How Many Names is Too Many?

December 2, 2012 § 4 Comments

Uma Thurman's daughter is earning the distinction as 2012's 'worst celeb baby name.'

Uma Thurman’s nearly six-month-old daughter is earning the distinction as 2012’s ‘worst celeb baby name.’

And is there such a thing?

Perhaps the biggest celebrity trend in baby naming this year has been the predisposition NOT to announce baby’s name at all, but over at Fox News, Uma Thurman’s baby daughter’s mouthful of a name is far and away leading a poll for 2012’s Dumbest Celebrity Baby Name. (For the record, I voted for Moroccan Scott Cannon based solely on his inclusion in a 2012 year-end list, when he was born in April of 2011.) Thurman’s daughter, born July 15th of this year to the actress and her Swiss financier boyfriend Arpad Busson – father to Elle MacPherson’s sons Arpad (Flynn) and Aurelius (Cy) – Uma’s third child was named Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson, called Luna.

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Arrow – Name or Not?

November 30, 2012 § 23 Comments

Stephen Amell stars as Arrow on the CW's new hit show.

Stephen Amell stars as Arrow on the CW’s new hit show.

Earlier this week, Las Vegas-based rock musicians Aja Volkman and Dan Reynolds announced the August birth of their daughter, and they named her Arrow Eve. I was intrigued. Unfortunately, in the interview where Aja announced her daughter’s birth, she didn’t explain the name choice, and I wish she had. Certainly, any time a name seems to come from left field, I want to know the story.

And I want to know what you guys think – is this a name of the future, or just another inaccessible celebrity baby name?

Arrow, to be sure, is not a traditional name choice, by a wide margin. But I was struck by its similarity to trendy or traditional selections like Harlow, Arlo, even Aaron or Ari. We know that names that sound like established favourites often rise as viable alternatives to names deemed “too popular.” But perhaps Arrow is too far removed from these other trendy choices. Still, what strikes me most about Arrow is its distinct unisex qualities. While Arrow Eve is a beautiful combination, Arrow would be just as acceptable (or ultimately not) on a baby boy. Indeed, the people of the Internet appear to agree: the majority of online references to the name appear to be for boys.

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About A Name: Malala (and Malalai)

October 16, 2012 § 4 Comments

EDIT (2016): Name Station reader Nabi has given an education on the name which must be shared. In the comments below she says, “This name is Malalai not Malala. It is a Pakhto (Pashto) name originally from Afghanistan. The Actual name is (Ma Lalai) means (My Darling). The word (malal) is actually a Farsi word meaning grieved and that is not a name but people shortened the name Malalai to “malal” which has changed the whole meaning.”

Thank you, Nabi. So, Malala’s name is Farsi meaning grief-stricken, while Malalai (sometimes Malala) is Pashto, and means “as sweet as honey.” The rest of the orginal post must be read with this addendum in mind.

~*~*~

In the past week, no name has trended more than Malala – as in 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai, a young Pakistani activist for women’s rights in her native country. Specifically, Yousufzai is a vocal advocate for the rights of Muslim women in Pakistan to receive an education without fear of persecution from the Taliban. Her name began trending worldwide last week, after she was shot in the head by Taliban insurgents on her way to school in Pakistan’s picturesque Swat Valley, and it continues to trend while she fights for her life at a hospital in Birmingham, England.

Young Malala, who at twelve was penning a blog for the BBC and dreams of becoming a doctor, at a young age chose to fight, with words, the very people the world has come to know as terrorists against Judeo-Christianity and femininity. Pakistan awarded her the National Peace Prize last year, when she was just 13. But Malala never seemed like a reluctant hero though she knew the dangers sincerely. At fourteen, I was concerned with boys and boy bands, counting down the years until I could finally leave school behind! I could never, ever hope to have the courage and strength of Malala, for I have never known true struggle – I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth compared to the millions of young women born into societies where people choose not to recognize their human rights so violently.

