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Artemis, Italy and Eve: Vowel Names

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The Nameberry Nine by Abby Sandel

Let’s talk about vowels.

The letter A is wildly popular, #1 for girls and #2 for boys according to the most recent analysis at Nancy’s Baby Names. As I looked through this week’s birth announcements and baby name news, it seemed like the letter A is everywhere.

E trails a few places behind A, fifth overall for girls and eighth for boys.

It wasn’t always like this. Look at the data for the 1920s or 1950s. None of the Top Ten names for either gender start with a vowel. But in recent years, names like Andrew, Ethan, Emma, Olivia, Abigail, and Isabella have dominated the lists of most common names.

A has a strong lead, with Alexander, Ava, and Aiden in the current Top Ten. Our affection isn’t limited to the first letter of the alphabet.Owen, Eli, Isaiah, and Easton are all rapidly rising favorites for our sons.  For daughters, there’s Eva and Ella, plus lots of names with the Ev- and El- sound, and up-and-comers like Isla and Olive.

The vowel-centric names in the baby name news last week included:

Italy – Parents continue to search the map for meaningful, attractive place names for their children. Italy is an intriguing option. She’s part-Avery, part-Isabelle, and very much a destination with a positive vibe. For Real Baby Names spotted a birth announcement for Italy Margie Anne, but I think this is a gender neutral possibility.

Astley – While we’re talking about names that work for a boy or a girl, how about Astley?  When I first saw Baby Name Pondering’s post, I thought it wouldn’t work.  But she’s sold me on Astley as a successor to Ashley and Ainsley and company, a rare surname name that works well for a boy or a girl.  My apologies if you now have 1980s pop anthem “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley lodged in your brain.

Artemis – She’s the maiden goddess of the hunt, but Artemis has a history of use for boys, too.  Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Thomas Pyle was better known as Artimis, and Kevin Kline played Artemus in 1989’s Wild, Wild West, a reboot of a 1960s television show that also used the name.  Now there’s Artemis Fowl, the blue-eyed criminal boy genius of a series of novels.  With news that a movie adaptation is expected from Disney, could Artemis be the next Atticus?

Oliver – On a more traditional note, American Idol champ Kris Allen and his wife Katy are new parents.  The pair went with Oliver Neil for their new son.  It’s a handsome choice that wears well in 2013.

Alexander – Speaking of traditional, Jonathan Rhys Meyers is about to don fangs for a turn as Vlad Tepes, a.k.a. Dracula.  This time, Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire is reinvented as Alexander Grayson, an American entrepreneur in Victorian London.  I can’t find any other time that Dracula has answered to Alexander or Grayson, but perhaps there is precedent.

Ophelia – The literary Ophelia has long been linked to Shakespeare and a famous mad scene.  But in our age of Olivia and Amelia, it is hard to resist her sound. For Real Baby Names spotted a birth announcement for Ophelia Sophie.  It is a combination that is both unexpected and pleasing to the ear.

Eve – Actor Jay Ryan and partner Dianna Fuemana welcomed their first child back in March. Daughter Eve’s name is spare and simple. With parents choosing Ev- names like Evelyn, Evangeline, Eva, and Everly in growing numbers, there’s something appealing about Eve’s simplicity.

Augustus – Have you read John Green’s bestselling The Fault in Our Stars? It’s about a girl called Hazel, and her love interest, Augustus. Augustus seems like a big name, a dignified, imperial choice that could overwhelm a small child. And yet, with the friendly Gus as a nickname option and the stylish sound of all the August names, he’s not so unwearable. Better still, The Fault in Our Stars is headed for the big screen next year.

Iris – I love a flower name, and Iris seems like an especially wearable choice. She’s more sensible than Daisy, less common than Lily, easier to answer to than Amaryllis. Waltzing More than Matilda recently shared a birth announcement for Iris Carole.

Do you like vowel names? Which A, E, I, and O names are on your list? And what about poor, neglected U – are there any U names that you would consider?

Abby Sandel, author of every Monday‘s The Nameberry Nine, is the creator of Appellation Mountain.

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