Category: eccentric 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.
I relish the days when, in the service of nameberry, I allow myself to click through to the birth announcements in Britain’s Daily Telegraph. The upper-crusty British baby name trends and eccentric (to the American ear) name combinations, oblivious to any conventional notions of “flow,” are my idea of top-flight entertainment.
For my latest survey, I set myself the task of listing only those offbeat names that reflect the English sensibility but are rarely heard heard in the United States – or indeed anywhere else in the world. (They may be rarely heard in Britain too — there are lots more Thomases than Teklas — yet they’re in keeping with upper-class British style.)
What I didn’t suspect was how many of them there were. Choices that originally seemed natural for the list – Henrietta and Imogen, for instance – had to be offloaded to make way for more extraordinary names.
What remains is a selection of quirky British baby names (not all of them actual English choices), many of which are utterly (utterly, dahling!) charming and could bear far more use in the larger world.
We all know, thanks to Princess Diana’s infamous wedding blunder, that British people like to use lots of middle names. But it’s not just about quantity: The multiple British names feel inventive and surprising, chosen less for any conventional notion of flow and more for individual considerations of style and family.
Thalia Violetta Carlisle? I would bet the nameberry farm that not a single child in America was given that combination of names last year….or maybe any year. It’s quintessentially British, and it works.
In the examples of recent British baby names below, you’ll notice that lovely antique first names are combined with surnames are mixed up with nicknames, and that once in a while a word name – Rabbit, Reckless – is stuck in, just in case things weren’t eccentric enough already.
Name aficionados will want to check out the Birth Announcements in the London Telegraph for hundreds more such goodies. WARNING: This makes highly addictive reading. Do not undertake too close to bedtime.