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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Name Rainbow - Red

 I have stumbled upon a couple of new-to-me names recently that happen to have a color meaning. Color names are in a whole category of their own and can be quite wonderful. I know one family IRL that has four daughters, all of whom have color names! There is just something wonderful, bright, and playful about color names. So of course, I need to explore them more! I will start off by going in rainbow order- ROY. G. BIV, and then tack some additional colors on the end (black and white for sure! We will see what else gets left out...)

So, first up is red!

Let me first admit that the sex identification of these are totally of my making...

Shades of red: 

Other names that have red in the meaning: Clancy, Harkin, Jasper, Radcliff, Leroux, Phoenix Redley, Rogan, Rowan, Roy, Rufus, Ruston, Shani, Sorrell

My favorite name on this list is Vermillion. I love that it has elements of other masculine names like Vernon and Maximilian, but is unique. I also love Rufous, so close to Rufus but just a tad different.

Shades of red: 

Other names that have red in the meaning: Begonia, Cinnabar,  Phoenix, Rowan, Rufina, Suri, Ula]

So many great options! Carmine is a "real" name with meaning of "garden orchard", but I might like this meaning more. Cerise is soft and flowing, and is again a "real" name, it is the French word for Cherry (and really that is the color it is as well). Claret is a different take on the "real" name "Clarette", it is a French version of Clare.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King Junior

Today in the US is Martin Luther King Jr day. It is a day to commemorate not just one great leader, but all those who struggled and struggle for civil rights. A worthy set of namesakes for sure!

The most obvious names to honor this day of course come directly from the name - naming a boy Martin, or Luther, or even King. 

Luther is the most obvious honor choice, it will probably lead to the question "like Martin Luther?" Yes. Exactly. Luther means "Soldier of the people", very fitting. 

Martin is the more subtle option, there are many Martin's in this world and someone would have to tell their naming story for the connection to be made. Martin is Latin and means "servant of Mars" - the war god.

King as a first name is of course the most aggressive and edgy, it would not fly everywhere as some countries do not allow titles as first names, but here in the U.S. it would strike us as odd, but not over the top, especially if the reference was brought up.

The two other names directly related to Martin Luther King that I discovered would be Dexter, after the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where MLKjr lead, or the word as a name option Dream after the famous "I have a Dream" speach.

A speech, which by the way, got most of its bulk when fellow activist Mahalia Jackson shouted out "tell them about the dream," (at least in legend if not fact), causing MLK depart from his script. Mahalia is Hebrew and means "tender one".

After MLK was assassinated, his wife Coretta Scott King carried on the work. Coretta is a version of Cora, which means maiden. Scott means "from Scotland" or "Scotsman".

While MLK was the most famous civil rights activist here in America, there are plenty of other options to choose from. Some options:

Howard Thurman - MLKs mentor and fellow activist, speaker of the inspiring/famous but often mis-credited quote ""Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is pe"ople who have come alive."

Bayard Rustin - A follower of Gandhi who taught MLK about nonviolence, helped to organize the March on Washington.

Ralph Abernathy - Founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which MLK lead and was used to organize most of the big nonviolent protests.

Roy Wilkins , Whitney Young, Philip Randolph, John Lewis, and James Farmer Jr - The other main organizers of the March on Washington, and representatives of the "Big Six" civil rights organizations of the day.

Of course we can't leave out the other women!

 Famously, Rosa Parks  would not give up her spot on the bus, but it was actually Claudette Colvin, a fifteen year old, who first refused to obey the bus segregation. And it was Aurelia Browder whose case of sitting on the wrong part of a bus was taken to the supreme court to help overturn the Jim Crow laws.

Enough history, back to these names. I would am particularly interested in Claudette, which is a feminine version of "Claude" and it manes lame. Aurelia, what a beauty, is Latin and means "Golden." Bayard is French and means "Auburn Hair". I think Rustin could also make a lovely first name for a boy. It means "Rust's Estate" and is a last-name-as-first-name.


