November 2008

In our previous post we covered the various nicknames for the Catherine family. In this post, I’ll cover the myriad forms that this staid classic takes. This post is going to be a little special though, since the English spelling variations will get a section; there’s too many of them to just ignore. So let’s break down the spellings first, and then move into foreign variations. Remember, I’m trying to keep it to ones that are palatable to the English speaking population. So let’s go!


Since my birthday is coming up (it’s the same day as that other much less important holiday this week), I’m going to be a little self-indulgent and post about my own name. Like the Elizabeth posts we had recently, this will be a two part post. We’ll cover nicknames in this post.

So, if you’ve decided on Catherine/Katherine/Catharine/Katharine/Kathryn, originality is probably not your first concern. This name has been so popular for so long that only the truly delusional think it’s got a shred of rarity left. The good thing is that there are a few nicknames to help differentiate your child from others. Unfortunately, most of these are quite common, too, and there aren’t the same myriad options as there are for Elizabeth. Nevertheless, let’s discuss.


Inspired by Lola’s recent post on Lucretia, I’ve decided to do a post on elaborated names for one of my neglected favorites: Lucy. I love this name, but never gave it too much thought. I don’t know why that is, but she’s got my full attention now!

I have been told I’d make a good Lucy; this is probably part of my affection for the name. It’s solid with a good pedigree and bright sound. And just look at it written out: the tall L, a letter I’m too fond of anyway, the stable u and c, and the down-swooping y. So balanced and perfect, as are its colors: blue and gold. But not an ostentatious gold; A gold like honey blonde hair. It’s a full name in its own right, but many think it sounds too juvenile to stand alone. Personally, I waffle as to whether I would use it alone or as a nickname for something else. So let’s brainstorm some longer names:

  • Lucienne: I will freely admit I nicked this from a friend, but it’s gorgeous. It’s the feminine form of Lucien. What I like about it is that it has the same sense of balance that I love so much in Lucy. What I worry about is the French pedigree. I’m not the least bit French, and I fear it’d sound odd with my German monosyllabic surname or my boyfriend’s nondescript technically-German-but-more-like-Smith one. It’s so pretty I doubt I care, though.
  • Lucinda: A little country fried, Lucinda’s wandered off and on my list for months. I love the Lucinda Williams connection and the way the name looks. I fear Cindy, though. Oh god, do I fear Cindy. I also don’t think it “goes” with my other favorites, which tend towards the old-fashioned and/or “British” sounding names. It’s charming, but maybe not a good fit for me. What do you think? Maybe with 2 more “me” names it’d work. Lucinda Dorothy Jane? Lucinda Cecilia Margaret? Lucinda Margaret Philomel? Oh, I don’t know.
  • Lucia: Waffely pronunciation be damned, I love Lucia, pronounced any way. My favorite is Loo-see-ah, though. Again, I’m worried about it being too ethnic for my whitey white self. I think using Loo-sha would alleviate this some, though. Hm. I think pairing this with some of my other favorites might make me feel better about it. Lucia Fern? Lucia Frances Margaret? Lucia Rosemary? (All using the loo-see-ah pronunciation.)
  • Lucille: This would be the obvious choice. It’s known, easily pronounceable, but perhaps a bit too tied to Lucille Ball. It’s also got a distincly Southern flavor to me, I wonder why. This would be the easiest one to fit in with my naming style, but unfortunately one of my least favorite elaborations. If anyone could sell me on it, I’d be much obliged.

Lucy’s one of those names I love but will probably never use. It’s getting too popular and I could never decide between Lucy alone or an elaboration for it. It’s a really fun name to work with, though, and I do love it so. I suppose I’ll have to keep this as my secret name, my awesomely named alter-ego. Because, weirdly enough, I identify with the name in a way I never really do with my own. Probably because my own name is so common you can’t spit without it hitting one.

So, talk to me about Lucy!

Yesterday we talked about the nicknames for Elizabeth, both in English and various other languages. Today, let’s talk about the various forms. For the sake of brevity, I won’t go into all of the forms, and try to stick to the ones most palatable in an English speaking context. Yesterday’s post was a bit of a novel, I’m afraid, and more for me than anyone else. Onwards and upwards!

