And beyond celebrating Valentine’s Day baby names, let’s get expansive and salute the whole wide-ranging rise of its initial letter, ‘V.’
If consonants can be said to have personalities, then it wasn’t so long ago that the letter V was seen as more venerable—even fusty– than vivacious. Velma, Vera and Verna; Vernon, Victor and Vincent, all made our original ‘So Far Out They’ll Always Be Out’ list. But as Pam and I have learned all too well since then—never say the words never or always.
The changes have been gradual since we wrote that, but there were two celebrity events that had a significant effect on V-baby names: the naming of Violet Affleck in 2005, and then of one of the Jolie–Pitt twins Vivienne three years later. Now there are a myriad of V-starting names popping both in and out of the celebrisphere.
Let’s start with the baby names honoring St. Valentine himself. The lovely Valentina was chosen by Salma Hayek, Ricky Martin opted for the romantic Valentino for one of his twins, while Valentine itself, which has Shakespearean cred, is still waiting to be rediscovered. The Valentin form is popular in several cultures—it’s currently in the Top 40 in France and Austria. The other Val name, Valerie, has been steadily popular since the 1940’s.
Even before the birth of Ms. Affleck, Violet was beginning to show signs of rebirth, returning to the Social Security list in 1998 after an extended fallow period. By 2005 it had reached Number 371 and it’s now at a high 101—with an entry into the Top 100 a real lock for the next rankings. Cousin Viola, despite her musical and Shakespearean assets, still hasn’t made it into the Top 1000.
Virginia and Veronica are two semi-classics with lots of history—both saintly and secular. They’ve been on a downward trajectory in the last few years, but I can see that trend reversing, especially with many parents seeking longer, more substantive names. Victoria, on the other hand, still maintains her Top 25 status, while long popular Vanessa has recently dropped out of the Top 100.
Vita means ‘life’ in Latin and several names with that meaning are coming back to –well—life. Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie called his daughter Vita, Camila Alves and Matthew McConaughey used the Spanish Vida, and Rufus Wainwright went with Viva. Vivian, used by Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady last year, is, along with the Jolie–Pitt spelling Vivienne, having a major resurgence, Vivian now having climbed to Number 154. Viveca is the delicate Scandinavian version.
The letter V represents truth as well as life, and there are several options here too, beginning with the word name Verity, one of the most attractive and neglected of the Puritan Virtue names. Vera, which we so cavalierly dismissed back in the day, has jumped no less than 383 places in the past two years! Verena is a more unusual variant.
Now for a quick look at the boys, where there has been far less activity.
What’s happened to those three V-names on our earlier verboten list? Vincent and Victor are doing just fine, thank you, both in the Top 150, with Vincent on the comeback trail, andthey also have some cool international variations—Vicente, Vincenzo, and Vittorio.
Vernon hasn’t been doing as well—he’s been off the list since 2003.
Among those likely to succeed is another name that’s been off the list for awhile—since 1991, in fact–Virgil. He’s just the kind of ancient relic –the name of the greatest Roman poet—that cutting-edge namers might pick up on. The vigorous Scandinavian Viggo was taken out of the single-owner category when Taylor and Natalie Hanson used it for their son. We’ve also heard some recent love for the Welsh surname Vaughn.
What’s your favorite initial V name?