12 Popular Biblical Names for Boys from Pamela Redmond Satran; Halleluyah!

Wow! I can hardly believe my eyes. An article about the 12 most popular biblical names that provides relevant and interesting background information about 12 great names likely to be a plus for boys. There’s not a weird or off-putting name in the bunch! I strongly recommend this article to you. I found it on Huffington Post, but I’m sure it’s on Nameberry.com, too.

Has Pamela Redmond Satran gotten tired of reading my recent (critical) blog posts? Has she made a late resolution (one month into the new year)? It’s too soon to tell. So, I’ll restrain my celebration until I read her next few articles—to see if she focuses on charming, appealing names or goes back to recommending what she calls “unusual,” “never heard of” or “forgotten” names likely to annoy, embarrass, or subject children to teasing.

(I could never figure out how recommending weird, off-putting names could possibly be a successful strategy for her or Nameberry. Eventually her readers are going to turn elsewhere for better advice; and media like Huffington Post and daily newspapers will turn elsewhere for content that’s beneficial rather than harmful to children.)

Here’s a quick list of the biblical boys’ names she discusses in detail in her article: Jacob, Ethan, Noah, Michael, Daniel, Matthew, Elijah, James, Benjamin, Joshua, Andrew and David.

I hope you”ll click on the link I’ve provided to read her article. I also hope you will strongly consider these time-tested names for your baby. Keep in mind that biblical names provide positive role models for children and create the impression that they have strong values.

If Satran is going to be recommending great names (instead of questionable names), I’ll switch from criticizing her work to praising it. (I hope you realize that my criticism has always been focused on the questionable value of most of her recommendations.) I admire the books Satran and Rosenkrantz have written and assumed I would love their articles. I tend to like most of Rosenkrantz’s articles, but how wrong I was about Satran’s articles.

Satran seemed to be under the impression that she could search for “rarely used” or “abandoned” names and than announce to expecting parents that they were suddenly “cool”  or “worth considering” because she had mentioned them in an article. When you think about it, if she didn’t give the unwanted, abandoned names a “makeover” by changing their spelling, they would still have all the unattractive qualities that had caused 99.9% of American parents to reject them.

Writing about Satran’s attempts at “alchemy” has turned out to be both enlightening and entertaining for my readers–if not for hers. So if Pamela Redmond Satran has really “turned over a new leaf,” I’ll be happy to praise and promote the wonderful new articles she’ll be writing.

Dania Ramirez Gives Her Twin Boys Greek Mythological Names

When Dominican actress, Dania Ramirez, named her twin boys in December, she picked names from Greek mythology: Aether (the personification of rare air only Gods could breath) and Gaia (the goddess of the earth). The star of “Devious Maids” explained that Aether and Gaia “were actually siblings in Greek mythology. My 12-year-old stepson’s name is Kai, which means ocean, and we wanted to connect them all. So now we have water, earth and air.”

In concept it makes a fascinating story. But because I like to use celebrity baby names as “teaching opportunities,” permit me to mention a few issues with the names she and her husband John Beverly Amos Land picked: John Aether and Gaia Jisssel.

1)    I suggest that parents use thematically related names for siblings, especially in the case of twins. Naming one of them John Aether and the other Gaia Jissel doesn’t seem “well-balanced” to me, even though Ramirez said they won’t use the name John often.

2)    Giving one of the twins the name of a goddess also disturbs the balance of the naming process. The inequality would come across more clearly if she had named one of her sons Arthur and the other son Venus, because that’s, in effect, what she did.

3)    My guess is that most friends and family members probably won’t be familiar with either Gaia or Aether—whether they speak Spanish or English. Ditto for the children the twins meet in daycare. In that case, their names won’t win them warm welcomes from their classmates either in kindergarten or in college. Many people who meet them won’t know what to make of the Greek names.

In short, I’m impressed by the intellectuality of the Ramirez-Land name choices but I suspect that one or both boys will wind up with a nickname that’s a lot easier and more fun for them to use. Too bad Ramirez didn’t provide both boys with both Anglo and Spanish alternative options.

You may recall that Uma Thurman give her daughter five names, most of which were unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce. Six months later she decided to forget about those long, complicated names and call her daughter Luna. The Ramirez-Land twins may eventually wish they had different names, too.

My Forty-Five Minutes on CBC’s Maritime News

“Back in the day,” I used to do 100 to 200 radio interviews a year on the subject of baby names. Our publicity department would sent out letters to radio talent coordinators informing them that listeners would “light up their switchboards” with calls to chat with me about their names. And that’s exactly what happened.

Now I’ve got a blog called BabyNamesInTheNews.com. When a talk-radio station wants some excitement, they call or email to set up an interview and then we have some fun.

