Dreama, Rumi, and James: From quirky to classic

April 6, 2014 Abby Sandel

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Thank you, Zanna Roberts!

Just when it seemed like no one was having babies this week, the fashion stylist welcomed twin daughters.  You might have caught Zanna talking fashion as a correspondent on The Today Show, or as a judge on Project Runway.  She’s also senior fashion editor at Marie Claire, so no surprise that she and her husband, Milk Studios founder Mazdak Rassi, have chosen stunningly stylish names for their girls.

But the new arrivals’ names aren’t just stylish – they’re downright quirky.

Quirky names were once reserved for fictional characters of the unconventional sort – think Pippi Longstocking – or possibly unpleasant ones – remember Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Veruca Salt?

As we’ve embraced diversity in naming, quirky has gone mainstream.  The names themselves are still stand-outs, but in the age of Suri and Apple, the idea of choosing something eye-poppingly-different has become almost ordinary.

From new television series to birth announcement round-ups, offbeat names for girls are everywhere you look.  It’s more than spelling Chloe with a K or reviving our great-grandmother’s names.  It’s choosing names from a nearly infinite list, compiled from all cultures, all time periods, all sounds.

Could it be a sign that the future of naming belongs to berries?

Maybe.  But then I spotted another birth announcement, this time for a boy.

His name? James!  Among the most Brooks Brother-y of the classics.  I would never call James dull, but neither is he quirky.  He’s a solid name, a president, a banker, a trustworthy mechanic.  But then I remembered that this James – son of actor Neal McDonough – joins a family full of girls, and his sisters’ names?  They’re a little bit out there.

The baby name news this week is made up of eight quirky girls, and one buttoned-down boy.

Juno – The movie was a breakout indie flick back in 2007, starring Ellen Page as a teenager facing some big decisions.  Seven years later, can we still call the name unexpected?  June is the vintage revival everyone loves, and Juniper has cracked the Top 1000.  My hunch is yes – despite all of us talking about Juno, Zanna and Mazdak actually went with the name.  Only 55 American parents did the same in 2012.  Here’s guessing that little Miss Rassi will put her own stamp on the goddess moniker.

RumiJuno’s twin answers to a poetic pick that’s even less common.  Rumi was a thirteenth century Persian writer, and his work remains wildly popular nine centuries later.  But Rumi is also a Japanese given name for a girl, with a raft of possible meanings – beauty, flow, water, lapis lazuli.  Somehow Rumi sounds like a reasonable name when paired with sister Juno.  Maybe that’s because actress Josie Maran welcomed Rumi Joon back in 2006.

Clarke – Lately all the cool kids are teenagers stuck in dystopian societies, fighting for their lives – not exactly the stuff of a John Hughes movie!  But it does open the door to creative, even quirky names, and new CW series The 100 is no exception.  There are boys Bellamy, Jasper, and Wells, and girls Octavia, Raven, and Clarke.  I’ve seen Clarke used for girls before – is the ‘e’ ending enough to make this one feminine?

Thea – Less clunky than Thelma or Theodosia, and a cousin to Theo, Leah, and Mia, Thea is the name chosen by Aussie television presenter Kelly Landry and husband Anthony Bell for baby #2.  There’s something retro and jazzy about Thea, plus she has ties to Greek myth.  I like this one much better than their older daughter’s name, Charlize.

Eilish – You might know vlogger Meagan from her YouTube videos.  It was news to me that she also has an old school blog!  She recently rounded up international variations of a few names, including Alice.  Alice is gentle and sweet, while her Irish equivalent Eilish feels spirited and daring.  It is also spelled Ailis, but I’m attracted to the more phonetic Eilish.  (Though I’d opt for Siobhan over Shavaun every time – go figure!)  If you’re stumped for something slightly different, looking at international forms of evergreen names might do the trick.

Dreama Wildstar – She sounds like one of Jem and the Holograms’ archrivals, but Dreama Wildstar is straight out of a birth announcement round-up at Names for Real.  I first heard Dreama when I was living in Western Pennsylvania – it appears to be a quirky heritage choice in the neighboring state of West Virginia.

GeorgiaDo you read Renegade Mothering?  Janelle is expecting baby #4!  With her punk-meets-playground icon, I thought her kids’ names might be a few shades away from normal – Buzz, Blue, and Tulip, maybe?  But Janelle and husband Mack are parents to Ava Grace, Charles – though they call him Rocket – and Georgia.  Ranked #298 in 2012, maybe Georgia no longer qualifies as unconventional.  But she does have a certain feisty, creative spirit that wouldn’t be out of place in a room with Dreama and Rumi.

Clover – Take Harper and Piper, mix in nature choices like Rowan and Daisy, and you’ll have Clover, a name that feels auspicious and unexpected all at once.  Neal McDonough and wife Ruve just welcomed baby #5, a boy called James Hamilton.  But their girls’ picks have been a little bit less traditional – Catherine Maggie, London Jane, and Clover Elizabeth.  Clover has been gaining steadily in recent years, up from obscurity to well over 100 girls in recent years.

James Hamilton – And now for Clover’s little brother, a blue blazer of a boy’s name.  James Hamilton joins sisters Catherine, London, and Clover, plus brother Morgan Patrick.  The McDonough’s style is definitely eclectic – a mix of the time-tested and completely novel.  Say them all together, and I do think they sound surprisingly compatible.

What do you think of quirky names for girls?  Are there any on your list?  And is your style in boys’ names different from your preferred style for girls?

About the author


Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at

View all of Abby's articles


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