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/; Kevin Mazur/ via 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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Baby, You’re a Star!

April 10, 2012 § 1 Comment

In celebration of the birth of Sweden’s future Queen – Princess Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary, Duchess of Ostergotland on February 23rd in Stockholm, I was inspired to write a post in tribute to another theme we can’t get enough of in the naming world – the stars. And in case you’re wondering if you read my blog semi-regularly, yes, I love outer space.

The stars provide countless naming inspirations for us. First, there’s Estelle, which means “star” in Old French (a variation on Latin Estella that is nowhere near as overexposed these days as Stella). We love the word ‘star’ so much, we’ve gotten a little creative with it over the years – like Starlit, as chosen in captivity by California abduction victim Jaycee Dugard for her second daughter. Then there’s a multitude of names, like Orion, in honour of the ancient, storied constellations in our night sky.

The Swedish princess, the first future queen born to a future queen in Sweden’s history, and what she might be named, had been the source of speculation for months. And her birth may have been met with more fanfare stateside than it was, if William and Kate’s new puppy didn’t also get a name around the time of her birth! Nonetheless, Princess Estelle looks set to join a group of young females who are expected to one day be queen – Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway, Princess Elisabeth of Belgium, and Princess Catharina-Amalia of the Netherlands. The laws of primogeniture stand in the way for some, like Infantas Leonor and Sofia, daughters of Prince Felipe of Asturias, heir to the Spanish throne, but the laws continue to fall away, country by country – even William and Kate’s firstborn, no matter the sex, will become Britain’s future king or queen following a unanimous decision by Commonwealth leaders at a summit last fall.

Estelle is reputedly in honour of Estelle (nee Manville) Bernadotte, wife of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden’s ancestor Count Folke Bernadotte af Wisborg, a cousin to Victoria’s great-great-greandfather, King Gustaf V. Estelle Manville was the first American-born individual to marry a member of any European royal house on American soil, and she used her status as a countess to provide leadership and spread the work of the International Red Cross and, so very Kate Middleton of her, the Girl Scouts. (Or perhaps instead, it’s so very Estelle Bernadotte of the Duchess of Cambridge!) Estelle’s charitable endeavours continued long after Count Folke was assassinated in Israel in 1948 as a mediator for the United Nations following World War II, and Estelle Bernadotte was a beloved member of the Swedish Royal Family until her death in Uppsala in 1984.

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Is Maxwell the next Elliott?

April 8, 2012 § 2 Comments

Jessica Simpson may have let the speculation carry for weeks before she officially announced her first pregnancy last Halloween, but from that moment on, the singer and reality TV star has held nothing back discussing pregnancy or her baby-to-be. In her recent nude cover shoot for Elle, she told the magazine that the name she and fiance Eric Johnson had selected for their daughter, to be born later this month, was “non-traditional,” but not “out there.” She also ensured the name was set in stone, admitting that she was already having the baby’s name “embroidered on things.” (Done deal, then!)

So in that the name seems like a foregone conclusion, a source reportedly leaked their choice: Maxwell Johnson, to be called Maxi. Maxwell is Eric’s middle name and his grandmother’s maiden name, and Jessica’s been wearing an “M” necklace lately, so this rumour could prove true. But it’s not exactly a new trend, and I’m not the kind of blogger who balks anymore at the sight of a typically male name on a little girl – what got me was that actress Lindsay Sloane, once of Sabrina The Teenage Witch fame, beat Simpson to it in January when she welcomed daughter Maxwell Lue. Two girls named Maxwell in less than four months?

Maxi is fairly feminine (though it’s the name of reggae star Maxi Priest, a male who had a chart hit with rapper Shaggy, “That Girl,” and Argentinean footballer Maxi Lopez), and was the name of one of Barbie’s closest friends in the ’80s line-up of the dolls – Maxie was my personal favourite, in all her crimped-hair glory! Maxi also brings to mind a “maxi pad,” but I see this baby being colloquially referred to as just ‘Max’ quite often. After all, Simpson is often referred to simply as ‘Jess.’

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