Category: exotic baby names
My husband and I are both what we like to call, euphemistically, “decisionally challenged.” I’ve been known to become paralyzed when faced with the cereal aisle in the supermarket. He won’t commit to a vacation destination until we’ve looked at a map and exhaustively researched all continents. So it came as no surprise to anyone that two days after our daughter was born we still hadn’t chosen a name.
Sure we had discussed the topic endlessly during the forty weeks of my pregnancy, had read Beyond Ava & Aiden out loud to each other, had plenty of time to come to a mutually agreeable option, but somehow the only thing that had stuck was a nickname. Pippi. Short for pipsqueak. Cute, but I wasn’t putting that on a birth certificate.
In our defense, we were working with too many restrictions. My husband is of Indian descent and was born and raised in London. I’m a Jew from New York. It turned out we had very different ears when it came to names. Oddly, he was into initials–think, EJ, CJ–which to me were more appropriate for a boy growing up on a farm in the Midwest, not a biracial girl being raised in London. Ironically, despite being the American in the couple, I tended towards names popular in England—think Grace, Amelia, Cecilia.
Add to the problems created by our differing ears and accents the fact that I wanted to honor my late mother, Elizabeth, with an E name (or if we got desperate, I was willing to go for an L for Liz). In my novels, I had already used a couple of my favorite E names (Emily, Ellie) for my main characters, so those were off the table. One more rule, as if we didn’t have enough already: both of us thought it would be nice if the name had an Indian feel to it.
Of course, the first name that we came across that we both loved—Skylar (spelled Skylar if I had my choice, Sklyer, if my husband had his way) — fit none of our criteria. Not Indian. Not an E or an L name. Every family member from both sides was unimpressed, and yet, we were in complete agreement, a rare thing in a decisionally-challenged couple. We were decided…until we weren’t.
We think and talk a lot about place names–countries like China, states like Georgia, cities like Dallas, even boroughs like Brooklyn. And we also think and talk about nature names, of flowers and trees. Well there’s one category that merges the two together, and that’s river names.
I was planning to put together a list of interesting river names worldwide, but I came upon so many intriguing and unusual possibilities in Western Europe alone, that I decided to save our own country, England and Ireland and others farther afield for some time in the future. Some of those listed here are major waterways like the Seine, others are much smaller streams; and some run through more than one country. And I’m sure you’ll notice that there are those that sound decidedly masculine (Arno), while others could be possible girls’ names (Adaja).
Not surprisingly, some of the most appealing names come from the French countryside:
And here are some Latinate choices from Italy, Spain, and Portugal:
DANUBE (which is shown in the illustration)