Monday, April 30

The SSA List: Names to Watch

from last May, photo by laliseuse via Flickr

For this, my hundredth post here on Eponymia, I thought I'd take the last day of April to spotlight some names I'll be checking up on when the Social Security Administration releases the statistics for 2011, which as any good namer knows, should be very soon. 

Enjoy these up & comers!

Adele — like most "adal-" names, Adele means "noble." Super popular singer Adele (full name Adele Laurie Blue) may have contributed to its appearance, in 2010, at #908 on the charts. It hadn't ranked in the top 1,000 since 1969, when it disappeared after a long fall from its highest recorded spot at #187, in 1914. Will it drop off the list again, or rise even higher?

Cullen/Kellan  — Cullen (a surname derived from the place name Cologne) appeared on the list in 1978 and has been there ever since, hovering around the 500-700 zone since the late '80s. It shot from #782 to number #484 in 2009, probably thanks to the Twilight franchise. Last year it was at #413, and I think it's probably a sure bet that it will rise again. As for Kellan, whose popularity can also be attributed to Twilight, I'd bet it'll continue to rise as well, though not as meteorically as its recent nearly 300-spot leap (it's currently at #366 after appearing at #626 in 2009)

Flynn  Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr's son Flynn was born in January of last year, giving that influence ample time to take effect. The name hasn't appeared in the top 1,000 for the past 132 years, and in 2010, the name went to just 14 girls and 81 boys  the names that currently hold the #1000 spot (Crew & Dania) were given to about 200 babies. I wonder if the Kerr-Bloom child had enough influence to launch it onto the list ...

Harper — Abby at Appellation Mountain has Harper pegged to crack the girls top 100, and I have to agree with that prediction. Skyrocketing from #887 in 2004, Harper is currently at #119. If it makes the same jump it made from '09 to '10 (53 spots) then it would be around #67, well within the top hundred. I certainly hear it enough to believe that is a very real possibility

Leo  one I am starting to hear a lot of. Leo was a top 100 name from 1880 'til the late 1930s when it started to decline in popularity. It reached its lowest point in 1995 and since then has bounced up a little to its current position at #193. I'm guessing it'll see another rise this year 

Luca — Lucas is a top 40 presence, and parents searching for something similar but more unusual may choose lovable Luca, currently enjoying its highest ranking since appearing on the list in 2000. It's at #272 right now and I wouldn't be surprised if it continues to gain popularity

Nola — Nola's one I was hearing all the time a year or so ago. It was on the list from 1880 to 1964, then reappeared in 2008 at #920. It fell a bit in 2009, and in 2010 ranked at #859. I'm curious about where it'll rank for 2011 because it seems like such a great fit for parents looking for an Ava/Sophia/Lola/Nora/Ella-level "safe" old-lady name

Ruby  — compared to some of the names on this list, Ruby's always been quite popular. Back in the 1910s it was a top 30 name, ranking as high as #23 (the modern day equivalent is Avery) in 1916. It's never dropped below the top 400, though from 2009 to 2010 it dropped 5 points. Will Ruby move up or down, for 2011, that's the question!

Willa/Willow — Willa popped onto the scene in 2010, coming in at #968. I'd venture to guess it'll rise again, though I wonder if it's got staying power. Willow's a little more established — it appeared on the list in 1998 at #853 and has risen almost steadily ever since. It's currently at #290 and I'm sure it will have risen at least a few spots in 2011

Friday, April 27

Friday Faves

B is for Beach, photo by laliseuse via Flickr

I love names like I love words — I could swim forever in all the elements of aesthetic appeal (the look of letters on their own and of letters in certain combinations), sound preferences, vibes (my mother-in-law is a synesthete, and the way she talks about letters and color feels very familiar, though I don't see them like she does) — I'm drawn to unexpected pairings and always strive for a sense of balance and evenness based on my personal preferences.

