Friday, March 30

Rare Dutch Boys: Part Four

illustration by Wilhelmina Schermelé, via janwillemsen on Flickr 

Here's the first half of the names used on only two baby boys in last year's Dutch birth announcements —  

Corneley — adding "-ley" to the end of a name seems to be reserved mainly for boys    
Everon — I can see this one getting some attention stateside
Lalo — an underrated ends-in-O name  
Loeka — I imagine this is pronounced like Luka, love this variant

Wednesday, March 28

let's talk about: Vincent

Vincents real and fictional — van Gogh & Vega

I've heard Vincent described as "dated," but that never made sense to me. Yeah, call him Vinny and it brings to mind over-tanned Jersey Shore rejects, but Vincent has modern classic written all over it. It's a name with an extensive history of use that has been a steady presence on the US charts since the 1880s. Vincent is cool —  masculine yet soft, recognizable in many cultures, suitable for a troubled artist or young prince (Danish Prince Vincent was born in 2011) — and unusual enough that it'll stand out without being conspicuous. 

Vincent is from the Roman name Vincentius, from the Latin for "to conquer." Popular with early Christians, it has been in regular use since the Middle Ages. A famous early bearer of the name was Saint Vincent de Paul, a French Catholic priest who dedicated his life to serving the poor. The French pronunciation of Vincent is one of my favorites, though probably unworkable for an American boy — you can hear it here, sung by Yves Montand.

In the US, Vincent began to rise in popularity around the late 1800s. By the turn of the century it was at #129, only 20 spots off where it ranks today, at #109. Though fairly steadily in the lower 100s, it saw periods of increased popularity in the 1910s, '60s and '80s — and it reached its highest point in 1966, at #58. It ranks popularly in many countries, including Sweden, where it's well within the top 50, the Netherlands and France, where it's in the top 200.

Vincent has many great variants — Basque Bikendi, Catalan Vicenç, Czech Cenek, German Vinzent or Vinzenz, Hungarian Bence, Italian Vincenzo, original Late Roman Vincentius, Portuguese and Spanish Vicente, Russian Vikenti and Slovene Vinko.

Monday, March 26

Southwest Births

photo of the Arizona sunset by laliseuse (my little sister!) via Flickr
One of my favorite name blogs to browse is Names 4 Real, a site where real birth announcements from all over the country (and beyond) are posted for perusal, evaluation, inspiration — it's a great way to keep an eye on what names are actually being given to newborns. Looking at birth announcements is the only way to find any data at all on middle names in the US, since the SSA site doesn't provide any data for names used in the middle spot.

From 2007-2010 I kept track of the births at two hospitals in my hometown in Arizona. Far from the naming forefront, I managed to get a pretty solid little database going for those 4 years. Here are some of the names that stood out as I browsed through it yesterday — 

Adele Luvilla 
Agetha Daisy — not sure what accounts for the change in spelling, here
Aenea Irene 
Aki Opal 
Akira Nefertiti — Akira more often appeared on the girls' side than the boys 
Astrid Renata
Aureliana Luisa — a super-frilly "Aur-" name
Blessing Morning Sun 
Bridgette Jerusha 
Camilla Editha 
Caroleen Jasper — something charmingly country-fied about this one  
Cibelle Evangeline 
Clementine Velouria — parents Pixies fans?
Cyra Valdine 
Doris Victoria — totally unusual to see Doris on a baby 
Flower Bea 
Georgine Olivia
Gingerlea Rose 
Isis Alta 
Jewels Hummingbird 
Katterli Helena
Letha Louise 
Lizabella Matilda
Mariska Love
Mary Bernardine 
Nicaëlle Vella 
Ninella Annelise 
Noor Fatima
Persephone May 
Petra Lyma 
Rita Beatrice — Rita's growing on me 
Roxy Simone
Sweden Little Feather 
Temperance Rose 
Vida Yen 
Violet Prudence 
Vivianne Lily
Zada Jane 
Zoila Eulaila 
Zuly Mariamne 