  • Elizabeth: The venerable English classic. As I said yesterday, this is a truly timeless name with a long history of use. The passel of nicknames keeps it fresh and relevant to any sort of trend that may be going on, and it has remained in more or less constant use. Unfortunately, the popularity of the name sort of deadens any appreciation for it; everyone knows a Liz, and most people don’t think of Elizabeth as exciting. Variant Elisabeth gives the name a softer look and feel.
  • Eilís: The Irish Gaelic version of Elizabeth. On BtN it says that it is pronounced like IE-leesh, but I usually hear IE-lish, for what it’s worth. As IE-leesh, I don’t like it; it sounds like someone with a funky accent or speech impediment saying “Irish.” As IE-lish, it’s better but still comes off as a tad “Oirish,” a term that’s semi-common in the namenerd community used to describe people who want to “honor” their 1/64 Irish heritage by giving their kid an “Irish” name. These sorts of people generally just want a reason to follow the trend for Irish Gaelic names, and often confuse Irish with Scottish, which explains the popularity of the surname Mackenzie. Anyway, I like Eilís in a vacuum, but not too much in use.
  • Elisabet: BtN calls this the Scandanavian and Finnish form for our Elizabeth. It’s fresh sounding and a nice tweak, I think, but bound to get confused with Elizabeth constantly. I think it sounds better with a pronounced s sound instead of the oft-substituted z sound; this serves to differentiate from Elizabeth a little further. I think it’s a nice slightly offbeat choice that doesn’t scream any sort of ethnicity or culture-posing, so  give it a thumbs up.
  • Elisabeta: The Romanian form, it’s sort of like Elisabet but is another step removed from the English. I would expect to see someone of Eastern European descent with this one, but wouldn’t be put off if that wasn’t the case. It’s pretty and feminine, but the -a ending is a little less strong than the -t or -th ending of Elisabet/h, I think. Overall, a pretty choice that I would be pleasantly surprised to see. Another thumbs up.
  • Elisavet: Another slight variation, the Greek form of Elisabeth adds some Eastern European style. This one seems a little more culture-grabby than the others, for me, though. I would expect the parents to be Greek or of Greek descent, and would probably be a little put off if they weren’t. I do love the v sound in these names, though, and it’s quite trendy (Think Ava, Eva, and Vivian), so Elisavet could see a little bit of an upswing. I wouldn’t count on it though; it’s probably not “unique” enough for parents searching out these sorts of names. I’ll give it a thumbs up if culturally applicable.
  • Elixabete: The Basque form. I’ll admit, this used to be my favorite variant of Elizabeth; I thought the x was just so cool. From what I can glean off of the internet, it seems to be pronounced pretty much the way it’s spelled, El-ixa-bet. Don’t quote me on that, though. It’s a neat name, sure, but I’d keep it in the middle unless you are Basque or have some connection to the culture. This is a rather fun name, isn’t it?
  • Elisheva: The Hebrew form, pronounced eh-lee-sheh-vah. I would just stay far away from this one unless you are Jewish; it seems a little unnecessary to use it otherwise. There are bound to be pronunciation issues and assumptions of your religion, which are annoying enough from time to time but would be really annoying on a regular basis. If culturally appropriate, a beautiful name that’s familiar without being outlandish. If not, the middle is probably the best place for this one.
  • Elspeth: I like Elspeth, I really do. It’s Scottish without being overtly cultural, and really easy to pronounce in English. For some reason, I don’t have much to say about it expect for this: I like it. Thumbs up. 🙂
  • Isabel: Commonly referred to as the “Spanish” form of Elizabeth, Isabel is actually a medieval form that retained more usage in Spain and Portugal, along with France. It’s definitely pretty, but very popular right now, so I would avoid using it if you care about popularity issues. I prefer the Scottish spelling Isobel, with a slight o sound; I don’t know if tha’s correct or not, though. I think it’s pronounced just like Isabel, but I like the o sound, damnit! Ahem, anyway, Isabel is a pretty name, but alternate spelling Isabelle sends it right off into fluffy frou frou land, in this blogger’s humble opinion. I also dislike Isabella; it’s too fluffy. I’ll give Isabel a thumbs up for sound, but a thumbs down for popularity.

