Wednesday, February 29

Leap Names

Early love days -- I had black hair for a year

It's extremely difficult for me to believe, but I first met my husband on Leap Day 2004 — so today is our 2nd/8th dating anniversary. Here are ten names from my favorites list that would be a real leap for me to actually use in real life:

Earnest — I prefer this variant spelling of Ernest, for some reason. I like that it's the way the word is spelled, and maybe it's less likely to get Ernie as a nickname (I'd prefer just Ern). From a Germanic root meaning "serious," its literary connections are appealing. There's Hemingway, of course, and Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest." Some pretty cool variants, too: feminine French Ernestine, Dutch & German Ernst, Finnish Erno and Spanish Ernesto
Indus — taken from the name of the river (which flows from Tibet through India and Pakistan), Indus is a derivative of the word Hindu, which is why it seems a little too weighted-down to use on an actual child, though I love the sound and the connection with nature and early human civilization
Makepeace — one of my favorite name-smushes, Makepeace was the middle name of writer William Thackeray. I love to use a daring middle name — so many times the middle name choice is an afterthought, when really they are the perfect opportunity to use something more adventurous. Who wouldn't want their middle name to be Makepeace? For a pacifist like me it's got a pretty solid meaning
Spintho — no idea where I found this, but I think it has something to do with the term spinto, which means "pushed" in Italian and refers to a certain type of soprano or tenor. It read kind of new-wavey to me and I think it would work really well for a character in a story
Wycliffe — Wycliffe has been up and down on my list since I added it. I can never decide where it falls, and it's impossible to pair it with anything suitable (suggestions welcome!) 

Almira —  a variant of Elmira, this name comes from Germanic elements meaning "noble" and "famous," though I wonder if it might be connected to Alma, from the Latin almus, meaning "nourishing," or the Spanish word for "soul."  I prefer the "AL-meer-ah" pronunciation to one with a long "I" sound 
Anca — a diminutive of Ana, this name is pronounced like Bianca, without the Bi. I'm a sucker for sharp, succinct, yet feminine names, and this is one of them. There's also a town in Portugal called Ançã, though I assume the pronunciation is different
Dovima — 1950s fashion model Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba created a stage name by taking the first two letters of each of her given names. The result is an exotic, unusual name that is totally created (not all namers are averse to making up names, after all, most names were made-up at some point or another). Such great nickname possibilities here: Dovi, Vim, Mimi ...
Ivalo — another river name! The Ivalo river is in Finland's Lapland province, and it's also the name of a town. The little Danish Princess Josephine has Ivalo as one of her middle names. It's actually a Greenlandic name meaning "tendon, thread," or "sinew"
Vilde — this one is currently quite high on my list. It's a short form of Alvilde, which is a variant of an Old Norse name (Alfhild) meaning "noble," which belonged to a warrior maiden from Norse legend

Monday, February 27

Panning for Name Gold: 2000

the deer at Nara, by lomonowski via Flickr

Welcome to the new millennium, and 10 new names from the very bottom of the popularity chart. Only one more decade left!

Cephas — I almost mentioned Cephas for my Lithium post, because Cephas means "rock" in Aramaic. Simon the apostle was called Cephas by Jesus, and in most versions of the New Testament, it is translated into Greek as Petros. It's a little clunky, and the "Ceph-" is not he most attractive sound, but there's something to its unusual makeup that appeals
Cully — I've seen Sully as a boys' nickname (for Sullivan, most of the time) but Cully seems a cleaner, fresh variant. With the popularity of Cullen on the rise (there's one namers will be watching when the stats for 2011 come out in May) Cully could make a sweet short form
Django — the most well-known bearer of this name is probably guitarist Django Reinhardt, whose real name was Jean. The name means "I awake" in Romani. I think we could see it get a little attention when Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film Django Unchained is released later this year
Eero — a Finnish form of Eric, architect Eero Saarinen is where most non-Finnish people recognize this name. It also belongs to Finnish interior designer Eero Aarnio and is a super-cool choice for parents looking for something in the Milo/Arlo vein, but worry about the future popularity of those trendy choices
Erasmus — from the Greek for "beloved," Saint Erasmus is also known as Saint Elmo (of "fire" fame) and was the patron saint of sailors. I like its vaguely hickish sound and its many nickname possibilities -- wouldn't a kid called Rasmus be kind of amazing?

