Saturday, October 18, 2014

Six Spooky Doll Names For Halloween



With the release of the movie 'Annabelle' this month, it seemed like a good time to look at the names of some of the spookiest real and fictional dolls. They're a surprising mix of classic names and familiar nicknames, with some very non-scary meanings! So do their spooky namesakes make these names un-usable? You decide.

Annabelle
Think of Annabelle in the same way as Amity – a very pretty, feminine name that just happens to be associated with a scary story made into a horror movie. 'Annabelle' is based on the true story of a doll possessed by an evil spirit who terrorises her owners until being locked away by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. In the movie, Annabelle is a menacing looking blonde doll, however the real Annabelle is actually a Raggedy Ann doll. Annabelle is her real name though, likely chosen because of the type of doll she is.

The origin of the name Annabelle is not clear. It's possible she is an elaboration of French name Amabel, meaning 'lovable'. Or perhaps it is a combination of Anna (meaning 'grace') and Belle (meaning 'beautiful'). Annabelle has been rocketing up the US charts – breaking into the top 1000 in 1995 and reaching #81 in 2013. Let's see if the movie does anything to stall this.

Billy
You may not be familiar with the 2007 horror 'Dead Silence' starring Ryan Kwanten and directed by the man behind 'The Conjuring', James Wan. The evil entity in this movie was the ghost of a ventriloquist named Mary Shaw. She had no children, but her love for her collection of 101 dolls (mainly ventriloquist dummies) was well known. Billy was her favourite, and in death she uses him to carry out some pretty grisly murders.

Billy is one of the original nickname-come-given names, starting as a nickname for William (meaning 'resolute protector') but becoming very popular in his own right. He may not be the height of fashion, but he is never out of style, being a constant entry in the top 1000. Variant spelling Billie is the preferred option for girls.

Chucky

Mention the term “evil doll” and this famous movie doll is bound to be the first on everyone's lips. Chucky is the iconic bad guy of the 'Child's Play' movies – a talking doll given to a boy for his birthday who just happens to be possessed by the soul of a serial killer. The character was reportedly inspired by Hasbro's My Buddy dolls, and his full name – Charles Lee Ray – derived from famous killers Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray.

Chucky is a form of Chuck, a nickname for the classic and popular Charles, and all mean 'free man'. Chucky is the least popular of the three, managing to sound immature and threatening at the same time.

Joliet
This is another real-life scary doll. Joliet has been passed down through four generations within the one family. She is said to be cursed, causing the sons born to the female owners to die when they are three days old. The family also claims to have heard giggles, screams and cries coming from the doll.

Joliet (pronounced JHOW-lee-eht) comes from the French word jolie, meaning 'pretty'. It's only been getting use in the U.S in the last 15 years, and only for very few girls. This seems almost surprising for a name so close to the classic Juliet, and with such a positive meaning. But the word takes on a very different meaning for most Americans, primarily associated with Joliet Prison in Joliet, Illinois.

Mandy
It may be hard to hear the name Mandy without thinking of the Barry Manilow song, but Mandy is also the name of a porcelain baby doll who resides in the Quesnel Museum in British Columbia. She is said to be the cause of the mysterious disapperances and reappearances of lunches and stationery and footsteps when no one is around. Mandy can't be placed with other dolls as she hurts them. She also likes to cause trouble with cameras when people try to photograph her.

Mandy has been a constant presence in the U.S girls charts, although in 2013 was at her lowest rank ever; #2234. It originated as a nickname for Amanda, meaning 'worthy of love' or 'lovable'. She has a friendly, popular girl vibe, but has gotten a reputation among many as a “trashy” name. Mandy is the first name mentioned in the 2012 movie 'Ted' when Mark Wahlbergs' character is trying to guess the “white trash name” of Ted's new girlfriend.

Robert
Another haunted doll that causes trouble with photographic equipment is perhaps America's most famous scary doll, Robert. He can be seen at the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West. People must ask his permission before photographing or filming Robert (which he grants by tilting his head) or he will curse them. The curse can however be lifted by begging Robert for forgiveness.

The doll himself was a cursed gift from a disgruntled maid to a boy named Robert. He caused the family a lot of trouble, moving furniture and scaring his owner during the night. Reportedly Robert moved on his own, could be heard talking and giggling, and even changed expressions.

Robert is a well known name of German origin, meaning 'famed; bright and shining'. It was introduced to England by the Normans and has been in use ever since. Robert is also quite popular – it has never been out of the U.S top 100 since 1880. Some may say this makes for a boring and over-used name, but to others it is simply classic and handsome.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sable

Photo Courtesy of Lisa Visser Fine Art

When we think of Halloween, we think of nighttime and shadows. It's black bats, black cats, black birds and black spiders. And while I wouldn't necessarily recommend calling your child Black, names with dark meanings are a great way to give a nod to Halloween without being cheesy.

Sable fits the bill perfectly. It's dark and mysterious; attractive and strong - great for a boy or a girl. Sable is just that little bit different enough to get people's attention, but not weird enough to make them screw up their faces. And if you're looking for rare, look no further.

