The Baby Name Buff: World Literature Edition

This Spring semester, one of the courses Kyle will be teaching is a literature survey course. Unlike most American colleges–where lit surveys are either American lit or British lit–Kyle’s school does surveys based on time periods but with a variety of literature from around the world. Neat, right?!

Not only is Kyle’s reading list really cool, but I noticed that many of the assigned authors had (first or last) names that would make great, unique baby names. So, without further ado, here’s the list!


Photo Credit: GoToVan   

The Baby Name Buff: Pro Tennis

Inspired by my husband’s favorite sport to watch–professional tennis–here is a list of names from the current top 100 men’s and women’s tennis rankings.

Boys’ Names

Girls’ Names
Vitalia D.

Photo credit: CORE-materials

The Baby Name Buff: Felix’s Alternate Names Edition

Today and tomorrow, Kyle is away presenting at a conference in Atlanta. So, I’m on my own at home with my son, Felix. To honor this special little bit of time we’ll have together, I thought I’d share a few of the more unique names Kyle and I considered naming our boyo before we finally settled on Felix Orion.

Quill (Kwill) was my top choice for our son’s name. I thought this name could be a good option for our family for a few reasons. First, since Kyle and I are both English majors / teachers who met in grad school, naming our son after an antiquated writing implement would have lent a sentimental aspect to Felix’s name. Second, because our family name is a long, hyphenated name, a single-syllable first name would have been nice. Third, though I didn’t actually see the Guardians of the Galaxy movies until after we would have already named our son Quill, I do quite like the title character Peter Quill, so that association would have also been cool. I think the only reason I let Kyle talk me out of choosing Quill instead of Felix is that I was worried that people would think I was saying Will instead of Quill whenever I introduced our son verbally. Still, I will go to my grave thinking that Quill is one of the coolest boys’ names of all time. And while this name has yet to break into the U.S. top 1,000, I feel like it could someday. But then again, we’ve already established that I’m very biased where the name Quill is concerned. The full name combo we had chosen out if we had gone with Quill was Quill Loxley.

I was going to say that Cambric (Cam-brick) was my second-favorite name option, but that would be an inaccurate statement. Despite the almost innumerable hours I spent scoping baby names in anticipation of Felix’s arrival (and for about six years prior to that…), I didn’t actually encounter this unique name until after Felix was born, even though I had heard this word before, in a little-known late-60s David Bowie jam called “Come and Buy My Toys.” When doing research for my very first blog post back in January, I realized that this word from an obscure Bowie tune could make a great name! Cambric is actually a fabric, which means that this name joins a long line of traditional fabric names (like Jean and Cotton) and new, trending fabric names (like Paisley or Velvet). If we had named our son Cambric, his nickname would have been Cam. I never actually came up with a middle name to pair with Cambric, probably because I didn’t come across the name before we named Felix, because what would have been the point, other than the fun of it, of course! To date, Cambric has never been in the U.S. top 1,000.

Both Kyle and I love Lord of the Rings, and Kyle is also really into Peregrine falcons, so Peregrine (Per-uh-grin) was a unique and fantastic name possibility for us. And, though I know I said that I loved Quill because it was short, I also really like longer names that can have short, cute nicknames. Peregrine obviously fits the bill, with Pippin, Perry, Reg, and Ryn as possible nicknames. If we had chosen Peregrine as our son’s name, his nickname would have been Perry, and his full name would have been Peregrine Lore. Like Quill, Peregrine is another name I’ve seen around often enough on name boards and sites that I suspect it will make it into the top 1,000 someday, though it hasn’t yet.

This is one of the first names I ever put on my baby name list. Because Everest (Ev-er-ist) conjures up images of the famous, majestic mountain, this name always makes me think of nature, as well as the ability to achieve things, and I really like both associations. I am really shocked, though, that this name is still not in the U.S. top 1,000, since Everest seems to be climbing in popularity at a very steady rate.

Many of you will be very familiar with more typical spellings of this name, including Body, Bodi, Bode, and Bodee. However, while this spelling of the name Bodhi (Bo-dee) may seem uncommon at first, this version of the name has actually been in the U.S. top 1,000 since 2010, having peaked at #301 in 2017. In Sanskrit, bodhi means “awakened” or “enlightened,” a word and concept central to Kyle’s religion, Buddhism. Felix’s full name if we had chosen Bodhi as his first name would have been Bodhi Dylan.

Even though honor names for family members can be really charming (under the right circumstances), our baby name list always prioritized uncommon names that we liked rather than family names. But one of the names I wrote about in my previous My Family Edition of this blog that we strongly considered for Felix was Rigden (Rig-din), which is Kyle’s mom’s maiden name. But, since Sue (Kyle’s mom) didn’t love Rigden as a first name, we nixed that possibility.