Well, finishing up this post, I’m glad it’s not a total gabfest like yesterday’s! Elizabeth is really a timeless name, but your mileage with the different forms may vary. Out of this list, my favorites are Elspeth and Elisabet, with Elisabeta in third. What’s your favorite Elizabeth form?

*All pronunciatons, etymologies and usage data are from unless otherwise noted. If I’m wrong, blame them, not me!

First off, sorry I’ve been away. I’ve been feeling a tad under the weather for the past two days and slept most of yesterday. Now, onto today’s post.

Elizabeth. A lovely classic, and my middle name. This name, as the title suggests, has so many nicknames it’s hard to keep track; in this post I hope to go through as many of them as I can. From the spunky Eliza to the sweet Bess to the everyday Liz, there’s really a nickname for everyone. That’s what makes this name so great: no matter what personality your daughter has, there’s a nickname to fit it. I’ll be breaking the nicknames up into categories, and I’ll explain each one a little bit here. First off is the normal nicknames. These are names that are commonly known as nicknames for Elizabeth such as Liz, Beth, Eliza, etc. Second will be less commonly used nicknames like Lily, Ellie, Izzy, etc. Last will be foreign nicknames for Elizabeth, like Ilsa and Elise. Well, let’s get started on the Elizabeth parade! (more…)

Well, I’ve discovered I like doing names in groupings like this. 😀

So then, god and goddess names. How do you feel about them? Wholly inappropriate or dependent on sound? A confident statement of just how awesome your child is, or a symptom of delusion? Does it matter what religion the name in question comes from?

For me, the answer is, as usual, a combination of all factors. The main thing is sound. If the name is completely over the top (I’m looking at you, Andromeda), I would put it in the middle, if at all. I love Andromeda, but it would be very difficult to wear day to day. The second factor is the story of the character, or what the god/goddess represents. Adonis was supposedly the ideal specimen of male beauty; this makes the name unusable, despite its modern namey qualities. It just seems conceited, and like the set up on a bad pick up line. Poor Venus falls into the same trap. You really shouldn’t name your daughter after a goddess of erotic love. (And I’m taking this chance to alert you all to one of my favorite works of art: Linked for nudity. Titian’s Venus of Urbino. Isn’t she gorgeous?) And the final factor to consider is the age of the religion you’re taking your names from. If people are still practicing, it might be offensive to use deity names. Try to look into it.

And now to discuss my shortlist of favorite mythology names! I’m only listing ones instantly recognizable as mythological here; if I discussed them all we’d be here all night. So no Eve or Bridget.

  • Athena: The one and only. I’ve always been drawn to the goddess, and her association with wisdom makes her a worthy namesake. I think the sound is easily integrate-able into modern times, and it has a history of usage. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s been used in Greece in the past, although it is slightly frumpy nowadays. I always want to pair it with Rosemary or Prudence or both; I know Athena Prudence is a little overkill on the whole “wisdom” thing, though. And anyway, how awesome a namesake is the goddess? Sprung fully armed from her father’s head! I also like Minerva, but markedly less after Harry Potter; wasn’t there a character named that? Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who doesn’t like those books.
  • Pandora: Yo Lola! If I had this name in my family tree, I’d use it in a minute. I think it’s really lovely, but just a little harder to wear than Athena. Probably best suited to a middle spot, partially due to “Pandora’s Box” jokes as a teen. The name itself has a beautiful sound, and although the myth is often seen as a negative, I see it as more of a neutral thing. I mean, people still use Eve.
  • Hera: Understated and easy to live with, I think. As long as you stick with Her-ra and not Hair-ra. Simple and pretty. My only drawback is that Hera was the goddess of marriage and childbirth; I wouldn’t want to hinge any daughter’s identity on that. I’m probably being over-sensitive about it, though. Similarly, I like the Roman counterpart Juno, but wouldn’t use it for a good long time since the movie. I like the movie, but it’s just too strong of an association right now. The name itself is cool in that it has the unusual -o ending for a female. It’s a strong and interesting sounding name. I think Hera is more usable, though; opinions?
  • Guinevere: Perhaps less instantly recognizable as mythology as the rest of these, but still reads mythology to me. I think it’s a spectacularly pretty sound and I like Winnie. There’s a woman on one of my boards with a daughter named this, and I always thought it was very pretty. Definitely wearable and interesting. The V gives it a real lushness, almost the same feel as Godiva without the pesky chocolate association.

