Category: Unusual Baby Names
This week’s news includes the latest name data from Denmark, surprising stats from France, and a defense of the delightfully… well, ordinary.
What’s Hot with the Danes?
Juhu! Denmark’s office for national statistics has released its annual baby name data for 2017! you can see the top 50 names given to boys and girls born last year, together with the total number of babies receiving each name, and the 2016 rankings for comparison.
And while the top 5 or so names for each gender come as little surprise (think Emma, Ella, Sofia; William, Noah and Lucas), there are some little-known gems further down the list — like nature names Lærke, Mynte and Storm, or rejuvenated antiques like Malthe, Villads and Asger.
By Linda Rosenkrantz
The nominees for the 2018 Emmy awards have now been announced, and from our name perspective, there were some striking entries on the list. The following ten actors have particularly unusual appellations with intriguing backstories—whether they happened to start out with those names on their birth certificates or not.
A first generation American, Adina Porter is the daughter of a father from Sierra Leone, Africa and a Bermuda-born mother. Her first acting teacher was Butterfly (there’s a name!) McQueen of Gone with the Wind fame. Her character was reporter Beverly Hope in Cult. The name Adina is of Hebrew origin, and means “slender, delicate” and is not uncommon in Israel. It appeared on the US popularity charts only once in recorded years—1880.
When Aidy Bryant, known for her spot-on impressions of such figures as Adele, Roseanne, and Sarah Huckabeee Sanders, was born in 1987, her given name of Aidan was (and still is) highly unusual for a girl. A classic Irish name, Aidan took off for boys in the early 90s, rising from #90 in 1900 to a peak of #39 in 2003. It’s now at #221, while the more popular Aiden spelling ranks at 17. Chelsea Clinton chose the authentic Irish spelling for her son.
Actress/writer/web series creator of Awkward Black Girl and star of Insecure was christened Jo–Issa Rae Diop, her father a pediatric surgeon from Senegal. The name Jo–Issa is a combination of the names of her two grandmothers: Joyce and Isseu; her middle name is after an artist aunt. The Arabic name Issa has been trending in France since 2000—it’s now at #110 there.
Comedian, actor and rapper Katt Williams was born Micah Sierra Williams (and passed the name Micah on to his son). Micah is the name of a biblical prophet and was frequently used by the 17th century Pilgrims. Parents looking for an alternative to Michael have brought it to #107. The cooler nickname name Katt is more often seen as Kat, an increasingly used short form of the girls’ names Katherine, Kathleen, Katrina et al—an alternative to Kitty.
Mandy Patinkin, supporting actor, drama, Homeland
A guy named Mandy? Sure, if your given name is Mandel, as it is for the actor best remembered for his gorgeously named character Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, and later as Dr. Jeffrey Geiger on Chicago Hope. Mandel is a German/Yiddish word meaning almond, rarely heard outside the conservative Jewish community (where Mendel is more common). We don’t expect to see many if any boys named Mandy either.
Merritt Wever, supporting actress limited series/TV movie, for Godless
Wever was born Siobhán Merritt, dropping her Irish first before making a strong impression as the endearingly upbeat Zoey in Nurse Jackie—for which she earned a previous Emmy. Meritt—which could almost pass for a virtue name—is more commonly spelled Merritt and in that form reached the Top 400 for boys at the turn of the last century.
Samira Wiley (shown) is known for playing Poussey Washington in Orange is the New Black and now has been nominated for her role as Moira/Ruby in The Handmaid’s Tale. Samira is a pretty Arabic name that is also spelled Sameera. It was on the French popularity list from 1965 to 2005, peaking at #107 in 1980 and is currently a Top 100 name in Portugal.
Actress Thandie Newton, the android madam Maeve Millay in Westworld—and partly responsible for the rise of the name Maeve—was born Melanie Thandiwe Newton, the daughter of a Zimbabwean princess named Nyasha. The name Thandiwe means “beloved” in the African Xhossa, Zulu, Swati and Ndbele languages. Thandie would make a charming nickname name.
This is the fourth Emmy nomination for his role as the hilarious Titus Andromedon on Kimmy. Why the extra ‘s’ on Titus? Maybe to match his surname? We’ll have to ask his parents. With the more usual spelling, Titus is a Roman, New Testament and Shakespearean name that’s rapidly increasing in popularity along with other s-ending Latinate names—it’s #299 in the US and 168 on Nameberry.
By far the Zippiest Name Emmy goes to Zazie Olivia Beetz, the German-American actress who is being honored for her role as Vanessa “Van” Keefer in Atlanta. Zazie is a French diminutive of Isabelle, and was the title character of Raymond Queneau’s novel Zazie dans le metro, which was made into a Louis Malle film.
This week’s news celebrates names that step outside the ordinary, from the worlds of hip-hop, college sports, and Spanish grandmothers.
Kulture and counter-culture
Maybe it’s the Cardi B effect. Last week the rapper and her husband Offset announced the birth of their daughter, Kulture Kiari. It’s a bold, possibly unique choice that reflects her father’s name and her parents’ values. Not surprisingly, the world had things to say about it.
This article is a welcome relief from the usual roll call of “crazy” celebrity baby names (which often turn out to be not actually that crazy). It’s a proud celebration of “extra juicy” names, not just because they made a change from the ones Boring Normals use, but because they challenge a dominant culture that has long belittled names that were out of the ordinary:
“As if language isn’t fluid! As if the tongue weren’t meant to always be learning! And what’s the result of it? Misplaced shaming and generations of missed opportunities.”
Now there’s encouragement to anyone thinking of naming outside the box.
Another defense of Cardi B’s baby name agrees that Kulture’s name shows her parents’ vibrancy and creativity. It’s not bestowed just for the sake of being a zany celebrity, but shows the pride they take in their, well, culture. And, as Cardi B said on her social media, “Anything else woulda been basic.”
Where do your naming tastes lie? Are you basic and proud, do you like names that blow your mind – or somewhere in between?
(And just for fun, since we’re talking about rappers: are you saying these rappers’ names correctly?)
By Esmeralda Rocha
The trend has become a torrent with vast numbers of locations from all over the world being chosen for America‘s babies. We now bring you all the globetrotting examples – from hip neighbourhoods to whole continents – all beyond the Top 1000 names in the US in 2017. We’ve broken them up into regions to help us follow the patterns.
By Esmeralda Rocha
Nature names are a perennial favorite for American parents, with baby names like Lily, Rose and Poppy long dominating the charts. More recent star performers have come from further afield than the floral section of the natural world, with Willow, Hazel, Ivy, Summer, River, Raven, and Reed all in the Top 500 in 2017.
But parents are increasingly looking to even more obscure inspiration for their baby names. We now bring you all of the nature names that were given to fewer than 200 children in the USA in 2017.