Sunday Summary 7.1.18

I walk pretty much every morning of my life, and over the years, I’ve gotten friendly with others in the neighborhood who do the same. This morning, I ran into Susie. She’s upbeat and energetic, and I’m always happy to cross her path.

She’s off to a baby shower later today, and can’t wait to find out the baby’s name. We chatted for a few minutes, and then headed off in separate directions. As we parted ways, she called out, “What about Priscilla?”

I promise that I hadn’t thought about Priscilla much at all until that moment, but you know what? I kind of love it.

That got me thinking: it’s tough to separate the name from the circumstances in which you hear it. The sun was shining, and the morning was new. Susie’s enthusiasm for life is irresistible. I suspect that any name she’d have called out on the trail might have appealed to me.

Likewise, if you’re thinking about names when you’re in some rather dreary circumstance, it can go the exact opposite way, can’t it? The dental hygienist at your emergency root canal will probably not inspire you to name a future child Noemi, no matter how gorgeous the name. And if you’re in a too-long line waiting to, say, renew your driver’s license, you might notice that the civil servant who finally takes your picture has an appealing name. But will you call your kiddo Paxton after him? Probably not.

Could that be why names from movies and television series and songs are so influential? Even if the character is a villain, or the song is tragic, we’re in the right kind of mood when we hear them. We’re slightly removed from everyday life, even if it’s just binge-watching Netflix after the kids are asleep. And so we’re in the right frame of mind to fall for a name.

More onomastic musings:

  • Lately I feel like I’m always running out of television. This ought to be impossible, because, well, I don’t think I’m picky, and television is vast. Still, I’m forever looking for a new series, and The Outpost caught my eye. It’s vaguely Game of Thrones-like, and the main character? A woman named Talon. Sci-fi and fantasy aren’t always influential, and then there’s Khaleesi. Or Anakin. Or Luna. Or … you get the idea.
  • Here’s a tricky thing: very rarely are new names applauded. Very often, we wrinkle our noses, part-horrified that someone would dare name a child that, and part-delighted that we have something to pull apart. So I know Cairo hasn’t always gotten a warm welcome, but I’m convinced it’s going to catch on. And now that Tia Mowry has given the name to her daughter, I suspect it will feel more like an option for our sons and daughters alike.
  • Another news story that has me fascinated: Zara Tindall, daughter of Princess Anne, and granddaughter to Queen Elizabeth II, has welcomed a second daughter. Lena joins big sister Mia at home. I think the names are nicely suited, but here’s a twist: Lena sounds like LAY-nah, not LEE-nuh. In the US, the land of Lena Horne and Lena Dunham, that’s surprising. But apparently that’s the norm in Europe. The Tindalls are pretty low profile, so I doubt there will be an impact in the US. But I never tire of pronunciation discussions.
  • The prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has welcomed daughter Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford. Te Aroha means “love” in the Maori language; it’s a fitting choice since Jacinda’s family is from a town by the name. It’s a lovely reminder that you can pick a fabulous, meaning-rich, and slightly unconventional name for your child even when you’re very much in the public eye.
  • The comments on this thread are fabulous – What are your guiltiest guilty pleasure names? Of course, one person’s too-weird-to-really-use name is exactly what someone else is writing on their child’s birth certificate at this very moment. So maybe we will hear Midsummer, Adeste, Ptolemy, and Galway on the playground. (Ooh, in fact, Gretchen Mol named her son Ptolemy.)
  • Are you a fan of YA author Sharon Creech? Emily dives into the spectacular names she’s chosen for her characters. Hint: they’d be very much at home with those guilty pleasure names.
  • Congrats to Nancy on the publication of her new book, Pop Culture Baby Names: 1940s. I’ve yet to read it, but that’s going on the top of my to-do list. And while you’re there, you can subscribe to her Pop Culture Baby Names newsletter. Can’t wait to read that!
  • Amelia of Everything Baby Names has a blog to go with her vlog! This post, on growing up with a formerly unusual name, is a must-read.
  • If you’re an avid birder, should you name your baby after a bird? Love this, partly because it’s the dad debating the the pros and cons. Or maybe it’s the variety of names he comes up with: names that don’t seem birdy, but are, like Phoebe, sneaky bird names, like initials that spell OWL, and over-the-top choices, like Bobolink.

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’m in the Lay-na camp too. Love guilty pleasure names – mine are Benedicta and Paschal.

  2. Lake Kade or Kela Dake

    Fascinating idea

    And, Abby, YES! I agree that HOW one is presented with a name makes a HUGE difference. If one wants the other parent on board with a name suggestion, some set-dressing and marketing may be helpful.

  3. I’ve always pronounced Lena as LAYna. My mother had an aunt, born in Germany, by that name. Tante Lena’s given name was Helena,