How popular is the baby name Celestine in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Celestine.
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I’m sure Citrine and Kyanite won’t be the last of the names in this category to emerge in the data, though, because there are just so many other nicely-named minerals and rocks out there. Some examples…
Agate: a banded, colored quartz with a name that happens to look and sound similar to Agatha.
Alexandrite: a color-changing variety of chrysoberyl named after Alexander II of Russia. It’s one of the birthstones for June.
Ametrine: a type of quartz with zones of purple and yellow/orange; a mix of amethyst and citrine.
Carnelian: a red variety of quartz. Its name can be traced back to the Latin word conus, the name of a type of berry.
Peridot: a green gemstone with a name of unknown origin. It’s the birthstone for August.
Selenite: a type of gypsum. Its name comes from the ancient Greek word for “moon,” selene. (If you’ve ever watched metaphysical content on YouTube, you’ve probably seen a selenite wand before…)
Tourmaline: a gem that comes in a wide variety of colors. It’s one of the birthstones for October.
Which gem/mineral/rock name do you think we’ll spot next in the U.S. baby name data?
A lot of people don’t know that Beyoncé is my last name. It’s my maiden name. My name was Celestine Beyoncé, which, at that time, was not a cool thing, to have that weird name.
But, all of us have a different spelling. I think me and my brother, Skip, were the only two that had B-E-Y-O-N-C-E.
And, it’s interesting — and it shows you the times — because we asked my mother when I was grown, I was like, ‘Why is my brother’s name spelled B-E-Y-I-N-C-E?’
[M]y mom’s reply to me was like, ‘That’s what they put on your birth certificate.’
So I said, ‘Well, why didn’t you argue and make them correct it?’
She said, ‘I did one time, the first time, and I was told: ‘Be happy that you’re getting a birth certificate.” Because, at one time, Black people didn’t get birth certificates. They didn’t even have a birth certificate. Because it meant that you really didn’t exist, you know, you weren’t important. It was that subliminal message.
And so I understood that that must have been horrible for her, not to even be able to have her children’s names spelled correctly.
So it was an odd name, it was a weird name, and they were like, ‘How dare you have a French name.’ Like, ‘We’re gonna screw this up real good for you.’ And that’s what they did. So we all have different spellings.
[I]n the 1920 census, 99% of all men with the first name of Booker were black, as were 80% of all men named Perlie or its variations. We found that the fraction of blacks holding a distinctively black name in the early 1900s is comparable to the fraction holding a distinctively black name at the end of the 20th century, around 3%.
[W]e found that names like Alonzo, Israel, Presley and Titus were popular both before and after emancipation among blacks. We also learned found that roughly 3% of black Americans had black names in the antebellum period – about the same percentage as did in the period after the Civil War.
But what was most striking is the trend over time during enslavement. We found that the share of black Americans with black names increased over the antebellum era while the share of white Americans with these same names declined, from more than 3% at the time of the American Revolution to less than 1% by 1860.
Middle names provide an opportunity for people to shift identities throughout their life: the author George Sand wrote that her mother, who had “three baptismal names,” used each of them at various points throughout her life. Pablo Picasso was baptized with a string of more than a dozen names and though, like many people with multiple names, he wasn’t known by all of them, he did test out different combinations: initially signing paintings as P. Ruiz, then trying P. Ruiz Picasso before sticking with Picasso.
Three essential parts made a human in the Inuit view: body, soul, and name. A nameless child was not fully human; giving it a name, whether before or after birth, made it whole. Inuit did not have family surnames. Instead, each person’s name linked him or her to a deceased relative or family friend.
Is this reincarnation? Elders point out that it is not, for it is not the soul, but rather the spiritual element that is the name — the name-soul — that joins the child, remaining with him and protecting him throughout his life.
(The word in the book’s title, uqalurait, refers to a type of snowdrift with a tip that resembles a tongue (uqaq). It’s a pun because the word for “tongue” in inuttitut (the Canadian dialect of inuktitut) is also the word for “language” — very fitting for a book of oral history.)
From a Bon Appetit article about a particular dijon mustard product:
I mostly love Rich Country because…it’s called Rich Country, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a pretty unnecessarily epic name for a condiment. It sounds like the next great Rick Ross album. Or a Keith Urban-themed Southern waterpark. Or a new bourbon endorsed by a retired pro-wrestler. But it’s not! It’s mustard. And it’s helped to clarify for me that I want my condiments to do more than simply enhance the taste of food I’m preparing—I want them to enhance my life, to spark joy every time I pull them out of the fridge. Indeed, every time I reach for my new favorite mustard, I can’t help but whisper the name aloud as if I were starring in a commercial for it—R-r-r-r-iiiiiiich Coooooountry—and laugh out loud while I’m making lunch. (This could be the quarantine brain talking, but still. It’s the little things, people.)
On August 21, the United States will see its first coast-to-coast solar eclipse since 1918. If you’re planning to have (or conceive!) a baby around the time of the eclipse, you might be interested in a name that marks the event (but that perhaps isn’t as obvious as Eclipse itself).
So what are your options?
