Saturday, December 28, 2013

Drummond

Photo courtesy of Genie Leigh Photography

"On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming"


Hopefully you all had a fun and relaxing Christmas day holiday! I didn't quite manage to get my twelve days of Christmas completed in time for Christmas day. But it's often thought that the twelve days actually starts on Christmas day, culminating with the twelfth day feast and celebrations on January 5th (the eve of the twelfth day) so technically I'm ahead of myself.

Drums are a part of the percussion family, believed to be some of the oldest musical instruments after the human voice. They can play rhythm, melody and harmony, and have long had an important role in almost every type of music, from military marching bands to rock, and have hence been a central part of celebrations. Percussion instruments and drums in particular are often referred to as "the heartbeat" of a musical ensemble. This could explain why they also appear in another of my favourite carols, 'The Little Drummer Boy'. All he has to offer him is the music he plays on his drum, so if looked at in terms of a "heartbeat" it's like saying all he has to offer the baby Jesus is his heart, and that he will do his best for him. It's an extremely sweet and pure sentiment.

The name Drummond doesn't actually share a whole lot with the percussion instrument other than its first syllable (which makes for quite a cute nickname). It's a Scottish surname which originated as a place name meaning 'ridge' or 'lives on the hilltop'. As a given name, Drummond is hardly a mover and shaker in the baby name world. You very rarely see it discussed on forums and chances are good that you've never met one as there has only been four times when it registered on the SSA charts in the U.S after being given to just 5 boys each year.

Yet there is something I find very attractive about Drummond. It's kind of preppy but not in an in-your-face kind of way. It manages to feel somewhat earthy too. And I love the idea that the drum feels like a heartbeat - it makes Drummond a somewhat sentimental choice.

The main problem with using it in Australia though is that there is a well known chain of golf stores called Drummonds. I'd still consider using it though - people would fast run out of names if we avoided everything that appeared on a storefront or packet.

So I guess that completes 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'! What I've really enjoyed about these posts is that there are so many different ways to look at things to come up with a name you love that has a link to something you find special. If you're looking to honour something (or someone) you love, it's always interesting to see what we can come up with when you think outside the box.  Or not - sometimes you don't have to go very far at all to find a name you love with meaningful associations.



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hamlin


"On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping"

'The Twelve Days of Christmas' is supposedly based a twelfth night game, and twelfth night festivities generally included feasts, dancing and music. Hence, after all the birds have been eaten and the ladies are ready to dance and the lords ready to leap, all that's missing is the music. And so we have the pipers (and the drummers, but that's the next post ;-)).

The obvious name here would be Piper, a name I adore. However I've previously had a look at Piper here, and as the names I've chosen so far seem fairly heavily weighted towards the girls side I decided to take the opportunity to go with another boys name. Although technically Hamlin could work for either gender, it just seems to be preferred for males.

Before I get ahead of myself though, the inspiration for today's choice comes from one of the most legendary pipers there is - the Pied Piper of Hamelin. If you're unaware of this tale, 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin' is the story of a German town called Hamelin that became so overrun with rats that they hired a man in colourful (pied) clothing to rid the town of their rat infestation. The piper had an almost magical talent with his pipe, and when he played it the rats were so entranced that they followed him and his pipe to a river, where they all subsequently drowned and died. But when the piper went to the town officials for his payment of services rendered they refused to pay him. So he played a different tune on his pipe that caused the children of the town to leave with him, and they were never seen again.

It's unknown whether the Piper actually exists, although it is accepted that something happened in the history of this town (most likely in the 1200's) that meant the loss of large numbers of children. Theories include that it was the Plague, and the piper represents Death; or that it was caused by large numbers of people emigrating to the East. The Wikipedia entry for this is actually interesting reading if you want to know more.

Of course, with such a tragic story associated wit the name, many people are put off using this place name for a child. The slightly different spelling puts in more in the league of surname names than place names - such as actor Harry Hamlin. Although the pronunciation (ham-len) and the meaning (it's a German name meaning 'little home lover') are the same with both spellings. Some people however have not let this - or the fact that it contains the problematic ham - deter them. It as been given to more than 5 boys in a single year in the U.S eleven times since 1880. That is the Hamlin spelling, Hamelin has never appeared on the SSA charts.

One of the appeals of this name is that this is one of a few boys names ending with the 'lyn' sound. Yet it manages to retain a decidedly masculine sound, maybe because there aren't any girl names starting with 'Ham'. It's reminiscent of Hamlet or Hamilton, but somewhat humbler sounding.

If it's a piper reference you want, it's definitely strong with Hamlin. Just maybe a little too strong for many people's liking, especially for a first name. It's a shame, as it's a nice, masculine sounding in a not-in-your-face kind of way name with a sweet meaning that could be a good, solid name if given a chance.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Laird

Photo courtesy of Mali Workman Photography

"On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, ten Lords a-leaping"


Well, if the ladies got to dance, then why shouldn't the men also? Apparently only men could partake in leaping type dances. These dances possibly originated as a war dance, to get men limber and worked up before a battle, or as a fertility ritual to encourage healthy crops. Such dances then became a part of the entertainment between courses at feasts, although as this became better known as entertainment it was no longer just for the Lords of the land.

Which brings us to Laird, a Scottish name meaning 'Lord of the land'. Pronounced LAYRD, it was a title of sorts in Scotland that can be traced back further than the 15th century. It comes from the same origin as the English word Lord, but technically a Laird isn't the same thing as a Lord, as anyone who owned an estate could call themselves a Laird whereas Lord is a noble title.

You'll most often hear Laird in as a surname, or as "Laird of X". It's not used as a given name in Scotland (that would be far too confusing) but it does see use in the U.S. It first appeared in 1888 when it was given to just 5 boys. More recently we've seen Laird on big-wave pro-surfer Laird Hamilton, and Sharon Stone bestowed this name on her son in 2005. In 2012 Laird was given to just 24 boys, positioning it at #4173 on the charts. Pretty rare indeed.

Yet Laird feels like it has the making to go much further. It's a nicely different alternative to many of the one syllable boys names that are so popular. It's more subtle than Prince or King, it still caries an air of nobility but without the pretentious sound. And some even feel it has a bit of an urban cowboy feel - Nameberry listed it as a "bookish cowboy" name just a few months ago. I tend to agree, as personally I think that it feels quite rugged and roguish. There are a lot of boys named Hamish and Lachlan here in Australia, and Laird could be a solid alternative Scottish name.

Incidentally, if you're not in love with Laird (unfortunately it does sound a little too close to lard for many people's comfort) you could always buy your son a Lairdship instead. It's not that hard to buy a small plot of land and receive paperwork confirming your new status - just try here or here. The money goes towards conversation of the land and estate, and it's a great gift idea for the person who has everything. Or maybe a great way to tell your little Laird that he is indeed an actual Laird.



Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ginger

Gingerbread Tutu Dress
from Mya Papaya Boutique

"On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing"


I was watching a recent episode of 'Glee' tonight where Mr Schue has a discussion with Sue about what a great dancer Ginger Rogers was. She was able to lead her dance partner backwards in high heels. I don't know how true that actually is, but her dancing made her a star overnight and a screen legend. It also seemed very fitting as a Christmas name. Gingerbread men, houses and even villages are a popular treat at this time of the year, so this spicy name could be a cute seasonal name.

