Category: writers’ names

Naming Baldwin

Benilde Little

by Benilde Little

There weren’t that many names that I considered giving my first-born. Even though I had amniocentesis, we didn’t find out the gender. My husband didn’t want to know and so I let him have his way. I really wanted a girl, but knew I’d be happy with whoever showed up.

Her last name would be the same as my husband’s, which is Virgin. It limits things. We’d agreed that a boy would carry on Cliff’s family name – he’s a III – which gave me the lead in choosing a girl’s name. I had always liked the name Esme. I liked Grace, I also liked Neema (which means Grace in Tanzania—at least that’s what was on the tag attached the African doll we had). None of those names sounded right with Virgin, though. I also wanted a name that meant something, had a connection to someone–a family member or a place or in the case of Baldwin, a favorite writer.

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Alice in Nameland

alice fey

A tribute today to the wonderful writer Alice Munro, winner of the prestigious 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature—and to other notable Alices who share her classic name. We love Alice for its blend of great qualities—she’s sweet and dainty yet strong and substantive, traditional and timeless but still feels young and fresh. Here, some Alices who’ve made a name for themselves.

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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:


ALABAMAZelda Fitzgerald, Save Me the Waltz

ÁNTONIA — Willa Cather, My Ántonia

AURORALarry McMurtry, Terms of Endearment

BLANCHETennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

BONANZATom Robbins,  Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

BRETTErnest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

CLARICEThomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs

CLYTEMNESTRA (CLYTIE) — William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

DAISY— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

DENVERToni Morrison, Beloved

DOMINIQUEAyn Rand, The Fountainhead

ESMÉ – J D Salinger, “For Esmé—With Love and Squalor”

EULALIAWilliam Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

FRANCESCARobert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

INDIAEvan S. Connell, Mrs. Bridge

ISADORAErica Jong, Fear of Flying

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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

ALIDA B. Jones, early movie actress

ALMA Kruger, Shakespearean actress, later featured in Dr. Kildare movies

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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:


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