Do you know anyone plagued with a famous name?

Steve Martin taught me eighth grade science.  He was pretty cool, but the first day of class was admittedly a bit of a disappointment.

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: ColletteServet, Teigen





Canada: Carmelina, Marie-Eve


Colombia: Yineth, Yuli, Carmen, Yoreli, Yulieht, Lady, Ingrid, Orianica


England: Fara, Eniola, Dunia, Siobhan





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

As we all know by now, Natalie Portman and fiance Benjamin Millepied chose the name Aleph for their son.  Aleph represents the space marker in the Hebrew alphabet or aleph bet, that takes on the breathy position of a glottal stop or pronunciation of the vowel adjacent to it in the word.

Jewish mysticism associates Aleph with air, a oneness with God, and infinity.  In the sacred text Sefer Yetzirah, “Aleph is King over Breath, Formed Air in the universe, Temperate in the Year, and the Chest in the soul.”  In Rabbinic Hebrew, the Bible begins with Bet, the second letter of the alphabet.  To reward Aleph for “his” humility, he is given the task of starting The Ten Commandments.

In addition to the first letter of the alphabet, it also represents the number one.  Both Natalie Portman’s father Avner and her grandfather Arthur‘s names begin with the aleph, and it perhaps honors both men without explicitly naming her son after a living relative (her father is living while her grandfather has passed).  After reading more about Aleph, I’ve come to really respect the choice and expect my research only scratches the surface of this spiritual name.  Natalie Portman is a Harvard graduate would not take a decision like this lightly, so while at first it may have seemed like a wacky celeb name, it’s actually one chosen from careful deliberation.


The week also brought us news of another much anticipated babe, the child of David and Victoria Beckham.  They shocked us all when they chose zeitgeist sweetheart Harper as their daughter’s first name, but stuck to their convention of choosing the unconventional with they put Seven in the middle.

Despite being the fourth child, Seven is David Beckham’s lucky number. 7 was his Jersey when he played for English team Manchester United and the national team.  Harper Seven was also born in the 7th hour on the 7th day (Sunday) in the 7th month and weighed 7 something pounds.  It looks like it’s her lucky number too.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Seven used as a name.  Erykah Badu dubbed her son Seven way back in 1997, and as readers so astutely pointed out in the comments, Seven was George Costanza’s unborn child until a couple overheard him and “stole” the name.  My generation will recall Six on Blossom, and Novogratz child and fifth son Five made is reality TV debut last year on Nine By Design.

I went to high school with a boy called “Cuatro” because he was the fourth in line to bear the name.  Trey and Trip are also variations on this theme which sometimes wind up on the birth certificate.  I’m partial to Sixtine (sic) and Octavian myself.  In some languages Nina is the number nine and Una number one.

Do you think letters and numbers are the next wave in baby names? It’s just an extension of the word name trend, and has the capacity to dip into religious and cultural symbolism of the power of symbols, scientific and mathematical harmonies, and the history of language.  I can see Brooklyn parents really digging this.  Gone are the days when being “just a number” is construed as a bad thing.

Are there any letters or numbers you particularly would like to see on a child?

I’m dumbfounded.  Flabbergasted.  Utterly thunderstruck.  But not for the reasons I expected to be.

Rumors targeted them with a Luna, a Santa, or an Atlanta, but it was not to pass.

Name frontier warriors David and Victoria Beckham have dubbed their newborn baby girl Harper Seven.

It’s a bit of a free fall after boys Brooklyn, Romeo, and Cruz.  All were skirting the outer reaches of creativity when they were born in 1999, 2002, and 2005.  But Harper follows a long line of celebrity tots.  Neil Patrick Harris, Dave Grohl, Tiffani Thiessen, and Lisa Marie Presley all have toddling Harpers, and it’s been climbing the charts at one of the quickest clips I can remember.  It appeals to everyone from hippies and hipsters, Southern Belles to West Coast beaus and now British-ex-pat-ex-pop-star-footballer types.  To most parents, it feels new.  How long will this last I wonder?

Not long ago, I pegged it destined to supernova.  But I didn’t know it would happen so soon.  What do you think?  Top 10 in 5 years?   Thank you, Posh and Becks, for helping at least one prediction come true.

P.S. Here’s one more prediction: between Seven and Aleph?  Expect numbers and letters to be the next big thing.

