Ginevra de' Benci

Sometimes it’s awkward to be a name nerd, like when a new mom tells you she chose Ava because it’s so unique.

But sometimes? It makes you feel ever so smart.

I chaperoned my son’s class trip to the National Gallery of Art a few days ago, and when our guided tour stopped at the Leonardo da Vinci portrait of Ginevra de Benici, all of my confetti-like knowledge of the world came in handy.

That shrubby tree behind Ginevera’s head? It’s juniper.

Nod your head if you get it. If not, read this post.

So while it might seem like a weird, isolating little hobby, sometimes it turns out that an obsession with all things onomastic is actually a window into the whole wide world.

And so on to the world:

  • Kelli has her outstanding analysis of the 67 names that rank in the US Top 1000 for boys and girlsOakley, Landry, and Azariah are pretty much even!
  • More novelties, including Payzley and Royaltee.
  • My favorite name find of the week has to be Briar Evangeline, from this post at Names for Real.
  • I so enjoy Laura’s annual round-up of The 100 Club. My favorite new entries? For girls, Bellamy, Emmarie, and Salem. For boys, Huxley, Bear, and … well, Salem. That one is really growing on me. (Though the first time I heard it, maybe a dozen years ago, it seemed too witch trial to ever bestow on a child.)
  • Funny how a letter or three can completely change the vibe of a name. I love Isobel and Katharine or Catharine, but any other spelling, like Isabelle or Catherine, well … it’s not for me.
  • Speaking of names I love, Coco appears twice in the most recent birth announcements at British Baby Names. Huzzah!
  • Kara wrote about Ignatius this week, and so did Anna. The poll at Waltzing More than Matilda gives Ignatius a pretty favorable rating. Could this name be next? It’s been on our shortlist over the years, with the nickname Nate.
  • A question for you: I think it is fine, maybe even sort of lovely and old-fashioned, to name your children after US Presidents. And yet, I think it is potentially awkward to name your children after political candidates. So unless this woman who says she’s naming her baby Jeb isn’t due until mid-November 2016, I think I’d find another name. (Or not. I wouldn’t assume that Jeb was automatically a reference to the Bush brother. And actually, it turns out that she wasn’t entirely serious.)
  • Love the lists of rustic-country names at Rustic Baby ChicHuck and Bryndle leapt out at me. Huck because I love it, Bryndle because I’ve never heard it before. (Jeb is on her boy list, too!) But I was a little disappointed to realize there’s not a single rustic mama – it’s more of a magazine site.
  • Skye catches up on the names he’s watching. I appreciate his lists, because they’re also filled with up-and-comers, like Aria, Paisley, and Oakley.
  • Another week, another advice columnist weighs in on whether it’s okay for two family members to use the same baby name. Again, I agree with the advice columnist – it’s fine for cousins to share a name! – but that’s completely counter to our current baby name environment.
  • But it used to be okay. Here’s proof, via His family sounds like my family — nicknames, repeating Anthonys, and all. So let’s end with a question about that.

That’s all for this week. As always, thank you for reading – and have a great week!

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I felt so full of tact and good humor last week when I listened to this story from my friend A. She and her sister just had sons within a month of each other and her brother’s fiance is due at the end of the year. Well, her sister has always wanted to have a daughter and name her Josephine after her favorite grandmother. This is common knowledge in the family so when Fiance announced that if her baby is a girl she wanted to name the baby Josephine there was quite a row. Personally, with a name like Josephine, the whole thing can be solved by nicknames, but that’s not what happened. Fiance stood firm that it was her favorite name too and that Sister had had her chance to name her baby and now it was hers. Sister maintained that she wanted more than one and if she should be so lucky to have a daughter… Well, then A. and her Mother waded in asking Fiance to back off and let Sister have the name she’s loved since she was little. Fiance did back down and it turns out that she is expecting a boy anyway. What a tempest in a teakettle! Since I know you’re curious, A. named her baby Richard and her sister’s son is Henry.

  2. I just peeked, and Ignatius still seems to be doing really well in the poll – it’s such a cool name.

    And I can never get over how much name blogging has improved my knowledge in certain areas, especially history, and I feel I could pass a quiz on the Bible and the saints by now. Oh and celebrities – I was always a big vague as to who anyone was in the gossip pages before, but now I know them all, as long as they’ve had a baby. My husband is especially impressed by my recognition of sportspeople.

  3. My ex came from a big Catholic family, and one year at Thanksgiving there were three Joes (of varying ages), two Mary Annes and a Marianne, two Johns, and two Sara/hs (including me). It was ridiculously awkward.

  4. In italy we repeat family names a lot. I don’t think I’d ever do that, though, basically because in my experience cousins sharing the same name all go by nicknames in the end. And I think nicknames should be what they are: nicknames, not substitutes for the real names. Little cousins of mine with great, strong names like Egidio and Giovanni won’t even look at you if you call them anything but Gigi, Ninni, Dino and so on.
    So no, I’d rather pick a different name than having a Giovanni called Ninni. There’s plenty of fishes in the ocean out there!

  5. Go you re:juniper!! 😉 I love Ignatius — I’d only known Iggy as the nickname until recently when my 3yo said Ignatius as “Natey” and I was totally hooked. Sooo adorable.

  6. I’ve name-crushing on Ignatius lately. I think it would make a cool middle name. Like George Ignatius.

  7. I am a huge believer in “everyone gets their own name,” and not naming after living people, especially within the family. But then I clicked over and read that this is a second cousin, and yeah, I’d have a hard time giving up a name because a cousin-in-law had used it. For me, it’s a proximity thing – second cousin, states away? No problem. First cousin in the same town? I’d be annoyed. But I do realize people have different rules, so…

    1. But no one actually *does* have “their own name.” I have cousins, cousins in the same town, that I see far less than friends. You can twist up all your actual desires to avoid a cousin’s name and then put your kid in a school where she runs into three others with the name she got. My best friend lives half way across the country, and her daughter has a name which is a common nickname of my daughter’s name, and a popular standalone name in its own right. There’s no such thing as a unique name. I’d rather give my child, who I see every moment, the name I truly love, rather than give it up over some cousin she might see on random weekends, and certainly no more than any kid at her school that she’ll see for eight hours every day.

  8. If first cousins share a name, I’d hope it was because they were both named after the same awesome grandpa. However, it’s understandable if the parents just happen to love the same name so much that they both use it anyway.

    That sort of happened in our family but with second cousins. My son is Maximus and my husband’s cousin’s son is Maximilian. We both happened to love Max and had them picked out without the other knowing. They were born within a year of each other but it hasn’t caused any issues, mostly since we live in different states.

    -Thanks for the mention. Ignatius nn Nate is excellent! I’d like to see it have more usage. Fun fact, my son picked out the name Ignatius for his panda bear. 🙂

  9. Speaking of presidential names, my 5 year old daughter just told me that when she grows up she wants her daughter to be named Roosevelt nn Rosie. I kind of love it!