A Name by Any Other Name

Last night Deren and I were in bed reading and he commented, “I didn’t know Robinson is an Irish name.” And I said, “It’s not, I’m guessing it’s English.” He is reading a book about the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the author had listed 10-20 Irish players by last name, one of the names being Robinson. My theory is the guy’s mother must have been Irish. Derwood looked up the origins of Robinson and found it is from Northern England.

I tell you that to tell you this: I love names. I have always loved guessing people’s backgrounds from their names. Although I went through a phase in junior high when I thought my name was too ethnic. I didn’t want to be so obviously a descendant of the potato famine, of the unrefined pub dwelling, rosary bead squeezing Irish. I wanted to be a WASP…what could be more lovely than being a White. Anglo-Saxon. Protestant??? So I made up a name for myself, the most sophisticated, WASPy name my 13-year-old brain could come up with: Jacqueline Erica Truesdale. JET.

I used JET for my initials that summer when working at my dad’s office.  Some of you may remember these:

This is where people used to use a pen or pencil to write down a name, phone number and message.
This is where people used to use a pen or pencil to write down a name, phone number and message.

I could put my JET initials on the pink message slip, please note how I could make one swish across the top for all three letters.

Original artwork by Maggie
Original artwork by Maggie

So I love names and onamastics. I love guessing the origins of surnames. In that same vein, I have been distressed over what has happened to names in the past 15-20 years. Gwyneth Paltrow who has been named Most Annoying Woman Ever for the 7th year in a row, has a kid named Apple. That’s just dum. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, yes you guessed it, King and Queen of the Famous Non-Achievers Prom for three years running, named their baby a pun. North West. I’m actually surprised either one of them was clever enough to think of that but they have people, so maybe they got some help coming up with a ridiculous baby name.

Top 10 American Baby names in 1914:

Boys: John, William, James, Robert, Joseph, George, Charles, Edward, Frank, Walter

Girls: Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ruth, Anna, Mildred, Elizabeth, Frances, Marie

Top 10 American Baby names in 2014:

Boys: Noah, Liam, Ethan, Mason, Aiden, Jackson, Michael, Lucas, Elijah, Jacob

Girls: Olivia, Ava, Emma, Sophia, Mia, Isabella, Charlotte, Emily, Lily, Abigail

That’s a 100-year spread and I don’t have many issues with those names. Walter is one of my all time fave names. Ruth and Mildred have probably run their course although can be charming in an old world way. I am surprised at how popular biblical names are now and I think Mason should only be a surname, but if it’s not, that’s okay.

I am now going to go through an old school directory that I selected at random from a kitchen cupboard in my house and share some names with you. Please keep in mind, I have a daughter whose given name is Anna (named after my grandmother born 90 years before Annie). There are a lot of Anna’s born in 1997. I get that people want original names but I think it should be within reason. If I offend anyone, I’m sorry but this is a pet peeve of mine.

Alissa, Alyssa, Alisha — Lisa is good enough.

Morgan, Madison, McKenna, Hunter,  — Boy or a girl?

Kale’a, Autumn, Indigo, Shyanne — No

Makaila, Kayla, Kiley, Kendall, whatever other Kardashian names.  These aren’t pretty names.

And don’t get all weird with your spelling. Isaiah is fine. It doesn’t need any accents or Z’s. Kelly is fine, as is. KelLee isn’t necessary. Madlyn–nope, the name is Madeline. I know my daughter Brigid has an odd spelling of her name. It is Gaelic.  It could also be spelled Brigitte. Bridget. Birgitta. Brighid. But don’t go all phonetic in the name of originality. Name. Get it?

So that’s all. A Name by Any Other Name is probably a parent just showing off and paying no heed to the fact that someday Apple will be 43.


24 replies to “A Name by Any Other Name

  1. Now I’m going to have to call you Jet. I’m a WASP and it’s not as exciting as you think. This is such an interesting topic because I think your name kind of sets your life–defines you somewhat. I love my name. My parents liked different names. My older sister was a combination of my parents first and middle names–Adrianna and then there was me and after that, they stuck with an alphabet theme naming the third and fourth girls C and D names and our surname was an E!


    Anyhoo, I always loved the name Isabelle and I like Anna. When I worked in radio, we had a segment called Bad Baby Names and it’s sad the names some people name their kids.

    Kate Winslet’s boy is named Bear which I guess is better than Apple. Maybe. Remember Valerie Bertinelli and Eddie Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang? Then there’s Frank Zappa’s son, Dweezil and daughter Moon Unit.

    So see, Maggie’s a fine name. :).

    1. Um Brig? It’s JET. It has to be all caps. Of course, I love your name as I have a version of you at home!

      I can give Valerie and Eddie a pass because Wolfgang Van Halen seems to me to be a legitimately German name or Germanic name. Frank Zappa may have won…Dweezil. Nope, not a name.

  2. It’s funny that you mention this, because I am starting a second post for tomorrow, andit mentions a friend of mine. This post purposeful due to his turning 30. However, the acronym that his name spells out, and his Confirmation name is included, is JERK. He is far from what his name spells out, which I find entertaining.

  3. I am really okay with those 2014 names… not so much with the 1914 ones. So, I noticed Trent isn’t amongst the popular names…. what gives??? Any thoughts on Trent Lewin, other than it’s incredibly manly and so so suave?

  4. I’m so with you on this Maggie. Both my gals have old school names 1997 was an excellent year… My Katharine came into this world.

    My name is ODD. Nuf said

    1. I love the name Katharine/Katherine/Catherine have friends, siblings and friends’ kids with that name. It’s a classic! What is the origin of your real name which I don’t know if you allow me to use on WP 🙂

  5. Maggie, allow me to enlighten that the names John, William, James, Robert, Joseph, George, Charles, Edward, Frank, Walter, Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ruth, Anna, Mildred, Elizabeth, Frances, Marie are still very much in use today. They’re what people who have named their offspring Morgan, Madison, McKenna, Hunter, Apple, Bear, Futon and Toaster call their pets.

  6. Omg. I wanted to be named Aundralyn (Andra- lynn). She was the most exotic girl in the second grade. Judy was an old lady name. And I hate the name Apple too. My ex husband and I used to joke when we were thinking of baby names… we came up with things like Money Bags, Table, Chair. And I was thinking the other day, there will be nursing homes full of Britney’s and Kyle’s

  7. I love names – I don’t even mind the weird made up ones – I’m particularly fond of boy/girl names too! But my favorite are Welsh name – Llewellyn tops them all! Which is why I have pets b/c humans tend to not favor the names I love (I’m also fond of Vyvyan for a boy… Young Ones fan, I am! and Joce – but I know naming a boy Joclyn in this day & age is putting a ‘kill me’ sign on their forehead).

    Everyone thinks my married last name’s origin is German, but it’s actually Old Icelandic and it means ‘illegitimate male child” or BASTARD….which makes me LAUGH… My maiden name, Bova, means ‘matador of bull’ – I can’t decide which makes me laugh more…

  8. Names are a huge deal in my family too. I was named Erin because my parents knew I was going to have red hair and wanted to make sure everyone knew I was Irish. All of the men on my dad’s side of the family have one of three names: John Henry, James Edward, or Mark Edward. My brother is a third, my younger cousin is a junior, and my other cousin is a fourth.

    My fiancé was named after his father (different middle name though), but unfortunately no longer has a relationship with him. It breaks my heart that he doesn’t speak with his father for obviously reasons and also because it means that is we have a son, he won’t be a junior. I know it’s silly, but like I said, family names are a big deal to us. I could never name my child after a fruit!

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