Mara Matilda, Messiah, Everest, and Ivete: Names in the News

August 18, 2013 Abby Sandel

Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel,  Appellation Mountain

A few months ago, the most controversial name in all of name-dom was Blaer.  Because Iceland assigns genders to names, a girl given the name Blaer was unable to use her given name, even though her mom had rafts of evidence suggesting that Blaer should really be considered gender neutral.

Now we’re all focused on Messiah.

If you missed the headlines, Messiah’s parents went to court when they couldn’t agree on a surname for their son – his or hers.  The judge made that decision.  Plus she went one step further, and changed his first name.  Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew declared that Messiah was a title, a title that had only been earned by Jesus Christ.

Messiah is now legally known as Martin McCullough.

Martin is mom’s surname.

The Blaer case ended happily, and I’m guessing that Ms. Martin will appeal and have her son’s birth name restored to much fanfare.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, most of us would agree that Messiah is a lot to live up to.  But the little guy isn’t alone in his challenge.  We’re big on big names these days.

The US welcomed more than 700 new Messiahs in 2012, along with nearly 500 boys called Moses, and over 800 Mavericks.  Parents aren’t afraid of names that convey great expectations for their sons.

More than anything, the controversy makes me think of this: if you’re a name nerd, the rise of Messiah is old news.  So is the popularity of Elijah and Isaiah for boys and Serenity and Genesis for girls, or the fact that Jackson is a more popular choice than John.

To the uninitiated, all of those things probably come as a surprise.

Other than Messiah, the nine names that made headlines last week were:

Winnie – Yes, this is little Miss Fallon’s second appearance here in as many months.  But I can’t resist.  Learning that Winnie was named after the lake where her parents got engaged?  Poetry.  Plus, it explains why Nancy and Jimmy went with just Winnie.  The full name of the New Hampshire lake is Winnipesaukee – “beautiful water in a high place.”

Mara Matilda – A great name story is the kind of thing you just want to repeat, isn’t it?  Or, in this case, re-tweet.  Nancy picked up on this great find @NYCTaxiCabTalesRemember Mara Wilson in 1996’s Matilda, the adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel?  A Norwegian couple loved the movie so much that they named their daughter Mara Matilda – and repeated the tale to their Big Apple cabbie.

Helene – I missed the arrival of actor French Stewart’s new daughter earlier this month.  She has a truly lovely name – Helene Claire.  It’s quite, well, French, and a logical successor to stylish choices like Genevieve and Vivienne.

Maud Elizabeth Daphne Marina – As if the birth of Prince George wasn’t enough, the royal family has welcomed another nicely named child.  Lord and Lady Frederick Windsor are new parents to a daughter, the first grandchild for Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.  If it all makes you think of tea and scones and the English countryside, think again.  The parents live in Los Angeles, where Lady WindsorSophie Winkleman – has been seen on Two and a Half Men as Zoey.  Hollywood connection aside, Maud is 42nd in line to the throne.

Xano – Another television actor is a first-time parent.  Jason Gann plays a dog called Wilfred opposite Elijah Wood on FX.  Now he and wife Alejandra Varela are originating the role of parents to Xano William.  Xano is a diminutive form of Alexander in Portuguese, so I’m guessing his first name is a nod to mom.

Ivete – While we’re talking Portuguese names, I’m captivated by Ivete, the given name of Latin Grammy Award winner Ivete Sangalo.  The singer is huge in Brazil, and she just finished a few performances in the US.  Ivete is part-Ivy, part-Juliet – and I can hear her working well in English.

Cairo – From Brazil to … Illinois?  Despite wearing the name of the legendary Egyptian city, Cairo Alwin Trimble was an American political figure, born in nineteenth century Princeton, Illinois.  He passed the unusual name down to his son, so we can only assume that he didn’t hate it.  It definitely is one of the Strangest Names in American Political History, but I like it quite a bit.

Everest – Speaking of unusual, I was delighted to hear that George Lucas and Mellody Hobson gave the name Everest to their new child.  But wait – Everest is a girl!  Does Everest work for a daughter?  I’m not sure, but with nickname possibilities like Evie, it could wear just fine.

Amy BelleBET alum and Extra correspondent A.J. Calloway and wife Dionne named their new addition Amy BelleBelle is a very of-the-moment middle, but Amy was a surprise.  No word on why the couple went with a 1970s throwback name for their daughter, but it sounds surprisingly fresh in our Lily/Zoe moment.

Have you heard any great names this week?

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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