Category: guest blogger
For many name nerds there are two things that are usually pretty high on their want list when choosing names. One is that the name isn’t too “trendy” – so that it won’t seem too dated in years to come and instantly mark someone as a child of a particular decade. Another is that it’s not “too” popular.
In the 1930’s, one name that completely broke both of these rules was Shirley, thanks largely to child mega-star Shirley Temple. The name was already very well recognised, positioned at #9 in America, when Shirley Temple‘s first films were made. The attention this young girl brought to the name gave it such a boost that Nancy of popular blog Nancy‘s Baby Names points out that Shirley had the second biggest jump (in numbers of girls given the name) ever from 1934 to 1935, which saw it go from #4 to #2 when 42,353 American girls were given the name. That’s a lot of Shirleys.
Last week’s post was all about the trendsetting Pinkett-Smith family and their son Jaden Christopher Syre, named after mom Jada. This week the spotlight turns to daughter Willow Camille Reign, after dad Will. While plenty of parents chose appellations that honor loved ones, crossing gender lines opens up some inventive options for girls’ names.
At first glance, this is easy for girls’ names. There are plenty of traditional equivalents, like Charles/Charlotte or Alexander/Alexandra. But what if you’re trying to name a daughter after your brother Chad? Or you adore your uncle Patrick, but you can’t imagine calling your little one Patricia?
Parents have grafted together some unusual choices over the years. There are just add –ette or –elle names, like Danette and Donelle; ends-in-ie choices, like Artie and Bennie; and double names, from Bobbie Sue to Rayanne. Some may be carefully chosen, but Markie or Hughette can sound like afterthoughts, hastily cobbled together when the parents heard the words, “It’s a girl!”
Sometimes parents just pass on the masculine moniker, but there is a world of options for naming a daughter Pinkett-Smith style. It’s not just Will and Jade, either. Emeril Lagasse called his daughter Meril.
The Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame inducted its 2011 class last week. Since 1986, more than 605 individuals have been added to their list of notables. Most are performers, and many are household names. Alice Cooper and Neil Diamond were among the most recent inductees.
Many a rock star was born plain old John or James, but scroll through the list, and plenty of possibilities emerge. They’re the kind of names that evoke late nights, loud sounds, and a certain unpredictable, fiercely creative spirit.
What could be a more fitting source of inspiration for baby names?
Cash – The Man in Black played to prisoners and sang about the perils of naming your son Sue. His surname has been racing up the charts since Joaquin Phoenix played the singer in 2005’s Walk the Line.
Floyd – Which one’s Pink? Among the most successful rock bands of our time, their name was inspired by blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. As a name, Floyd has been out of favor for decades, but could make for a daring choice.
When I was a kid, I hated my name.
I always associated the name Emily with older women. When I say older, I mean women in their fifties. To a five- year-old, that was ancient! One of the Emilys I knew was my aunt. The other involved a scarecrow, a tin man, a lion and some very impressive tornado effects.
I grew up in the 80’s and my name was not common. In 1970, the year I was born, Emily was the 173rd most popular name, as per the social security stats. When I discovered that, I was surprised it was as high as 173.
At number 173, you would expect to hear someone else named Emily — not necessarily in the same class, but somewhere in the school! Yet, as a kid, I never heard anyone calling out for another little girl named Emily.
Throughout grammar school, I would sit in class and daydream about being a Michelle, a Stacy…or a Jennifer! If I were a Jennifer, I would have two other girls named Jennifer in class. The teacher would have to add an initial when she called on me. I would have an eraser with Jennifer written on it!
I would go into a store and look for my name on those “name” kiosks. I wanted a toothbrush, a notebook, a pencil — anything! There was never anything!
Oh, how I longed to be common.
For years I would tell my mother it would be her last year with a daughter named Emily. I was finally going to change my name.
For years, my mother would tell me it’s “coming back.”
Then things started to change.
In 1989, my first year of college, Emily moved up the ranks to #13! I walked into an English Literature class. The professor took attendance and called out Emily – with two different last names! I remember being completely amazed.
My name started showing up on merchandise. Suddenly, I could buy as many Emily pencil sharpeners as I wanted!
