February 26th, 2012
Sweden has a new second in line to the thrown. Crown Princess Victoria has given birth to a daughter. Says King Carl XVI Gustaf: “Her first name is Estelle, and then, of course Silvia, and then Ewa and finally Mary.” Duchess of Östergötland was also added to the title. Ewa is pronounced similarly to the English Ava. Though there was no explanation given for the names, we can surmise that Silvia is for Victoria’s mother, and Ewa for Estelle’s other grandmother. Before you go saying “wow that’s a long name for one person!” — four names are a common formula for royal families. This one is actually quite a bit shorter than most in both letters and syllables, and maybe as such more modern.
Estelle is a French name rarely found in Sweden. Many wish that the future queen of their country had a name that was more representative of their heritage (though the royals can trace their ancestry back to France). Estelle was also the name of the American-born wife of the king’s godfather, Count Folke Bernadotte. Maybe the king loved it as a child and was the one who suggested it, or maybe it’s just a coincidence? Perhaps they chose it for its celestial connotations? Or like so many parents, maybe they just loved its sound. It’s not unlike Stella, which is already becoming so popular, or Adele, a name I think we can expect to hear more of on little ones in the coming years. Before her birth, royal watchers speculated Alice and Desirée would be somewhere in the name. Someone also thought enough of the matter to bother hacking into the Swedish royal website. A false announcement on Friday morning read that the child’s name was Ulrika Marianna Annika David – Duchess of Upplands Väsby. I could have also gotten behind Ulrika.
There was a bit of a stir when Victoria married Daniel, a commoner and her workout trainer. Sweden took it with more grace than other countries might have, and the fact that both Victoria and now Estelle will inherit the crown measures progress. Do you find the concept of monarchy excessive and needlessly outdated, or do you think they give us some level of enjoyment?
Other recent royal announcements:
Above Image: Swedish family in 1905
September 26th, 2011
Lots of pleas for help in the inbox this month culminate in one great week of consultations. To start, put your thinking caps on and let’s assist Alexandria in naming her third. She writes:
Hello Elisabeth!Thank you so much for your website. I’m a long time reader, but only now find myself in serious need of some baby-namin’ inspiration. And after pouring over your site for hours and hours, I’m so sure I’ve come to the right place. Here’s the situation:-My husband and I have two fab boys, Virgil Ephram and Hector Adrien, 5 and 2.5 respectively, and I am pregnant with our third. We’re so super psyched, and not so secretly crossing all our fingers and toes for a girl-But we’ve decided to not find out the sex of the baby until he/she arrives, so we’re trying to decide on names for a boy and a girl.-Some details about us and our naming style:-When we decided to give our first son the name Virgil, most people thought we were completely bonkers. We got, ‘Hahaha… but seriously, what’s his name?’s and “The poor kid…’s left and right and we just didn’t understand why. I mean sure, it’s a letter off from Virgin and it’s not terribly common, and we certainly took that into consideration and went back and forth a bit, but in the end we were just so in love with the name there really was no other option for us. We have zero regrets. At home we call him Virg (read like verge) affectionately but he goes by Virgil to everyone else and he wears his name very proudly for such a little guy. The story behind us choosing that is as simple as that, we just really loved it. Ephram is my father’s name.-Hector (Heck to us) was named for Hector of Troy, my most beloved literary character in all the literature I’ve ever read or studied (I literally weep over my book every time I read his death. I can’t even explain the connection I feel with him). Since I first read the Iliad as a girl I’ve wanted to have a son to call Hector. And I do, and his name suits him so perfectly. Adrienne is my husband’s mother’s so Adrien is in homage to her.-We love names from literature and myth, uncommon names, sturdy names. My husband’s last name is Armstrong. Some names we’ve been thinking about but simply aren’t in love with (asterisks next to the top contenders):-Girls: For a girl we want something feminine, but strong. Nothing too frilly and that fits in with the boys.Hero*CordeliaViolaEttaGaia*LaviniaValentinaPhebeConstanceOphelia-Boys: Again, something strong that goes with the boys.OrionSebastienLuca*Silas*RemusCorneliusDimitriOthelloPhinnaeus-I hope this gives you an idea of our tastes and what we’re looking for for our third-to-be.Any input is beyond appreciated.-Cheers,Alexandria
September 25th, 2011
Ana Ortiz is my kind of namer. Perhaps it’s the inherent exoticism that comes with choosing a foreign name. Perhaps it’s that her choices remain familiar, yet relatively unusual in the United States.
