Gaiman did say this: “We must not attempt to freeze language, or to pretend it is a dead thing that must be revered, but we should use it as a living thing, that flows, that borrows words, that allows meaning and pronunciations to change with time.”
If language is a living thing, doesn’t the same hold true for names?
Some words endure with minimal alteration, and some names do, too. But for every Elizabeth, there’s a Samantha – a name that feels rich with history, but is actually almost unknown until the nineteenth century. Or Brooke, a name that feels established and sophisticated, but would have been out of place a hundred years ago.
Inventing new names isn’t all spaceships and moon boots. If language is alive, then it is equally possible to reach into the past – to find a forgotten gem that wears well in the twenty-first century. After all, as Pam and Linda pointed out last week, many of 1890’s rarities became 2013’s favorite names.
The nine most newsworthy names from last week look forward and backward, and make for an intriguing bunch:
Amabella – The stylish Annabelle traces her roots to Amabel – from the Latin word for lovable. The frilly Amabella takes Annabelle back in time. This name made the news thanks to Jersey Shore alum and DJ Pauly D. He recently revealed that he’s a new dad. His daughter is named Amabella Sophia. That’s the second new arrival for the former housemates. Nicole Polizzi – better known as Snooki – is mom to Lorenzo. Who would’ve guessed that one beach house could give us such great names?
Rockwell – This star-themed nursery remodel on the Land of Nod’s blog is out of this world. It belongs to a lucky baby boy named Rockwell. My first thought? The artist behind the 1984 one-hit wonder “Somebody’s Watching Me.” But then I thought, if Rocco, Rocky, and Maxwell are all stylish, surname name Rockwell could be, too. Rockwell also references the classic American artist Norman Rockwell.
Modette – Rockwell’s big sister is called Modette on the Land of Nod post. Was it a blog alias? Nope. Rockwell and Modette are the youngest children of trend-setting Bettijo B. Hirschi, one of the co-founders of lifestyle site Paging Supermom. Bettijo is also mom to Attalie and Piper. She shared more about Modette’s name here, noting that it sounds like Odette with an M. I keep thinking that it must be a franglais word for little fashionista – and I love it!
Mavi – Earlier this year, comedian Tracy Morgan welcomed daughter Maven Sonae. Now Arrow star Stephen Amell and his wife Cassandra are new parents to Mavi Alexandra Jean. Jean is mom’s middle, too. But where did they find Mavi? I’m stumped, but here’s guessing that little Miss Amell may inspire a few more parents to consider the modern update to Maeve.
Capri – Another ends-with-i possibility was chosen by Australian power couple Kathryn Eisman and Simon Reynolds. Their new daughter is named Capri Mirabelle. It’s a place name, and the Italian island has been a resort destination for ages. Today it feels modern and romantic at once – a tough combination to find. In the US, Capri has been in sparing use for girls since the 1950s.
Liv – From sunny Capri, let’s head to chilly Detroit, Michigan, where Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson is a new dad. He and fiancé Evelina welcomed daughter Liv. It’s a popular name in Ericsson’s native Sweden, and has gained attention in the US thanks to Top Ten favorite Olivia. But Ericsson’s daughter is also named after former teammate Stefan Liv, who died in a plane crash in 2011.
Atticus – For every novelty like Mavi or Modette, there are dozens of forgotten possibilities. Atticus once counted himself among those neglected names. He was barely known in English until Harper Lee bestowed the name on her heroic small-town attorney, Atticus Finch. Now he’s among the most stylish of names for boys in the US, and actors KaDee Strickland and Jason Behr are the latest to choose this To Kill a Mockingbird name for a son.
Abraham – The brothers who gave us “MMMbop” back in 1996 have grown into outstanding baby namers. The latest addition is Zac Hanson’s George Abraham Walker. Like many of his Hanson cousins, he’ll be known by his middle. Zac and wife Kate are also parents to Shepherd and Junia. Best known as an Old Testament patriarch and a nineteenth century president, Abraham feels surprisingly fresh and wearable in 2013.
Zoey – Congratulations to Bill Klein and Jennifer Arnold, better known as TLC’s The Little Couple, on the adoption of their daughter Zoey. When I first saw Zoe spelled with an added y, it seemed downright daffy. But today, Zoey is the twentieth most popular girls’ name in the US, while Zoe ranked thirtieth. Spellings do change, and the Joey-influenced Zoey has been more common since 2011.