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Category: sophisticated names

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I remember how, when I first read the novels of Evelyn Waugh and the plays of George Bernard Shaw, a whole new universe of names opened up for me. A world of sophisticated, eccentric, kind of uppity and veddy veddy Victorian and Edwardian  British names, many of which I had never heard before, but instantly became enamored with.

The comic novels of Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse and the plays (and novel) of Oscar Wilde and Shaw are still a good place to start if you’re looking for a name with a certain elegance, gentility, swank—and sometimes a bit of quirkiness as well.

GIRLS

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French Names: New Wave Classics

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In late 1950s France there emerged a group of young intellectual, experimental filmmakers, including François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Jean-Luc Goddard, who became known collectively as La Nouvelle Vague or New Wave, and changed the face of film.

In films like Breathless, they rebelled against traditional French cinema, employing such groundbreaking techniques as using  real locations, hand-held cameras, natural lighting and improvised scripts, jump cuts, voiceovers and slanguage, all of which had a profound influence on such later American directors as Martin Scorese, Francis Ford Coppola, John Cassavetes, Robert Altman and Quentin Tarantino.

But though their techniques emigrated across the Atlantic, the names of many of the characters in their films did not, and, looking through the casts of characters in these movies, we find a variety of fresh options, particularly on the female side, with sleek ine-ending choices and feminissima ette names.

GIRLS

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Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel, one of nameberry’s favorite guest bloggers, now looks for–and finds– some intriguing names in the world of international espionage.

Fictional spies have glamorous names to go with their stiletto heels and hidden daggers. But for every femme fatale we find in books or movies, there’s a real life Spy Girl who risked all for her cause.

Ian Fleming created legendary super-spy James Bond, but also invented a bevy of Bond girls, some capable, some less so, most with outrageous names. Fleming based at least one character on a real-life spy:  Vesper Lynd, she of Casino Royale fame, was modeled on Polish-born British agent and saboteur Krystyna Skarbek, also known as Christine Granville.

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Two Celebs Chose Cosima

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Is it a coincidence that Sofia Coppola and Claudia Schiffer both picked the same unusual (in the U.S. anyway) name for their baby daughters almost simultaneously—or is it a signal that it’s about to enter the mainstream?

Cosima (accent on the first syllable) derives from the Greek Kosmos, and refers to the order and harmony of the universe.  It’s a logical choice for both of these moms in terms of their roots: there could be a Cosima on Coppola’s family tree and it’s also often heard in Germany, where Schiffer was born.  Cosima is used in Greece as well, and by upper class Brits: English celebrity chef Nigella Lawson has a daughter named Cosima, while Marissa Ribisi and Beck used the male form, Cosimo, for their son.  The most famous bearer of the name in history is a woman with strong musical ties—Cosima Wagner was both the daughter of composer Franz Liszt and the wife of composer Richard Wagner.

With her third child, Claudia Schiffer has continued her previous pattern of choosing a distinctive, cutting-edge name starting with her own first initial, “C,” as she did with older daughter Clementine and son Caspar.  Clementine, although it hasn’t made it onto the popularity lists yet, is rapidly becoming a favorite of both nameberries and celebrities .  Kirstie Alley first revived it in the late 70s, and it’s since been chosen by Ethan Hawke and Rachel Griffiths.

Caspar has been slower to catch on, but may well follow in the wake of cousin Jasper, if it can finally shake the friendly ghost association. Romy, the name of Sofia Coppola and Thomas Mars’ first daughter, is also beginning to be heard more and more.

Several other celebs have followed Claudia’s practice of serial-initializing, often repeating their own name’s starting letter.  There are, for instance, Tarian, Tristan and Tyler Tritt (sons of Travis);  Corde, Cordell and Cori, children of Cordozar Calvin (Snoop Dogg) Broadus; Scarlet, Sophia and Sistine Stallone, who all share the middle name of Rose; and—the grand prize winner—director Robert Rodriguez, who named his five children Racer, Rebel, Rocket, Rogue and Rhiannon.

But getting back to Cosima—does it have the potential to move out beyond the celebrisphere?  Especially since it could be limited by some possible pronunciation problems –as in coz-EE-ma.

What do you think?

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Just as names move in and out of fashion so do sounds and initial letters.  In the 70s and 80s, J-names ruled, from Jennifer and Jason to Jessica and Joshua, and then came the Ms –Michael, Matthew, Melissa, Megan, the Bs—Brianna, Brittany, Brandon, the Ks—Kayla, Kimberly, Kelsey, and the still continuing As and Es—Ashley, Amanda, Ava, Emily Emma.

But what did they replace?  If you want proof of how an initial can fall totally out of favor, all you have to do is look at the performance record of the letter P.

In the last year counted, you have to scroll the Social Security list all the way down to #60 to find a single name beginning with that letter—the girl’s name Peyton—and for boys it isn’t until #124 that you get to Preston.  When P-names were in their prime, in 1950, you would have found nine names in the Top 60—Peter, Patrick, Philip, Paul, Peggy, Phyllis, Paula, Pamela and Patricia, none of which is found in the Top 100 today.

I’m not saying Phyllis is necessarily ready for her comeback (though those boys’ names could be), but there are certainly other P-names worthy of trying to resuscitate the reputation of that lost letter.  Such as:

GIRLS

PALOMAPaloma is one of the loveliest options, and among the best bets for success.  Meaning ‘dove’ and thus symbolizing peace, it’s both gentle and dynamic.  A similarly appealing Latin name is PALMA, namesake of the charming city on the island of Majorca.

PATIENCE and PRUDENCE – Two virtue names projecting calm and—well—patience and prudence.  And the latter has the great nickname Pru plus a Beatles song for lullaby time.

PATRICE – The French unisex version of Patrick/Patricia gives either of those old standards a touch of Gallic flair and sophistication.

PATSY – Saucy, spunky nickname name that hasn’t been heard for so long that it’s beginning to sounds fresh.

PAULINA/PAOLINAPAULINE is sweet; these Spanish and Italian versions are stylish and exotic.

PEARL – Definitely regaining some of its old luster.

PENELOPE/PENNYPenélope Cruz has single-handedly revved up the appeal of this former frump; Penny is its cute retro nickname.

PERSIS –A distinctive New Testament choice for the intrepid baby namer.

PETAL and POSY—Rather than choosing the popular Rose, Lily or Daisy, you could go for one of these more unusual generic flower-related options.

PHILIPPA – Whereas Philip feels dated, its female counterpart, which has never gained much traction in the US, sounds interesting and new. Plus it has that bursting-with-energy nickname PIPPA.

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