I would be in a store and someone would call out, “Emily! Emily!” I would turn around and realize I wasn’t the Emily they wanted. Before I knew it, Emily turned up on yearly baby name lists as one of the most popular names for girls. In 1996, for the first time, Emily was the most popular girls’ name.
Somehow, I wasn’t so happy about the sudden emergence of my name (or what felt like the sudden emergence of my name). For years, I wanted to have a mainstream type of existence. I wanted to be like everyone else. When you’re young, you want to blend into the room like wallpaper.
In college, I realized how great it was to NOT be like everyone else. I began to treasure my differences. I liked my curly hair. I embraced my curvy figure! I was happy that I didn’t know anyone else who liked The Indigo Girls. Yes, I actually liked my name!
Oh, how I longed to be…uncommon.
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Guest blogger Hilary Zalon, founder of thecradle.com, explains the modern tradition of the Jewish naming ceremony for girls.
I have two wonderful daughters. And while I was never averse to having a little boy, I’m relieved that I was able to skip the Jewish ritual to welcome a son. In fact, the relatively new Jewish ceremony to welcome a daughter is much more up my alley.
If you’re not Jewish, or aren’t familiar with these traditions, here’s a quick 101: The male ceremony is a ‘brit milah’ – also known as a bris - the ceremony for circumcising an eight-day-old boy. The female ceremony goes by a number of names, including ‘simchat bat’ (rejoicing of the daughter), all to celebrate…get this…naming your daughter!
No sharp implements. No rush to get a party together in eight days while recovering from the actual delivery of the baby. And we get to celebrate one of the most enjoyable parts of welcoming a baby – choosing a name. In this instance, we’re celebrating the Hebrew name, so we get to pick even more names!
Many refer to a baby naming as a “modern” or “contemporary” tradition, and while there are signs that baby naming rituals happened hundreds of years ago, it really became a more recognized option for parents in the ‘70’s (likely coinciding with the rise of feminism and the increase in bat-mitzvahs). Since it is so new (forty years is nothing when you’re dealing with a history that’s over 5,000 years old), it is still up to personal interpretation and the ceremony can really represent your family’s personality and style.
We’re not a very religious family, but we do have a strong pride in our heritage and our Jewish community. For both of our daughters, we waited until they were 9-10 months old, which is probably a lot longer than most people wait. Some parents have a naming ceremony just eight days after the birth (echoing the male circumcision ritual). Others say a blessing for their daughter when they are called to the Torah – sometimes as early as the first Sabbath after the birth.
At our event, the rabbi led a very simple and beautiful ceremony at our home, which included a welcome prayer, description of the ceremony, an explanation of the names we chose, a blessing for our daughter, and a blessing for everyone. As with most of our Jewish traditions, there is wine and food. Those two are always a hit. (Although finding good bagels in L.A. is still a struggle.)
As for the names we chose:
Our older daughter’s given name is Sasha Leah (honoring my grandmother, Sylvia, and my husband’s grandmother, Leah). The Hebrew name is traditionally the Hebrew name of the person she is named for. Since my grandmother didn’t have a Hebrew name that was meaningful to her, we were able to choose a name that was actually a second-runner up to her given name. And her middle name was a no-brainer since her given middle name is already a Hebrew name. She received her Hebrew name, Sivan Leah, right after my dad joked, “Anyone want a slice of Sivan Leah cake?”
Our younger daughter is Esmé Juliette (for my grandmother, Eva, and my husband’s grandfather, Jack). Ever since I read JD Salinger’s Nine Stories in school, I was stuck on the name Esmé – but I hadn’t read or seen any of the Twilight books or movies, so when I learned about the character named Esmé, my heart sank a bit – only out of a little sadness that this ‘secret’ gem of a name (actually popular in South Africa and a few European companies) might become more well known! Her Hebrew name, Chava Yael, was another half-given: Chava is the Hebrew name for Eva/Eve. But since her middle name was for a male, we felt we could choose any name we liked that started with a Y (the Hebrew alphabet doesn’t use J’s). We were able to avoid my father’s imminent joke that her middle name should be ‘Piece-a’ so his granddaughters could be ‘Chava Piece-a Sivan Leah’ cake.
Hilary Zalon founded TheCradle.com, an award-winning online resource for expectant and new parents. Since the sale of the site to giggle, Hilary has been exploring a number of different ventures, her favorite being enjoying more time with her daughters and husband.