Of course, while the civil rights movement is history, there is still many groups fighting for equal rights, most notably, those with different sexual preferences. If you are looking for a more modern inspiration for a civil rights activist, try something from the following list: 

Harvey Bernard Milk
Frank Kameny
Stephen Donaldson
Barbara Gittings
Craig Rodwell

I can picture a little Harvey or Bernard running around, can you?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Harry Potter Alphabet: D is for Draco

Dennis - Dennis is of Greek origin and means follower of Dionysus. It peeked in popularity in America in 1949 at #16 and has slowly fallen since then, currently sitting at 413. I think it could be due for a comeback, with a great nickname like Denny, and the "s" ending that seems to be on its way up  (Dennis Creevey)

Dobby - So Dobby is not a "real" name. But I like it. Especially as a nickname - a slight twist on Toby or Robby.  "Real" names that could lead to it are limited. Dobbs is pretty much the only option I have found - not many names begin with Dob it turns out!  (Dobby the Houseelf)

Dirk - This is a Danish variant of Derek, which means "the peoples ruler" in Old German. It fits with a trend that I had heard called "surfer" names, or those my sister refers to as "Cowboy" names -  Grant, Keith, Troy, etc. In fact, Dirk is ON that list of surfer names! (Dirk Cresswell)

Dudley - Old English, meaning people's field, this name makes me think of my brother's stuffed dog from when we were little. (Dudley Dursley)

Draco - I actually like the name Draco quite a bit! For that reason I am almost sad it is used in Harry Potter because this is a bad guy. It is a version of Drake and means Dragon in middle English. It features that popular "o" ending! (Draco Malfoy)
Dean (Dean Thomas)

Dolores - This name has appeared on the blog once before as an example of a name you might not want to honor directly. The meaning "sorrows", does not add charm either. But it has a lot of nice nicknames, like Lori and Dori (Dolores Umbridge)

Dilys - This is a Welsh name meaning "perfect" or "truth". It is the most unique name on this list, and with that lovely meaning perhaps deserves more attention. (Dilys Derwent)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Duggar Challenge

The Duggars are a family made famous by reality television. They had a number of TLC specials, and then eventually a TLC show, following the (very planned) "adventures" of their "Quiverfull" family. "Quiverfull" is a religious philosophy of reproduction in which no birth control is used (with few exceptions). The idea is to accept any children as gifts from god. Not everyone's cup of tea, but what it does mean is that they choose A LOT of baby names. In the case of the Duggars, they also chose to stick with a letter them. All J names. They currently have 19 living children and one deceased child (stillborn at 20 weeks). Their eldest son has also started a family already and appears to be going with an "M" theme.

Thus, the Duggar challenge is to choose 20 baby names that start with the same letter, and do not get confusing or sound bad together. Oh, and you have to like them! After all, these are your kids names.

Here are the names of the real Duggar children.

Jackson, Jana
Jason, James
Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Jessa, Jennifer
Jill, Jinger
Joshua, John, Jordyn (f),
Joseph, Josiah, Johanna, Josie

Did you figure out how they are sorted? It's not age.

What this "challenge" really got me focusing on was phonetics - how the same first letter can fit together with others to make very different sounds. Thus the above list is sorted by vowel sound - short A, long A, short E (long E is absent), short I (long I is absent), Short O, Long O, Short U, Long U, Diphthongs (oi/oy, au/ow). These various vowels mean that for almost any consonant, you have at least 12 different "sound" options. Any consonants that can be paired offer additional options - (ex:  Bl, Pr, Ch, St, etc). Some consonants make multiple sounds - C can sound like K or S,and here J can take on a Y sound (Johanna).

The above sibset is relatively varied, but has a lot of repetition around the long o, I mean Joseph, and Josie are variants of the same name and Josiah is not far off. Joy-Anna and Johanna are also a bit too close for my comfort. I would like to see a Jane, Jade, Jewel, Jean, or June instead.