After getting to these three, I’m starting to hit guilty pleasure territory. I also never noticed how many mythology names have been so integrated that they don’t scream “mythology!” anymore. Iris, Penelope, Lavinia, Helen, Indira, Aoife, Eve, Bridget, Deirdre, Arthur, Diana, Aurora, Balthazar, Daphne, etc. They wouldn’t necessarily immediately read mythology to me, anyway, although I guess I can’t comment on their countries of origin.

And, before we go out, a list of my guilty pleasure mythology names:

  • Azriel
  • Andromeda
  • Io
  • Arachne
  • Eros
  • Agammemnon
  • Epona
  • Europa
  • Gemini
  • Romulus

What are you favorite “mythology-mythology” names? What are your under-the-radar favorites?

Allegra? Aria? No, not that kind. The other day we talked about names from our favorite books, so let’s talk about our favorite musicians today. I guess the first question we have to ask is: Is music a big enough part of your life that you would incorporate it into your child’s name? Are you sure you would be alright with it if your child came to hate their namesake? And, finally, do you feel as though this particular artist is worth naming after?

As everyone probably knows after my last post, I’m incredibly opinionated and picky about names. In accordance, I feel that there are good and bad ways to go about honoring that special troubadour. First off, please, stick to first names. I’ve seen enough Lennons, and honestly, at this point, I’m rolling my eyes at their parents. Of course, if the last name happens to be acceptable as a first (Ryan, Elliott, et al.) feel free. Secondly, don’t use a ridiculous stage name. Try to find the real name and go that route. And lastly, please, don’t use the artist’s whole name. We’re going for an homage, and that just goes off into a creepy fandom I’m not ready to deal with.

Onto personal matters, I’m really into music, and would have no problem using a name to honor one of my favourites. Declan (for Elvis Costello) was once on my short list, but unfortunately it plays into a lot of trends that are going on right now (2 syllables, ends in an -en sound, Irish), so I had to scrap it. Most of my other favorites have pretty nondescript names, so it wouldn’t be hard to do. Here’s a list of musicians I love/respect enough to honor, whether or not I’d actually use their names:

  • Declan (Elvis Costello)
  • Thomas (Tom Waits)
  • Rufus (Wainwright)
  • John (both of the They Might Be Giants guys)
  • Regina (Spektor)
  • Lucinda (Williams)

Of course, that’s only going the obvious route. Many people, including one lovely gentleman I knew through the internet, use the names in songs to reference their favorites. He named his daughter Alison, by the way. I never asked, but I assume it’s from the song, considering he was part of the same Elvis Costello fan group that I am. I also know a girl named Veronica, after the song. I have to say, this is a kind of naming I love. I think as long as the name is wearable, go for it! I would have loved to be named after a song. Of course, you should check out the tune in question in depth before taking the plunge. Make sure it’s not about something awful. You probably don’t want to name your precious daughter after some groupie who, ahem, held congress with some rockstar in 1984. But all in all, I love a subtle nod to music that means a lot to you. It’s a great story to tell your child, doubly so if they end up liking the song! Here’s a list of some songs I wouldn’t mind referencing, and some videos, again, regardless of the actual usability:

  • Alison, Elvis Costello (Video) <–Only audio.
  • Veronica, Elvis Costello (Video) <–Won a VMA in ’89, really nicely done video.
  • Natasha, Rufus Wainwright (Video) <–Again, only audio, sorry about that.
  • Emile’s Vietnam in The Sky, Elvis Perkins  (Video) <–Sorry about the bad quality.
  • Samson, Regina Spektor (Video) <–Absolutely beautiful tune.
  • Ana Ng, They Might Be Giants (Video) <–Nerdiness shines through.

