Monday, January 28, 2013

An Alternative to Maiden Name vs His Name

I debated for a long, long (LONG) time whether I should post this or not, because a) it has little to do with baby names, and b) it's personal in a could-be-bad way, and c) who really cares? So today I said screw it. I'll just post it so that someone else taking the boat I took can either laugh at me or find my words helpful.

I was over at the Baby Name Wizard's blog ( http://www.babynamewizard.com/blog ) A LOOOONG time ago, and read an interesting article, "Living Surnames: A Manifesto." I must say I didn't make it more than two paragraphs down before I started reliving my own nightmare of deciding whether I should keep my maiden name, and I didn't make it more than four paragraphs down before deciding to write this post. Now, I won't pretend to have any new and exciting information on keeping your maiden name - that debate has been done repeatedly and others can debate it much better than I. Also, I don't want to debate it. As long as the person keeping or changing their name is doing it solely because they really want to, I think that's great.

My own story is a little different. When I got engaged it wasn't long before someone called me "Mrs. Hislastname." And I cringed. I immediately hated the idea of changing my last name, and I swore to myself I wouldn't change it. Not that he had an awful last name, because that would be an entirely different story and I would have made the extra effort to keep my last name. In the end, I changed it anyway, because I didn't like the idea of having a different surname than my possible future child. (Our last names didn't look good hyphenated, or I probably would have done that.) I asked my fiancee to change his last name to mine, and I honestly don't remember how that conversation went. I also threw around the idea of my husband and I changing both of our last names to one of our choice, and I don't remember how that went either, but I didn't know anything about that at the time, much less how to go about picking a totally new surname. I thought, at the time, it wasn't allowed legally. That doesn't mean those options aren't open to others, though. Because they are. If you read nothing else in this post, know this: don't let our culture brainwash you into thinking your only options are accepting his last name, keeping yours, or hyphenating. There's more. You can change your name to Rainbow Happypants if you have a good reason.

But for a while there I had everyone worried. Everyone looked at me like I was nuts and scoffed at me. Like I had to change my name. My mother's biggest comment was that she'd have to return the (non-existent) monogrammed towels she got us. She totally tricked me on that one, and being the cheap-o that I am, that was actually a huge factor. God forbid good towels go to waste. Then, my now-husband virtually had a meltdown for several reasons. Did I hate his family? Did I not want to be known as his wife? Did he not make enough money? He made it clear that he would feel emasculated if I kept my maiden name, and everyone would laugh at him. None of these reasons were enough to make me feel sorry for him/change my mind, though his pleas and woeful stares did get to me. I was not about to give up the name I had used for twenty-four years, the name I was comfortable with and fit me, the name that my mother and father had, just to make him feel like a man. Oh, the things you do for kids that aren't even born yet. To this day I still get a homesick type of feeling when someone calls me by my new last name, almost like I've given up a little piece of me. (Well, I guess I did.)

The only reason I even debated keeping my maiden name was because I had the choice. This has not always been the case. Women are still becoming more equal to men. A woman changing her name is what I would call a "societal norm." I suspect the top reason women change their name is because they think they have to, because society demands it and looks at you funny if you don't. Most people probably assume the only women who can keep their maiden name are those who have established a strong career. And I suspect the top reason women sometimes decide not to keep their maiden name, even if they want to, is for their future children. Hyphenating two names probably comes from a desire to keep one's history and future together. I don't mean to offend anyone, this is just what I think. I haven't done research on it, this post is more like a personal rant.

The decision is ultimately up to you and you alone. My husband may have made his case against me keeping my maiden name, but his input and everyone else's input didn't sway me one way or the other. The towels did, I'm embarrassed to admit, and the thought of my future children's last name. Of course, yeah you're supposed to start deciding things as a couple, but when one party blatantly refuses a suggestion, you're left to decide things for your own side. If someone is going to try to force you/expect you to change your name, they may only have their own interests in mind. Your name is what makes you an individual, and no one should expect you to do something you're not comfortable with. My advice in this post is to come to that decision on your own. I don't think it is right for anyone else to have a say. If you want to keep your maiden name because it was the name you grew up with, the name of your mother or father, the name that fits you best...do it. If you want to hyphenate in order to get the best of both worlds or make everyone (including yourself) happy...do it. If you want to change your name so that you will share the same name with your husband and children...do it. But don't let others make you feel like crap for it, and keep in mind that your husband could just as easily change his name.

