By Linda Rosenkrantz
The nominations for Golden Globe awards have been announced and, although the list isn’t as long as the Oscars’, with all its technical categories, the GGs do expand the field to include outstanding performances in both movies and television. And this year’s multicultural filmscape features a particularly fascinating diversity of names, enough to please any name nerd.
So here are our nominations for the most interestingly named nominees:
Caitriona Balfe—actress in a TV drama series “Outlander”
This Irish model turned actress plays Claire Frazer on the Starz series Outlander as a mid-20th century nurse who is transported back in time to 18th century Scotland. Her name, the classic Gaelic version of Catherine, is pronounced as Katrina, and is a source of the nickname Cait.
Multiple Oscar winner Washington was nominated this year for a role in the August Wilson play that had already won him a Tony on the Broadway stage. As a Jr, he inherited his name from his minister father; it’s a Cornish place name that became a first. Denzel reached a high of #310 in 1993, when Washington was at his award-winning prime.*
British actor Dev Patel, who first made his mark in Slumdog Millionaire, was born in London to Gujarati Hindu Indian parents who were born in Kenya. Derived from the Sanskrit meaning god, Dev could catch on here, where parents are importing other three-letter names like Liv. Dev is also the name of Aziz Ansari’s character on Master of None.
First known for her YouTube web series Awkward Black Girl, on which HBO series Insecure is partially based, she was born Jo–Issa Rae Diop– Jo–Issa being a combo of her grandmothers’ names, Joyce and Isseu and Rae is after an aunt. Could Issa inspire some baby namers, or is it too close to Isla?
This actor-producer-director-screenwriter, born Isaac Liev (pronounced lee-ev), has received four Globe nominations for his dynamic role in Ray Donovan. His mother has said that she named him after her favorite author, Leo Tolstoy, though his father has a different origin story. Liev is a Yiddish variation of the Hebrew Lev and is currently a surprising Top 500 name on Nameberry.
Naomie Harris impressed audiences via her roles in Pirates of the Caribbean and the James Bond Skyfall, The extra vowel at the end of the biblical Naomi doesn’t change the pronunciation but definitely makes it distinctive and gives it some continental flair.
The acclaimed actress is in the running again for her role as one of the brilliant African-American women who provided NASA with mathematical data vital to launching the early space missions. Spencer, along with a presence on The Hunger Games, has put this elegant, historic name on the current baby name map. It’s #143 on Nameberry and back in the British Top 600.
Rami Malek—actor in a TV drama series for “Mr. Robot”
Rami Malek was an instant sensation via his lead role of cyber security engineer/hacker Elliot Anderson in the USA Network series Mr. Robot. He is of Egyptian parentage (and was the “Egyptian coven” Benjamin in The Twilight Saga). Rami is a popular Arabic name which means archer and could make a smooth transition to other cultures.
This mesmerizing actor was born Rizwan Ahmed, and also doubles as a rapper tagged Riz MC. Born in London, he also appears in Rogue One. Rizwan is an Arabic name, a variant of Ridwan, meaning satisfaction; according t Islamic belief, Ridwan is the name of Heaven’s handsome guardian angel. The nickname Riz has a nice jazzy feel.
Sterling K. Brown won plaudits for his portrayal of Christopher Darden in the Simpson trial TV movie. Named for his father, Brown was known as a child by his middle name Kelby, then took on Sterling to honor his late father. Sterling is a distinguished name with positive associations (eg sterling qualities) which now ranks at Number 495, its highest ranking ever. Another namesake: Sterling Malory, the protagonist on the animated series Archer.
Nominated for her role as the madam of Westworld, she was born Melanie Thandiwe Newton in London to a Zambian mother and English father. The name Thandiwe means beloved, and Thandie makes an appealing nickname name on its own.
The versatile Danish-American Mortensen (also a musician, poet, painter and photographer) is another nominee who shares his father’s name. The dynamic Viggo is an old Norse name dating back to the Vikings, is still very popular in Sweden, and though it might sound like a one-person name to us, has already been shared by Natalie and Taylor Hanson for their fourth child.
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