There are some letters I'm just not drawn to, and one of them is B. There are only two names on my favorites list that start with B — Balthasar and (very newly-added) Bodille. Poor, neglected B. A message-board post I read yesterday prompted me to come up with 5 B names I like for each gender. And, surprise, with a little digging, I did. And I really like all of them, as a grouping and on their own! Maybe enough to add one or two to my own B-starved list — 

Balthasar — there's just something about Balthasar-with-an-S. Spell it with a Z and I'm not as interested, it just looks gawky and biblical. But the S softens it, makes it more romantic. It's a Latin variant of a Hebrew name which was originally from an Akkadian name meaning "Ba'al protect the king"
Basil —  another B-herb! It also has meaning as an Arabic name ("brave, valiant")
Beau — obvious meaning, here. Beau has always been one that I like but can never commit to or add to my list. I've known a few, maybe that throws me off, or perhaps the meaning is just too literal. Still really like it though
Bruno — Blanche means white, Bruno means "brown." This one's well within the top 100 for Spain, Croatia and Chile, which should point to its international appeal, though I'd definitely avoid spelling it with an umlaut on the U 
Bertrand — means "bright shield." It was close between this and Bertram, Barnaby, Benedict and Bartholomew, but Bertrand won out (maybe for Bertrand Russell?)

Bodille — this is one I found via the Dutch stats. It can also be spelled Bodil or Bodile, and it's from an ancient Scandinavian name, Bóthildr, comprised of Norse elements meaning "remedy" and "battle." I'm totally into it at the moment, and like the nickname Bo for a girl, too
Babette — a French diminutive form of Elizabeth. Probably my favorite Elizabeth diminutive (though I like Betty and Betsy too -- Betsy's my mom!) You know I love "-ette" endings and forgive me, but I find the nickname Babe irresistible, at least in theory
Blanche — come on, Blanche DuBois? It's French, it's technically a color name (means "white") and still ranks fairly high-up in France. I always forget about this one when old-lady names are brought up, but I think it's ready for some attention
Bergliot — now this one is very new to me. I'm not even sure how to pronounce it. Another Norwegian name, it's comprised of elements meaning "save," or "help," and "light" — love that. Save the light, ya know?
Betony — the name of a minty herb, I think the sounds here are familiar enough (Bethany, Brittany, actor Paul Bettany) that this name isn't too wild a choice

What are your favorite B names?

Wednesday, April 25

Rare Dutch Boys: Part Six

illustration by Rie Cramer, via janwillemsen on Flickr
There's only one more set of these rare Dutch names to go  — I collected names used less than 5 times only, and the next installment is a doubled-up set of boys and girls used 4 and 5 times. After a certain point, the list becomes more about spelling variants than actual unique names. 

So here are some interesting finds, used only 3 times in the Netherlands last year.

Alpha — something to be said about this for a boy 
Catrinus — an unusual "-inus" name, and a good way to honor a Catrina/Katrina?
Eef — short & sweet 
Gust — this short form of August/e appeals, it reads more like a nature name than anything else 
Miró — for painter Joan, perhaps?
Reyer — I can see this one working in English-speaking lands quite easily
Thibeau — this is a nice variant spelling of Thibault, I think
Vygo — lots of Viggo action on the list, but spelling it with a "Y" lends a little bit of intrigue (how come when the Dutch do it it doesn't seem like a "trendy-fying" move?

Monday, April 23

School Days

main building at CalArts, photo from the school website

I was lucky enough to spend my college years at a pretty magical — and often baffling place full of engaged free-thinkers. I was also onomastically (shh, just pretend that's a word) lucky because lots of the people I met had wonderful, unique names. And I was very onomastically lucky because there was a full list of students (first, middle and last names) just sitting around waiting for someone to grab it, copy it and use it. 

It was a namer's dream find — less a reflection of names that were popular 18-21 years ago and more a collection of kids named by parents who wouldn't mind shelling out Harvard-level tuition for their stinky little hippie to spend four years honing skills that just make their parents' bitter friends say things like, "Well, what's she going to do with that degree, anyway?" 