It is the ginger (pronounced JIN-jer) root that is used as a spice for culinary and medicinal purposes. It's a hot, fragrant spice, and  ginger is often a term used in English that means 'spirit, spunk or temper'. This was probably the meaning that Geri Halliwell had in mind when she adopted the name Ginger Spice while in the group The Spice Girls. It may have also been a reference to her red hair, as people with red hair are often called "gingers" in reference to the red colour that some types of ginger has.

This reference is what leads most red heads to advise against calling a red-headed child Ginger. There are a lot of jokes out there about red-heads (there's even a website dedicated to them), and the colloquial term "red headed stepchild" refers to someone who is treated less favourably than others. So calling a red-haired child Ginger can seem like a double whammy.

This also leads to another comment that Gingers say they hear a lot - many people call their cats, dogs or even horses Ginger, in reference to their red coat. Not great, but at least it means that people think of the name fondly if they associate it with their beloved pets.

There is indeed plenty of love for the name Ginger out there. It was actually a top 1000 name for girls in the U.S from 1933 to 1989, peaking in 1971 at position #187. The popularity of Ginger Rogers (birth name Virginia) would have helped with this. Another famous Ginger during this period was the movie star character that was shipwrecked with Gilligan on the 60's TV show 'Gilligan's Island'.

Together with Ginger Roberts, they gave this name a glamorous air. This impression endures, although the before-mentioned Spice Girl updates this image with an added  feeling of fun and spunk. Main characters named Ginger in the childrens' shows 'As Told By Ginger' (2000-2009) and 'Zeke and Luther' (2009-2012) give it some freshness and youth. And if your first thought when you hear the name is of Gingerbread, you may also feel this name has a certain sweetness to it. Cute nicknames Ginny or Gigi also work well with Ginger.

Ginger may have taken on some negative connotations since the hey day of Ginger Rogers, but it would be nice to see this dancing ladies' name on the rise again.



Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tess

Photo Courtesy of Milk & Honey Photography

"On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eight maids-a-milking"

Whenever I think of milk maids, I picture an attractive Swiss girl with long blond plaits who loves to yodel. I put this down to some very effective Swiss chocolate advertising on television when I was a child in the 80's. But of course milk maids were an actual thing, and existed in plenty of countries other than Switzerland. A milk maid was a girl or woman who milked cows and then turned that milk into cream, butter and cheese.

There aren't a lot of famous milk maids - probably because it's not particularly glamorous work. But there is one famous milk maid in literature, and that is the main character Tess in Thomas Hardys' 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'. It is when working as a milkmaid at Talbothays Dairy that Tess makes her best friends, and she and her husband Angel fall in love.

Tess is a name I have been fond of since primary school, when one of my friends was named Tess. Most of my associations with the name are due to her, and for this reason I find it to be a pretty and sweet yet spunky and fun little name. And for some reason I always think of Jemima when I hear this name - Tess and Jemima would be gorgeous as sisters.

This name is thought to have originated as a diminutive of the Greek name Theresa. As Theresa means 'to harvest' or 'harvester', so too does Tess. But although it started as a diminutive, it certainly holds up on it's own these days. There are plenty of characters called Tess in movies, TV and literature. In the U.S it has been a top 1000 name since 1983, although it's position at #997 in 2012 means it looks likely this name will slip out of the top 1000 this year.

Why would this be? Well, there's a slight problem with some words that start with Tess. Say Tess tickles out loud and you'll see what I mean.

However there are also cute nicknames a Tess can use, such as Tessie or Tessa. And if you're not not a fan of Tess as a "formal" name, other suggestions besides Theresa that I've seen include Tesla (my favourite pick), Therese, Contessa, Terry and even Destiny.

Tess is a cute little name, simple and free from fanciful adornments. If you like your names short and pretty why not consider Tess?



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Odette

Photo courtesy of Merrifield Phototgraphy

"On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, seven swans-a-swimming"

As much as I love the idea of Swan as a name, I thought I'd take a detour from the bird names on this one. So instead I have for you a name that many people immediately associate with a white swan.

Odette is the main character in the Tchiachovsky ballet 'Swan Lake'. She is a princess who was turned into a white swan by an evil sorcerer, doomed to remain a swan during the day and only return to human form at night. Only true love can save this Swan Queen and her followers (fellow humans afflicted with the same curse), but the path to true love proves rocky and ultimately both she and her suitor die so they can be together eternally.

Pronounced oh-DEHT, Odette has French and Old German origins and means wealthy. She was quite popular in France in the 1900's to 1930's, which is why many famous Odettes are French. It's much rarer to see it used these days, both in France and the U.S, but it still retains that feeling of French chic and mystique.

For better or worse, it also seems that the name Odette is inextricably linked to swans. The 1994 animated movie 'The Swan Princess' (based on 'Swan Lake') and it's several sequels also used Odette as the name of the main princess character. She also has literary connections as Odette de Crecy, the wife of Charles Swann in Proust's 'A la Recherche du Temps Perdu'.

This association has had quite an influence on people's impression of the name Odette. Many people describe the name Odette as romantic, strong, graceful, peaceful, beautiful, elegant and feminine.

However Odette doesn't strike all people this way, mainly because of its' sound. It reminds some people of dead or death, some of odour, some of the dog Odie from the 'Garfield' comics, odd, the term OD (for overdose), the word debt, or owe debt, or even old debt, and all are possible sources of teasing. And others will say they just don't see the appeal, that it seems aged.

I tend to think of Odette as a prettily timeless name though. If you're of a similar mind and aren't deterred by the several possible sound associations, you will find that an Odette would also receive plenty of compliments on their name. And if you feel Odette might be a bit on the "fancy" side for a cheeky little girl to wear, a cute and spunky nickname is a possibility. Detty, Dottie, Ettie, Etta are all fun options. Or maybe you could even call her your little swan.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Alaya


"On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, six geese-a-laying"

The reason why I've picked Alaya would possibly be a source of teasing for this name too. I can just imagine  taunts of "hey Alaya, what 'cha layin'?" But I hate to look at potential problems before properly considering the beauty in a name first.

Alaya (pronounced ah-LAY-ah) is one of those names that when I first heard it a couple of years ago, I couldn't understand why I hadn't heard of it before that. It's very reminiscent of names like Layla and Ayla - it's soft and lilting and feminine. It's pronounced pretty much how it appears, which makes it easy for people to say and is a good choice if you yourself disliked having to explain how to say your name and want to avoid this for your child. And I do so like girl's names that start and end in A.

Some sources say that Alaya is a modern American invented name. But this doesn't seem to be the case, instead it is apparent that it it a variant of either Alaia or Aliya, or perhaps both. From these, Alaya has a few different origins and meanings. In Basque it means 'joyful', in Hebrew it means 'to ascend', in Arabic it means 'lofty, sublime' and in Swahili it means 'exalted'. Alaya has a similar meaning for Buddhists, as one of the eight consciousnesses. The alaya-vijnana is the base consciousness that the other seven evolve from. Taken together, it seems that if you are looking for a name relating to a higher point or power - as Kim Kardashian and Kanye reportedly were thinking when they chose North - Alaya would be a strong contender.

