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Category: “Beyond Ava & Aiden”

Occupation Names: A Labor Day Salute

child workbench3

With Labor Day upon us, it seems like the perfect moment to focus on the original pre-barbecue meaning of the holiday and celebrate hard-working occupational names.  So we’re looking back to wtoe we wrote on the subject in our book Beyond Ava & Aiden, but here focusing on the less used, fresher sounding examples, and those with less obvious meanings, so no Archer, Shepherd or Baker.

Have you noticed how many of the boys’ names climbing up the ladder end in the letters ‘er’? They sound really new and cool, but in reality a large proportion of them actually originated in medieval England as occupational surnames, when Timothy the Tanner morphed into Timothy Tanner—as if in our day Pete the Programmer became Pete Programmer. And even if a large proportion of these are trades that no longer exist in this Digital Age, and some of their meanings have been lost to time, part of their appeal as a group lies in their throwback reference to basic concepts of honest labor, adding some historical heft to their appeal, and giving them more weight than other fashionable two-syllable names.  They offer the parents of boy babies a comfortable middle ground between the sharper-edged single syllable names (Holt, Colt), and the more ornate longer names (Gregory, Jeremy) of the recent past.  Here are some of the most usable ones, together with their original, sometimes arcane, meanings.

The er-ending names

  • Banner– flag bearer
  • Barker –stripper of bark from trees for tanning
  • Baxter– a baker, usually female
  • Beamer — trumpet player
  • Booker — scribe
  • Boyer — bow maker, cattle herder
  • Brenner — charcoal burner
  • Brewster — brewer of beer
  • Bridger — builder of bridges  
  • Carter — cart maker or driver, transporter of goods
  • Carver — sculptor
  • Chandler — candle maker
  • Chaucer — maker of breeches, boots or leg armor
  • Collier — charcoal seller, coal miner
  • Conner — inspector
  • Cooper — wooden barrel maker
  • Coster — fruit grower or seller
  • Currier — leather finisher
  • Cutler — knife maker
  • Decker — roofer
  • Dexter — dyer
  • Draper — woolen cloth maker or seller
  • Duffer — peddler
  • Farrier– iron worker
  • Fletcher — arrow maker
  • Forester — gamekeeper, forest warden
  • Foster — sheep shearer
  • Fowler — hunter of wild birds
  • Glover — maker or seller of gloves
  • Granger — granary worker
  • Harper —  harp maker or player
  • Hollister — female brothel keeper!!
  • Hooper —  one who makes or fits hoops for barrels
  • Hopper — dancer, acrobat
  • Hunter — huntsman
  • Jagger — a Yorkshire name meaning peddler or carrier
  • Keeler — boatman or barge builder
  • Kiefer — barrel maker or overseer of a wine cellar
  • Lander — launderer
  • Lardner — servant in charge of the larder
  • Lorimer — a spur maker
  • Mercer — merchant, especially in luxury fabrics
  • Miller — grinder of corn
  • Nayler — maker of nails
  • Parker — gamekeeper in a medieval private park
  • Porter — gate keeper, carrier of goods
  • Potter — maker or seller of earthenware pottery
  • Quiller — scribe
  • Ranger — game warden
  • Rider/Ryder — cavalryman, horseman, messenger
  • Sadler– saddle maker
  • Salter — worker in or seller of salter
  • Sayer –several meanings:  assayer of metal, food taster, woodcutter (as in Sawyer)
  • Slater — roofer
  • Sumner — court summoner
  • Thatcher — roofer
  • Tolliver — metal worker (Anglicization of the italian Taliaferro)
  • Turner — turner of wood on a lathe
  • Webster — weaver, originally female
  • Wheeler– wheel maker

 Other occupational names

  • Baird– minstrel or poet  
  • Beaman– beekeeper
  • Chaplin– clergyman
  • Farrar– blacksmith, metalworker
  • Fisk– fisherman
  • Reeve– bailiff, chief magistrate
  • Smith– metal worker, blacksmith
  • Steele– a steel worker
  • Todd– a fox hunter
  • Travis– gate keeper, toll collector
  • Ward– watchman, guard
  • Wright– carpenter, joiner

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Twin Names: Lessons from the Stars

Twin+babies

This blog is adapted from our most recent book, Beyond Ava & Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby

Twins offer a rare opportunity for parents to choose two related names at the same time, but also multiply the potential difficulties of sibling naming.  With twins, it can be more tempting to use rhyme, sound play, and same initial names, but in our opinion pairings like Eddie and Teddy, Faith and Charity, or Nicholas and Nicole should be relegated to a time capsule.

