By the light of the Moon – A Halloween-ish post

October 31, 2011 § 8 Comments

Lunar libration with phase2

First things first: An update on baby Giulia Sarkozy, which has nothing to do with Halloween even though you can spell Skary using letters from the presidential last name (it’s trick or treat day – consider that awful pun my ‘trick.’) According to the French tabs, she was named for Carla Bruni Sarkozy’s favourite Aunt Gigi – her mother’s oldest sister, who was also one of the first visitors after baby Giulia was born. Gigi’s full name is Giulia.

And hey, Happy Halloween!

Halloween-related names and posts are heavily populating the blogosphere today, and here I am, someone who likes to avoid Halloween at any cost. I’ve never been big on dressing up – I like to create things with my mind, not make-up. I remember freezing, freezing cold nights in Canada trick or treating in basically a huge winter coat over my costume. Every year. So I never really wrapped my head around the notion that girls are supposed to try to show up for every Halloween with the sexiest costume. Too much pressure, too much drinking – and now, eating too much candy gives me a headache. (I’m a grown up now, and sometimes it is SO annoying!)

I also don’t believe that it’s necessary or required to come up with a Halloween name (or Christmas, or Easter a la Bryan Adams’ Mirabella Bunny) if you have a child born on Halloween, if for no other reason than it’s in some way expected. No one would notice if you named your Halloween baby Daniel, but people would get it – and probably be pleased – if his name was Jack.

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About A Name: Tristan

October 30, 2011 § 7 Comments

James Franco starred in the 2006 film version of Tristan and Isolde’s Arthurian legend.

When Donald Trump, Jr. and wife wife Vanessa announced Tristan Milos as the name of their third child, born October 2 in New York City, I honestly didn’t bat an eyelash. But clearly my tastes are only one small piece of the puzzle that can sometimes feel like baby name trends. And I honestly don’t know that I would have written a feature post if not for Waltzing More than Matilda‘s Anna, who had done far more research on the name than I – and she inspired me!

I got as far as figuring that Tristan either meant “sad,” a colloquialized name from the French triste, but may have also come from the Pictish name, Drostan, when I wondered whether Tristram could rise with this name in popularity in my post When Meaning Does Matter on Thursday. This origin jibes with the Arthurian legend of Tristan and Isolde. The Celtic legend tells that Tristan, a Knight of the Round Table, is sent by King Mark of Cornwall to fetch Isolde of Ireland, who King Mark is to marry. Tristan and Isolde fall in love, but Isolde has to marry the King, so their love is doomed. Their story was the subject of German composer Wagner’s 19th Century opera, Tristan and Isolde. The story has been known by slightly different variations: Tristan and Isolda, or Tristran (the most obvious precursor to Tristram?) and Ysolt, or Iseult. The spelling depends on the region and the era in which the folk story is being told.

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The Next Generation of Bens

October 29, 2011 § 11 Comments

Michael Jackson's best friend, Ben. The name's popularity has sprouted refreshing alternatives to common Benjamin.

Benjamin is one of the oldest, most well-used names in the world. It’s currently the 66th most popular name in the United States, and still the most popular origin of Ben by a long shot. Inspirational Bens are everywhere, from 18th Century American revolutionary Benjamin Frankin, who discovered electricity, to jazz musician Benny Goodman and Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” Michael Jackson’s hit song “Ben,” and even actor-directors Ben Affleck and Ben Stiller. In the Bible, Benjamin is the youngest and most beloved son of Jacob and his wife, Rachel. After a difficult childbirth, Rachel knew she was dying, and named her son Benoni, which means “son of my sorrow.” After her death, Jacob changed his son’s name to Binyamin, the traditional spelling of Hebrew Benjamin, meaning “son of my right hand; son of the south; son of my old age.” Benjamin was regarded in the Bible as a righteous child, who stayed with Jacob as his older brothers plotted against the eldest, and Jacob’s heir, Joseph.

Ben will always be around – simply, it’s Hebrew for “son,” it’s emblematic. And the number of other choices availing themselves lately, like Bentley, Bennett, even Benno and Benton is a sure sign that “Ben” isn’t going anywhere. Even a renewed interested in Reuben (Hebrew for “see, a son!”) could help it.

