Friday, November 29, 2013

Nameberry Guide to Boy Names

It's not unusual to hear people say that they find plenty of girl names they can easily love, however find it really difficult to find "different" boys names, let alone ones they adore. Of course, there are lots of boys names out there, but if you need a nudge in the right direction then maybe this is the book for you. 

'The Nameberry Guide to the Best Baby Names for Boys' is a great place to turn for some fresh ideas, or maybe to find some new perspective on names you may have previously overlooked. Just as with the Girls Guide, these names have been handpicked by Pam and Linda. Here is my A-Z list of some inspiring and interesting picks from the book. Except for Y, as there unfortunately aren't any in the book.

A - Apollo
B - Bram
C - Caspian
D - Declan
E - Eleazar
F - Fiorello
G - Gideon
H - Holden
I - Indio
J - Justus
K - Kiefer
L - Lorcan
M - Morris
N - Niall
O - Oak
P - Phelan
Q - Quade
R - Rhett
S - Soren
T - Tolliver
U - Ulysses
V - Vincent
W - Wyatt
X - Xander
Z - Zebulon

What do you think  - do any of these make your list, or inspire you to find out more?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Nameberry Guide to Girl Names

This week Nameberry brought out their new must have guide to girls names - titled 'The Nameberry Guide to the Best Baby Names for Girls'. It's not just a list of names with meanings, it's much more. Pam and Linda have handpicked a selection of names that are either classic, stylish or adventurous, and offered some insight into what makes each name worth considering. If you're tired of looking through endless lists full of names you'd never dream of using, then this could be the book you've been looking for.

So what are some of the names in this book, you ask? Well, to give you a preview of what you can expect, I thought I'd pick out an A-Z of the names I either loved the most, found the most intriguing or just hadn't heard before from the book. I have to admit, some were pretty hard to pick, as a lot of my favourites are in there! But here we go....

A - Abra
B - Bay
C - Celestia
D - Domino
E - Echo
F - Fenella
G - Gia
H - Hadley
I - Isolde
J - Juniper
K - Kiki
L - Lorca
M - Minta
N - Natalia
O - Odessa
P - Peridot
Q - Quinn
R - Romilly
S - Sage
T - Tamar
U - Unity
W - Waverly
X - Xanthe
Y - Yvaine
Z - Zadie

I'd love to hear what names from the book you pick as your favourites. And if you're thinking that girl's names are easy, it's the boys that you struggle with, the great news is that they also brought out a boys version a few months ago. I'll name my picks from that book in my next post, so watch this space.

Friday, November 22, 2013

In the Name of the Doctor - But Doctor Who?

The 11 Doctors.......So Far

This week marks the 50th – yes, 50th! - anniversary of 'Doctor Who'. 'Doctor Who' is a British sci-fi show with a cult like following world wide. The special 50th anniversary episode screens on the 23rd , with rumours and speculation as to what it will contain causing excited anticipation among die hard fans (or Whovians) for months now.

Historically the show didn't have a huge special effects budget like other shows of the genre, and so it was it's unique creativity and imaginative story lines that attracted viewers. The last of his race, the Doctor travels through time and space in the TARDIS (time and relative dimension in space) space ship that is disguised as a blue police box. Part of the reason the show has been able to endure as long as it has is because The Doctor has the ability to regenerate each time he dies, each time providing viewers with a main character who remains essentially the same, but with a different personality and quirky style for each regeneration.

While he travels with many different companions, many of whom are beloved by fans and have received their own spin off shows, the true heart of the show is the Doctor, making the actors who have portrayed him household names. If you're a keen 'Doctor Who' fan, perhaps you may like to honour your child with the name of your favourite Doctor.

William Hartnell (1963-1966)
He was the first, and played the Doctor as an “amiable-yet-tetchy patriarch”. William is an enduring classic – and very popular, currently #5 in the U.S. Meaning 'resolute protection', there are plenty of Williams (and Wills') to inspire parents. Hartnell however has never charted so would be very distinctive, and comes with great short form Hart.

Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)
Thanks to St Patrick's day, Patrick feels very Irish although it's a Latin name. It has never fallen out of the top 200 in the U.S and is currently ranked at #142. It has the benefit of feeling equal parts friendly and warm and equal parts preppy and noble. Patrick Troughton's portrayal of the Doctor was as an endearing “cosmic hobo” version of Charlie Chaplin.

Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)
Born John Devon Roland Pertwee, Jon seems to be a contraction of John and Devon. During Jons' stint as Doctor the character was exiled to Earth, a plot line developed due to budget constraints that made it difficult to create sets of other planets. His scientifically minded Doctor has been described as “an active crusader with a penchant for action and fancy clothes”. The name Jon is much less popular than long form Jonathan or the more traditional spelling of John, but also feels the sleeker and more modern option.

Tom Baker (1974-1981)
Tom Baker is one of the more beloved actors to play the Doctor – his trademark long striped scarf is iconic amongst Whovians. He was the longest serving Doctor, often brooding and aloof but also with an eccentric style and whimsical charm. Tom Baker has delighted fans by leaking that he'll appear in the 50 year anniversary special episode. Tom is a short, friendly feeling name which has consistently ranked in the top 200 in the U.S until 1969, when it began to fall rapidly. Longer form Thomas has never been out of the top 100. Surname/occupational name Baker deceptively feels more current, but is much less popular than Tom. It would be great to see either or both rising through the ranks.

Peter Davison (1981-1984)
At the time, Peter was the youngest actor to play the role (a record now held by Matt Smith), and he embodied a more vulnerable, sensitive and reserved Doctor. The name Peter means 'rock' and is currently at it's lowest ebb in the U.S, ranked at #205 in 2012. Peter is nonetheless an enduring classic and will likely remain in popular use for years to come. While Peter has been in regular use for centuries, surname Davison (meaning David's son) first appeared on the SSA charts in 1980 and is rarely used.

Colin Baker (1984-1986)
No relation to Tom, this Baker's stint as the Doctor was marred with an 18 month hiatus and an insinuation by BBC management that Colin was unpopular with viewers. His Doctor was flamboyant, brash and overbearing. As a name, Colin is a Gaelic name meaning 'pup' and has a steady history of use, slowly climbing for a number of years. Irish actor Colin Farrell has likely been the biggest influence in recent years.

Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989 & 1996)
It's hard to hear Sylvester without thinking of whiskers and tweety birds or the muscled action hero, both seemingly at odds with a name meaning 'wood or forest'. It has been falling in popularity in recent years, eclipsed by the fast rising McCoy in 2010. This Irish name meaning 'fire' is benefiting from a current love of all names Mc, and the positive association with the phrase “the real McCoy”. As the Doctor, Sylvester McCoy was at first somewhat comedic, but later became known as one of the darkest and most manipulative of the Doctors.

Paul McGann (1996)
Another actor with a Mc name, although lacking the panache that McCoy has. While McGann is not a likely choice for a given name, Paul has been in use since ancient times. It means 'small' but the number of influential Pauls to look up to is anything but. Paul has been a steadily popular name and while it has never been in the top ten on the boys SSA list, it has also never been out of the top 200. Although that may change in 2013 if it doesn't start regaining some ground. This Doctor was debonair, with an enthusiasm that hid an old soul.

Christopher Eccleston (2005)
Christopher Eccleston was the actor chosen to bring the Doctor back to television screens in 2005. He embodied an intense yet enigmatic leather-jacket-wearing Doctor. The name Christopher is another well loved classic on this list. In the U.S, he was a top ten name for four decades. The variety of possible nicknames help to keep Christopher feeling current – Chris being a classic choice, Topher a modern feeling one and Kit and Kip funky ones. Although it's hard to imagine this man with the name Kip....

David Tennant (2005-2010)
David Tennant is the actor that most often tops the polls as viewers favourite Doctor, his charismatic, witty and light-hearted portrayal causing his Doctor to be voted the “coolest character on UK television” and winning legions of new fans for the show. Tennant has the makings of a good modern hero name – currently it's associated with just the one, very well known actor. But as a word name it's meaning will probably mean that if parents really want to use it they'll leave it in the middle position. David however suffers no such problem. A Hebrew name meaning 'beloved', David has long been a popular favourite.

Matt Smith (2010-2013)
On this list of popular, classic boys names, Matthew (or Matt) can certainly hold his own. Almost everyone knows a Matt – he's familiar and likeable, like an old friend. Smith has a different feel, a little more mature, preppy and serious. Actor Matt Smith has brought a uniquely youthful exuberance to the role of the Doctor – and helped to make bow ties and fez hats cool.

Peter Capaldi (2014)
We're yet to see what fresh spin this Peter will bring to the role, and speculation is mixed among an audience that has become accustomed to the recent younger Doctors. He may have big shoes to fill, but many feel he is up to the challenge. Maybe in the next few years we'll start to see the name Capaldi pop up in birth announcements if he does the role justice.

Are you a fan of the show? Who is your favourite Doctor, and would you honour them in your child's name? And if (like me) you're one of the millions of people tuning in for the anniversary special, I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Teen Crushes: Cinnamon, Kitana & Savannah

Kitana with her deadly fans from the video game 'Mortal Kombat'

For many people (especially girls it seems) an interest in names usually starts early. For some it's as simple as an "I like your name" to a new friend when you're at school. For others it means long lists of names they hope to one day use, and still others just know early when they've found "the one" - the name they will use no matter what.

When naming is a hypothetical dream you can be as outlandish as you like, and sometimes we are. This is never more so than when we are teenagers - we're establishing our own identity, and our tastes in names can be an extension of this. Are we the type of person who likes classic names, quirky names or modern names?

Sometimes the names we love at this stage will stick with us, sometimes not. After all, tastes change. But regardless of whether we still love a name with the same fervour, chances are that you look back on those names with fondness.

At least, I know I certainly do. So here are three of the names that enchanted me the most as a teen in the nineties.

Cinnamon was a fanciful "what if" name for me. I was reading a novel - I have no idea which one now - where the main characters were sisters named Sage and Thyme. I really loved this theme, and while Sage "made sense" as a name, I had never really thought or heard of Thyme as a name before. This got me to thinking what other herbs and spices would make great names, and Cinnamon was the one that gave me a light bulb moment. I absolutely loved the sound of it, it felt so earthy yet exotic. But I remember sharing this thought with other people and being told that Cinnamon is not a name. So it became a guilty pleasure name for me - one I loved but could never use.

When I first discovered Nameberry and the SSA charts, I just had to look this one up. The description at Nameberry pretty much confirmed what I'd already been told - that Cinnamon as a name is a bad idea - but I was tickled pink to discover that Cinnamon actually charted in the US from 1967 to 2010! These days my heart lies with Sage, but I'll always have a soft spot for under-appreciated Cinnamon.

This is the name that inspired todays' post. Last night as I was heading to bed, the movie 'Mortal Kombat' was just starting on TV. It's a bad, bad movie. But it brings back fond memories of playing the video game with my brothers and sister. And one of the things I especially loved about the game franchise (apart from the super cool fatalities and the legendary phrase "Finish Him!") was that it introduced me to the name Kitana.

Kitana was created for the game by combining the Japanese words Kitsune and Katana to come up with a name that creator John Tobias thought would sound "generically Asian enough". It therefore doesn't have a defined meaning. In Japanese Kitsune means 'fox' and a Katana is a type of Samurai sword known for it's sharpness and strength though, so you could probably draw some meaning from a combination of these elements. Possibilities could include "sharp as a fox", "strong fox" or maybe even "fighting fox", which seems the most fitting considering the character it was coined for.

I'm not the only one to be attracted to this name - Kitana first charted in the U.S. in 1994, around the time MKII ('Mortal Kombat 2') was released. It has charted every year since then, ranked #3045 in 2012 when it was given to 55 girls. While I still love the sound of Kitana, it's similarity to Katana when spoken puts it in the "do I really want to use weapon-like names for a person?" category for me. And of course since it was created for the game there would always be that association. I can't deny it isn't tempting though.

In 1996 Aaron Spelling shows were instant hits, and one of my absolute favourites was 'Savannah'. It was set in the town of Savannah, Georgia, and centred around three female friends named Lane, Peyton and Reese. It was full of scandal, intrigue and southern accents, and I loved it. And as much as I liked the names of the three main characters, it was Savannah that captured my imagination the most. To me, it felt classy, soft, fresh and different - just the type of unique, slightly exotic sounding name that I was into at the time.

I laugh now when I remember thinking it was "exotic" sounding, because to many people it's not. But at the time - and in Australia - I hadn't really heard it on a person before. It's still not exactly a popular name here, although in the US it's been a top 1000 name since 1983, and a top 100 name since 1993. Savannah is a Spanish name meaning 'flat tropical grassland' and has gained popularity due to it's prettily feminine sound and slightly spunky feel.

I find it interesting now, looking back on these as a set rather than individual names that I liked at separate times. It strikes me that they could possibly pass for sisters. They all feel slightly exotic to me, have three syllables, and a "nah" sound in them. And each still holds a special charm for me. Maybe they're more indicative of what I like in a name than I first thought.

What were (or currently are) your teen crushes? When you look at them do you think they help you understand your style better? Or are they just memories that you look at fondly, knowing you'll never feel the desire to re-visit them?

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Actress Jemima Rooper

I was watching an episode of 'Atlantis' today, which features actress Jemima Rooper. I really like Jemima Rooper. I first saw her in the supernaturally themed series 'Hex', but if you're a Jane Austen fan you must check out a mini series called 'Lost in Austen', where she plays a current day avid Jane Austen reader who gets transported into a Jane Austen novel. Seeing her in 'Atlantis' today reminded me just how much I like the name Jemima.

Jemima - pronounced jeh-MYE-mah - is one of those underused names that most people recognise but few people know one. She's a biblical name, the eldest daughter of Job, sister to Keziah and Keren, and considered to be very beautiful. Jemima (or Jemimah) is a Hebrew name meaning 'dove'. I've read online that it technically means warm or affectionate and also accepted to mean dove because the Hebrew word for dove comes from the same origins, but as I'm not Hebrew myself I can't honestly say just how accurate that is.

It is however a very pretty sounding name, with a dash little "olde worlde" charm and a certain warmth to it. It also fits into a nice middle ground between vintage and current - nickname possibilities such as Jem, Jemma, Mima or Mimi certainly help to give it a fun and popular feel. I can't help but feel that she would be a great sister to a Tess, Arabella, Bethany or Abigail; Max, Wesley, Charles or Thaddeus.

Unfortunately though many people consider the name unusable. It's rarely heard here in Australia and languishes at the lower end of the SSA charts in the US, positioned at #3850 in 2012. It fares much better in England, where it rose to position #196 last year. It seems to depend heavily on the most common pop culture association each country has with Jemima:

  • In Australia, Jemima is entrenched in many people's hearts as a rag doll from children's TV show 'Play School', which has been essential viewing for Australian children since 1966. When I Googled Jemima, she was the number one result I received. She's beloved, yes, but it's kind of like naming your child Elmo. 
  • In the U.S. the immediate association is with Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup. The products debuted in 1889 and the trademark character derives from a stereotypical African American character that was often used in minstrel shows at the time, usually portrayed by black face performers. It's synonymous with Mammy type characters and considered to be a racist, derogatory and therefore offensive character. Hence why parents aren't flocking towards using it.
  • In England, Jemima was popular during the Puritan era (16th and 17th century). They favoured biblical and virtuous names, and Jemima with her biblical connections and symbolical meaning of 'dove' fit the bill well. Since then the best known Jemima is arguably Beatrix Potter's Jemima Puddle-Duck. While a Puddle-Duck may not be considered an exciting image to be associated with, it's not as immediately off-putting and in many ways is an endearing image. 

If after knowing about these you're still keen, keep in mind that there are also positive associations with this name. Besides the beautiful biblical Jemima, there are the real life examples of the before mentioned Jemima Rooper, writer and campaigner Jemima Khan and HBO's 'Girls' star Jemima Kirke, all London born. She's an innocent kitten character in the musical 'Cats' (interesting fact - the character was renamed Syllabub when the show went from London the Broadway to avoid the Aunt Jemima association) and a sweetly innocent Victorian era girl in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'. Authors such as Dickens, Trollope and Thackeray have all used the name for characters, giving it some literary cred, too. It's generally considered to be a more upper-class name.

Like many names, Jemima has it's positive and negative connotations. It's just a shame that the one negative one is so strong that it makes it unusable for a large portion of people. Jemima is a gem (pardon the pun) that deserves to be rescued, but I can understand why parents would be reluctant to try that with their child. Otherwise it's a pretty, charming name with a great balance of fun and elegance.