Every year about 1,000 new baby names are approved in Germany according to Gabriele Rodríguez, a member of the Namenberatungsstelle (Names Advisory Board) of the University of Leipzig in Saxony. She says immigration and parental creativity are the two driving forces behind this growing diversity.
The new names introduced by immigrant/refugee communities tend to be Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish and Persian. Rodríguez notes that over time some of these foreign names end up sounding rather ordinary. Jasmin, for example, is a Persian name so common in Germany that it’s now “perceived as a German name.”
The other new names are unusual selections submitted by native German parents. Some of these nontraditional names don’t make it through the vetting process — those that might cause a child embarrassment (like “Superman, Wikileaks, Woodruff”) are not approved — but many do end up on German birth certificates, including:
Manjana (based on the Spanish word mañana, meaning “tomorrow”)
Prinz-Gold (Prince Gold)
Schnuckelpupine (schnukel means “sweetheart” or “darling” in German)
From “The Eyes Have It,” an interview with Orange Is the New Black actress Uzoamaka “Uzo” Aduba, who was asked whether she ever considered changing her name:
When I started as an actor? No, and I’ll tell you why. I had already gone through that. My family is from Nigeria, and my full name is Uzoamaka, which means “The road is good.” Quick lesson: My tribe is Igbo, and you name your kid something that tells your history and hopefully predicts your future. So anyway, in grade school, because my last name started with an A, I was the first in roll call, and nobody ever knew how to pronounce it. So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, “Why?” I said, “Nobody can pronounce it.” Without missing a beat, she said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”
“I’d been living as Eva my whole life until I found out my name was Evangeline Cinderella. Of course this was the most amazing news as a seven year old girl and unfortunately I told everybody. I’ve paid for it ever since. People have always remembered,” she said.
To consult this list [the SSA’s Change in Popularity list] is to dip your toe into the fetid waters of cheesy celebrity worship. Consider this: One of the skyrocketing names is … “Anakin.” Yes, people are giving their baby boys a name invented specifically to sound non-human, for a character in another galaxy far, far away, one who grows up to become Darth Vader, an evil overlord who wants to enslave the universe. (There have been plenty of Darths, too.)
From the video “Instrument: Celeste” featuring keyboardist Elizabeth Burley of the Philharmonia Orchestra of London:
I’ve got a celeste here today to show you how that works. As you’ll see it looks a little bit like an upright piano, but it’s actually a lot different. Although it’s operated by a keyboard, inside, instead of strings, it’s a set of…metal chime bars. They’re suspended over wooden resonating boxes, and when I press a key, a hammer hits the chime bar to make the sound, like on a piano the hammer would hit the string. The name celeste…it’s a French name meaning “heavenly,” and it does make a very heavenly sound, as you’ll hear.
With her buttoned-up style, work with the UN, and name like a plucky character in a certain English wizard series, Delia Derbyshire may not seem a likely pioneer of experimental electronic music.
From the blog post “What’s in a Name?” by theology professor/social activist Rev. Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre:
Today, no one calls me Brother Mike. Nonetheless, if the first act of liberation is self naming, why do I still insist on spelling my surname the way those who had power over me taught me? I have no doubt the reader is probably wondering what’s the big deal? Just spell my name correctly. What they fail to recognize is the power of the colonizing process, and the difficulty to reclaim identity. So as I tag my name to my liberationist works I am reminded with each upper case letter how far I still need to go to claim my own liberation. The struggle, la lucha, continues, even in the letters of my name.
At Sprinklr, our conference rooms are named after the company’s values. Honesty, Passion, Perseverance, Humility, Character, Courage, and Integrity are just some of the names you will encounter. My personal favorites are Awesomeness and 1+1=3. When I asked our founder, Ragy Thomas, why the leadership team chose to name conference rooms in this way, he said: “It would be kind of hard to be arrogant in a room named Humility, wouldn’t it? Or give up in a room named Perseverance, don’t you think?”
Then in the 1960’s, a furor erupted over the first name Tessa, which resembled tisse, which means to urinate in Danish. Distressed over the lack of direction in the law, the Danish government expanded the statute to grapple with first names. Now the law is as long as an average-size book.
Among the baby names rejected in Denmark: Anus, Pluto, and Monkey. Among those accepted: Leica, Benji, Jiminico, and Fee.
Which boy names increased and decreased the most in popularity from 2013 to 2014?
Below are two versions of each list. My version looks at raw number differences and takes all 13,977 boy names on the 2014 list into account. The SSA’s version looks at ranking differences and covers the top 1,000 boy names (roughly).
Here’s what the SSA says about the rise of Bode: “[It] might have had something to do with the Winter Olympics in early 2014, where Bode Miller continued his outstanding alpine skiing career by collecting his sixth Olympic medal.”
And on the rise of Axl: “[It’s] a nod to both rock legend Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses and Axl Jack Duhamel, son of Stacy Ann “Fergie” Ferguson and Josh Duhamel.”
