Category: foreign names
With new arrivals at Yahoo! HQ and in Trump Tower, I thought this week was going to be all about preppy boy names. Yates and Bennett and company, the kind of choices that scream rep tie and polo pony.
But somehow, the rest of the world crept in and I was reminded that American celebrities aren’t the only ones welcoming new babies with lovely, intriguing appellations. Of course, celebrity baby names that sound mainstream in Belgium or Belize might feel quite exotic in the English-speaking world, and the opposite is equally true.
Foreign language baby name blogs report that homegrown celebrities have an impact on naming trends everywhere. While those influences are rarely felt in the US, they can capture our attention, especially should their parent strike it big in Hollywood or score an international hit single.
The nine most intriguing names this week come from all over the planet:
Spencer Frederick – Spencer is a preppy choice with ties to the golden age of Hollywood – a fitting name for a little Trump. Donald, Jr. and wife Vanessa are also parents to Kai Madison, Donald John III, called Donnie, and Tristan Milos. I think Spencer Frederick is my favorite of the four.
Considering July-inspired names?
Try Julian and Julia, the two endlessly popular offshoots of the classic Julius. Though more soft-spoken than the original, both retain an appealing measure of power and nobility that might explain why Hollywood A-listers like Jerry Seinfeld, Robert De Niro, and Lisa Kudrow chose Julian for their sons.
Yet there’s more to these J-names than meets the eye. Along with their many variants, Julian and Julia draw additional strength from their rich, historical roots, while also offering an assortment of sleeker, modern alternatives.
One of the earliest records of the surname Julius tracks back to Rome’s most famous patrician family, the gens Julia, who laid claim to history’s best-known Roman dictator, Gaius Julius Caesar, and boasted descent from the mythological hero Julus. The family’s shared bloodline with several Olympian gods was even outlined by Virgil in the Aeneid, leading many scholars to argue that Julian, translating to “Jove’s child” in English, references Jupiter, the Roman god of sky and thunder. Others suggest that Julian means everything from “youthful” to “downy-bearded,” leaving much of the name’s etymological origins shrouded in mystery.
Julian, borne by many illustrious saints and emperors, was coolly received in the Middle Ages, when it was first introduced, but quickly gained momentum in Italy and France during the Renaissance, in more regionalized versions like Giuliano and Julien. Julia — its female variant –mirrored such popularity trends, only becoming common in the English-speaking world during the 1700’s. Both names, however, were bestowed upon several important literary and religious figures in earlier centuries, including Saint Julian the Hospitaller, patron saint of travelers, Julian the Apostate, Rome’s last pagan Emperor, St. Julia of Corsica, and Proteus’ lover Julia in William Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona. And Juliet– a softer, more romantic female variant– was, of course, also used by the legendary playwright in his best-known tragedy, Romeo and Juliet.
If you look at the Top 1000 (actually 2000) baby names on the latest Social Security list, you’ll find a rich mix of names with English and Irish and Latin and African roots, but only the sparsest sprinkling of names from the Scandinavian cultures. Aside from Eric and Erica–the only Norse names that have ever really caught on in this country–you have to look pretty far down the list to find a handful of others–Kai, Axel, Annika, Gunnar, Ingrid, Soren–some of them representing just a few hundred babies.
Which means that there’s a whole constellation of names waiting to be discovered–including Norse mythological names. Granted, not all of them would appeal to the American ear, some of them displaying their ungainly Germanic roots (Wigburg, anyone?), others offering pronunciation challenges (similar to that posed by Matt Lauer’s son’s Dutch name Thijs, pronounced Tice), or containing too many accents, or being just generally awkward, like Ansgar or Ragnild. That said, there are still many gems to be uncovered.
Though there are some names or variations found only in either Norway or Sweden or Denmark (Finland is a whole other story), the majority–many of them, such as Gunnar, coming from ancient Norse legend–can be found throughout Scandinavia. Strict traditional patterns of nomenclature–the first son being named for his paternal grandfather, etc–and laws restricting name choices have kept the supply pretty limited, but of late these have relaxed somewhat, and non-traditional names have been working their way in.
When it comes to the most popular names, there is some overlap among the three countries. In 2006-07, the top names in Sweden were William, Lukas and Elias, and Wilma, Maja and Ella; in Norway they were Jonas, Mathias and Magnus, and Thea, Emma and Julie; while in Denmark the top three were Lucas, Mikkel and Magnus, and Sofie, Laura, and Freja. Here are some other choices to consider; those starred are current favorites.