I'm gonna start a names blog, that's what! Geez.

Here are some of the most memorable first-middle combos from that now-nostalgic list — 

Abra Raphaela 
Adela Louise 
Annika Eve Sonja 
Apolonia Lyon 
Buffy Mignonne — couldn't you just squeeze this one? 
Cassia Charlotte
Catherine Britt — this and the Katherine below make me dig a classic first paired with an unexpected middle 
Daisy Jacqueline 
Eugenia Sangmie 
Gwenaëlle Virginie 
Honey Beverly — I didn't know either of these girls, but in my head they are BFFs, Buffy + Honey 4Eva
Imani Tahira 
Jemima Evelyn 
Katherine Semple — Semple, love the sounds 
Leigh Graybill — I appreciate Leigh on a lady 
Lilia Alexieva 
Margo Valentine — hey! I saw this list long before I had a daughter. Maybe this is the source that brought Valentine out of the ether
Mary Louiza — looking sharp with that Z, Louisa 
Mirabelle Ting-Ting 
Morvarid Pearl — Morvarid means "pearl" already, so maybe she added Pearl in there to make it easier for dumb American ears?
Pia Katrina
Trulee Grace 
Vera Nam — love Vera, extra-love it paired with super spare middle names
Winona Irene
Yfke Laurette 

Barrs Sage 
Beau Wesley 
Benton Wright 
Felix Raphael — it was more obvious with the boys, but these kids are seriously pre-trend. I met so many Olivers and Mileses it was ridiculous 
Fionnegan Justus 
Leo Augustus
Leonardo Imamura — love Leonardo paired with a Japanese middle (in this case, a surname in the middle-name spot, I believe) 
MacGregor Douglas — Mac- names for girls had their moment, why not for boys? Mac- does mean "son of" 
Moritz Cornelius 
Noel Emerson 
Oliver Julius 
Otis Benjamin 
Ren William 
Rishi Fredric 
Sam Nevada — love Nevada on a boy 
Tanin Torn  
Tariq Samuel
Tizoc Shuru 
Wilson Coates 

Thursday, April 19

Elemental Names: Carbon

Periodic table, found via UNIFORM on Tumblr

"We are stardust/ billion-year-old carbon/ we are golden/ caught in the devil's bargain" (I just can't get away from Joni Mitchell) Carbon is one of my favorite elements — its various allotropes run the gamut from light (diamond, which is hard and transparent) to dark (graphite, soft and black) and it is found in all known life forms. Our human bodies are made up of about 18.5% carbon, making it the second most abundant element by mass, after oxygen. It is the chemical basis of all known life. Rock on, carbon.

The name Carbon comes from the Latin carbo, meaning "coal" or "charcoal." Old Norse Koli is a masculine name meaning "coal," or "dark" — Colby is a surname derived from that element paired with one meaning "town." The popular name Cole experienced its first popularity decline since 1989 in 2010, coming in at #89 on the US charts after ranking at #82 in 2009. Interestingly, it ranks higher in Canada and Scotland. Cole comes from Cola, an Old English nickname referring to charcoal, given to someone with dark features.

Almas is a unisex Arabic name meaning "diamond." Other names with diamond meanings include Indonesian Intan, a girls name, and Pich, a unisex Khmer name. Literal translations include Manx Daiman, Papiamentu Djamanta, Setswana Teemane and Swahili Almasi, which I find really appealing.

Carbon is the 6th element — Sextus is Latin for sixth and was a name sometimes given to the sixth child born to Roman families. The "Sex-" prefix is probably best avoided if naming an actual child, but Welsh form Seisyll is pretty intriguing, as is Italian Sesto. Here are some words for "six" in other languages that might work as given names: Shida (Hausa), Lix (Somali), Sittä (Arabic), Eneme (Rukai), Lima (Yami), Mataru (Truku), Enina (Malagasy), Sia (Scottish Gaelic), Zèsse (West Flemish), Haya (Sinhala), Jeego (Pular) and Gostán (Western Apache)

Wednesday, April 18

Rare Dutch Girls: Part Six

illustration by Henriette Willebeek, via janwillemsen on Flickr

These names were used on 3 baby girls born in the Netherlands last year. Enjoy these super-rarities — I hope something strikes your fancy.