Alaya first appeared on the SSA charts in 1979, and made it's way into the U.S top 1000 in 2009. In 2012 it was #813, which puts it in that comfortable middle ground of not super obscure but not super common.

Alaya is a pretty, underused choice with some pretty inspirational meanings. It would make a lovely name for a girl, no matter the time of year.



Saturday, December 14, 2013

Golda



"On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, five gold rings"

This line of  'The Twelve Days of Christmas' is special for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the melody and the time signature of this line is different - it's twice as many beats as the other lines and offers carolers a slight chance to catch their breath when they are getting to the last few verses of the song. The other is that it is possibly the only gift that is an inanimate object (well, objects to be precise).

I say possibly, because there are a couple of claims that this line actually refers to birds too, which would make the first seven gifts all birds. Some say that the five gold rings really represent the gold rings found on the neck of the ringed pheasant bird. Others say it is a mis-interpretation and that the line was originally "five goldspinks", which is an old name for a Goldfinch. Others argue though that an illustration from the first known 1780 English publication clearly shows the rings as jewellery. The song most likely pre-dates that and had French rather than English origins, so a lost in translation interpretation is possible, but is something that may never be able to be proven definitively.

Whichever interpretation you use, all have the gold in common. This song isn't the only connection that Gold has to Christmas and Jesus either - one of the gifts from the wise men is gold, and Jesus is often depicted with a gold halo. Christmas carol 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' contains the lines "Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore". And the colour is often dominant in Christmas decorations. So the pretty name Golda would make for a lovely festive season baby name.

Golda is thought to be both an English name (derived from the word Gold) and Yiddish. Its most famous bearer is Golda Meir, who became Israels' fourth Prime Minister in 1969.  It's one of those names that people have very divided opinions on. For some it is a family name that is generations old. This can make it seem dated and homely, or maybe familiar and charming. For other, some will see it as a simple, understated and elegant name, while others will find it garish and flashy, akin to people naming their children Diamond or Precious, for example.

I tend to fall more on the side of understated and stylish. Many of the precious metals and gemstone names are very "sparkly" by nature, such as Sapphire and Emerald. Both of which I also really like. But Golda feels like it sits more comfortably with vintage beauties such as Pearl, Opal and Ruby. It's not overly surprising then that Golda and Pearl peaked in usage in the U.S. in the 1890's, Opal and Ruby in the 1910's and Emerald, Sapphire, Diamond and Precious in the 1990's. From that point of view, it is a name from a different era.

Yet that is not a bad thing. Clearly there is still love out there for gemstone and precious metal names. It does mean that at the moment a young girl with this name is rare. However, Ruby is on the way up again - it's super popular here in Australia - and Pearl has recent celebrity baby endorsement. So it's not crazy to think that Golda may also be in for a revival soon.

If you're in agreement with those who find it sweet, elegant and understated, then Golda could be the Christmas name for your shining little girl that you've been looking for.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brannon

Photo courtesy of Kristen Privett Photography

"On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, four colly birds"


Like many other people, I always thought this line of the carol 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' was four calling birds. Don't ask me what I thought calling birds were, maybe I just thought they were particularly loud and vocal birds. Anyway, a colly bird is a European blackbird, which were considered a delicacy in Medieval times. Which helps to make a little more sense of why a king would want four-and-twenty blackbirds baked into a pie in the nursery rhyme 'Sing A Song of Sixpence'.

People usually associate blackbirds such as crows and ravens with Halloween more so than Christmas. For example, Rook was one of the names I profiled just this October. So I thought that since people often think calling birds rather than colly birds, a name that is also not instantly recognisable as a blackbird - such as Brannon - would be fitting.

Brannon (pronounced BRAN-un) is thought to be a variation of the name Brandon, which means 'gorse hill' in Old English or 'sorrow' in Irish. It's also possibly a variant of Bran. There's an old 8th century Irish legend called 'The Voyage of Bran', and since Brannon was the name of Brans son it's thought the name could simply mean 'son of Bran'. Another meaning (Possibly Gaelic or Celtic) given to Bran though is 'raven'. It's also a name from Welsh mythology in the form of Bran the Blessed. It would be this origin that George R.R. Martin had in mind when he named one of the younger Stark sons Bran (Brandon) in his 'Song of Ice and Fire' series (a.k.a. 'Game of Thrones' on television). Without spoiling too much, this Bran has the gift of sight, and is thought to be the foretold three eyed crow. The crow reference makes Bran a very fitting name for the character.

Long form Brannon is one of those names that grows on you the more you say it (well, at least that's true for myself). It's more often heard as a surname - chances are you've never met a Brannon, but they're out there. It's charted in the U.S every year since 1960, just in small numbers. In 2012, it was given to just 35 boys.

One of my favourite things about Brannon is that it is familiar sounding but different, and has a similar feel to some other rising Irish/Gaelic names such as Ronan, Declan, Callan and Cillian. It also has a bit of a tough guy feel to it if you like that in a name, maybe due to its similarity in sound to Cannon. But without the weapon/name word appearance, which is a plus.

Brannon would be a fresh way to honour a Brandon or similar in your family tree, if Brandon feels a little dated for you or you just want to put your own stamp on it. It's also worth considering if you like Bram but want a more substantial name on the certificate - and you're not keen on options such as Bramwell. For that fact, it's a great alternative if you like Bran but want to minimise the cereal references, which tend to make Bran a little undesirable by itself (even though I love the sound of Bran as a name).

A couple of warnings though - be prepared for a Brannon to be mistaken for Brandon. A lot. And while some girls were given this name from the seventies though to the nineties, they do tend to be mistaken for boys when people first hear their name. Probably a lot more so that a Riley or Bailey would, which can be very annoying.

But if these things don't deter you, Brannon has all the makings of a good name. It could even be a way for you to bridge the gap between your love of Halloween and your love of Christmas. Brannon definitely deserves a place on more peoples' short lists.




Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Jeanne, Coco and Lucie




"On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me, three French hens"


There are plenty of birds that make for pretty names, but hens and chickens don't really make that list. Instead, I thought I'd look at the names of three famous French women. But how to choose? If you look at French history three are a lot of women who have done great things. So back to those three French hens. Some say that the carol 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' is actually full of religious symbolism, the three French hens representing the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. Although this theory has been debunked, I thought I'd look at some women who display these virtues.

Jeanne
She's better known as the heroine Joan of Arc, but her actual name was Jeanne (pronounced ZHAHN). Her name means 'God is gracious' and she was devoted in her faith to both God and the French people. Both Jeanne and Joan have a long history of use in the U.S., although Joan has been much more popular, probably because she is more intuitive for non French speakers to pronounce properly, whereas Jeanne would more likely be pronounced like a pair of denim pants. Neither are very popular currently (Joan peaked in 1949), but there's no denying that Jeanne D'Arc remains an inspirational figure.