But could I do any better?

I started playing around with some letters. I started with B, since I already had a Benjamin, and found that while I easily could get ten boy's names I like that start with B, I could get almost no where with girls. So, onto some other letters. The first letter I was successful at turned out to be "L"

So here is my answer to the Duggar Challenge:

Lazlo, Landon, Laurel
Lane (g)
Learner, Lester, Lexi,
Lief, Leander, Liesl
Lily, Lydia, Lisbeth, Lincoln
Lola, Logan
Lucian, Louisa

I think this list is pretty good - no repeated root names (no Lucy to match my Lucian), no sound alike names (no Lorah and Laurel), and they are pretty spread out in terms of vowel sounds. My biggest remaining concern about it is that Lexi is more of a nickname than I would normally prefer. There are a few names in here that I LOVE (Lazlo has been a favorite since I read The Alienist), but most of them are just names I like, not love. And that is really the problem with a naming theme like this, you are locked in to finding the best of names you like instead of that one name you love.

This post has mostly been for my amusement. What do you think, could you name 20 kids with the same letter? Can you even imagine having that many kids? I am not sure I can....

Sunday, January 13, 2013

How to Get Your Nickname: Ro

A few weeks ago, when I posted about names meaning peace, I mentioned the name Ro. It is a word that means piece in a Micronesian language. For some reason, it really stuck with me, but I don't think I could ever use a two-letter name, and single syllable names really do not sound well with my one syllable last name. However, I think Ro could be an adorable nickname for either sex. So today we have our first double gender how to get your nickname post!

Spelling Options
Ro is the simplest and would give the meaning I described above.
Rho is kind of edgy and is a letter in the Greek alphabet.
Row is a little substantive, but is a word of course, and not a particularly interesting one. 
Roe has the surname feel. Unfortunately, Roe is also associated with the controversial abortion decision Roe vs Wade, and its the spelling that means "fish eggs" in terms of sushi.

This list is by no means complete. You could really use Ro for a lot of names that do not have the sound in them, for example, Robert. Also, there are some single syllable names that could be shortened even more to Ro, but if a name is already that short, does it really need to be shorter (Example: Rhodes). I am going to focus on names that actually have the sound Ro in them for the most part, or some options that might be a little less obvious.

Rowan - I feel like this is one of the most obvious choices, mainly because its trendy right now (for both boy and girl). It is Gaelic in origin and means "little red head" and is also a plant name.

Rohan - Similar to Rowan but with a little twist, this is actually from Lord of the Rings. It is a place name, the kingdom of horses.

Roland - This is of old German origin and means "renowned land". It is actually related to Orlando.

Rodolfo - An Italian take on the Old German "Rudolph", meaning famous wolf.

Rogan - This is gaelic, and like Rowan, also means red head. It could also be viewed as "last name as first name" and is currently associated with comedic actor Seth Rogan

Roman - Forget Roman style names, just use Roman. This is latin and means citizen of Rome.

Romeo - And Juliet? Of course this will forever have the strong Shakspearian reference, but it does have the popular "o" ending. It is an Italian version of Roman.

Rover - This is a name that may have become too strongly associated as a pet name to be taken seriously, but with many other similar "pet" names making comebacks (Bailey, Milo, Shep), why not Rover? It is middle English in origin and means traveller.

Roosevelt - Last name as first name, presidential style. This is Danish in origin and also a place name it means rose field. I think this is probably my favorite source for the nickname on this list because it feels long and classic, and there is not another obvious nickname for it, yet Ro is somehow still unexpected from it.

Arrow - A word name, this would be unique and edgy.

Eros - Eros is the Greek god of love. With other Greek and Roman names on the rise, why not this one?

Charro - This name is Spanish/South American in origin and means cowboy.

Darrow - Old English in origin, also a last name as first name, means spear.

Tyrone - This name is surprisingly Gaelic in origin and means Owen's country. Another possibe variant is Kyrone.

