I’ve been reading fiction like a madwoman this summer.  I’m a Reader, with a capital R, under any circumstances.  But since I’ve much more free time over the last few weeks, well … books have been read, many of which had been sitting on my Amazon wishlist for years.

One of those books was Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles.  Towles has lots of great names tucked in the novel.  There’s a Wisteria, called Wyss, and a fleeting reference to another woman named Generous, plus a few other name-related observations by the main character:

Some people called me Katey, some Kate, some Katherine.  Anne cycled between the options as if she was comfortable with all of my incarnations.

And another:

Teddy to Tinker.  Eve to Evelyn.  Katya to Kate.  In New York City, these sorts of alterations come free of charge.

The quote is about another major figure – Theodore Gray, known as Tinker.

I’ve also just started book two of The Lunar Chronicles.  Book one is a re-imagining of the Cinderella story, set far, far in the future.  The fairytale heroine is now just Cinder.  Marissa Meyer is absolutely brilliant at weaving the pieces of the traditional tale into a completely readable modern storyline.  Cinder’s still got stepsisters, too, but their names are Peony and Pearl.  Other stepsister names over the years and places have included Armelinde and Maguelonne, Anastasia and Drizella, Clorinda and Tisbe, Odette and Aloisa, Noemie and Dorothee, Georgia and Lucille, Birdina and Serafina, and many more.

Elsewhere online:

  • Yes to any list that includes Josie, Esther, and Harriet, but especially when they’re names from favorite Australian kid lit works.  And the boys’ list is here.
  • Speaking of children’s stories, the animated Daniel Tiger of PBS fame has a new little sister called Margaret!  Move over, Eleanor … I think Margaret might take the serious-yet-stylish crown for 2014.
  • Everson = masculine form of Everly?  For Real spotted an Everson James in South Carolina, and I’m surprised at how much I like the sound.
  • Top names in Switzerland.  My faves are Jonas and Alice.
  • Speaking of Jonas … a list of of avian-related names – in French!  Swoon.  And is Swanhilde even a remote possibility as a middle name?
  • Okay, maybe not so much with Swanhilde.  But how’s this for an obscure botanical?  Lisiantha, at Baby Name Pondering.  It’s a long, exotic name, but I think it could work.
  • Namespotting: a boy called Gehrig, and a girl named Murphy.  I’ve heard Murphy mentioned as a possibility more and more, for both genders, but it remains pretty unusual.  As for Gehrig, it’s been given to around two dozen boys every year since the 1990s.  I love the sound, and Lou Gehrig is definitely a hero name.  And yet, the association with the disease that claimed his life might give some pause.
  • Seth Godin asked “Who named the colors?”  It’s on point for name innovations, even though it isn’t about given names:

No one who invents a name for a color is applauded or instantly successful. It never works right away. And then, person by person, it starts to stick. The first person leaps, and leaps again, and persists, inventing something we sooner or later all decided we needed all along.

  • Which reminds me: I repeat some (much abbreviated) form of this every time someone asks me what’s wrong with baby names today, and what ever happened to normal names.  Popular names are real and measurable, but normal names?  They’re a myth.

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 was tickled by your serious-yet-stylish comparison of Eleanor and Margaret as my full name is Eleanor Lauren Margaret. Margaret is after my great-grandmother.

    I think you’ve summed up why I have always felt uncomfortable with Lauren and it never seemed ‘me’ — it was out of place and just “didn’t fit”. In between two stately names, I think (perfectly decent name) Lauren ends up look flimsy and insubstantial.

  2. I do feel Margaret getting popular – maybe especially in the US?

    I notice that Cinder’s step-sisters all have “fancy” names, which I guess makes sense.

  3. I was going to write you about Daniel Tiger’s baby sister! They were pumping up that new episode so much and my 3 year old watched it online yesterday. I decided I’d better eavesdrop to hear what they named her. 😛 I knew as soon as they mentioned a favourite book named “Margaret’s Music” and the grandpa mentioned it was a family name, they were leading into it being the baby’s name. Nice way to do it. I do think it will put the name on more people’s radar.

  4. I like Everson too. Everson fits in with Everett and Everly, and names like Emerson, Jackson, & Hudson. I also recently spotted an Everdeen and Everdean in the middle. A bit Hunger Games, but maybe more wearable than Katniss.

    I missed the post on Myth of the Normal Names or I just don’t remember reading it, but well said. I totally agree.

    I’m going to check out The Lunar Chronicles. Those sounds like my kind of books.

    Have a good week!