Regardless of what the two of you want, talk to your significant other about this impending name change and have an open conversation about either one of you changing your last name(s). Open communication and healthy dialog can solve a lot of questions. Why should it have to be the woman? Why can't he change his name? Which of your surnames has more meaning, more history? If hyphenating is out of the question, how about both of you change your last names to something else? As I was reading the article mentioned above, she writes that "nobility first started adopting hereditary surnames in the Middle Ages." Before that, surnames told people something personal about you, such as your occupation, physical appearance or who was your mother or father. You could be an Erikson as likely as you could be a Leifsdottir, a Baker or a Brown. So for you, in the modern day, you could look into your ancestry for a new surname (maybe both of you had an ancestor that was a blacksmith, so you change your last names to Smith, for example), or you could be inspired by your own self (maybe both of you have black hair, so your new surname could be Black). Either way, at least one of you is going to lose the visual connection to your side of the family, meaning, if a woman changes her name she will visually be related to her husband's family -- with a quick glance on paper there will be no way for a stranger to know if you were born into that family. Likewise for the man. So if all else fails, maybe both of you can start fresh. You're beginning a whole new family, after all.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

French word names

A small selection...

Fleur - flower
Blanche - white
Etoile - star
Belle - beautiful
Beau - handsome
Bijou - jewel
Elle - she
Boheme - Bohemia
Miette - small and sweet
Reve - dream
Reverie - daydream
Soleil - sun

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Violetta

violet violetta baby name 

One easy way to get Letty as a nickname is Violetta. Violetta (vee-oh-let-ta) is a more elegant, romantic and European version of the trending and popular Violet, and while both of them mean "purple/violet," it is a very distinct shade of purple they refer to - the shade violet, as in the flower. It is of Latin origin but used in several countries.

One of the most well known namesakes of Violetta is from Giuseppe Verdi's opera "La Traviata," which was originally titled "Violetta" after the main character. The story in the play was adapted from Alexandre Dumas junior's novel The Lady of the Camellias. (Side note: I had no idea Alexandre Dumas was part Afro-Carribean Creole until I saw "Django Unchained.") In the opera, Violetta is a respected courtesan who abandons her lifestyle when she falls in love with a man named Alfredo. A few events and misunderstandings unfold, Violetta breaks off their relationship, and... well, I won't ruin the ending for you. But I kind of love this play and Violetta's character, because even though she is a courtesan, she is highly respected and loved.

I once read that there was a Saint Violetta of Verona, Italy, but cannot find any record of her. Something about a Persian violet. Who knows.

What's shocking is that Violetta only ranked once - in 1884 at #849. In recent years it has been very rare. 46 girls were given the name in 2011, and no more than 30 since 1884. In most years it was given between 5 and 20 times.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Carlo

Why did I decide to highlight Carlo and not Carl or Carlos? Besides a really unpleasant association with a Karl, it's a very dated name, while Carlos, in the US, is very region and culture specific. And Carlo is my cousin's name. Carlo, on the other hand, is less tied to any one thing or person. This Italian, German and Spanish variant of Charles means "free man," and ranked on the top 1000 until 2009, from 1905. Yet, it's still a name you don't hear often. If not for my cousin, I would have never met a Carlo. Although this name has European charm, it would fit right in with American kids today, hundreds of which start with a hard C or end in an O. (Camden, Cleo, Milo, Indigo, Leo, Shiloh, etc.)

Carlo also has a saintly namesake - Saint Carlo Borromeo, also known as Saint Charles, who died in 1584, and whose name day is November 4th. Saint Carlo was cardinal archbishop of the Catholic Church in Milan, Italy, and is now Patron Saint of many things, including apple orchards, bishops, spiritual leaders, starch makers, and stomach problems. Four kings of Spain also bore this name in the form of Charles as we know them today. Carlo Alberto Amedeo was the King of Sardinia in Italy between 1831 and 1849. Napolean Bonaparte's father was also named Carlo.

