Friday, February 24, 2017

You Can Call Me AL

Hello, readers!

Being a fan of 70's singer-songwriters - still debating naming my future child James, just so I can sing "Sweet Baby James" to them - I'm fairly well-versed in Paul Simon hits. He's also a fantastic example of using names in songs! "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" is one great tune, but so is the title of this article - "You Can Call Me Al."

This short nickname-name peaked in 1910, but it was used quite often in the mid-twentieth century. Al is short for a bunch of excellent names with varying styles - let's check out a few!

The most popular Al-name, Alexander is a classic with no signs of losing its edge. It's got history, namesakes, and a handsome sound - this pick will age well!

Alan, Allan, Allen
Though Alan's ranked higher in the 1950's and 1960's, the names are still popular. For good reason - Alan is simple, friendly, and accessible to all. 

Long on the decline, Alvin got a slight boost in 2007-08, thanks to the Chipmunk films. It's definitely geek-chic, but Alvin is also quirky and adorable. 

Alistair, Alastair
It already ranks in the UK, making this an import we Yanks are excited to receive! The Scottish form of Alexander, Alistair is sophisticated and attractive. 

What's not to like about a name whose meaning comes from the French for "mustachioed man"? It may be a bit stuffy, but Algernon could take off with today's creative namers!

Another bold, old-fashioned choice, Aloysius can be found on Sesame Street, in Brideshead Revisited, and in the names of the saints. Could it return to birth certificates?

Dignified and durable, Albert has quite a few notable namesakes, from Einstein to Camus to a dozen royals. Some may find it dated, but Albert is bound to persevere through its traditional tone. 

A favorite in English literature, Alaric is an ancient name that's never quite become popular. That could very well change, thanks to its unusual sound and refined appeal. 

While it's primarily known as the middle name of Thomas Edison, Alva hits all the right notes to move to the first name slot. It's short yet resolute, uncommon yet recognizable. 

It's incredibly popular in Europe, but Alfred is still relatively under the radar in the US. While Al and Fred(dy) are other traditional nicknames, Alfie is a huge hit in Britain. 

Once well-used, Alphonse has fallen a long way from its rank 100 years ago. But this French choice is now a rare vintage find, perfect for those who love history in a name. 

Though it sounds like a trendy name, similar to Corbin or Ruben, Albin is actually a Swedish pick that's never taken off in the US. It comes from Latin for "white" - lovely for a winter baby. 

With a zippy sound and remarkable history, Alonzo's have appeared on the basketball court and in Congress. This pleasant choice will work for all kinds of personalities!

Tell me your favorite Al names in the comments!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Multi-Culti Monikers - Names that translate well

Hello, readers!

As my boyfriend and I begin to plan our upcoming travels, I've been looking into names popular in our destination countries. In Japan, Tatsuki, Aoi, and Hinata are among the best-loved, but they could have a hard time translating elsewhere. The same could be said, of course, for Elizabeth, Alexander, and Genesis, if they arrived in Japan!

While it would be impossible to compile a complete list of names that work well across various languages and cultures, here's a list of some ideas. Notice that most names are vowel-heavy, with the consonants S, R, M, and N showing up regularly. Also, the most popular gender for each name will depend on the culture/country!

AvaEva - Persian, Hebrew, German
These pretty, classic choices already rank at #4 and #75 in the US; there's no need for me to sell their simplicity and femininity! Still, they're popular for a reason, and would make lovely choices that will stand the test of time (and passport pronunciation).

Mia - Spanish, Scandinavian, Japanese, etc
Ranking on popularity charts in over 25 countries, Mia is fabulous as either a nickname for something longer or all on its own. It's uncomplicated and chic, the type of name with a friendly sound and a beautiful form.

Rui - Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese
A variant of Rodrigo and a popular Chinese surname? Rui has got you covered. Pronounced "ROO-ee," it's a pleasant, lively name that will fit in among the Ray's and Leo's on the playground.

Sara - Hebrew, Japanese
It means "princess" in Hebrew, and has multiple meanings in Japan (depending on the kanji used to spell it). In either case, Sara is a traditionally feminine choice with a long history and dozens of unique namesakes.

Ari - Hebrew, Scandinavian, Armenian
Historically Ari has been a name for boys, with illustrious meanings like "eagle," "lion," or "brave." These days, you're just as likely to hear it for a little girl, often as a nickname for Arielle, Arianna, or Aria. No matter the gender, this name is bright and warm.

Rio, Ryo, Reo - Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese
While Ryo is an immensely popular name in Japan, Rio has only just begun to rise for boys and girls in the US. The recent animated film, as well as the 2016 Summer Olympics, have reminded us of the energetic appeal of "Rio by the sea-oh."

Mei, May, Mai, Mae - Chinese, Japanese, English, Latin
Darling and delicate, this single-syllable pick is bound to work with just about every last name. Whether you're intrigued by the various meanings or honoring a namesake, Mei is a terrific and timeless choice.

Aya - Japanese, Hebrew, Arabic, Yoruba, etc.
This gorgeous name has roots in dozens of languages and cultures, making it a multiculti favorite! However, Aya has only recently started to gain notice in the US, with more fans in Europe and Asia.

Noa - Hebrew, Japanese
Though it's bound to be mistaken for mega-popular Noah in the US, Noa actually comes from a different Hebrew root, meaning "motion." In Japanese, it means "love" or "affection." Perhaps once Noah begins to decline, Noa will rise for girls all over the world.

Hana - Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Persian, etc.
While most variations of Hannah peaked in the late 1990's/early 2000's, this pretty short form could take off on its own. It fits in with trendy four-letter names like Emma, Nora, and Anna, but stands out as a less-common choice.

Sia - Scandinavian, Coptic, Hindi
Most Americans will link this name with contemporary musician Sia, but the name was used even by ancient Egyptians. It's an alluring choice that's sophisticated and unique, yet accessible.

Any great options I missed? Tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Call for Name Blogs

Hello, readers!

I'm trying to increase my viewership of other name blogs in this fabulous community. Please comment with your favorite URLs, especially ones that are still active! Or, if you have suggestions for the best way to search/find name blogs, let me know your tips!


Monday, February 20, 2017

Vintage Boy's Names Ending in A

Hello, readers,

Names that end in A have long been popular for girls, but it certainly seems like the boys are making an effort to catch up! Choices such as Luca, Joshua, and Ezra manage to balance traditional styles with modern sounds. But which choices err on the side of classic rather than trendy?

Here are some names used as far back as the nineteenth century that maintain a masculine sound with an "A" at the end!

Once a popular pick among Jewish families, Ira joins Noah and Abraham in transitioning between the ancient and the contemporary. Ira means "watchful one," and has a few notable namesakes. 

The middle name of inventor Thomas Edison, Alva is another Hebrew choice. It was used for both boys and girls in the nineteenth century, but its attachment to Edison places it more fully in the male category. 

Originally a pet form of Mikhail, Americans haven't met too many male Misha's. Still, this adorable name shares traits with Marshall and Mitchell, as well as honors familial Michael's. 

The name of a biblical prophet, Hosea has also been worn by strong civil rights' activists and leaders. The name means "salvation," a beautiful choice for religious families. 

Though it's a well-used boys' name in Ireland, Dara has been historically feminine in the U.S. However, its energetic sound, bright vibe, and cultural history could bring it back to the boys!

This Slavic variation of Elijah is a stylish alternative to the popular Hebrew pick; it reached American audiences recently via a character in The Man from UNCLE

Possibly related to fan favorite Jacob, Akiva is a more active and attractive pick. A member of The Lonely Island shares the name, but it's still uncommon in the states - only sixty-nine Akiva's were born in 2015. 

Despite the appeal of actor Cuba Gooding Jr., this national name hasn't ever been recorded more than nine times in any year. With international relations (hopefully) improving, Cuba could be a cool place-name choice.

Creative names are increasing in the US, with edgy names like Omega beginning to rise. This pick could get a boost from other trendy O names like Oliver, Owen, and Oscar, too.

Janet Jackson brought this Arabic name to American ears this past January; the name Eissa is a form of Jesus, meaning "the Lord is salvation." Let's watch to see how a celebrity namesake impacts this handsome pick.

What sounds like a combination of Kai and Noah is actually a Hawaiian name meaning "warrior." Koa is bound to jump up popularity lists with its concise tone and tropical origins.

With history in both ancient Rome and Iroquois culture, Seneca is a serene multicultural choice that works well for all kinds of families and personalities. It was also promoted recently in the Hunger Games series.

Another Slavic nickname, this time for classic Ivan. Vanya is the main character in a Chekhov play, as well. It sounds enough like Van to gain notice, with the -ya ending adding a bit of individuality.

Any great choices I missed? Tell me in the comments!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pretty (but not too popular) Names

Hello, readers!

When I first entered the world of naming, my favorite names were the "pretty ones" - Juliana, Isabella, Alexandria, Cecilia. Feminine picks with a bunch of syllables and vowels, rolling off the tongue and conjuring images of princesses. While my tastes have evolved and changed, I still adore finding rare choices that fit this criteria!

Here are some uncommon names (below the top 800) with beauty and embellishment. Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Cordelia - Shakespearean and noble, this choice is beloved in the literary world - from novels to poems to plays, Cordelia's leap off the page.

Isadora - Occasionally used in the early twentieth century, glamorous Isadora still flies under the modern radar. Connections can be made to the dancer Duncan, and the daughter of musician Bjork.

