Category: neglected names
The nameberry contributor known to us as “Auburn” ruminates here on that most powerful and mysterious initial: X.
We all know this naming business is tricky, especially if your aim is to find unusual monikers which still have history — and if you’re browsing Nameberry then it probably is. You think you’ve found one, you get excited … and then you meet five Violets in a day and realize that perhaps #141 is too popular for you after all.
The letter Y has lost some of its magic after various incriminations recently, involving either the addition of Y’s to perfectly Y-free names (looking at you, Addysyn), or the apparent abhorrence of Y’s by others (Ashleigh). What about its generally ignored neighbor, though? Every time I see an X name it catches my eye. I think “Wow, X? Crazy!” X is daring and attention-grabbing; it’s a shortcut to awesome in the baby naming world.
The Jolie-Pitts clearly realized the power of this not-so-humble letter when they used it to round off their three sons’ names: Maddox, Pax and Knox. In the same vein, Max is hot at the moment, but it is X in front that is still that Holy Grail of naming: rare.
According to the site http://yournotme.com, which searches the records to find people in Britain aged over 18 with a certain name, the top 10 X names include 7 Chinese names (Xiao, Xin, Xuan, Xiu, Xue, Xiang and Xing, for the record). The others are Xavier (795 of them), Xenia (330), and Xanthe (309). In contrast, the top A name, Andrew, can boast 508,320 bearers across the British Isles.
Due to the large Hispanic population of North America, Ximena and Xiomara also chart at #311 and #909 respectively. Ximena is the feminine version of Ximeno, a Spanish name alternatively claimed to be a version of Simon or from the Basque for son, seme . Xiomara is the Spanish version of Guiomar, a name for either gender that belonged to a male character of Arthurian legend who was banished for his affair with Morgan le Fey.
The UK has its own pretty, feminine X name, Xanthe, which currently stands at #778. It should be noted that that means it was only given to 44 babies, though, due to the relatively small size of Britain. Xanthe is a lovely Greek choice meaning ‘fair hair’ and can also appear in the variation Xanthia.
Strangely enough, the US can also claim many a little Xzaviers, which comes in at #586. In my opinion it’s preferable to use unusual letters in moderation, readers. Just one in a sea of A’s, E’s, and R’s looks so much more striking than Xyzvyq, which gives the impression you were leaning on the keyboard.
Once more this year the list of most popular names—particularly for girls—is vowel –heavy, with six of the top ten names starting with A, E, I or O, and five more filling out the top twenty.
As a result, naturally, there are fewer consonant-starters visible, some letters practically non-existent. One of these is F, with only a single representative, Faith, in the top 100, and a grand total of nine girls’ names out of the whole list of top 1000.
If we look back a century—testing the 100-year rule–it was a very different story, with 31 girls’ and 34 boys’ names starting with this initial. Several of them were versions of the same name (variant spellings are nothing new!); for instance, Freda, Frieda, Freida and Freeda all made the list—but not the current Kahlo-influenced Frida. Florence—no longer visible on today’s list–was represented in 1910 by Florance, Flora, Flossie, Flo, Florrie and Florene, and Frances (which hangs on at #802 today, with Francesca at 470) showed up in such variations as Fannie, Fanny, Francis, Francisca and Frankie, and there were three spellings of Fay/Faye/Fae.
This being the first day of June, it’s the perfect time to take a look at her namesake. Never as high profile as other month names April or May—or, for that matter, cousins Jane, Jean or Joan— June just might be ready for a quiet comeback.
June is a name that has suffered from, more than anything else, having a goody-goody/perfect mom image. This was formed in midcentury America via June (born Ella) Allyson, who played a succession of sunny, saucy ingenues and adoring, long-suffering movie wives in the 1940s and 1950s, along with ideal mom June Cleaver on the sitcom Leave It to Beaver, whose name became symbolic of the archetypal sympathetic suburban, stay-at-home mom of the 1950s, and June Lockhart, who played another quintessential midcentury parent as Timmy’s mother on the long running Lassie TV series. June Haver was another wholesome midcentury star—so wholesome that she actually entered a convent for a while in the middle of her career.
