Q: People love to pass judgment on baby names — everyone has an opinion. Your daughter Rainbow has an unusual name; did you have to deal with a lot of judgment there?
A: Oh, yeah. I got flooded with stupid commentary on social media. It’s definitely a unique name. I like unique names and I wouldn’t have picked it if were common. But, growing up, there was a girl in my class named Rainbow. I grew up in Oregon, where a lot of hippies went to start families. There was a girl at school named Rainbow, and I was so jealous and I wanted it to be my name. So it’s definitely unusual, but it’s a name. It’s not like I called her Coffee Table. People love to say, “That’s a stripper name.” But I’ve spent a lot of time in Vegas and strippers aren’t named Rainbow. They’re named Amber, Crystal and Jessica.
Joady Guthrie was named for Tom Joad, the hero of John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” because his father, himself a political activist and an Oklahoman, or “Okie,” was sympathetic to the plight of 1930s farmers of the Great Depression. Many of Woody Guthrie’s songs championed Dust Bowl migrant workers and working people.
The seven-week-old two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus), born to second-time parents Marilyn and Leander, needed a helping hand when his mum stopped producing milk, and was unable to care for her infant.
Keepers have named the young male Edward after Johnny Depp’s famous character, Edward Scissorhands, due to his impressive claws – which will grow up to four inches in length and enable him to cling on and climb easily through the tree-top branches of his Rainforest Life home.
The truth is that the obsession with word magic and names is a primitive one, inherently irrational. Names are notional. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet–or as rancid, depending; a mountain by its older name is just as tall. Yet the desire to remedy the wrongs of the past by righting our nomenclature is a deep one, and it burns on. Word magic it may be, and no more than that, but we believe in magic, and we think in words.
Nothing depends on names. The rock will not get an inch taller or shorter or changed in nature depending on what we call it. If Ohioans want to keep calling it Mount McKinley, let them, and let them take a place of pride along with those who are fighting to keep Pluto called a planet. We are not slaves of our tongues. But we are citizens of our languages. Choosing names is a way of expressing emotions. The things of this world can exist with as many names as we choose to give them, and the biggest among them can take on many identities without getting any smaller.
Erfolgswelle [a baby-naming company in Switzerland] has a business not just because there are people in the world with $31,000 lying around to finance its services, but because there can be a game-theory component to baby-naming. While some parents choose traditional names for their kids, and many others choose family names, and many others choose names that have been lifted from pop culture…many other new parents seek unusual names that, they hope, will help their kids stand out rather than fit in. As the sociologist Philip Cohen put it, exploring the precipitous decline of the name Mary in recent years, “Conformity to tradition has been replaced by conformity to individuality.”
(Thank you to commenter Pernille for making sure I saw this one!)
Mr. Pinckney’s late mother, Theopia Stevenson Aikens, was a baseball fan who named her son after Roberto Clemente, the Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star, who had died in a plane crash seven months earlier while delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, family members said. His last name, one of the most stories in South Carolina politics, is that of a pair of white slaveholding cousins who signed the United States Constitution.
From a comment about Vietnamese names by reader Pham Quang Vinh in Viet Nam News:
Vietnamese address other compatriots by their first name, not by their family name like other peoples in the world and always call it in Vietnamese way, which means they will pronounce the last syllable of the longer full name for addressing that person.
For example, if a person is named Nguyen Manchester United, everybody will know he comes from the Nguyen family and no matter what follows Nguyen, including a middle name or addressed name or not, it must be translated and spoken in Vietnamese way and will become something like man-chet-to-diu-nai-tit, so, people will call him Tit.
Nobody cares about what lies before the “Tit” in his full name. If he is stopped by a policeman on the street, he would be called “Anh (Brother) Tit” or “Ong (Mister) Tit.”
According to data from Malta’s National Statistics Office, the most popular name-groups in Malta in 2014 were Elena/Elenia/Helena/Ella and Luke/Luca/Lucas.
Here are Malta’s top 10 girl and boy name-groups of 2014:
Elena/Elenia/Helena/Ella, 97 baby girls
Maria/Marija/Mariah/Marie, 37 [tie]
Anna/Hannah/Ann, 37 [tie]
Luke/Luca/Lucas, 98 baby boys
Liam/William, 51 [tie]
John/Jean/Jonathan/Juan/Gan, 51 [tie]
Kaiden/Kayden/Kai ,46 [tie]
Alexander/Alessandro/Alec, 46 [tie]
Down in 15th place on the boys’ side is “Yannick/Yan” — both are versions of John, and yet they’re not part of the John group, which is tied for 6th.
Speaking of strange things…
The current Maltese birth registration system does not allow for Maltese fonts, which essentially means that names with ċ such as Ċikku or Ċensa; with a ġ such as Ġorġ or Ġanna; and with a ż such as Liża or Ġużi, are out – or at least will be recorded without the essential dots which distinguish the Maltese phonetical sound.