Fans of Sophia Loren might like to know that her son was named Carlo. Other namesakes include Nobel Prize winner Carlo Rubbia, six professional painters, two Olympians, an actor, and a historian. Many may also think of the Monte Carlo hotel and casino.

In 2011 there were 190 boys named Carlo, ranking slightly below the top 1000, as compared to about 140/150 in the 90's, and just 5 in the early 1900's. There are many carl- variants, such as Carlton, Carlos, Carl, Carlson and Carlito. Carlo is less popular than Carlos, which was given to 4,158 boys in 2011, and less popular than Carl, which was given to 420 boys in 2011. Carlos ranked #91 and Carl #591.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sylvie, Sylvia, Silvia

Miike Snow - Silvia

I was going to include Silvana and Silveria and the male forms of this name in this post, but I think I'll save them for another time and just mention that all Syl-/Sil- names share the same meaning, "[from the] woods, woodland, forest." They all come from the name Silvanus, and he was the Latin god of the forest. More rare variants include Sylvette, Sylvina/Silvina, Silvania/Sylvania, and Sylva/Silva. Silvia is the major Latin version of the name, while Sylvia and Sylvie/Silvie are the English variants. Sylvie is usually thought to be French, but it can also serve as a nickname. All forms have a silvery, gilded, romantic and sophisticated image, while still being quite childlike and playful.

While Sylvie has never ranked, Sylvia ranked from 1880 (and likely well before that) until now. In 2011 Sylvia ranked at #554, and has been in the 500's for the last decade. It has been slowly falling since it was #50 in 1937, which was its highest rank, and had stayed above #200 before that. The alternate spelling Silvia also ranked from 1886 until 2005, but was not as popular. The highest rank for Silvia was #497 in 1974. In 2011 there were 187 girls named Silvia, 156 named Sylvie, and 523 named Sylvia. Though Sylvia is now more popular, Silvia was the original spelling.

Rhea Silvia in mythology was an ancient nature goddess, the mother of Remus and Romulus, the founders of Rome. (Mythological names connected to these are Evander, Arcadia, Lavinia, Aeneas and Pallas.) Saint Silvia was the mother of Pope Gregory the Great. Queen Silvia of Sweden is still reigning in Sweden. Sylvia Plath was the tragic poet and novelist whose works are now studied nationwide in advanced English courses. Sylvia Pankhurst was the Suffragette who formed leftist and communist parties after WWI, sister to Christabel, whose mother was Emmeline. Shakespeare used the name Silvia in his play "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," and both Silvia and Sylvia can be found in many more works of literature and on several more namesakes. Recently, celebrity Jason Bateman named his daughter Maple Sylvie (which directly translates to "maple forest").

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Viggo

viggo-mortensen baby name

(VIGG-oh) Viggo Mortensen, who is actually a junior, may be the first and only person that comes to mind with this name. The actor has been known for his roles in "Hidalgo" and "Lord of the Rings." Many don't know about Prince Viggo of Denmark, Count Viggo of Rosenborg, who gave up the wonders of being a prince for his American wife in the 1920's. 

This Scandinavian name meaning "war; thunderbolt" should be way more popular than it is. It's got the trendy V and O sounds, a short and peppy sound, an actor namesake... so how come in 2011 there were only 31 boys given the name and in 2010 only 41? This Old Norse name dates back to the time of the Vikings and is very popular in Sweden (#32), a bit dated (I'm not so sure - it's #288 there) in Norway. It was even catchy enough for Taylor Hanson and his wife to use for their fourth child (the others are Jordan, Penelope and River), once they found it on Ancestry.com. The most similar sounding name out there is Vega, which is also quite rare.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lavinia