The few other well known Junes include actress June Havoc—the famous Baby June in Gypsy, whose birth name was actually Ellen–and singers June Christy (born Shirley), June Carter Cash and June Pointer. In literature, June was the defiant daughter of Young Jolyon in John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga, and it has appeared in movie titles like Henry and June and Happy Birthday, Wanda June. June has started to make inroads into the celebrisphere as well: Balthazar Getty named his daughter June Catherine in 2007, and just about a month ago, Amanda Peet used it in middle place for her daughter Molly.
Although the name is based on an ancient Roman goddess, June didn’t start to be used as a first name until the turn of the last century, when month and flower and jewel names were coming into vogue. It was already in the top 500 in 1880, when Social Security records began to be kept, was in the top 100 from 1915 to 1941, was the 46th most popular name of the 1920s. June dropped off the list completely from 1986 to 2008, when it reentered at #867, climbing 205 places this past year to #662. So even if June isn’t busting out all over, as the song says, signs of a revival are stirring.
And if you’re not ready to consider June, there are three other names connected to the month. Rose is the flower for June, Pearl is its jewel, and then there’s the original Roman goddess name Juno which burst onto the scene with the eponymous 2007 hit movie of and was used for one of his twins by Will Champion of Coldplay.
Blame L’il Abner, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Andy Griffith and even The Simpsons, for the fact that some names have long been stereotyped as aw shucks, rube, hick, hayseed, country bumpkin names. Well, one of our causes here at nameberry is the slaying of stereotypes, and we think there are names here that are definitely worthy of resuscitation. Some of them are already making their way back from that cartoony pigeonholing—there have, for example, been starbabies and civilian named Chester, Gus, Homer, Jasper, and certainly lots of Lukes—but they all deserve a second look–I think several of them have a nice, down home, funky appeal.
BARNEY (has other problems related to prehistoric purple)
A few days ago, I was introduced to Fred Gooltz, COO of the hot new obsession site itsasickness.com. Wow, I thought, Fred, one of my favorite cool retro names. But it soon became evident that Fred didn’t share my enthusiasm, expressing his negative feelings about growing up with a name that seemed to be out of step with his time. To delve a little deeper, we had the following e-conversation:
FRED: There are always certain kinds of people who try to call you Freddy. Some people like to put “ie” on the end of any name, usually because they’re playing at childish schoolyard politics, infantilizing others with nicknames to feel stronger. It’s like assuming that you’ve got the right to call somebody ‘slugger’ or ‘kiddo’ or ‘champ.’ I rage against Freddie. I always picture the ‘I’ dotted with a heart.
Very few nicknames were attempted on me – I had one teacher who called me “Dauntless” for a while, but thankfully it didn’t stick when I changed schools. It’s entertaining and a little sad when a person with a clunky wig of a name like Fred goes by “Thunder” or “The Hammer.” It’s the McLovin joke from the movie Superbad. Nobody wants to be that guy. Naming your son Fred, Poindexter, Egbert, or Sheldon nearly guarantees that they have to deal with a moment like that eventually.
Do you know why your parents picked the name? Does it have any family connections? Did it affect your feelings towards your parents?
FRED: There are Alfreds and Fredericks all over my family history. My family is full of old timey names. But my mom – whose name is Estelle, by the way – insists that she really liked the name. She actually loved the name Friedrich, from a character in Little Women.“ The book probably made Friedrich a popular name in the 1870s, but a century later… not so much. I should probably be grateful–another option was apparently the name Zepherin.
Were you teased in Elementary School? High School? College?
FRED: In spite of the name Fred, to be honest, I wasn’t teased too badly about my name. I was teased because of my behavior. If anything, my name probably encouraged me to be able to fit in with different tribes of kids in school.
Ever think of changing your name?
FRED: Yes. I’ve met some very wonderful Freds who are passionate about spreading the name. and I’ve met some very nice people who are comforted by the Lawrence Welk Show- era simplicity of the name, but I’m not a Fred-evangelist. It took a long time for me to come to terms with my name. About thirty years. The first time I tried to change my name I was probably seven years old. For about a month I insisted that my family call me Rick – shortened from Frederick. I was adamant, I wouldn’t respond to my family unless I was addressed as Rick. But this distaste for the name Fred made my mother sad, so I dropped it. I’m sorry to say, but Fred never completely clicked with me. The sound of the name itself can sometimes clang like a jeer – even from friends. Frederick is probably better, I think.