Tuesday, May 29

2011 Rarities: Part Two

photo by flag75* via Flickr

Here are some of the stand-out names used on only 9 children born in the US in 2011   

Alp  a Turkish name meaning "brave," or an homage to the mountain range, I suppose
Cahill  I've always liked this surname and was pleased to see it used as a first name. It's an anglicized form of the Irish name Cathal, made up of Gaelic elements meaning "battle" and "rule"
Fender  I'm betting most babies named Fender were named for the guitar maker (in which case I think Leo is a nicer, more subtle choice). Apparently this is gaining some popularity in the Netherlands after a Dutch musician used it for his son 
Grover  lots of the Sesame Street names are appealing. I like Grover and Elmo and could see them getting some hipster-love  
Heru  comes from Horus, the falcon-headed Egyptian god of light. It also refers to a traditional ornamental comb of the Māori people of New Zealand
Iori  the name of a river in eastern Georgia (the country, not the state), the surname of a swordsman from 17th-century Japan and an Italian footballer, and as the first name of a character from a video game and manga series, which I'm betting is the real influence
Jove  another name for Roman god of sky and thunder Jupiter
Justo  from the saint name Justus, meaning "just." Lots of nice related forms, including Dutch Joost, Slovene Jošt and Welsh Iestyn
Lewi  ancient Hebrew form of Levi, meaning "joining" 
Lorne  I was surprised to see this one was only used 9 times. It falls into the Cary-category for me, a handsome, old-fashioned, underused movie-star name. From the name of a place in Scotland, it gets more love in Canada since it was the name of the first governor general there
Nesta  found as a diminutive of Agnes, I'm sure this is being used on boys to honor Bob Marley (it's his middle name) as Gwen Stefani did for her youngest son Zuma
Philopater  means either "one who loves his father" or "one who loves his country." This was the birth name of Saint Mercurius and the name of Ptolemy IV the fourth pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt

Aerie  I'd guess this makes an appearance because of its trendy look and sound, but I wonder if the parents using it were aware that it's the term for an eagle's nest, and a favorite word of crossword-puzzle makers, apparently, since that's where I see it used most often. Or maybe they're just big John Denver fans?
Brynja  Icelandic name meaning "armor"
Cricket  from the name of the insect
Devanshi  the name of an apsara, a beautiful, supernatural female deity of Hindu myth. Relatively common in India, it means "one who is part of god"
Dolce  better than Gabbana, I guess? Means "sweet" in Italian
Ebba  this name cracks the top 10 in Sweden
Escarleth  this one intrigues me. Other than assuming it's related to Scarlet, I don't know much about its use. I've seen Scarleth and Escarleth (as well as Escarlet) used, mainly in Spanish-speaking cultures
Harvest  I think this could make a good boy or girl name, though I may prefer it in the middle-name spot since it could read a little hippie-sanctimonious (or is that just me?)
Iara  the name of a figure from Brazilian mythology, from elements meaning "lady of the water"
Isatou  I recognized this as Gambian thanks to the "-tou" ending, which I always like. Wish I knew the meaning
Krupa  did 9 people love Gene Krupa enough to name their daughters after him?
Lilac  another one I'm surprised to see was used less than 10 times. I'd have thought this pretty flower name would get more love
Mariposa  Spanish word for "butterfly"
Sutiya  the name of an indigenous ethnic group of northeastern India 
Maryfer  like Escarleth, I find this used in Spanish speaking cultures (sometimes as Marifer) probably a combination of Maria and Jennifer
Prisma  a word in Spanish and Portuguese meaning something like "from this angle," or "in this light," or just the translation of English prism. Prisms are awesome, so this name is, too
Rumi  from the name of the Persian poet. I love this on a girl, so sweet. Josie Maran used it for her daughter, Rumi Joon. It's also a Japanese girl's name that can mean different things depending on the kanji used, including "flow, water" "flow, beauty," "detain, beauty" or "lapis lazuli, beauty"
Temima  Hebrew name meaning "perfect," or "complete"
Velvet  Lou at Mer de Noms just mentioned this one here, so funny it should show up for today's post. I think there's something nice about it, though I don't find the sounds too appealing (maybe because I keep thinking Velveeta)
Veralee  sort of a word name, but more of a name-smush (who says verily, anymore?) I love Vera and like it paired with Lee a lot
Zephyra  feminine form of Zephyr, the west wind 

