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Name Images and Impressions

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Question of the Week: How much does a person’s name affect your opinion of them?

Do you get a mental image of people before meeting them, setting up positive or negative expectations because they have a name you like–or don’t??  Ever turn down a blind date because of his/her name?  Could you imagine yourself married to an Egbert or a Hortense?

On the other hand, does having a beautiful name add something special to a person’s appeal (as it does for me with my British friend Araminta)?

Has knowing a person changed your image of their name?

Do you judge people by what they’ve named their children—even a little bit– and even though you know you shouldn’t?

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Welsh Names: Gwen or Gwyn?

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In our never-ending search for enlightenment on the names of various cultures, we turn today to guest blogger Norah Burch of namenerds.com to throw some light on some of the mysteries of Welsh nomenclature.

Though Welsh names haven’t been as popular in the U.S. as names from other parts of the British Isles, we still find them now and then. Many, such as Dylan, Morgan, Owen, and Megan have been used here for years. Several more, such as Reese/Rhys, Rhiannon and Tegan, are currently climbing the charts. So, though they are not as common as Irish or Scottish names, Welsh names are here to stay.

When people think of Welsh names, they probably immediately come up with those containing  gwen or gwyn, and indeed many Welsh names contain that element, which means several things: “white,” “fair-haired,” “beautiful,” “holy,” “blessed,” “pure,” etc. When at the end of a name (e.g., Bronwen, Arianwen, Rhydwyn), the “g” is usually dropped, giving us names ending in -wen or -wyn.

Just as in English where we have different endings for names of different genders (like Julian/Julia, Joseph/Josephine), Welsh names follow gender rules. In Welsh feminine names, the form of gwyn is always Gwen, as in Gwennan, Gwenydd, Arianwen, Bronwen, Carwen, Blodwen etc.  In masculine names, the form is always Gwyn, as in Gwynfor, Caerwyn, and Aelwyn.

Some examples of feminine/masculine versions of the same name are: Aelwen/Aelwyn, Carwen/Carwyn, Gwenfor/Gwynfor, Gwen/Gwyn.

Other names that have become popular in the U.S. for girls are strictly masculine in Welsh: Meredith (in Welsh, Meredydd), Bryn, Glyn, and Morgan.

The Welsh language has some sounds that English-speakers’ ears are not used to; for example, the “rh” in Rhys and Rhiannon sounds something like a rolled “r” with a “h” in front of it. I cannot even begin to explain the “ll” as in Lloyd and Llewellyn — sort of like “H’yuh” with a slight “l” at the end. There are some other anomalies, such as “w” can be a vowel (i.e., the female name Gwawr, meaning “dawn”), “u” can sometimes sound like an “ee” and “f” is  pronounced like “v” (e.g. the woman’s name Tudful /TID vil/).

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Nameberry Week in Review: January 16-24

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Covering the week of January 16 to 24th, Abby Sandel–creator of the wonderful AppellationMountain blog–brings you a roundup of the latest and juciest baby name news.

I’ll admit it: I obsessively read the Pottery Barn Kids catalog not for the color-coordinated, impossibly organized nurseries and playrooms, but for the names.  They tend to be a predictable set, drawn from the US Top 100, often reflecting the more conservative choices.  Over the last year or so, I’ve detected a subtle shift.  Along with Andrew and Michael, Katherine and Grace, the Spring 2011 issue featured bedding and gear personalized for girls called Emerson and Leela, and boys named Rory, Ryland, Tyson, Calvin, and Graham.

If Pottery Barn Kids is embracing a greater diversity of names, let’s take it as just one more sign that parents truly are considering a broader range of options than ever before.  If you’ve ever clicked on the Social Security Administration’s Beyond the Top 1000 Names page you’ll know that the percentage of newborns given a Top 1000 name has dropped over the years.  Last year, just 73% of all American newborns received a Top 1000 name.  That’s down about 5% in the past decade.

Looking for more evidence?  Names I’ve spotted recently include:

While we ordinary folks were giving our kids inventive appellations, Hollywood was doing the opposite.  The arrival of Owen Wilson’s son Robert Ford prompted headlines like “Owen Wilson Gives His Baby a Normal Name.”   

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban announced the birth of their daughter.

It was shocking that they’d managed to keep the pregnancy a secret, but the name they chose, Faith Margaret, raised no eyebrows.  Sisters named Sunday and Faith did prompt a few comments.  Swistle’s list of possible names for a future sibling is great: Deacon, Bishop, or Benediction for a brother; Trinity, Epiphany, or Hosanna for another girl.

