English: Portrait of Petronella Palairet (1787...
English: Portrait of Petronella Palairet (1787-1847) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you read the Maisie Dobbs mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear?  Maisie visits Lady Petronella Casterman in The Mapping of Love and Death, and this is what Lady Casterman has to say about her given name:

‘Do call me ‘Ella.‘ Petronella is such a mouthful.  I rue the day my mother picked up that book she was reading prior to going into labor on the day I was born.  The heroine was a Petronella, and I ahve always wished someone had given her a copy of Jane Eyre.  It would have made life so much simpler.

It’s no secret that I like elaborate names, unorthodox nicknames, family heirlooms of the clunkier and less expected variety.  I’d choose Petronella over Ella any day.  That’s a nineteenth century Petronella in the post – doesn’t she look wonderfully disapproving?

And yet, after someone close to me chose to call their son Nate – not Nathan, not Nathaniel – I found myself defending that choice, too.  Nate’s the name they loved, the one with meaning and relevance, the one that suits their style.  More proof that I’m less and less comfortable with the idea of rules or judgment when it comes to naming children.


  • My daughter Clio has a friend called Eloise.  I met Eloise’s big sisters this weekend – Matilda and Sophia.  Lovely!  I also met a pair of sisters called Sylvie and Delphine – so gorgeous – and a baby boy Xen.
  • Noun names are great, but I like them best when they’re spelled as they would appear in the dictionary.  Willow has been catching on in recent years, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wyllow.  But Wilho?  That seems … weirdly wrong.
  • Which reminds me – I take Kara’s point that you really can go too far with changing name spellings.  And yet, I don’t think it is apocalyptic. As part of my day job, I interview lots of people for lots of different positions, from interns to executives to contractors.  I’m often involved from the resume screening phase – the point where, supposedly, Braedinn or Abbygayle would be immediately rejected.  To this I say: one, there aren’t all that many completely wacky spellings out there.  Two: I always notice that names.  Always.  Three: it absolutely doesn’t influence my decision.  My colleagues are counting on me to find the best fit for our organization.  It would be foolish to overlook good candidates because their parents went on a shopping spree at the vowel store.
  • I tend to think names like these are more challenging to wear.  Nameisms’ list of Troublemaker names is great fun, and I think some of them can be strangely appealing in the middle spot.  But if I were called Rekker or Rebel, I think it might make for some stereo-typing.  I imagine my kids coming home with Rekker on a class list, or telling me they’re going to the movies with Rebel.  A tortured respelling implies certain things, but a defiant, trouble-making name implies others.  I have a harder time with the latter.
  • Of course, you’d be surprised which names can be controversial.  Did you see this New York Times Motherlode post about a Jewish family considering the name Mary?  Never thought of it that way …
  • This post at Babble on Duck Dynasty names makes for an interesting list.  I haven’t seen the show – really, I need to re-examine my priorities – but there’s one that might inspire even if you’re not a fan of the hit series.  Louisiane is the Cajun name for Louisiana.  Can’t you imagine a little girl called Louisiane, maybe Lulu for short?
  • Another discovery this week, via Jolis Prenoms: Corentine, and masculine form Corentin.  Love ’em both.
  • For Real spotted some gems in a recent post.  I’m loving India Archer, Lilly Bliss, Avery Iris, Mae Rivera, Esther Alana, Alexandria Kai, and Annabella Star for girls, plus Jasper KeatingIsaac Orion, Corbin Lyle, and Briar Benjamin for boys.  Seriously, I love, love, love her posts – but this might be my favorite – ever.
  • This story is so sad, but I’m charmed by the twins’ names: brother Cedric and sister Cielo.
  • There are some incredibly sweet stories in this article.  I love the Constance/Agnes one, the three generations of Rhoda Belle, and the Nancy who might have been Trigger.
  • Speaking of Agnes, I agree with Nameaholics Anonymous – while I’m still partial to Agatha, Agnes has some serious charm.  Blame the unicorn-loving littlest sister from the Despicable Me movies.
  • AnastasiaRuby suggests some great ways to honor a grandmother Iva.  I love the idea of looking for a name with Iva in it: Aviva or Ivana.
  • I’m struggling to translate this Vernoeming post on Dutch celebrity names, but it seems that their celebs are embracing names like Splinter – and if you follow the links to the original article and do some searching, Butterfly and Bloem, the Dutch word for flower.  Nice to know that creative naming is global.

Speaking of global, didn’t Jasmin knock it out of the park with her choices this week?  Flat-out amazing!

But then, there were oodles of excellent suggestions to sort through from the give-away.  So many that I’m picking a few that were repeated, and I’ll write about them in a few weeks.

