About A Name: June etc.

August 31, 2011 § 4 Comments

The name June has become an American classic, first introduced in the 19th Century as a name, from the sixth month of the calendar year. It surged in popularity in the 1940s and ’50s, and until the mid-2000s was considered matronly – due in large part to the popularity of the quintessential mother of the 1950s, June Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver – before the sweet and simple name of Latin origin began experiencing a resurgence. Today, there are plenty of choices – and plenty of reasons to use the name or one of it’s variations, not least because there’s hardly a surname in existence that doesn’t work with the name. (If your last name is Moon – hey, you win, it doesn’t work!)

On July 18th in Los Angeles, General Hospital star Bradford Anderson welcomed daughter Juna Meredith, presenting yet another variation on the growing trend. His wife, yoga instructor Keira, explained on her blog the reason behind her daughter’s unique name, which truly has nothing to do with the presumed root:

“Juna was inspired by the character of Arjuna, the spiritual warrior in the [Hindu scripture] Bhagavad Gita. I come back to this text often to remind myself not to cling too tightly to material things, to desires, or to ideas. These are lessons I hope to pass on to my daughter.” Middle name Meredith came from Bradford’s New Hampshire hometown.

The month of June is generally assumed to derive from Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter (the equivalent of Zeus and Hera, king and queen of the gods in Greek mythology). But it may also derive from the Latin word juniores, meaning “younger ones,” as the word maiores, meaning “elders,” is the origin word for the fifth month, May.

June, like, May, April, the lesser-used January, March, and October, and really every month in between on some level, is a usually feminine choice that’s often leaned on in the naming world. By far, one of the most memorable celebrity baby names in recent memory was that of comedian Ralphie May’s daughter, born April June May in September 2007. (Her younger brother’s name is August James May).

Actress June Allyson brought the name to public focus in the 1940s, and actress June Lockhart, who portrayed the TV mom on hit ’50s TV show Lassie, contributed to the matronly feel of the name alongside June Cleaver, portrayed by Barbara Billingsley.

The simple, sweet, feminine sounding name is perhaps too simple, and lacks the family history of names like Jane or Ann to be considered as a middle or first name as often as its closest counterparts. June is the 176th most popular name in the United States, but it peaked in 1920 in the top 50, dropped out of the Top 1000 in 1980, and reappeared to surge in 2007. A truly All-American name, it doesn’t chart in the Top 100 anywhere outside the US (but Juno, for example, is rising internationally as well as within the US).

In 2007, actor Balthazar Getty, of the world-famous oil family, welcomed daughter June Catherine, just months after Spanish professional cyclist Juan Manuel Garate welcome daughter June – in June. That was just over a year after Reese Witherspoon won the Best Actress Oscar for portraying country singer-songwriter, and wife of the legendary Johnny, June Carter Cash in the biopic Walk The Line.

NFLer Kevin Kolb welcomed daughter Kamryn June in January ’09, then Dutch model Ann Van Elsen welcomed daughter June in March 2010 – one month before actress Amanda Peet welcomed her second daughter, Molly June, younger sister of Frances “Frankie” Pen.

A true sign of a popular name is when variations start springing up all around it (like Emily with Emma, Emmeline, or Emilia – just seen on American singer-songwriter Jason Castro’s newborn daughter Madeline Emilia) and June has that going on in spades. The same year June re-entered the charts in 2007, Juno, the Oscar-nominated film about spunky pregnant high schooler Juno MacGuff was released, starring Ellen Page in the title role. Fascinatingly enough, the popularity of the film led to public interest in teen pregnancy, resulting in the hit MTV reality TV shows, 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. In 2008, Coldplay drummer Will Champion welcomed daughter Juno and her twin brother, Rex. Dutch musician Remco Veldhuis and American Broadway star Jeffrey Wright both welcomed daughters named Juno in 2009.

Those who came of age in the grunge generation should remember a Johnny Depp/Mary Stuart Masterson romantic dramedy called Benny & Joon – Masterson played the female lead as a Juniper who spells her nickname phonetically. The same spelling was used years later by Cover Girl model and environmentalist Josie Maran when she welcomed daughter Rumi Joon in 2006.

And though I’m sure you never thought a four-letter name could have so many spelling variations, there’s always the Asian-origin name, Jun. In Chinese culture, the name for boys means “handsome,” and is also a unisex name meaning “esteemed people.” In Japan, the name Jun means “pure/natural.” Reality TV fans in North America might remember Jun Song – the first Asian-American winner of Big Brother US in 2003.

In December 2010, drummer Zac Hanson of the band Hanson welcomed his second child, and presented yet another variation on the June etc. trend. In addition to son John Ira Shepherd (called Shepherd), born in 2008, Hanson and his wife Kate welcomed daughter Junia Rosa Ruth. The surprising name choice took a few days to grow on most people before they were singing its praises. The religious Hanson brothers have tended to rely on biblical names for their growing brood (eight kids under 9 among the three of them), and Junia, like Shepherd, was no exception for Zac. Though there’s still some dispute over whether the original Junia was male or female, the -ia suffix has convinced many that she was in fact a woman and she has become a hero among female Christians. Living during the Roman Empire in first Century CE, Junia was imprisoned for her beliefs and was revered by St. Paul as “outstanding among apostles.” In 2002, a fictional young adult novel was released, based on Junia’s life and death.

Among the lesser-used plant names is a variation on June – Juniper, a name from the Latin juniperus meaning “youth producing” or “evergreen,” and bestowed upon the evergreen bush providing berries used in flavouring gin. In the Renaissance era, juniper bushes were used as a symbol of chastity in art. Though to modern ears the name sounds quite feminine, it has traditionally been used for men and women. Saint Juniper resided in 13th Century Italy, a young man who joined the friars as a follower of St. Francis of Assisi. He was the basis for the character of Brother Juniper in Thornton Wilder’s 1927 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Bridge of San Luis Ray. He’s regarded in texts as both generous and simple – and he himself was the namesake of Junipero Serra – born Miguel, the 18th Century Franciscan monk from Majorca, Spain who practiced his faith in the Americas (modern day Mexico and then California) adopted his name from St. Juniper. The highest peak in California’s Santa Lucia range was named for him.

Juniper is also used quite freely in children’s lit or TV – Juniper Lee is the title character in the animated series The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, Juniper is the name of the character Grover’s girlfriend in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Juniper series of young adult novels by Monica Furlong is about a wise young herbalist named Juniper, and Juniper “Junie” B. Jones is yet another title character in a series of books for children.

Junie, like sweet names Janie or Joni, is showing speed as another alternate or nickname – it’s similarity to names that are universally recognizable should save it from being mocked by too many as “too weird.” Spelled Juni (Greek for “life”), the name could stand on it’s own as a given first name – it’s on trend with other hot four-letter monikers for girls like Luna, Lola, Kyla or, yes, Joni. (It’s the middle name for Denise Richards’ recently adopted newborn, Eloise Joni, who got her middle name from Denise’s mom, Joni, who died of cancer in 2009.)

My advice? What reasons aren’t there to dip into the June etc. trend? There are more than enough ways to take the simple name and make it as unique as you want.

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