About A (Not-So-Bad) Name: Ryker

January 9, 2013 § 9 Comments

Star Trek: TNG's Commander Riker is one of few modern references to trendy, modern boys name Ryker.

Star Trek: TNG‘s Commander Riker is one of few pop culture references to trendy, modern boys name Ryker.

Following my last post regarding name negativity, I’ve decided to take things a step further by going out of my way to highlight the positives in the names singled out in the aforementioned Deadspin article as evidence that American baby names are “getting even worse.”

The Not-So-Bad series of posts will no doubt feature names you’ve probably balked at before, but let’s keep one thing in mind, here. These aren’t hypothetical names, names from books, or lists of interesting choices – these are names that people out there actually wear. Real people. With feelings.

The first one I’ll cover is a name that’s actually been gaining massively in popularity, and isn’t just a unique selection by one adventurous parent. Ryker is, as far as I’m concerned, a true name of the future with a long Low Country heritage. It’s already nearly inside the US Top 300, after beginning it’s climb from 1000 in just 2003. The name Ryan is commonplace and has been for decades. Tucker, Parker, etc. had their biggest moments in the late-90s and early 2000s, and from those trends modern usage of Ryker was born.

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The Politics of Naming Rights

January 5, 2013 § 6 Comments

(c) AP - Blaer Bjarkardottir, 15, is trying to change name laws in her native Iceland.

(c) AP – Blaer Bjarkardottir, 15, (pictured with her mother, Bjork) is trying to change name laws in her native Iceland, and is willing to take her case to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

Forgive me, but it’s about to get a little opinionated in here. Much has been discussed online over baby name laws the past few days, and I can’t help but weigh in, of course.

Lou at Mer de Noms led me to this fascinating article about a 15-year-old Icelandic girl named Blaer Bjarkardottir. But, since Blaer isn’t on the list of 1,853 accepted names for girls in her native country, all her government forms list her official name as ‘Sturka’ – which means, simply, “girl.” Her mother, Bjork Eidsdottir, picked Icelandic Blaer, which means “light breeze,” inspired by a female Blaer she knew in Iceland in the early 1970s – back when the name had been reportedly acceptable. The priest who baptised Blaer even thought the name acceptable enough, but had to admit his mistake after the fact, negating the legality of the name. Now, Blaer and her mother are suing the Icelandic state for the right to use a name that has a masculine article and was denied by the panel of judges who approve or reject every baby name, or adult name change, in the country. Germany, Denmark, New Zealand, China, and other countries have similar processes, a response to parents who have selected names ranging from Anus to Devil and Number 9 Bus Stop to the @ symbol.

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My Favourite Names of 2012

January 1, 2013 § 10 Comments


I may have failed myself with blogging this year (so many real life changes!) but it’s one of my resolutions for 2013 to be better. Much better. I owe it to myself, because I truly enjoy maintaining this blog. Of little credit to me, my blog’s popularity grew this year with many thanks to the lovely ladies at Nameberry for hosting my political names guest post in the spring, with great appreciation to Abby at Appellation Mountain for highlighting my post on Malala this fall, which proved to be my biggest post of the year, and with ongoing affection for Anna at Waltzing More Than Matilda, whose site continues to be my most consistent referral source, links wise, and she is far and away my top commenter. And of course, I’m grateful to each and every one of you who reads, comments, and shares the posts you love. You guys inspire me, full on, and your support is not taken for granted.

To close out 2011, I compiled my favourite names from overall trends of the year, and though I haven’t blogged as much as I should have, I’ve paid attention in 2012. A few of these names earned posts of their own this year, but many didn’t, so bear with me. And you know the drill – please don’t leave without sharing your own favourites from the past twelve months.

Happy New Year to you and yours, and let’s all look forward to a big year of names in 2013. What traditional names will be bestowed upon the royal baby? Will baby Kimye get a K name? Will Biblical boy names make a comeback or fall even further out of favour? So many questions, so bring it on!

This year’s list of names looks nothing like last year’s (well it might, if you’ve read enough of this blog to catch on to the name biases I try not to have):

Koa. I love to travel, but this year I only made it to one place – Hawaii. So it seems fitting that the first name on my 2012 year end list is a Hawaiian name-on-fire. Simple enough to feel familiar, yet exotic enough to stand out, nature name Koa, which sounds like Biblically “unfashionable” Noah, kept trending for boys in 2012. Australian marathon swimmer Ky Hurst welcomed a son named Koa in November.

Aoife. This Irish name, pronounced EE-fah, was bestowed upon the daughter of Irish-born pop singer Una Healy of The Saturdays, and her English rugby star boyfriend Ben Foden in March. It means “beautiful,” and was suggested to the couple by Healy’s father. (Adorable Aoife’s middle name is the Latin name, Belle, which means her parents gave her a name that means “beautiful beauty.”)

I find Irish Gaelic names to be too challenging to use, personally, despite some Irish heritage in my family tree, but this one stood out this year in a crowded pack of selections more easily read by my North American sensibilities. And Healy wasn’t the only celeb to honour her Irish heritage with her baby name – How I Met Your Mother star Alyson Hannigan welcomed her second daughter in May, and named her Keeva Jane (an Americanized spelling of Caoimhe). Alternately pronounced Kev-ah, it means “gentle, beautiful beloved,” the feminine form of Kevin.

(more after the jump)

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Hawaiian Names

October 1, 2012 § 10 Comments

Maui’s Napili Bay.