Pronounced SAY-bel, this name started as many names did, as a word name. Of Slavic origin, it comes from a small animal that was originally found in Russia, Poland and Scandinavia. It's fur has been highly valued since the early Middle Ages due to it's rich colour and glossy appearance. It is also a unique fur as it retains it's smoothness however it is stroked. The fur is how the word came to England, where it was a favourite among royalty. Henry VII was said to be a particular fan, decreeing that sable fur was only allowed to be worn by nobles.

It's unclear whether Sable originally meant black and was the name given to the animal because of the colour of their fur, or vice versa. It continued to be used as a name for black though, particularly in French and English heraldry.

Although I could see this as a name for either gender, so far it's usage has been mainly female. In the U.S. she charted sporadically until becoming a regular in 1984. It was further boosted by it's appearance as character Sable Scott Colby on 'Dynasty' spin-off 'The Colby's'. She was played by Stephanie Beacham, and in 1986 she boosted Sable to her highest position and one and only appearance in the US top 1000 to date. Other famous Sables include American jazz artist Sable Winters (love this name!) and American model and professional wrestler Sable.

It's not a name without it's problems - I could see a Sable being mistaken for Isabel a lot. And it rhymes with a lot of words, luckily most of them fairly innocuous though, such as table and cable. And hope that they don't have a long face, or kids could get quite creative with some stable jokes. But none of these are major red flags that should prevent a Sable from being quite happy with their name.

I have to admit to being strangely attracted to the intriguing Sable. Possibly it's due to its' sleek simplicity, or maybe its' noble mystique. Most likely it's both. What do you think?


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mythical Creature Names for Halloween Babies

A Cerberus doesn't have to be scary - fantastic artwork by Evolvana

It's October again, which means another month of Halloween themed names! To ease into it, I thought I'd run a list that I wrote for Nameberry last October, but haven't posted yet on here.

Initially they may seem a little strange and outlandish, but when you look closer at these names inspired by mythical creatures you might feel that they're not quite as unlikely (or unlikable) as they first seem.

Cerberus
This three headed dog (or hell-hound) seemed a lot less intimidating in 'Harry Potter' when named Fluffy and guarding a trapdoor rather than the gates of the Underworld. The most commonly accepted pronunciation is SUR-ber-uss, meaning 'formidable guard' or some variation of this. Cerberus has never charted in the U.S, but it would be a very cool name for a boy.

Chimera
Pronounced ky-MEER-ah, this one sounds like a smoosh of girls names Chiara and Mira. Thought to be a creature composed of lion, snake and goat parts that breathes fire, it's also used as a generic term to describe creatures that are composed of various animal parts. Despite the grim creature association, it has a pretty sound and could make a good girl's name.

Dragon
Dragons capture our imagination like few other creatures, with depictions ranging from fiery vengeful beasts to wise advisors and companions. Dragon has only ever charted as a boys name, maybe this is because on a boy it comes across as a compliment, conjuring images of strength and might, whereas calling a female a dragon is generally meant to be slight, that her anger and “fiery” nature are uncontrollable.

Faun
Fauns generally aren't thought of as dangerous or malevolent creatures. But they embody the Halloween tradition of trick or treat, as they're thought to help or hinder people depending on their mood. Fauns are half human, half goat, with famous Fauns being the Greek God Pan and Mr Tumnus of Narnia. Spelling Fawn (meaning 'young deer') is more popular, but there is a history of this version being given to girls too.

Griffin
Griffin has been charting regularly for both genders for over 30 years, but remains far more popular for boys. The Griffin was thought to be a very powerful, majestic creature as it is composed of the body, tail and rear legs of a lion (king of the beasts) and the head, wings and talons of an eagle (king of the birds).  In heraldry they denote strength, courage and leadership.

Lamia
Lamia is the name of a queen from Greek mythology who became a child-eating demon. It was used as the name of the evil character played by Michelle Pfeiffer in the 2007 movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman's 'Stardust'. Pronounced lah-MEE-ah it has a pretty sound despite a far from pretty inspiration.

Leviathan
Those looking for a formal name for a young Levi that aren't keen on Leviticus may instead be interested in Leviathan. In the Bible the Leviathan is a sea monster, but in Modern Hebrew it has come to simply mean 'whale'. Their appearance in season 7 of 'Supernatural' has helped a lot to give this name a more sexy, dangerous image.

Lycan
A type of “wolf man” originating from Transylvania, Lycans can choose when to shift into wolf form rather than be controlled by the cycles of the moon as a werewolf is. Lycan has a similar look to Lucian and Lorcan, and the super hot “an” ending for boys which should make it a winner. But it's scary meaning and unfortunate similarity in sound to lichen (fungus) may be what has stopped this name from really taking off. The 'Underworld' movies have helped to overcome this and put Lycan on the SSA charts in recent years.

Phoenix
The Phoenix is a bird renowned for dying by spontaneous combustion, only to rise again from it's own ashes, hence it is a symbol of rebirth and immortality. 30 years ago this name was an exotic rarity, but these days it is a top 1000 name for both genders in the U.S. It still carries a high cool factor, and has been getting recent use by celebrities such as Tammin Sursok and ex-Spice girl Mel B.

Roc
Not to be confused with Rock, a Roc is a giant mythical bird that terrorized sailors and could carry an elephant. The streamlined Roc feels like he has the ability to make it to the top 1000 eventually, alongside other modern looking, masculine three letter choices such as Max, Jex and Zac.