Some recent and not-so-recent baby names from the news…
Alie: A baby girl born in New York in December of 2018 was named Alie in honor of the Long Island Expressway (called the “L-I-E”), where she was born in a minivan on the side of the road. (Queens Daily Eagle)
Bale: A baby boy born in Wales in November of 2016 was named Bale in honor of Welsh soccer player Gareth Bale. Another boy born in Wales a month later was also named Bale for the same reason. (Wales Online; Wales Online)
Griezmann Mbappe: A baby boy born in France in November of 2018 was named Griezmann Mbappe in honor of French soccer players Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe. (Deadspin)
Italo: The first baby born in Rome in 2019 was named Italo, in honor of Italy. (His parents are Sri Lankan.) (Daily Mirror)
James Daniel: A baby boy born in Essex, England, in December of 2018 was named James Daniel after police officers James Ireland and Dan Bellingham, who’d helped the parents reach the hospital in time for the birth. (ITV)
Kongolose: A baby boy born in South Africa on January 8, 2018 (the 107th anniversary of the founding of the African National Congress political party) was named Siko Luka Khongolose — the second middle name being a “colloquial Zulu term for the African National Congress.” (TimesLIVE)
Liberty: A baby girl born in Texas in October of 2018 was named Liberty in honor of Texas Congressman Ron Paul. (The Gazette)
Mickey: A baby girl born in California in December of 2018 was named Zoele Mickey — middle name in honor of paramedic Mickey Huber, who’d helped her mother escape a wildfire and reach a medical center to give birth. (KRCR)
Mikkael: A baby boy born in Ohio in November of 2018 was named Henry Mikkael — middle name in honor of Dr. Mikkael Sekeres, who’d helped his mother overcome leukemia in 2012. (Fox)
Sierra: A baby girl born in Tennessee in November of 2018 was named Isabella Sierra-Marie — middle name in honor of Sierra Reprogal, the police officer who’d helped deliver her in a car on the side of the road. (Yahoo! News)
Skrot (rejected): A baby boy born in Sweden in September of 2018 was almost named Bjørn Skrot, but the Swedish government rejected the middle name (which means “scrap”) because it might “cause discomfort for the bearer.” (The Local)
Snow: The first baby born in Baltimore in 2019 was named Snow Violet Taylor. (WBAL)
My husband and I hung out in New Orleans for about 48 hours in mid-December. It rained almost the entire time, but we still managed to get out and spot a few interesting names!
First, an unexpected food name: Beignet (pron. ben-YAY), which literally means “bump” in French. In terms of food, it’s fried dough with sugar on top. In terms of names, though, it’s been bestowed as a middle at least three times, according to the records I’ve seen. These human Beignets were all girls born in the ’80s and ’90s in Texas and Oklahoma.
And finally, how about the name “New Orleans” itself? In the records I found dozens, including New Orleans Taylor, a 13-year-old girl living with her family in Louisiana at the time of the 1930 U.S. Census:
The unusual baby name Caresse saw its highest usage in the late ’80s and early ’90s (no doubt thanks to commercials for Caress soap, which was launched by Lever in 1985). But it debuted in the U.S. data way back in the 1940s:
1950: 5 baby girls named Caresse
1949: 7 baby girls named Caresse [debut]
Where did it come from?
The 1949 novel Dinner at Antoine’s by Frances Parkinson Keyes, which became one of the bestselling books in the United States that year. The story was also serialized in several newspapers.
It was murder mystery set in New Orleans; the “Antoine’s” of the title refers to the famous Antoine’s Restaurant. One of the characters, Caresse Lalande, was a radio star (her show was called Fashions of Yesteryear). She was also carrying on an affair with her sister’s husband, Léonce. When the sister (named Odile) ended up murdered, both Caresse and Léonce (and many other people in their circle) became suspects.
The name got even more exposure that year thanks to the Literary Guild Book Club, which ran ads that featured not just Dinner at Antoine’s, but Caresse specifically:
The French word Caresse (and also the English word Cherish) can be traced back to the Latin word carus, meaning “dear, costly, beloved.”
What do you think of the baby names Caresse and Caress? Would you use them?
Looking for a surname-inspired baby name with a connection to Catholicism?
Here are more than 200 options, most of which come from Catholic Englishmen martyred during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Because the goal was to include as many realistic baby names as possible, I interpreted “surname” and “saint” liberally in some cases. Xavier is not technically a surname, for instance, and many of the folks below are not yet full-fledged saints.
The hyperlinked names will take you to popularity graphs.
At first glance, Guillaume always looks like gobbledygook to me. It’s the French form of William — that much I know — but it takes a few seconds for me to remember that it’s pronounced ghee-ohm, not not gwill-awm or gwee-awm.