There are also the thousands that merely mention a name which I would consider for the subtlest of references, but I won’t go into them, because we’d be here all night. My music nerdery is shining through already, and this is a name blog, not a music one, last time I checked. So, what’s your stance on music names? Good or bad? A nice homage or hopeless fandom? What would you use? Hell, what’s your favorite music? Even though I’m just as picky about music as I am about names, I won’t bite. 😉

Consider Morgan. A Welsh masculine name for centuries, it was rudely plucked from the masculine side by masses of parents claiming they needed a “strong name” for their daughter. Sure, there’s Morgan le Fay, but how many of these parents knew about this predecessor when they chose this name for their daughter? Unfortunately, this trend of using masculine names for girls seems to be in full force, and not likely to leave anytime soon. Good, masculine names are being stolen from the boys and unceremoniously dumped on oblivious baby girls. Recently, we’ve seen the aforementioned Morgan, Avery, Aidan, Elliott, and even super-masculine James on girls! Of course, this list is only of commonly used forenames that have switched genders. Now, I have nothing against using surnames, but only if they are on the family tree, and in the middle, please! Madison, Mackenzie, Kennedy, and McKenna are all commonly bestowed on girls, the parents wantonly tossing aside convention and etymology. Usually, Mackenzie is listed in baby name books as an “Irish” name meaning “child of the wise leader.” Unfortunately for trendy parents, these books are wrong. Mackenzie is a Scottish surname that means son of a wise leader, more or less.

See, I have a few problems with this absolutely abhorrent trend. The first is the sexism inherent in the most common explanation, “we wanted a strong name.” The implication is that to be strong, one has to be masculine. Because, as we all know, there have never been strong women named Margaret, Elizabeth, Eleanor, or Catherine. As well, it only goes one way; you hardly see boys with girl’s names. Why is that? The simple answer is that these parents think that a boy with a feminine name will be seen as “weak” or a “pansy.” Most parents think they are being open-minded and equal opportunity; they are really perpetuating sexist stereotypes of what strength is.

My second problem with this fad is the one that I have with all fads: the name will date horribly. Everyone will look at a girl named Kamryn and know her age. Some of these names might stand well due to an utter neutralization of the name’s gender affiliation; however, I believe, for my own sanity, that this craze will die down and the only thing left will be scads of middle aged women with men’s names.

Of course, we’re here to talk names, not listen to me rant. So I’ll tell you guys which of these names I happen to like on boys:

  • Morgan
  • Avery
  • Elliott
  • Alexis

Generally, they’re too popular for my tastes. I do, however, like a lot of names that once were masculine, and are now unambiguously feminine in the States:

  • Leslie
  • Ashley
  • Meredith
  • Shannon
  • Vivian
  • Tracy
  • Jocelyn

I don’t mind most of these on girls, but I think they’re a lot more handsome on boys. I also love Sasha on a boy, but I don’t think it was ever considered masculine here, and is pretty generally unisex in Russia. So I prefer it on a boy, but have no problem with it on girls.

So, in conclusion, consider Morgan. For a boy.

It’s no secret that I’m a big reader. I imagine that some of you reading my blog are too, so let’s talk literature, and the names in it.

As a dork, I am, of course, a huge JRR Tolkien fan. So is my boyfriend. When you add these together, you get someone seriously pondering Tolkien names, for better or for worse. We all know that Frodo is ill-advised, but what about these?

  • Peregrine
  • Melian
  • Miriel
  • Eowyn
  • Lorien
  • Luthien
  • Beren
  • Elanor

All would be perfectly usable, I think. Maybe a little weird, but overall fine. I personally wouldn’t use them in a first name spot, but I find them really lyrical, for the most part. I leave Arwen off the list because it seems to be the choice of people who’ve seen the movie and want something that sounds Welsh (it’s similar to the Welsh name Anwen). I am an unrepentant snob about these sorts of things. My personal favourite, Tinuviel, is also left off the list because I find it completely unusable, although the story of Beren and Tinuviel is beautiful. I make up for Tinuviel’s absence by adding Philomel; They share a meaning: nightingale, and my great grandmother’s name was Philomena. Any other Tolkien nerds out there? Share your favourites and go into nerd rage with me about the exaggerated role of Arwen in the movies!

Another one of my favourite books for names is Sense and Sensibility. I love both Elinor and Marianne, and their names. All the names are fairly classic, including:

  • Edward
  • Robert (such a scoundrel!)
  • Lucy
  • Eliza

Of course, that’s not the half of it, and not all these characters are people you’d want to name a child after! But there’s nothing wrong with taking a little inspiration from the classics.