While same-initial names that are clearly distinct from each other – Garrett and Grace, say, or Susannah and Simone – are okay, different-initial names are consistent in style and tone are preferable.

Some celebrity examples that work: Brad and Angelia’s Knox and Vivienne, Julia RobertsPhinnaeus and Hazel, Patrick Dempsey’s Sullivan and Darby, and Marcia Cross’s Eden and Savannah.  Although each of these sets of names is very different in style and feel, they all embody the qualities that matter most in twin names.  Each name in the set is distinct from the other yet they make a harmonious pair – exactly what most parents would wish for the twins themselves.

Gender compatibility may be more important for twins than it is for siblings.  One pair of starbaby twins whose names don’t quite work as well as they should: Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ Jessie James and D’Lila StarBoth are girls, yet Jessie’s name seems thoroughly boyish while D’Lila’s is feminine to the point of frilly.  Melissa Ethridge’s twins are Johnnie and Miller – but unless you know their middle names, you wouldn’t guess that Johnnie is a girl, Miller a boy.  Such gender confusion seems needless, well, confusing.

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Unique Baby Names: Is there such a thing??

babiesfishbowlnames

This blog is adapted from our most recent book, Beyond Ava & Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby

When people look for baby names online, they often put in a search for “unique names.” Some of them are trying to find names that are unusual and distinctive, but some really do want to give their child a name that’s truly one-of-a-kind, something that nobody else has.

A recent newspaper story claimed that one of the reasons for this is because modern parents want their child to be “Googleable,” to have a name that’s different enough that it will pop out online. And some parents say they won’t settle on a name until they find out whether its url is available.

Of course, as soon as you give your child a “unique” name, it all but guarantees it won’t be unique anymore since someone will almost inevitably poach it. We were tickled to find, for instance, that someone posted on our website bulletin board that she’d named her son Knox, a name that wasn’t in our or any other baby-naming book –  months before Angelina and Brad chose it for their newborn son, launching it on the track to widespread use.

When we asked visitors to our website to tell us what they’d named their babies, we never expected their answers to provide such a trove of highly unusual – yes, even unique – names. Some of these turn gender on its ear, some twist spellings in different ways, some reintroduce ancient or ethnic names or transform place names or surnames, and some are conjured from parents’ fertile brains.

Now here is where you would ordinarily expect to find a long list of distinctive, never-heard-before names.  But that would be against the spirit of this style.  So you’ll just have to find–or create–one of your own.

For more of our ideas on unusual names, check out Beyond Ava & Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby

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af-amer

Here is another excerpt from our latest book, Beyond Ava & Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby

In Colonial times, as many as twenty percent of the slaves in the Carolinas bore African names, most notably day names, which relate to the day of the week on which the person was born. The West African day names, often translated to English cognates such as Judy for Juba or Joe for Cudjoe, are:

SUNDAY – QUASHEBA (female); QUASHEE (male)
MONDAYJUBA; CUDJOE
TUESDAY –BENEBA; CUBBENAH
WEDNESDAYCUBA; QUACO
THURSDAY – ABBA; QUAO
FRIDAY — PHEBE/PHIBBI; CUFF/CUFFEE
SATURDAY — MIMBA; QUAME/KWAME

Names were also chosen that signified months of the year, seasons and holidays. Some of these that have survived on the roles include: MONDAY, FRIDAY, CHRISTMAS, EASTER, MARCH and JULY.

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nicole & sparrow

Just when it seemed that the stormy seas of extreme celebrity baby names were calming down (you can see our comments on this at Celebrity Babies Blog), a new crop has come along  introducing a whole bunch of innovative choices, ranging from the ridiculous to the semi-sublime:

BARDOT (first name of David Boreanaz’s daughter) Following in the footsteps of Harlow and other  Hollywood sirens and sex kittens of the past(Dad Boreanaz admitted being inspired by a Brigitte Bardot poster), Bardot could easily fit in with the growing group of o-ending girls’ names: Juno, Lilo, Willow, etc.

BETSI (middle name of Ioan Gruffudd & Alice Evans’ daughter Ella).  Much to my surprise, I find this new take on an old name—I’m not usually a big fan of changing y’s to i’s— appealingly fresh, cute and perky.

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