Today I talked to Phonse Jessum of “Maritime Noon” on CBC. The show covers three eastern provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. After listening to the local Maritime news, it was time for CBC listeners to pepper me with questions either by Twitter or call-in.

The Tweeters and callers weren’t trying to stump me; they were mainly wondering how they wound up with the names they did. And, in return, I was interested in what they could tell me about the experience of living with their names, including any problems the name might have caused.

When I told Phonse Jessum his name was a nickname for Alphonse (a German name that means “noble and eager”) he told me his grandfather had been named Alphonse and that his name was very often misspelled, because of the popularity of Fonzie (played by Henry Winkler) on “Happy Days.”

A caller named Jerry asked about the female name Shallen. I couldn’t find that name and mentioned it was similar to “Made in America” names like Shalena (the prefix “sha” + “lena”) used by African-Americans. I asked him where he found the name. He said he’d found it while watching a sci-fi TV show; apparently Shallen was the name of an alien. He said it has worked well for his daughter.  We briefly discussed the risk of making up names (because it’s hard to predict whether they will make a favorable or unfavorable impression). But the reward is: when your child has a unique name that works well for him or her, it’s nice “plus” for the child and for the parents who found the unique and charming name.

A caller mentioned a child named Sabette. I looked it up and couldn’t find anything like it—except for Sabra (a Hebrew name that means “thorny cactus fruit” and refers to a woman born in Israel who is reputed to be tough on the outside and soft on the inside) and Sabrina (a Latin name that means ‘boundary line” and an English name that means “princess.” That triggered a recollection about “Sabrina,” a classic, black and white movie featuring Audrey Hepburn as the daughter of a chauffeur living on the estate of two wealthy brothers played by Humphrey Bogart (the tycoon) and William Holden (the playboy). Both brothers fell in love with Sabrina and Bogart ended up with Sabrina, having beaten his brother to the prize.

Phonse Jessum then passed on a comment that Sabette might be a native Canadian name–or a variation of Elizabeth. As I think about it, either of those speculations might make sense. I’m sure you know that Bette and Betty are common variations of Elizabeth. Adding a prefix of “Sa” would make the name more unique but still give the child Bette or Betty as a nickname to fall back on, if Sabette didn’t work well for the purpose intended.

Another name we discussed was Alea. It’s listed as an Arab name meaning “high or exalted” in my book or as a Persian name meaning “God’s being.” But it sounds exactly like the Hebrew name Aliya which means “ascender” and refers to being given the honor of reading from the bible in a religious observance.

This is how the conversation went—back and forth, eliciting humorous or (in the case of Shallen) heartwarming  stories about how callers got their names or how well people liked their names and what kind of problems those names might have caused.

Picking a name for a child is an important responsibility. The more you get into names, the more there is to talk about. Origin and meaning for sure. But what about the impression the name makes, the versatility of the name and what kind of problems the name could cause. If you’re going to be naming a baby anytime soon, you might find it worth your time to listen to a  podcast of the interview, which you can find on BabyNamesInTheNews.com. And if you’re a talk-radio talent coordinator, write info@meadowbrookpress.com if you’d like to set up a telephone interview which will “light up (or tie up) your switchboard.”

What Guys Would Name The Baby If the Choice Were Up to Them?

Years ago I read an article about “names from the hood” in Business Week and learned that most of the unique, non-traditional names came from one-parent families. The  take-away message seemed to be that two-parent families are more likely to produce the kind of “sensible” names likely to please friends and family members and help junior get a job, too.

What caused me to think along those lines was an article in The Stir by Michele Zipp that listed 25 names guys would give their babies if the choice were up to them. Eighteen of the names listed seemed fairly likely to please family, friends, and personnel directors. But here are seven names likely to be vetoed by a spouse or partner for a variety of reasons:

Macho Name: Geronimo

Fantasy Names: Obi-Wan, King

Macho Place Name: Alaska

Self-Glorification (for the greater glory of the dad) : Junior

Wimpy Names: Felix, Mortimer

I would expect spouses or partners to veto or at least question some of the names I’ve listed above. So I was surprised that writer Michele Zipp had this comment: “Obi-Wan, Felix, King … great names in my book.” Are there any female readers who’d care to comment? Which of these names would you veto?

P.S. I found a funny quote about Felix and parked it in an article about the name Hugh Grant gave his son.

If You Want Your Child to Be a Movie Star: Names to Consider

When I started reading this article, I thought it would instruct readers how to come up with ridiculous, outrageous, notorious names similar to the names that typically score high in “The Worst Celebrity-Baby Names of the Year” polls. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Instead, the extensive research project written-up by Amanda Dobbins for Vulture.com went in the opposite direction. Apparently Dobbin’s research didn’t indicate that actors with silly names like North West, Blue Ivy and Apple win awards. Movie stars most typically have names with these characteristics:

-Movie-star names are most likely to start with a “J” like Jeff (Bridges), Jude (Law) and James (Franko); Julia (Roberts), Judi (Dench) and Jodie (Foster).

