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Category: names in the news

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Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

As the year draws to a close, we have a bumper crop of celebrity birth announcements to celebrate.

The newest arrivals answer to some very on-trend names: fierce, daring, nature-themed, a little bit rock and roll.

Some of them might even seem fanciful, the tiniest bit over-the-top.  But we live in an age where imagination and creativity are prized.  From Pinterest to Etsy, the rise of DIY and crafting and an emphasis on design has filtered into how we think about our children’s names.

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Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Names like Katniss and Rainbow grab headlines.  Will anyone really name their daughter after the Hunger Games heroine?  Will Holly Madison’s little girl grow up loving her colorful name, or will she legally change it to Rachel when she turns eighteen?

Their opposites are the proven classics.  Dependable names, rich with history, like Katherine and Elizabeth, William and James.

Most of us choose something in between.  It’s the baby naming sweet spot: not as unconventional as Pilot or North, but not as limited as, say, Will and Kate’s shortlist for naming a future king.

This week’s baby name news was all about sweet spot names.  They can’t be dismissed as trendy.  The names would have been familiar one hundred years ago.  Odds are strong that they’ll still be in use in another century or two.

And even though they feature in high profile birth announcements or pop culture references, there’s no reason these names wouldn’t wear perfectly well on a child.

This week’s baby names in the news are:

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Pop Culture Names: Cora, Aurora and Devora

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The Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

It happens all the time.

You’re expecting your first – or second, or third – and the perfect name eludes you.  There are lots of possibilities and maybes, but none of them are The Name.

And then along comes a movie, a television show, a celebrity, a song, and that’s it.  That’s the name.

The numbers tell us that pop culture is a major influence in baby naming.  And yet we resist the idea.  A name from a Jane Austen novel?  Classic, sophisticated.  From a soap opera or a Disney Channel series?  Sometimes we’re a little dismissive of those choices.

But here’s the thing about names: we can’t consider them until we are aware that they exist.

This week’s names all come from movies and television, books and blogs.  You may have heard them before, but seeing them on the screen could make the names feel fresh, interesting, and just right for a daughter.

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Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain

It’s been a quiet week for high profile arrivals.  Sure, Michael Weatherly of NCIS fame and wife Bojana welcomed son Liam.  It’s a great name – friendly, upbeat, accessible.  Liam is also a solid favorite in the US, just like big sister’s name, Olivia.  Last year, he was the #1 choice in at least nine states, and shows no signs of slowing down.

But name news isn’t just about celebrities.  In order for parents to consider a name, they have to know that it exists.  Books, television, movies, athletes, actors, song lyrics, people in the headlines – they can all add new options to an expectant parent’s shortlist.

Baby name books have always surfaced some unusual possibilities.  I fell in love with Hephzibah in a paperback name encyclopedia from the 1970s, the same book my mother used to circle mainstream options like Jill and AmyHester came from The Scarlet Letter.  And Caroline, a name I eventually used as one of my daughter’s middles?  She’s from a Psychedelic Furs song, a classic I never noticed until I heard the lyrics.

Now Nameberry, and the vast community of baby name blogs and websites, is part of that process, too.  This week was filled with daring, even fanciful names for girls with global influence.  Some of these might seem too much for a first name, but I can hear most of them in the middle spot.

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Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain

Neil Gaiman recently lectured on the future of reading and libraries and all manner of literary and imaginative things.

He didn’t utter a word specifically about names, but he’s bestowed many a memorable choice on his characters, from Coraline to Thessaly to Yvaine, Silas to Vandemar.

Gaiman did say this: “We must not attempt to freeze language, or to pretend it is a dead thing that must be revered, but we should use it as a living thing, that flows, that borrows words, that allows meaning and pronunciations to change with time.”

If language is a living thing, doesn’t the same hold true for names?

Some words endure with minimal alteration, and some names do, too.  But for every Elizabeth, there’s a Samantha – a name that feels rich with history, but is actually almost unknown until the nineteenth century.  Or Brooke, a name that feels established and sophisticated, but would have been out of place a hundred years ago.

Names should evolve, and they quietly do when we’re not noticing.  Take Beatrix.  Once a rare spelling variant, she’s now at her most popular ever – and gaining on Beatrice.

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