The Kardashian family wastes no time when it comes to love, marriage, and the baby carriage.

Last week, Kim Kardashian confirmed her engagement to Kris Humphries of the New Jersey Nets.  My first thought was, “is his name REALLY Kris, or is he just trying to fit in?”  My second thought was, did his name (the same as Kardashian mother hen Kris Jenner) help him to feel like family?

Kim is already calling dibs for her favorite K names.  According to sister Khloe:

“Kim is the only crazy person that would actually like, reserve.  Lamar and I like baby names, but I’m not going to say, ‘No one else can have this name!’ ”

Big sis Kourtney opted out of the kraze when she chose Mason Dash for her son with Scott Disick.  Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe also have a brother Rob, named after father Robert Kardashian, and two baby sisters, Kendall and Kylie.

I’ve written extensively about this before as changing a C to a K, like in Khloe and Kourtney, is one of my Seven Deadly Trends.  Yet there are still plenty of lovely K names out there which Mr. and Mrs. Humphries could choose from.  Let’s try to gently guide them, before one more KATASTROPHE sweeps the nation.

Some of the more unusual names here hail from Armenia, Kim’s father’s home country.  They could make lovely middle name choices, but my money’s on Robert in the middle should they have a boy.

Kadri- Estonian form of Katherine.

Kaia- Norwegian diminutive of Katarina.

Kallista- Greek, “most beautiful.”  I see Kim opting for this or Karissa– a long flowy, “pretty” K name.

Karissa- Derived from Greek charis meaning “grace, kindness.”

Kerensa- Cornish, “love”

Keturah- Hebrew, “incense”; Abraham’s second wife

Kira- May be derived from Greek kyrios, “lord.”

Kohar- Armenian, “jewel.”

Kai- Hawaiian for “sea”, among other meanings.

Keane, Kian- Anglicized forms of the Gaelic Cian, “ancient.”

Keegan- Irish, ”descendent of Aodhagán.”

Keghart- Armenian, “lance, spear”

Khajag- Armenian, “blue-eyed”

Kieran- Anglicized version of the Irish Ciaran, “black.”  Karen is also male name in Armenia and this one could plese the family.

Kip- Usually a nickname, I could see these two opting for another short name like Mom & Dad

Kirk- Scottish via Old Norse via Greek, “church”

Knox- Scottish, “round hill”

Krikor- Armenian form of Gregory, “watchful”

Kristof- Eastern European version of Christopher, in honor of all the Krises in the fam.

Upon wiki’ing Kris Humphries, I discovered his family kanoodling with the letter K as well.  He has two older sisters: Krystal and Kaela.  Also of note? As a child he was a champion swimmer, first six events, second in the others to one other person– Michael Phelps.

What are your favorite K names?

Baby Hockey Player Mathemetician

September 8th, 2010

We have another mother in need.  Here’s a letter from Amy:

We are expecting our second child in late September and do not know the gender.

Our family is an interesting collection.  I am very artsy/vintage/quirky and I am a scientist.  My husband refers to himself as a geek (there are 2 “ee”‘s in Electrical Engineer, he says), so definitely a sense of humor as well.  His name is Beau and is a former hockey player and current sports enthusiast.  We also love to travel.

I would like the name to convey personality, a sense of identity and something that will fit throughout their life.  Also, something with the potential for a cute nickname when they’re younger and a full name not so cutesy for when they are an adult.

We currently have one girl, about 2 and a half.  Her name is Vinetta Pearl (great Aunt was Vinetta, not necessarily intentional to have a family name and Pearl just because we liked it…), so something that would pair nicely would be great, but not a final requirement.

We really love names that have a vintage feel or at least an element of uniqueness.  Being an Amy, I was always one of many in a class and really didn’t like that.  Now when I say unique, I don’t mean “kreeaytive” just a name that you won’t run into every day.  We also like quirky :)

Some names we considered while pregnant with Vinetta:

Beatrix (but I was afraid of the nn Trixie)

Mathilda (thought Tillie would be a cute nn)

Clementine (however, do NOT like Tina for a nn)

Ingrid (she was Ingrid for about 5 minutes, but I decided I pictured Ingrid as a blonde, which now Vinetta is very blonde :)

Cecilia (my paternal grandmother Hildur’s middle name)


Ruby (but that was taken out of contention when the nurse mentioned there were 2 other Ruby’s born within a week)

Piper (my husband ultimately said no)

Jasper (but what kind of nickname)

Phineas (my husband said no eventually)

Milo (again with the no from him)

Leo (I love this, he does not)

Names he likes, and I do not:

Maxwell (but I had a dog called Max growing up, so this one doesn’t thrill me)







A couple other names we can’t use due to family members or current pets we have:  Alice, Eleanor, Poppy, Daisy and Violet.

