I have a soft spot for word names with inspiring definitions. I love how they can often double as one-word mantras.
So here are five word names with two things in common. First, each one has appeared in the U.S. data within the last few years. And, second, each one has a definition pertaining to height or upward movement — which signifies, to me, motivating concepts like progress* and improvement.
Click the links to see the popularity graphs.
Summit means “peak” or “highest point.” It can be traced back to the Latin word summus, meaning “highest.”
Meridian can mean “highest point” by way of its literal meaning, “mid-day,” from the Latin word meridianum (medius, “middle,” plus dies, “day”). Mid-day is when the sun is at its highest point.
Zenith, in astronomy, refers to the point in the sky vertically above a given position and, by extension, means “peak” or “highest point.” The origin is an an Arabic phrase meaning “the way over the head.”
Crown can refer to the “top part” of various things (a head, a hill, a hat, an arch, etc.) by extension of its best-known definition, “royal headdress.”
Rise means “to move upwards.” It was derived from the Old English word risan, which essentially had the same meaning. (Don’t confuse Rise with Risë!)
Which of the above would you be most likely to use as a baby name? Can you think of any similar names you’d add to the list?
*Progress itself has been used as a name before — it popped up in Alberta data just recently — but it has yet to appear in the U.S. data.
I started posting on Instagram recently. Though I haven’t used the filters much, seeing them in the app reminded me of something: Babycenter.com claimed, back in late 2015, that Instagram filter names were influencing baby names. And the clickbaity claim was (of course) picked up by various media outlets: Time, People, Vanity Fair, US Weekly, TechCrunch, Mashable, etc.
But the BabyCenter.com folks (who still think Gollum is a baby name, amazingly) weren’t basing their claims on any sort of real-life baby name usage data. They were apparently just making assumptions based on their own website metrics.
In any case…it’s now 2019, and we do have access to usage data for 2015 (not to mention 2016, and 2017). So let’s use this data to determine whether or not their claim is true.
I analyzed the data for 44 names in total: 43 from filters — most current, several retired — plus the name “Lux,” which technically refers to a photo enhancement tool, not a filter. Zeroing in on usage from 2010 (the year Instagram was launched) to 2017, I noticed that…
28 filter names did not see higher usage as baby names:
20 had no SSA data to work with (1977, Crema, Charmes, Clarendon, Dogpatch, Early Bird, Gingham, Ginza, Hefe, Inkwell, Lo-Fi, Mayfair, Nashville, Poprocket, Skyline, Slumber, Stinson, Sutro, Toaster, X-Pro II)
So which, if any, of the 16 names above increased in usage because of Instagram?
Some of them, like trendy Hudson and Willow, were already on the rise by 2010. So it’s hard to know if these names were influenced at all by recent pop culture, let alone the app specifically. (Though that Juno-jump does seem significant.)
Others are associated with more than just a filter. Vesper was a Bond Girl, for instance, and Juno was a movie. So, even if Instagram was a factor, it was one of several. (BabyCenter.com’s original write-up from 2015 doesn’t even acknowledge this, e.g., “The Instagram-inspired name Lux…”)
In terms of filters actually influencing names, I think the strongest case can be made for Amaro. It wasn’t already on the rise in 2010, it did become more popular in the Instagram era, and the filter itself (as opposed to the Italian liqueur after which the filter was named) does seem to be the primary pop culture association these days.
On the other hand, Clarendon — despite being the first filter you see inside the app and, accordingly, the most-used filter overall — saw no corresponding uptick in usage on birth certificates, which is telling. (Though perhaps “Amaro” hits a stylistic sweet spot that “Clarendon” misses.)
My verdict? I’d say it’s possible that a handful of Instagram filters influenced real-life baby name usage…but I definitely wouldn’t declare that naming babies after filters was/is some sort of “hot trend,” as BabyCenter.com did.
What are your thoughts on all this? Have you ever met a baby named after an Instagram filter?
Here’s a good mystery name to post in September: September.
The name September — just like the name Staria from a couple of weeks ago — debuted in 1955 with 20 baby girls:
1958: 7 baby girls named September
1957: 24 baby girls named September
1956: 15 baby girls named September
1955: 20 baby girls named September [debut]
Where did it come from? I don’t know.
At first I thought the movie September Affair (or the associated song, “September Song”) might have something to do with it, but the timeline is off. Plus, I feel like September would need to be used as a character name (or a stage name?) to recast it as a potential baby name in the eyes of expectant parents.
But, as usual, word-names are particularly hard to figure out. The origins of Memory and Treasure are still obscure, for instance. (They’re not impossible to solve, though! Check out Rise, or Strange.)
Any ideas about what happened in 1955 (or late 1954) to make people see September as more than month name?
Comic actress ZaSu Pitts may be best remembered these days for her curious name.
How was it pronounced? Say-zoo.
This pronunciation may seem illogical given the placement of the consonants, and yet it’s what ZaSu herself said in her cookbook Candy Hits published in 1963 (the year she passed away).
The name ZaSu was invented by her mother. It was based upon the names of Zasu’s maternal aunts Eliza and Susan.
Many sources claim that ZaSu’s birth name was actually “Eliza Susan,” but all the records I’ve seen (going back to the 1900 U.S. Census) call her “Zasu” — or something pretty close. This makes me think that ZaSu wasn’t merely a nickname, but her actual legal name.
When she was a child, her peers (predictably) teased her about her unusual name, calling her things like “Zoo-Zoo,” “Zoo-Loo,” “Zay-Zoo,” “Jazz-Su,” “Hey You,” and “ZuZu Gingersnaps.”
Incidentally, her daughter (b. 1922) was legally named “ZaSu Ann,” but always called Ann.
Source: Stumpf, Charles. ZaSu Pitts: The Life and Career. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2010.