Coco
Coco Chanel came from very humble beginnings to become one of the most iconic designers and influential people of the 20th century. Born Gabrielle, it's thought that she adopted the name Coco in her earlier years as an entertainer. It's said to be inspired either by one of two popular songs she was associated with, or as an allusion to her being considered a cocotte (a French term for a kept woman). When it turned out her voice was not strong enough, Coco turned to fashion and achieved her hope of fame through design instead.

For a long time people inspired by Coco Chanel were much more likely to use Chanel - a French name meaning 'dweller by the canal' - as a name for their child. It's been a top 1000 name much more often than not since the 70's, the decade when the designer passed away. Coco on the other hand was seen as nickname only territory, a name only suitable for pets. The tide is slowly turning on that though, largely helped when Courtney Cox chose Coco for her daughter in 2004. She chose it because it was a nickname of hers when she was a child. With an example to look to, it seems a lot less silly and a lot more chic these days. It's still a long way from the top 1000 in the U.S. but things are looking up for this cute, spunky nickname come birth name.

Lucie
Many French women were quite active members of the French Resistance during World War II, working for the benefit of their country. Lucie Aubrac was one such woman. She was a Resistance leader and founder of the underground newspaper 'Liberation'. Lucy has long been the much more popular spelling in the western world, but this French variation certainly has its charm. Lucie covers a lot of styles - it's old fashioned yet modern sounding, soft and girlish yet strong and assertive, sweet yet sassy. Meaning 'light', Lucy is a top 100 name, while Lucie is still slowing inching her way towards the top 1000 in the U.S.


Jeanne, Coco and Lucie all have alternatives that have so far proven to be more popular in the U.S. to date. But as we become more of a global community our search for and acceptance of different names becomes much wider. Maybe one day these three French "hens" will overtake their more popular counterparts.



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dove

"On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me, two turtle doves". 

Yes, it's a little obvious to go with Dove on this one, but it's a pretty sounding, current feeling name that I've been thinking about profiling for a while anyway, so why mess with it.

Dove is a name that I feel like people are talking about more than they actually are. And definitely more than they are using it. It's been in and out of the U.S. SSA charts (for girls) since they started keeping records in 1880, occasionally popping up for boys too, but not getting very far. Bird names in general have been getting some attention lately which helps to make Dove feel current. But there are a few factors preventing it from living up to its' potential.

Part of Dove's strengths as it names are probably also the weaknesses that have prevented this name from gaining much ground. The bird itself has long been associated with peace, love, pacifism, innocence, honor and friendship. These are all positive attributes, however they also carry connotations of purity and gentleness, making Dove feel like a somewhat passive name. It can be hard to imagine a soft, peaceful image on most children, and therefore Dove possibly lacks some of the spunkiness that many look for in a name. The fact that there is a skincare brand with this name, or that as a word name it could also be confused with the verb dove (as in I just did a dive) also doesn't help.
Dove Cameron


That doesn't mean that it is unwearable though. Young actress Dove Cameron is one of the 7 baby girls to be named Dove in 1996. Her pale hair, delicate features and clear skin give her a somewhat angelic look that works well with her name. And she's set to become a Disney starlet, which means she currently has a squeaky clean image. She's playing dual roles of twins Liv and Maddie on the creatively named TV show 'Liv and Maddie'. Which presents another slight problem with using Dove - as it's a rare name, if she becomes a star people will immediately associate the name with her. Which is fine if she remains a good role model, but not so great if she were to become the next Lindsay Lohan.

On the upside, if you like what this bird represents but aren't too keen on using it, there are plenty of other names to choose from that mean dove instead, such as:

  • Aloma, Columba, Jemima, Jemma, Jonati, Paloma, Yona, Yonina and Zurita for girls; and
  • Callum, Coleman, Colm, Culver, Jonah, Jonas, Palomo and Tor for boys. 

I really like the sentiment behind this name, and although I think it is a sweet and pretty name it's probably better suited to a middle position as a sweet, quirky, unexpected choice. And of course, one with a subtle Christmas connection, great for a December born baby.


Perdix

Photo courtesy of Molly Wassenaar Photography

What do you think when you hear the name Perdix? I'm guessing you're probably not thinking of the Christmas Carol 'The Twelve Days of Christmas', but that is the inspiration for todays' name.

To backtrack a little, I was reading a post at new name blog 'A Blooming Garden of Names' about the name Pyrus. I love this name! It's very rare and a super cool sounding nature name - and this blogger has given it to her son. Pyrus is a genus names for pear trees and shrubs, and one of the reasons she chose Pyrus (besides her love of nature names) was for it's association to 'The Twelve Days of Christmas', as her son was born at this time of the year. So I thought I'd take some inspiration from her and try to get in a name for each of the twelve days of Christmas before Christmas day.

And so back to Perdix. The line that inspired Pyrus is also the inspiration for Perdix - "a partridge in a pear tree". I'm not really a fan of Partridge or Pear as name possibilities, although interestingly, Pear appeared on the U.S SSA lists in 1923 when it was given to 6 girls that year.

Instead I thought I'd look a little into the story of the partridge. Legend (in Greek mythology) goes that the partridge first appeared when Daedalus threw his nephew Perdix off the sacred hill of Minerva (or a tower in many versions) in a jealous fit of rage. His grandmother the goddess Athena saved him mid-fall by turning him into a partridge, and branded Daedalus with the image of a partridge so he would never forget his crime.  It is thought that the bird avoids heights and is mainly a ground dweller because it is still mindful of that ill-fated fall. These origins are also reflected in the large number of partridge genus names that have Perdix in them.

Due to the above story, Perdix (pronounced PER-diks)  is considered a boys name meaning 'partridge'. Some versions give the nephew a different name, and say that Perdix was actually the name of Daedalus' sister, and hence it is a girls name meaning 'sister of Daedalus'. I'm not sure how this explains the fact that so many partridge genus' have Perdix in their name though, so I'm inclined to out more faith in it being a boys name. Really though, you could probably use Perdix for either gender.

This is a good pick if you are looking for a rare, never charted, little known mythological name. Nameberry this week also name Greek names as one of the top 12 naming trends for 2014, so Perdix would be right on trend without getting lost amongst the more popular Greek choices.  And I wouldn't be overly concerned about the dix sound in this name - the Dixons and Dixies of the world show that this needn't be a problem.

What do you think? Is Perdix wearable? I tend to think it could be, or maybe even Perdyx or Perdixx if you like your ends-in-X names to have a little more "oomph" at the end.




Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cereza

Vanessa Hudgens plays Cereza in 'Machete Kills'

I spotted this gem in the movie 'Machete Kills' recently. Yes, strange place for some naming inspiration. But not quite so strange when you consider the large impact that 'Columbiana' had on the name Cataleya in 2012.

Cereza is a rare one indeed. Pronounced seh-RAY-zuh it is the Spanish word for cherry. I'm not sure how popular it is as a name in Spain or Mexico, but in the U.S. it has never charted. It's kind of surprising when you consider that the name Cherry has been used for girls almost every year since 1880, and Cerise (French for cherry, pronounced seh-REESE) since 1951. Maybe there's a less than flattering association with this word in the U.S. that I'm not aware of that has prevented parents from using it, or maybe it just hasn't gotten enough exposure to turn it mainstream.