Lavinia+Longhi 
Italian actress Lavinia Longhi

Lavinia (lah-VIN-ee-ah) is a Latin name possibly meaning "purity," but the name is so old that no specific meaning can be given. It could simply mean "woman from Lavinium," which was an ancient town in Rome/more ancient than Rome/Etruscan. Lavinia was known as the "Mother of Rome." In Virgil's Aeneid, Lavinia was betrothed to a man named Turnus, King of the Rutuli, but when the hero Aeneas came to town her father, King of the Latins, changed his mind and wanted Lavinia to marry Aeneas. The two men then fought for her hand, but Aeneas won. Aeneas then built the town of Lavinium for her. Shakespeare had Lavinia as a character in Titus Andronicus, but her story is an unfortunate one not worthy of repeating and not true to Virgil's Lavinia. Ursula le Guin later wrote more in depth about their relationship in her 2008 novel Lavinia. And she's been a character in many more stories, including The Hunger Games. In all likelihood, Lavinia was probably created to explain how the town of Lavinium came to be.

Aristocrats used this name in medieval times, then it boomed in the 18th century, which is now why Lavinia is considered very vintage. Back then it could be found in various forms, from Louvenia to Lovina. Vinnie could be one nickname, but Lavie gives it more of a European flair. Lavinia probably ranked well before 1880 when records started being kept as we know them today, but she was officially on the charts between 1880 (starting at #360 and the highest ranking she had) and 1929 (never to be seen again). In 2011 the name Lavinia was given to 39 baby girls, not including various other spellings. This mythological Victorian name is ready for a comeback! (Think: Olivia, less popular.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Darcy

you have bewitched me baby name darcy 
Available on Etsy

Male or female? Mr. Darcy or vintage belle? While slightly resembling cutesy vintage names like Darla and dated names ending in -ie or -y, this name will never make me think anything but "Mr. Darcy." Supposedly Mr. Darcy's surname was a hint at Norman aristocracy, a place name meaning "from Arcy," (Old French d'Arcy). The name is also Irish Gaelic meaning "dark." The original French form could mean "bear," as other names, like Arthur, and the names of a bear god and goddess, share the art- link.

Darcy is currently trendy as parents look to many familiar literary names such as Atticus, Emerson and Gatsby. Ultimately, I believe the name has been more popular for girls in America. It ranked from 1949 to 1994 for girls, and sporadically for boys between 1954 and 1970. Darci and Darcie have also ranked for girls. In 2011 the use of Darcy and variant spellings has decreased a lot since that time, and 140 girls were named Darcy while only 15 boys were given the name.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Isadora

Isadora_(1968) baby name 
The 1968 film "Isadora" about Isadora Duncan, the dancer

*Updated 2016
Isadora, which can also be spelled Isidora, is a Greek and Latin name meaning "gift of Isis" and the feminine form of the boys name Isidore, from Isidoros. Isis was the main goddess recognized in Egyptian myth, and although Isadora would be considered a pagan name by Christians at the time, it survived their repression, even becoming a saint name. Isis has currently fallen out of the top 1000 due to the terrorist attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, inappropriately shortened to ISIS when "Levant" is substituted for "Syria." Within going on a rant about how it should have stayed ISIL to save the children who already have this first name from being accosted or bullied, I will simply say that because no one wants their newborn associated with this group, usage has come to a halt. It is unfortunate because Isis was a great and peaceful female deity and the children who helped make Isis get onto the top 1000 will now suffer. So, parents who wanted to name their baby Isis, take note of Isadora/Isidora!

The second syllable of Isadora is what means "gift," from the Proto Indo-European root word deh-. Other names, such as Theodore and Pandora share this root. Isidra (ee-SEE-drah) is a Spanish form of this name, usually only seen abroad but given to a handful of girls in the U.S. every once in a while.

There were a few St. Isidore's and a Saint Isidora, but the name Isidore was often shared/unisex, especially during the Middle Ages when this was common. Saint Isidora was a nun in an Egyptian convent, and by records was one of the most humble saints. There are dozens of male and female historical namesakes, including religious leaders, philosophers, theologians, geographers, architects, poets, composers, writers and dancers. Isadora Duncan was the late American dancer with a tragic story worth reading about if you're considering this name.