Names with “celestial” associations
A solar eclipse involves the alignment of three celestial bodies — the sun (a star), the moon, and the Earth — in the sky. You could use a name that is associated in some way with one of these elements, such as…
The main event, from an Earthling’s perspective, is the darkening of the sun thanks to the moon getting in the way and casting its shadow over us. You could use a name associated in some way with darkness, such as…
I think Blake and Sullivan are particularly intriguing choices.
The English surname Blake can come from either of two similar Middle English words that happen to have opposite definitions: blac, meaning “black,” or blac, meaning “wan, pale, white, fair.” So it manages to encapsulate the concepts of both darkness and lightness — two key elements of an eclipse.
And the Irish surname Sullivan, “descendant of Súileabhán,” is based on the Gaelic personal name Súileabhán, meaning “little dark eye” — which sounds a lot like a poetic description of an eclipse.
Name combos with both “celestial” and “dark” associations
You could combine some of the “celestial” and “dark” names above to get something more specific, like…
Layla Soleil: “night” and “sun”
Jett Samson: “black” and “sun”
Ciaran Sol: “black” and “sun”
Melanie Stella: “dark” and “star” (“Dark Star” is also a Grateful Dead song)
Luna Zillah: “moon” and “shadow” (“Moon Shadow” is also a Cat Stevens song)
Names (or name combos) featuring the letters “S” and “E”
This is as inconspicuous as it gets. Commemorate the solar eclipse simply by using the letters “S” and “E” in combination. You could choose a single name that starts with “Se-,” like…
Sela Selene (“moon” in Greek) Selma Seraphina Seren (“star” in Welsh) Serenity
Sean Sebastian Sefton Sergio Seth Severino
Or, you could use a pair of names that start with “S-” and “E-,” such as…
Sabrina Eden Sydney Elise Sarah Evangeline Susanna Elizabeth
Simon Elijah Spencer Ellis Shane Everett Samuel Edward
Which of the above names (or combos) do you like most? What other solar eclipse-themed ideas would you add to this list?
Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
A cool post on the 14 most “poisoned” baby names by data scientist Hilary Parker reminded me that I haven’t yet written about the demise of the baby name Hillary. (Or Hilary. Or Chelsea.)
So let’s travel back to 1992 for a minute.
In mid-July, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was selected as the Democratic candidate for the presidency. His wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea were now in the national spotlight.
In early November, Bill managed to beat Republican incumbent George H. W. Bush to become the 42nd president of the United States. Hillary and Chelsea would now stay in the national spotlight.
And in late November, a few weeks after the election, the Miami Herald printed this:
Now that the Clinton women are set to move into the White House, both names are becoming more popular among new parents.
For the first time, Chelsea has cracked the top 10 list of the most popular girl names in Florida. Name expert Leonard R. N. Ashley, a Brooklyn College professor, said he expects Hillary to also catch on.
The popularity of Chelsea, on the rise long before the presidential pre-teen made her Democratic convention appearance, is likely to get a boost from the first family pedigree, Ashley said.
The “name expert” got it wrong, of course.
Hillary did not catch on. Nor did Chelsea. Both names had been on the rise, but usage dropped significantly after 1992. Here’s the data:
1995: 310 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 686th]
1994: 408 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 566th]
1993: 1,064 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 261st]
1992: 2,521 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 132nd]
1991: 1,789 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 166th]
1990: 1,524 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 192nd]
That’s a 58% drop from 1992 to 1993. Hillary fell so low that it got pushed out of the top 1,000 entirely for two years (2002 and 2003).
1995: 125 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 1,326th]
1994: 145 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 1,210th]
1993: 343 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 651st]
1992: 1,170 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 234th]
1991: 1,149 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 242nd]
1990: 1,216 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 232nd]
A 71% drop from 1992 to 1993. Hilary was out of the top 1,000 by 1994 and hasn’t been back since. (Hilary Parker says the name Hilary is “clearly the most poisoned.”)
1995: 6,760 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 47th]
1994: 7,717 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 38th]
1993: 11,288 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 25th]
1992: 16,174 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 15th]
1991: 13,511 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 18th]
1990: 12,782 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 24th]
The drop here isn’t as dramatic — just 30% — but Chelsea was out of the top 100 by 1999. It currently ranks 222nd.
Why did the name Hillary slip after Hillary Clinton became a fixture in the White House?
Because she violated gender norms — that’s my guess.
Hillary Clinton was a new kind of First Lady. She was a lawyer, a businesswoman, a scholar and an activist. She was the first First Lady with an earned (vs. honorary) post-graduate degree, and the first to have her own professional career.
But, instead of being praised for her intelligence and ambition, she was criticized for it.
Just two months after the inauguration, Anna Quindlen of the New York Times made note of the double standard:
Maybe some of our daughters took notice of how Hillary Clinton was seen as abrasive, power-hungry and unfeminine when to some of us she seemed merely smart, outspoken and hard-working. Maybe they saw the masquerade and recognized intuitively the age-old message about how much more attractive women are when they are domestic, soft, contented, the message aimed over the years at Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, Eleanor Roosevelt and many, many others.
To expectant parents, it didn’t matter that Hillary Clinton was smart and successful. They began avoiding the name Hillary in 1993 because the First Lady — the most high-profile Hillary in the nation — was making her name seem “unfeminine.”