Sunday, September 29, 2013

Not Quite Animal Names

A couple of months ago there was a birth announcement at Waltzing More Than Matilda that caught my eye. You may have noticed it too - it was for new baby girl Tigerlily, a sister for Wolfgang. Judging by the comments I wasn't the only one impressed by this sibset. I love that they are both slightly offbeat, quirky names with definite animal references without actually being animal names.

Wolfgang is an Old German name meaning 'traveling wolf'. It's most popular in German speaking countries, but is familiar throughout the world thanks to famous Wolfgangs Austrian composer Mozart, German poet Goethe, and more recently chef Puck. Cool nickname Wolf also makes this a very accessible name for todays parents. It has seen regular use in the U.S. since the 50's but has never gotten close to cracking the top 1000.

Whereas Wolfgang may have a slightly old and fusty image, Tigerlily is fresh and playful. For many, Tiger Lily is the name of the princess of a tribe of Native Indians living in Neverland in the classic 'Peter Pan'. Then in 1996 Paula Yates and Michael Hutchence made headlines when they named their new daughter Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence (half sister to Paulas other daughters Fifi Trixiebelle, Peaches Honeyblossom and Little Pixie). She goes mainly by Tiger or Tiger Lily.

Although the name was the subject of much debate, it made people start to think of it less as an outlandish Princess name and more as an actual possibility for a child. Tigerlily appeared on the U.S. charts in 1998, and has continued to be rarely used. It's a floral-esque choice, and like Wolfgang it comes with cool animal nickname Tiger, but the possibility of Lily is also there if your daughter should be more of the quiet type.

But I have to admit, what caught my imagination most about this pairing where would the parents go with subsequent children? So here's a few suggestions that could hold their own with the distinctive Wolfgang and Tigerlily. If you have any more to add to this list, I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

This variant of the Old French / German name Bernard gets the bear reference in there but is still a legitimate name with history, similar to Wolfgang. The name means 'strong, brave bear', which I love and is hard to go past if you're looking for names related to fierce animals. Bearnard has never charted in the U.S. but Bernard was a top 100 for many years and only dropped out of the top 1000 in recent years. It feels like it could fit right in with the hipster crowd these days.

I loved these flowers growing up! Foxglove would make a whimsical floral choice. Usually use of the name Fox seems to be reserved for boys - it has certainly only ever charted for boys. Foxglove could be a great way to get a fox name onto girls. It's also a very off the beaten track choice for those wanting a rarer floral name.

A stately, scholarly surname name, Oxford means "from the oxen crossing'. Nickname Ox might be one of the more difficult animal names to wear, but there is always Ford if they don't feel very Ox-like. Oxford is very well known largely thanks to the famed University and the Dictionary, yet it seems this has led people to avoid it as a given name. It would fit right in with the current wave of preppy surname names though.

Like Tigerlily, Pendragon is best recognised from a work of fiction, as Arthurs surname in the legends of the Knights of the Round Table, reportedly meaning 'head dragon' or 'dragon's head'. It is yet to chart in the U.S. although I have seen it suggested as a possible name by Abby of Appellation Mountain and discussed in a couple of forums on Nameberry recently, so it may soon start appearing on people's radars in the next few years. I love that this has a romantic yet strong feeling, and nickname Penn makes this name feel a little more wearable.

When looking for animal related names that can easily be worn by the girls, it's hard to go past the florals. Again, Snapdragon would be a rare floral choice for a girl - it has never charted, and I don't think I've ever heard of one let alone met one. What I love about Snapdragon is the contrast of the sound of the name against it's image. The flowers are sweet, cheerful and delicate, yet the name suggests almost the opposite. This would be a cute yet fierce name for a girl.

Yes, I realise that thanks to the coffee chain this name is pretty much unusable. Unless you are a big 'Battlestar Galactica' fan. Suddenly this name is a lot more tempting - in fact, it has only charted in 1979, after the original series started airing in 1978. In those days Starbuck was a male, but in the 2004 reincarnation of the show Starbuck was famously portrayed by Katee Sackhoff, so this name feels suitable for either gender. There are also several other famous fictional Starbucks, such as the first mate of the Pequod in 'Moby Dick' (who the coffee chain was named after), the main character in Bernard Cromwell's 'The Starbuck Chronicles' series and Dana Scully of 'The X-Files' -  Starbuck was the nickname her father had for her. With a rich history of fictional namesakes Starbuck doesn't neccessarily feel like a totally off-the-wall or off-limits name option.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Movie Name Quote

Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Seth Rogen,
Danny McBride and Jonah Hill in 'This Is The End'

You may have seen a movie recently called 'This Is The End'. Not to be confused with 'The World's End', which was the Simon Pegg and Nick Frost movie, 'This Is The End' stars Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill and bunch of their mates pretty much playing parodies of themselves.

I have to say I had very ordinary expectations of this movie going in, as it sounded a bit like one of those vanity pieces that are an excuse for a heap of mates to make a movie together but ultimately turns out to be largely unfunny. Was I ever pleasantly surprised though, as it is one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time. I know a lot of people have slammed it as "teenage boy" humour, but each to their own. I really don't get 'Jackass' and those movies make millions.

Anyway, if you've seen it, you may have forgotten this small exchange. About ten minutes in there is a scene where Jonah is telling Jay Baruchel and Seth about an incontinent spaniel he has just adopted.

Jonah - She's a really beautiful soul. Her name's Ahjhai
Seth - Ahjai?
Jonah - Yeah
Seth - How do you spell that?
Jonah - A-H-J-H-A-I

The pronunciation actually sounds more like ahz-har, which I'm guessing is meant to be a funny take on Asia, just with a "fancy" spelling and pronunciation. What do you think? In a movie where they are poking fun at themselves as being somewhat pretentious, do you think this name fits the bill?