The other family name we somewhat-seriously considered was Fendor (Fen-door), a name to honor my beloved Grampy, whose father’s name was Fendor. My Grampy loved tracing our family’s lineage and making family trees / charts. If he had actually been alive when Felix was born, I might have considered this name a little more strongly, since Grampy would have been tickled pink. I love Fendor for its fantasy vibe and the nickname Fenn.

Kyle never actually let me put Ziggy (Zig-ee) in our final top 10 names. But, as a David Bowie super fan, this honestly would have been the perfect name for my kid. (Then again, I had already named a previous car Ziggy, so maybe that would have been weird to name my kid Ziggy?) Shockingly, this name has never been in the U.S. top 1,000, unless the SSA website is just giving me trouble again…

I have always loved the name Corwin (Core-win), a name that’s only been (barely) in the top 1,000 for three years: 1969, 1970, and 1988. (It was in the 900s all three years.) We had a cat named Corwin growing up, a pet I truly adored. Corwin was very smart for a cat; he could play fetch, for instance–a trick I have actually also recently taught Felix to do! And while he could be very loving, he also had a lot of cattitude and didn’t take shit from anyone. This means that, for those who believe in reincarnation, Felix may actually be Corwin having returned to Earth as a human, so Corwin might have actually been the perfect choice. The full name we would have gone with for Felix if we had gone with Corwin instead was Corwin Asher.

Yeah, I know–Casper (Cass-purr) the friendly ghost. Still love this name, though. We would have done Casper Lennox as the full name.

Bonus: Top 5 Picks If Felix Had Been a Girl!
Delaney Celeste
Novella Celine
Gwendolyn Grace
Phaedra Jubilee
Sylvana Dawn

The Baby Name Buff: Veteran’s Day Edition

When I started this baby-name blog back in January, I had some grand plans for my first Veteran’s Day post. I wanted to ask my veteran friends to share their names, nicknames, and names of their compatriots, along with stories honoring said veterans. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my act together in enough time to make it happen this year, but I still hope to do this blog next year, with the help of my friends Cortney and Jim, among others.

Instead, I’m going in a different and perhaps surprising direction for Veteran’s Day. A day or two ago, someone in one of the Facebook baby-name groups I frequent was looking for baby names that are also….weapons! While all veterans join the services for different reasons and often have wildly disparate experiences of being in the military, one thing all veterans have in common is that, at some point, they wield a weapon. So, I thought this focus could work well for a Veteran’s Day post.

However, there’s an additional twist that made this week’s post a bit of a (fun) challenge. The person from the FB baby-name group who was requesting weapon names that could make good baby names also (ideally) wanted the full (weapon) name to be able to be shortened to a cute animal name, since her existing son’s name is Barrett nn Bear.

So, please enjoy this list of weapon names with potential animal nicknames!

Boys’ Names
Arrow nn Roo
Buckler nn Buck
Colton nn Colt
Flintlock nn Fly or Lox
Lance nn Ant
Paladin nn Dino
Rocket nn Kit
Sabre nn Bear
Shooter nn Hoot
Tomahawk nn Hawk
Wesson nn Sunny
Winchester nn Cheetah

Girls’ Names
Benelli nn Bee
Katana nn Kat
Remington nn Wren or Mink

Photo credit: Andreas Overland

The Baby Name Buff: My High School Classmates–Surnames

I recently checked out my high school yearbook for some possible name inspiration. Unfortunately, the Elk Lake class of 2001 is a unique-name wasteland when it comes to first names. However, many of my fellow HS graduates have surnames that would make really cool first names, so enjoy this list!


The Baby Name Buff: Mammals Edition

Yesterday, Kyle and I met up with our friends Jocelyn and Michelle. It was great seeing them after five years, and we had a wonderful day! What was especially lovely was meeting their adorable 6-month-old son, Hunter, and having them meet our little Felix (now 16 months).

Our main activity for the day was hanging out at the Virginia Zoo, where Michelle works. This zoo was really cool, and we saw many interesting animals, my favorite of which was the red panda.

Whenever I visit places with animals, my favorites tend to be the mammals (though I do consider myself a lover of all animals). Since I already did a blog post early this year on baby names inspired by birds, I thought now might be a great time for a post on baby names inspired by our fellow mammals!

Given how often I see the boys’ name Bear mentioned on the baby-name forums I frequent, I am really surprised this name has never been in the U.S. top 1,000. The fact that there are several famous people who bear this name also attests to its growing popularity.