Theodosia - Now that Lin-Manuel Miranda's hit musical Hamilton has brought dazzling Theodosia into the spotlight, it's bound to soar in the next few years.

Philomena - A phenomenal choice, Philomena means "lover of strength." It's a substantial pick perfect for a passionate (and compassionate) little girl.

Novella - Part genre, part diminutive, Novella is much more than the sum of its parts. It comes from the Italian for "new," and it's a lovely alternative to Nova.

Georgiana - A thoroughly British name, Georgiana's appear in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Princess Diana's family tree.

Mirabelle - Both adorable and sophisticated, Mirabelle is a French import that could usurp Annabelle or Gabrielle. Nicknames Mira or Miri are also delightful.

Araminta - Invented in the seventeenth century for a literary character, Araminta has remained recorded but relatively rare. It was the birth name of Harriet Tubman.

Calliope - The goddess of epic poetry and eloquence, Calliope is commanding and exquisite. It comes from the Greek for "beautiful voice," fantastic for a musical family.

Seraphina - Seraphina has a lot going for it - the etymological connection to Angelina and Michaela, the sound similarities to Samantha and Savannah, and the built-in nickname, Sera.

Fiammetta - Romantic and spirited, Fiammetta is a fabulous Italian choice with history in Boccaccio's Decameron and Machiavelli's The Prince.

Celestine - A heavenly choice (wouldn't Celestine and Seraphine make an excellent sibset?), this is name is a pretty alternative to Celeste or Evangeline.

Euphemia - You probably know this name via its nickname, Effie, but the long form of this Greek choice is far more attractive. Mia would be an accessible modern nickname.

Aurembiaix - Positively decadent, this Aragonese choice comes from a medieval aristocrat. It's pronounced "or-EM-bee-ay," and it's embellishment may be bordering on inaccessibility.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Names that Shine

Hello, readers!

Looking for a name that stands out in a sea of conventionality? Check out these sparkling choices, all shining literally and figuratively. Only a couple of them have ever made the top 1000, with most flying under the radar. I've included the number of children born in the US with the name for 2015.

Crystal - 559 girls
This name made it all the way up to #9 in 1982, but has been declining since its heyday. Crystal is especially popular in Asian communities, and has dozens of namesakes from which to choose. If you're looking for something more unusual, check out the names below for the same shimmery vibe!

Diamond - 258 girls and 35 boys
Though it did well through the 1990's and 2000's, Diamond is now off the top 1000. It's especially stunning, but may be a bit over the top for modern tastes. Nickname Dia is a great option if you like the long form want want something simpler for daily use.

Star - 92 girls and 5 boys
Millennial parents prefer Stella, but Star has a lot of strength and ambition imbued in its four letters. Variation Starr is another Beatles-y option, given to 73 girls last year. For uncommon names that mean "star," check out Aster, Yvaine, or Roxanna.

- 57 girls
A hippie name straight out of the 70's, Sunshine is bright (but nearly blinding). One positive trait is that there are dozens of songs with the word in the title, so you'll never run out of lullabies. More recently, Sunshine was featured as a character on Glee.

Golden - 28 boys and 17 girls
It rhymes with Holden and fits in with Gideon and Grayson, so it's no surprise that Golden has been doing alright for boys. Names with a similar meaning include Aurelio and Zahavi. Gold was also given to five baby girls, switching the adjective for a glittering noun.

Silver - 40 girls and 9 boys
Crisp and cool, Silver is one stand-out option that could rise for both genders - it sounds like surname picks Sawyer and Skyler, it blends with color choices Scarlett and Jade, and plenty of pop culture references include prominent Silver's (Treasure Island, Pokemon, and the Lone Ranger).

Copper - 21 boys and 10 girls
It adorned a (male) puppy dog in Disney's The Fox and the Hound, but both boys and girls have been bequeathed this beautiful name. Copper would be a unique honorific for a family police officer, or an attractive alternative to Cooper or Carter.

Shine - 7 girls and 7 boys
When in doubt, go for the direct and concise - Shine is friendly, straightforward, and substantial. It's not too far off from Sean or Shane, either. It may raise some eyebrows, but it's definitely memorable.

Rainbow - 12 girls
A not-uncommon celebrity baby name, Rainbow is bold, feminine, and chromatic. It may work better as a middle name, if only to allow some room to grow with your child.

Light - 7 boys
Another unambiguous pick, Light is a marvelous choice for the little one who lights up your life. As word names get popular, Light is sure to increase in brilliance!

Prism - 5 girls
Illuminated and modern, Prism is assuredly hip. Connections can be made to Primrose and Priscilla, though neither choice equates Prism's level of style.

Sparkle - 5 girls
Positively gleaming and associated with at least one of the My Little Pony characters, Sparkle may be a bit intense. More accessible MLP names include Belle, Luna, and Celestia.

