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Category: Gulliver’s Travels

jem finch

Last week we unearthed twenty long lost literary girls’ names–some of which have rarely been used outside of books, plays and poetry– and now we turn to the boys’ equivalents.  The diverse sources of these creative baby names range from Shakespeare to Stoppard– and be aware that, as before, the characters who bear them are not necessarily paragons of virtue.

ARKADY. A Russian saint’s name from the Greek meaning “from Arcadia,” it belongs to a genteel character in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons and a much less benign one in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and is also a key figure in Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith.

BALTHAZAR, the name of one of the three wise men, is scattered throughout literature, from Shakespeare ‘s plays to the rambunctious title character of J P Donleavy’s The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B.

BEALE. Beale Farange is the heroine’s father in Henry JamesWhat Maisie Knew; it’s a surname that comes from the French meaning “handsome.”

CLAUDIO. A Shakespearean favorite, appearing in both Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure; it’s a Latin clan name meaning “lame”–one of those literal meanings that can be ignored in the modern world.

DUNCAN. Duncan Idaho is the brave hero of Frank Herbert‘s classic fantasy series Dune. It’s a Scottish name meaning “brown warrior” and a nameberry favorite, despite some people’s association with Dunkin’ Donuts.

FLINT. A legendary pirate–and also a parrot–in Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Treasure Island. A strong, modern-sounding word name.

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A Dozen Neglected Biblical Boys’ Names

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In the most recent list of Most Popular Boys ‘ Names, all five of the top five names came from the Good Book, accounting for well over 100,000 of the boy babies born in the US.  Obviously, many parents–whether for religious reasons or not–continue to be attracted to names with this strong traditional base.  But why, we ask, be limited to the same relatively small group of biblical choices, when there are loads of other more unusual options out there?  Why not Joab or Joah instead of Noah?  Beniah rather than Benjamin?  Jemuel in place of Samuel?

Many of these now obscure names were quite commonly used by the Puritan Colonists, especially in New England, until the middle of the 19th century when Old Testament names fell out of favor.  Most of the names listed below are hardly heard today, with only one of them–Asa–even appearing in the current Top 1000, but they are all possible alternatives to those standards that are given to thousands of babies each year.

ABIJAH — The name of Samuel‘s second son would make a perfect substitute for the Top 25 Elijah.

ABSALOM — A literary as well as biblical name, used by Chaucer (for the jolly clerk in The Miller‘s Tale, Dryden, Faulkner–and currently as a comic book character.

ADLAI –  Associated with with several generations of the Stevenson family, which produced a Vice-President and a UN representative named Adlai, it can be pronounced either ad-LAY or as-LYE.

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