The Hawaiian middle name of underwear model Antonio Sabato, Jr.’s one-year-old son Antonio III is a doozy (Jr. got married in Hawaii recently!) To the untrained eye, this 22-letter word is not a name; it’s a purposeful tongue-twister. But Hawaiian words have a tendency to be long, with phrases grouped together like compound words. One word, no matter how long, can often be directly translated into multi-word phrases. Kamakanaalohamaikalani, for example? It means “beloved gift from the heavens.”

Earlier this year I took a trip to Hawaii (and now that it’s officially fall, what better time to reminisce about the warm weather?) While there I learned one very vital piece of information in regards to pronunciation – which Westerners nearly always butcher. In general, for every vowel in a Hawaiian or Polynesian word, it’s the beginning of a new syllable. With that in mind, how does one pronounce Kamakanaalohamaikalani?

That’s easy. It’s Kama-kana-aloha-ma-ee-ka-lani. (Got that? 😉

This rule, naturally, is not mutually exclusive (but when are linguistics ever that simple?) The two i’s in Hawaii, for example, don’t indicate that the 50th US state, the most Westernized region of Polynesia, is pronounced Ha-wa-ee-ee – but rather an indication of how hard one must hit the long e sound at the end of the word. On the islands of Lanai or Kauai, for example, the single i means you hit the end syllable much more sharply. Westerners have taken to calling the islands La-nye or Ka-wye, which is incorrect. English texts also tend to ignore the ‘okina, as in Hawai’i, or the kahakō macron (denoting a long vowel), although these parts of the Hawaiian language contribute to the meaning of a word.

I also learned that every Hawaiian word ends in a vowel – but the letter Y acts solely as a consonant as no words in Hawaiian end in -y. And with only 17 consonants in the Hawaiian alphabet (b, d, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, y, z), the words inevitably follow numerous patterns. Long and flowing words that are heavy on vowels generally indicate that they come from this region of the world. The Hawaiian language – with English, the co-official language of the 50th U.S. state though less than 0.1 per cent of Hawaiians are native speakers anymore – is based in Polynesian. The colonial history of the United States on the island of Hawaii has also contributed to a pidgin dialect called Hawaii Creole English, which can be mistaken for neither of the original languages. Nonetheless, linguists worry about the future of the Hawaiian language as English, and lately an injection of some Asian dialects, begin to take over on the islands.

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Canada’s Olympic-Inspired Names

September 25, 2012 § 5 Comments

(c) August 4, 2012 – Jean Lavac / Postmedia Olympic Team: Rosannagh “Rosie” MacLennan smiles with her gold medal, won in women’s trampoline at London 2012.

I may have been in exile, but I have been reading the blogs when I could – I caught these posts over at Waltzing More Than Matilda this summer, and it inspired me to do one of my own. (I believe Anna created three posts, at least, to highlight Aussie success in London, and I won’t need that many, to be honest.)

Canada, of course, didn’t have the success that Australia or Britain did at the London 2012 Summer Games. That narrows the field of focus somewhat in creating a post of names to inspire Canadians as our athletes travel cross-country this week on the government’s official “Olympic Tour.” (And yes, for the record, though I live in a Commonwealth country, I did not fully learn the lyrics to “God Save the Queen” until these Games, considering how often it played for Britain’s gold.)

The first Canadian to inspire from this summer’s Olympic Games is Rosannagh MacLennan (often called Rosie, perhaps in part to mitigate the confusion over how to pronounce Rosannagh – is it row-ZAE-nah or row-ZAN-ah?) Toronto resident MacLennan was Canada’s only gold medalist in London. She claimed a record score in women’s trampoline to top the podium on August 4th, the one and only time that “O Canada” played from the winner’s podium this summer. An old-fashioned choice, it gains some modern cool points for the Celtic spelling, with the ‘silent G.’

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About A Name: Camden – the ‘It’ name in America?

September 23, 2012 § 6 Comments

(c) Jordan Strauss/WireImage.com; Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com via UsMagazine.com: Is Camden America’s hottest new baby name?

Just as his ex-wife, Jessica Simpson, chose a trendy new baby name for her daughter, Maxwell, born in May, singer and TV presenter Nick Lachey has gone the trendy, of-the-moment route for his new son, if nothing else affirming that super-hot Camden is probably here to stay, at least for a while.

Just over a month after reality TV star Kristin Cavallari welcomed Camden Jack with her fiance, Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears, on August 8th, Lachey welcomed Camden John with model and TV presenter Vanessa Minnillo on September 12th. The birth caused Cavallari to tweet, “Apparently Camden is a popular name! I obviously love the name and I’m glad other people do too.”

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The Rider Named Ryder

May 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

(c) AFP: Ryder Hesjedal celebrates his underdog victory at the Giro d’Italia cycling race on May 27, 2012 in Milan.

Vancouver Island cyclist Ryder Hesjedal has burned up the headlines across Canada this week, making us proud by becoming the first Canadian ever to win a Grand Tour cycling event when he captured the Giro d’Italia trophy this morning. And one of my favourite tweets about the win? A non-Canadian who had been watching the Giro daily, live from Italy, commented regarding the athlete whom no one had pegged as the possible winner:

“I just realized that rider Hesjedal is Ryder Hesjedal. #duh”

He and nearly everybody else, within Canada included (cycling’s popularity is growing here, and Hesjedal could be the new star to elevate it!) Before he won the second most prestigious cycling race in the world, Hesjedal’s best finish was 6th overall at the 2010 Tour de France, and he won the 12th stage of the 2009 Vuelta a Espana.

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