Wednesday, April 17

Old Québec Names: E

Cute Instagram Ottilie, and our cat Huck

There were so many great "E" names from this collection of names found on old gravestones in Québec — I couldn't narrow it down, so I've included all the ones that caught my eye. Enjoy!

Starting out with the "Ed-" names, we have Edalène/EdalineEdimée and Edmée, and Edyenne. I find Edaline and Edmée to be relatively accessible to the English-speaking ear. I'd say Emmeline and Esme are two mainstream-yet-unusual names, and if you're looking for something similar but distinctive, these familiar-sounding choices could work. Feminine and pretty, they're all good ways to honor someone with an "Ed-" name, as well.

I liked Effée for its simplicity and old-fashioned sweetness. Effie is quite hip right now, but Effée feels less like a flimsy nickname, and would be pronounced more like "eff-AY." Eglantine has always appealed to me in a frilly sort of way, like a character in a childrens' book. (For a literary connection, a character named Madame Eglantine does appear in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.)  I liked similar Egléphine, which takes it one step further into fairy-tale land.

There were plenty of beautiful "El-" names on this list. My favorites include Eleanor-spinoffs Eléonare, Eléonelle and  Eléonine — I can't decide which I like best. Then there's striking Eléanide and Eléantine, and lyrical Elélia and Eléva. For something with more unusual sound combinations, I was drawn to Eliorée, Elizadie and Ellemire and Elmyre. Elmyre might be my sleeper favorite of the whole "E" group  — I love that it sounds a little bit country, a little bit magical and a little bit old-fashioned. Along those lines, Elphémia and Elphémie stood out for being what I will just classify as "French clunkers," names that look unwieldy yet somehow manage to sound airy and light.

I thought Elvie was simple and really cute. I love all the vowels in Enoée and the frilliness of Emmélise and Esmérina. As an Estella-fan, I liked the looks of Estelline. I liked the way Evantine reminded me of Valentine, and I had to include Exalisse, which just has to belong to a tough, cool girl, right?

There were some winners on the boys' side of things as well. I liked Edaire for its cool ease, and Edem for its simple, masculine sound. Edgène and Edmile are two new-to-me "Ed-" names, and I liked Eliodor and Elisas, which both seem like something I might find in the birth announcements in Arizona. Eméland and Emérent are two of my favorite finds, strong choices that would make great middle names. I can see EméoEnoël and Evance catching someone's eye, and slipping into mainstream use without too many "that's super weird, what kind of name is that?" comments. On the frillier side of things, I really dug Eudovic and Eulysse, which are takes on Ludovic and Ulysses, I think.

Friday, April 12

Inspired By: Fleetwood Mac

Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night
and wouldn't you love to love her
takes to the sky like a bird in flight
and who will be her lover

Generally, when I write a story, I use placeholder names for the characters. Once I get to know them a little better, when they've stopped being abstract ideas and become full-on imaginary friends, then I finalize the name. Sometimes, the placeholder name becomes them, shapes who they are, but sometimes there's a big change pretty far along in the story. That happened recently, when I changed a character's name to Rhiannon. 

In the story, Rhiannon is the daughter of hippie parents who named her after the Fleetwood Mac song — the inspiration became a part of her background and helped me better understand who she is. Singer/songwriter Stevie Nicks was born in Arizona, where I grew up and where the story takes place. Her songs in particular use desert imagery and motifs in ways that I respond to — they feel familiar and nostalgic in a special way because of where I'm from. But mainly they are just a massively talented group of musicians who write killer pop songs, no duh.

Here are 10 names inspired by Fleetwood Mac — 

Fleetwood — if my last name was Fleetwood, I'd totally use it for my band's name as well. It's so fun to say, and evokes something nature-y and cool. It sounds fast and flashy, and I like it. It's like the word Creedence, without the heavy overtones. I could see just using Fleet as well, and I do like the nickname Woody a lot
Lindsey — I love that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks have names that are more often found on different genders. It's part of their mystical love connection, I am sure. On a girl, Lindsey is quite dated in the US — it and the Lindsay spelling popped into the top 1,000 in the mid-'70s and peaked in the '80s — but for a boy I think it's fresh, ready for some new use
Nicks — speaking of new use, I can see Nicks (though given peoples' love for "cool X names," it would probably be  more popular spelled Nix) finding a following
Shadow — maybe a bit canine, but there are lots of shadows in Fleetwood Mac songs and the sound is pretty great, fitting in with other trendy "-ow" names like Harlow and Marlow
Tusk — my favorite Fleetwood Mac album, it would be pretty daring and distinctive, which I refuse to believe are lame qualities to be looking for in a name, no matter how many "but they'll get teased/won't be taken seriously" arguments I hear