Arrow James 
Arthas Kael 
Bear Hobbs 
Dezmen Diggy — there was one more occurance of Dezman, I guess a Desmond variant spelling? 
Diego Lucius 
Doc Jack
Enoch Antonio 
Flint Beau 
Golden Foremaster — woah 
Harold Maxwell — something about Harold on a baby cracks me up 
Haven Zebedee 
Illiad Piercing Stone 
Jossmar Raphael — long form of Joss potential
Keane Kimble 
Killian Kidd 
Kincade Hite — Hite just makes me think of the Korean beer 
Leander Dixon
Leto Jonah 
Linus Anderson 
Lucian Elias 
Marcellus Rocco
Mavi Juno — reads a bit feminine to me, but nice 
Milo Danger — a few uses of Danger as a middle name, for boys and girls
North Gregory
Odis Zeus 
Quinton Forrest 
Ramses Admassu 
Redd Morningsun
Rollin Jasper 
Ruben Aleksander 
Silas Victory 
Sol Walter
Valentin Hector
Victor Abel 
Vinson Wynn 
William Wilbur
Zuri Hopper

Saturday, March 24

Rare Dutch Girls: Part Five

illustration by Rie Cramer via janwillemsen on Flickr

Here's the second half of names used only twice in last year's Dutch birth announcements. Some lovely little finds here —  

Catho — could be a nickname for Cathalina, above
Dautsen — looks like a variant spelling of Doutzen 
Floralie — so pretty
Navaja — Navajo-inspired, I wonder?

Friday, March 23

Friday Faves

Wednesday's Mother Goose post (and the birthday of a good friend) put Pollyanna/Polly on my mind. And you know, once Polly's in your mind, she tends to stay a nice long while. 

The song's a cautionary tale, however — 

Polly wouldn't listen to her mama
Polly wouldn't listen to her papa 
she tried to make the swinging city scene
and now there's not a place that Polly hasn't been

Polly, pretty pretty Pollyanna
pretty pretty Pollyanna
pretty Polly Garter 
oh I think that pretty Polly should have stayed at home

As I said in the previous post, Polly's a nickname for Mary (though I have heard of it used as a nickname for Margaret as well) and Pollyanna is a name-smush made famous by a novel — 1913's Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter — and a 1960 film, based on the book. 

Polly fell off the charts (it had been a steady 200-400 range presence since the 1880s) in the 1970s rather abruptly. In '74 it was at #692 — by '75 it had fallen to #866, and in 1976 it did not appear in the top 1,000. Curiously, it did appear in 1977, at #798. Since then it has not ranked. 

In 2010, there were 35 baby girls born in the US named Polly, and no more than 5 named Pollyanna (Pollyanna has not appeared in the top 1,000 for at least 132 years) — if you're looking for a very uncommon name that has the charm and appeal of an historic nickname, Polly's a (pretty pretty) solid choice.

Wednesday, March 21

Names from Mother Goose

illustration by Blanche Fisher Wright

How many miles to Babylon?
Threescore miles and ten.
Can I get there by candlelight?
Yes, and back again.
~ from "To Babylon"

I've always loved reading Mother Goose rhymes to my daughter, and she loves them, too. Looking through our many, many collections, I realized they were a great place to find names. Here are some that stood out.

Hector — meaning "holding fast," Hector was a Trojan warrior of Greek myth. The original Greek spelling of the name is Hektor, which I slightly prefer for its more angular look. It's a name that's been on my long list for some time. Seems that Ms. Goose might have been aware of the meaning/history (not too shabby, for a goose) since this one comes from a rhyme called "Hector Protector"
Pippen — this one's from "Pippen Hill," which is sort of a cheat, but there are way too many boys called Jack, Johnny and Jim in nursery rhymes, so I looked for anything unusual that could work as a name. Pippen ultimately derives from Frankish name Pépin, which may mean "awe-inspiring," or "to tremble." Pépin III the Short was Charlemagne's father
Solomon — from "Solomon Grundy." From Hebrew, Solomon means "peace." I love the history and heft of this one, and its variants. Some favorites include Turkish Süleiman and Portuguese Salomão 
Taffy — yep, Taffy's a boy. A Welshman, actually (and a thief, the scumbag). It's a diminutive of the Welsh form of David, Dafydd. Finnish form Taavi is pretty cool too, and reads slightly more masculine to the un-Welsh eye
Wilkin — a medieval diminutive of William, I think this one could get some love from modern parents looking for a way to honor Bill with something less common