Friday, May 25

Names from the Poetry Basket

Rome poems

I love it when making a small, easy change to your living space changes the way you interact with your Stuff-with-a-capital-S. My husband and I have a ton of books and a small apartment, so we've had to get creative about where we keep them. The non-fiction section's in the kitchen, books on religion & spirituality (we have a lot for an atheist and agnostic) are in a hutch in the living room, Roman and Russian history have recently been relegated to the storage closet and fiction fills an entire wall in our bedroom and all the gaps everywhere else. 

A recent spring-cleaning induced alphabetization further organized things and brought to light something I wasn't even really aware of  — we have a lot of poetry books. I wanted to group them together, but with no spare shelf space, I decided to throw them all in a friendly little woven basket from Japan. The basket's at the top of the stairs and props open the baby gate when we aren't using it. 

Since making this change I've found myself grabbing a poetry book before I hop in the bath or run errands  or, like last night, just grabbing the whole thing and leafing through them. A lot of them are my husband's, and I've never even cracked them open. 

I read some of The Last Poets of Imperial Rome, and much to my naming delight there was a handy list of people, places and useful vocab words at the end. Here are some of my favorite finds — 

Achan — member of Joshua's party; brought disaster by his sin against God's mysterious law; after his death divine wrath was turned aside 
Aethon — literally "burning," one of Pluto's horses
Alastor — another of Pluto's horses (guess the guy had a few)
Amalek — leader of the Amalekites, hereditary enemies of the Israelites
Arcadius — son of Theodosius; became Augustus in AD 382 
Attalus — became a puppet emperor under the Goths  
Brennus — leader of the Gauls who defeated the Romans
Coeus — a titan; father of Latona 
Crocus — a youth who became a saffron blossom   
Cynthus — mountain in Delos; birthplace of Diana & Apollo 
Daphnis — son of Mercury and a Sicilian shepherdess 
Ebro — river in northeast Spain
Elz — river in Belgic Gaul
Eryx — mountain in northwest Sicily
Faun — a woodland deity
Geryon — a three-headed monster 
Hyperion — a titan; either the sun or its father 
Lucillus — father of Decius, a Roman hero and statesman; a satirist
Munio — Italian river south of Graviscae
Neckar — river in Germany
Nims — river in Belgic Gaul
Quintilian — surname of Marcus Fabius Quintilian, famous rhetorician
Ruwar — tributary of the Moselle
Sauer — river flowing to the Moselle
Senate — Rome's legislative body
Sidon — coast city in Phoenicia
Tarn — river in Gaul
Toulouse — city in south of France
Trier — city on the Moselle
Turnus — Roman satirist during the time of Domitian

Aganippe — a fountain on Mt Helicon; sacred to the muses of poetical inspiration 
Aisne — river in northwest France 
Amyclae — town in Sparta; residence of Tyndarus; birthplace of Castor & Pollux; renowned for its temple and Colossus of Apollo 
Bellona — Roman goddess of war
Bissula — servant girl in the house of Ausonius, she had a nice poem: "Bissula, gentle girl with the rustic name" 
Caere — Etrurian town originally called Agylla 
Camerina  — town on the border of Picenum
Canace — daughter of Aeolus 
Caspia — area on the Caspian sea   
Charante — river in France
Cosa — ancient Etrurian town near the coast 
Cybele — originally a Phrygian goddess; later worshipped at Rome by priests called galli  
Dione — mother of Venus
Dirce — a spring in Boeotia; also a Theban princess 
Electra — daughter of Pleione and Atlas; mother of Dardanus by Jupiter; one of the seven Pleiades; Prosperine's nurse
Faleria — for Falese, in Italy 
Garonne — river in southwest France
Gela — city on south coast of Sicily 
Henna — ancient city on Sicily from which Pluto carried off Prosperine
Ida — range of mountains in south of Phyrgia 
Ilva — island in the Mediterranean (modern Elba)
Io — daughter of Inachus, King of Argus; Zeus fell in love with her and changed her into a cow 
Moselle — river in northeast France 
Mylae — port city of northeast Sicily 
Nava —German river
Prüm — river in Belgic Gaul 
Psamathe — a spring or fountain; a sea nymph
Rhodope — Thessalian mountain range
Semele — daughter of Cadmus; mother of Dionysus
Tethys — titaness; wife of Oceanus
Themis — titaness; mother of Prometheus, the seasons and the fates 
Thessally — area of east central Greece
Truth — a divine title