I don’t know why , but I’m really digging Caribou (Care-uh-boo) as a possible gender-neutral name. I love Reba as a girls’ nickname, though Carrie or Rhi are also nice. Beau would be my favorite boys’ nickname, though Carr is also cool.

Even though fishers are often colloquially refereed to as fisher cats, they are actually members of the weasel family. I once saw a fisher at the National Zoo (I think), and they are absolutely adorable! Likewise, I find the boys’ name Fisher just darling, and others obviously agree; this name has been in the boys’ U.S. top 1,000 every year since 2004 (except for 2006, for some reason).

Probably the most common mammal-name-gone-baby-name after Fisher, the boys’ name Fox has been in the U.S. top 1,000 since 2016, peaking during its debut year (2016) at #747. This name is particularly popular with X-Files fans and nature lovers.

If Giselle can be a girls’ name, why not Gazelle (Guh-zell)? And Zella would be a cute nickname.

Geladas are monkeys native only to Ethiopia and are the “the last surviving species of ancient grazing primates.” Though unconventional, I think Gelada (Juh-la-duh) could make a very pretty girls’ name, even though it sounds suspiciously simialr to gelato.

Gibbon (Gib-in) could be a more unique take on the popular boys’ name Gibson.

The indri is one of the few obscure mammals on this list that I actually knew about before writing this blog, but only because it was included in my son’s book, The Alphabet of Peculiar Creatures. Indri (In-dree) would be a great alternative for those looking for something a little more unique but similar to the trendy girls’ name Indie.

Even though the loris has kind of freaky, buggy eyes, it still has a certain cute quality about it. And I really like Loris (Lore-iss) as a girls’ name.

Item #1 on my bucket list of things to do in my lifetime is to meet a moose int he wild. The noble moose is my primary spirit animal, as well as my favorite animal. As such, Moose was definitely on my list of boys’ names when I was pregnant with Felix. But Kyle wasn’t a fan; he said Moose sounded like too much of a frat boy / dude-bro name, which I suppose is kind of true. Even so, I still adore this name.

The nyala is an African antelope. I think Nyala (Nigh-aah-luh) works well as a girls’ name because it is unique but still kind of fits within the conventions of more traditional girls’ names.

I want to make every wild large cat my pet, and the ocelot is no exception. I think of Ocelot (Oss-uh-lot) as a gender-neutral name. I love Ozzy as a boys’ nickname and Celie as a girls’ nickname.

The okapi is another animal featrued in Felix’s book, The Alphabet of Peculiar Creatures. Okapi look like zebras but are actually related to giraffes! I really like Okapi (Oh-cop-ee) as a boys’ name, with Oak or Cap as nickname options.

Another animal I was not familiar with before writing this blog, an oryx is yet another type of antelope. But I already knew Oryx (Ore-ix) as a human name because of Margaret Atwood’s science fiction novel, Oryx and Crake, a book I’ve been wanting to read since forever. While I’m unsure if the character in Atwood’s work is male or female, I think Oryx would wear well on a boy or girl.

A phalanger is an Australian marsupial. And while Phalanger (Faal-in-jer) probably seems really out there, it reminds me of Salinger, which is probably why I think Phalanger could make a really cool boys’ name.

Oh my goodness–I can’t even handle the cuteness that is the sable! I had never actualy heard of this animal before researching for this blog, but I’m glad to know about it. I love Sable (Say-buhl) as a gender-neutral name possibility.

I love the Golden Lion Tamarin; its vibrant orange fur is so pretty. And Tamarin (Tam-uh-rin) is another fantastic gender-neutral name option with many cute nickname options, like Tam, Tammi, Ama, Marin, Ari, Arin, and Rin / Ryn.

Wallaby (Wall-uh-bee) might be my favorite boys’ name on this list! It is unique but really cute and still registers as something that really could be a name without raising too many eyebrows (if you care about that sort of thing).

Like Bear, I was shocked that this trending boys’ name has yet to break the U.S. top 1,000. Not only are there already many celebrities named Wolf, but this name is very appealing to nature lovers. (The wolf is my secondary spirit animal, so I’m definitely a fan of this adorable boys’ name!)

Meaning “fox” in Spanish, I’ve been kind of obsessed with th boys’ name Zorro (Zor-oh) lately, despite the violent associations with the fictional swashbuckling icon of the same name.


Photo credit: Lucky Lynda

The Baby Name Buff: Parks and Recreation

Do you love the TV show Parks and Recreation as much as I do? If so, check out this list of baby names inspired by Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her quirky crew.

