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photo by Sara Atkins

Latin culture is influencing everything in the United States, including baby names.  With the growing prominence of Latin stars and parents of all ethnic backgrounds more interested in using culturally significant names, Hispanic choices are moving up the popularity lists.

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Jessica Alba and Ricky Martin may be among the most famous Latin celebrities, but their names were inspired by the general culture and are hardly inspiring modern baby namers in search of an authentic Latin choice.  The Latin celebrities (and a few fictional characters) from the worlds of film, music, sports, and fashion whose names have proven influential in the U.S. include:

Female

AMERICA FERRARA

CAROLINA HERRERA

DAISY FUENTES

DORA the Explorer

EVA MENDES

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danube-river

We think and talk a lot about place names–countries like China, states like Georgia, cities like Dallas, even boroughs like Brooklyn.  And we also think and talk about nature names, of flowers and trees.  Well there’s one category that merges the two together, and that’s river names.

I was planning to put together a list of interesting river names worldwide, but I came upon so many intriguing and unusual possibilities in Western Europe alone, that I decided to save our own country, England and Ireland and others farther afield for some time in the future.  Some of those listed here are major waterways like the Seine, others are much smaller streams; and some run through more than one country.  And I’m sure you’ll notice that there are those that sound decidedly masculine (Arno), while others could be possible girls’ names (Adaja).

Not surprisingly, some of the most appealing  names come from the French countryside:

AIRE

ALZETTE

ANDELLE

ANOUX

ARLY

AUBETTE

CALAVON

CEROU

CLAREE

CREUSE

DADOU

EAULINE

ESTERON

LAITA

LAQUETTE

LOIRE

MIDOU

RAVILLOU

RHONE

VARENNE

VIENNE

And here are some Latinate choices from Italy, Spain, and Portugal:

ADAJA

ARAGON

ARBIA

ARNO

BREGGIA

CAIA

EBRO

ELVO

ENZA

JABALON

JALON

JARAMA

MAIRA

MARANO

MINO

NAVIA

OLONA

ORBA

PO

SELLA

TAJO

TIBER

TURIA

ULLA

ZANCARA

ZEZERE

And finally a few found in Germany, Austria, Holland, Belgium and Greece

ARDOS

AXIOS

DANUBE (which is shown in the illustration)

ELBE

ISAR

KRIOS

LADON

LEDA

LYS

MAURINE

MOSELLE

NEDA

NETTE

ORLA

RABA

REGEN

SENNE

THAYA

TYRIA

VLIET

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Name Tales from the Crypts

I just spent an extended weekend in New Orleans and, name fiend that I am, spent far too much of my time there, apart from my friend’s wedding activities, in the search for names.  Whenever I travel to a new place, I head to a bookstore to research local names (in Bilbao, Spain, for example, I scored a great two-volume compendium of Spanish/Basque names), the same way I implore friends going to, say, Amsterdam, to bring back a book on Dutch names.  So I thought it would be a snap to find a book or two on Cajun or Creole names, but no such luck–after forays around the French Quarter and the Garden District, I came up empty.

But since I couldn’t come back nameless, I thought about another potential source of interesting old names–the cemetery–recalling how Pam has unearthed some really great Colonial treasures in New England graveyards.  And so I spent an hour or so in the famous and fascinating Saint Louis cemetery #1 in the middle of the city, a huge, crowded, rambling 18th century repository of crumbling above-ground tombs (luckily spared by Katrina), trying to decipher the often faded and chipped inscriptions–a rich mix of French, Spanish and English names.  Here are a few that I unearthed (sorry about that):

ARMANTINE

AZEMAR

BARTHELMY

CARTY

DIVINE

ELIZADIE

ELZIRE

JUELIET

LAFAYETTE

LOIE

LOUISIANA

LUCINE

MARIGO

OCTAVE

OMER

PELAGIE

WOODROY

ZEOLIDE

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