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Biblical, French, unisex and Halloween

By Clare Bristow

This week’s news includes biblical rarities, celebrities’ unisex choices, classic names with meaning, and French names galore.

Neglected names from the Bible

It’s no secret that biblical names with an Old Testament (or Torah) feel are big right now. The top 100 is full of them, especially on the boys’ side. Noah, Levi, Ezra, Josiah…the list goes on.

It can feel like an arms race to find a biblical name that’s wearable, distinctive and not too popular. Spoiler alert: you probably won’t find many wearable names in this article, but you might enjoy it all the same. It’s a lament for admirable characters whose names get neglected because they don’t sound great to modern English speakers’ ears – like poor Puah and Hoglah.

So what’s in the sweet spot between Noah and Puah? Here’s a list of unusual biblical baby names that feel usable, but aren’t going to make the top 10 any time soon.

Unisex starbaby names: Revel and Remy

Here’s an underused name with a completely different style: Revel. Friendlier than Rebel, livelier than Reverie, and less popular than River, Revel was given to just 12 boys and 9 girls in 2016. Now that actor Matthew Morrison has called his son Revel James Makai, we might see more interest in it.

Remy is much more popular but also fairly unisex. Like Rory, it started life as a boys’ name, but it’s now widely used for girls too: it’s in the top 500 for boys and the top 800 for girls in the US. The singer Billy Joel has just used it for his daughter, Remy Anne, who was born earlier this week.

Classic names with meaning

Speaking of Anne-names, here’s a reminder of one of the reasons to love classic names: they’re full of endless layers of meaning.

In this interview on the French name site Jolis Prénoms, a mother explains how she chose her daughter’s name, Anna. It honors Russian literature and culture, an Italian grandmother, and St Anne, the patron of Brittany, where her daughter has heritage. That’s a lot of meaning packed into four letters. Her brothers’ names, Hector and Constant, likewise have lots of historical and literary significance for their family.

Even with names that have become popular more recently, there’s always new significance to be discovered. For this woman called Heather, it took 17 years and a trip to Scotland to find meaning in her name.

French names: what’s in store for 2018

Going back to French names, the naming yearbook L’Officiel des prénoms has just been released. If you’re looking for inspiration from parents in France, the names that are predicted to top the lists are Louise, Emma and Jade for girls, and Gabriel, Raphaël and Jules for boys.

Borrowing names from another language can have pronunciation pitfalls, though. There’s been some discussion in a parenting forum this week about the name Anaïs. The dilemma: if you think your friend is pronouncing their child’s name incorrectly, should you tell them?

It’s a tricky one, because the “correct” pronunciation can change as a name is adopted by different parents in different societies. Try telling someone called Caitlin that she’s saying her name wrong because in Irish it’s “Catleen”, and see what reaction you get.

Halloween names

Finally, we can’t let this week pass without mentioning Halloween! There are so many possible ways to get a Halloween-inspired name that whether you’re into ghosts, witches, vampires, creepy dolls, horror movies, or just the whole holiday, there’s something for you.

I’m always curious about how much names really are influenced by holidays. It’s one thing to browse lists and daydream, but do you know anyone who’s had a Halloween baby and given them a related name? Do share!

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3 Responses to “Get Your Latest Baby Name News!”

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Orchid_Lover Says:

October 26th, 2017 at 12:58 am

I’m glad they finally entered a boy Revel in the NB database, and at the same time super annoyed that it took a celebribaby to get it done. (It has has been used more on males but only had a female entry) I really think NB has a bias against unusual names or names perceived as “too feminine” on boys. See the male “Jory” for a particularly egregious example.

srudolph Says:

October 26th, 2017 at 9:01 am

The correct pronunciation in cross-culture circumstances can be tricky. But isn’t it also endearing as well? My parents picked my name partly because it CAN be pronounced in German and English even though it sounds different. I answer to ST-eff and SCHT-eff.

That being said, as soon as you start bring accents in – which are by definition meant to alter pronunciation – you have to follow them. For instance, I once taught a student whose name was spelled Chloé. I initially pronounced that, accordingly, as Klo-AY, but according to her (and her parents) that was wrong. They wanted Klo-EE. It drove me absolutely mad. I compromised, by calling her Klo-EE but refusing to put the accent aigu on her name whenever I had to write it down.

rosemilk Says:

October 26th, 2017 at 2:20 pm

I’m okay with cross-cultural adaptations of names, language is fluid and changes over time. That said, if you’re going to go out of the way to put a foreign accent in a name (“Anaïs”) then I find it really strange not to follow the accompanying pronounciation. If you want your child’s name to be pronounced “Annay” then I would find Anais (no accent) to be a more sensible spelling.

As an aside, including foreign accents can cause all sorts of administrative problems. My son, born in Germany, has an “ö” in his surname. When I registered his citizenship in Canada, the government simply refused to recognise the accent and left it off his documents. Sounds like not a big deal but this effectively changed his name! Accents have meaning people!! They can’t just be added and subtracted at will, without regard to pronounciation or convention!

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