Dulcinea —  in Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, Dulcinea (which means "sweetness") is the subject of Quixote's undying obsession. Though she's really a peasant girl named Aldonza, Quixote sees her as a superhuman beauty. In the musical The Man of La Mancha, he sings, "Dulcinea, Dulcinea/ I see heaven when I see thee, Dulcinea/ And thy name is like a prayer an angel whispers"
Eugenie — this is the French form of Eugenia, and the name of Napoleon III's wife, though its most famous modern bearer is probably Princess Eugenie of York, daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. I particularly like it as Eugénie, with the French spelling and pronunciation
Hero — Hero's one I've seen used a few times (British celebrities Myleene Klass and Aaron Johnson have new daughters named Hero) recently. I like it for its strong sound and mythological associations. In Greek myth, Hero was the lover of Leander, who swum the Hellespont each night to be with her. It's also the name of a character in Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" 
Malin — Swedish-Canadian actress Malin Åkerman has brought this name into popular awareness and I think it could begin to be used more often. Though it hasn't been in the top 1,000 for the past 132 years (at least) it has elements that should appeal to the modern American parent -- particularly the "-lin" ending. It's a Swedish and Norse (it's in the top 100 in Norway, and on the decline in Sweden) short form of Magdalene, a name rich with history
Nara — this one caught my eye because of the city of Nara, on Honshū island, in Japan. Nara is home to many ancient temples and shrines, and is most famous for its deer. According to the legend of Kasuga shrine, a mythological god named Takemikazuchi came to Nara on a white deer to guard the capital. Deer are regarded as heavenly creatures that protect the city, and they roam freely, pestering tourists for snacks and being generally very magical

Saturday, February 25

And The Oscar Goes To ...

photo by Alan Light via Flickr

Movie credits are always a great place to find new names — I particularly like older movies for dusty throwback finds. The Academy Awards are taking over town tomorrow, so I thought I'd look through the list of cast and crew of the nominees for Best Picture. 

from The Artist —

Basil, Cleto, Tasso, Uggie, Wiley
Bérénice, Bitsie, Maize, Penelope, Peppy

from The Descendants —

Laird, Milo, Stanton, Waldo, Zoel
Amara, Fileena, Kaui, Shailene, Tiare

from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close —

Boris, Hamlet, Harlan, Hector, Oskar
Aurelia, Hazelle, Mona, Ryka, Viola

from The Help —

Coyt, Hughes, Jeno, Raleigh, Tate
Aibileen, Constantine, Hilly, Roslyn, Yule Mae

from Hugo —

Asa, Django, Gulliver, Mihai, Sacha
Belles, Hovette, Lisette, Mathilde, Nuria

from Midnight in Paris —

Gad, Jaume, Marcial, Sava, Serge
Inez, Léa, Marie-Sohne, Mimi, Zelda

from Moneyball —

Cabran, Grady, Kerris, Onesimus, Vyto
Francine, Gretta, Sian, Solange, Suzaine

from The Tree of Life —

Cayler, Finnegan, Goro, Laramie, Shay
Erma, Fiona, Irene, Leora, Rue

from War Horse —

Albert, Anian, Brandt, Hinnerk, Manex
Anayanzi, Chamia, Malwina, Revel, Rose

Friday, February 24

Elemental Names: Beryllium

Periodic Table, found via UNIFORM on Tumblr
Atomic number 4 belongs to brittle Beryllium, a chemical component found in some gemstones. It takes its name from the gem Beryl, a clear or pale-green precious stone — "beryl" is derived from a Sanskrit word that may refer to the name of a place in India, and came into use as a given name in the 19th century. Veruliya, a Prakrit word from its etymology, stood out as particularly lovely. 

