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Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain

Neil Gaiman recently lectured on the future of reading and libraries and all manner of literary and imaginative things.

He didn’t utter a word specifically about names, but he’s bestowed many a memorable choice on his characters, from Coraline to Thessaly to Yvaine, Silas to Vandemar.

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.

Names should evolve, and they quietly do when we’re not noticing.  Take Beatrix.  Once a rare spelling variant, she’s now at her most popular ever – and gaining on Beatrice.

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By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge is just a week old.  We’ve discussed his name – and the names the royals didn’t choose, or might be holding in reserve for future princes and princesses – for months.

But while Will and Kate were welcoming their firstborn, plenty of other babies made their debuts.  Many of them are baby girls, girls with bold, brave names.  Some are retro, some are inventive, and others are just plain great choices.

One name remains unknown.  Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem welcomed a daughter on the very day George Alexander Louis was born.  The famously private Cruz-Bardem family has yet to share the name of Leo’s little sister.

There’s no shortage of names that we do know.  Let’s take a look at the great girls’ names that we have heard on new arrivals this month:

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Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel looks at some of the new baby names to make the headlines this week–with several surprises.

Being a name nerd used to be hard work.

Do you remember paging through lists of Olympic medalists in the paper, gazing at name plaques in art museums, seeking out family trees in history books at the library?  Did you know exactly which days the local paper ran birth announcements?

Then you must be a thirty-something or better name nerd.

I borrowed my mother’s only baby name book and kept it on my bookshelf, between Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew.  I read it obsessively, even the small print listing nicknames and foreign variants.  That long lost book is where I fell in love with Libby and Nan, Katrinka and Alexei.

So many stories about twenty-first century baby naming trends are dismissive.  They claim parents are trying too hard for their children to stand out and be unique.

Maybe that happens some of the time, but to me it seems straightforward.

With access to all of these fabulous names, why wouldn’t we consider a wider range of possibilities?

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20 Best Scandinavian Celeb Names

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Scandinavian names have been slow to enter the American stockpot of names.  Maybe it’s because they’re not as romantic as the Italians, as genial as the Irish, as energetic as the Russians, or as instantly chic as the French.

But there are a lot of great, neglected Swedish, Norwegian and Danish names to be discovered, and those of internationally known Scandinavian celebrities have provided a pathway in.  Here are the names of some such notables, both past and present, which are both appealing and accessible– and definitely worth considering.

Astridthe prolific Swedish author Astrid Lindgren is best known as the creator of Pippi Longstocking.  Her royal Scandinavian name has been neglected here in favor of the more familiar Ingrid, but is just as attractive.

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