Linsday Carlisle Shay (Parker Posey) is Leslie Knope’s former best friend who betrayed her by taking a job in and moving to–gasp!–the rich-and-snooty neighboring town of Eagleton. When I searched the U.S. SSN database just now, Carlisle (CAR-lie-uhl) did not show up as ever having been in the top 1,000, even though I get the sense that this name used to be very popular, maybe prior to when the U.S. started collecting name data. Just don’t name your kid Carlisle unless you like the Twilight book series, since that is the association most people are going to make, with the character Carlisle Cullen. Car / Carr or Lyle are good nickname options.

Another recurring bit character from Eagleton is Ingrid De Forest, played by Kristen Bell. DeForest (Duh-FOR-ist) was actually almost my son’s middle name, as an homage to DeForest Kelly, who played Dr. McCoy on Star Trek: TOS. (We ended up going with Felix Orion instead of Felix DeForest–a tough choice!) This boys’ name is a nice alternative to plain-old Forest, which is still a good name in its own right.

You know how some people have celebrity crushes? One step removed from that, my top fictional character crush of all time is the character of Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec. Anyone who knows me knows I love nerds, and there’s no one geekier than him! To wit, Ben created an elaborate role-playing game called Cones of Dunshire (which is now an actual game you can purchase and play in real life). Dunshire (DUNN-shy-er) is a preppy boys’ name with multiple cool nickname options: Dunn, Shy, Shae, and Shire.

Who could forget the Pawnee Harvest Festival? An event Leslie Knope spearheaded to help save Pawnee financially, the Harvest Festival is consummate Pawnee–cute and super local. The girls’ name Harvest (HAR-vist) is becoming increasingly popular, especially as a middle name.

Burt Macklin is not a character on the show Parks and Rec. Rather, he is the alter ego of one of the show’s characters (Andy Dwyer, played by Chris Pratt). Andy is a lovable buffoon who–for various reasons–sometimes adopts disguises, the foremost of which is “Burt Macklin, FBI.” Macklin (MACK-lin) is gaining popularity as a boys’ name, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one bust into the U.S. top 1,000 for the 2019 or 2020 list. And Mac / Mack is an awesome nickname.

Orin (played by Eric Isenhower) is the creepy goth friend of one of the show’s main characters, April Ludgate (played by Aubrey Plaza). And while everyone on the show is a little afraid of Orin, there’s only one thing Orin is afraid of: Chris Traeger! (See the entry on the name Traeger, below, for more about this character.) Orin (ORE-in) is more typically spelled Orrin, a name that was in the U.S. boys’ top 1,000 sporadically between 1900 to 1961.

“We all fell into the pit.” ‘Nuff said. Can Pitt work as a baby (boys’) name? Maybe. I would see it more as a middle name, though.

Retta’s portrayal of Donna Meagle is exemplary in terms of how well she conveys both humor and deep character development. Retta’s character–in conjunction with her co-worker Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari)–also gifted the world with “Treat Yo Self ” Day, a concept I love and need to employ more often. The girls’ name Retta (RET-uh) is a fun, spunky alternative to its more common counterpart, Etta. I would also really like this name spelled with an h: Rhetta.

Ron Swanson–played by Nick Offerman–might be my favorite TV show character of all time, from any show. (It’s a toss up between him and Data from Star Trek: TNG.) Ron is a woods-loving, hard-core libertarian who loves steak, scotch, and strong women (who are typically named Tammy). So, naming your son Swanson (SWAN-sin) will no doubt set him up for a lifetime of badassery.

Rob Lowe’s character on Parks and Rec, Chris Traeger, is known for being hyper-positive, always staying ridiculously physically fit, and saying “literally” a lot. As a boys’ first name, Traeger (TRAY-ger) has a trendy vibe, with Trey as an obvious and adorable nickname.

Bonus Names
Plaza (for actress Aubrey Plaza)
Dwyer (for character Andy Dwyer)
Pratt (for actor Chris Pratt)
Rashida (for actress Rashida Jones)
Aziz (for actor Aziz Ansari)
Ansari (for actor Aziz Ansari)
Lowe (for actor Rob Lowe)
Pawnee (for the name of the town in which the show takes place)
Perd (for character Perd Hapley)
Hapley (for character Perd Hapley)
Jean-Ralphio (for character Jean-Ralphio Saperstein)
Dexhart (for character Councilman Dexhart)
Mona-Lisa (for character Mona-Lisa Saperstein)
Boraqua (for Pawnee’s sister city in Venezuela)
Mulligan (for Charles Mulligan’s Steak House, a place Ron Swanson loves)
Elmo (for St. Elmo’s Steak House, another place Ron Swanson loves)

Photo credit: Trending Topics 2019
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