Bo-Peep —  all right, so I wouldn't necessarily advise naming your child Bo-Peep, but imagine it in an alternate universe where excessively twee double-names are totally acceptable. I love the sounds. Bo's always been a guilty pleasure of mine (spelled Beau, too, for a boy or a girl) and who doesn't think Peep makes a sweet nickname, at least?
Joan — Jeanne d'Arc is a great namesake for a girl (if you can overlook the burning at the stake imagery) and Joan's a nouveau classic that hasn't been brought back into Trendyland just yet. From "Little Jumping Joan," master of the obvious: "Here am I, little jumping Joan,/ when nobody's with me/ I'm always alone"
Nancy — from "Nancy Dawson," as I understand it this one does enjoy some use amongst modern British parents at least, appearing regularly on new baby girls in the birth announcements there. It's still quite dated in the US but as we know, generally the US follows slightly behind British name trends, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Nancy begin to pop up here and there
Polly — a nice Mary-diminutive (or Pollyanna diminutive!) Polly is one I'd consider to be a prototypical nursery rhyme name. Sweet, short, lyrical and classic, I'd love to see Polly used at least as much as similar-sounding Molly. From a few rhymes, including "Little Polly Flinders" and "Polly and Sukey," which leads us to ...
Sukey — that contrarian who keeps taking the kettle off. The Sookie Stackhouse novels and True Blood series have brought Sookie into the mainstream, though I first heard it in the annoying film Igby Goes Down, where Claire Danes plays a girl called Sookie (if I remember correctly, there's a name joke made at her expense, too) 

If you're feeling very adventurous and have a gaggle of girls to name, I think the various double-names from nursery rhymes would make a great, weird sister set. Can't beat combinations like Bessy Bell, Mary Gray, Betty Blue, Jenny Wren, Lucy Locket and Kitty Fisher, really.

Monday, March 19

Elemental Names: Boron

Periodic table, found via UNIFORM on Tumblr
Unfortunately-named Boron is the next element on the periodic table — it's a fussy element, hard to make pure and more happy in a compound. Its more common naturally-occuring compounds are the borate minerals, which include Kernite and Borax, and intriguing Ulexite, which looks like a Nahuatl name. There are over 100 borate minerals, many of them named for the people who discovered them. Here are some interesting choices gleaned from that long list, some with the "-ite" ending and some without — Sassolite, Tusio, Vonsen, Sakhaite, Tuzla and Fabian.

Names with five-inspired meanings include Japanese Goro (or Gorou), which is traditionally bestowed upon the fifth son in a family; the Akan people of Ghana and the Côte d'Ivoire have a similar unisex name, Enu, which means "fifth-born child." Then there's Pompey, from the Roman family name Pompeius, which is from a Sabellic word meaning "five," and the Quins — from Quintus, there's plenty of options here that would work as given names for a child of any birth order (or born in May) or as a nickname for one whose given name ends with "IV." I particularly like plain Quint, feminine Quintina, Quentin and Quinton, and classic unisex choice Quinn

Lovers of awesome sci-fi movies probably already thought of The Fifth Element, a film which is responsible for launching Lilou onto the French popularity charts. Milla Jovovitch's character actually spells it Leeloo. In what I'm aware is a pretty nebulous connection, here are some names of other characters in the movie — Korben Dallas, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel, Vito Cornelius, Ruby Rhod, Munro, Fog, Achen and Omar

Saturday, March 17

Rare Dutch Girls: Part Four

illustration by Rie Cramer, via janwillemsen on Flickr

On to the names used not once, but twice, in last year's Dutch birth announcements. Enjoy!

Bodien  the more I hear/see these Bodine variants (Bodijn, etc ...) the more I like them
Cacharel — a better sound than Armani or something
Giverny — here's an unusual place name, very pretty
Joss — I love this on a girl  

Tuesday, March 13

Panning for Name Gold: 2010

Lawrence Durell's The Alexandria Quartet

This is the final installment in the Panning for Name Gold series. To view the rest of the decades (all the way back to 1880), check out the link at the right, or go here. See you in 2020!