Starlight - 5 girls
The My Little Pony influence continues! Starlight (and variation Starlite) have been used in the United States occasionally since 1964. Stella (or Estrella) is preferable.

Tell me your favorites (and any shining names I didn't cover) in the comments!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Black Activist/Feminist Names

Hello, readers!

In honor of Black History Month, this installment of Feminist Names will focus on black women who've made great strides in the movement. In Famous First Wave Feminists, I included Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells, two early fighters for suffrage and equality. Let's look at some twentieth-century activists (in no particular order).

bell hooks, 1988, via Wikimedia Commons

Audre Lorde
She described herself best - "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” - and wrote many influential works on racism, sexism, and homophobia. Though she was born Audrey Geraldine Lorde, she dropped the "y" from her first name to achieve "artistic symmetry" with her last. Choosing the Audre spelling would be a great way to honor this icon while maintaining relative ease of pronunciation; though Lorde has also been recorded for girls!

Daisy Bates
A civil rights activist and mentor for the Little Rock Nine, Daisy Bates also worked as a journalist and in political organizations against racism and poverty. While Daisy is currently in the top 200, naming your little one after Bates is far from trendy. Another option is Daisylee (Lee being Bates' middle name), a pretty Southern-sounding pick.

bell hooks
Though she was born Gloria Jean, bell hooks chose to take her pen name from her grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks, but kept it lowercase to separate the two identities. She is known for her focus on intersectionality and postmodern perspective on race, class, and gender. Today, Bella reigns in popularity, but Bell is a beautiful and crisp choice that hasn't ranked since 1915.

Alice Walker
Known for The Color Purple, Alice Walker is a novelist and political activist with a career spanning from the early 1960's to today. Though Alice is another name on the rise, Walker's novel characters may provide further inspiration: Celie, Nettie, and Henrietta. Walker is also a great choice for either gender, fitting in with the surname trend.

Dorothy Height
An advocate for education, literacy, and equality, Dorothy Height also advised political leaders throughout the 1950's and 1960's. She was most recently honored with a postage stamp bearing her likeness in November 2016. Though Dorothy is used more in the UK, it's a classic, attractive name that offers excellent nickname possibilities for girls today - Dot, Dottie, and Thea among them.

Shirley Chisholm
The first African-American woman elected to Congress, Shirley Chisholm was also the first black candidate to run for a major party presidential nomination. Though she retired from Congress in 1982, she was active in education and civil rights promotion until her death in 2005. Shirley may soon return to name charts if the 100-year rule proves true, and it's a friendly and feminine choice.

Fannie Lou Hamer
A leader in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and a political and social activist, Fannie Lou Hamer also released an influential album of spirituals and civil rights' anthems, called Songs My Mother Taught Me. While the name Fannie has some issues in the English-speaking world, long form Frances or middle name Lou are both underused, stylish options.

Maya Angelou
Born Marguerite Annie Johnson, she was called Maya by her brother ( for "My-a Sister") and it stuck. Maya Angelou is well-known for her poetry and memoirs of a complicated life throughout the civil rights movement and subsequent decades; when she passed away in 2014, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings became the #1 best-selling book on Amazon. Both Maya and Marguerite are gorgeous names, with the latter still outside the top 1000.

Angela Davis
Scholar and radical activist Angela Davis no longer teaches at universities, but her speeches and work on feminism, social issues, and political activism continue to inspire audiences today. Today, her words are especially relevant: "Radical simply means 'grasping things at the root.'" The name Angela is on the decline, but variants Angelina, Angelica, and Angelique are fabulous options.

Florynce Kennedy
Lawyer, civil rights advocate, and feminist Florynce Rae Kennedy championed intersectionality and reproductive rights, and is remembered for her outspokenness and radical protests. Though she was better known as FloFlorynce may appeal to modern parents who like the "y" trend combined with an elegant English standard.

Coretta Scott King
Though many remember her as the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King was an author and activist in her own right. She's now referred to as the "First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement," who worked tirelessly for equality and peace for over fifty years. With Cora in fashion, elaborate Coretta could definitely take off as both an honor name and an update of a classic.

Kimberlé Crenshaw
A leader in intersectionality studies and a law professor at UCLA and Columbia, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw is a current source of inspiration and knowledge for activists and feminists today. Like Audre Lorde, Kimberlé is missing the expected "y" at the end of her name, making it simultaneously more memorable and more likely to be misspelled. Still, she is a fantastic potential namesake!

Here are links to helpful articles about these and other black feminists:
10 Black Feminists/Womanists Everyone Should Know
14 Black Female Activists You Must Know
27 Black Women Activists Everyone Should Know
4 Famous Black Feminists You Never Learned About in School
14 Books That Should Be On Every Black Feminist's Bookshelf