To the Western world and Northern Hemisphere, July marks the beginning of sunny beach vacations, shady afternoon barbeques and sweltering hot temperatures. To name nerds all over the world, it brings a fresh batch of names inspired by history. In addition to Independence Day fireworks and parades, we have a diamond tycoon’s birthday, a Continental Congress resolution and the anniversary of several record-breaking explorations to celebrate.
Cecil- Cecil J. Rhodes, a British businessman, mining tycoon, and South African politician, was said to have controlled about 90 percent of the world’s diamond production in the nineteenth century. Now his surname is most commonly recognized for the Rhodes Scholarship, which allows select foreign students to study at the University of Oxford. Though Cecil has lost much of its potency over the years, it still maintains a strong presence in the sports and jazz worlds and retains references to American filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille.
Cleveland- President Grover Cleveland, whose legacy was honesty, self-reliance and classical liberalism, quietly underwent successful cancer surgery on July 1, 1893. The operation took place aboard a yacht under maximum security to prevent panic among the public, which was already struggling under an economic depression. Today Cleveland can be grouped with more popular presidential surnames such as Kennedy and Reagan.
Ernest- The month of July celebrates the birth of author Ernest Hemingway, whose most famous works include The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls. A Top 40 name from 1880 to 1926, Ernest has never veered completely off the Social Security list. Spelled Earnest, it alludes to the Oscar Wilde play The Importance of Being Earnest, in which one character says “There is something in that name that seems to inspire absolute confidence. I pity any poor woman whose husband is not called Ernest.”
Hillary- The first man to ascend Mount Everest was explorer Edmund Hillary of New Zealand. At 29,023 feet, Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world. More common today as a girls’ name, Hillary means “happy, cheerful.”
Ida- Also born in July, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett was an African American journalist and civil rights activist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. An active suffragist, she established several notable women’s organizations including the National Association of Colored Women. Though Ida hasn’t been in the Top 1000 since the 1980’s, its popularity outside the US suggests that it is slated to rise again: it’s currently ranked #2 in Denmark, #10 in Norway and #25 in Sweden!
Jacqueline- Remembered for her style and grace, JFK’s first lady was born Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in July 1929. Following her second marriage to Aristotle Onassis, the public coined her nickname “Jackie O.” Though Jacqueline and Jackie’s popularity peaked in 1961, the boys’ name Jack is now stealing the spotlight.
Lee- July 2, 1776 marks the day that Philadelphia’s Continental Congress adopted Richard Henry Lee’s motion for the colonies’ independence from Great Britain. An English name meaning “pasture, meadow” Lee has a bit of a middle name feel for both genders, though the Leigh spelling is more identifiable for females.
Nathaniel- Another notable July birthday belongs to Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose works include The Scarlet Letter. Most people don’t know that he changed the spelling of his last name to hide his relation to John Hathorne, the only judge involved in the Salem witch trials who never repented his actions. Today, though Nathan is a more popular form of the name, Nathaniel still sits just inside the Top 100, where it’s been since the 1980’s.
Nelson- Two famous Nelsons were born in July. The first, the wealthy businessman and New York Governor whose family surname is now considered a landmark of the Big Apple: Nelson Rockefeller. And the second, former President of South African and honored “father of the nation,” Nelson Mandela, whose legacy was ending apartheid and uniting a nation. Nelson’s highest ranking was inside the Top 200 in the 1930’s and 40’s, while it now sits at #582.
Paige- Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971, Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige made history when he became, at age 42, the first African American pitcher in the American baseball league. Today, the sleek and sophisticated Paige is a girls’ name that has been around the Top 100 since 1990, now sitting at #128, peaking at #47 in 2003.
Seneca- In July, 1848, a women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York marked the very beginning of an the organized women’s rights movement in the U.S. An interesting choice for either gender, Seneca, which has Latin and Native American roots, means “people of the standing rock” and was notably used as the name of a Game Maker character in The Hunger Games trilogy.
Serra- The friar who founded San Diego in the mission San Diego de Alcala 1769 was Father Junipero Serra Ferrer. Today Serra is a topographical name meaning “ridge” that is more suited for a girl than a boy, due to its likeness to Sarah, which may also lead to an inevitable error in pronunciation.