This is one of those names that has two contrasting images. For one, the Aji Cereza (cherry pepper) is a small red pepper that is native to Peru, which makes one think of things being spicy and fiery. On the other hand, when people think of cherries they tend to think of something that is small, cute and sweet. A girl with this name could be either, or both at once, which is maybe what writers were thinking when they named this character for 'Machete Kills'. In this movie the character of Cereza is played by the young and beautiful Vanessa Hudgens - so it's likely that the casting choice alone will get people noticing this name.

Besides 'Machete Kills', there is also a character called Cereza in the video game 'Bayonetta'. This Cereza is a young girl who is raised to be a witch. Also known as the forbidden child, she too is a girl of contrasts because she is the daughter of both light and dark.

Another positive point for Cereza for me is that it seems like a great not-too-obvious Christmas related name. Here in Australia Christmas is of course in Summer, and it's rare for many Australian families to have a Christmas Day without some fresh, juicy cherries on the table.

Cereza could be a sweet, exotic and very unexpected choice for your baby girl, and one we may see make it's first appearance on the SSA lists in the next couple of years.




Friday, November 29, 2013

Nameberry Guide to Boy Names

It's not unusual to hear people say that they find plenty of girl names they can easily love, however find it really difficult to find "different" boys names, let alone ones they adore. Of course, there are lots of boys names out there, but if you need a nudge in the right direction then maybe this is the book for you. 

'The Nameberry Guide to the Best Baby Names for Boys' is a great place to turn for some fresh ideas, or maybe to find some new perspective on names you may have previously overlooked. Just as with the Girls Guide, these names have been handpicked by Pam and Linda. Here is my A-Z list of some inspiring and interesting picks from the book. Except for Y, as there unfortunately aren't any in the book.

A - Apollo
B - Bram
C - Caspian
D - Declan
E - Eleazar
F - Fiorello
G - Gideon
H - Holden
I - Indio
J - Justus
K - Kiefer
L - Lorcan
M - Morris
N - Niall
O - Oak
P - Phelan
Q - Quade
R - Rhett
S - Soren
T - Tolliver
U - Ulysses
V - Vincent
W - Wyatt
X - Xander
Z - Zebulon

What do you think  - do any of these make your list, or inspire you to find out more?


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Nameberry Guide to Girl Names

This week Nameberry brought out their new must have guide to girls names - titled 'The Nameberry Guide to the Best Baby Names for Girls'. It's not just a list of names with meanings, it's much more. Pam and Linda have handpicked a selection of names that are either classic, stylish or adventurous, and offered some insight into what makes each name worth considering. If you're tired of looking through endless lists full of names you'd never dream of using, then this could be the book you've been looking for.

So what are some of the names in this book, you ask? Well, to give you a preview of what you can expect, I thought I'd pick out an A-Z of the names I either loved the most, found the most intriguing or just hadn't heard before from the book. I have to admit, some were pretty hard to pick, as a lot of my favourites are in there! But here we go....

A - Abra
B - Bay
C - Celestia
D - Domino
E - Echo
F - Fenella
G - Gia
H - Hadley
I - Isolde
J - Juniper
K - Kiki
L - Lorca
M - Minta
N - Natalia
O - Odessa
P - Peridot
Q - Quinn
R - Romilly
S - Sage
T - Tamar
U - Unity
VVienna
W - Waverly
X - Xanthe
Y - Yvaine
Z - Zadie

I'd love to hear what names from the book you pick as your favourites. And if you're thinking that girl's names are easy, it's the boys that you struggle with, the great news is that they also brought out a boys version a few months ago. I'll name my picks from that book in my next post, so watch this space.



Friday, November 22, 2013

In the Name of the Doctor - But Doctor Who?

The 11 Doctors.......So Far

This week marks the 50th – yes, 50th! - anniversary of 'Doctor Who'. 'Doctor Who' is a British sci-fi show with a cult like following world wide. The special 50th anniversary episode screens on the 23rd , with rumours and speculation as to what it will contain causing excited anticipation among die hard fans (or Whovians) for months now.

Historically the show didn't have a huge special effects budget like other shows of the genre, and so it was it's unique creativity and imaginative story lines that attracted viewers. The last of his race, the Doctor travels through time and space in the TARDIS (time and relative dimension in space) space ship that is disguised as a blue police box. Part of the reason the show has been able to endure as long as it has is because The Doctor has the ability to regenerate each time he dies, each time providing viewers with a main character who remains essentially the same, but with a different personality and quirky style for each regeneration.

While he travels with many different companions, many of whom are beloved by fans and have received their own spin off shows, the true heart of the show is the Doctor, making the actors who have portrayed him household names. If you're a keen 'Doctor Who' fan, perhaps you may like to honour your child with the name of your favourite Doctor.

William Hartnell (1963-1966)
He was the first, and played the Doctor as an “amiable-yet-tetchy patriarch”. William is an enduring classic – and very popular, currently #5 in the U.S. Meaning 'resolute protection', there are plenty of Williams (and Wills') to inspire parents. Hartnell however has never charted so would be very distinctive, and comes with great short form Hart.

Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)
Thanks to St Patrick's day, Patrick feels very Irish although it's a Latin name. It has never fallen out of the top 200 in the U.S and is currently ranked at #142. It has the benefit of feeling equal parts friendly and warm and equal parts preppy and noble. Patrick Troughton's portrayal of the Doctor was as an endearing “cosmic hobo” version of Charlie Chaplin.

Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)
Born John Devon Roland Pertwee, Jon seems to be a contraction of John and Devon. During Jons' stint as Doctor the character was exiled to Earth, a plot line developed due to budget constraints that made it difficult to create sets of other planets. His scientifically minded Doctor has been described as “an active crusader with a penchant for action and fancy clothes”. The name Jon is much less popular than long form Jonathan or the more traditional spelling of John, but also feels the sleeker and more modern option.

Tom Baker (1974-1981)
Tom Baker is one of the more beloved actors to play the Doctor – his trademark long striped scarf is iconic amongst Whovians. He was the longest serving Doctor, often brooding and aloof but also with an eccentric style and whimsical charm. Tom Baker has delighted fans by leaking that he'll appear in the 50 year anniversary special episode. Tom is a short, friendly feeling name which has consistently ranked in the top 200 in the U.S until 1969, when it began to fall rapidly. Longer form Thomas has never been out of the top 100. Surname/occupational name Baker deceptively feels more current, but is much less popular than Tom. It would be great to see either or both rising through the ranks.

Peter Davison (1981-1984)
At the time, Peter was the youngest actor to play the role (a record now held by Matt Smith), and he embodied a more vulnerable, sensitive and reserved Doctor. The name Peter means 'rock' and is currently at it's lowest ebb in the U.S, ranked at #205 in 2012. Peter is nonetheless an enduring classic and will likely remain in popular use for years to come. While Peter has been in regular use for centuries, surname Davison (meaning David's son) first appeared on the SSA charts in 1980 and is rarely used.


Colin Baker (1984-1986)
No relation to Tom, this Baker's stint as the Doctor was marred with an 18 month hiatus and an insinuation by BBC management that Colin was unpopular with viewers. His Doctor was flamboyant, brash and overbearing. As a name, Colin is a Gaelic name meaning 'pup' and has a steady history of use, slowly climbing for a number of years. Irish actor Colin Farrell has likely been the biggest influence in recent years.

Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989 & 1996)
It's hard to hear Sylvester without thinking of whiskers and tweety birds or the muscled action hero, both seemingly at odds with a name meaning 'wood or forest'. It has been falling in popularity in recent years, eclipsed by the fast rising McCoy in 2010. This Irish name meaning 'fire' is benefiting from a current love of all names Mc, and the positive association with the phrase “the real McCoy”. As the Doctor, Sylvester McCoy was at first somewhat comedic, but later became known as one of the darkest and most manipulative of the Doctors.

Paul McGann (1996)
Another actor with a Mc name, although lacking the panache that McCoy has. While McGann is not a likely choice for a given name, Paul has been in use since ancient times. It means 'small' but the number of influential Pauls to look up to is anything but. Paul has been a steadily popular name and while it has never been in the top ten on the boys SSA list, it has also never been out of the top 200. Although that may change in 2013 if it doesn't start regaining some ground. This Doctor was debonair, with an enthusiasm that hid an old soul.

Christopher Eccleston (2005)
Christopher Eccleston was the actor chosen to bring the Doctor back to television screens in 2005. He embodied an intense yet enigmatic leather-jacket-wearing Doctor. The name Christopher is another well loved classic on this list. In the U.S, he was a top ten name for four decades. The variety of possible nicknames help to keep Christopher feeling current – Chris being a classic choice, Topher a modern feeling one and Kit and Kip funky ones. Although it's hard to imagine this man with the name Kip....

David Tennant (2005-2010)
David Tennant is the actor that most often tops the polls as viewers favourite Doctor, his charismatic, witty and light-hearted portrayal causing his Doctor to be voted the “coolest character on UK television” and winning legions of new fans for the show. Tennant has the makings of a good modern hero name – currently it's associated with just the one, very well known actor. But as a word name it's meaning will probably mean that if parents really want to use it they'll leave it in the middle position. David however suffers no such problem. A Hebrew name meaning 'beloved', David has long been a popular favourite.

Matt Smith (2010-2013)
On this list of popular, classic boys names, Matthew (or Matt) can certainly hold his own. Almost everyone knows a Matt – he's familiar and likeable, like an old friend. Smith has a different feel, a little more mature, preppy and serious. Actor Matt Smith has brought a uniquely youthful exuberance to the role of the Doctor – and helped to make bow ties and fez hats cool.

Peter Capaldi (2014)
We're yet to see what fresh spin this Peter will bring to the role, and speculation is mixed among an audience that has become accustomed to the recent younger Doctors. He may have big shoes to fill, but many feel he is up to the challenge. Maybe in the next few years we'll start to see the name Capaldi pop up in birth announcements if he does the role justice.


Are you a fan of the show? Who is your favourite Doctor, and would you honour them in your child's name? And if (like me) you're one of the millions of people tuning in for the anniversary special, I hope you enjoy it!




Sunday, November 17, 2013

Teen Crushes: Cinnamon, Kitana & Savannah

Kitana with her deadly fans from the video game 'Mortal Kombat'

For many people (especially girls it seems) an interest in names usually starts early. For some it's as simple as an "I like your name" to a new friend when you're at school. For others it means long lists of names they hope to one day use, and still others just know early when they've found "the one" - the name they will use no matter what.

When naming is a hypothetical dream you can be as outlandish as you like, and sometimes we are. This is never more so than when we are teenagers - we're establishing our own identity, and our tastes in names can be an extension of this. Are we the type of person who likes classic names, quirky names or modern names?

Sometimes the names we love at this stage will stick with us, sometimes not. After all, tastes change. But regardless of whether we still love a name with the same fervour, chances are that you look back on those names with fondness.

At least, I know I certainly do. So here are three of the names that enchanted me the most as a teen in the nineties.

Cinnamon
Cinnamon was a fanciful "what if" name for me. I was reading a novel - I have no idea which one now - where the main characters were sisters named Sage and Thyme. I really loved this theme, and while Sage "made sense" as a name, I had never really thought or heard of Thyme as a name before. This got me to thinking what other herbs and spices would make great names, and Cinnamon was the one that gave me a light bulb moment. I absolutely loved the sound of it, it felt so earthy yet exotic. But I remember sharing this thought with other people and being told that Cinnamon is not a name. So it became a guilty pleasure name for me - one I loved but could never use.

When I first discovered Nameberry and the SSA charts, I just had to look this one up. The description at Nameberry pretty much confirmed what I'd already been told - that Cinnamon as a name is a bad idea - but I was tickled pink to discover that Cinnamon actually charted in the US from 1967 to 2010! These days my heart lies with Sage, but I'll always have a soft spot for under-appreciated Cinnamon.

Kitana
This is the name that inspired todays' post. Last night as I was heading to bed, the movie 'Mortal Kombat' was just starting on TV. It's a bad, bad movie. But it brings back fond memories of playing the video game with my brothers and sister. And one of the things I especially loved about the game franchise (apart from the super cool fatalities and the legendary phrase "Finish Him!") was that it introduced me to the name Kitana.

Kitana was created for the game by combining the Japanese words Kitsune and Katana to come up with a name that creator John Tobias thought would sound "generically Asian enough". It therefore doesn't have a defined meaning. In Japanese Kitsune means 'fox' and a Katana is a type of Samurai sword known for it's sharpness and strength though, so you could probably draw some meaning from a combination of these elements. Possibilities could include "sharp as a fox", "strong fox" or maybe even "fighting fox", which seems the most fitting considering the character it was coined for.

I'm not the only one to be attracted to this name - Kitana first charted in the U.S. in 1994, around the time MKII ('Mortal Kombat 2') was released. It has charted every year since then, ranked #3045 in 2012 when it was given to 55 girls. While I still love the sound of Kitana, it's similarity to Katana when spoken puts it in the "do I really want to use weapon-like names for a person?" category for me. And of course since it was created for the game there would always be that association. I can't deny it isn't tempting though.

Savannah
In 1996 Aaron Spelling shows were instant hits, and one of my absolute favourites was 'Savannah'. It was set in the town of Savannah, Georgia, and centred around three female friends named Lane, Peyton and Reese. It was full of scandal, intrigue and southern accents, and I loved it. And as much as I liked the names of the three main characters, it was Savannah that captured my imagination the most. To me, it felt classy, soft, fresh and different - just the type of unique, slightly exotic sounding name that I was into at the time.

I laugh now when I remember thinking it was "exotic" sounding, because to many people it's not. But at the time - and in Australia - I hadn't really heard it on a person before. It's still not exactly a popular name here, although in the US it's been a top 1000 name since 1983, and a top 100 name since 1993. Savannah is a Spanish name meaning 'flat tropical grassland' and has gained popularity due to it's prettily feminine sound and slightly spunky feel.


I find it interesting now, looking back on these as a set rather than individual names that I liked at separate times. It strikes me that they could possibly pass for sisters. They all feel slightly exotic to me, have three syllables, and a "nah" sound in them. And each still holds a special charm for me. Maybe they're more indicative of what I like in a name than I first thought.

