Category: guest blog
Guest blogger Skye Pifer, of Sarasota, Florida, co-authored “The New Grandparent Name Book; a lighthearted guide to picking the perfect grandparent name,” with her mother, Lin Wellford, who lives in the Arkansas Ozarks.
I guess you could say my mom is something of a name fanatic. She picked out my name when she was still a little girl, after seeing it in one of her aunt’s movie magazines. Soon after that, she modified her own name, one she points out, that is shared by at least a million other girls born in the late 1940’s through the mid-1960’s; Linda. She tried to get people to call her Lynn but public school teachers seemed determined to use the name on her records. Only after the fresh start of college did she try again, spelling it ‘Lin,’ and that time it took.
So when she learned I was expecting, it didn’t take my mother long to began wondering what her grandchild-to-be should call her. In our family, grandparenting names are pretty personal. My maternal great-grandparents called themselves “Gramma and Gran.” Another set were “Mamaw and Pampaw.” My own grandmother (the person who stuck my mom with ‘Linda’) was certainly old enough to be a grandmother when I came along. But she rejected all the more standard grandmother names and elected to be called “Mutti” (a German version of ‘Mom.’ She’s now in her late 80’s and is known as Mutti not just to her eight grandchildren, but also to our spouses, friends, and now several great-grands as well.
Because she was aware that the name she picked was likely to stay with her for the rest of her life, my mom was determined to choose one that made her happy. It needed to suit her personality, not be super-common, and sound good coming not just from a toddler but also from a teenager. We both began paying attention to what other grandparents were calling themselves, jotting down various options to try them out. I discovered how inventive people in my parent’s generation are when it comes to their grandparenting names.
I’ll admit that I hoped Mom wouldn’t come up with anything too off-the-wall. I kind of cringed at the thought of her being a Bubbles, or Glamma. There are so many options for variations along more traditional lines, like Nanna, Gram or MeMo. Or she could have picked a name from another culture, like Oma, which is German, or Abbi, short for Abuelita, Spanish for grandmother. Noni, Peaches, Sonoma, G-Ma, MoMo, and Grindi, are just a few of the more unusual names we ended up collecting. My mom’s cousin is a professional nanny caring for a set of twins whose grandparents call themselves Rocky and Kitty. My cousin’s in-laws go by Bubba and Bama. One of Mom’s friends confessed that she hoped that if she ever had grandchildren, she’d ask them to call her Granzilla! Luckily, in the end, Mom decided upon using Mimi as her grandmother name. My dad was not that picky, so when I suggested he be ‘Popi’, he was happy to go along with that.
Nameberry guest blogger Andrea, whom many of you may know for her intelligent and thoughtful advice on our message boards, and who most recently blogged for us on royal baby names, now focuses her attention closer to home, with this report on naming trends in the midwest.
On a recent Saturday somewhere in North Dakota, an athletic field was filled with fledgling 4-year-old soccer players, learning how to kick the ball and congratulate teammates when they did (or didn’t) make a goal. Behind them were their proud parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and volunteer coaches, all hollering at once:
“Maddox, where’s your soccer ball?” “Yay, Logan. Yay, Logan!” “Hustle, Camden, hustle!” “Chloe, take a time out.” “Go, Ethan!” After awhile the hard “C’s” and “an” ending names started to blend together. I could imagine next year’s preschool or kindergarten teacher mixing some of them up the way their soccer coach occasionally did.
The names of the kids on my nephew’s soccer team are a good example of some of the naming trends in North Dakota and elsewhere in the Midwest, which tend towards newer-sounding surnames, names with a western feel, and names that sound a lot like other names that are already popular. The differences seem more distinctive with boys than they do with names for girls. Many of the names are also common everywhere in the United States, but it seems like some of them are adopted here before they hit the southern or eastern U.S. William, at the top of the charts in much of the South, is far less common in North Dakota, where 60 little Ethans were born last year compared with 26 little Williams. Ryan, popular in the eastern U.S., was most popular in North Dakota well over a decade ago and has now lost steam. Likewise, Jayden and variants have been popular here for over a decade and some of the North Dakota Jaydens have started college. Now, even as the name hits the top of the charts in New York City, North Dakota parents seem bored with Jayden and have moved on to Brayden, ranked at No. 7; Aiden, ranked at No. 9, Caden, which probably doesn’t rank higher mainly because there are so many spelling variants, all listed separately on the popularity chart, and Hayden. Jayden itself is No. 51. All are used for girls occasionally as well as boys. Then there are the sound-alikes like Zayden, Tayden, Trayden, Grayden and others.
There are also distinctive trends that sometimes don’t show up on the top 100 charts. There are more Swedish or Norwegian names here, thanks to the Scandinavian-Americans who settled in the Midwest a century ago. Greta appears on the top 100 list for Minnesota in 2009 and is not as often used anywhere else in the country. Over the years I’ve interviewed young boys named Ole, Nels, Jens, Odin, Thor, Kjell, Christ, Haakon and Soren and young girls named Solveig, Signe, Dagny, Siri, Marit, Ingrid and Kaari. Some traditional Sioux, Chippewa or Three Affiliated Tribes parents give children native language names, like Spotted Eagle or Chaske or Mato or Chenoa.