Illume — all right, so maybe this is a brand of candle? But I love the sounds, and it feels like I might come across it in the Dutch stats I did a series on, or something. Love the nickname Lumi, too, and the meaning: "to make brighter"
Rhiannon — Rhiannon is a Welsh name meaning "great queen," and in Welsh mythology she was the goddess of fertility and the moon. Clearly, Stevie Nicks was always going to obsess over this name. According to interviews, Nicks first came across it in a book, and she wrote the song about a witch queen. Here is a quote: "I wrote this song and made her into what I thought was an old Welsh witch. And then I had just, just found out that Rhiannon was a Welsh witch. There's a whole trilogy of books written about her called the Song of Rhiannon. Which is pretty weird because I never saw that."
Sara — "Sara/ you're the poet in my heart/ never change, never stop" I've never been a fan of the name, but man, Sara gets all the good songs. (I'm thinking of a Dylan one in particular)
Silver — many "silver" references in their songs as well. I wonder why this one isn't at least a little more well-used, it seems ready-made for it, with its similarity to Sylvia/Sylvie 
Stevie — and, of course, there's Stevie itself. It's her nickname (her full name is Stephanie) and I think it would be adorable on a little girl, pretty cool on a teenager and work nicely on an adult all the same

Wednesday, April 10

let's talk about: Charles

detail from the Crowning of Charlemagne by Raphael, via Flickr

It's my husband's birthday today, so I thought I'd take a closer look at his middle name, Charles — versatile and familiar, charming and sturdy, it's a modern classic that has been a steady presence in the English-speaking name world since at least the 8th (yes, the 8th!) century.

Though it was first recorded in Anglo-Saxon times as Cearl or Ceorl (there was a King Cearl of Mercia, which is in modern-day England, who ruled in the early part of the 7th century), we have Charlemagne to thank for Charles' rise in popularity. It was so associated with the Carolingian dynasty that it became the standard word for "king" in many languages. Because it is so old, its meaning is debated, but is basically agreed to mean "man," sometimes qualified as "old man," "free man," "slave," "nobleman," or "warrior," depending on the source. Charlemagne ruled over most of Europe, and the name has been used by Holy Roman Emperors and kings from places as varied as France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Hungary. It became popular in Britain in the 17th century thanks to the Stuart king, Charles I.

Charles has been in the top 100 in the US for as far back as online data shows. In 1880, it ranked as high as #4. From 1880 to 1954 it was in the top 10 — that is definitely the mark of a well-used, well-loved name with broad appeal. After 1954, though, it started to decline in popularity. By the mid-'60s it had fallen to #20, and with each passing decade it has lost more ground. It currently ranks at #62, still very high, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it lose a bit more ground in the coming years. Interestingly, Charlie as a name, on its own, ranks at #236, and has been gaining popularity since the beginning of the 1990s. 

Charles has many lovely variants, including Catalan Carles, Croatian Karlo, Finnish Kaarle and Kalle, Hungarian Károly, Irish Séarlas, Spanish Carlos and Carlito, and Welsh Searl. Feminine forms like Caroline and Charlotte are classics in their own right — at #27, Charlotte is currently more popular than Charles, and Caroline is not too far behind, at #87.

Sunday, April 7

Old Québec Names: D

two recent Instagram rainbows

Here are some of the names from the "D" group of names found on old gravestones in Québec  —  

Déiclara  I wonder if this is a smush of the Italian "dei" meaning "of," plus Clara. Would be a pretty cool way to honor a grandparent or parent named Clara, anyway. Or maybe it's meant to read more like "clear god"? I pick most of the names in this series for their look + sound, and I really love the sound of this one
Déléanthe —  this got me thinking about the name Leanthe. I am a fan of other "-anthe," names, like Ianthe, Iolanthe and to a lesser extent Calanthe, but have never seen this one. Very pretty
Déléosa — actually, if we subtract the "De-" from these names, you get some more interesting choices: Iclara, Léanthe, Léosa, Lonine, Métrie, Vonie ... I like Déléosa for its unusual "-osa" ending
Délonine —  this one is a little stronger-sounding, but I love its streamlined look
Démétrie — French feminine form of the Russian male name Dmitriy, a name derived from the ancient Greek goddess of agriculture, Demeter
Dévonie — I thought this one has some mass-appeal potential. I've seen Devony around, mentioned on lists and used on actual people. Pretty, and recognizable enough to catch someone's eye
Domitille — this has been one of my favorite obscure French names for a while now. It's the French form of Domitilla, which is the feminine form of Roman family name Domitius, meaning "tamed"
Dovilie — this one also seems an easy pick, even for someone who doesn't speak French. Pretty "dove" beginning and the sweet "-ilie" ending (of which I am obviously a fan!) It reminds me of Lithuanian name Dovilë, which means "giving hope"

Dalmien —  chosen for its similarity to Damien, a name I think gets unfairly looked over thanks to the horror-film association. Dalm- calms it down a bit, maybe
Dalphus — this seems adorably dorky. I'd also like Alphus, for something a little softer
Dantes — fans of Alexandre Dumas could use this one, if they don't like Edmund. Dante's well-used, leaning towards outdated, but Dantes is handsome and would definitely stand out
Déitan —  a D-and-French-ified Ethan?
Dénery — a D-and-French-ified Henry?
Dëus — I generally like boy names that end in "-us" or "-s," like Cyrus or Caius, and Dëus fits right in. It means "god," so it's a little ... aspirational ... but I think the right kid could really suit it
Didion —  had to put this one on, since I'm a huge Joan Didion fan and a fan of naming after favorite writers or musicians. If you're not into Joan, this might be a good way to honor Diddy, too? Uh, forget I said that ...
Dorémus — this one also has a nerdy feel to it, I think. (Maybe I'm thinking of Remus?) Pretty cool

Friday, April 5

Academy Names

photo by laliseuse, via Flickr

Here's a look at some names found in the lists of nominees for Best Supporting Actress, and the  list of characters they played. Some great ones to be found!

