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Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

A French film made its US debut this week.  What’s in a Name? takes us to a dinner party.  A happy couple announces that they’re expecting a son, and they’ve chosen a name.

Adolphe.

It’s as scandalous a choice in French as it would be in English, and the fellow guests are aghast.

The party goes downhill from there.  Other guests are criticized for their children’s “pretentious” names: Myrtille and Apollin.

Such scathing comments are usually reserved for gossip, or maybe anonymous online forums.  Can you imagine yourself in a social setting, hearing your child’s name ripped to shreds?  Let’s hope the movie – and the play it is based on – are pure fiction.

Then again, even if Adolf is your beloved grandfather’s given name, I would think long and hard about giving the name to a son.  It’s one of a very few names, like Lucifer, that strike me as off limits for good reason.

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In this week’s Nameberry 9, Appellation  Mountain ‘s Abby Sandel focuses on several interesting  unisex baby names in the news.

Few subjects are as divisive as gender neutral baby names, and yet I can’t stop talking about them.  Some of us deny their very existence.  Others are willing to call a daughter James, but hesitate to name a son Avery or Madison.  Many of us are discovering nature names or other novel appellations, ones that don’t easily declare themselves pink or blue.

Not every culture splits names into such neat categories, and names certainly shift over time.  Plenty of ends-in-a options, like Noah and Joshua have become favorites for boys, even though they’re very different from the once-dominant Bob, Tom, and Bill – proof that we can reconsider names every generation, if not more often.

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Here, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel’s take on the nine cool names in the news this week–intriguing as always.

I’m always hoping celebrities will surprise and delight us with the cool names they choose.  (January Jones, I’m looking at you!)  A kid who is going to grow up in Hollywood can rock a name like Ptolemy or Apple more easily than one who has to navigate a typical suburban playground.  Plus, somehow I doubt being named Suri is the strangest thing about growing up with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes as your parents.

My preferences aside, it was refreshing to hear veteran rocker Paul Stanley – father of the normally-named Evan, Colin, Sarah, and new arrival Emily Grace – comment “I guess we’re not cool enough for names like Peach or Astro Girl.”  Pretty down to earth for a guy who made his name in sequins and platform boots.

Nonetheless, Emily did not make my list the week she was born – and she still doesn’t. There’s a huge category of names that are more intriguing than Emily, but not as tough to wear as Astro Girl.  (January, don’t rule out Peach.  She has potential, especially in the middle spot.)

There has been plenty of baby name news this past week, and here are nine of my favorite names from the headlines:

Clover – The fourth child of actor Neal McDonough and wife Ruvé Robertson wears this lucky nature name.  Clover Elizabeth joins sisters London Jane and Catherine Maggie, and big brother Morgan PatrickClover combines the fashionable –er ending of Piper and Harper with the botanical appeal of Lily and Violet.  She sounds something like the chart-topping Chloe, and makes for an Irish heritage choice more exciting than Erin.

Ezra – Children’s classic A Snowy Day celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2012, prompting a recent piece in the New York Times about the author – Ezra Jack KeatsJack is epidemic, and Keats could catch on, but I have my eye on Ezra.  Since Joshua and Noah have proved that boys’ names can end in a, too, I can imagine tons of parents discovering Ezra.

Haven – It sounds like a conundrum for the Nameberry forums: my husband is named Cash and we called our first daughter Honor.  What can we possibly name her little sister?  Jessica Alba managed to solve the puzzle on her own, announcing the birth of second daughter Haven Garner last week.  I’m a big fan of the letter H, and the girls’ names share a modern virtue name vibe that fits with choices like Journey and Harmony.

Hopestill – Did you catch Leslie Owen’s Nameberry guest post on family names last Friday?  There’s Consider and Mahala and Dwell, but I was most captivated by Hopestill and Truelove.  Word names are huge, opening the door for daring parents to embrace phrase names.  Truelove is a bit much, but Hopestill has a lovely quality that might appeal to parents seeking an optimistic choice for the middle spot.

Mabel – Someone sent me a YouTube clip of the world’s first robot with knees, which means that the robot can run – probably faster than me.  The technology is fascinating, but I had to go digging for an explanation of her name.  A few articles suggested that it was just Mabel, not MBL-3P0 or anything equally geektastic.  Could the biggest innovators in robot technology also be closet name nerds?  Then I stumbled on a reference to the Michigan Anthropomorphic Biped with Electric Legs.  Still, it is nice to know that when machines take over the world they might have names as appealing as Hal.

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The Question of the Week: What’s your favorite among recent celebrity baby names?

There’s been a plethora of interesting celebaby first and middle name choices recently.  Which one do you like best—and why?

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