Category: Spellings, Sounds and Initials
By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain
Here’s something I overheard recently:
There’s something to that statement, isn’t there? Olivia feels like a vintage revival, a literary choice thanks to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and a wildly popular name for over a decade. Aria is a newcomer, a noun name that leapt from obscurity to prominence thanks to more than one pop culture reference. They’re very different names.
Yet on sound alone, Aria and Olivia are similar. Reverse the histories – make Aria the Shakespearean choice and Olivia the twenty-first century television darling – and it is easy to imagine the statement reversed, too. After all, five of the current US Top 20 girls’ names end with -ia.
Nouveau or traditional, popular or obscure, our favorite names tend to share sounds.
By Linda Rosenkrantz
I’ve long loved Lola, and lately I’ve been crushing on Viola and Finola–which inspired me to take a look at what other ola names there are, and was pleased to find that there are lots of options, coming from several different ethnicities. As opposed to the diminutive ina-ending, ola‘s long o-sound gives her a certain strength combined with femininity that is really appealing. So here come the ola girls:
Amapola—This rarely heard name is of Arabic origin and means ‘poppy’—in fact there was a hugely popular Big Band-era hit song called ‘Amapola, my pretty little poppy.” The Greek name Anatola is related to the ancient Turkish place name Anatolia.
by Jeanette Soto
The name Jeanette was given to me by my young, hip parents during the infamous Chicago heat wave of 1987. The name had been out of fashion for over four decades and not coming back in style any time soon. The minute I learned how to spell it, I was frustrated by all the other people who couldn’t. One girl in grammar school insisted that it should be spelled with a ‘G’ because it sounded “too hard” to be spelled with a ‘J. Most often, people spell my name with one too many N’s or one to few T’s; misspellings include Jeannette, Janet, Jennet, Jenette, Jenet, Ginette and Ginet, but practically nobody gets it right.
Why did my parents give me a name that wasn’t just dated, but came with a slew of spellings? My mother’s excuse: Pregnancy amnesia, or brain fog caused by pregnancy hormones. It came over my mother at the time she was trying to remember the name she wanted to give me, so Colette Madeleine morphed into Jeanette Ashley.
What other names have Jeanette’s retro -ette ending and unusual style? Here, some choices:
By Gay Cioffi
Just as in real estate where the three most important things are: LOCATION… LOCATION…. LOCATION, when bestowing a name on a baby the three most important things are: PRONUNCIATION… PRONUNCIATION… PRONUNCIATION.
As a person whose last name is almost never pronounced correctly, Cioffi (the Ci is like Ch and …oh, if only I had a buck for every time I have had to say that!!), I know that navigating the social territory of “when and how often to correct” those who mispronounce it is tricky, to say the least. I had a third grade teacher who pronounced it KEY-OFF and I cringed every time I was called on for the entire school year.
It’s been noted before that one of the most striking trends when analyzing American baby names is the rise in popularity of boys’ names ending with the letter ‘n’ over the past few decades. What I haven’t seen is a visualization that truly demonstrates the scale of this phenomenon. And for a good reason; it’s difficult to show trends over time in 26 variables. So I made this animated GIF of bar graphs; pay attention to the ‘n’ after the mid-70s.