Mavi, Capri, and Rockwell: Novel Names in the News

Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain

Neil Gaiman recently lectured on the future of reading and libraries and all manner of literary and imaginative things.

He didn’t utter a word specifically about names, but he’s bestowed many a memorable choice on his characters, from Coraline to Thessaly to Yvaine, Silas to Vandemar.

Gaiman did say this: “We must not attempt to freeze language, or to pretend it is a dead thing that must be revered, but we should use it as a living thing, that flows, that borrows words, that allows meaning and pronunciations to change with time.”

If language is a living thing, doesn’t the same hold true for names?

Some words endure with minimal alteration, and some names do, too.  But for every Elizabeth, there’s a Samantha – a name that feels rich with history, but is actually almost unknown until the nineteenth century.  Or Brooke, a name that feels established and sophisticated, but would have been out of place a hundred years ago.

Names should evolve, and they quietly do when we’re not noticing.  Take Beatrix.  Once a rare spelling variant, she’s now at her most popular ever – and gaining on Beatrice.

Inventing new names isn’t all spaceships and moon boots.  If language is alive, then it is equally possible to reach into the past – to find a forgotten gem that wears well in the twenty-first century.  After all, as Pam and Linda pointed out last week, many of 1890’s rarities became 2013’s favorite names.

The nine most newsworthy names from last week look forward and backward, and make for an intriguing bunch:

Amabella – The stylish Annabelle traces her roots to Amabel – from the Latin word for lovable.  The frilly Amabella takes Annabelle back in time.  This name made the news thanks to Jersey Shore alum and DJ Pauly D.  He recently revealed that he’s a new dad.  His daughter is named Amabella Sophia.  That’s the second new arrival for the former housemates.  Nicole Polizzi – better known as Snooki – is mom to Lorenzo.  Who would’ve guessed that one beach house could give us such great names?

Rockwell – This star-themed nursery remodel on the Land of Nod’s blog is out of this world.  It belongs to a lucky baby boy named Rockwell.  My first thought?  The artist behind the 1984 one-hit wonder “Somebody’s Watching Me.”  But then I thought, if Rocco, Rocky, and Maxwell are all stylish, surname name Rockwell could be, too.  Rockwell also references the classic American artist Norman Rockwell.

ModetteRockwell’s big sister is called Modette on the Land of Nod post.  Was it a blog alias?  Nope.  Rockwell and Modette are the youngest children of trend-setting Bettijo B. Hirschi, one of the co-founders of lifestyle site Paging Supermom.  Bettijo is also mom to Attalie and Piper.  She shared more about Modette’s name here, noting that it sounds like Odette with an M.  I keep thinking that it must be a franglais word for little fashionista – and I love it!

Mavi – Earlier this year, comedian Tracy Morgan welcomed daughter Maven Sonae.  Now Arrow star Stephen Amell and his wife Cassandra are new parents to Mavi Alexandra JeanJean is mom’s middle, too.  But where did they find Mavi?  I’m stumped, but here’s guessing that little Miss Amell may inspire a few more parents to consider the modern update to Maeve.

Capri – Another ends-with-i possibility was chosen by Australian power couple Kathryn Eisman and Simon Reynolds.  Their new daughter is named Capri Mirabelle.  It’s a place name, and the Italian island has been a resort destination for ages.  Today it feels modern and romantic at once – a tough combination to find.  In the US, Capri has been in sparing use for girls since the 1950s.

Liv – From sunny Capri, let’s head to chilly Detroit, Michigan, where Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson is a new dad.  He and fiancé Evelina welcomed daughter Liv.  It’s a popular name in Ericsson’s native Sweden, and has gained attention in the US thanks to Top Ten favorite Olivia.  But Ericsson’s daughter is also named after former teammate Stefan Liv, who died in a plane crash in 2011.

Atticus – For every novelty like Mavi or Modette, there are dozens of forgotten possibilities.  Atticus once counted himself among those neglected names.  He was barely known in English until Harper Lee bestowed the name on her heroic small-town attorney, Atticus Finch.  Now he’s among the most stylish of names for boys in the US, and actors KaDee Strickland and Jason Behr are the latest to choose this To Kill a Mockingbird name for a son.

Abraham – The brothers who gave us “MMMbop” back in 1996 have grown into outstanding baby namers.  The latest addition is Zac Hanson’s George Abraham Walker.  Like many of his Hanson cousins, he’ll be known by his middle.  Zac and wife Kate are also parents to Shepherd and Junia.  Best known as an Old Testament patriarch and a nineteenth century president, Abraham feels surprisingly fresh and wearable in 2013.

Zoey – Congratulations to Bill Klein and Jennifer Arnold, better known as TLC’s The Little Couple, on the adoption of their daughter Zoey.  When I first saw Zoe spelled with an added y, it seemed downright daffy.  But today, Zoey is the twentieth most popular girls’ name in the US, while Zoe ranked thirtieth.  Spellings do change, and the Joey-influenced Zoey has been more common since 2011.

Do you prefer modern innovative names, obscure names borrowed from history, or reliable standards like Elizabeth?  Are there any great new names that you’ve come across lately?

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22 Responses to “Mavi, Capri, and Rockwell: Novel Names in the News”

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RainbowBright908 Says:

October 27th, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Capri is a brand of cigarettes- likely part of the reason it’s not widely used as a name.

Netta5187 Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 12:16 am

I honestly don’t care for Amabella or Lorenzo or Abraham. I’m surprised they’re being praised as great baby names! Only Atticus stands out as a cool but usable name to me.

