Netty and BettyEarlier this year, I met a young man from Mexico named Iñaki. Happily, I had a chance to ask him about his unusual name, because I had a hunch.

Sure enough, he confirmed that Iñaki was a form of the Basque Eneko, which you might recognize as Inigo. His father and grandfather were both Ignacioso his mother chose this related name instead. The family had roots in the Basque region, so it seemed doubly appropriate.

I’m fascinated by this process – the paths that names travel through different languages and historical moments. And I’m equally fascinated by how parents choose those names – the information we have, the facts we discover, the parts we get wrong.

Getting things wrong isn’t necessarily a problem. Nigel and Imogen and Cedric and plenty of other names have been whispered down the alley from some lost form to the one that we know today. Dominant spellings change. So do pronunciations. One hundred years ago, Nina was typically pronounced like the number nine. Now it rhymes with Lena and Tina.

Sometimes it’s hart to put the pieces together. Make that often – rarely do hit publish on a Baby Name of the Day post and not feel like I’m missing some part of the story.

But that is, I think, what makes this subject so very interesting. There’s always another story to pursue, another nuance to understand, another piece of history to consider.

Do you have any great stories of names changing over time, within your family or otherwise?

Now, on to the baby name news:

  • Speaking of names and how they change and evolve, I loved Elea’s post on Taryn. It’s easy to dismiss it as a creative spin on Tara, but it just isn’t so.
  • While we’re visiting British Baby Names, have you noticed more newborns with three middle names? There are a few in this week’s birth announcements. I don’t have a strong feeling about the total number of middles, but I find it interesting – and perhaps a signal that two middles has gone mainstream.
  • About those monkeys … my brother-in-law held on to a box of his childhood toys, including these two cuties. My daughter recently discovered them, and promptly borrowed a dish towel (to tuck them into bed) and some post-it notes, to assign them new names. Meet Netty and Betty, and really – where do kids get the names that they give to dolls and such? (For more random #namespotting, follow me on Instagram.)
  • Proof that I’m really fun at parties: lately I find myself thinking about diacritical marks. A lot! They’re challenging while typing, and even more of a bear when texting. At least that’s my experience in an English-speaking country where diacritical marks are typically omitted. But if you speak a great many of the world’s other languages, they’re not optional. Here’s yet another tale of challenges created by dashes, slashes, and dots, this time from China.
  • A snapshot of baby names in one Texas town circa 1916. Love!
  • Tennis player Boris Becker named his sons Elias and Noah. Is that an expression of faith, or a reflection of the popularity of Biblical names? The question came up on German baby name site beliebte-vornamen. Found via the marvelous Clare’s account. I mention it because I hear so many parents say, “We’re not very religious, but we love the name … Can we still use it?” I find it an intriguing question, because you obviously can, and a great many people do. And they tend to ask about, say, Noah, rather than the equally Biblical James. When do names cease to feel specifically religious?
  • Bree’s Apartment Therapy series makes me truly happy in a way that I cannot even begin to express.
  • Some lovely, almost lost literary names from this 2009 post at Nameberry.
  • It’s so much fun when two name blogs feature similar topics! Kara at The Art of Naming took a look at 1880s baby names. We agree on some, and she found a few that I wished I had included on my list!
  • Let’s end on a delightfully dark note: Edward Gorey! His Gashlycrumb Tinies: A Very Gorey Alphabet assigned bleak and improbable demises to a name from every letter of the alphabet. Brain Pickings has the whole list of delightful names – and the unfortunate fates that await them all.

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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  1. I saw your 1880s names! How funny that we posted such similar blogs at the same time. I actually wrote this a few months ago and just now posted it though. Thanks for the mention! 🙂

    Love Netty and Betty, by the way.

  2. I have an aunt Nina, pronounced NYE-nah. She was born in probably 1950. I have noticed that some rural parts of Maine preserve older language trends that have been lost in other parts of the country. Foods too. We eat onions boiled with cream on Thanksgiving. 🙂