Not long ago, she reached out for suggestions. She needed something for a boy that would work well in English and Spanish, something that paired well with big sister Paloma Louise. Something that wouldn’t get totally butchered.
We did our best to answer her call. Reader suggestions were amazing: Abram, Bruno, Gabriel, Leon, Omar, Tomas. Any of these would have worked beautifully, and I’d love to run into a little Bruno.
Maybe she looked to You Can’t Call It “It”! after all, because her new baby boy’s name was on our original list.
Joining the Ortiz-Lebenzon household?
I think it’s the perfect mesh for their family.
Did you have similar cross-cultural goals when naming your child? What was your solution?
September 6th, 2011
I’m delighted to welcome Anna Otto, from the ever enlightening blog Waltzing More Than Matilda, to our space today. WMTM is a must for those of you looking to expand your perspective on names. Maybe some of these “Down Under” names will inspire my fellow Americans to finally start using them.
Names Popular in Australia, Yet Underused in the United States
A while back I did a couple of blog entries at Waltzing More Than Matilda on names that only seem to be popular in Australia, and this time I wanted to take a look at names that are Top 100 in Australian states, yet don’t make the US Top 500. Australia and America have much in common and often share naming trends, so it’s interesting to see which names don’t seem to make the popularity cross-over, and ponder why not.
In the course of my amateur pondering, I tried to organise the names into various genres, and then figure out why Americans may be avoiding such names, as well as what factors might persuade you to choose one of these less-common names. My methods were highly unscientific, and mostly consisted of lurking on name forums and blogs to see what opinions people offered on the names.
This is what I’ve come up with, sometimes slightly tongue in cheek, and I hope you will be able to further enlighten me as to why these names aren’t as usable in the United States as they are in Australia. Many of these names are rising in popularity, suggesting that you could be intrigued by these names, rather than rejecting of them.
Note: Each name’s position in the US Top 1000 is given in the first bracket. A dash means it’s not currently in the Top 1000, and an asterisk means that it’s never been in the Top 1000. Variants of some of these names are on the Top 1000, so I’ve only included original forms of names, or forms from other languages. Hence I’ve included Annabel rather than Annabelle, and Aimee rather than Amy, but not Abbey rather than Abby. I hope that’s clear. US data is in the first bracket, and Australian data in the second. See key to Australian states below.
All the English Ladies
These are often considered classic, typically “English” girls names, although most of them are not on the current UK Top 100.
Ada (#552 and rising) (#82 in ACT, #97 in Tas)
Annabel (#627 and rising) (#52 in ACT)
Claudia (#514 and falling) (#83 in NSW, #52 in ACT)
Harriet (-) (#68 in ACT, #86 in Tas)
Imogen (*) (#50 in NSW, #31 in SA, #34 in ACT, #21 in Tas, #31 in WA)
Matilda (#800 and stable) (#18 in NSW, #16 in Vic, #21 in SA, #19 in ACT, #8 in Tas, #16 in WA, #19 in Qld, #8 in NT)
Olive (#545 and rising) (#97 in Vic, #97 in Tas)
Why you might reject these names: They seem clunky and old-fashioned, or too posh and snobbish. Harriet, unfortunately, suffers when spoken in an American accent, as the first two syllables seems to be pronounced “hairy” in the US.