Western-sounding names for boys like Brody and Wyatt also seem more popular in the Midwest than in some other parts of the country. I’ve seen more than one birth announcement for a little Rowdy or Maverick or Colt. It’s fun sometimes to see how often the roster of bull riders or barrel racers at a summer rodeo actually sound like they belong on a ranch roping cattle. The child sometimes grows up to fit the name. I know that when one of my former colleagues named his son Cooper two years ago, he commented that it’s the kind of name he could imagine being called out by a basketball announcer 15 years from now when his son runs into a gym in front of a cheering crowd. “Go, COOPER! COO-PER! COO-PER!” was echoing in his ears. Cooper, which is also coincidentally my newest nephew’s name, ranked at No. 27 in North Dakota last year. Nationally it was ranked No. 84. In a state where nearly every small town kid plays multiple sports, there are probably a lot of parents dreaming of cheering crowds!
Fictional characters have inspired baby names for centuries. Samuel Richardson‘s novel popularized “Pamela” in the 1700s. The movie “Splash” gave us the name Madison for girls. TV characters inspired real baby Bretts (from “Maverick”) and Chandlers (from “Friends”). So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that video games now are a source for baby names.
Of course, game creators must come up with character names first. Mario, one of the most popular game characters, was called “Jumpman” in the original Japanese version of “Donkey Kong.” When Nintendo brought its games to the United States around 1982, Jumpman was going to be called “Mr. Video” in the American version. After Minoru Kawabata, president of Nintendo America, had a heated argument over warehouse rent with landlord Mario Segale, “Mr. Video” became “Mario.” Nintendo executive Shigeru Miyamoto says, “If he had been called ‘Mr. Video,’ he might have disappeared off the face of the earth.”
Nameberry commemorates Earth Day with this guest blog contributed by Elisabeth Wilborn, creator of one of our absolute favorite blogs, You Can’t Call It “It” . Elisabeth, a writer, artist, and mom, lives in Brooklyn, New York
April 22 has rolled around, and we remind ourselves yet again to care for the Earth– lest it forget to care for us. If you’d like your child to be ever mindful of the planet, consider sourcing his or her name from Earth gods and goddesses, from the Earth’s bounty itself, or from one of the great conservationists (with conveniently attractive surnames, no?).
Happy day! Be good, and enjoy it.
EMBLEMS OF THE EARTH
Avani- Sanskrit, “earth”
Demeter- Greek, “earth mother”, Greek goddess of agriculture
Francis- Italian saint reknowned for his connection to animals
Gaia- Greek, “earth”, and the goddess of the earth
Kun- Chinese, “earth”
Perpetua- Latin, “continuous”
Terra- Latin, “earth”
Vita- Latin for “life”
Zoe- Greek, “life”
Continuing her exploration of motion picture award names, one of our favorite guest bloggers, Abby Sandel, creator of the popular site Appellation Mountain , looks beyond Hollywood to find some interesting names associated with winners at Cannes, Berlin and Britain award ceremonies.
Marquee-worthy baby names are all the rage, with choices ranging from the Top Ten Ava to surnames like Harlow. Searching past Academy Award winners can provide inspiration for baby names, from the glamorous to the unusual.
But what about all those other Award shows? Oscar may be king in the US, but elsewhere, actors and directors compete for Goyas, Bears, BAFTAs, Ariels and, of course, the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes.
The following names are culled from award winners from across the globe, but proceed with caution. Just like not every Oscar-winning character makes for a worthy name sake, that remains true for this list.
CALYPSO: Neither an actress nor a character, the Calypso was the name of the ship used by Jacques Cousteau in the celebrated 1956 The Silent World, a documentary and early work by famed director Louis Malle.
CANDELARIA: The first Mexican film to achieve widespread international acclaim, Maria Candelaria starred Dolores del Río, the first Latin American actress to make it big in Hollywood. The movie was released in 1943, but wasn’t screened at Cannes until post-World War II.
GERTRUDE: 1946’s La Symphonie Pastorale is a French film based on a novel. Gertrude is a blind orphan adopted by a pastor. Both her foster father and stepbrother fall for her. Drama follows. The luminous Michèle Morgan starred as Gertrude – and would later lose out on the starring role in Casablanca.
KESA: Japan’s first post-war international hit was 1953’s Gate of Hell. The story of a samurai and Lady Kesa, the woman he rescues propelled Machiko Ky? to stardom. She went on to work with Akira Kurosawa and Kenji Mizoguchi.
LUCIENNE: Not an actor at all, but the jeweler who designed the original Palme d’Or award for the Cannes Film Festival.
MAGALI: Turkish-French actress Magali Noël was best known for her work with Italian director Federico Fellini, including appearing as Fanny in 1960’s legendary La dolce vita. She also scored early French rock’n’roll hits as a singer in the 1950s.
SERAFINA: Decades before Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner chose Seraphina for their second daughter, French director Marcel Camus made Black Orpheus in Brazil in 1959. A truly international production that would garner recognition at Cannes as well as an Academy Award and a BAFTA, Serafina was one of the characters.