Anna-Lou — adorable! Somehow this manages to sound more grown-up than your typical -Lou double name 
Aranka — a Hungarian name meaning "gold" 
Babeth — this pleases me 
Bloesem — the Dutch word for "flower" or "blossom" 
Catootje — toot-toot!
Cornelie —  this French variant (in French it would be Cornélieof Cornelia appeals     
Dewika —  model Dewi Driegen is Dutch, perhaps this is a longer form of her name?
Fieve — perhaps a variant of Fife or Fyfe? I'd love some more info on this
Finette —  another fun "-ette" name 
Jantine —  sounds fun, pronounced "john-teen," not to rhyme with Pantene 
Mink — I love these unexpected word name choices
Ranomi   only info I can find on this is as the name of a Dutch Olympic swimmer

Monday, April 16

Inspired By: Joni Mitchell

born with the moon in cancer
choose her a name she will answer to
call her Green and the winters cannot fade her
call her Green for the children who've made her
little Green, be a gypsy dancer

Those are the lyrics to a song called "Little Green" from Joni Mitchell's album Blue, one of my all-time favorite records. It's about how she decided to give her child up for adoption, and I've always found it particularly sad because the little girl in the song is called Green, and Mitchell named her daughter Kelly. A subtle connection, a secret nod to the bond she was terribly ambivalent about severing. I never thought of Kelly as a nature name, but Mitchell paints it as one, and I wonder if the color was her inspiration — she often describes herself as a painter first and musician second.

Here are 10 names found in the titles of various Joni Mitchell songs — 

Cactus — Mitchell uses a lot of desert imagery, particularly in her later albums. I'm from Arizona and have often considered words taken from desert flora as potential given names. Cactus is straightforward and could make a pretty memorable middle name. One pairing I had on my list for some time years ago was Jasper Cactus. Cacti are wonderful plants, little oases unto themselves, hardy and beautiful and ancient. Some other cactus-related names include: Saguaro, Pricklypear, Aloe, Didirae and Agave
Carey — another one from Blue, Carey's "a mean old daddy but I like you fine." This is one of those names that used to be all boy, transitioned over to the girls' side pretty solidly, and in my opinion is ready for a masculine comeback. It's great, I think of the song and Cary Grant, and it just seems so classically handsome. Singing this song in my head reminds me of another great one: "But let's not talk about fare-thee-wells now/ the night is a starry dome/ and they're playin' that scratchy rock and roll/ beneath the Matala moon" Matala refers to a place in Crete where hippies like Mitchell lounged around wicked caves being hippies 'n stuff, at the end of the '60s
Indigo — from the name of the blue dye, this one's always seemed a little try-hardy, but it's been growing on me nonetheless. I've seen it mostly on girls, but prefer it for a boy. The color is hard to beat. Similar Ingo and Inigo are more grown-up choices, but Indigo has a certain allure
Jericho — a little Biblical for my tastes but a cool sound, anyway. At least it's a good Biblical association — it's the place where Joshua led the Israelites after they escaped bondage in Egypt. May be related to the Hebrew word for "moon," or "fragrant" 
Otis — this one's from the song "Otis and Marlena," and Marlena's featured below. Funny thing, though, after I chose the names to feature for this blog, I met a woman at Trader Joe's talking to her son (my daughter liked his Yellow Submarine shirt, these are the things that force me to talk to strangers in public) who was named Otis Cary. Two on this list! Couldn't exactly explain it to her, but there you go. He was the first Otis I've met and carried the name quite nicely despite being a little drooly