Thursday, May 24

Elemental Names: Nitrogen

Periodic table, found via UNIFORM on Tumblr

Lucky number seven on the periodic table is Nitrogen, a mostly inert gas that makes up about 78% by volume of Earth's atmosphere. It was discovered by Scottish physicist Daniel Rutherford in 1772 — Rutherford's a name that's always intrigued me. It's mostly found as a surname (US President Rutherford B. Hayes is one famous exception) and there are conflicting theories as to its origin. It may refer to: a place in Scotland called Roxburgh, West Flemish place name Ruddervoorde, or a man named Ruther who carried an ancient king of the Scots across the River Tweed. Ruther might be less of a bulky burden than full-on Rutherford, but I do think its heft is part of its charm.

French chemist Antoine Lavoisier referred to nitrogen as "Azote," a Greek word meaning "lifeless." That's not the best meaning for a name, though I do like the look of Azote. Boy name Stellan might be more suitable — it may derive from stilling, an Old Norse word meaning "calm."  Stellan's a favorite of mine, and in 2011 it was at its most popular point ever in the US, though it's still very unusual  there were only 41 boys named Stellan born last year.

Another good option is Mortimer, which actress Shannyn Sossamon (perhaps most famous for naming her first son Audio Science) just used for her second child. It is derived from a place name meaning "still water" in Old French. 

Alchemists called nitrogen aqua fortis, or "strong water"  — and, mixed with hydrochloric acids, they called it aqua regia, or "royal water," for its ability to dissolve gold. I'm trying to remember who it was who had a daughter (or son?) named Alchemy, but I always thought its use as a name was kind of interesting. Some other names from the practice of alchemy include Cinnabar,  Amalgama, and Sol/Sal.

Nitrogen contributes to visible air glow in the Earth's upper atmosphere. The blue in the polar Aurora is due to the presence of nitric oxide  — free nitrogen atoms combining with oxygen (NO). Nitrous oxide (N2O), also called "laughing gas" is used as an anesthetic. Hebrew name Isaac means "he laughs," and has lots of nice variants, including Armenian Sahak, Finnish Iiro, Iikka and Iisaaki, Hungarian Izsák and Swedish Isak

Monday, May 21

let's talk about: Leo

Leo in the sky with stars

Yesterday, at a birthday party for one of our many newly- 3-year-old friends, I was pleasantly surprised to find the various zones in the childrens' play place were named. The play house area, for example, was painted "Alaia and Leonie's Play House." Charming set, right? Leonie has always been a favorite of mine, and would have been a serious contender for my daughter's name were it not for an unappealing association on my husband's side. Seeing it there made me remember just how much I like it, and since another little partygoer's name was Léo, the name and all its forms have been on my mind.

