Too often I’m casually dismissive of Top 100 names. It isn’t that they’re not likable – most popular names are tremendously appealing, otherwise they’d never reach such great heights. Still, mentions of Isabella and Chloe, Noah and Logan are so constant that they fade into the background.
Except that sometimes there’s a story about a name that reminds me of how wrong-headed that attitude really is. The tenth anniversary of September 11th included so many heart-breaking accounts, but here’s the one I noticed: a little girl called Grace, whose father died in the attacks just weeks before she was born. In the face of unthinkable tragedy, her name shines.
On to the names in the news this week:
Enoch – Sweet and somber at once, Gus Van Sant’s quirky little indie flick Restless includes a romantic hero called Enoch, along with characters named Annabel, Mabel, Alger, and Hiroshi. It screened at Cannes in the spring, and opens in the US next week. Old Testament boys’ names have been vogue for years, but Enoch is rarely used. I’m not sure about his sound, but I do love his meaning – dedicated.
Madison – From the obscure to the over-exposed, Spice Girl Mel B’s third daughter wears the wildly popular appellation Madison. It turns out that Melanie let her oldest daughter, twelve-year-old Phoenix Chi, choose her new sister’s name. This makes Melanie far braver than most of us! I wonder if it also suggests that Phoenix would have preferred less of a stand-out name? The family also includes Mel’s daughter Angel Iris. Dad is movie producer Stephen Belafonte, father to Giselle. The four girls’ names defy categorization, but Phoenix, Giselle, Angel, and Madison still sound like sisters.
Matisse – Anna at Waltzing More Than Matilda shared a birth announcement for Australian cricket star Ricky Ponting’s second daughter, Matisse, a little sister for Emmy. It’s the second time I’ve heard a girl called Matisse, and it seems like a great hero name – artistic, undeniably different, but instantly recognizable and easy to spell and pronounce. It’s a bold choice, but I think it stops just short of outlandish. Henri Matisse, incidentally, named his daughter Marguerite.
Muriel – Did you see Babble’s list of names so out they may never come back? It is the kind of article that surfaces every few months. Inevitably, the lists are a mix of names that may, indeed, be headed for obscurity, mixed in with those that are just not quite ready for revival. Muriel caught my eye because I happen to know an adorable tot called Murielle. Rather than dissect their list name by name, I’ll say this: declaring any choice gone for good is a dangerous business. Not so long ago, we would have been equally dismissive of Arthur or Stella or Beatrice.
Raden – Country singer Ashton Shepherd and husband Roland Cunningham welcomed a daughter named Raden Delilah. Yup, Raden. For a girl. She joins big brother James at home. Since mom’s name is boyish, maybe it is a family tradition to choose conventionally masculine monikers. I do like the way the frilly Delilah balances out her androgynous first name, and it turns out that that’s a family tradition, too – Ashton also wears the Biblical appellation in the middle spot.
Ransom – I’m fascinated by the children’s book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The author used found vintage photographs to string together his tale of a child unraveling a family mystery. I’m equally intrigued by the author’s name – Ransom Riggs. While we hear ransom and think of small, unmarked bills in a duffle bag, the word traces its roots to the Latin redemption – which makes this something of a modern virtue choice.
Revere – Speaking of modern virtue choices, would this one work? If you read Rebecca Woolf’s blog Girls Gone Child, you know she’s hit the name nerd jackpot – twin girls! Rebecca and husband Hal are parents to son Archer Sage and daughter Fable Luella. They’ve yet to reveal the names for their new daughters, but she did let slip the names that they’d shortlisted for boys. Son #1 might have been Revere Blaze. It’s a heavy meaning, but it also conjures up the patriotic Paul Revere and a modern word name for girls, Reverie.
Wayne – The BET Hip-Hop Awards nominations came out last week, and rapper Lil Wayne was among the top contenders. Born Dwayne Carter, Jr., he’s a veteran recording artist at the age of 28 thanks to his early start – he signed with Cash Money Records at the tender age of nine. Despite his successful career, both Dwayne and Wayne are about as out as can possibly be circa 2011 – though if I stick with what I wrote for Muriel, I suppose they might be stylish once more around the time I have grandchildren.
Vox – The second of the unneeded boy names on Rebecca Woolf’s list was Vox Shepherd. At first glance, Vox – from the Latin for voice – seems extreme. But on sound alone, Vox is right at home with modern inventions like Jax. The multiplication of Max has prompted parents to seek out other ends-in-x options, too – if Dex, Dax, and Lex are possibilities, why not Latin word names like Lux and Vox?