Jerome - Greek in origin, meaning "sacred name", also a saint name.

The long "o" sound appears less in girls names as a rule than it does in boys names, perhaps indicating the sound has a more masculine feel to it for English speakers. That is not to say there are no options, just fewer.

Rowan - As mentioned above, this is a gender neutral name these days, meaning little red head in Gaelic.

Rowena - An old German name meaning fame and happiness. A literary reference to Ivanhoe, or Harry Potter, also historically an Anglo-Saxon princess.

Roanne - A variant form of Rowan.

Romaine  - French in origin, this means "Citizen of Rome", is also a last name as first name.

Romy - Romy already has a nickname feel so I am not sure it needs shortening, and it reminds those of us born in the 80s of "Romy any Michelle's High School Reunion". It is a sh. ortened form of Rosemary  .

Aurora - This is Latin and origin and means dawn, also the Roman goddess of sunrise, also part of the name of the northern lights (Aurora Borealis).

Verona - Depending on who you ask, this is either a variation of Veronica (Latin, meaning "true image"), or a place name after Verona Italy - the setting of three of Shakespeare's plays, including Romeo and Juliet.

I also wanted to add a note about Rose. Pretty much any "rose" based name could also shorten to Ro, but there are so many of them I did not feature them here. Perhaps a "rose" post is in my future!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Literary Inspiration: Girl with a Pearl Earring

I recently finished reading Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. It is set in 17th Century Holland and is historical fiction about the girl who is the subject of the painting that shares its title with the book. I was fascinated by the main characters name, and pleased by some of the minor characters, so I thought I would feature it on the blog. It became even more fascinating when I realized that over half the names in the book are real people, and that I was dealing with part of a real-life massive sibling set! Ready for this? It could get long....

Fictional Characters
The main character is named Griet, pronounced "greet". The name seemed very unique and I was curious where it came from. Some googling revealed its a nickname for Margriet, the dutch version of Margaret. The meaning is pearl.  I think Margriet is charming spin on the popular English name . and Griet could be a unique nickname.

Griet's sister in the book is named Agnes. I most closely associate the name Agnes with a folk song called "Lovely Agnes", which is a very positive association for me. Agnes is Greek in origin and means "pure and holy". The most obvious nickname, Aggie, is a common nickname for the beautiful stones called agates in my neck of the woods. I feel like Agnes fits in well with a lot of other rising old-school names like Ester, Ethel, Harriet, and Stella.

Griet and Agnes also have a brother named Frans. Frans is a variant of Francis, which is Latin and means "frenchman" or "free man". There are a number of other similar variants of the name Francis like Frantz, Franzen, and Franchesco. Frans seems a bit foreign and mysterious, but still familiar like Hans. I think this could have a lot of appeal.

Griet is courted by a butcher's son, Pieter. This is a Dutch/German spelling of the name Peter (same pronunciation). With parents loving unique spellings its a nice option. Peter is a Greek name meaning rock.

Griet works with another made named Tanneka. I have been unable to track any history or origin to this. It feels like a variation on Anneka or perhaps Danica. I am going to go with Danica because its Danish in origin. It means "morning star'.

Historical Figures
The book includes many members of Johannes Vermeer's family. Johannes (pronounced yo-hon-es) is a variation of John, and means "god is gracious". It is a slightly longer and softer version than Johann (like Johann Sebarstian Bach). The Germanic J (sounding like Y), might cause some pronunciation issues, but not so many its unusable. The last name,. Vermeer, could also make an interesting boy's name, particularly if you are fond of Vermeer's work.

Johannes is married to Catharina, which is derived from the very similar Catherine. Origins are Greek and these names mean "pure". I have heard Katerina and Catherine, but I have not seen the in-between option of Catherina, which has both the soft "th" sound and the soft a ending. It is very beautiful. Nickname options could be Cathy, Ari, or Rina (along with the less obvious options like Cat, Kitty).