Jase, last year’s biggest raw number increase, is now 8th on the list of decreases. Mason, which topped the list of raw number increases two years in a row (2010 and 2011), is now 18th on the list of decreases. (It was 3rd in 2013.) And Jayden, the trendy name that shot up the charts to become the 4th most popular baby name in the nation in 2010 and 2011, has since fallen to 15th.
Finally, here are the big winners and losers from the last few years:
2013: Jase/Jayceon (biggest increases) and Ethan/Austyn (biggest decreases)
2012: Liam/Major (biggest increases) and Jacob/Braeden (biggest decreases)
2011: Mason (biggest increase) and Jacob (biggest decrease)
2010: Mason (biggest increase) and Joshua (biggest decrease)
Every generation’s baby names are the refuse of terrible literature. It is a tradition of long standing.
Maybe it’s not so bad. This is one of the major incentives to write fiction: to take up residency in the minds of others, to make your story a part of their stories, to run into crops of little Anakins at recess or drive the name Joffrey to extinction, all through the power of your storytelling.
The generic name “Pol” for a parrot can be traced back to England since at least the early 1600s. In his 1606 comedy Volpone, Renaissance playwright — and close friend of William Shakespeare — Ben Jonson assigned many of the characters animal personas which reflected their true nature.
Two comic relief-type characters, Sir Politic Would-Be (“Sir Pol” for short) and his wife, are visitors from England who are trying to ingratiate themselves into Venetian society, and they do so by simply mimicking the words and behavior of Volpone and his associates. Because of their endearing ignorance of what they are actually saying when they repeat phrases they’ve learned, Jonson describes them as parrots.
It is unclear whether Jonson actually coined the term “Pol” as a catch-all moniker for parrots, or if he simply popularized it. In any case, indulgent British pet owners eventually turned “Pol” into the much cutesier diminutive “Polly,” and both names made their way across the Atlantic.
In an ideal world, the baby’s name is between my husband and me, and it shouldn’t bother me what other people think about it. I’ve shared with family and close friends the name(s) we’re thinking about, and gotten mixed reviews. Which is fine. I asked because I value their opinions.
But I’m already a hormonal mess most days. I just don’t want to hear from an acquaintance that she used to know a kid with my favorite baby name who grew up to be a meth dealer, or from a stranger at the grocery store who had an extremely overweight uncle with the same name “but he was a really nice person.”
Jeremiah and Carrie Rosson of Kellyville chose the name Elijah Gust for their 17-month-old because of its biblical roots and because the weather-influenced middle name paired well with their four-year-old son Josiah Thunder’s name.
“There is a verse in the 2 Kings that says Elijah was swept up in a gust,” Jeremiah Rosson said of the inspiration for their younger son’s name.
(Hundreds of baby boys in the U.S. have been named Thunder, btw.)
From the book Germaine Greer: Untamed Shrew by Christine Wallace:
In the autumn of 1938 came the first conception. Peggy’s pregnancy was easy, with little more than queasiness. But the labor was long and difficult. The baby, a girl, was bruised around the head from the traumatic delivery and arrived in floods of blood as Peggy hemorrhaged from a retained placenta. The baby was named Germaine, with no middle initial to interrupt the elegant alliteration with Greer. According to Peggy, it was the name of a minor British actress she found in an English magazine Reg had brought home from work. In Germaine’s version, her mother was reading George Sand’s The Countess of Rudolstadt when she fell pregnant, and drew the name from one of its characters, the Comte de Saint-Germain — `because she liked the sound of it, I reckon.’ It was the height of the last Australian summer before the war: 29 January 1939.
From the book Descendants of David McWhirter and Mary Posten (Vol. 1) by Patricia Lynn Petitt:
Alexander, the eldest son, died at the age of twenty-two, before he had graduated from Princeton. About two months after his death another son was born to Hugh and Jean. This baby was named “Alexander” after his deceased brother, but his name was not allowed to bespoken in the family until he was several months old. This son became the Rev. Dr. Alexander McWhirter of Revolutionary fame.
No one can pronounce my name correctly. Most people think it’s “Shana” or “Chayna” or “Shanna.” It’s not hard, really: just say “Hannah,” only with a guttural ch sound, like “Chanukah.”
I was born in New Haven, Connecticut, to a pair of New Yorkers who did not want to give me a more ordinary American name like Jennifer or Jessica–names by which I now call almost all my female friends. As my parents intended, my name sets me apart from the mainstream. There has never been another Chana in my class (although a Harvard classmate spells it Hanna). This uniqueness made it harder to blend in when I was a preteen and wanted to disappear into a crowd. But now that I’m older and value individuality, I appreciate the merits of not being just another Mary or Susan.
My parents also wanted me to have a distinctly Jewish name, with a Hebrew pronunciation. Because of my name, my religion is one of the first things most people find out about me. So no one can ever call me a dirty Jew behind my back, as my mother explained to me years ago.