Ballerina —  boys got Cactus, girls got Ballerina. This one's in the name-iverse off and on thanks to Jeremy Sisto's daughter Charlie Ballerina. I think it's a little silly but the sounds are actually quite pretty and it could work on the right girl. From the song "Ballerina Valerie," which always makes me want to say "Ballerina Valerina"
Darling — if we're going with a super-femme middle name possibility, I prefer Darling to Ballerina. Makes me think of Peter Pan's "Wendy Moira Angela Darling," and has a slightly stronger sound that makes it a bit more substantial
Hana — my personal favorite Hannah variant, Hana is a name with many meanings. It means "bliss, happiness" in Arabic, carries the Hebrew meaning of "favour" or "grace," and is written with the character for "flower" in Japanese. It's also a Hawaiian name, though I'm unfamiliar with that meaning. I first came across it as the heroine of Michael Oondatje's The English Patient
Marlena — here's Marlena, which is a name borne of combining two names, Maria and Magdalene. I think it's a lovely old-lady name that's often overlooked, and I'm particularly drawn to even more dated Marlene and its various forms, like German Marlen, Dutch Marleen and French Marlène 
Spark — taken from the title of Joni Mitchell's album Court and Spark — get it now if you don't know it — this one jumped out as a great possibility for the fifth My Cakies sister, if she ever has another (she's a blogger with four daughters, True, Brave, Soul and Glow). I suppose you'd have to avoid the nickname Sparky, but it's so deeply connected to the album for me that it seems pretty special

Saturday, April 14

Friday Faves (a little late)

what if I were Romeo in black jeans 
what if I was Heathcliff, it's no myth 
maybe she's just looking for 
someone to dance with

This song came on the radio the other day, and it reminded me of a couple secret favorites of mine, Romeo and Heathcliff

Both belong to tragic romantic boys, which is immensely appealing to a sucker like me (I'm also a sucker for slightly-cheesy really catchy one-hit pop wonders from the 90s, apparently)  but those connections push them into the "just too much" category, I think. Of course, paired with the right first or middle name, they could be toned down enough to suit an actual, non-moor wandering, non-double suiciding boy.

But I really do like them both as names, even without their literary histories. A post on the message boards got me thinking about my other current guilty pleasure names. 

I came up with — 

Duke — from the Latin dux for "leader," I usually try and stay away from title names. This one's a guilty pleasure because despite the fact that it brings to mind a ridiculous hierarchy and manages to sound like a dog name all at once, I sort of find it charming. I mean, people like Luke, and the sounds aren't that dissimilar. If we want to really get guilty, I kind of like Baron, too 
Loudon — file this one under "too hipster." I'd be embarrassed to use this one because it'd feel like I was throwing my musical taste in my child's face. However, I'm not even a huge fan of Mr. Wainwright —  he and his family just happen to have lovely names, all around. From elements meaning "low hill"
Carla — this one's a guilty pleasure because it's so dated, plus it's one I used to really dislike. Funny how names come around like that. I wouldn't be surprised to see this used more in the future — after all, it's still quite popular in both Spain, where it's top 10, and France, where it's in the top 150
Dot — just Dot. While I like Dorothy, it's never been a favorite, and Dot has an entirely different feel to it. Is it too incomplete? Better suited to an animal, like Duke? Duke and Dot would be pretty fabulous kitten friends, actually

So that's my confession — what are your guilty pleasures?

Thursday, April 12

Rare Dutch Boys: Part Five

illustration by Wilhelmina Schermelé, via janwillemsen on Flickr

More names used on only two baby boys in last year's Dutch birth announcements —  


Sunday, April 8

Springtime Name Game Results

aaaand this year's eggy-wegs
Happy Easter, everyone! Thanks to all who played the springtime name game, hope you find these combos as delightful as I do. 

Chelsea K
Fauna Aura
Phanes Baer

Lou @ Mer de Noms
Bunny Vesna
Morel Robin — dig this one Bahar Neske

Agnessa Rachel — classically Easter-y
Anthos Pascal
Spring Robin — wonder if a boy could pull this off!