Issam — an Arabic name meaning "safeguard," or "security." This one has elements that aren't often popular in English names, but really appeal to me (ending in "M," especially) — I wonder about its popularity in the Arab world. Anyone know?
Janus — means "archway" in Latin. In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions, a great meaning to bestow upon a baby. He is often depicted with two faces because he looks to the future and the past
Oslo — oh look, another place name. They just stick out in the list, bright spots in a sea of fifty-ways-to-spell-Nevaeh. Milo, Otto and Oscar are trendy boy choices, why not Oslo? 
Seraph — we have oracles, gopis and gods in this set, now we have an angel. The word means "burning ones," and refers to a celestial being, the exact type of which varies from religion to religion. Again, I like the sound more than anything
Welles — for fans of Orson? From an English place name (the village of Well in Lincolnshire), I like this spelling much more than Wells. Something about the symmetry, maybe, and it looks less like a plural noun. It's mostly found as a surname but I could see it make the transition to given name quite naturally

Atlanta —  taken from the name of Atlas in Greek mythology, this feminine form is most well-known as the capital of Georgia. It's mostly overlooked as a first name, though obviously a few parents looked past its city ties and saw something really unusual and kind of pretty. I also like similar Atalanta, who was a mythological figure in her own right (she refused to marry anyone who could not beat her in a footrace — her name comes from the Greek for "equal in weight") 
Clea — this one has some lovely connections. Clea was one of the Delphic oracles, and the title character of a Lawrence Durell novel from his series The Alexandria Quartet (the other three books have lovely name-titles as well: Justine, Balthazar and Mountolive). Its similarity in sound to names like Leah, Mia, Chloe and Cleo means that it's an unusual choice with an easy, recognizable sound
Lalita — a Sanskrit name meaning "playful, charming." In Hinduism, Lalita was a gopi ("cow-herd girl"), a playmate and devotee of the young god Krishna. It's such a sweet name, and paired with the meaning, almost onomatopoeic
Solace — a word meaning "comfort in distress," Solace might be too much for an actual child, but I love the sound and sentiment
Tennessee — another US-place that isn't commonly used as a name, I think Tennessee could totally work on the right person. I first heard it used on musician Tennessee Thomas from The Like, who is the daughter of drummer Pete Thomas, who played with Elvis Costello and the Attractions (her full name is Tennessee Jane Bunny, which is pretty righteous)

Friday, March 9

Friday Faves

Here's a pretty song with a pretty name — September's always been a blah month, one of my least favorites, but I think that as a name it has potential. Though it's the 9th month, the word means "seventh month," because that's where it fell in the Roman year. 

Of the "-ember" names I think this one and November have the most potential (though November's nickname Nova outranks September's ... what, Seppy?) — forget August and May, why aren't all month names fair game?

 born of the sea
a thousand miles away from me
a court of angels, a ward of the sun
a future forming, a curse undone

under our softly burning lamp 
she takes her time
telling stories of our possible lives
and love is the ink in the well when her body writes

Thursday, March 8

let's talk about: Sabine

detail from a fresco by Cavalier d'Arpino  in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, via dirk huijssoon on Flickr

The Sabines were an ancient people who lived in central Italy. Legend has it that Roman soldiers kidnapped Sabine women in an attempt to get them to marry Romans and populate their new city, but the women refused, throwing themselves between the Roman army and the Sabine men trying to defend them  —  in some versions of the story, the women were able to make peace between the two sides. This event has been depicted by many artists, including the sculptor Giambologna and painters Nicolas Poussin, Peter Paul Rubens, Jacques-Louis David, John Leech and Pablo Picasso. A short story parody of the legend was adapted into the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Sabina is version of the name closest to Latin Sabinus, but I prefer the French and German version, Sabine, for its simplicity and refined look. (There's something very unattractive about the "-bina" sound, personally, plus it looks a little incomplete, like Sabrina, missing an R.) Sabine has never been popular in the US, and does not appear in the top 1,000 for the past 120 years. There were around 100 Sabines born in 2009 and 2010, making it a very uncommon choice. However, I think its familiar elements and rich history make it quite usable.

It makes the top 500 in the  Netherlands, and is also found as a surname (physicist Wallace Sabine is credited with the discovery of the Sabin, a unit of sound energy absorption). It is a place name in Australia, the US (Texas and Louisiana), Canada, Greenland and New Zealand, as well as the region in Italy. In pop culture it is most recognizable from the 1991 best-selling novels in The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy by Nick Bantock, and in 2011 the name appeared in two films:  Léa Seydoux's character in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was named Sabine Moreau, and Keira Knightley's character in A Dangerous Method was based on Russian psychoanalyst Sabina Speilrein.

