Pop Culture


I thought it might be interesting to talk about names that I think might be on the cusp as far as usability. Of course, in today’s lax naming environment, almost anything is possible, but these names have something, an association, probably, that might keep them from being comfortable to live with. Any good parent should take into account the associations with a given name; after all, Jezebel is a pretty sound, isn’t it? (Personally I think Jezebel gets a bad rap, but that’s beside the point.) Some of these names I find usable, but maybe only because I run in name-nerd circles on the internet. We tend to have a broader definition of “usable.” Anyway, as always, to the lists!

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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. 😉

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?