia (Greece)
Ulunma (Nigeria) 

Friday, December 2

Friday Faves

For this week's Friday Faves, another song's stuck in my head. This is Andrew Bird singing "Sovay," which takes its title from a traditional English folk song about a woman who dresses as a highwayman to test her love's loyalty. In disguise, she robs him, and he gives up all his belongings except his ring, which he refuses to part with. Since he proves the depths of his love, there's a happy ending, but if he'd let her take the ring, she says, "I'd have pulled the trigger and shot you dead." 

The names Sophie and Sylvie appear in some versions of the original song, and Sovay's probably a lyrical variant. I like its folksy sound, and there's something simple and sweet about it, too. 

then you realize
that you're riding on a para-success
of a heavy-handed metaphor
and a feeling like you've been here before

because you've been here before
and you've been here before

then a word washed ashore
a word washed ashore
then a word washed ashore

Sovay, Sovay, Sovay
all along the day

What names are on your mind, today?

Thursday, December 1

Names from Folk Songs

Cicely Sweet, you do me wrong/ my legs be straight, my arms be strong
Sødskærm (Myrrhis odorata)
by Line Sabroe

In researching another post, I came across a great resource. is a folk song database, and it's full of great names. Here are some I came across — 

Arbutus — the title of "My Love's an Arbutus" gave me a little chuckle, though I do think Arbutus could be a pretty righteous boy name. It's got a bit of a backwoods, country vibe going on, and refers to a genus of small, flowering plants that produce red berries

Cicely Sweet — this is the name of the song, and I like the combination, though you might be tempting fate giving a girl the middle name Sweet. Cecily seems to get more attention than Cicely, but I prefer its softer, more unusual sound. Both names are variants of Cecilia that date back to the Middle Ages. Sweet Cicely is also a plant, whose leaves are sometimes used as an herb, and are similar in flavor to anise

Flora — from "Flora, the Lily of the West" Flora was the Roman goddess of flowers and spring, and the wife of Zephyr, the west wind. I really like its variants, like Floretta, Dutch Floor, French Fleur and Welsh Fflur. Flora ranks highly in Hungary (where Flóra is #30) and France (#140)

Idumea — though it's quite a depressing little ballad, I was drawn to Idumea as a name. It's the Latin cognate of the Hebrew name Edom, which means "red," and refers to a region south of Judea and the Dead Sea 

Kalinka — it's a sweet Russian folk song but I had no idea where Kalinka came from. Imagine my surprise when I did some digging around and discovered it's a pet form of the name Kalina, which means "rowan tree." Kalina itself doesn't really appeal to me, but I love the "-linka" ending of the nickname

Lulajze — this is simply the Polish word for "lullaby," but I like its look. The "ajze" is refreshing, and you could call her Lula for short. From the Polish folk song, "Lulajze Jezuniu"

Maranoa — from "Maranoa Lullaby," which notes was found in a pamphlet listed as "Australian Aboriginal Tune." Maranoa is a region in southwestern Queensland, Australia, and is also the name of a river there. While I don't know much about its meaning, Mara means "bitter" in Hebrew, and Noa means "motion" in Hebrew, or "love," or "affection" in Japanese. I think "bitter love" is a pretty intense meaning, even if I did just totally make it up

Saro  — the "Pretty Saro" of the song was probably really named Sarah, but I think Saro stands on its own, and is much more interesting. I like taking a classic girl name (Caroline, for example) and pairing it with an unusual, more modern-sounding nickname (Caro). On an entirely different note, Saro is also a village in Mali

Tyne — the song refers to the River Tyne in northeast England. Though its origin is unclear, it's probably an ancient Celtic name, most likely connected to the word "river." It's used as a surname, mostly (actress Tyne Daly's first name is actually Ellen). I like it as a first name. It sounds like "time," and is an ancient nature name. Pretty solid points, there