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"

Friday, September 14

2012 Olympic Names: Round 4

A little more from my collection of fantastic 2012 Olympic names  

Ailun (China) 
Amini (Tonga) 
Arata (Japan)  love that these 3 "A" names have typically feminine sounds 
Cadel (Australia) 
Crisanto (Mexico)
Darvin (Saint Lucia)
Dex (Netherlands)
Elama (American Samoa)
Eskild (Denmark) 
Esquiva (Brazil)
Floris (Netherlands) 
Ignisious (Ghana)  would love to know the story behind this one. A take on Ignatius, I wonder?
Innocent (Switzerland) 
Irawan (Indonesia)
Jantsan (Mongolia)  
Jidou (Mauritania)
Keitani (Micronesia) 
Lalonde (Trinidad & Tobago) 
Leford (Jamaica) 
Lehann (South Africa)   interesting to see "-ann" at the end, here
Maynor (Honduras) 
Mekonnen (Ethiopia)
Mumin (Djibouti)  anyone else think of Moomin?
Nazario (Vanuatu)
Ndiatte (Senegal) 
Pau (Spain)
Pierpaolo (Italy) 
Rayan (Morocco)
Roba (Ethiopia) 
Sime (Croatia) 
Torben (Denmark)
Weynay (Eritrea)
Zakari (Niger)
Zivko (Serbia)

Aiga (Latvia) 
Aina (Madagascar)  interesting that Aiga & Aina are separated by 1 letter, yet come from very different places 
Amaka (New Zealand) 
Begona (Spain) 
Birsen (Turkey)
Citra (Indonesia)
Clemilda (Brazil)  so cute
Dayexi (Cuba)
Eda (Turkey) 
Gaelle (Cameroon)
Gevrise (France) 
Hala (Libya)
Hyleas (USA) 
Iria (Spain)
Lauma (Latvia)  
Lenora (France)
Luan (Dominica) 
Maica (Spain) 
Maral (Germany) 
Mareme (Senegal)
Naide (Portugal) 
Offiong (Nigeria)
Rossella (Italy)
Sasa (Slovenia)
Siona (New Zealand) 
Temi (Great Britain)
Tiki (Ethiopia) 
Vendula (Czech Republic)
Zaneta (Poland) 
Zhuldyz (Kazakhstan) 

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?

Monday, September 10

let's talk about: Solomon

detail of the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon by Sir Edward John Poynter
Last Sunday night, I was watching a TV show and the villain's name —  Solomon —  stood out. I once used the name for a baddie-boy character, too, and a namer just can't resist a coincidence like that. Since then, Solomon's been on my mind. It's a name that's never made it onto my favorites list but that I've always admired, for its history, its surprising versatility and its lovely aesthetic appeal.

Solomon derives from shalom, the Hebrew word for peace —  a wonderfully simple meaning that's pretty hard to beat. The most famous Solomon was a prophet king of Israel renowned for his wisdom (baby-chopping and all) but not without his faults, who appears in both Judaic and Islamic theologies. Solomon is also used as a surname and place name, and even appears in the delightfully weird nursery rhyme "Solomon Grundy":

Solomon Grundy,
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Grew worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday.
That was the end,
Of Solomon Grundy.

Solomon has been in the American top 1,000 for ages — back in 1880 it ranked #198. It stayed in the #200s-zone until the 1920s, when it began a somewhat steeper decline, falling to its lowest point, #711, in 1962. However, a half-century of decline is no big deal to a solid guy like Solomon. A decade later, it was sitting pretty at #669, and in 1982 it was back in the game at #496. Though its rise hasn't been the steadiest, in 2011 it ranked at #449, a number that puts it well within the comfortable "heard-of, but not overused" category. 

All it would take for Solomon to become a top 100 mainstay again is a little pop-culture nudge to tip it from "specifically religious" to "weighty, yet accessible." I even think it has a little bit of the cute-old-dude-in-suspenders air, and seems right at home next to more popular favorites like Henry and Oliver. The nickname possibilities are beyond adorable (I'm thinking Solly for a little boy and Sol for a teenager) and the soft Os and L make for a refreshing sound in a boys name. 

Not just for villains and kings, Solomon is definitely deserving of a spot on a few more favorites lists.

Monday, August 27

Sonoma Bunch

Freshly back from a quick August trip to Sonoma, I've got a good bunch of overheard names — Ottilie and I spent our mornings at the playground in the town square, and most of these were spotted there. It's funny, the difference between overheard names in Los Angeles and Sonoma really speaks to the differences of the two places. One's a city, one's a small-town, one's consumed by trends, with a razor-sharp focus on presentation, and the other's laid-back,  influenced only by that particular gorgeous, comfy northern California brand of nature. 