Malala’s attempted assassination has seemingly awakened a renewed sense of anger towards the Taliban within her native country, but Malala’s story, her impact, and her influence are not yet complete. Today, we dive into a name with little to no popularity beyond the Pakistani-Afghan region west of India, but what a lovely name it is, with such strong and powerful connotations.

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About A Name: Romy

October 5, 2012 § 15 Comments

Romy Schneider

Aside from Rafael, there’s another R name I’ve been seeing a lot of lately – this one for the girls and much more notable in the English-speaking world. Romy has been bestowed on four celebrity babies so far in 2012, a spike in use after languishing in the wings for decades – always well-liked, but never exceptionally popular. Are Romy’s fortunes changing?

The name Romy is of Latin origin, a diminutive of Rosemary, which means “dew of the sea.” The lovely picture brings nature to mind, and retains a refined quality despite it’s nickname origins. Romy is also considered a cousin name to Roma, an Italian name which first found use in the late 19th Century, perhaps en vogue to the ancient city of Rome, named Roma by Evander in his daughter’s honour. Romy has been particularly popular in Germany in the second half of the 20th Century.

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About A Name: Ginger (or, Would You Crowdsource a Baby Name?)

October 3, 2012 § 3 Comments

It’s been a bit of a big week for trendiness in baby names. There’s Marissa Mayer, new CEO at Yahoo!, who is crowd-sourcing baby name suggestions for her new son, born Sunday night. This, of course, goes well and truly against most traditional naming advice, which encourages parents to pick alone, because they have to love a name, and live with a name, more than Joe in Accounting or even Granny in Boston. But as one article points out, we are social beings. If we’re willing to share what we ate for breakfast with the universe (coffee and a bagel with cream cheese – you’re welcome), why wouldn’t we want to share one of the most monumental moments, and make others feel connected to our moment, with something as participatory as crowd-sourcing? Would you get family or friends’ suggestions before selecting a name, or would you rather other people stay out of it?

Then, of course, the Food-as-Names trend is back in the spotlight, whether you like it or not, since the announcement of the birth of Drew Barrymore and Will Kopelman’s daughter on September 26th. Olive is, granted, among the least polarizing of all the ‘food names’ we’ve seen over the past decade or so, and it’s nothing we haven’t seen before (Sascha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher cornered most of the attention for this one when they had their first daughter five years ago), but it served as a reminder of the long list of Food-as-Names celebs and celeb kids who came before – from Apple Martin to Peaches Geldof and all the little Clementines, to even Maple Bateman, born this February).

While I’d rather not wade into the should you/shouldn’t you debate on the Food-as-Names trend itself, I would like to feature a Food Name that I recently spotted, which may not, at least not at first, look like a Food Name to you at all. Like Olive, Ginger has many layers and is not exclusively a food name, but in the name story, after the jump, which inspired this post, food was distinctly the inspiration behind its use.

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Hawaiian Names

October 1, 2012 § 10 Comments

Maui’s Napili Bay.

Kamakanaalohamaikalani.

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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About A Name: Raffi

September 29, 2012 § 3 Comments

(c) Raffi via Twitter

I’m sure that many of you are scoffing at this post. To some, the name Raffi is too weird, and to others, it’s just a nickname, not a real name. Truthfully, it’s both and neither all at the same time, but it might have some legs of late as trends go.

This August, upon the internationally-reported death of Kavna, a beluga whale at the Vancouver Aquarium, I discovered through Twitter that the whale, who lived in my backyard and whom I’d seen at the aquarium dozens of times, was the inspiration behind my all-time favourite children’s song, “Baby Beluga.” The classic known worldwide was written by Raffi Cavoukian, a Cairo-born Canadian folk singer-songwriter turned child activist of Armenian descent who has been regarded as the most well-known children’s performer in the English-speaking world. In my youth, the name Raffi was synonymous with him. His mother named him for the poet Raffi (born Hakob Melik Hakobian, Raffi was his pen name), one of the most important contributors to Armenian culture and identity in the 19th Century. A well-known phrase in Armenia states, “There are no Feddayines (Armenian freedom fighters) who have not read Raffi.”

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