Beryl was in the SSA top 1,000 in 1880, when it was #518, and stayed on the list until 1957, when it last appeared at #913 before disappearing entirely. It was most popular in 1920, when it reached #372 (the modern day equivalent would be Kenzie) and was a pretty steady presence in the 400-600 range for most of its run, until the early '50s, when it started to fall.

Aquamarines and emeralds contain beryllium — a deep-blue version of aquamarine is called Maxixe. The Middle English and old French versions of emerald would make beautiful, very unusual choices — they are Emeraude and Ésmeraude, respectively. 

The English word "brilliance," is derived from beryl, and some names with shiny meanings include Cassandra, which comes from Greek elements and means "to shine upon man" — Castor comes from the same roots. The "-dra" ending of Chandra puts me off, but it means "moon" in Sanskrit, and is derived from the element Chand, meaning "to shine," which I find much more intriguing on its own. Dai, a Welsh diminutive of David, also means "to shine." 

Unisex Hebrew name Zohar means "light," or "brilliance," and has great variants, including Zahara, Zaahir and Zaahira. Arabic name Sana means "radiance" and currently cracks the French top 200. One of the three Graces of Greek mythology was named Phaenna, which means "shining." Russian form Faina is also nice. Another mythological name is Taliesin, which means "shining brow," and was the name of a wizard-prophet of Welsh lore.

One can also find inspiration in the color of the gemstones themselves. Irish male name Odhrán (pronounced "O-rawn") means "little pale green one," and variants Orin and Odran are quite handsome. Even the word "green" itself might offer some name possibilities when translated, if you don't mind venturing into "naive" or "immature" territory — like Éretlen (Hungarian), Vert or Verte (French), Verdura or Novellino (Italian) and Midori (Japanese).

Wednesday, February 22

Rare Dutch Boys: Part Two

postcard from 1947, by Jan Willemsen on Flickr

After a short hiatus for the holiday weekend, here's the second installment of rare Dutch boy names. Enjoy!

Beau-Luc — thought this was a fun, unexpected double name
Manouk —  the male Anouk?
Minnow —  I'm looking at you, Nicole Richie 
Sybolt —  found this one particularly appealing, maybe because of my love of Sibyl

Tuesday, February 14

Valentine's Day Name Game

Another holiday, another name game. For this one, the names were randomly selected from my list of married couples gathered from the New York Times wedding announcements. To play:

Leave a comment, and choose 4 numbers, from 1 through 50. You may repeat numbers if you like.

Specify whether you'd prefer a male/female pairing or a same sex couple, and I'll do a post tomorrow with your new Valentine's day matches. 

In the meantime, feel free to get weepy and/or warm 'n gooey whilst listening to this pretty deep Stevie Wonder song.

the many sounds that meet our ears
the sights our eyes behold,
will open up our merging hearts,
and feed our empty souls

I believe when I fall in love with you 
it will be forever,
I believe when I fall in love this time 
it will be forever

Update: Thanks to everyone who played! Here are your happy couples — 

Lou  —  Rémy Harris and Gwen Jaya
Anonymous 10:41  —  Tick Basile and Simone Lela
breakingthenight  —  Ambrose Guy and Rose Edith
Caitlin  —  Rahul Hays and Heath Gillian
Chelsea K  —  Sophien Archibald and Christiane Yael
Anonymous 8:33  —  Raphael Javit and Molly Caroline
appleteeth  —  Heath Constance and Marion Marcella

Monday, February 13

let's talk about: George

George-lovers Orwell and Eliot, aka Eric and Mary-Anne

Sometimes I get obsessed with a set of names and start seeing them everywhere. After I posted about Edith, I thought how lovely another featured name, Nina, sounded next to it. Then, at the playground, I met a little Nina with a brother called George. There three sound so well-suited, as a group. Nina, Edith & George, classics with some edge, interesting sounds, grown-up yet workable for a small child.