Danica Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 2:07 am

Mavi is a (not all that likeable) character in Anne McCaffrey’s scifi book Dragonsong.
McCaffrey used some great names in her books.

tori101 Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 3:06 am

My favourites…

: )

goldielocks Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 4:48 am

I quite like Rockwell actually!

dindlee Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 5:14 am

Zoe with a y makes me sad. Zoe is so much more sophisticated.

Abby Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 5:45 am

@dindlee – I know what you mean. I’ve known a few Greek families who have used the name Zoe in recent years, and it seems like such a great choice. Zoey’s ‘y’ seem unnecessary. But it looks like Zoey is on track to become the dominant spelling. A while back, someone named Caitlin commented that she was complimented on her “unique” spelling. What do you do when the most common version of the name isn’t the more authentic?

ssener Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 7:41 am

Mavi is Turkish for ‘blue’. I assumed that’s where the name came from when I first saw it.

csd267 Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 8:53 am

The name Atticus makes me swoon! I just love it so much (my #1 choice for a boy) Abraham is okay, it fits in with the rising popularity of Lincoln. Maven is neat, too but, not Mavi..

KateMP91 Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 9:04 am

Of all the names in this post, I love Neil the most! Lol

Of the names the post is actually about, Atticus has had a soft spot in my heart since junior high…I don’t feel that it totally goes with my style though.

Rockwell is also fantastic. I instantly think Norman Rockwell. It’s a little artsy and sweet with a tough, all-boy nn, Rocky.

charmingwitch Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 9:20 am

Rockwell actually sounds pretty good as a given name! I’d never use it myself as Norman Rockwell is among my least favorite artists but I’d definitely think “how cool!” to myself if I met a little Rockwell.

Capri was actually the name of a local politician around here! Capri Cafaro, I remember thinking her name was super cool when I first heard it.

niteowl13 Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 9:28 am

Mavi is Turkish for blue. It is a brand of blue jeans.

LuMary Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 10:51 am

I prefer classics, or at least gems from an earlier America or Britain, like virtue names such as Mercy or Desire. It’s not that I don’t like modern innovative names. It’s just that I like names that have historical appeal, or will endure over time. But, then, every name has to start somewhere.

If there is a name I’ve discovered lately, it’s usually something historical that I didn’t like previously, or overlooked. About two years ago, I discovered Winifred. Earlier than that, it was Martin. This year, it’s George, and I’m embracing Peter a lot. I’m still trying to like Helen.

I did overhear a “new” name in a store on a little girl: Breland. I like the “land” ending such as in Holland, Ireland, Scotland, Maitland. A year ago, I heard a mother calling her little girl Scotia, which is a nice place name.

Trillium Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 11:52 am

I want want want to love the name Odette, but it sounds so much like “Oh! Debt!” Perhaps a thought that crosses your mind when they hand you your hospital bill? Modette, to me, sounds like “More Debt” in a “mo’ money mo’ problems” sort of voice. Sorry! 😛 I like Abraham and Liv a lot.

morgantaylore Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I adore Rockwell. I think it’s my new guilty pleasure!

jtucker Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I like a few of these names. Liv for a girl is simple and elegant. I am also kind of drawn to Amabella, but might prefer Amabel more. For the boys the only one that I really like from the list is Atticus.

Abby Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 1:09 pm

@Trillium – Oh dear! I know what you mean about Odette and Modette … but I’m going to look past that and love them anyhow. 🙂

@LuMary – I know a family with the last name Breland. It’s quite a nice sound. Scotia is great, too – I can completely hear that wearing well.

Glad to see Rockwell getting so much love!

Saracita00 Says:

October 28th, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I think that Zoey spelled with a Y is the perfect example of “living” language. Sure, traditionally Zoe has just three letters…in Greek. But most English-speakers read a final E as “silent” and are unfamiliar with the Greek “EE” sound. Adding the final Y, a letter which does signify the “EE” sound in English, makes a lot of sense and instantly renders the name more easily understood. In fact, I think if people were more open to the idea of phonetic spellings, such as Saersha for Saoirse, some old-forgotten and foreign gems could be easily imported — and might lessen the assaults on our language (I’m looking at you, Mykynzy. That’s not “living” Englsh: it’s just plain abuse).

calypsotheoneandonly Says:

October 29th, 2013 at 9:46 am

Call me a crazy teen, but I actually like Zoey way better than Zoe. I don’t know why. It just feels more zesty and energetic that way. Capri has a really nice sound, but it just reminds me of the pants. I really love Liv, Attalie, and Amabella, though.

GrecianErn Says:

October 29th, 2013 at 11:08 am

My niece is Zoey. And I love it. It’s distinctive, but easily said.

But the story is funny because her mom’s name is Jeramie, and she wanted her baby’s name spelled “Zoie” so it would match hers. The hospital thought she misspelled it, and changed it to Zoey. And that’s how’s the birth certificate was filed.

So much for kre8ive spellings in middle America. 🙂

Famous Name: Winsome | Waltzing More Than Matilda Says:

October 30th, 2013 at 3:32 am

[…] winsome to mean “capable of winning souls to Christ”. Author Neil Gaiman is apparently a big fan of the meaning of language changing over time, so I expect this example would be of great pleasure to him. It does give the name Winsome a […]

Kayray Says:

October 30th, 2013 at 8:33 pm

I love names that don’t sound made-up- but which are forgotten or uncommon- but not too uncommon. I want a name to stand out in elegance and beauty and not for it’s strangeness.

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