Hope you enjoy these Sonoma-finds — 

Briar — what a sweet, underused choice. It was so refreshing to hear this one. From the name of the thorny plant, it's also, technically, a princess name, belonging to Briar Rose, aka Sleeping Beauty. I can see it working just as well on a boy. This Briar had a pair of little twin sisters whose names I, unfortunately, didn't overhear. (I think one might have been Caroline, though.)
Greta — perhaps my favorite Margaret-diminutive, Greta shares its lovely meaning: "pearl"
Greylin — I thought this girl's name was some spelling of Braelyn, but luckily another parent asked her to spell it for him, so I learned that it was actually Grey, not Brae, which I'd count as a fortunate change. Reminds me a bit of Greyling, which could make a cool, unexpected middle
Ivy — another name  inspired by the Sonoma landscape? Ivy is one of the few nature names that can sound totally sophisticated in the right combo
Season — I heard this one about a thousand times, as the mom kept calling her daughter by her full first & middle names (she must be proud of her choice!) I thought using Season was so unusual that her middle name (Marie) seemed lackluster by comparison
Violet — on an older girl, maybe around 10, with heavily-tattooed young Goth-ish parents. She wore it well

Gus  wish I knew if this was short for August, or a standalone. Or, even better, for Augustus or Angus
Truman — loved hearing this one on a little blond boy, such a big, yet workable, name, and one of the fresher-sounding US-president choices
Wilder — this one seemed very LA to me, but hearing it in Sonoma made it less try-hardy
Zeke — a sweet Australian kid whose grandmother kept calling him Zekey

And a couple sibling sets I managed to catch — 

Mattea & Oliver 
Juliette & Fiona — there were 2 more girls whose names I didn't catch. I can think of a few fitting posibilities. Perhaps Genevieve or Catriona? 
Greta, Vivian & Ruby — with each name in this set, I swooned harder and harder. I think Ruby was the oldest, then Vivian, then Greta. I was shocked to hear Greta twice! 
Phoebe & Finn 

Ottilie paints on the deck

Monday, August 13

2012 Olympic Names: Round 3

The Olympics may be over, but the list of Olympic names has a lot more to give. Check out these beauties — 

Aldemir (Brazil)
Briken (Albania) 
Chika (Nigeria) 
Custio (Canada)  
Deni (Indonesia)
Detelin (Bulgaria)
Everton (Brazil)
Freedom (South Africa) 
Hersony (Venezuela
Johnno (Australia)
Liviu (Romania)
Muller (Gabon)
Rok (Slovenia)
Roxroy (Jamaica) 
Saliou (Senegal) 
Seba (Switzerland)
Teshome (Ethiopia)
Teun (Netherlands)
Winder (Dominican Republic)
Zelin (China)
Zurabi (Georgia)

Azenaide (Angola) 
Bethania (Dominican Republic)
Blandine (France)
Chauzje (Zambia) 
Dailis (Cuba) 
Diletta (Italy) 
Dirkie (South Africa)
Jolien (Belgium)
Kissya (Brazil)
Liesbet (Belgium)
Linouse (Haiti)
Mavzuna (Tajikistan)
Merel (Netherlands)
Onix (Cuba)
Pietie (South Africa)
Rushmi (India) 
Saruba (Gambia)
Sulette (South Africa)
Swin (USA) 
Sytske (Netherlands)
Talitiga (Samoa)
Tandara (Brazil) 
Tassia (Brazil)
Tejitu (Bahrain)
Zamandosi (South Africa) 

Thursday, August 2

2012 Olympic Names: Round 2

More Olympic names! More, I say! Which of these get a gold medal?

Bence (Hungary) 
Beni (Burundi) — cute little Ben- variants, these 2
Caio (Brazil)  
Cedric (France) — why isn't Cedric more popular in the US?  
Chatchai (Thailand
Edvald (Norway)
Ek (Thailand) — hard to find an appealing 2-letter name, but I really like Ek. It's fun to say. Ek ek ek ek
Grega (Slovenia) 
Ibrahima (Senegal) 
Juozas (Lithuania)
Keerati (Thailand)
Liemarvin (Independent Olympic athlete)
Linus (Germany) — his surname is Butt. That's funny 
Lorys (France)
Onan (Spain)
Renan (Belarus)
Shea (USA)
Tariku (Ethiopia) 
Vullnet (Switzerland)
Yowlys (Cuba) — between Lorys and Yowlys, I'm feeling the "-ys" ending for a boy

Almensh (Belgium) 
Amina (Sudan) 
Anahit (Armenia) 
Ancuta (Romania) 
Anqi (China)
Aude (France)
Beata (Poland)
Bebey (Cameroon)
Carina (Germany) 
Caterin (Chile)
Clemence (France) 
Cleopatra (Trinidad & Tobago)
Coralie (France) 
Dailin (Cuba)
Dotsie (USA) — cutesie 
Fanny (France)
Fionnuala (Ireland) 
Iga (Poland) 
Ioulietta (Greece) — love the look of this Juliet variant 
Kaltoum (Morocco)
Laurence (France) 
Madonna (Australia)
Matelita (Fiji) — pretty
Monia (Italy)
Neide (Angola) 
Oiana (Spain)
Olia (Australia) 
Paule (France)
Pernille (Denmark)  — Pernille's really growing on me
Rushlee (New Zealand) 
Sinivie (Nigeria)
Sona (Czech Republic)
Spela (Slovenia)
Talita (Jordan)
Tanoh (Côte d'Ivoire) 
Tine (Denmark)
Ursa (Slovenia) 
Willemijn (Netherlands)