Italian variant Savina is a softer choice, and other lovely choices include Dutch Sabien, Hungarian Szabina, and masculine forms Savino and Sabinus. Some names of ancient Sabines that I found interesting were (these are all male) Numa, Ancus, Quintus, Attius, Clausus, Crispus and Varro. Names of Sabine gods also include some gems: Feronia, Salus (feminine), Lucina, Flora and Fortuna.

Monday, March 5

Inspired By: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan at St. Lawrence University in New York, November 1963 via Joe Gratz

So there's this singer-songwriter guy, I don't know if you've heard of him — Bob Dylan? Bit of a namer himself, since he forsook his given surname (but Zimmerman's delightful!) in favor of one that comes off a little more hip and edgy. From an interview in Playboy magazine in March 1966:

Playboy: This comes under the category of setting the record straight: By the time you arrived in New York, you'd changed your name from Robert Zimmerman to Bob Dylan. Was it because of Dylan Thomas?  
Dylan: No. I haven't read that much of Dylan Thomas. It's a common thing to change your name. It isn't that incredible. Many people do it. People change their town, change their country. New appearance, new mannerisms. Some people have many names. I wouldn't pick a name unless I thought I was that person. Sometimes you are held back by your name. Sometimes there are advantages to having a certain name. Names are labels so we can refer to one another. But deep inside us we don't have a name. We have no name. I just chose that name and it stuck.  
Dylan: Well, that name changed me. I didn't sit around and think about it too much. That is who I felt I was.

Like a lot of namers, he knows the power of a name — how taking on a new one can change not just the way people see you, but how you see the world. And though I might disagree with the idea that we have no true name, I definitely see the beauty in the idea that we are all nameless. Sometimes names do serve as masks or labels in a way that needlessly separates people from one another, and choosing your own name can be a way to assert control over that. 

I've had this list of names from Dylan song titles on my desktop since I started Eponymia, and it seems like time to share them. He's absolutely one of my favorite poets and his songs are great places to draw inspiration of all sorts — I almost used Johanna for my daughter's middle name because of a Bob Dylan song — so there's something here for everyone, I'm sure.

Achilles ("Temporary Like Achilles") 
Albert ("Frankie & Albert")
Arthur ("Arthur McBride")  
Augustine ("I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine")  
Davey ("Blackjack Davey" and "Who Killed Davey Moore?") — I've never been a huge fan of David, but Davey/Davy just seems fun. I think it could be fresh and sweet on a girl, too, like this sweetheart blogger-kid
Dink ("Dink's Song") 
Emmett ("The Death of Emmett Till")
Hollis ("Ballad of Hollis Brown") — I'd love to see Hollis get some love
Homer ("Open the Door, Homer") 
Huck ("Huck's Tune")
Judas ("The Ballad of Frankie Lee & Judas Priest") — can't forgive him? Too bad, I think Judas is a great opportunity to use Jude as a nickname
Montgomery ("Tiny Montgomery") — this gets fairly regular use in British birth announcements, but is rare on this side of the pond
Percy ("Percy's Song") 
Quinn ("Quinn the Eskimo")
Ruben ("Ruben Remus")
Silvio ("Silvio")
Woody ("Song to Woody") — after Woody Guthrie, a huge influence musically and karmically for Dylan. Father of the original Arlo 

Alberta ("Alberta #1" and "Alberta #2") — I love feminine forms of Albert. French Alberte, longer Albertine, call her Bertie and you've got an adorable, unique old-lady  name 
Angelina ("Angelina" and "Farewell, Angelina") 
Canadee ("Canadee-i-o") — I've taken a bit of artistic license with this one, but doesn't Canadee seem like a perfect contestant on America's Next Top Model, or something?
Eden ("Gates of Eden") 
Delia ("Delia")
Hazel ("Hazel")
Isis ("Isis") — I dare you to listen to this song and not come away loving Isis
Jane ("Queen Jane Approximately")
Johanna ("Visions of Johanna") 
Lily and Rosemary ("Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts") — Jack and Jim are the boys from this song, but the girls got better names
Maggie ("Maggie's Farm") 
Ramona ("To Ramona")
Sara ("Sara") — this super-depressing song is about his wife, it's beautiful. It'll make you totally forget about Sarah-with-an-H 
Shenandoah ("Shenandoah") — for bold & daring namers only, a girl nicknamed Shen would be so cool

And just for a  bit of fun, enjoy this rather silly Bob Dylan tune. It's all about naming, of course, and it even inspired a children's book.