Even Flynn, the name Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr chose for their son,has resulted in very little chatter, though some speculated that F-names could make for a surprising trend.  My note to Natalie Portman?  Fleet Millepied is available.

For those who love Extreme Celeb Baby Naming, don’t lose hope.  The Beckhams are expecting, and with guesses at the new baby’s name ranging from Vaughn and Arcadio to Primrose and Egypt, here’s betting that we’ll be in for a surprise in a few more months. I can’t wait!

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vintagebabybook

Popular baby names change every year, but here we bring you the top names in the U.S. of all time — or at least since the government started keeping count.

A week or so ago, we presented to you Nephele‘s lists of the most popular baby names for each letter of the alphabet over the 130-year period from 1880 to 2009.  Though you all found these stats fascinating, and, as always, made some perceptive observations, there was a shout-out for the overall, cumulative list of most popular names no matter what their first initial.

So Nephele went back to the drawing board (aka the U.S. Social Security Administration’s complete names lists) and generously offers now a list of the Top 100 names given to babies over the whole period, for your perusal and commentary.

Again, you might be surprised to find Patricia in the second spot—a name that is not even in the Top 500 today.  Of course, Social Security counts every spelling separately, so that if we were to add together Katherine and Catherine, she would jump up to seventh place, and then if Kathryn were factored in, the total would be 1,692,290— beating out Patricia for the second spot.

As the list of popular baby names stands, there are only a dozen girl millionaires, compared to 27 boys, showing once more the gender disparity in popularity. (Please note that due to a computer glitch, the last number is left off the boys’ column, so that the names from James to Timothy are all over a million.) It’s also interesting to note that today’s top girl, Isabella, has not yet reached Top 100 status, and nor has Number Two boy Ethan, so we can be sure the list will gradually morph in coming years.

Here now the list of the top names over time:

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familytree

So you’re looking for family names for your baby. But you’re not willing to pass on some monstrosity just to please mom or be sure you make it into Aunt Elfreda’s will. Rather, you want a name that carries on the best spirit of your family but that’s also wonderful in its own right.

You’re not alone. More than 70 percent of parents surveyed by nameberry say they used family names for their babies. Sometimes they varied the name to suit their taste or used a family name in the middle, but the main aim was to choose a name that honored their family lineage.

How to find family names that are also right for your baby? Here, seven ways to search for the perfect choice.

1. Survey Your Family For Ideas – Having a baby can be the perfect time to ask your parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles to contribute all the family names and connections they can think of. You may be surprised at the far-flung relatives who emerge or the names that pop up that you never heard of before. When my husband and I asked our families for this information, for instance, we discovered long-lost relatives named Leopold, Owen, Jane, and Victor, all of which we liked as first names.

2. Look Beyond First Names To Surnames and Place Names – Past the usual Josephs and Elizabeths on our family trees were intriguing surnames such as Dillon and Early, along with a line of relatives from a town called Paisley, any of which could work as first names.

3. Climb Through Family Trees – Sites such as ancestry.com can help you climb into the further reaches of your family tree – or even someone else’s. Even if you don’t find any actual relatives there, you may be able to explore names used in families with the same surname as yours. So what if Clarissa or Clement may not be your bona fide second cousins 12 times removed? They could be, and maybe getting the era and the ethnicity right is close enough.

4. Consult Government Registries – More and more birth, marriage, and death records can be found online now, offering a wealth of information for the industrious baby namer. I was able to trace the Scottish side of my family back to the early 1800s with the help of Scotland’s online government resources where I discovered such delectable family names as Grey. And the new online Irish census records served up all the middle names and maiden names from my Irish grandmother’s family.

5. Search Other Historical Sources – Once you exhaust the available information on your own family, you can look through everything from old ship manifests such as those available on the Ellis Island site to the early Social Security popularity lists to old books available for free via kindle or google books for ideas of names and nicknames popular in the past.

6. Embrace the Nickname – One way to use a genuine family name but make it your own is to come up with a new nickname for Percival Charles III, calling your child Perry or Charley or maybe Mac instead of PC. Or you can go in another direction and call your child Maggie after grandma, for instance, but give her Magdalena rather than Margaret as a proper name.

7. Be Creative – You don’t need to be constrained by outmoded ideas or naming practices when spinning a family name to suit your child. Reviving great-grandma’s maiden name can be an excellent way to name a son after a female ancestor, for instance, and there’s no reason you can’t give your daughter your granddad’s first name in the middle. You can use a first letter as inspiration, or even look for a new name with the same meaning as an ancestral original.

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