Leo itself a name that I like and have always liked, though I vastly prefer its more unusual variants. It's been in the top 1000 as far back as 1880, when the online records begin, and actually reached its highest ranking in 1903, when it was #38. It's currently trending upward — in 1990 it had fallen to #477, by 2000 it was at #390 — and is currently at #167, its most popular point since 1953. It has true international appeal, making the top 100 in England, Australia, Austria, Croatia, France, Norway, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

Part of what I like about the name is its meaning — "lion" is pretty straightforward. One of the most obvious animal-connected names I can think of. It's noble — it's the name of 6 Byzantine emperors and 5 Armenian kings) and was the name of 13 popes. Its astronomical connection is immensely appealing — the fifth sign of the zodiac, the constellation Leo was one of the earliest recognized star formations. I also like its literary ties — I'm thinking of Tolstoy and one of my favorite characters ever written, Dostoevsky's Prince Myshkin, though technically they are both Lev, the lovely Russian form.

I can't think of another name that has so many long-form options, and they are the names I'm really drawn to. Not only are there just a lot of Leo spinoffs, there are a lot of good ones, and they cover all sorts of different naming styles. Here are some of my favorites —

Leon — though this one has a bit of a dated feel in the US, I think it's ready for a fresh look. I think of Trotsky and Leon Russell, and I like that it has a sort of 70s vibe. It still ranks quite highly (it was #405 in 2011) though it's been on the decline since the 1930s. Actually, it's been on a slight rise since 2008 — coincidentally, that was the year Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie used Léon for their son's middle name
Leonard — I think Leonard is the male equivalent of newly-revisited Gloria. It's so ready for a comeback. It combines Leo with German element hard, meaning "brave," so the meaning is actually "brave lion." I love the idea of the nickname Lenny, too
Leonid —  Russian and Macedonian form of Leonidas, the Greek long form of Leo. Most people will associate it with Leonid Brezhnev, so it might read a little stuffy, but I think first of another connection to astronomy, the Leonid meteor showers — so cool
Leoš — Czech out (sorry) the fabulous pronunciation here. I find the "S" ending really appealing. I actually first heard this form while looking up the work of composer Leoš Janáček after he was mentioned in Murakami's 1Q84

Leonie — quite sure I've talked about this one enough here on Eponymia, but it's worth mentioning its popularity in the UK, Austria, France and the Netherlands, and the fact that it's relatively obscure here in the US. There were only 32 girls named Leonie born in the US in 2011
Léonne — the feminine spelling of Léon, this one is new to me. I think it could work quite nicely, and is actually more accessible than Leonie might be to an American eye
Léonide — this one's my newest favorite girly Leo. Another reference to the meteor showers, and it is actually a unisex French form, though I only like it on a girl. Something about that "-nide" ending (pronounced like "need") just reads strong and feminine, to me
Leonille — Leonille is soft and sweet, such a pretty form. Lots of people out there have grandpas named Leo to honor, right? This would be a great, striking middle name
Leontine — if Léonide is strong and Leonille is sweet, then Leontine is sassy. This is one of the rare names I like to use an unnecessary "Y" on (Edith is the other one, for some reason I'm totally smitten by Edyth/Edythe) and the spelling Leontyne makes me think of Leontyne Price which is a pretty rad association

Here are all the names containing the "leo" element used more than 5 times last year. They go from highest ranked to the rarest — 

Girls: Leona (Leona is the only feminine Leo name that appears in the top 1000 and it's at #929) - Cleo - Leora - Leonna - Leonie - Leonor - Eleora - Leonora - Cleopatra - Eleonora - Leola - Eleonor - Leonela - Eleonore - Kleo - Elleona - Leo (6 recorded as girls) - Leonella - Leoni - Leonia - Leonah - Leota

Boys: Leonardo (edges out Leo by just 18 spots) - Leo - Leon - Leonel - Leonard - Leonidas - Leobardo - Kaleo - Leopold - Leopoldo - Leondre - Napoleon - Leonid - Deleon - Galileo - Cleon - Leodan - Leone - Leonell - Leonides - Emileo - Juleon - Leonidas - Leonitus - Leovardo - Cleo (7 recorded, I actually like this on a boy quite a bit) - Leomar - Corleone - Jayleon - Leonte - Leondro - Leor  

Thursday, May 17

2011 Rarities

streets of Addis Ababa, photo by Irene2005 via Flickr
Of course I went straight to the bottom of the newly-released 2011 SSA name list — the "beyond the top 1,000" names are really so much more interesting than the names at the top, at least for someone who knows those names inside-out and is always looking for something unusual popping on to the radar. 