Why these names may intrigue you: You find their very old-fashionedness sweet and cosy, like snuggling up in a patchwork comforter while sitting in an antique rocker. You think they are classy, offbeat or genteel, or appreciate the fact they seem like strong yet womanly girls names.
Oh là là ! Très exotique!
Names from other languages and countries. The first four are French, Freya is Scandinavian, and Milla is popular in Scandinavia. Zara looks Arabic, although technically it’s the English version of a literary French name (which was probably based on an Arabic name).
Adele (#908 and just returned to the charts) (#82 in ACT)
Aimee (#622 and unstable) (#82 in ACT)
Amelie (#681 and rising) (#70 in NSW, #78 in Vic, #47 in ACT, #39 in WA)
Eloise (#530 and barely returned to the charts, but with a sharp rise) (#85 in Vic, #100 in SA)
Freya (*) (#57 in Tas)
Milla (*) (#50 in Vic, #86 in Tas)
Zara (#716 and rising) (#25 in NSW, #23 in Vic, #41 in SA, #29 in ACT, #57 in Tas, #49 in WA)
Why you might reject these names: They sound pretentious, or like someone in a story, not a real person. You worry that there could be pronunciation issues, and your child will have trouble spelling their name. You fear Zara sounds too Muslim.
Why these names may intrigue you: You find them sophisticated, romantic or exotic. You love their femininity, or think they will be an exciting way to dress up some stale family names (Freya for Freda, Zara for Sarah, Amelie for Emily).
Old School Cutesy Poo
These are also old-fashioned “English” style names, but this time short and cute. These type of names are very much in vogue in Britain, and many of are on the UK Top 100. Most of them are short forms of names; Poppy isn’t, but I’ve noticed that often Americans can only see this floral name as a nickname for something longer, such as Penelope.
Archie (-) (#47 in NSW, #33 in Vic, #54 in SA, #85 in ACT, #39 in Tas)
Evie (#705 and rising) (#33 in NSW, #29 in Vic, #51 in SA, #52 in ACT, #25 in Tas, #43 in WA)
Harry (#656 and falling) (#27 in NSW, #24 in Vic, #20 in SA, #15 in Tas, #33 in WA, #26 in Qld)
Maisie (*) (#97 in Tas)
Millie (#865 and barely returned to the charts) (#82 in ACT, #97 in Tas)
Poppy (*) (#66 in NSW, #55 in Vic, #71 in SA, #52 in ACT, #72 in Tas)
Toby (#669 and falling) (#56 in NSW, #84 in Vic, #76 in SA, #41 in ACT, #33 in Tas, #49 in WA)
Tom (-) (#85 in ACT)
Why you might reject these names: You believe children must be given a formal, full-length name in order to be successful in their careers (like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Tom Hanks and Ron Howard are). You feel these names will sound cute on a five-year-old, but ridiculous on a 50-year-old. You think these sort of names sound more appropriate on a doll – or maybe a dog! Harry has the same pronunciation issues as Harriet.
Why these names may intrigue you: You love the quirky English charm of these names, and are swayed by the fact that American celebrities are beginning to take to them. You think they manage to sound upper-class, yet homely and unpretentious. Besides, you can’t resist the utter adorable cuteness of them! Mwah!
Ye Olde Testament
Old Testament names are very popular at the moment, and probably more so in the States than here, as the US is a more strongly religious country than we are. I could find only two names from the Old Testament that are popular here, but underused in America.
Eve (#598 and stable) (#99 in NSW, #70 in Vic, #86 in Tas)
Reuben (-) (#63 in ACT, #72 in Tas)
Why you might reject these names: If Eve’s temptress role in Genesis doesn’t make you uneasy, then you may see her as nickname material for Evelyn or Genevieve rather than a full name. Reuben has dropped off the radar in favour of Ruben – this spelling variant could be to make the name look more like a male form of Ruby, or because Reuben is a type of sandwich in America.