The last book I’m going to name check (buh-dum-crash) here is Wesley Stace’s Misfortune. This is one of my favourite recent novels, and I’ll put a bit of a plug in here by saying I highly recommend it. It’s full of good names, too, such as:

  • Geoffroy
  • Dolores
  • Prudence
  • Edgar
  • Julius
  • Alice
  • Augustus
  • Edith
  • Camilla

Along with a few oddballs, including the main character, a biological boy named Rose. Other “different” names include Anonyma, Praisegod, Esmond, Lothar, Reliance and Edred. There’s a huge cast of characters and plenty of good names. My favourites are Prudence, Alice, Julius, Dolores, and Geoffroy (Geoffrey).

So guys, what are your favourite literary names?

Rose names have been on my mind lately. Today, the name of the day over at Behind The Name is Roswitha. Not exactly the botanical Rose, I know, but intriguing nonetheless. I’m always been quite proud of my German descent, so I’m quite taken with the name. It’s got the traditionally feminine Ros- element, coupled with an unusual ending. Of course, the German pronunciation would be more like Ros-vee-ta than the intuitive-to-an-English speaker Ros-with-a. It’s just as well, since that pronunciation sounds a little like the beginning of a sentence; It was Roz with a gun, in the observatory! Appellation Mountain (a site I love and fully encourage visiting) has a great post on the Rose names. Her list is pretty thorough, so I’ll just talk about the ones I like, saving us all from griping. 😀

First up is Rosemary. This is the one I return to most often. It’s sweet with just the right amount of sass. It’s currently 720 on the top thousand list, making her, I think, woefully underused. There’s a wealth of nicknames associated with this one: Rose, Mary, German favorite Romy, Rosie, and Roxy. Enough to fit any personality, right? It’s really a wonder the name is not more popular; the only excuse I can think of is the trend towards super feminine ending in a names instead of more sturdy choices. Like I said, I come to Rosemary often, so I have a few combos for it: Rosemary Athena Prudence, Rosemary Cecilia, Rosemary Cecilia Iris, Rosemary Philomena Blythe, and Rosemary Theresa. Like any?

Next on my Rose hitlist is Rosalind. I love its delicate sound and Shakespearean pedigree. I also love her colors (See wiki article on synaesthesia): a lovely delicate pink and green, like a floral teacup. My hesitation comes from the meaning: it comes from the Germanic elements hros, meaning horse, and linde, meaning soft. Soft horse? Not exactly the best meaning for a girl, especially if she ends up carrying a little extra weight. =/ I think the nickname Roz is nice in its own right (and a subtle nod to Roz from Frasier, why yes I am a dork) but the full Rosalind is so pretty I don’t think I’d use it. For the record, I use the Rose-a-lind pronunciation as opposed to the Roz-a-lind one. I can’t think of any combos for it currently, but I’ll try some off the cuff here: Rosalind Beryl, Rosalind Maria Pearl, Rosalind Joanna Clare, Rosalind Cordelia Jane.

After lovely Rosalind comes slightly more stodgy Rosamund (or Rosamond/e, I can never decide which). It’s stuffy in an endearing way and reminds me of my grandmother for no real reason. (She was a Margaret.) The colors for this one are like Rosalind’s, but darker, almost a maroony pink. Not the nicest, I guess, but goes right along with Rosamond’s stuffiness. I always have trouble with combinations for this one. The mund/mond element is so hard for me to pair; I have the same problem with Edmund. Any ideas?

Last on the list of elaborated Rose names is the new Roswitha. I probably wouldn’t use it, but I find it almost irresistibly contrary. It’s a pretty German name in a land of Irish and Italian fluffy names, it has an unintuitive pronunciation and a weird ending, and it’s just weird enough for me. If I didn’t love Rosemary so, I’d consider it more seriously in the middle, as sort of a tribute to my German heritage; of course I’d use the Ros-vee-ta pronunciation. I’ll have to mull over some combo ideas, but ideas are welcome, as always!

Besides these, I also like simple Rose and Rosa.  In the middle, Rose is played out, but it’s lovely in the front. And Rosa is a classic, in my humble opinion. It’s saucier than Rose and beautiful in its own right.

So ends my rant on Roses. If you got this far, congratulations! You’ve just read my first blog post. Comments are welcome and appreciated!