We are seriously stuck on boy names.  My husband offered up quite a few related to mathematicians, physicists and hockey players, which I immediately eliminated (Euhler is an example…). He does love hockey – the Minnesota Wild, the New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Gophers (college team) are his main favorites.  He also loves all things German, whereas I am pretty smitten with all things British.  ;-)

Thank you so much, I am really looking forward to hearing some suggestions from everyone.

There are a ton of different directions to go for you guys Amy, and your letter is very exciting.  Jasper seems like a real possibility, and as you said, your “leftovers” from naming Vinetta are still delicious!

Let’s start with your husband.  I scoured rosters from his various teams for great names, searched the history books for the math people.  Without regard to how they play or how their theories evolved, here’s what I turned up:


Ada- Ada Lovelace

Blaise- Blaise Pascal

Cedric- Cedric Villani- 2010 Field’s Medalist

Edward- Edward Witten

Isaac- Isaac Newton

Jules- Jules Henri Poincaré

Leon- Leohnard Euler; in lieu of Euler

Pascal- Blaise Pascal; also Pascal Dupuis from Minnesota Wild Players

Rozsa- Rozsa Peter

Minnesota Gophers

Kellen- Kellen Briggs

Nico- Nico Sacchetti

Seth- Seth Helgeson

Minnesota Wild Players

Mattias- Mattias Weinhandl

Roman- Roman Simicek

Sebastien / Sebastian- Sebastien Bordeleau

Sylvain / Sylvan- Sylvain Blouin

New Jersey Devils

Anders- Anders Carlsson

Murray- Murray Brumwell

Pascal (again!)- Pascal Rheaume

Reid- Reid Simpson

Others that remind me of your lists in one way or another.  Not all are easily nickname-able, but see what you think:





Casimir- Cass

Frederick- Freddy

Gustav- Gus

Hendrik- Henry?


Joachim- Joe, Joey



Raphael- Rafe


Tobias- Toby

















Odilia, Ottilie







Readers, is there anything here that you absolutely love?  What do you suggest for Amy’s child?

He gazed up to the sky, a long penetrating gaze, just after the ball grazed England goalkeeper Green’s fingers.

Hailing from Nacogdoches, Texas, Clint Dempsey (born Clinton) is our man.

Think more little Clints are in the works?  What about Dempsey?  It could go to a boy or a girl?

Landon Donovan is another from team U.S. who packs a double punch for potential namesakes.  Both Landon and Donovan have been on the rise for a while, but this may just be the boost the name needs to catapult him to stardom, especially if Donovan rises to the occasion during the games.

Beasley, Clark, Findley, Holden, Howard, and Spector all have potential to win over the hearts of American soccer fans with their surnames and make it to the birth certificate.  Bocanegra, after the captain Carlos Bocanegra, is a most adventurous option.

Men need an entry point.  It’s worth watching the world cup with them to see if you derive any inspiration together.  I myself tried to get to Josephine nn Josie via the Jozy Altidore angle (born Josmer), but it was a no go.  Perhaps you’ll have better luck than I had.

Tour de France Riders

July 15th, 2009



The renowned Tour de France bicycle race is underway and I cannot tell you how beautiful the scenery is.  The riders hail from around the world, and while many of them may have middle-aged names in their home countries, quite a few sound awfully fresh to me.

I have no idea who is ahead or if Lance will make a play for the title, but here are the monikers we might want to pilfer aux Etats Unis.  Underlined are those that seem particularly poised  to make the voyage next, while several are already here.