Why these names may intrigue you: You admire the cool simplicity of Eve, and see this name as a good substitute for popular Ava. You prefer to see Reuben in his original spelling, as found in the Bible, or find Ruben uncomfortably close to the word “rube”.
The Celtics Aren’t Just a Basketball Team
Americans are mostly just as keen on Irish and faux-Irish names as we are, but Scottish names not so much. The real “Uncle Sam” was a Scotsman, and the hot dog and McDonalds were both Scottish innovations, yet Scottish heritage does not seem to be celebrated as widely in the US as it is here.
Angus (-) (#62 in NSW, #34 in Vic, #36 in SA, #63 in ACT, #33 in Tas, #50 in WA)
Callum (#848 and rising) (#74 in NSW, #96 in Vic, #75 in SA, #54 in ACT, #51 in Tas)
Rory (#750 and stable) (#72 in Tas)
Why you might reject these names: Angus sounds like a cow, and besides, you’re not sure how to pronounce it. You worry Callum will be confused with Colin, and Rory is either too old man, too childish, or too feminine.
Why these names may intrigue you: You realise that these names are now sounding hip and vibrant. You wish to honour your Celtic heritage (if you are African-American, there is a good chance that you have Scottish ancestry, or that you have been influenced by Gaelic culture).
Surname names for boys are at least as popular in America as they are in Australia, but these four aren’t as well known in the US as they are here.
Archer (#550 and barely returned to the charts, but with a sharp rise) (#55 in Vic, #99 in SA, #85 in ACT, #70 in Tas)
Fletcher (#871 and rising) (#93 in Tas)
Harvey (-) (#98 in ACT)
Marley (#911 and falling) (#93 in Tas)
Why you might reject these names: You see most of these surnamey dudes as old-fashioned, middle-aged, or even antique. And Marley is a girl’s name, hello!
Why these names might intrigue you: You’ve checked the stats, and see Archer is now on the upswing – you want to get in fast so you can say you liked this name before it was popular! Or you’re thinking Fletcher and Harvey could very well be the next Archer … You like Marley better on a boy – after all, Bob Marley was a man, mon! One love!
NSW – New South Wales
Vic – Victoria
SA – South Australia
ACT – Australian Capital Territory
Tas – Tasmania
WA – Western Australia (incomplete data)
Qld – Queensland (incomplete data)
NT – Northern Territory (incomplete data)
September 6th, 2011
The fall is upon us and changes abound. I’m looking forward to an exciting season here at You Can’t Call It “It! and have my community of faithful readers to thank.
I am enormously heartened by all the participation in the ongoing Back-To-School post (over 100 lists and growing! Thank you). Names are being reported from Norway, Italy, Australia, England, Finland, Portugal, and of course all over the 50 states. It’s never too late to add yours!
Always game to discover new names, these lists don’t disappoint. Koritsi, Mazziana, Preben, Talaunt and Thayeng are among the glorious eye-openers.
As I type, we also have more reader submissions coming in of a different kind. Remember my call for guest posts? You’ve answered! And I’m so grateful. Stay tuned for our next installment of international articles, coming shortly.
August 8th, 2011
Today I am ecstatic and honored to bring you our first in a series of guest posts, Names Across Nations, by Nell Bang-Jensen. Nell writes:
My interest in names inspired me to apply for a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship after graduating from Swarthmore College this past spring. The Watson Fellowship is a one-year grant given to forty students from participating institutions that is for independent study and travel outside of the United States. One year after beginning my application for the fellowship, my “Names Across Nations” project has become a reality.
Over the next twelve months I’ll be traveling to seven different countries, Indonesia, India, Morocco, Germany, Zambia, Ireland and Iceland, in order to study what makes a name. The process of naming a child varies around the world and is shaped by a variety of considerations including religious traditions, governmental restrictions, family history, and cultural icons. I will explore a range of naming practices to better understand how names shape identity and how people, in turn, shape names. From witnessing Hindu naming ceremonies, to watching as thirteen year-old Zambian children choose their own names, to talking to people who work at German offices of vital statistics, I hope to explore naming from a variety of different perspectives.
