Zosia: Baby Name of the Day

Zosia

She sounds clunky and modern at once, a name that seems like a name, but like nothing you’ve heard.

Thanks to Amanda for suggesting Zosia as our Baby Name of the Day.

Zosia comes by her clunky-cool, legit-invented status honestly.  She’s so rare in the US that the first year it was given to more than five girls was 1997, and peak year – 2012 – still just saw 18 girls given the name.

Except she isn’t rare at all. Plenty of women have been called Zosia in the US and elsewhere.  Except their birth certificates have read Zofia or Sofia or Sophia.

Zosia is a Polish diminutive for Sophia.  The Polish form of Margaret is reduced to Gosia – sort of like Greta – and Katherine becomes Kasia.

You might have heard her just a few places.  One that comes to mind is Sophie’s Choice, the heartbreaking 1979 William Styron novel and 1982 film adaptation.  Meryl Streep won her second Academy Award for her portrayal of Sophie.  There’s lots to remember about the story, so don’t be surprised if you’ve overlooked this footnote, but in the scenes that take place in Poland, Sophie answers to Zosia.

Then there’s playwright David Mamet and his ex-wife, Oscar-nominated actress Lindsay Crouse.  The couple had two children together, daughters Willa and Zosia.  That was ages before anyone who ever appeared on a segment of Top Chef had their birth announcement dissected by bloggers like yours truly.  But Zosia put herself in the spotlight, by embarking on an acting career.

This is where things get curious.

In my experience Zosia is pronounced with a long ‘o’ sound – not quite like coat or most, but close.  But maybe not.  Zofia is sometimes like Sophia with a Z instead of an S, but in Polish, the ‘o’ becomes an ‘aw’ – sort of like pause: ZAWF yah.

But I can say for sure and certain that I had never heard Zosia pronounced like Sasha with a Z.  Not until Zosia Mamet.

Was she simply too kind to correct interviewers?  No.  She’s really Zosia, pronounced like Zasha.  Hear her say her name here.

If it were spelled Zasia, sure.  Kasia rhymes with Sasha.  But everyone is buzzing about Ms. Zosia Mamet, and since it is most people’s first exposure to the name, that’s the sound that sticks.

Everyone is talking about Mamet lately, thanks to HBO’s Girls, the Lena Dunham smash hit.  Mamet plays Shoshanna Shapiro, an NYU student and Sex and the City fan, cousin to Jessa.  She’s the youngest one, the innocent one.

While Zosia hasn’t exactly skyrocketed, I’m guessing that the tiny uptick in the name’s use has something to do with parents-to-be who tuned into one of Mamet’s appearances – her guest appearance on Mad Men, or her work in The Kids are All Right, or the first season of Girls.

We’ll have to see how the name fares when the 2013 data are released.  Could we see 30 girls called Zosia?  More?

Because while Mamet’s pronunciation of her name isn’t one you’d hear in Warsaw, I’ll admit that it is rather appealing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

8 Comments

Hi, I’m on this side because I was looking for informatin about Zosia Mamet.

My name is Zosia (Zofia), I’m 22 and I’m from Poland. This name come from Greece, where Sofia means wisdom. I’m reading this article and irritate. Don’t you think it is stupid to give your babies such names only because of how it sound – “clunky and modern” ? It’s better to know the meaning of the name. Look for the etymology for name or give name after people who were important in your lifes. Also I don’t like borrowing names from oher countries – there are such beautiful names in each culture! So if you want give a girl name Sophie, not Zofia.

Hi Zosia – I understand how you feel. But parents *do* choose names based on sound and style rather than meaning. And meaning isn’t as straightforward as one might wish.

Sophia means wisdom, but it probably became a given name through a misunderstanding – we interpreted the word as a given name when we found it in historical records, but it probably wasn’t a personal name – just part of the phrase Holy Wisdom.

There are relatively few names with unambiguous meanings. In Polish, Grazyna comes to mind – but, of course, that was created by Adam Mickiewicz for a poem. Other names, like Katarzyna, have been changed over the years. We like to think that Katherine + company mean pure – but that’s probably folk etymology.

I know a handful of Polish parents who have chosen really daring names for sound and style rather than meaning, but in the US, I think it is really far more common. Maybe that’s because our own roots are sometimes so tangled – my children are 1/2 Polish, 1/4 Italian, and 1/4 other things … but we call our daughter by a Greek name, and her full names includes Wren, which wouldn’t have been a name at all twenty years ago.

The American approach to nicknames and formal names is very different, too. I understand that (most?) Polish families wouldn’t name their daughter, say, Gosia instead of Małgorzata. But here you’ll meet girls who are just Greta or Margot or Maggie.

Thanks to Zosia Mamet, I think we’ll have some parents who admire her considering the name Zosia – and not seeing it as Polish, but as the name of an actress they appreciate. It’s not meant to insult or upset. It’s simply that names do change over time, and American naming customs are very fluid and open.

Best,
Abby

I have several relatives and family friends with Polish diminutive names. Zosia (ZO-sha) had always been a favorite of mine! Unfortunately, DH, whose family is primarily Spanish-speaking, says Zosia sounds similar enough to a dirty word in Spanish that it would be ripe for teasing.

I’m still pushing for Kasia or Basia (BA-sha), meaning Barbara.

Thanks for writing this article about Zosia! I have Polish in-laws and my husband’s family members all have Polish diminutives for their English names. (e.g., Krysia for Christina, and Tomuś for Thomas). I definitely hear Zosia pronounce her name as “Zosha” rather than as “Zasha” as you have suggested. I hadn’t considered using a diminutive for a baby name in its own right, but Zosia is going on the list!

Since my son’s name is Zachariah, we’ve been telling people that we’re going to go “Duggar” and use only Z for future kids. It’s been funny because everyone struggles to come up with more than one Z name. It’s a joke but once I started to think about it, I found that I really like Zofia. There is a woman in her 90s with that name at our church. I don’t quite like Zosia as much, especially with that pronunciation but it’s still nice. Go Z names!!

Oh, Colleen – I *love* it! Zachariah, Zofia, Zara, Zebulon … I think it might get tough after 3 or 4 kids. 🙂 Would love to see others’ reactions when you tell them that! #namenerdhumor