Are you watching The League? The FX comedy is about a group of friends who form a fantasy football league. Draft picks matter, in real sports as well as those played only on paper, and so the fourth season opened with a quandary. Dad-to-be Kevin had traded naming rights for his newborn son in exchange for a better draft pick. The new baby arrived, and Kevin’s buddy named the bouncing baby boy … wait for it …
Even if you haven’t read the books, you’ve probably heard of The Hunger Games. The trilogy has topped the bestseller lists, and buzz about the upcoming movie adaptation has been constant for the past few months.
It is the tale of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who overthrows a cruel and despotic government. Katniss Everdeen becomes the unlikely heroine after she is chosen to fight to the death in a televised game controlled by the all-powerful Capitol. It’s part Greek myth, part reality TV.
Author Suzanne Collins is quite the storyteller, and she’s a masterful namer of characters. Katniss sounds like a smoosh of classics like Katherine and Frances, but the name is borrowed from an edible aquatic plant. Sagittaria, the plant’s Latin name, comes from its arrow-shaped leaves. And wouldn’t you know it? Katniss saves the day through her extraordinary skill with a bow and arrow.
Even if you’re not into sci fi, the series is worth a read for the names alone. In Collins’ post-apocalyptic future, some familiar choices have endured, while other names have been sourced from the past. Many are new, drawn from the changed world in which her characters live. Each of the outlying Districts has a certain specific style.
This list includes minor characters and villains, and they range from the perfectly wearable to the truly out-there.
FELLOW CONTESTANTS & PAST CHAMPIONS
Cato – A willing contestant, from wealthy District 2. In the more affluent Districts, children often train for the Games, hoping for a chance to win riches and glory.
The Week in Review: February 8 – 14, 2011
Instead, thanks to a comment on my blog, I’m thinking about the ugly arguments about baby names of recent coinage. The tension at Appellation Mountain erupted over a respelling of the rapidly-rising Lorelei. Lorelei seems like the new Mackenzie, subject to endless variations. I spotted Laurelea earlier this week, and now a mom mentioned using Laurelie – “anyone have a problem with that?”
Over at Baby Names Garden, Neil Street summed up H.L. Mencken’s 1919 comments on unusual baby names, just as common in the early 20th century as they are today. From Hoke to Maybeth, it is a nice reminder that making up new names is, well, nothing new.
Last month, Laura Wattenberg wrote about the frustration parents feel when the name they’ve “invented” is suddenly popping up everywhere. This week, she followed up with some thoughts on authors’ invented names, from Neil Gaiman’s typo that created Coraline to Anne Rice’s misunderstanding that led to Lestat.
Since rumor has it that Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz have chosen Leo as their son’s name, we were treated to a few articles like this one at The Stir, declaring the end of outlandish celeb baby names. The article cited a bunch of recent starbaby birth announcements: Cynthia Nixon and Christine Marinoni’s Max Ellington and Olivia Jane, a daughter for Colin Hanks and Samantha Bryantl.
The list of nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards came out last week. Even though the only category in which I’ve actually seen all the contenders is Best Animated Feature Film, I’ve been digging through the nominees to find the most intriguing name options.
Here are my picks for the most award-winning names from this year’s list of nominees:
- Atticus, as in Atticus Ross, Trent Reznor’s long-time collaborator. The duo is nominated for their work on “The Social Network.” (Hat tip to C in DC for pointing him out!)
- Jem, the unusual nickname for James favored by Jeremy Renner’s character in “The Town.”
- Laser, the given name of the younger Hutcherson kid in the much-nominated “The Kids Are All Right.” (shown in illustration)
- Aron, the slimmed-down Scandinavian variant of Aaron worn by real life mountain climber Aron Ralston. James Franco could win Best Actor for his portrayal of Ralston in “127 Hours.”
- Bastien, from French filmmaker Bastien Dubois, nominated for “Madagascar, a Journey Diary.” Best Animated Short Film doesn’t get much press, but Dubois’ given name – a short form of Sebastian – could catch on.
