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Great Expectations Baby Names: Constantine, River & Royal Reign

baby name Reign

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

From Grammy Award-winning rapper LilKim to a previously anonymous mom in Alaska, some parents are thinking big when it comes to baby names.

Not every parent, of course.  Casual choices like Charlie and Molly, Mia and Jack have been popular in recent years.  And I’ve always thought that George Alexander Louis was a pretty low-key pick for a future king.

But whether the name is an outlandish borrowing from the dictionary or one worn by an accomplished historical figure, it’s worth asking: When is a name too much to live up to? It’s a fine line.  No one will assume that you named your son Alexander after the Macedonian military commander, or Victoria after the long-reigning queen.  Plenty of names from history and literature are perfectly mainstream.

But it’s also a shifting line.  King and Messiah are fast-rising names for boys, suggesting that what initially seems like a grandiose choice might actually be a fairly ordinary one.

The nine most newsworthy names in the news this week tended towards the intentionally impressive, even extravagant:

Royal Reign - Royal has a long history of sparing use for boys, possibly related to the equally regal Roy.  Now Grammy-winning rapper LilKim – born Kimberly Jones – has given the name to a daughter.  Kim referred to her baby girl as a princess during her pregnancy, and had a purple-hued, bejeweled baby shower with her rapper-boyfriend Mr. Papers.  So no surprise that the new arrival isn’t called Zoe or Susan.  But Royal Reign is an awfully big name.

Pieta - English footballer Joey Barton has welcomed a daughter with a deeply spiritual name.  Barton and partner Georgia McNeil also have a son called Cassius.  Pieta brings to mind two things – it’s the Italian word for pity, and usually refers to depictions of Mary holding the body of Jesus.  Among the most famous is Michelangelo’s sculpture, in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.  On sound alone, Pieta appeals – but the meaning seems intense.  No word yet on Barton and McNeil’s reasons for choosing the name, but I’m watching for an interview.

Malia - Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor is a new mom.  She and her baseball player husband, Matt Treanor, named their new arrival Malia Barbara.  Barbara honors Misty’s late mom.  Malia Treanor will share her first name with firstborn First Daughter Malia Obama.  It’s the Hawaiian version of Maria, very much in the spotlight especially right after the 2008 presidential election.  Credit the First Family for some of Malia’s appeal, but Malia also fits right in with popular picks of 2014 – somewhere between Amelia and Aaliyah.

Constantine - Survivor champ Tony Vlachos and wife Marissa have welcomed baby #2.  Big sister is Anastasia, and the new addition is Constantine.  It’s a grand name, worn by a towering emperor and a handful of larger-than-life figures.  But if Alexander, Nicholas, and Dominic are popular, why not Constantine?  It’s been decades since the name cracked the US Top 1000, but nearly anyone would recognize this one, making it very wearable.

Cobain - Musician surname names are an ever-expanding category, from Lennon to Ellington.  No surprise, then, that Names for Real found a Connor Cobain in a recent birth announcement round-up.  It’s been twenty years since the tragic death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.  It’s a lot to live up to as a given name, but it works well tucked in the middle.

Viviana Awesome - Speaking of daring middles, have you heard about the Alaska family petitioning to change their daughter’s name from Viviana Contea to Viviana Awesome?  It’s extreme – even in our age of Sweetheart and Blue.  But the story behind it is kind of sweet, and my best guess is that whether Viviana loves her unorthodox middle or really wishes her mom hadn’t let her big brother help with naming, it won’t stand in the way of a long and happy life.

Harper - Jenna Fischer and Lee Kirk are now parents to a daughter, Harper Marie, a little sister for Weston.  Not so long ago, the literary Harper might have seemed like a big legacy to live up to.  But now that Harper is a fast-rising choice in the US Top 100 for girls, it’s as unsurprising as Jennifer circa 1973.  Still, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird remains a powerful work, and Lee a worthy role model.

River - Congratulations to Kelly Clarkson on the arrival of daughter River Rose!  Proof that baby name trends do move from the fringes to the center – nature names like Willow, Luna, and River have gone from rarities to established favorites.  While the numbers show that most Rivers are boys, sci fi staples Doctor Who and Firefly gave River to the girls.  Will Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock’s new arrival sway more parents to consider River for a daughter?  Too soon to say.

Win - If Royal Reign and Pieta bring the pressure, how about being named Win?  Names for Real recently spotted a birth announcement for EdwinWinCarl.  Wynn and Wynne have seen some use as given names, and antique Edwin seems like a name overdue for a comeback.  If the sporty, upbeat nickname Win helps revive Edwin, I think that works.

Do you prefer casual names or grand ones?  Is Cobain the new Lennon?  And can Edwin make a comeback?  I’m cheering for him!

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