-Male movies starts are more likely to have one-syllable names; female movie stars are more likely to have two syllable names.

-Catherine (Keener and Zeta-Jones) is more common among movie stars than either Katherine (Hepburn) or Kate (Blanchette, Hudson, Beckinsale and Winslett).

-Robert (Benigni, De Niro, Downey, Jr., Duval and Pattinson) is the most versatile name for male movie stars.

-Many female movie stars have unique, two-syllable “M”-names (like Meryl, Mia, Mila, Mira and MoNique)

-Helen (Bonham Carter, Hunt, Mirren) is also a common name for female movie stars.

-Actors with names starting with a “Z” like Zach (Galiafinakis) and Zooey (Deschanel) aren’t likely to win awards, but they do make money.

-Don’t name your child Xander. (There are no award-winners whose names that start with an “X.”)

I enjoyed reading the research report about the names of movie stars, but I’m not sure the statistical distribution of movie star names (e.g., by first letter or the number of syllables) is statistically different than the statistical distribution of names by first letter or number of syllables for the general public. (For example, a quick look at the top-ten Boys’ names by decade indicates that J is, by far, the most common first initial for all boys born in the first two decades of the 21st century and all 10 decades of the 20th century.

But, apart from a strong run by Jennifer and Jessica in the 1980s, the most common first initials for women over the last 50 years seem to be “M” (Mary and Michelle), “S” (Sarah, Samantha, Stephanie and Susan) and “E” (Emily, Emma and Elizabeth).

Here’s a question I’d like to ask Amanda Dobbins:  Why on earth would you want your child to become a movie star? Here’s a good reason to guide your child towards another career: If your child becomes a movie star, that would increase the odds that your grandchildren would wind-up having ridiculous, outrageous celebrity baby names.

7 Literary Names Recommended by Nameberry’s Linda Rosenkrantz

I enjoyed reading Linda Rosenkrantz’s latest article, which she calls, “7 Newly Popular Baby Names That Have Been Hiding In Plain Sight.” I enjoyed it because she recommended the names of characters from several of my favorite books (including: Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird). And because the article was so well-written:

  1. The Concept: In her post Rosenkrantz features seven names with strong literary provenance which have been around a long time and whose popularity has been increasing in popularity in recent years.
  2. The Seven Names: Atticus, Beckett, Dashiel, Holden, Huckleberry, Lincoln and Scarlett.
  3. The Literary/Historical Background: Rosenkrantz explains the importance of the books from which the names come, and she describes the protagonists in a manner that sheds light on kind of role model or inspiration their names might provide for a child.
  4. Why These Names Now: Rosenkrantz references popularity data and media exposure which she uses to “explain” the relevance of the names, now, and provide reasons for expectant parents to consider the names now.

My Take on the Names

Names I Like a Lot: Lincoln and Beckett

Names Worth Considering: Scarlett and Holden

Names with Practical Problems: Atticus, Dashiel and Huckleberry

Atticus: The bad news: This ancient Latin name is stiff, formal and serious; it lacks versatility in that there is no obvious nickname or familiar form  to use when you are tucking your baby into bed or when teammates on the soccer team are chatting after a tough game. It’s likely to be a puzzler for a blind date. The good news: I suppose the name will become more appropriate when your son studies classics or law.                                                                                                                                                                  –Dashiel: The bad news: The spelling and pronunciation of this name are odd and likely to be a source of daily confusion. The good news: The name calls to mind exciting noir mysteries; and, Dash is a definitely dashing nickname. It’s on my list of “Cool Names for Boys.”                                                                                                                                                           –Huckleberry: The bad news: The long form of this food name doesn’t sound much like a name for a boy or a man. It lacks versatility. The long form seems informal and comical. And the nickname, Huck, rhymes with “uck” words that are likely to a source of teasing and derision. The good news: It’s associated with one of the greatest characters in American literature.

Overall: Unlike her Nameberry colleague, Pamela Redmond Satran, Rosenkrantz’s presentation is intelligent, interesting, thought provoking and presents some usable names likely function well for you and your child. But like her Nameberry colleague, Rosenkrantz doesn’t pay much attention to the practical aspects of baby-naming,  which is why three of the seven names are likely to prove awkward for use when you’re calming a crying baby or when your child is chatting with friends on the playground at recess. If a name doesn’t work well for your child, it’s likely to be dropped and replaced by a nickname that works better than Atticus, Huck, or Dashiel. That’s what happens when you don’t pay attention to the practical issues.