- Hendrix, from Guy Hendrix Dyas, nominated for production design on “Inception.” If x-names from Felix to Jaxon can catch on, why not Hendrix? Dyas isn’t exactly a household name, but there’s Jimi Hendrix, too.
- Leonardo DiCaprio is a household name, and his character from “Inception” – Dom – could fit right in with Jack and Cole.
- Lastly, there’s a pleasing pair of English appellations from “The King’s Speech.” Geoffrey Rush played Lionel Logue, speech therapist to King George VI. There’s also Cosmo, as in the given name of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Lionel and Cosmo strike me as quite stylish names for small boys, even if the characters are rather serious.
Other famous babies making their debuts this week include Mike and Lahika Tyson’s son Morocco Elijah and Coco Reese Lakshmi, a daughter for No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal and girlfriend Erin Lokitz. We also learned that model Doutzen Kroes and DJ Sunnery James gave their son Phyllon a happy middle name – Joy.
Next week we’ll look at the Girls’ List of Oscar-inspired names, and find out if Best Actor nominee Javier Bardem and equally talented wife Penélope Cruz reveal the name they’ve chosen for their little star.
I’ll admit it: I obsessively read the Pottery Barn Kids catalog not for the color-coordinated, impossibly organized nurseries and playrooms, but for the names. They tend to be a predictable set, drawn from the US Top 100, often reflecting the more conservative choices. Over the last year or so, I’ve detected a subtle shift. Along with Andrew and Michael, Katherine and Grace, the Spring 2011 issue featured bedding and gear personalized for girls called Emerson and Leela, and boys named Rory, Ryland, Tyson, Calvin, and Graham.
If Pottery Barn Kids is embracing a greater diversity of names, let’s take it as just one more sign that parents truly are considering a broader range of options than ever before. If you’ve ever clicked on the Social Security Administration’s Beyond the Top 1000 Names page you’ll know that the percentage of newborns given a Top 1000 name has dropped over the years. Last year, just 73% of all American newborns received a Top 1000 name. That’s down about 5% in the past decade.
Looking for more evidence? Names I’ve spotted recently include:
- During the American Idol auditions in New Orleans, 15 year-old Jacee Badeaux belted out “Dock of the Bay.” Jacee is a he! Other hopefuls on their way to Hollywood answer to Ace, J’Leigh, Jovany, and the oh-so-appropriate Symphony Music.
- For Real Baby Names – a round-up of birth announcements culled from just about everywhere – spotted Linnet Leeann, Sophera Rose, Riken Kade, and Clete Harrison.
- Two from Nancy’s Baby Names reach a bit farther back. Actress Swoosie Kurtz was named after a B-17 bomber by her fighter-pilot dad. And what could explain the rise of Kasara in the 1980s? I think Nancy has solved the mystery.
- My friend Emily met a boy called Echo, and I met a little girl named Bethlehem.
While we ordinary folks were giving our kids inventive appellations, Hollywood was doing the opposite. The arrival of Owen Wilson’s son Robert Ford prompted headlines like “Owen Wilson Gives His Baby a Normal Name.”
Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban announced the birth of their daughter.
It was shocking that they’d managed to keep the pregnancy a secret, but the name they chose, Faith Margaret, raised no eyebrows. Sisters named Sunday and Faith did prompt a few comments. Swistle’s list of possible names for a future sibling is great: Deacon, Bishop, or Benediction for a brother; Trinity, Epiphany, or Hosanna for another girl.
Even Flynn, the name Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr chose for their son,has resulted in very little chatter, though some speculated that F-names could make for a surprising trend. My note to Natalie Portman? Fleet Millepied is available.
For those who love Extreme Celeb Baby Naming, don’t lose hope. The Beckhams are expecting, and with guesses at the new baby’s name ranging from Vaughn and Arcadio to Primrose and Egypt, here’s betting that we’ll be in for a surprise in a few more months. I can’t wait!