Category: British names
How would you describe your favorite name style?, asked a recent Nameberry Question of the Week. Do you prefer cool names? Classic? Stylish? Or what?
Which put me in mind of trying to characterize my own name style. You might think that we at Nameberry were born knowing our personal name styles, since we’ve made a life’s work of classifying names into styles and helping other people figure out what kinds of names they love.
But like the shoemaker’s child, I’d never really defined my own name style until Linda posted this question. I definitely like vintage names, I decided, along with names that are a bit unusual. Cool names, but not too cool. Classy, yet quirky.
And then the right term for it came to me: Eccentric Aristocrat. You know, the kind of names that might belong to madcap lords and exotic baronesses (baronessi?) dashing around the countryside in yellow roadsters, drinking champagne and weekending at castles.
Yes, it’s a little bit British, but it’s also kind of Eurotrash and pretty F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton sophisticated American too. Eccentric Aristocrat names hint at a Russian count as a grandfather, a Scottish pile as an inheritance, ancient relatives who have to be honored with highly unfashionable names – except now that you think about it, those names are actually kind of cool.
Regular readers of Nameberry will recognize the Eccentric Aristocrat in many of the names that, not coincidentally, are favorites on this site: Violet and Jasper, Flora and Felix. Those are the kinds of names that I’d choose for my own children. (The fact that I didn’t choose those kinds of names for my own children is another story, one that starts with my husband’s name style being more Solid Midwestern than Eccentric Aristocrat.)
A few rules on what makes a name an Eccentric Aristocrat:
2. It must have a distinct gender identification, but not a conventional one. The name Inigo is clearly male, while India plainly female. Yet Inigo might just as well design clothes as play football, and India seems as appropriate a name for an international financier as for a supermodel.
Is this another case where the Yanks will follow the Brits in baby-naming trends and revive such previously verboten Grandpa names as Harvey, Arthur, Leon, Walter and Stanley– all once considered distinguished in their day? Or similar in style name like Gilbert, Murray, Ralph, Howard or Ernest?
Which, if any, of the names of this genre would you consider?
Would you choose it only to honor a relative with that name? And/or only as a middle name?
If you did use one, would you consider it cutting-edge or pleasingly retro or perenially stylish?
At long last, the official list of the most popular names for baby girls and boys born in England and Wales in 2009 has been released. And, to cut to the chase, here are the Top 10 for each gender–all of which were there last year, with several remaining in the same spot:
- Chloe (up 3 places)
- Emily (down 1)
- Sophie (up 2)
- Jessica (down 1)
- Grace (down 3)
- Oliver (up 1)
- Jack (down 1)
- Harry (up 1)
- Alfie (up 2)
- Thomas (down 3)
- William (up 2)
- Daniel (down 2)
So Jack hit the road, after reigning as #1 for 14 years–though he was still on top in Wales and some areas of England. But it’s interesting to note that if the 12 different spellings of Mohammed that were listed separately had counted as one name, it would have topped Oliver.
The biggest climbers in the Top 100 were Maisie for the girls and Austin for the boys. There were also regional differences (Isabella in London‘s Top Ten, Seren #3 in Wales) and seasonal (Holly was the favorite name for the month of December).
The Royalist spirit was reflected in the naming of 16 Kings, 68 Princes, eight Dukes, 11 Earls, four Barons and four Lords, as well as 12 Queenies, seven Queens, 109 Princesses and five Ladys.
There were only six new boys’ names in the Top 100:
I remember how, when I first read the novels of Evelyn Waugh and the plays of George Bernard Shaw, a whole new universe of names opened up for me. A world of sophisticated, eccentric, kind of uppity and veddy veddy Victorian and Edwardian British names, many of which I had never heard before, but instantly became enamored with.
The comic novels of Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse and the plays (and novel) of Oscar Wilde and Shaw are still a good place to start if you’re looking for a name with a certain elegance, gentility, swank—and sometimes a bit of quirkiness as well.
- Agatha – Waugh
- Amarylis – Shaw
- Ariadne – Shaw
- Augusta – Wilde
- Candida – Shaw
- Cecily – Shaw and Wilde
- Chastity – Waugh
- Clarice – Wodehouse
- Cordelia – Waugh
- Dahlia – Wodehouse
- Domenica – Waugh
- Eliza – Shaw
- Epifania – Shaw
- Evangeline – Wodehouse
- Flossie – Waugh
- Fortitude – Waugh
- Gwendolen – Wilde
- Hester – Wilde
- Hypatia – Wodehouse
- Justice – Waugh
- Lilith – Shaw
- Mercy– Waugh
- Orinthia – Shaw
The British Prime Minister recently chose the Cornish name Endellion as the middle name for his new daughter. The baby was premature, and born while the family was on holiday in Cornwall, and Endellion was chosen because the family regularly holidayed at the little village of St Endellion, so strictly speaking the name belongs with the growing trend to use place names (such as Dakota, Savannah) as first names. However, it is also a traditional Cornish name.
But first a bit of background. Cornwall is a popular holiday place because of its unspoilt beauty. Its unspoilt beauty comes from the fact that its position at the extreme south west of England makes it isolated. This isolation protected it in the past, and led to the preservation of a uniquely Cornish culture.
1500 years ago, when the rest of England was being taken over by the Anglo-Saxons, Cornwall remained independent and retained its own language, descended from the language of the ancient British and closely related to Welsh, into the 18th century. This language is the source of many of the specially Cornish names, while the distinctive West-Country way of pronouncing English has been another source.