I think this study is particularly timely as technology increases and names are shared on a global level. To think of the impact names can have when they transcend religious and national boundaries, just think of the large response the American public had when finding out that Barack Obama’s middle name was “Hussein” in the 2008 election. Due to rapid changes in recent technology, as more people are able to connect across borders, names become increasingly important to defining and representing who we are. What are the thoughts and intentions of parents when they give names that their children will have for the rest of their lives life? With each choice of a name, there is a story.
Because my name, “Nell”, is unusual, as a child I was unsettled on the rare occasion that I would meet another “Nell.” I felt betrayed and unable to fathom that when all of the people in her life spoke or thought of “Nell”, they thought of her. I also realized, however, that there was something innate we shared just by virtue of having that name, and by the fact that, though they used different rationales, our parents all arrived at that name for their daughters. Upon meeting another Nell, I invariably felt my identity had been stolen from me, but realized that the name “Nell”, (a variant of the Greek “Eleanor” or “Helen”, or of the Latin “Cornelia” that literally means “shining light”), was being constantly redefined by this other girl and also by me. The name itself represents countless other Nells before and Nells to come across the globe. I am playing a role in defining the name “Nell” while the name itself projects its own meaning, cultural context, and history onto me.
I want to explore how the meaning of names, these shared strings of letters and sounds, are constantly changing as they are defined by those who give these names and the individuals who bear them.
It is with excitement (and a little fear) that I begin my twelve month journey outside of the United States. I’ll be gone from July 28, 2011 to July 28, 2012 and I will be writing about my travels on my blog:namesacrossnations.blogspot.com. I am eager to hear any ideas, feedback, suggestions or questions that you may have.
Nell, I think I can speak for all of us when I say we are so excited to follow you on your travels. Next up, Nell’s own name story, the beginning of a journey.
Image: The Namakarana Samskara (Hindu name ceremony) by S. Rajam
July 27th, 2011
I posted this on Facebook earlier, but the name is generating so much interest it was time to bring it back to the blog for hot debate.
Selma Blair and Jason Bleick have welcomed their son Arthur Saint Bleick to the world.
You may recall not long ago, I’d wrongly predicted Arthur as Natalie Portman’s choice. Yet I’m thrilled another high profile fashionable mama has taken up the charge. In my opinion Arthur is terribly au courant. But what’s with Saint? Is it an old world throwback, or new
Arthur has climbed to the top 100 in England and as “ahr-TOOR” remains a favorite in Belgium and France. In America, however, he’s been on a downward crawl throughout the 20th and now 21st centuries, resting comfortably now in the upper 300s. What do you think? Will this birth help turn the name around? Is this Euro-chic choice destined to rise in the ranks on our shores with the likes of Henry and Eloise, or do you think this is a flash in the pan?
What say you? Is America ready for Arthur?
July 19th, 2011
Hi Elisabeth, my name is Nicola. My husband Francisco (Frankie) and I have four children and are currently expecting our fifth and six — boy/girl twins. Our oldest child is from my previous marriage and her name is Cherry Guadalupe, named for my ex’s mother Cherise and my grandmother Guadalupe. Together Frankie and I have Luis Francisco, Rafael Oscar, and Celesta Persephone. All three of our kids were named after family and friends.
With the twins, Frankie and I want to continue the theme of naming the babies after family and friends but we’ve almost run out of names that we like and wouldn’t mind having our children bear. With all of our other children, their names have some sort of correlation to their godparents’ names. Our son’s godparents are named Ronaldo Luis and Katherine Anne and our daughter’s godparents are named Michael Alessandro and Veta Narcisa.
