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french3-kls

By K. M. Sheard, Nook of Names

During a month spent in France a little while back, I came across quite a few interesting names.

These are some of the zestiest:

FILLES:

Aglaé. French form of the Greek mythological name Aglaia, “splendor” and “beauty.”

Alizée. Modern French name from alizé, “trade wind.” Popularized by the French singer Alizée Jacotey (b.1984).

Bérengère. Feminine form of the Old German name Berenger, “bear-spear.”

Cerise. Adoption of French word cerise, “cherry.”

Flavie. French form of Flavia, a Roman family name from Latin flavus “yellow.”

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abby1-13-13

By Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain

What’s the 2014 equivalent of the old phrase “Every Tom, Dick, and Harry?”

Every Aiden, Mason, and Jake?

Every Max, Zac, and Jackson?

The most popular names for boys used to hold steady for years.  In 1932, the ten most popular names for boys born in the US were Robert, James, John, William, Richard, Charles, Donald, George, Joseph, and Thomas.  Twenty years later, eight of those ten names were still dominant.  Fast-forward to the 1980s, and 30% of the 1932 boys’ Top Ten still ranked.

As for the girls?  That’s a different picture.  Between 1932 and 1952, seven of the girls’ Top Ten fell.  Shirley and Doris made way for Linda and Susan, and the change has continued at a rapid pace.  None of the 1930s or 1950s girls’ favorites still held a top spot by 2012.

And yet there are more wearable names for boys than ever before.  Plenty of parents are still passing down grandpa Joseph’s name, but the pressure to do so seems to be on the decline.  We live in a more accepting age, where diversity in names feels quite normal.

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woody allen family

We don’t particularly think of Woody Allen as a cutting-edge filmmaker, but there is one area in which he has been—if unwittingly—prescient, and that is in giving some of his characters names that would later become trendy choices for babies.  (Though there are no babies in his films—children hardly exist in Woody’s World.)

For those characters he created for himself, he chose, with a few exceptions, pretty ordinary, sometimes nicknamey names—Alvy, Sandy, Mickey, Lenny, Larry, Jerry, Sid, Gabe, Sheldon, Isaac.  But for others, he did come up with some inspired choices:

AlfieYou Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger, 2010 (Anthony Hopkins).  A fittingly British choice for a British character—but it’s doubtful if Woody knew that Alfie was the fourth most popular name for UK baby boys born in 2010.

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Secret Baby Names Connections

secretconn

Usually, when baby names are related, the resemblance is pretty obvious.  For example, Christopher’s foreign versions include Christophe and Christos and his short form is Chris; Patricia is otherwise known as Patrizia or Patrice, Pat or Patty.

But this isn’t always the case.  Alexander might be Alistair to his Scottish cousins, Sasha to his friends.

This can come in handy if you’re looking for an invisible (to non-nerds) or at least indirect route to honoring a namesake.  Ways you can do this include finding an interesting but accessible international variation, or an unexpected nickname that can be used on its own, or a mythological, biblical, or other name switch, or dual identity.

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abbymett

This week for her Nameberry 9, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel looks back at 1980’s baby names and finds that the glam rock stars of that era are still having an impact on naming today.

Conventional wisdom says that parents are willing to take risks with their daughters’ names, but turn conservative as soon as they hear the words “It’s a boy!”

There’s some truth to that, and yet I know more and  more little fellows with daring names.  The US Top 100 bears this out, too, from Noah to Jayden to Chase, all names that sound mainstream today, but violate some of the traditional norms of naming boys.

I think I might have landed on one of the reasons this week: 80s glam metal.

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