In 2015 Isadora ranked a bit outside the top 1000 with 169 girls given the name, the highest amount in record, and Isidora ranked much lower with only 20 girls given the name (25 in 2007 was the most recorded). It ranked on the top 1000 for a total of five years between 1880 and 1900, but fares much better in Chile as a top 10. Isadora is rising in popularity as an Isabella alternative. The male names Isidoro and Isidore are not popular at all. In 2011 only 7 boys were named Isidoro and 7 named Isidore.

Izzy, Isa, Isis, Dora or Dory? Take your pick. *Update: Sadie, from the comments.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sheridan

ann sheridan baby name 
Old Hollywood actress Ann Sheridan

Sheridan is an Irish Gaelic surname meaning "seeker; peaceful" of which a playwright and Civil War general share as a namesake. In 1996 the masculine surname made it to the top 1000 list for girls (I wonder if the potential nicknames Sherry and/or Dani made that possible?), dropped off between 1998 and 1999, then came back between 2000 and 2002. It had been in the boys top 1000 in the 1890's and 1930's/40's for just a few short years, when Dan was probably the go-to nickname. As this was a masculine surname, much like Grayson, I have a hard time labeling it as "unisex." So, even though it is primarily used for girls now (9 boys in 2011 vs 48 girls), and isn't used nearly enough to firmly determine male/female (these are the lowest rankings since the peak in 1997), I am putting this one on the boys side.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rhondine

Another name with next to no info readily available, there are a few possibilities for meaning here. Rhondine could be a rare French variant of Rhonda or a created English variant of Rhonda, meaning "rose" in Greek, "good lance" in Welsh. However, drop the letter h and we have Rondine, meaning "swallow." Rondina can also be found as a first name and mainly a surname. There is an Italian opera titled La Rondine, "The Swallow" in English. Interestingly, rondinella is the name of an Italian wine grape variety.

At least 11 people in the U.S. have Rhondine as a first name, possibly about 20 total, and maybe only 1 has Rhondina as a first name. There are some early records, one in 1888. My guess is that this name came about in several different ways - possibly a vintage trend where familiar names were elaborated upon, a misspelling of an original name, given in reference to the opera, or the transfer of a surname to first name. There are about 50 people named Rondine in the U.S. and about 20 Rondina. I've also seen a small handful spelled Rhondeen and Rhondean, which are probably smush names such as Rhonda + Eileen or Rhonda + Dean.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Halsten

Halsten is an English and Scandinavian name meaning "hollow enclosure; settlement in a nook; rock/stone." This name has been used by Swedish royalty, the earliest namesake being Halsten Stenkilsson, King of Sweden, who lived between 1050 and 1084. His first son took his name as Philip Halstensson, and the name Halsten stopped there. Not too much is known about these early monarchs. The name Halsten is not entirely the same as Halston ("hollowed stone"), which is the name of a designer. There are no records of this name being used until 2006, when 6 boys were given the name, and none after 2006. It can sometimes be seen as a surname. White Pages says 77 people have this as a surname, and 2 as a first name.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

If Ivy and Ava are so popular, why not Iva?

Iva is a lost vintage name that was once mildly popular in America. Originally from Ivana, meaning "God is gracious," from the male form Ivan, which is an international variant of John (which means Iva is a version of Jane). In 2011 there were 58 girls named Iva. (Ida was not too ahead, with 92 births in 2011, and similar three and four letter vintage names were around the same ranking - Ama with 10 births, Alva with 13).

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Old West Nicknames for Girls

I've been thinking of ways to get gender neutral Old Western nicknames for girls that you'd usually see on boys, and two of my best ideas so far are a) Orchid nn Kid (like Billy the Kid), which would take a brave parent to use, and b) Jessamine nn Jesse (like Jesse James).

Names in the Old Western category for boys include:
Wyatt Earp
Kit Carson
Wild Bill
Doc Holiday
Ike Clanton
Buffalo Bill Cody
Jesse James
Billy the Kid

For girls, we have Calamity Jane and Belle Starr. From the boy's options just listed, ideas for Western girl's nicknames (with feminine full names) include Holiday nn Holly, Ekaterina or Katrina nn Kit, or Belicia nn Billy.