A fair amount of the lesser-used names are just (awful) spelling variants, like the 10 Kharters born last year, but if you weed those out, there are plenty of great finds. These are names that are memorable and strange. Some have potential, some are popular in other places but remain obscure in the US, and some are just plain weird.

Here are some names that we used on just 10 babies born last year in the US  

Adonai — this is a masculine Hebrew word meaning "my lord." Many of the more striking/non made-up names at this level of the list are very obviously religious. Makes me wonder if uber-religious people are more prone to delving deeper into whatever text/history they follow, in search of names that reflect their beliefs. I saw Jerusalem, Psalms and Bethlehem used, among others. I wasn't aware that the name Adonis was connected to it, but it's actually the Greek form
Arbor — Harper's popularity could make this one an appealing alternative. I've also seen Harbor tossed around
Blimie —  apparently this is a legit name (uncommon, obviously but used both as a surname and first name) but all I see is "blimy!" 
Chapel — I wouldn't put this one in the "religious" category I described above, just because as a noun it's got a somewhat wider appeal. I can see it on a southern country-club girl, or as part of a double first name (like Mary Chapel, maybe?)
Dennesly — Google this one. It's weird
Efrata — the name of an Israeli settlement in the West Bank named for the biblical place name Ephrath, meaning "fruitful"  
Elowen —  I actually know a little Elowen. It's a recently-coined Cornish name derived from the word for "elm tree" and I think the pretty, fluid sound and nickname potential could make this one a rank-climber in the future
Ghislaine — a lovely French name meaning "pledge," this is pronounced "zheez-LEN"
Kalkidan — love the look of this one. It's an Olympic name, too, belonging to Kalkidan Gezahegne, an Ethiopian runner. I could only find it used on other Ethiopian people, but have no idea what it means. Can someone enlighten me?   
Rediet — hmm, I must have an eye for Ethiopian names. This one traces back there, too. Unfortunate that it looks like "re-diet" in English, but the pronunciation I found here makes it sound quite lovely
Vincy  — a French place name, or a sweet way to name a girl in honor of a Vincent?

Addis — themes usually crop up when I make lists like these, and it appears the theme for this bunch of names is definitely Ethiopian. It's a sign, maybe? Should I hop a plane? I have always loved the place name Addis Ababa, and Addis seems like a pretty cool boys name
Bronco — is it better if the kid's named after a horse or a Chevy? You decide
Calogero — you know I love me some hermit saints. And the sounds here are hard to beat (and hard to pull off, probably) It's from a Latin name meaning "beautiful elder"  
Chesky — this makes me giggle. Like a mixture of chesty + husky
Kalyan — at first glance you might write this off as made-up, but it's actually a Sanskrit name meaning "beautiful, lovely, auspicious" and is a place name in Uzbekistan, Nepal, Pakistan and India. It also has an artistic connection, referring to a certain musical scale
Kashmir  — I could say this is carrying on the Indian vibe, but what I want to know is how many of these Kashmirs were named for the Led Zeppelin song?
Kingdom — if you're gonna go there, go all the way, I say
Nevada — want to know a secret? I kind of love Nevada on a boy 
Ojani — sometimes I know random pop culture tidbits just because the person had a memorable name. This is the only (ONLY) reason I know that Ojani Noa was Jennifer Lopez's first husband. I still think his name is pretty rad. Is a useless factoid like that still a waste of brain space if you blog about it? Don't answer
Rexford — a rare boy name-smush, technically. Rex + Ford. I like this one, though I wouldn't use it or put it on my list. There should be more Rexes 
Zurich — well, it sounds like a name. Actually the Italian name for Zurich sounds even better: Zurigo 

Wednesday, May 16

Grow Girl Grow

Happy birthday to my beautiful three-year-old, Ottilie Valentine!

