Category: quirky baby names
By Linda Rosenkrantz
If you’re looking for a really unusual name, you might not have to look any further than your nearest library.
What follows is a melange of quirky character names—a mix of word names, surname names, nickname names, invented names–found in modern literature. To keep it from going on into infinity, I’ve limited the list to mainstream twentieth century novels and plays, avoiding for the most part the often bizarre nomenclature of sci-fi and other genre lit.
The Victorian nickname trend that’s hot in the U.K. is getting attention in the U.S.—for girls.
Believe it or not, these names have potential on modern American boys.
Charlie is an example of a nickname-style name that is steadily becoming more popular in the U.S, although it has yet to capture the success it enjoys across the pond, where it ranked at #4 last year.
In the U.S. Charlie is a comeback name that was fashionable in the late 19th century when it consistently ranked in or near the top 30. Through most of the 20th century, Charlie gradually declined to its lowest rank in the 90′s when it ranked in the 400s. This past decade, Charlie has rebounded. Last year it reached #233.
Here are some other nicknames that share the same boyish charm as Charlie. Many were once popular in the U.S. and have comeback potential.
As the authors of, literally, the book on Cool Names, you’d think we’d know everything there is to know about cool baby names.
But the definition of cool is so fluid and so subjective, it’s difficult to point to one name, or one group of names, and proclaim it as universally cool.
Yet sometimes, you know cool when you see it. I was reading about the British actor Damian Lewis the other day — the redheaded hunk on Homeland — and noticed (of course) that the names of his children with fellow actor Helen McCrory are Manon and Gulliver.
Huh, I thought. Now THOSE are cool names. Undeniably quirky, but cool.
How would you describe your favorite name style?, asked a recent Nameberry Question of the Week. Do you prefer cool names? Classic? Stylish? Or what?
Which put me in mind of trying to characterize my own name style. You might think that we at Nameberry were born knowing our personal name styles, since we’ve made a life’s work of classifying names into styles and helping other people figure out what kinds of names they love.
But like the shoemaker’s child, I’d never really defined my own name style until Linda posted this question. I definitely like vintage names, I decided, along with names that are a bit unusual. Cool names, but not too cool. Classy, yet quirky.
And then the right term for it came to me: Eccentric Aristocrat. You know, the kind of names that might belong to madcap lords and exotic baronesses (baronessi?) dashing around the countryside in yellow roadsters, drinking champagne and weekending at castles.
Yes, it’s a little bit British, but it’s also kind of Eurotrash and pretty F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton sophisticated American too. Eccentric Aristocrat names hint at a Russian count as a grandfather, a Scottish pile as an inheritance, ancient relatives who have to be honored with highly unfashionable names – except now that you think about it, those names are actually kind of cool.
Regular readers of Nameberry will recognize the Eccentric Aristocrat in many of the names that, not coincidentally, are favorites on this site: Violet and Jasper, Flora and Felix. Those are the kinds of names that I’d choose for my own children. (The fact that I didn’t choose those kinds of names for my own children is another story, one that starts with my husband’s name style being more Solid Midwestern than Eccentric Aristocrat.)
A few rules on what makes a name an Eccentric Aristocrat:
2. It must have a distinct gender identification, but not a conventional one. The name Inigo is clearly male, while India plainly female. Yet Inigo might just as well design clothes as play football, and India seems as appropriate a name for an international financier as for a supermodel.
When out-of the-box-named Ever Carradine, actress and member of a multi-generational Hollywood dynasty, recently gave her baby daughter the equally out-of-the-box-name Chaplin, it got me wondering—could there be an extreme baby naming gene that passes from generation to generation?
Frank Zappa’s kids’ names are the poster children for extreme starbaby naming: Moon Unit, Dweezil (actually Ian Donald Calvin Euclid on his original birth certificate when the hospital refused to register Dweezil), Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen. Are these sibs following the tradition? Kinda–though more cool than crazy– judging from their offspring so far:
Equally well known are the Phoenix (originally Bottom) family of nature names: River Jude, Summer Joy, Rain Joan of Arc, Liberty (originally Libertad Mariposa) and the brother first called Joaquin then Leaf and then Joaquin again. Among their kids’ names:
- Indiana August (Indiana in tribute to uncle River, who played the young Indiana Jones)
- Indigo Orion
- Rio Everest
- Scarlette Jasmine
And then there’s the Coppola clan, which includes Nicolas (nee Coppola) Cage, with their imaginative choices:
The four acting Baldwin brothers have pretty normal names, but not so some of their offspring:
Legendary Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob (Robert Nesta) Marley had a convoluted family tree, with some eleven children, including Cedella (named for Marley’s mother), David (‘Ziggy’), Rohan and Ki-Mani. Among his interestingly-named grandchildren—although there are probably many more–are:
- Gideon Robert Nesta
- Joshua Omaru
- Judah Victoria
- Selah Louise
- Zion David
The fairly normally named ten-strong Wayans brood seems to have a penchant for vowel-ending names for their own kids:
The Jackson 5 + 5 configuration is almost too daunting to look at. For one thing, the Michael Generation names are actually a lot more elaborate than they would appear. “Jackie,” for example, was christened Sigmund Esco, Jr and “Tito” Toriano Adaryll, while Jermaine’s middle name is La Jaune. The baroque (and sometimes immodest) name gene is evident in some of their own child (and grandchild) choices:
So, creative, quirky or genetic imperative? You be the judge.