Uan Pilate
May Veca
Aviv Frey

Madhavi Sakura
Vesna Flora
Aviva Agnès
Paško Rabi
Lambaer Morel
Vernus Barley

The Chambray Countess
Strawberry Iðunn
Ziva Daisy — so adorable
Paško Lambaer
Pastor Morel

Barley Aries
Persephone Sunday
Pascal Vernus
Acacia Ianthe

Anonymous @ 2:25 PM
Robin Nitzan
Attis Lambaer
Chick Madhav
Veca Rosebud
Eiar Aviva

Anonymous @ 4:46 PM
Agnessa Irene
Briar Barley — great combos here

Madhavi Ostara
Aisha Pascha

Briar Madhav
Pascal Baer
Taurus Lenz
Flora Úna
Idun Irene  — one of my favorite pairings

Flora Agnessa
Sakura Acacia
Ausra Aviva
Ostern Equinox — wooooah
Ovid Barley

Saturday, April 7

Springtime Name Game

Our Easter eggs from last year

Spring! New life, flowers blossoming, baby lambs wobbling!

And, of course, an Eponymia name game.

You know the drill — I have two lists of 50 names inspired by springtime. Choose how many first-middle combinations you want, whether they are boys or girls, and leave a comment with two numbers (1-50) per combo

For example, if you want 3 spring girls, your comment would say: "Girl (8, 10) / Girl (17, 29) / Girl (44, 19)" with whatever numbers you choose.

I'll post your combos tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 4

Gap Casting Call Names

Join me, obsessive onomasts, on a journey to the fantastically bizarre name soup that is the website of the open casting call for potential baby Gap models

Every so often I come across a perfectly neutral collection of names — because any parent can upload their child's photo, I imagine these are American parents from all walks of life — and the more random a sampling, the more interesting I find it. These are real kids with real names that reflect trends in popularity, the influence of pop culture on baby naming, and other nebulous waves that might otherwise slip by unnoticed. 

Some of my favorite finds —

Assata — "ass-" notwithstanding
Ayelet  a lovely Hebrew name, means "gazelle"
Bea Roselle 
Leyonce — Beyonce with an "L," or variant spelling of a feminine "Leo-" name?
Mathilde — swoon for this spelling
Siddah Jane 
Towner — anyone have any ideas? Southern surname, or something?

Epiq — woah
Hart this kid was super cute, sort of sold me on the name
Ikemba — akimbo Ikemba
Kepper — pair this with Towner as a sibling, you got half a law firm going
Payce Mayker
Princeton — aiming high
Tycho — another swoon 

And for those who don't feel guilty indulging in some good old-fashioned name snark every once in a while, I present to you, the case for the runaway "H" — 


I wish I could blame Khloe, but, alas, most of these children were probably born before her family bought their way into the zeitgeist. What is so attractive about these wayward Hs? Why do they so often go hand in hand with further ... imaginative, let's say ...  spelling twists? (Such as the  "Y instead of another, more suitable vowel," or the almost classic "K instead of C" choice.)

I try to keep an open mind when it comes to names that are so far outside my taste zone that they appear on screen as really terrible Scrabble hands (and hey, I like Epiq and Trucky) but these ones are worth mentioning as particularly unfortunate 

Bad place names: AstynBrystol (when you one-up a Palin on bad-naming, you win a gold medal), Daytona and Paesynn, all girls

Killing the K: Kemry, Karter and Kamdyn (girls), Kautlyn (I don't know ...), Kameren (when a spelling changes the pronunciation, you know it's time to stop)

Ugly spellings: Madizyn, Trinidy, Bralee (no way does this imply a long "A" sound, which is what I assume they're going for), Collynn (girl, again)

Random apostrophes: T'Lee, Ka'den and K'Lesse (does this rhyme with Payless?)

Names that make me need to take a moment: Broxtyn, Nashly, Britlynn

Forgive me, name gods.