Now here is the crazy part. Catharina and Johannes had 10 children! Not all of them are featured in the book, but the real life sibset was:  Maria, Elisabeth, Cornelia, Aleydis, Beatrix, Johannes, Gertruyd, Franciscus, Catharina, and Ignatius. What a mix of "common" names (Maria, Elisabeth), old fashioned (but possibly new again?) names (Cornelia, Beatrix, Gertruyd, Franciscus) and unique names (Aleydis and Ignatius).

I feel like Beatrice and Beatrix are ripe for a rise. They have that classic feel to them like other names growing in popularity- Harriet, Eleanor, Mathilda, and the adorable nickname options of Bea for the reserved or Trixie for the playful (to match the nicknames Hattie, Ellie, and Tilly for example). Beatrix means "voyageur through life" and is Latin in origin.

I also have been growing fond of Cornelia, since it featured in my Thanksgiving post. It means horn. I like then nickname Neila.

With a discussion of Francis up above, I don't think Franciscus needs more discussion.

Gertruyd, a variation on Gertrude, is probably the least likely to rise from this bunch IMO, but still possible. Trudy is another nickname and a more modern variant. Gertruyd means "good spear" in old German.

Ignatius is actually a Harry Potter name, so I would have gotten to it eventually. It is most likely derived from Latin and means burning fire (like "to ignite"). Possible nicknames or variations are Iggy, Ignace, or Inigo (Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, prepare to die!)

Aleydis is more mysterious. There is a saint Aleydis, patron saint of the blind and paralyzed. I am unsure of the pronunciation of this name, but it is a variation of Adelaide, another old gorgeous name ripe for rise. Adelaide means "noble and kind".

Author's Variation
Then there are the "common" names. Maria and Elisabeth. I have a feeling that the author of Girl with a Pearl Earring is a nameaholic, because these names were just too ordinary for her! In the book, she named these two girls Maertga and Lisbeth. Perhaps she just meant Lisbeth as a nickname for the true Elisabeth (a beautiful nickname or alternate name!), but Maertga is not just a nickname for Maria. Actually, Maertga does appear in Vermeer's family tree- it is his aunt! I cannot find any record on what this name means or its derivation.

What do you think? If you made it through the post, do any of the names from this book strike your fancy? I know a couple of the will stick with me!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Harry Potter Alphabet: C is for Cedric

Cuthbert - This is an Old English name and means bright, brilliant. It sounds old, but I am not sure if it is old in a cool way or in a Grandpa sort of way. The nickame Bert has been entirely co-opted by Sesame Street unfortunately and I cannot imagine using it! (Cuthbert Binns)

Colin - A classic British name, Colin is Irish/Gaelic in origins and means young creature. (Colin Creevey)

Cedric - Pronounced Sed-rik, I love this Old English name and its meaning, which is "kindly and loved". Unfortunately my husband has vetoed this one quite soundly BECAUSE of the Harry Potter reference and the fact this character dies young (Cedric Diggory)

Cadogan  - A welsh name meaning "battle glory". It is a royal name used by the royal Welsh family. Variations include Caddock and Cadog. I would love the nickname Cad or Caddy if it were not for the negative association (a "cad" is a man who behaves badly towards woman, a caddy is a worker who carries golf clubs) (Sir Cadogan)

Charity - An English virtue name, a pool of names I am a big fan of. Nicknames could be Char, Shar, Cher, or Cherry (Charity Burbage)

Cho - Cho is one of those names that is blatantly tied to an ethnicity. While it is becoming more and more common to use ethnic names regardless of your ethnicity, we have not quite made it there with Asian names yet. I am having a difficult time coming up with a meaning for this - possible Butterfly, possibly Japanese. If you love the sound/feel of this, but don't like the short length, you might try Chorine (pronounced cho-ree-ne, greek version of Corinne, meaning maiden), or Cholena (pronounced cho-len-a, Delaware native American name meaning bird) (Cho Chang).