At the beginning of this year, the UK ‘s Office for National Statistics let it be known that they wouldn’t be issuing their annual lists of most popular names due to recessional budget cuts, and a collective moan was heard across the name-o-sphere. (Can you imagine what would happen if our Social Security list didn’t appear one Mother’s Day?)
Well, I don’t know what happened–maybe the uproar was too deafening–but suddenly, nine months later, their lists of top 100 boys and 100 girls names in England and Wales have now materialized. Definitely a case of better late than never.
Once upon a time I used to think that, since we share the same language, the Yanks and the Brits would have similar taste in names. That was before I married a Brit myself and it came to naming our daughter, when I saw just how different our perceptions of most names were. And though things have evened out to some degree with the rise of the Internet and the international sharing of opinions, looking at the top English girls’ names today (we’ll take up the boys’ next week), we can see that there is still quite a divide.
Most of us, as kids, lived in a world colored by crayons, and for those of us fascinated by words and names, those assigned to the different hues in the big 64-crayon Crayola box were particularly evocative. I can still remember, as a little girl, being intrigued by such mysterious names as Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber.
These memories were reawakened by a communique from our inspired creative contributor Nephele, when she wrote:
“Perhaps one of the fondest childhood memories shared by many of us is that of opening up a fresh box of crayons. What a joy to the senses it was to experience that clean scent of wax and the beautiful sight of those colorful rows of pointed tips awaiting one’s creative process. Adding to the delight was the fact that one’s crayons bore wonderful individual names on their wrappers, such as “Periwinkle” and “Cadet Blue.” With such names, how could a child not help but personify her crayon friends?
‘Crayola’ was synonymous with ‘crayon’ in my childhood days, as it pretty much is today. The bonus for today’s children is that the Crayola company now includes, along with English, both French and Spanish language versions of their crayon names on the wrappers of each crayon–providing even more name choices for one’s crayon companions!”
Here is Nephele’s list of crayon names which might also make pleasing names, with a few additions by Nameberry:
ALMENDRA (Spanish, “Almond“)
Maybe there are certain kinds of names that you really like–flower or color names, say, or virtue names– but you’re reluctant to use one of the more obvious examples, the epidemically popular ones, attractive though they may be. Well, there’s no reason you have to limit yourself to those few; more and more parents are digging deeper into those appealing categories and coming up with newer sounding choices.
IRIS (not exotic, but long neglected)
Last week we talked about the la-la part of oo-la-la names, but it seems that a large proportion of currently hot names have the cool oo sound as well. Maybe it’s because the names do share the sound with that c-word (not to mention oomph, and it’s also just a stone’s throw away from cute), but in any case, as namiacs who parse these trends down to a single syllable, we offer a list to prove our point.
The oo sound can be reached via several vowel routes: oo, u, ou, ew, eu and ue. Here are some examples of oo names that are currently in favor or possible comers:
Back in the Gay Nineties–the 1890s, that is–there was a major craze for flower names, with Rose, Daisy and Lillie high on the popularity lists. Concurrent with that, there was a mini-fad for jewel names, as in Ruby, Pearl and Opal. Today, history does seem to be repeating itself. Not only are we seeing a name garden blooming with Roses, Lilys and Daisys, but also more exotic blossom names like Jasmine, Violet, Lilac, Poppy, Azalea, Lotus, Aster, and Zinnia. And there are signs of a jewel name revival as well, more colorful than the dated Crystal and Diamond: Ruby is a hot hipster name, Pearl was picked by SNLer Maya Rudolph, and Opal is the name of kid characters in several recent movies.
In the jewelry case, there’s a wide variety of both common (Coral, Amber) and unusual names. First, there are the modern birthstone names (others were used in the past), which could be tied to the baby’s birth month:
GARNET for January
AMETHYST for February
AQUAMARINE for March
DIAMOND for April
EMERALD for May
PEARL for June
RUBY for July
PERIDOT for August
SAPPHIRE for September
OPAL for October
TOPAZ (yellow) or CITRINE for November
TOPAZ (blue) or TURQUOISE for December
And here are some others that might be up for consideration:
GEUDA (pronounced gay-oo-la)
HYACINTH ( a flower AND a gem name)
IRIDOT (an old name for opal)
AMBRA (Italian for amber)
BIJOU (French for jewel)
BIYU (Chinese for jasper)
EMERAUDE (French for emerald)
ESME (Persian for emerald)
ESMERALDA (Spanish for emerald)
FAIRUZ/FAIRUZA (Arabic for turquoise)
GEMMA (Italian for gem)
GIADA (Italian for jade)
GRETEL (German for pearl)
GRIET (Dutch for pearl)
JUMANA (Arabic for pearl)
MARIT (Scandinavian for pearl)
PENINA (Henrew for pearl)
PERLA (Spanish and Italian for pearl)
PERLE (French for pearl)
PHAILIN (Thai for sapphire)
RURI (Japanese for emerald
SAPPHIRA (Greek for sapphire–in Hebrew it’s spelled with one ‘p’)
SHINJI (Japanese for pearl)
ULA (Celtic for gem of the sea)