Amaël (Moinard)

Amets (Txurruka) 

Andreas (Klier)

Arnaud (Coyot)

Benoït (Vaudgrenard)

Bernhard (Eisel)

Brice (Feillu)

Christian (Knees, Vande Velde)

Christophe (Kern, Moreau)

Cyril (Dessel, Lemoine)

Dmitriy (Muravyev)

Egoi (Martinez)

Fabian (Cancellara, Wegmann)

Filippo (Pozzato)

Frederik (Willems)

Geoffroy (LeQuatre)

Grischa (Niermann)

Gustav (Larsson)

Heinrich (Haussler)

Hubert (Dupont)

Igor (Anton)

Inigo (Cuesta)

Jérôme (Coppel, Pineau)

Johan (Van Summeren)

Johannes (Fröhlinger)

Joost (Posthuma) -This wins the award for absolute weirdest last name ever!  FN pronounced “Yost”, like toast.

Julian (Dean)

Jurgen (Van den Broeck, Van der Walle)

Koldo (Fernandez)

Lance (Armstrong)

Laurens (Ten Dam)

Laurent (LeFevre)

Levi (Leipheimer)

Linus (Gerdemann)

Lloyd (Mondory)

Marcin (Sapa)

Martijn (Maaskant)

Marzio (Bruseghin)

Mauro (Santambrogio)

Maxime (Monfort)

Mickaël (Delage)

Oscar (Freire, Pereiro Sio)

Pierre (Rolland)

Pierrick (Federigo)

Piet (Rooijaakers)

Rémi (Pauriol)

Rigoberto (Uran)

Rinaldo (Nacentini)

Romain (Feillu)

Ryder (Hesjedal)- a rider named Ryder.  

Ruben (Perez Moreno)

Saïd (Haddou)

Sebastian (Lang)-  the course also knows several Sébastiens.

Sergio (Paulinho)

Simon (Geschke, Spilak)

Stijn (Devolder)

Styn (Vandenbergh)

Stuart (O’Grady)

Sylvain (Chavanel)

Thierry (Hupond)

Thor (Hushovd)

Vladimir (Karpets)

Guess The Group!

January 12th, 2009


I recently came across what I think reads as a distinct group of names, particularly when taken as a whole.  Can you guess what these guys have in common?  (Don’t google until *after* you guess!!!)  No prize here, just your own pride.  If you KNOW the names, it’s not a guess.  Please don’t answer if you know!

I’ll reveal Wednesday morning. 

Ding ding ding!!! Jaime got it right on the nose with BULL RIDERS! Nascar drivers, 4-H club, monster truck riders were among the guesses… you guys are good at this! Superhero alter egos and people who go by their middle name were the more creative choices. “Auspicious” specifically pegged the rural quality of these regional favorites. I think it illustrates an interesting point about how names hang together as a group. When naming a child, think about what community your child will be brought up in, how you want your child to blend in or stand apart, and how names in your community might reflect on one another. 

Aaron Roy

Austin Meyer

Billy Robinson

Brendan Clark

Brian Canter

Brian Herman

Clayton Foltyn

Clayton Williams

Cody Campbell

Cody Ford

Colby Yates

Cord McCoy

D.J. Domangue

Dustin Elliott

Dustin Hall

Ednei Caminhas

Greg Potter

Guilhelme Marchi

Harve Stewart

J.B. Mauney

Josh Koschel

Kasey Hayes

Kody Lostroh

Leonil Santos

Luke Snyder

Matt Bohon

Mike White

Nick Landreneau

Pim Rosa

Pistol Robinson

Renato Nunes

Robson Palermo

Ryan Dirteater

Ryan McConnel

Sean Willingham

Shane Proctor

Travis Briscoe

Valdiron de Oliveira

Vince Northrop

Zach Brown

Names Worthy of a Gold Medal

August 15th, 2008

Last night was one of the most exciting leapfrog competitions toward the gold medal that I can remember. I’m talking about the women’s gymnastics all around, of course, with lovely Americans Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin both in contention. They repeatedly kept getting lower scores than they deserved, while others mysteriously hung on to very high scores amidst balance checks and other obvious mistakes. I’m not biased, of course! I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Merman Michael Phelps has also been a joy to watch this year. He now holds more gold medals than any other swimmer ever, and is on his way toward earning more gold in any single year. Sadly, for us, no medals are being awarded for their names.

Shawn is among a bevy of girls we’ve seen on the national stage with a gender “neutral” name: Sean Young of Bladerunner fame came to light in the 1980s and perhaps influenced young Shawn’s moniker. In recent name news mothers of baby Clementine and Parker are named Ryan and Jaymes respectively. I think we’ll see a spike in all of these kinds of names in 2008. Michael of course has been a perennial favorite, and just recently starting to dip in the numbers. Nastia is one I cannot see Americans picking up on, though her full name, Anastasia, has serious Isabella-like potential.