What were (or currently are) your teen crushes? When you look at them do you think they help you understand your style better? Or are they just memories that you look at fondly, knowing you'll never feel the desire to re-visit them?


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jemima

Actress Jemima Rooper

I was watching an episode of 'Atlantis' today, which features actress Jemima Rooper. I really like Jemima Rooper. I first saw her in the supernaturally themed series 'Hex', but if you're a Jane Austen fan you must check out a mini series called 'Lost in Austen', where she plays a current day avid Jane Austen reader who gets transported into a Jane Austen novel. Seeing her in 'Atlantis' today reminded me just how much I like the name Jemima.

Jemima - pronounced jeh-MYE-mah - is one of those underused names that most people recognise but few people know one. She's a biblical name, the eldest daughter of Job, sister to Keziah and Keren, and considered to be very beautiful. Jemima (or Jemimah) is a Hebrew name meaning 'dove'. I've read online that it technically means warm or affectionate and also accepted to mean dove because the Hebrew word for dove comes from the same origins, but as I'm not Hebrew myself I can't honestly say just how accurate that is.

It is however a very pretty sounding name, with a dash little "olde worlde" charm and a certain warmth to it. It also fits into a nice middle ground between vintage and current - nickname possibilities such as Jem, Jemma, Mima or Mimi certainly help to give it a fun and popular feel. I can't help but feel that she would be a great sister to a Tess, Arabella, Bethany or Abigail; Max, Wesley, Charles or Thaddeus.

Unfortunately though many people consider the name unusable. It's rarely heard here in Australia and languishes at the lower end of the SSA charts in the US, positioned at #3850 in 2012. It fares much better in England, where it rose to position #196 last year. It seems to depend heavily on the most common pop culture association each country has with Jemima:

  • In Australia, Jemima is entrenched in many people's hearts as a rag doll from children's TV show 'Play School', which has been essential viewing for Australian children since 1966. When I Googled Jemima, she was the number one result I received. She's beloved, yes, but it's kind of like naming your child Elmo. 
  • In the U.S. the immediate association is with Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup. The products debuted in 1889 and the trademark character derives from a stereotypical African American character that was often used in minstrel shows at the time, usually portrayed by black face performers. It's synonymous with Mammy type characters and considered to be a racist, derogatory and therefore offensive character. Hence why parents aren't flocking towards using it.
  • In England, Jemima was popular during the Puritan era (16th and 17th century). They favoured biblical and virtuous names, and Jemima with her biblical connections and symbolical meaning of 'dove' fit the bill well. Since then the best known Jemima is arguably Beatrix Potter's Jemima Puddle-Duck. While a Puddle-Duck may not be considered an exciting image to be associated with, it's not as immediately off-putting and in many ways is an endearing image. 

If after knowing about these you're still keen, keep in mind that there are also positive associations with this name. Besides the beautiful biblical Jemima, there are the real life examples of the before mentioned Jemima Rooper, writer and campaigner Jemima Khan and HBO's 'Girls' star Jemima Kirke, all London born. She's an innocent kitten character in the musical 'Cats' (interesting fact - the character was renamed Syllabub when the show went from London the Broadway to avoid the Aunt Jemima association) and a sweetly innocent Victorian era girl in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'. Authors such as Dickens, Trollope and Thackeray have all used the name for characters, giving it some literary cred, too. It's generally considered to be a more upper-class name.

Like many names, Jemima has it's positive and negative connotations. It's just a shame that the one negative one is so strong that it makes it unusable for a large portion of people. Jemima is a gem (pardon the pun) that deserves to be rescued, but I can understand why parents would be reluctant to try that with their child. Otherwise it's a pretty, charming name with a great balance of fun and elegance.



Friday, October 25, 2013

Mythical Halloween Names at Nameberry Today!


My next Halloween post has gone up on Nameberry instead today!

It's a list of names inspired by some pretty nasty (and some not-so-nasty) mythical creatures. Phoenix and Griffin are already long established names, and with the current interest in animal like names such as Bear, Fox and Wolf, I thought it might be fun to look a little further afield for some fresh and unusual creature names. But don't just take my word for it - check out the post at Nameberry and let me know what you think.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shadow


In 1987 the name Shadow and it's alternative spelling Shadoe made a sudden impact on the SSA charts in the U.S. Prior to then, the spelling Shadow as a girls name had charted a handful of years in the 70's, and again in 1986. Then in 1987 both spellings charted for both girls and boys. So what happened in 1986/1987 that suddenly put this name on people's radars?

The answer appears to be Shadoe Stevens. Shadoe is well known for his voice work in television and radio (including hosting the 'American Top 40' radio show from 1988-1995) and various acting roles. These days you may recognise him as the announcer on 'The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson'.

By 1986 Shadoe was already well known after he created and produced 'Fred R. Rated for Federated', a series of commercials for United States chain The Federated Group that were so popular that 'Time Magazine' devoted a two page spread to them. 1986 saw Shadoe appear as a regular and announcer on 'The New Hollywood Squares', plus he hosted created and produced an episode of the comedy sci-fi 'The Cinemax Comedy Experiment', titled 'Shadoevision'. This would have given him nationwide exposure.

His name seems to have inspired a number of parents, but Shadoe Stevens was born Terry Ingstad. On his website he explains how the name was actually forced upon him when he was employed by WKRO radio station in Boston. Up until then he had been going by the name Jefferson Kaye, but it was deemed too similar to many other radio personalities at the time. He wasn't quite comfortable with Shadow, as he felt that Orson Welles was the original Shadow, hence the slightly different spelling. It certainly is a distinctive name though, and he created a personality to go with it.

The Shadoe spelling fell out of use by parents by 1998, but Shadow has continued to see use for both genders in small numbers. The only exception was in 2012, when it didn't quite chart for girls. Shadow is a word name meaning shade, and makes for an cool and mysterious sounding Halloween name. Shadows are often seen as spooky and eerie, something that may stem from a basic human fear of the dark. Other associations people have with the term shadow or shade is that it is sometimes used to refer to a ghost or spirit of a dead person, and in Jungian psychology the shadow or shadow aspect refers to the entirety of one's unconsciousness.

I think Shadow has a really great sound, and style wise it reminds me a lot of names like Orion, Griffin and Zephyr. It also has a bit of a super hero type feel to it. However it's possibly just a touch too "out-there" for most people to feel comfortable bestowing it on a child as a first name. On the upside, I think it would make a fantastically quirky and unexpected middle name for the adventurous namer.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Rook

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

From one bird related name to an actual bird name. This is one I first noticed in a birth announcement in February this year at Waltzing More Than Matilda. It caught my eye as interesting at the time, but I didn't really think much more than that. But for some reason it has slowly been growing on me, and I'm starting to think there is more to this powerful little nature name than meets the eye.

As a bird, Rooks are related to Ravens and Crows, both of which have a history of being associated with Halloween. Ravens in particular are popular in Halloween iconography. It's thought in many cultures that because these birds feed on carrion, they are a link between life and death. Some think they contain lost souls, others say ghosts of murdered people and some say they were messengers from the gods. To see one was considered a good omen by some, but an ill omen by many others.