George has been in the top 200 for as long as the SSA list is available (it goes back to 1880 online) and its recorded peak was at #4, a position it held steadily from 1884 to 1909. That's quite a chunk of time, enough to ensure its popularity for years to come — George is currently at #164, still very high. On the decline since 1926, in recent years it's gone up and down a few points, off and on. This indicates that, in the US at least, George is on the verge of either giving up entirely and going out of style, or hanging on, pulling through and remaining a regularly-used classic. I wonder if it'll settle at a lower or higher spot, or just keep falling until it's no longer in the top 1,000.

George's rich history of use is why it's managed to be such a presence on the charts for so long. It's a name associated with saints, royals (I counted 21 king Georges from at least 3 countries, and 12 princes), writers and artists. 

It's comprised of Greek elements meaning "earth" and "worker," often translated as "farmer." Some great variants include Croatian Juro, Dutch Joeri, Finnish Yrjö, Frisian Joris, Galician Xurxo, German Jürgen (say that 10 times fast), medieval German Jurian, medieval Scandinavian Yrian, Swedish Örjan and Welsh Siôr. Some feminine variants include Georgia, Georgiana, Georgina, Georgeta and Georgette.

Wednesday, February 8

Rare Dutch Boys: Part One

Plukkie Pluisstaart by Willy Schermele, via Jan Willemsen on Flickr

I did three installments of my favorite picks from the dregs of the Dutch girl statistics, now here are my favorites of the boys. Enjoy — 

Gilliam — Monty Python fans?
Phileas — intriguing! 
Vallanor — quite gallant 
Vip — "the vipper of Vip"

Tuesday, February 7

Panning for Name Gold: 1990

Best name-change ever? You decide.

It's the beginning of the end — of a millennium, and here are 10 names from the very bottom of the charts.

Macaulay — Macaulay Culkin was 10 years old in 1990, and coincidentally this is the same year that Home Alone was released. I wonder if the sudden arrival of Macaulay on the popularity charts (there were 5 born in '90, and a name must be used at least 5 times to get listed) can be credited entirely to his pop culture emergence — it certainly seems so. His parents chose  interesting names for their brood — Macaulay's siblings are Shane, Dakota, Kieran, Quinn, Christian & Rory
Ruffin — almost always found as a surname, possibly derived from Rufus, which means "red-haired." It's also the name of a town in North Carolina which is named after Edmund Ruffin, who seems to have been a pretty despicable human being, and is credited with firing the first shot of the civil war … weirdly, I had no idea about this connection when I chose it along with Sojourner, mentioned below
Tolliver — derived from an Italian surname meaning "iron cutter," Tolliver struck me for its similarity to trendy/new classic Oliver, which I see all over the place here in LA. I like the idea of it as an Oliver-spinoff and the nickname "Toll" or "Tolly" for a young boy is pretty cute
Wing — obviously a word name, I was surprised to see Wing listed on the boy side of things, then wondered, why not? It's a nature name and I like the images it conjures up of angels and other mythical beings and beasts. It's fun to say, sharp and quick, and, paired with the right middle and surname, could be something quite special — could work as a choice for parents interested in sailing, aviation or nature
Zephan — probably a short form of Biblical name Zephaniah, which means "Yahweh has hidden," and is the name of one of the twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament. Zeph's a pretty cool nickname, dontcha think?

Fanchon —  a diminutive of the name Françoise, which means "from France," Fanchon Moreau was an opera singer at the turn of the 17th century. Who knew operas have such great names in them? Moreau sang the parts of Astrée, Oriane, Sidonie, Créuse and Hésione, to name just a few
Leota — there's a place called Leota Township in Minnesota, and town lore says that it was named for a young Native American woman, though its similarity to names like Leta and Leona make me think that might just be a story
Moya — I've found Moya listed as a variant of Maia, Moira and as a Hebrew name. However it seems to be found mostly on Irish and British women as a first name, or as a Hispanic surname. It's also a place name, and can be found in the Canary Islands, Comoros, Peru, Niger and Spain. There's a municipality in Catalonia, Spain called Moià, which I think makes a very attractive spelling. It's a term found in Japanese architecture, as well (referring to the core of a building, which is a nice added meaning)
Sojourner — the dictionary definition of this word name is "a person who resides temporarily in a place" and its most famous bearer was abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth, whose birth name was Isabella Baumfree. A bold choice but what a fantastic namesake she would be
Tehani — Tehani is one I've come across in real life -- it's a Tahitian name meaning "the sweet smelling caress of flowers," though I've also seen it listed as meaning "celebration," from various sources. In any case it gets some regular use in the US, though it's very uncommon, and it has a lovely musical sound