I’ve seen governments (e.g., NWT, California) make excuses about not being able to render minority/ethnic names properly on birth certificates, but I’ve never heard of a country that couldn’t render names from its own national language.
Malta’s top baby names of 2013 came out a few weeks ago.
According to data from the National Statistics Office, the most popular name-groups last year were Elena/Elenia/Helena/Ella and Luke/Luca/Lucas.
Here are Malta’s top 20 girl name-groups and top 20 boy name-groups of 2013:
Elena/Elenia/Helena/Ella, 106 baby girls (5.5% of all girls)
Eliza/Elisa/Elizabeth/Elise, 78 (4.0%)
Julia/Yulia/Julianne, 69 (3.6%)
Emma/Emmanuela/Ema, 51 (2.6%)
Maya/Mia/Myah, 47 (2.4%)
Maria/Marija/Mariah/Marie, 42 (2.2%)
Lea/Leah/Leia, 37 (1.9%)
Martina/Martine, 36 (1.9%)
Christina/Christa/Christabel/Krystle, 35 (1.8%)
Kailey/Kai/Kaleigh, 34 (1.8%)
Catherine/Katrina/Kate/Katya, 34 (1.8%)
Emilia/Emily/Emelie, 34 (1.8%)
Amy/Aimee, 32 (1.6%)
Anna/Hannah/Ann, 31 (1.6%)
Mikela/Makaila/Michelle, 27 (1.4%)
Alison/Alice/Alicia/Alyssa/Aly, 27 (1.4%)
Sophia/Sophie, 26 (1.3%)
Jade/Giada, 22 (1.1%)
Alexandra/Alessia/Alexia/Lexi, 22 (1.1%)
Aaliyah/Alaya, 21 (1.1%)
Chloe/Khloe, 20 (1.0%)
Amber/Amberley, 20 (1.0%)
Karla/Carla/Carly, 20 (1.0%)
Jasmine/Yasmine/Yasmeen, 17 (0.9%)
Nina, 17 (0.9%)
Faith, 17 (0.9%)
Hailey/Hailee/Hayleigh, 16 (0.8%)
Nicole/Nicola/Nicky, 14 (0.7%)
Rachel/Raquel, 14 (0.7%)
Keira/Kyra, 14 (0.7%)
Claire/Clara/Clarisse, 14 (0.7%)
Luke/Luca/Lucas, 106 baby boys (5% of all boys)
Matthew/Matthias/Matteo, 93 (4.4%)
Jacob/Jake, 70 (3.3%)
Zachary/Zak/Zack, 56 (2.6%)
John/Jean/Jonathan/Juan/Gan, 53 (2.5%)
Michael/Miguel/Mikhail, 53 (2.5%)
Andrew/Andreas/Andre/Andy, 46 (2.2%)
Kaiden/Kayden/Kai, 45 (2.1%)
Alexander/Alessandro/Alec, 45 (2.1%)
Aiden/Ayden, 43 (2.0%)
Liam/William, 42 (2.0%)
Nicholas/Nick/Nicolai, 41 (1.9%)
Benjamin/Ben, 40 (1.9%)
Daniel/Dan/Danil, 33 (1.5%)
Isaac/Izaak, 32 (1.5%)
Mason/Maison, 32 (1.5%)
Jack/Jackson/Jacques, 30 (1.4%)
Jaden/Jayden/Jadon, 29 (1.4%)
Thomas/Tommas/Tommy, 29 (1.4%)
Nathan/Nathaniel, 28 (1.3%)
Julian/Julien/Guiliano, 27 (1.3%)
Gabriel/Gabrijel/Gabryl, 24 (1.1%)
Adam, 24 (1.1%)
Joseph/Beppe/Giuseppe/Josef, 23 (1.1%)
Noah, 23 (1.1%)
James/Jamie/Jayme, 22 (1.0%)
Samuel/Sam, 22 (1.0%)
Keiran/Kyran, 22 (1.0%)
Some of the unusual names registered in Malta last year were Aizley, Amporn, Breeze, Chinenye, Coco, Delson, Diyas, Enonima, Freedom, Gundula, Jaceyrhaer, Kobbun, Limoni, Love, Netsrik, Summer, Symphony, Zarkareia and Zveyrone.
Malta’s 2012 list was topped by Eliza/Lisa/Elsie/Elyse/Bettina and Matthew/Matthias/Matteo.
Vicki Betts, a librarian at the University of Texas, put together a neat list of female names using the 1860 census records for Smith County, Texas.
Here’s some background information, per Vicki:
Ninety per cent of the people had emigrated to the county within the preceding ten years, 95.8% born in the states of the future Confederacy, 1.8% in the border states, 1.6% in northern states, and 0.8% in foreign countries. Therefore, these name should be fairly representative of Southern female names in general, with the exception of Alamo, Texas, Texana, etc.
And now the names! Here are the names that appeared most frequently on the 1860 Smith County census: