BABIE NAYMS – How We Name Our Babies
Thousands of suggested first names for whitish babies who don’t have strong ethnic or pseudo-ethnic roots
This book is comprised of five sections:
Preface – How we name our babies
Part 1, A-Z – Names that someone already bears [partial on line]
Part 2, A-Z – Contrived names
Part 3, A-Z – Surnames as given names
Part 4, A-Z – All lists combined
- you are about to have a baby,
- you are certain that you don’t want to name her after your grandmother,
- you’re at least a little bit rebellious,
- you don’t have a religious tradition to draw from,
- you don’t have pretensions to ethnic roots, and especially if
- you aren’t well-educated either (so spelling and word origins elude you),
— then this book is for you.
In here you will find thousands of unusual names, some truly unique names (meaning the only one ever), and ideas for creating a new name from scratch. You’ll find so many good names that it will make you want to have a lot of babies.
You may instead be someone with a half-finished collection of tattoos, a lot of debt to walk away from, a court record of minor offenses, and aspirations to make it in a new performing arts career, and you’re tired of living your life as Jessica Johnson or Gregory Grant. Well, let this little volume assist you. You can find a new, unique identity here that no one else has ever heard of, unless they too have read this book. Another individual who may find this useful: an author who needs to name some characters in a story or novel.
Or you may have a parrot, parakeet, ferret, ferrekeet, snake, scorpion, or dog that needs a name. This book is for you too! (I haven’t figured out why people name cats. They ignore a name worse than a terrier does.)
Whoever you are, I would appreciate a note if you have made use of this book in any way. And if you read something here that offends you, write to me and even the score.
This book is almost entirely facetious. If it weren’t, it would probably insult you, for I’ve pointed out some peculiar things about a lot of names, and you are probably related to someone I’ve poked fun at. But, although facetious, a pair of sharp realities also make this book as serious as a two-bit ax: It exposes the astonishing truth that hundreds of corny names are already on living people’s identification cards, and as a result of this irreverent little volume, other ethnically-challenged parents may be inspired to give such names to many more yet-to-be-born children. If it weren’t for those two misfortunes, it might be a harmless effort.
In addition, this book is almost entirely sincere. The field of names from which my parents chose was limited by fiercely Puritan, Anglo-Saxon traditions. Even though my own family was as poor as color-neutral people can be — just as poor as folks of any other race can be; after all, nothing is nothing no matter who you are — they were instantly alert at the mention of anyone with a funny-sounding name. If, as a teenager, I had brought home a friend named Sonny Lee Swill, they would have welcomed him to the dinner table or on a family ride to the fair, but if I had suggested that I might plan to go out with his sister, Nonny Jee Swill, they’d have cautioned me about all kinds of potential problems. If, instead, I had made friends with someone named Crofton Linscott Bradford the First, they’d have been arranging my marriage to his sister, Prudence Grace Bradford, before they’d have laid eyes on Crofton or discovered that he was Sonny Lee’s poor relation — and all this based on the name.
What’s more, this book is sincere because I heartily approve the movement that is overrunning those prejudices. I happen to like the sound of many new (and renewed) names. Two things about the new names, though, do irritate me: the apparent pretensions, especially in naming girls, and the silliness, evidently borne of downright illiteracy, in creative spelling. You’ll better understand what I mean if you read on.
Disclaimer and note to the sensitivity police
This is not a racially-prejudiced or race-baiting book. Take it at face value: It’s a list of suggestions for people who don’t have a solid ethnic, religious, or national heritage to draw from. It may also be a source of extra ideas for people who already do have their own traditions.
And to the political correctness police: Yes, I have used some “modern” names to illuminate what may be ignorance or oblivion, or may instead be defiance or plain indifference to historic rules for naming children. Maybe I’m wrong, but I also conclude that the majority of children in America today are born to unmarried young moms who, therefore, are mostly responsible for deciding what their babies’ names will be. Whenever someone wriggles free of tradition’s leather straps, whether it’s in art or science or politics or naming babies, she exposes herself to scorn and ridicule — some of which I employ here — but she may ultimately earn admiration and emulation. So, if those who have led the way into alternate spellings of Cameron and Chelsea have inspired you to experiment on your own, then thank them, as I do. For without them, I might not have had so much to write about.
How we name our babies, a little history
When my parents (born in the 1920s) were choosing names for their six children, born in the 1950s and 1960s, they drew a little from family heritage, a little from literature, a smidgeon from the Bible, and from what simply sounded good to them. My wife’s parents, hailing from the same decade as mine, did the same. So, in no particular sequence and including our middle names and our parents’ names, we are Heidi, Shirley, Amy, Mae, Marie, Richard, Peter, Walter, Ann, Andrew, Ruth, David, Victor, Charles, Dorothy, Hugh, Laura, and Elizabeth. Even the other marriages in my generation, involving my siblings and my wife’s, have added only names such as Robert, Sonia, Katherine, Randall, George, Benjamin, Timothy, Cindy, and Bette. (Duplicates in all these groups, which are numerous, have been omitted, otherwise you’d see Dorothy, Dorothy, Dorothy, Dorothy, and so on.)
When it was time to name our own children, my wife and I studied the baby-naming books of the 1970s and added Samuel, Claire, Erin, and Leigh to the above list of “given” names in the family.
By the way, does anyone question the purpose of a name? Even though wild canines apparently don’t assign names to each other, our pet dogs do respond to the names we give them. Maybe more animals do call out to others of their species, more than we suspect, using distinctive sounds that we simply have not identified. You can look up Koko the gorilla for another perspective on the use of names among animals.
Besides government expectations that a name be conferred upon a human baby within a certain period following birth, why else do we give our children names? Instead of repeating philosophical answers that you can find in other literature, suffice to say that it is a practice originating thousands of years ago, that the alternative is untenable (that, like fish or fowl, we forego the practice), and since we leave the task to the parents of a newborn human, some of those parents clearly need help. Babie Nayms is here to assist.
Be aware that I consistently use two simple terms throughout this book that I hope you will understand: A “given name” is what we commonly call a first name, and a “surname” is what we commonly call a last name. I mostly refer to given names and surnames.
I always liked the lyrical sounds of many “foreign” given names, especially those from Italian, French, and Spanish, but also a few in the slavic languages. However, I am of predominantly Anglo-German ancestry with only a token infusion of American aboriginal DNA — (that is, both my parents insisted that there was an indigenous pre-American ancestor somewhere each one’s past). Even though Russian is one of the languages that I have studied at length, I would have sounded pretentious to name my own child Natasha or Ivan, and the only suggestion I made to my wife for such a deviation, Samara, (the winged portion of a maple seed), was effectively protested. (My grandfather Miller had the middle name Ivan, with no Russian roots, but this wasn’t enough to bring the name forward into my children’s generation.)
Then, in the 1970s and early 1980s, we began to hear of more and more young people with names such as Jamal and Shaquille and Beyoncé, Shemekia and Rozanda and Keshia. These were names that we couldn’t avoid hearing because, as with Aretha and Odetta and Lamont before them, they belonged to celebrities we liked to watch and who had an obvious racial uniformity among themselves.
Some we especially admired: Condoleezza and Oprah, for instance. I remember being silently pleased with the trend when I realized how widespread it was becoming among darker-skinned Americans fed up with whitish American names. Maybe, to an extent, it was a rejection of western European, and especially English, names, but also maybe it was a matter of taking command of a minor difference in appearance by mating it with a minor variant in appellation.
For several years during the 1970s and 1980s, ethnically-challenged parents seemed to be reading only from the ‘J’ section of the baby-naming books. Every child I heard of, born around the time my daughters were coming into the world, was a Jessica, Jennifer, Justin, Jacob, Jeremy, Jason, Jamie, Jillian, Jared, and such. One exception: A popular television soap opera in the late 1970s, “Ryan’s Hope,” spawned a generation of boys named Ryan across America. If you’re a Ryan born about 1980, you may not have realized until now the likely inspiration for your name.
By the 1990s I had begun to notice a freakish trend in the names of whitish children. My daughters had friends from school with normal-sounding names, but when we were addressing birthday invitations, for instance, we had to learn new spellings for Rebecca and Rachel. Girls’ names began sporting a perky ‘i’ at the end (thanks to a misspelling of Barbie dolls?), or at least the diminutive of many a girl’s name did. So we had to learn which girl was Kathy and which was Cathi, which was Cindy and which was Syndi.
From that point on, there were no rules for spelling children’s names. And, from that point on, there has been no hesitation to simply contrive a name from two or three syllables that can be joined to form a pleasing sound, (pleasing in one or another variant of the language spoken whitish Americans, which is, of course, a bludgeoned remnant of English).
The ethnic disconnect
As an ordinary native American, (meaning simply a person born in and therefore native to North or South America), I resist using any term describing skin color — red, yellow, black, white. If no one is offended by being called white or black, neither of which even approximates the wearer’s skin color, then why is anyone offended at being called yellow or red? Or the reverse: If someone is offended at being called red or yellow to denote race, then why aren’t others offended to be called black or white?
Well, indeed. It is with the greatest reluctance that I allow anyone to call me a “white” person. I resent the term as much as a “red” man in America resents being called a redskin. My washing machine is white. Next to it, I am not. Jackie Chan is not yellow. A buttercup is yellow. If coal is black, what does that make Oprah? Was Louis Sockalexis red or is a stop sign red?
Skin color means nothing to me in my associations with individuals. It does mean something in my associations with people who present themselves to me in a group only insofar as that group forces me to deal with it on the basis of the color of its members’ skin, which means its members have surrendered their individuality to the group. If I must hereafter use a term for a person’s color — perhaps for your convenience — then it will be “whitish” (should I say “pinkish”?) or “brownish” or some term such as that.
So, why concern myself with whitish babies? Well, because it has happened — “it” being a phenomenon among non-dark-skinned parents to create their own naming conventions for their children. Children with solid family roots in China, India, Russia, Congo, Sudan, Puerto Rico, France, and so on, or with strong ties to traditions that have arisen in Islam or Judaism, or with mixed non-Anglo urban ethnic identities, are still often given names that reliably establish identity with the family’s cultural past or evolving present.
Identity with those cultures is not really an option for suburban and rural homogenized light-skinned Americans. There is probably a blond boy out there with indistinct northern European blood sporting the name Shaquille, but that doesn’t make him brownish or big (or athletic). Therefore, young whitish mothers are confronting tradition head-on — gnawing at the leather straps, as it were. Some of the results of this liberation are pleasing and, one may allow, deserving to become solid traditional names. (Where older traditions have been trampled new traditions grow.)
Many of the results are silly, meaningless, and likely to be a lifelong annoyance to the one who bears the name, not to mention an annoyance to kindergarten teachers. (Does a boy named Colt become a man named Stallion?) Many more are puzzling and can be explained partly by rebellion or by an attempt to be creative, but chiefly by ignorance on the part of the parent — (one no longer dares assume that there are two parents involved in every naming) — ignorance, because the only other explanation is malice, and I am not willing to ascribe that motive to any young mother selecting Chaz or Taz for a baby’s — and ultimately a woman’s or man’s — name.
What is missing, when a newborn’s name is contrived, is a history or meaning to the name. A girl named for a flower, Rose, for instance, will always be associated with that blossom. A boy named after a person of daring or victory will, at least among those who have the historical perspective, always recall that shining figure. Most names that have long been in circulation can be traced to a word root in some language or can be traced to an historic or biblical figure: Bruce, the strong defender of the king.
Far back in the history of most parts of the world, a man’s name told much about him. (Far back in the history of most parts of the world, a woman’s name was generally inconsequential. When I was a kid, the proper form of address, when referring to my mother, was Mistress Victor Woodbury — Mistress being generally shortened to Mrs.) In some regions of the world, a name still tells much about the person.
And here’s a news flash to young Americans who attended public schools: Throughout much of the rest of the world, women are still inconsequential in politics, religion, and the professions. That’s a fact of their culture. It’s not something I applaud, and it’s not something over which indignant American meddlers-in-the-affairs-of-others will have any influence other than to make things worse. You and I may deplore it, but if someone else’s culture thinks it is right, we must accord their traditions the same respect we expect that culture to accord ours. We can let them see our example of men and women living here as equals. We can’t force it on them.
In the distant past, where superstition exceeded reason more than it does today, there were those who believed that, for someone to learn your name was to confer onto that person some power over yourself.
As we gaily jettison the traditions of the 1900s and before and ignore the realities of other nations, and as we retire the conventional American names, we are, mercifully, getting away from three centuries of naming our American children after British royalty — a practice that defied the logic of American history but may well be rooted in our insistence on carrying forward our ancestors’ names: George, Catherine, William, Richard, Phillip, Frederick, Charles, Mary, Edward, and of course, Elizabeth. (While our politics rejected British rule and influence, a fascination with royalty persists in our culture. Witness that throughout the 20th century we have had a surfeit of historically useless romance novels set in an 18th- and 19th-century England that never existed outside fiction.)
A shift in naming trends has occurred a few times before in our history. From 1750 to the early 1800s my family tree is filled with Sally, Lemuel, Elijah, Silence, Prudence, Hope, Ebeneezer, Zebediah, Obadiah, Ezekiel, Abagail (no Abigail), Hannah, Ephraim, Hiram, Jeremiah. In the early 1900s the popular names (not just in my family) included Howard and Ralph, Mildred and Maude, Alice and Gladys, Earl and Harold.
Some common, traditional, seemingly Anglo-Saxon names are anglicized versions of names from other languages. The biblical names we are familiar with may be the best, if least-suspected, examples of this: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, just to toss out a few; Daniel, David, Jeremy, James, John. You can add more.
Not a given name for a child but a place name is my favorite example of the arrogance of anglicizing a name. In a country which the inhabitants call Italia there is a seaside town they call Livorno. I have spent the night there after watching the sun set over the Ligurian Sea. My English maps, however, insist that the Italians don’t know the name of their own city; it is persistently re-named, or anglicized as, Leghorn. I can only surmise that such an awful abuse of the name was the gift of some early British traveler, ignorant of the local language and egotistical enough to regard their own language as deficient for naming places within their own country. Similarly, Napoli came to England as Naples, Firenze as Florence, and so on. (The British were equally arrogant in conveying the names of other places they visited: Moskva is called Moscow, Nihon-koku is Japan, Yangon is Rangoon, and so it goes. These substitute words are called exonyms, and there is evidence that the French of that country’s colonial periods also contributed many such mispronunciations as well; Praha in Czech came to English as Prague by way of the French.)
But you can avoid learning the etymology of your baby’s name by simply making up a new name or by taking random letters out of an existing name and substituting new ones. Jasmine can be Gezmynn, and you don’t need to trouble yourself to learn a thing about Jasminum sambac or its botanical cousins.
Contrived names and alternatives
What follows are several lists with over 3,500 different names altogether. I expected to reach a thousand, all lists combined, but as the idea grew into a book I kept noticing more examples already in use and I kept thinking of new ones myself. And so this is a combination of:
- given names from birth records (with the year of birth)
- given names from other public sources, for instance, I’ve collected names from newspaper stories and birth announcements for many years
- school yearbooks
- names of classmates of my children; thus I’ve deduced a year of birth for many of my kids’ contemporaries, and by the way, with nine children, there have been kids in my house attending public schools continuously from 1982 to 2012
- names I’ve run across in other ways
- some more old family names that may not appear in the official naming books
- surnames that may or already do serve as given names
- names that I’ve simply made up or heard on the street or seen in the media.
Anything that isn’t obscene is fair to include, and so I have included suggestions from the mildly unusual to the ridiculous.
The lists are set forth in categories and sub-categories. I start with a list of names that are already in use for whitish people. After that comes a list of names that I made up just for this book, a sub-category of which are palindromes. Then I add a list of surnames from the phone book and other sources, many of which may already be in use as given names and many of which may not be yet.
So, you benefit both from the thinking of hundreds of others and also my own thinking as well. (Someone may say: “Hey, he didn’t make up the name, Vika. I’ve been named Vika since 1996!” Well, maybe you have been, but I’ve never heard of you, and so I made it up too.)
Palindromes are names, such as Hannah, that are spelled the same forward and backward. For a contrived palindrome which I just thought of as I wrote the last sentence, consider Draward, (from the word ending on “backward”). How’s that for a new name? (Add a second ‘W’ and you can make it difficult to write as a signature: Drawward.)
Consider a special idea which I have not developed here, but which I offer as a thought. If you happen to have a surname that lends itself to this idea, look at how you could develop a child’s whole name from one word: Madeleine Adeleine Deleine, for instance. But who’s surname is Deleine? What if your surname is Hopper and you like motorcycles? You could name your child Chopper Hopper. Or just be pretentious: Graham Ingraham. Or redundant: Jay Jacob Jacobson.
These lists may include names of foreign origin — Japanese, Polish, French-Canadian, Russian, etc., but I’ve done my best to avoid those influences and provide mostly contrived names for people who have no clear ethnic heritage.
Some of the names included may have clear origins, e.g., Nakomis (a name someone already bears, evidently a random spelling variant of Nokomis). Some of the names I’ve included, unknown to me, may derive from characters or actors on television or examples of other broadcast fantasy. This list avoids most names that aren’t even worth mentioning, for instance, the Sunshine/Autumn/Sunbeam trend of the 1960s-70s. Some of these names may show up in other name books and I just don’t know it. I’m certainly not going to read all other volumes of baby names in order to omit duplicates. I might be more careful if I were making money from this, but I did it for fun, not for the pay. (I’ve left a few examples in, because, well, I decided to.)
I’ve noticed that some children are now being named for characters in computer games, as a generation ago they were sometimes named for characters in fantasy novels and science-fiction movies. Thus we have Atrus, for an observer in the game Myst, and somewhere there is surely an Agrod, after the main character in Alien Destruction III, just to name a couple examples.
Unless they are words plucked from a map or dictionary, these new names from computer games and sci-fi are essentially nonsense words. In order to be used as a person’s name, a nonsense word needs to avoid negative association or connotation. This can be tricky, because a young parent with no exposure to other languages may combine a couple of syllables that sound pleasant but actually fall into the Croatian dictionary of expletives. Or the Russian, or Swedish — pick one. I make no promise that the names I’ve suggested are clean in all languages, nor have I included any that I know to allude to anything negative. So don’t blame me. I have, however, studied or am well-acquainted with Russian, Latin, French, German, Ukrainian, and Spanish, and I have rattled around in Italian, Greek, and Polish. If I have provided a Greek expletive as a possible baby name for an American child (which will then ultimately be an adult’s name), well, you still had a better chance of avoiding that misfortune than you would if I hadn’t studied languages.
A nonsense word is just combinations of syllables that, up to its invention, has no definition in the subject language. New corporations and products are continually being launched, and no doubt their lawyers spend great deals of billable time directing their underlings in researching a potential name’s hazards. They must assure that the same nonsense word is not already being used for a company or product, as well as assure that it is not the most popular brand of toilet paper in New Zealand. The results are corporations with names such as Lucent and Encana and Meritain, new drugs such as Avandia and Aricept and Celexa, new foods and other products being named such as Purina and Fritos, Swiffer and Kindle and Compaq, Lexus and Nuvis and Neos.
Internet sources confirm that when Coca-Cola first came to China around 1928, some shopkeepers created signs for their Coke displays which transliterated the syllables Ko-ka-ko-la as: “bite the wax tadpole” or even as “mare fastened with wax.” Since there are roughly 4,000 symbols used in written Chinese, the Coca-Cola company eventually was able to choose those which express the idea that Coke “allows the mouth to be able to rejoice.” The pronunciation is the same either way. It was the written name that caused confusion. Maybe there is a lesson here for those who play loosely with spelling even when using only our 26 characters plus the occasional dash, accent mark, or apostrophe.
Moms seem to be competing to invent the most scintillating name for a little one. Perhaps, a couple centuries from now, a man of our era named Gancie will be honored in a book of baby names with a meaning behind his name: “inventor, innovator, visionary (after Gancie Briel Williams, who in the year 2146, created the first plasma-feedback circuit for artificial eyes).” It could happen.
Where it goes from here
Young moms don’t need to avoid other instances of the same name; there can be any number of people with one given name. Remember how startled you were at the age of three when you discovered that someone else also had your name? I’m sure we can all think of a kid we knew named for a commercial product. When she was about 15, one of my kids mentioned a new friend named Corelle. She was “dishwasher safe” to all her acquaintances in junior high. We all know kids or adults nowadays named Harley (or some variation of the spelling). Can there be any doubt that their parents were thinking of the motorcycle?
Of course, the focus is on newborns. It seems that a young parent, wondering what to name the baby, hardly gives a thought to what it will do for the child after junior high. Do they consider how a contrived name will be shortened to a nickname? Suppose you decide to name your son Khaki. Along comes his great-grandma, who hasn’t picked up a new word of slang since 1960. She thinks it’s cute to call him Kha-Kha. (That expression, as slang for poop, arose in the 1980s or so. In my childhood, in the 1950s, it was just poop, or shit, if you dared say it. Kha-Kha would be the next generation’s slang; I never heard it until I had kids in school. What other word did we need back then?) By age two, thanks to your grandma, your son is telling people that his name is Kha-Kha. You see how it goes and why you want to be careful.
Way too many names and words-as-names are butchered for cuteness, and only a few are included as examples. I’ll let you find the abuses of Jasmine, for instance.
Two syllables seem to be the norm, sometimes three, which names generally lend themselves to one-syllable nicknames. One-syllable given names must be made interesting: Fay, Joy, Lee, Ruth, Troy, Jay. Among the more recent, contrived examples already on live people, there are surprisingly few one-syllable entries that I have collected. Cade, Cash, and Chaz are some. So I have been diligent to recommend others that I have contrived, which you will find.
Even though conferred by someone else (parent), each individual normally becomes fiercely attached to his name. And if he has adopted a nickname of his own choosing, such as Bick, he clings all the more fiercely to it. There must be deep psychological reasons for this. Us older folks all know someone who insists on being called ‘Bud’ or ‘Peg’ and someone else who goes by his middle name, John, because his first name is Caldwell. Or he goes by CJ. We all know a guy, TJ or CJ, or some combination of letters like that, and never knew what the letters stood for. We all know a woman (less often, a man) who goes by first-and-middle names at all times: Mary Jane or Tommy Lee. I’ve always been a little puzzled by people I’ve known who do this, though: W.P. “Bob” Gregory, A.D. “Pete” Correll. How do you get Bob from W.P. or Pete from A.D.? (Just a coincidence on Corelle and Correll, by the way.) And, incidentally, Bob and Pete were high mucky-mucks in the paper industry, and we who worked under them never learned what their initials stood for. (Gregory was Bob’s surname.)
There is one more open field ripe for seeding. I could compile another book of surname suggestions. Not surnames as given names, but new surnames that people could assume. It’s nothing new for someone to revise the spelling of a family name or even to adopt a new last name altogether. I once worked with a man with the surname, Tile. He speculated that there are few Americans with that name, but explained that his near ancestor — grandfather, if I recall — had changed the name from Thaile upon arriving from Europe.
I have two sisters who did something more decisive. After a couple of dissolved marriages each, they avoided resuming the family name, Woodbury, and both adopted the surname, Sweetwater. Our great-grandmother was Goldie Sweet, whose own parents built the first home on what is now Sweet’s Pond (Porter Lake) in Franklin County, Maine. So, evidently, each of my sisters thought she might submerge the past under a quiet wash of Sweet water.
Did they pay a court to change the name to Sweetwater? I haven’t asked either of them. That doesn’t seem to matter much these days, unless one has property and thus legal considerations, which they do not. But there is a vast opportunity for a cottage industry, not to mention a law practice, built just around changing people’s surnames. I shall leave that to another installment of this effort.
I said I would not take up space with the Sunshine/Autumn/Sunbeam trend that arose in the 1960s, (remember River Phoenix?), but in case you are inclined to participate in the craze, don’t forget to check the liquor store, watch a few weather reports, and maybe also peruse the dessert section of a cookbook for ideas. I’d hate for you to miss the opportunity to name your boy Cuppycake.
A neat thing about naming is that you get to choose a second name for your child as well. Almost every kid gets a middle name, too. So keep that in mind as you go through your several naming books. But be considerate to the child. Consider how the two given names will sound together — or three, if you decide to go that far, (Billy Joe Bob, Mary Lou Jane). Bernard Maxwell Dunton Cunningham. Consider how the string of names will sound, appear in writing, and challenge the one who must ultimately fill out forms and create a signature.
Consider, too, how a middle name will be used. For instance, I’m acquainted with a woman whose given name — her first name — is Pamela Sue. Computer databases sometimes don’t accept two-word first names, so people who transcribe the handwritten form to the on-screen boxes will insist that Sue is a middle name. Then other people open the database and dial her up and call her Pamela, and she gets angry and tries to correct them. But the computer always wins, the computer user always feels stupid, and Pamela Sue is always angry. When she goes to seek counseling for her anger, what’s the first thing the counselor does? Opens the database and calls her Pamela! So, when you’re adding a middle name and you decide, for instance, that your child will be named Tae Rae Dawning McLaughlin, feel free to omit the space in TaeRae. See? (Computers have long been demolishing the linguistic purity of surnames such as von Trapp or de Tocqueville. They capitalize the prepositions — von and de — or jam them into the next part, resulting in Vontrapp.)
Hyphenated first names are usually misunderstood, too. Ask any Bobbi-Jo or Jessi-Rae.
Incidentally, I have four sisters altogether, all younger than I. (Only the older two go by Sweetwater.) My four sisters are the only Americans I’ve ever known, male or female, who were not given middle names. Our father decided, when his first daughter was born in 1952, that a girl doesn’t need a middle name, since her maiden name will become her middle name when she marries. (He assumed that Ann would become Mrs. George Laube, or Ann Woodbury Laube. That’s merely a surname that I pulled from the air, by the way, not someone we actually knew.) So when each was born she was given just a first name. All four did marry, and all four later divorced. So they all landed in a situation that may be unique. My youngest sister, upon enlisting in the Air Force in the 1980s, discovered that her papers listed her middle name as NMN — no middle name. Until she took her husband’s name in marriage she made regular use of NMN when she could.
Gender, or Where’s the girls’ section?
If gender is not obvious in the name, then it must not matter to the parent who chooses the name. The converse applies as well: If gender mattered, it will be obvious in the name. Therefore, this is the first book of baby names that omits ascribing gender to any name.
If a name sounds masculine enough to you, then use it for a boy. If it sounds feminine enough, use it for a boy too, if you want to. It has hardly mattered for many years whether the names Ashley or Leslie are given to a girl or a boy. I’ve heard of women named Michael, Randy, Stevie, and Alex, men named Jean, Pearl, Beverly, Amie, Sandy, and Fay. Millions of men and women share the name Terry, spelled that way. And now, millions of children of either gender (along with quite a few dogs) share spelling variations of the name Dakota.
Since this book celebrates contrived names, as the author I am spared researching an origin or meaning for those entries. That made the writing far less tedious. I could have pretended there is a meaning for each one. The result would have looked something like Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary:
Belladonna, n. In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.
Destiny, n. A tyrant’s authority for crime and a fool’s excuse for failure.
Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 explained
In Part 1 are given names of existing whitish people who essentially are not of anything but Anglo- or indistinct heritage. Part 1 avoids listing the standard American whitish names such as Nancy and Linda, William and Robert, Dorothy and Lawrence, because do you really need them repeated?
Maybe a few French-Canadian individuals are represented inconsequentially in Part 1. Some Slavs and Scandinavians, perhaps. It’s impossible to filter them out entirely, and for that matter, it would be a pleasure to compile a list of names of everyone in Aroostook County, Maine. The French influence there makes for a musical lilt to the spoken language, and the authentic French spellings are delightful. As for the non-French names in Part 1: How do I know they’re all whitish? Because they’re almost all from Maine, and Maine had a mere one tenth of one percent non-whitish in the population that was covered by the 2000 census.
In Part 2, which are my made-up names and other random suggestions, I have included a few names or words from other languages, just to give some ideas of what can be done. Part 2 also includes a few suggested words from the dictionary and place names and the like. And it includes a short list of palindromes that could make nice given names.
Part 3 includes a list of surnames that may strike you as appropriate to become your child’s given name. But I have avoided including too many that would certainly already occur to you, such as Horton. If you know the book, Horton Hears A Who, then why do I need to suggest Horton to you again?
In Part 4, I have merely compiled a straight alphabetical list of all the names in the previous parts.
Now and then in my comments after a group of names, where I try to guide the pronunciation of one, you will see a vowel with a line over it, ‘Ā’ or ‘ē’ for instance. These marks merely confirm that you pronounce the vowel in that syllable using the sound that letter has when you recite the alphabet, a long ‘A’ and a long ‘e’ in these examples.
Just so we’re clear, this book has been careful to shun the common names of the last century — Karen and Ralph, Susan and Philip, Carla and Glen — and especially to forswear a roster of British royalty — Elizabeth, George, Victoria, Edward, Anne, Charles, Margaret, Philip, and on and on. You didn’t come here to see for the thirty-eighth time that “Richard means ‘powerful leader’ but is often represented by an unfortunate nickname…”
Don’t look for Dick, Jane, and Sally in these lists.
Without further adieu, here are the lists. I can’t avoid commenting from time to time at the breaks, and if you stay with it, you will see why.
Here is a sampling of Part 1, A-Z – Names that someone already bears