Monday, February 6

Elemental Names: Lithium

Periodic Table, found via UNIFORM on Tumblr

Lithium takes its name from the Greek word lithos, meaning "stone." Perhaps the most famous stone-related name is Peter, which means "rock." Peter was the name given to the apostle Simon by Jesus. Saint Peter is widely believed to have been the first Pope, the "rock" upon which the foundation of the Catholic church was built. Peter has some great variants, including medieval French Piers, Dutch Piet, Basque Peio, Macedonian Pece and Swedish Pelle and Per. For girls, Peta and Petra are nice, unexpected choices.

Some other names with stone meanings include old English Dunstan, which means "dark stone," Arabic male name Fihr, which means "stone pestle," Finnish girl name Pinja which means "stone pipe," Old Norse Sixten, from elements meaning "victory" and "stone," and Old English Wystan, which means "battle stone." Another Norse choice is Torsten, which means "Thor's stone," and refers to a place in England that is said to have been an early Viking settlement and religious ceremonial ground.

Lithium is a soft, silver-white metal — Sterling comes to mind. It means "little star," and also carries meaning as an English word meaning "excellent."

Lithium is represented by the symbol Li, which is a name in its own right. It is a unisex Hebrew name meaning "to me." It is also a unisex name in Chinese — for boys, it is usually represented by the symbols for "reason" or "logic" (理), "stand" (立), "dawn" or "black" (黎) or "strength/power" (力). For girls, it usually means "beautiful" (丽) ... because that's the best you can hope for with a girl? Blah! 

"I'm so happy/ 'cos today I found my friends/ they're in my head" Chemical salts of lithium are sometimes administered as a mood-stabilizing medication for various conditions including bipolar and schizoaffective disorders. Some cheerful names: Alaia, which means "joyful" in Basque, Eija, a Finnish name taken from an exclamation of happiness (eijaa), Obrad, a Serbian name meaning "to make happy," and Nandita, a Sanskrit name meaning "happy." And some depressed: Dolores means "sorrows," Tristan is from the Latin tristis, meaning "sad," and Mahzun is a Turkish male name that also means "sad."

Friday, February 3

Friday Faves

Jane for Friday

he don't like his boring job, no

Jane for Saturday

all the girls look the same

and Janes for Sunday, too

anyone who ever had a heart

all of the flower ladies

Jane seems the perfect name to fit any kind of story, less a blank-Doe slate than an inspiring, mysterious classic. Jane gets more love as a middle name than a first, and I think it's less common than people assume, at least in the US — it's currently at #384 on the charts, and last peaked at #35, in 1946. 

It's a feminine form of John, of course, and has lots of lovely variants — my favorites include sweet, retro Janet, Dutch diminutive Jantine, underrated Janine, Icelandic Jóna, punk rock Sheena and Welsh Siân ("SHAH:N").

Wednesday, February 1

Rare Dutch Girls: Part Three

Amsterdam, 1937 by janwillemsen on Flickr

Here's the final installment of super-rare Dutch girl names. These names were used only once in the Netherlands last year, and I'll be posting my list of favorites from the boy list next.

Clelia — I went to elementary school with a girl called Clelia. Pronounced "clay-lee-ah"  
Eylül — this is a Turkish name that means "September"
Lèmoni — can't resist this 
Suze-Roos — total crafty-hip vibe here