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About Two Names: Knight & Dae

October 28, 2011 § 4 Comments

This post is really about the more common use of ‘night’ and ‘day’ in our baby names, with two recently trending spelling variations. One is darkness, the other is light, but both combine to illustrate the beauty of nature, and of life. There are plenty of inspired choices on both ends of the spectrum!

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When Meaning Does Matter

October 27, 2011 § 8 Comments

(c) AP: Girls hold certificates stating their new official names during a renaming ceremony in Satara, India, on Saturday. Almost 300 Indian girls known officially as "Unwanted" have traded their birth names for a fresh start in life.

I was inspired by the story out of India that 285 women were honoured at a renaming ceremony, a move by local government to drive a wedge in rampant gender bias that has resulted in a gender ratio skewed with more men that women by about 100 more boys per every 1,000 live births.

In India, and other places in the world, men are considered superior, so baby girls are unwanted. In some cases they are aborted or given up for adoption, but in the Hindu language, the widely-used Nakusa, or Nakushi, means “unwanted.”

Part of the reason Indians favor sons is the enormous expense of marrying off girls. Families often go into debt arranging marriages and paying for elaborate dowries. A boy, on the other hand, will one day bring home a bride and dowry. Hindu custom also dictates that only sons can light their parents’ funeral pyres.

The girls chose names like Aishwarya, after Bollywood superstar Aiswarya Rai, or after Hindu goddesses like Savitri (also known as Gayatri, she is the goddess of learning). Traditional names like Vaishali, which means “prosperous, beautiful, and good,” were also popular choices at the renaming ceremony. A 15-year-old girl, who had been named Nakusa by her disappointed grandfather, selected Ashmita, which in Hindi means “very tough, rock hard.”

Debate over whether a name’s meaning is important takes on a new level in places like India. Nakusa doesn’t sound, in English, like “unwanted,” but it does in Hindu, and that’s the language where this name finds its place.

In North America, the name Kennedy is freely used for both sexes, even though it’s Irish Gaelic for “ugly head.” But President Kennedy, and his assassination, were important moments in history, and honouring him became important. Massively popular Emily, and all its variants, is Latin for “rival.” We don’t name our children because we think they have an ugly head or we think anything negative about them. It’s also rare that the meaning of a name is completely obvious – Emily doesn’t sound like “rival” and Kennedy doesn’t sound like “ugly head.”

Other established choices with “bad meanings”? « Read the rest of this entry »

Rock On!

October 26, 2011 § 4 Comments

Rock Names are having a heyday these days.

R names are staring to rage, whether they are Rev- names for girls (For Real just spotted a Norah Revae), -r names for boys or girls (Appellation Mountain released a long boy list last week and promised a girl one, too), or the names are all about the rock. (Lou @ Mer de Noms just did a post on a ton of new R names to whet your whistles, too.)

UPDATE (25/04/12): I love this story of a celebrity baby named Rock – Train frontman Pat Monahan named his newborn son Rock Richard after his wife’s twin sister, Summer, began to have persistent dreams about her unborn nephew. Monahan recently shared with

“She said that my son was coming to her and grabbing her face and saying, ‘Aunt Summer, my mom and dad won’t listen to me in their dreams. You need to tell them my name is Rock.'” Then she had another one where he was wearing a [Colorado] Rockies uniform playing baseball. He was like, ‘Aunt Summer, look, my name’s on [my shirt].'”

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About A Name: Aleph

October 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

(c) Ramey: Natalie Portman introduced son Aleph last week.

It’s not really a surprise that Natalie Portman gave birth to a gorgeous baby. Son Aleph (pronounced AH-lef), with French ballet dancer/model Benjamin Millpied, was born in June in New York City, and his unique name is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, much like “alpha” is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. Also spelled “alef,” it is the number one in Hebrew . In Judaic Kabbalah, aleph relates to the origins of the universe, the “primordial one that contains all numbers.” (In Tony Kushner’s Tony-winning play, Angels in America, God is depicted onstage as a flaming Aleph glyph.)

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