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

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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. Thank you for mentioning me 🙂 https://www.vernoeming.nl/bart-chabot-spijker-splinter-storm

    Let me clarify a bit:

    I start the article with a quote from a newspaper columnist, who claims that Bart Chabot, a well-known auhtor here, named his sons Splinter (which means the same in Dutch as it does in English) and Spijker (“nail”, as in a pin-shaped metal object, not a fingernail, which is “nagel” in Dutch).

    In fact, Chabot’s sons are called Sebastiaan, Maurits, Splinter and Storm, but there are children in the Netherlands whose name is Spijker. A designer by the name of Lucas Verweij even named his daughter Hamer (“hammer”).

    Nature names like Vlinder (“butterfly”) and Bloem (“flower”) are rather popular here. Vlinder comes from a Dutch TV series, Gooische Vrouwen, where it is the name of one of the main characters’ daughter. It is clearly meant as an over-the-top hippie name in that show but many parents actually liked it.

    1. Maarten, thanks so VERY much! Usually I can follow the translations without too much difficulty, but I think the noun names kept getting translated into English, making it tough to figure out. So there was a child named Hamer?! Wow. I think that might be more extreme than North West …

      1. Verweij said in an interview that he and his wife wanted to name their daughter “a simple Dutch word” and chose Hamer because they hoped it would give her strength…

        Although Storm, Splinter and Hamer are considered ‘noun names’ today, in fact they date back many centuries. Storm is the name of an 8th century saint. In a 15th century Dutch document a certain Lord Splinter of Loenresloet is mentioned (sounds like a cartoon character to me). The name Hamer dates back to heathen times. Originally it referred to Thor’s hammer.

  2. I’m Jewish, and also intermarried to a man who was raised Catholic. I remember my brother and father teasing me about some baby names I like (“Henry? That’s so Anglo. WTF would you want to name a boy Henry for? Did you find it at the White Baby Names store?”) and my mother, who almost never contradicts or goes against my father, said “you shut up!” to him.

    I was stunned. He was stunned too.

    She went on. “You shut up! You both just leave her alone! You won’t be happy until she says fuck you and names the baby *Christopher*!”

    Chris- anything being the worst, most heartbreaking thing I think her grandchild could be named.

    But Mary would be close. I couldn’t do it. Not just because of my mom, either. It would feel weird. But it’s very subjective: I have relatives named Miriam, of course, and Molly. Molly in their case was just picking an English name for Malka, but Molly is Mary-derived. Doesn’t feel as weird though? I accept it’s just my personal limit.

    1. Thanks, Josie – and it is tricky, isn’t it? There are our preferences and limits, and then there’s the question of how others near us will perceive our children because of their names. It’s a lot to consider …

  3. I am not sure if this a troublemaker name per se, but today I learned of a baby legally named Hyper. Could you imagine being A kindergarten teacher learning you were going to have a little girl by that name?

    1. Wow – were they thinking of hyperspace? Hyperlink? Or hyperactive?! In any case, I think that would be tough to wear.

  4. I love Corentin, and I want to love Corentine. I read your post this morning and couldn’t put my finger on why Corentine didn’t move me (I love Clementine, Leontine, etc.). I came back to comment because I finally figured it out– it sounds almost identical to “quarantine”. Alas!

  5. When I saw the Duck Dynasty list, I had a few thoughts.

    One, they left off Merritt, which is Si’s middle name and a Robertson family name that I think is very wearable.

    Two, don’t name your child MONROE in honor of this show. Why? Long, looooong history of rivalry between Monroe and West Monroe. Monroe has often looked down on those from West Monroe as being the “poor relations,” and West Monroe hasn’t forgotten it. If you choose Monroe, don’t do it in honor of the DD family, who are from *West* Monroe. (And yes, we here in WM do work, shop, and attend private schools or the University in Monroe, but that’s not the point!)

    Three, I was really scared when I saw the image of the Ouachita Parish sign because I thought the writer was going to suggest “Ouachita” as a name. No one ever pronounces this correctly unless they grew up in Louisiana or in Arkansas where the Ouachita River begins. It’s pronounced Wash-ih-taw. Not oh-wah-chee-ta. And please don’t spell it with a “Q” in the beginning, either; it’s not supposed to be “Qu.” It’s definitely “Ou.” (This is for anyone who saw the word and might have been wondering!)

    Other names they could have included: Sadie, Mia, Bella, Priscilla, River, and Beau.

  6. I’m sure it’s a take off on Khloe/Kloey, but I’ve seen Klover in at least three birth announcements.

    Thinking of troublemaker names and interviewing people… An application for a man named Loki* crossed my desk once and I had a hard time imagining my hiring “the god of mischief and destruction” as a forklift driver. (He wasn’t qualified, so his name was a moot point.)

    *This was long before the Avengers movies.

    1. Ha! That does raise an interesting angle, though – a name like Loki can always go from obscure troublemaker to well-known villain. Of course, any name can be worn by a villain. But are names with bad boy vibes more likely to be given to fictional bad boys … I can imagine a villain named Brazen.