And it’s not just Guillaume that trips me up. I find many other French names (Étienne, Edwige, Anaïs, etc.) equally tricky to pronounce.
So for those of us who struggle with French names, here are some simplified rules of French pronunciation, plus names to illustrate each rule.
This list is far from comprehensive, and my pronunciations are just approximations, but hopefully my fellow non-French speakers out there will find it helpful nonetheless.
French Pronunciation + French Names
AU: The vowel combination “AU” is pronounced like a long o.
Paul, in French, is pronounced pohl.
Margaux, a French form of Margaret, is pronounced mar-goh.
CH: The letter combination “CH” is typically pronounced sh.
Charles, in French, is pronounced shahrl.
D, P, S, T, X, Z: The six consonants “D,” “P,” “S,” “T,” “X” and “Z,” when at the end of a word, are typically silent.
Arnaud, the French form of Arnold, is pronounced ar-noh.
Denis, the French form of Dennis, is pronounced de-nee (remember the Blondie song?).
Lucas, in French, is pronounced loo-kah.
Louis, in French, is pronounced loo-ee (think Louis Vuitton).
…They’re not always silent, though. Here are some exceptions:
Alois, the French form of Aloysius, is pronounced ah-loh-ees.
Anaïs, a French form of Anna, is pronounced ah-nah-ees.
David, in French, is pronounced dah-veed.
Ë: The pronunciation of “Ë” (E with a trema) is like the e in the English word “bet.”
Gaël and Gaëlle are pronounced gah-el or gai-el.
Joël and Joëlle are pronounced zhoh-el.
Maël and Maëlle are pronounced mah-el or mai-el.
Noël and Noëlle are pronounced noh-el.
É: The pronunciation of “É” (E with an acute accent) is somewhere between the ee in “see” and the e in “bet.”
Noé, the French masculine form of Noah, is pronounced noh-ee.
Salomé, in French, is pronounced sah-loh-mee.
G: The consonant “G” is soft (zh) when followed by “E” or “I” but hard (gh) otherwise.
Georges, the French form of George, is pronounced zhorzh.
Guy, in French, is pronounced ghee.
H: The consonant “H” is silent.
Hélène, the French form of Helen, is pronounced eh-lehn.
I: The vowel “I,” and the forms Ï, and Î, are all pronounced ee.
Loïc, a French form of Louis, is pronounced loh-eek.
J: The consonant “J” is pronounced zh.
Jacques, the French form of Jacob, is pronounced zhahk.
LL: The letter combination “LL” is typically pronounced like an l.
Achille, the French form of Achilles, is pronounced ah-sheel.
Lucille, the French form of Lucilla, is pronounced loo-seel.
…But in some cases “LL” is pronounced like a y.
Guillaume, the French form of William, is pronounced ghee-yohm or ghee-ohm.
OI: The vowel combination “OI” is pronounced wah.
Antoine, the French form of Antony, is pronounced an-twahn.
Grégoire, the French form of Gregory, is pronounced gre-gwahr.
OU: The vowel combination “OU” is pronounced oo.
Lilou is pronounced lee-loo.
R: The consonant “R,” when at the end of a word, is typically pronounced.
Clair, the French masculine form of Claire, is pronounced kler.
Edgar, in French, is pronounced ed-gahr.
…When the “R” is preceded by an “E,” though, it is not pronounced.
Gauthier, the French form of Walter, is pronounced goh-tee-yay or goh-tyay (remember Gotye?).
Olivier, the French form of Oliver, is pronounced oh-lee-vee-yay or oh-lee-vyay (think Laurence Olivier).
TH: The letter combination “TH” is typically pronounced like a t (which makes sense, since “H” is silent).
Thibault, the French form of Theobald, is pronounced tee-boh.
TI: The letter combination “TI” is sometimes pronounced like an s or sy.
Laëtitia is pronounced lay-tee-sya.
W: The consonant “W” is pronounced like a v.
Edwige, the French form of Hedwig, is pronounced ed-veezh.
And finally, just a few more French names that I tend to have trouble with.
Anatole is pronounced ah-nah-tohl.
Étienne, the French form of Stephen, is pronounced eh-tyen.
Geoffroy, the French form of Geoffrey, is pronounced zho-fwah.
Ghislain and Ghislaine are pronounced either ghee-len or zheez-len.
Ignace, the French form of Ignatius, is pronounced ee-nyas.
Those aren’t too hard, right?
That’s what I tell myself…and then I come across Guillaume in the wild and my mind goes blank all over again. :)
If you know French and would like to add to the above (either another rule of pronunciation or a more precise pronunciation for a particular name) please leave a comment.
If you’re not a French speaker, here’s my question: Which French name gives you the most trouble?