Category: writers’ names
As the fiftieth anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird is being celebrated, the thought comes to mind that it sometimes can take decades for an iconic fictional character –usually one imprinted on our minds from a classic read during our formative adolescent years—to take off as a baby name.
A prime example of this is Atticus, as in Atticus Finch, that noble lawyer/father Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s novel, which appeared in print in 1960 and on screen in 1962, and yet didn’t make it onto the Social Security baby name list until 2004. The same is true of Holden: J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield appeared in The Catcher in the Rye in 1951, but not on the pop charts until 1987. Scarlett O’Hara (GWTW book 1936, movie 1939) didn’t hit the top half of the list until 2004—when it combined with the Johanssen factor. And if we want to go back even further, it took Huckleberry well over a century to suddenly be used by a couple of celebs.
Below are some literary names from 20th century American novels and plays, a few of which, like Daisy, Owen and Ethan, have already made their comebacks, others which conceivably could, plus a few that are probably too eccentric to be condsidered.
As always there’s the caveat that not all these characters were particularly likable or noble namesakes. Some American literary names to consider, for both boys and girls, include:
ÁNTONIA — Willa Cather, My Ántonia
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 and first observed on May 30 of that year, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. So this year, instead of looking back again at the names of Civil War generals and such, I thought it could be more enlightening to look instead at well-known people (with interesting names) who were born in 1868—giving us a bird’s-eye view of some aspects of post-Civil War baby naming, both in America and elsewhere.
ALEEN Cust, first British female veternarian
ALMA Kruger, Shakespearean actress, later featured in Dr. Kildare movies
EDITH Holloway, British Woman’s chess champion
HENRIETTA Swan Leavitt, American astronomer
KATTI (born Catherine) Møller, Norwegian feminist, children’s right advocate and pioneer of reproductive rights
LOYOLA O’Connor, early film actress
MARTHA Woolstein, first woman member of the American Pediatric Association
PHILIPPA Fawcett, English mathematician
AXEL Hägerström, Swedish philosopher
BAJO Topulli, Albanian freedom fighter
BERNARR Macfadden, early proponent of physical culture and bodybuilding; magazine publisher
BORIS Thomashefsky, one of the biggest stars of the Yiddish theater
CAI Yuanpei, influential Chinese educator
CAMILLO Olivetti, Italian engineer, founder of Olivetti & Co.
CUNO Amiet, Swiss artist, a pioneer of modern art in Switzerland
ÉDOUARD Vuillard, major French painter and printmaker
EMANUEL Lasker, world chess champion for 27 years
ÉMILE Bernard, noted French Post-Impressionist painter
HAMISH MacCunn, Scottish romantic composer
HARDEE Kirkland,silent screen actor and director
HARVEY Firestone, rubber tire baron
KORBINIAN Brodmann, important German neurologist
REN Shields, American musician, co-wrote “In the Good Old Summertime.”
RHODY Hathaway, silent film actor
SEWELL Ford, American novelist ad short story writer
SNITZ (!!!) Edwards, silent movie character actor
SOLON Borglum, American sculptor who worked on Mount Rushmore
Since April is National Poetry Month, this seems like a perfect time to revisit some of the most poetic of baby names. We’ve already seen starbabies named Poet (Soleil Moon Frye), Sonnet (Forest Whitaker), Auden (Noah Wyle), Tennyson (Russell Crowe), and of course any number of Dylans (traceable back to poet Thomas), not to mention a growing profusion of Emersons.
By some quirk of fate — or maybe it’s prophecy fulfillment – poets in general seem to have more poetic surnames than prose writers do. Here are some poet-name possibilities:
Clearly, parents today are giving a lot more thought to their children’s middle names than their own parents did. Long gone are the automatic connective choices like Lee and Lynn, Beth and Bruce; more likely now might be something more imaginative like Maeve or West—or Sebastian or Story—or Mom’s maiden or another family name.
For some people, the reasoning behind this is to give the child an additional option for later in life. It works both ways: either he could switch his classic William for his jazziermiddle Jasper, or she could opt for using her traditional, grown-up Elizabeth middle name over the less sophisticated Poppy.
It turns out that a surprising number of celebrities have done just that—chosen to use their middle as their marquee moniker. Sometimes it was to drop a wimpy appellation for a more stylish one (Eldred for Gregory, Orvon for Gene), sometimes because a name was too common at the time (Mary, John, James) and the middle had more character (Farrah, Orson, Montgomery), sometimes maybe because probably just seemed cooler to be Brad than Bill.
As a result, some of the most stand-out celebrity names –Evangeline, Reese, Rihanna, Ashton and Jude—started out in second place on the birth certificate. Here are some of the most prominent–And note that the last names given aren’t necessarily the ones they were born with.