Among foreign competitors in Beijing, I spotted a Saralee from Thailand whose last name is 14 letters long. I have to wonder whether she was named after frozen food. We learned that Zane is a girl’s name in Latvia, and were reminded that Nikita is actually a man’s name in Russia. There’s also a Chinese rower named Fuxue, and I’m not quite sure how to say it, but needless to say it didn’t make the cut for my Names-For-Your-Chinese-American-Baby post.

Below are some new discoveries and old loves. I had a much tougher time falling in love with the masculine names this year. There were fewer surprises among the men, as many wear cognates of recognizable names that are just foreign enough not to merit replacing the standard English version. Others were so foreign, I had a hard time imagining all but the most intrepid parents, or people native to those countries, choosing them for their child on American soil. The women on the other hand, have names that are just lilting and exotic enough to sound individual yet feminine. Here are my picks so far for gold medal contenders in the best all around name. Did you have any new discoveries this year?

Agnese, Italy, Badminton; Pronounced Ahn-YAY-zay, sort of.

Aida, Mexico, Archery; Operatic and simple at the same time.

Angeliki, Greece, Swimming; Angelic but feisty.

Belinda, Australia, Basketball; In my opinion, underused in the era of three-syllables-ending-in-A.

Bérangère, France, Archery; “Shepherdess”, quaintly old-fashioned.

Briony, Australia, Diving; On the rise in 2008? Seen in this year’s “Atonement” as well, and a solid choice for parents smitten with the popular “bree” sound.

Coralie, France, Swimming; Has everything going for it to become familiar on English-speaking shores.

Eugenia, Australia, Badminton; Admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea, I love how stodgy and noble she is.

Fabiola, Brazil, Swimming; Fab.

Flavia, Italy, Swimming; Ancient name ripe for revival.

Kseniya, Russia, Swimming; Also spelled Xenia.

Laishram, India, Archery; Another mellifluous Sanskrit name.

Lieselot, Belgium, Cycling; Does not translate well (“lies a lot”?) but I still like it.

Maja, Slovenia, Badminton; Pronounced like Maya and Maia, but more distinctive on the page.

Mayumi, Sri Lanka, Swimming; Comforting sounds in a name so foreign to my ears.

Minxia, China, Diving; The minx-like aspect is enticing or off-putting, depending on your perspective.

Noemi, Italy, Cycling; Alternative to Naomi used in multiple European cultures.

Nuria, Spain, Basketball; One of many names associated with light.

Oenone, Australia, Cycling; My first attempt to say this comes out something like “onion”, but I love her stylish look.

Ophélie-Cyrielle, France, Swimming; Either one would be nice to co-opt here.

Petra, Czech Republic, Basketball; Can anyone explain to me why this isn’t charting?

Renata, France, Swimming; “Rebirth”, an apt meaning for many a circumstance.

Sigrid, Colombia, Archery; You know Ingrid and Astrid. Try this.

Yelena, Belarus, Basketball; Helena with a Slavic twist, the Y belongs here.

Yoana, Spain, Badminton; Related to Joanna, with a very modern feel.

Zulfiya, Kazakhastan, Cycling; The next Brangelinita?

Cassius, Zambia, Boxing; Following on the coattails of Cassius Clay AKA Mohammed Ali?

Crispin, Canada, Archery; Very British in sound, with that two-syllable-ending-in-N thang.

Cyril, Cycling, France; Soft but sexy.

Emir, Croatia, Rowing; More masculine in sound than Emil. Any takers?

Laszlo, Hungary, Cycling; Give me an L, a Z, and an O and I’m in love.

Maksim, Belarus, Archery; Perhaps unusable due to the men’s mag. Just don’t name his brother Cosmo.

Magnus, Sweden, Equestrian; I suspect “great” appellation is about to skyrocket.

Oleksandr, Ukraine, Archery; Example of when a name may appear Kr8tyv to the uninitiated, Oleksandr has a long and honorable history.

Pavlo, Germany, Synchronized Diving; Ditto Laszlo, swapping the Z for a V.

Ryuichi, Japan, Archery; I think this would be super fine on a darling Japanese-American boy.

Simon, Great Britain, Archery; Give Simon a chance!