This week in baby name news, an actor named his second daughter after a tree. One movie brought an invented name to the English-speaking world by way of Japan. Another film started out in the imagination of a New Jersey-born novelist, took the audience to Paris, circa 1931, boosting a name that is popular throughout modern-day Europe. And an English pop star debuted a high-fashion handbag named in honor of a daughter named after a rather high-minded novel.
For every name that is clearly tied to a culture of origin – Maeve or Svetlana or Hiroshi – there is a growing pool that feels like fair game for parents from any background. This week’s names fit that mold, mostly because it is almost impossible to make them fit any one specific category. They’re global, eclectic, and stylish – just like the names that many of us are seeking for our children today.
Many of them are also shape-shifters. Is Sylvie a nature-name, a next-wave vintage appellation, or a nod to French heritage? How about Jed – is he a Biblical boy or a little wrangler? The answer is frequently yes, yes, and yes for these nine baby names in the news:
Maple – We’ve been taking girls’ names from the garden for generations. Now parents are turning to the arboretum. We have Willow and Rowan and the latest newcomer, Maple, a daughter for Jason Bateman and Amanda Anka. Does it pay homage to Anka’s Canadian roots? Or is Maple just a modern spin on vintage Mabel? Big sis Francesca Nora is usually referred to by dad as Frannie, so we’ll have to wait and see if Maple has a go-to nickname, too. I’m charmed by the idea of Frannie and Mae.
Sylvie – Sophie is no longer an old lady feeding the pigeons on a Brooklyn parch bench. Instead, Sophie and Brooklyn are enrolled in the same kindergarten. Baby Bateman’s middle name could prove more influential than her first. Sylvie fits right in with Ava and Sadie and Vivienne, too. From the Latin word for woods, Sylvie is also a more subtle choice than many nature names. Maple Sylvie is a double-dose of outdoorsy.
Arrietty – Classic young adult novel The Borrowers first appeared in 1952, but is getting attention again thanks to the US release of an animated Japanese adaptation from 2010. Coming soon to a theater near you, The Secret World of Arrietty (illustrated) is mostly faithful to the original plotline of Mary Clark’s enduring work, including the name of the teenage daughter. Search Arrietty on the Nameberry forums and you’ll find some amazing combinations. I’m stuck on Isadora Arrietty. She’s a modern spin on Harriet, a cousin to Romilly, Bellamy, and other names that feel feminine and elaborate, but not quite frilly.
Hugo – He’s made this list before, but when the most-nominated movie at the Academy Awards takes its title from a fashionable boy’s name? That’s something to talk about. Hugo is up for eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Cadet – This one appeared at Name Soiree as a boy’s name. On the one hand, he’s a synonym for Junior, tough to wear when you’re sixty-something. And yet I find this one appealing – more interesting than Cade and Cayden and not quite as militant as Cannon. Like the Welsh Cadel, boosted by 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans of Australia, Cadet feels wearable – if maybe just a little bit spacey.
Rembrandt – Do you follow Names from Yesteryear? Blogger Zeffy is brilliant about mining history for interesting options, but she also finds some truly intriguing and novel suggestions. Rembrandt feels like a big name for a baby, but she points out that short form Remy is perfectly wearable. If kids can answer to Tennyson and Winston, why not Rembrandt?
Harper – Spice Girl turned fashion designer Victoria Beckham has named a handbag in her fall line after new daughter Harper Seven. She’s not the first celeb mama to turn her baby’s name into a brand – House of Harlow, anyone? Could this be one more signal that Harper is headed for the US Top 100, or will parents tire of the name’s constant presence in celebrity gossip?
Six – Speaking of Harper Seven, remember Six on 90s sitcom Blossom? The unusually-named best friends had all sorts of adventures, but neither character name caught on. Six is back in the spotlight thanks to the actress who played her, Jenna von Oy, now expecting her first child in June.
Jed – All this counting brings to mind that family with nineteen kids. Nope, not the Duggars. Instead, it is the Bates family of Tennessee, dear friends to the Arkansas mega-clan, who have welcomed child number nineteen. Son Jeb Colton is the fourth Bates to receive a J-name. The family also includes Jackson, Josie, and Judson. The Bates say that his name means “beloved friend of God from Coal Town.” While that’s a stretch, Jed Colton fits right in with the Bates boys’ cowboy names. There’s also Trace, Warden, and Lawson.
Do you prefer names that tie to your family’s heritage, or do you lean towards names that are hard to pin down?