The benefit of using Rook rather than Raven or Crow/Crowe as a name though is that its' connection is much subtler, a little less "dark" than the other two, possibly because it has plenty of other meanings. The Rook is also a chess piece (named from the Persian work rukh meaning 'chariot'), a card game, a piercing in the antihelix of the ear, a cheat or swindler, a type of rocket and a shortened slang term for a rookie (someone who is new to a job or activity). In pop culture he is a moving castle character in the video game 'Demigod', and a character in 'Ben 10' - sure to make a young Rook happy.

I've seen Rook described by various people as cool, modern, strong, fierce, fresh, unique, romantic and adventurous. It certainly is rare - it first charted in the U.S just over a decade ago, and in 2012 was given to only 24 boys. If you like the idea of Rook but think the K ending is a bit abrupt, Rooker is a possible alternative, or Roderick with the nickname Rook is a distinguished choice.

I also have to admit to having a more personal reason for liking Rook - my name is Brooke, and I adore the idea of using Rook as a middle for a son because it contains elements of my name. It could also work to honour any Brooks' or Brooklyns, or of course and Ravens or Crow/Crowes in the family. And of course I love a nature name.

If you like your boys names to be short, spunky and unexpected, Rook is definitely worth a second look.



Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mavis

Mavis in 'Hotel Transylvania', voiced by Selena Gomez

When I told my husband that I was doing a post about Mavis, his response was "Isn't that a grandma name?" Indeed, this is how this name would be seen by many people. After all, Mavis peaked in the 1920's and 30's, at which time it was in the top 300 in the U.S. It was also used for boys occasionally in those days. These days, Mavis can now be considered to be a "vintage gem", and that usually means hot property.

As character Johnathan says when introduced to Mavis in the 2012 movie 'Hotel Transylvania', "Mavis? That's a neat name!". Of course in this movie, Mavis is a 118 year old vampire, Dracula's "teenage" daughter to be exact. This Mavis has suddenly given the name some cool cred - when I went looking for pictures the suggested Google searches included "Mavis hot" and "Mavis sexy". The words hot and sexy, paired with Mavis? Who would've thought it.

There's a few mixed ideas as to where Mavis originated. Some sources say it is Scottish, some English and some French. From what I've read, it started as the Old French word mauvis meaning 'redwing', also known as a thrush or song bird. It's thought that it was first used as a name by English author Marie Corelli in her 1895 novel 'The Sorrows of Satan' for her character Mavis Clare. She must have been inspired by its' meaning, as the character was said to sing "quite as sweetly as any thrush". As this was the reportedly the first use of Mavis as a name (I say reportedly as it first appeared on the SSA charts in 1893, two years before the publication date), it's often said to be an English name. However as the word mavis was almost obsolete by the 19th century it is thought that Marie Corelli was inspired by one of two other sources.

One possibility is the 1850 love song 'Mary of Argyle' by Charles Jeffrey. The other speculated source is the Robert Burns' 1794 poem 'Ca' the Yowes'. As the Robert Burns poem came first and he is Scottish, mavis seems to have been in common use in Scotland - the song thrush migrates to Scotland in spring and hence is known as a harbinger of Spring in Scotland - and  has led to some sources saying it is a Scottish name.

Regardless of its' origin, Mavis has the potential to experience a resurgence soon. Mavis and similar names Maeve, Mae and Mabel all increased in use in 2012. Maeve and Mae are already in the top 1000 on the SSA charts, and Mabel will most likely join them there in 2013. Positioned at #3667 in 2012, Mavis has a long way to go to join them, but this only means it has a fresher feel. In fact, Mae or Maeve would be cute nicknames for Mavis, meaning you get the cool name and more popular nickname in one fell swoop (bird pun unintended ☺).

Yes, there will still be people out there who think it is a fusty name. But then there are others who think Mavis is stunning, sweet, pretty, adorable, spunky, classic, smart, adventurous and strong. She's a literary, poetic, nature/bird, and now vampire inspired choice. Thanks to 'Hotel Transylvania' she feels youthful again, and with a 'Hotel Transylvania 2' said to be in the works for 2015, she'll be relevant for a little while yet. It's very likely that todays' children will be more likely to think of Mavis as fun and clever rather than old and fusty. Mavis is definitely a name to watch.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Jinx

Elodie Yung as Jinx in 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation'.

I've been debating whether to do Jinx as a name or not. Maybe it's just a little bit too gimmicky as a Halloween name, not really usable as a baby name.

Jinx is a word name - as a verb it means to cast an evil spell on someone or bring bad luck, as a noun it means a person or thing that brings bad luck. It's also one of the seven different types of spells in the 'Harry Potter' series. It's because of the idea that a Jinx is a negative thing that I wonder if it would be too much of a negative experience for a child to grow up with this name.

Then I had a conversation with my husband the other day that gave me second thoughts. It seems there is a new female champion in the video game 'League of Legends' and her name just so happens to be Jinx. He thinks it would be a great name. To which I posed the question "Do you think it would work as a name on it's own, or only as a nickname?'  For the above reason I'm pretty firmly in the nickname only headspace, but he gave it a moments thought and replied that he actually likes it just fine as a given name, and in fact thinks it'd be really cool.

I have to admit I do love the sound of Jinx, I think it's really cute. It reminds me a little of the saying "Jinkies!", the catchphrase of Velma in 'Scooby-Doo'. And maybe it's because I think it's cute that I feel it's more of a "girly" name.

Turns out other people tend to think it's more of a girls name too, and that it can be used as a given name. Jinx has charted a few times intermittently for girls in the U.S. The first was in 1926, most likely inspired by the 1925 silent movie 'Galloping Jinx'. In then charted through much of the '40's, '50's and into the '60's primarily thanks to actress and model Eugenia "Jinx" Falkenburg. Besides acting and modelling, she also entertained troops during World War 2 and hosted a popular talk show with her husband called 'Tex and Jinx'.

These days when I think of the name Jinx there are a few female characters that come to mind, and they all give this name a strong, sexy, feminine appeal. The new 'League of Legends' character is one - you can check out her music video below. Another comes in the form of Bond girl Giacinta "Jinx" Johnson, brought to life by Halle Berry in 'Die Another Day' (and who doesn't remember that scene as she steps out of ocean in her orange bikini). I thought her nickname came from the Gi/Ji sound in her name Giacinta, but it actually comes from the fact that she was born on Friday 13th. And then there's Jinx from the G.I. Joe universe, who appeared in this years' 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation', played by Elodie Yung.

At the other end of the spectrum - and with a slightly different spelling - you get Mr Jinks though. Best known as Robert de Niro's toilet flushing cat in the 'Meet The Parents' movies, he is also a Hanna-Barbera cartoon cat from the 'Pixie and Dixie and Mr Jinks' segment that used to play during 'The Huckleberry Hound Show'. This particular spelling brings to mind mischief and hi-jinks rather than bad luck and curses, which helps to give the name Jinx more of a fun image.

Sexy tough girls and crafty cats aside, I still personally think it's best as a nickname, so a child isn't permanently labelled as "bad luck". In which case it could probably be used for pretty much any child with a name starting with J or G, or containing a "Ji" sound. And of course, it's the perfect nickname for a child born on Halloween.