Monday, May 14

Initial Thoughts on the 2011 SSA List

Ladies and gentlemen, the top 10 for 2011!

I haven't finished my morning coffee yet, and I'm already typing. What's the only thing that could possibly motivate me in my pre-caffeine state? The release of the 2011 SSA list, that's what. 

Here are some initial thoughts, starting off with then names I mentioned in my predictions post.

I was right about the emergence of Flynn as a top 1,000 presence — it debuted at #946 on the boy list. As I mentioned, in 2010 it was given to just 81 baby boys, and I said it needed to be used around 200 times to rank within the top thousand. 208 babies did the job!

Adele had a huge rise, predictably, going from #909 to #627. That's big news.

I thought Cullen, Nola and Willa would see popularity rises, but they actually fell. Willa was most surprising here, since I feel like I hear it quite often. Maybe a rise for next year? It went from #954 to #991, almost off the list entirely.

I thought these would rise, and they did — Kellan (just 2 spots), Harper (entering the top 100 very solidly at #54, up from #118 in 2010), Leo (from #192 to #167), Luca (10 spots, I predict an even bigger rise for next year), Ruby (4 spots) and Willow (from #289 to #202)

Some other interesting tidbits — 


Aviana — debuted on the list at #762, a nice first-time spot for the name used by actress Amy Adams for her daughter, born in May 2010. Its similarity to top 10 mainstay Ava and its popular "-ana" ending surely add to its appeal

Beatrice — has been rising since 2009 and rose to #707 from its position at #836 for 2010

Esme — fell 60 spots to #921. I'm surprised but glad, as I'd prefer this one to remain a little bit obscure. Maybe Twilight didn't give it enough staying power, after all

Juniper  debuted at #970. I know one, born in 2009, and am not surprised to see it's gained popularity since then. Another name that made its debut is Temperance (at #941), most likely due to TV show Bones and the books it's based on

Saanvi  also making its debut was intriguing Saanvi, a name of questionable Sanskrit background (it may mean "follow along/one who follows" and refer the to goddess Lakshmi) which appeared at #844

Some other girl-name risers that caught my eye are Mae (jumped more than 100 spots to #803 after first appearing in 2010), Pearl (rising since '09, currently at #814, sure to rise even higher for 2012), Sawyer (also first appeared in 2010, currently at #719) and mysterious Zuri, which leapt from #980 to #854. Anyone know why?


Bowen — Owen's in the top 50, but Bowen just debuted at #723. Maybe due to Modern Family actress Julie Bowen?

Cassius — an up and downer, in 2009 Cassius rounded out the list at #1000. It disappeared in 2010, but is back in fighting form at #876 for 2011

Channing — I was curious about this one, which debuted at #645 in 2010, probably because of the rise to fame of actor Channing Tatum. It fell, though, to #672 for 2011

Kohen — here's one to watch. Kohen debuted at #995, but that's not all. Variant spelling Coen, also made its debut, at #974. Cohen is currently #336, up from #360 in 2010. Combine all that and you have one trendy, trendy choice

Maxton — debuted at #949. I've heard this one around a couple times, but was surprised to see it rank. A longer "Max" choice, definitely fits the requirements fast-rise potential

Otto — happy to see that Otto's getting some love, debuting at #930. It hasn't ranked since 1974!

Vihaan — this one caught my eye right away. It debuted at #932 and a good quick Google indicates that a potential reason for this is that he's the nephew of popular Indian actress Aishwarya Rai. Wow!

Winston — Winston's been up and down in the 700-800 range for the past 10 years, but it's a personal favorite and I'm glad to see it's up this year, to #742 from #882 in 2011

On a personal note, Ottilie did not appear anywhere in the rankings of the "beyond the top 1,000" names, meaning it was used 5 times or less in 2010. Phew! And while Rowan rose on the boy list (from #327 to #309) it dropped on the girl list (from #493 to #535). Variant spelling Rowen also rose on the boy side, from #988 to #848, but does not rank at all, for girls.

So much name-nerd fun today!