Beah — Beatrice is popular with the hipster set these days, with designs on making a true comeback by breaking into the mainstream. Its nickname possibilities make that transition easy — Bea, Bibi and Trixie fit in nicely with other trendy, cute, nickname-y names for girls, and so does Beah. I would assume this is pronounced "bay-uh," or "bee-uh"
Eve — I wonder why we don't hear Eve more often. It's a lovely, feminine sound, a word name, a great (and sinful — yay!) namesake and I'd say it definitely hangs out in the "sophisticated old lady" category. Eve seems like a pretty solid choice, and it is on an upswing. It appeared in the top 1000 in 1998 after falling off the list in the mid-'80s, and after a pretty big jump from #704 in '99 to the mid-500s in 2000, has been slowly climbing the charts. It currently sits at #546
Geraldine  I love this clunky feminine form of even-clunkier Gerald so much. I think the right girl could totally pull it off. It's one to watch, as well — it appeared in the top 1000 in 2011, for the first time in forever. At #960, I think it's ready for a jump
Lilia — my personal favorite Lil- name, it has a freshness that I think Lillian lacks, and is much less popular than Lily
Lotte — it seems that most Charlottes go by either their full name or Charlie, but I have always preferred the nickname Lottie, or Lotte as a full name on its own. Retro, European, feminine and simple, it hits all the bases 
Mercedes — pretend you don't know about the car, which was named after a girl, anyway, taken totally out of modern context, this is a great name. Unusual sounds, sweet nicknames — I like Merce more than Sadie — and a lovely meaning (should be obvious: "mercies")
Saoirse — a popular name in Ireland, Saoirse is pronounced "SEER-sha" and means "freedom." I love the sound and meaning, and wonder if actress Saoirse Ronan's career means that it might start to be used more often in the US, despite its Gaelic spelling. For the record, I'm not opposed to altering the spelling to something more familiar, like Seersha, but I think the original looks best
Spring — I had to put this one on the list, since it's being such an insanely nice spring here in LA. I like it as a name, too. We see enough of Summer, Autumn and Winter, why not Spring?
Tuesday — as far as day-of-the-week names go, Sunday's my favorite, but Tuesday comes in at a close second. Fun and spunky, for sure
Winona  I really like Winona. It is a name from the Dakota language, meaning "first-born daughter," and has such a distinctive, appealing sound

Armande —  the feminine form of French male name Armand, which is actually related to Herman, and means "army man." So, an unattractive background, but I love the look and sound of this one
Blanche — bring back Blanche! Bring back Blanche! Meaning "white," Blanche last appeared in the top 1,000 way back in 1964. If you're looking for something at the very forefront of name trends, probably so far ahead of your time that when your Blanche is a teenager she'll start hearing her name used on newborns, use this one. There were only 6 born in the US in 2011. Six! That's a travesty for such a cool name
Clancy  dig this one on a girl, not so much on a boy. Maybe because I just picture Ralph Wiggum's dad?
Gareth — very surprised to find this on a female character. A somewhat-dated male name more popular in the UK than it ever has been in the US, Gareth is a name found in Arthurian legend, as a night of the round table. I can sort of see how it can work on a girl, the "-eth" ending makes me think of Gwyneth, and the sounds aren't terribly masculine
Gillian — are there names you like, but only with certain spellings/pronunciations? Gillian is one of them, for me, on two counts: I only like it with a "G," (Scully!) and I only like it with a hard "G" pronunciation
Glory — there were 63 baby girls named Glory born in the US in 2011. It's pretty underrated, as far as word names go, and seems a logical update on Gloria, though I like that one more, personally
Irene — I love Irene. It's one of my sisters' middle names and has a history of use in my family. Very cool, and you can't beat the meaning: "peace." The French and Italian pronunciations are really pretty, too. This note is for Ottilie and Brian: she was also the first woman to lead the  ... Byzantine empire! (<--- said in a scary, Professor Z voice)
Lois — Lois has been enjoying some use in the UK recently. I've always found the sound a little anatomical, or something, but it is very pretty, and Superman fans could use it instead of naming their kid Kal-El. It hasn't been in the top 1,000 since 1983, and there were 68 born in 2011
Maerose — a really nice name-smush, I love this and Mayrose, would love to see either one used on a real person
Pilar — a Spanish name that literally means "pillar," referring to a legend that had the Virgin Mary appearing on a pillar before Saint James the Greater. (Who's the lesser, I wonder, and why?) It's never cracked the top 1,000 (at least not as far back as the online records show) but was used 74 times in 2011