For our son we thought about using Ronaldo’s intitials but incorporating Katherine’s name in some way. We really like the name Rey (spelled that way–not Ray) and Katherine (who is married to Ronaldo) has a maiden name of Leon Zayas. So, we feel that we should name our son Rey Leon Falto de Garcia. However, we don’t feel completely confident in his name and are still open to suggestions. We will consider other R names and also the idea of using Lorenzo as the middle name (Lorenzo is the hispanic version of Laurence, Katherine’s father’s name). We did consider Rey Lorenzo as well but feel that Rey Leon sounds nicer.
For our daughter we opted to not use any combination of initials but rather to use variants of her grandparent’s names to incorportate. We would like to incorporate my mother’s name, Rosalind, somehow though as well. For our daughter we are kind of considering giving her three names, two as her first and one as her middle. We decided that we would use Veta but we both like Veda better and we would also use Alessandra. So her name would be Veda-Alessandra Rosalind Falto de Garcia. You can see my concern in the fact that she would have an extremely long name and I am not sold on the whole hypenated first name. I have a very long name myself and it has always been a hassle between signing documents and getting documents mixed up due to the fact that they had the wrong first and last name, etc. It’s really just not something I want my daughter dealing with. I really don’t want to omit Alessandra from the name but we really also want to use Veda and Rosalind or some variant of Rosalind.
If you could help us in deciding on a name for our son and shortening the name of our daughter, it would mean the world to us! They will be here shortly and thinking about them entering the world without definite names is a scary thought for us. We appreciate your help so very much, thank you!
Oh and I mentioned that Cherry is from a previous marriage to clear the air that her name is in fact not Cherry Falto de Garcia — or Cherry Garcia! Her last name is actually just one name, she dodged a bullet on that one!
July 17th, 2011
Are you watching? The US plays Japan today in the finals of the Women’s World Cup in soccer. My other half is a big fan, and we’ll be glued to the set this afternoon along with our two young daughters.
Could there be a more apt moniker for a goalie than Hope Solo? Yes, my friends, this is actually our goalie’s name. Otherwise, the US and Canada largely failed to surprise me with their given names, but here are some more I found scintillating for our nerdy purposes.
A few quick observations: Brazil and Equatorial Guinea think highly enough of their players so they only go by one name. All the Japanese names end in a vowel. All the Korean players have double names. Colombia loves the letter Y.
Do you examine credits and jerseys like a hawk every chance you get? Anything that intrigues you here?
USA: Hope Solo
Australia: Collette, Servet, Teigen
Brazil: ALINE, FABIANA, FORMIGA, FRANCIELLE, GRAZIELLE, MARTA, MAURINE,
RENATA COSTA, THAIS, THAIS GUEDES
Canada: Carmelina, Marie-Eve
Colombia: Yineth, Yuli, Carmen, Yoreli, Yulieht, Lady, Ingrid, Orianica
England: Fara, Eniola, Dunia, Siobhan
Equatorial Guinea: MIRIAM, BRUNA, DULCIA, VANIA, DIALA, EMILIANA, DORINE, YAO, JUMARIA,
CHINASA, LUCRECIA, MARIA ROSA, FATOUMATA, LAETITIA
France: Celine, Laure, Ophelie, Sandrine, Corine, Sonia, Eugenie, Camille, Elodie, Berangere, Gaetane, Marie-Laure
Germany: Nadine, Bianca, Saskia, Babett, Annike, Simone, Inka, Birgit, Ursula,
Celia, Verena, Ariane, Fatmire, Lena, Almuth
Japan: Nozomi, Yukari, Azusa, Sakim, Kyoko, Mizuho, Kozue, Aya, Nahomi,
Homare, Shinobu, Miho, Rumi, Megumi (x2), Asuna, Yuki, Karina, Mana
Korea: Myong Hui, Hong Yon, Un Byol, Myong Gum, Jong Sun, Sol Hui, Hyon Hi, Su Gyong, Un Sim, Yun Mi, Ye Gyong, Myong Hwa, Un Ju, Chung Sim, Jong Hui, Pok Sim, Un Hyang, Jin Sim, Mi Gyong, Song Hwa, Chol Ok