Out of interest, a quick Google tells me that this name has never charted in the U.S., but there are some people (looks to be only girls) out there wearing this name. I don't know how they pronounce it or what it means though. I wonder if it will appear on the SSA charts next year......

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's fun to be a Shirley

Shirley - a fun name for a fun little girl

For many name nerds there are two things that are usually pretty high on their want list when choosing names. One is that the name isn't too "trendy" - that it won't seem too dated in yeas to come and instantly mark someone as a child of a particular decade. Another is that it's not "too" popular.

Around the 1930's, one name that completely broke both of these rules was Shirley, largely thanks to child mega-star Shirley Temple. The name was already very well recognised, positioned at #9 in America when Shirley Temple's first films were made. The attention this young girl brought to the name gave it such a boost that Nancy points out that Shirley had the second biggest jump (in numbers of girls given the name) ever from 1934 to 1935, which saw it go from #4 to #2 when 42,353 American girls were given the name. That's a lot of Shirley's.

In many other countries Shirley followed a similar pattern. Fast forward to 1996 in Western Australia. A woman named Shirley, inspired by some lunches with a couple of other Shirleys, thought it might be fun to meet more Shirleys and so put the word out via local media. 62 Shirleys showed up to the first gathering and the Shirley Club was born. The club has grown to include branches all over Australia, in New Zealand and even America, and this weekend they held their 2013 convention in our nations capital, Canberra.

This is a group of ladies whose name has given them a special bond, a common ground from which to form lasting friendships. The groups founding Shirley Brown (otherwise known as S1) says that "Shirleys everywhere have such a good time together, it seemed a logical idea to all of us that we should get together" and that Shirleys are "friendly, outgoing and fun people". They even wrote a Shirley song, which they sing at their conventions.

It's a great argument for not being afraid to choose a currently popular name if you love it. Maybe your child won't feel quite as "special" in a world where four other children at school has the same name. Or maybe it will give them a sense of belonging - a special connection with other children who share the same name, or a confidence to more easily form friendships with others.

Shirleys aren't the only ones who have formed a group to meet like-named friends. In America you will also find Betty Clubs, The Bob Club, The LINDA Club, The Jim Smith Society, and even The Phil Campbells, who meet in the town of Phil Campbell, Alabama.

Many of these names seem to be ones that were once very popular, but are now seen as antiquated and not-so-cool. American member Shirley Rose openly admits that their members have encouraged their children and grandchildren to pass on the name Shirley, but that "It seems the younger generation finds the name very old-fashioned sounding". It's fair to say that I don't think we'll see an upsurge in the name any time soon, although I love its meaning of 'bright meadow'.

For now though, The Shirley Club are definitely teaching us all a lesson about how to love and appreciate our name, and share that joy with the people who understand it the best.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Vin Diesel as Riddick

You may have heard of this guy. He's one of the coolest bad-asses in recent movie history. I am of course referring to one of the most iconic characters Vin Diesel has played, Richard B. Riddick, more commonly known as simply Riddick.

The character of Riddick (pronounced RID-ik) first appeared in the 2000 action sci-fi movie 'Pitch Black', followed by 'The Chronicles of Riddick' in 2004, an animated movie called 'Dark Fury' in 2004 and 2 video games. While the name had (just barely) charted a couple of times before 'Pitch Black', this first movie caused it to chart again in 2001. But it wasn't until 'The Chronicles of Riddick' was released that this name started to gain some traction. In 2005 Riddick peaked on the U.S. SSA charts with 44 uses, which hardly makes it popular. To put it into perspective, girls named Khaleesi in 2012 outnumbered the boys named Riddick 5:1. But with a new Riddick movie - creatively titled 'Riddick' - due out this week, we may see a renewed wave of boys named Riddick over the next year.

Although we know it started as a surname, adapted from an English or Scottish place name, there's some confusion as to it's meaning. Theories include:

  • It's from 'hreod' meaning 'reeds' and 'wic' meaning 'outlying settlement', hence it means 'farm where reeds grow'
  • It was originally Reddick, a slurring of Red Wick, and means 'smooth field'; and
  • It was a medieval nickname from the Anglo-Saxon word 'rudduc', pronounced 'riddic', an name for the robin bird, so is thought to mean a male who 'strutted his plumage'. 

Another nice little side note is that apparently the motto for this surname is "Tu ne cede malis" which translates as "yield not to misfortunes". Maybe this was what the writers had in mind when they named this character, as he is certainly a survivor who will find his way out of any tricky situation whether it be through his astute judge of character, stealth, or his physical prowess.

Whatever Riddick means though, I'm sure there are many people scratching their head as to why this is a name anyone would consider. It contains the elements "rid", "dick" and "ick", none of which are positive. And it sounds like an abbreviation for "ridiculous". Isn't giving this name to a child just begging for them to be teased?

The answer is quite simple - it's easy to overlook these things because this character is just so freaking cool! Look Riddick up in the urban dictionary and the first user submitted definition starts with "Riddick is a fu**ing god". Granted, children won't be familiar with the character (and young ones definitely shouldn't see the movies); but as a lot of their opinions are learned from their parents, if the parents are familiar with the character Riddick they are much more likely to see it as a cool name.

As always, if you have been toying with the idea of using Riddick but you're worried about using it as a first name it would always make a great middle. It's almost like having Danger as a middle name, but comes with the dual benefits of being a sci-fi anti-hero icon and having a more modern, less kitschy feel.

This is one only for the hard core fans - and the brave ones at that.