The Baby Name Buff: Places I’ve Lived–Prescott, AZ

After Kyle finished his doctorate degree in 2013, and until he got a tenure-track teaching position, we were free to move somewhere else if we wanted to do so. We thus moved out west to Prescott, AZ for a high school teaching job I had been offered. The teaching job did not pan out (long story!), so we sadly only spent one month in Prescott. Even so, this town was one of the cutest, most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, and I look forward to hopefully going back there again someday on vacation.

Here are ten names inspired by the Prescott, AZ area:

The boys’ name Bradshaw (Brad-shaw) has a fun and sporty vibe. Possible nicknames: Brad, Addis, and Shaw.

In the month we lived in Prescott, Kyle and I took advantage of the many wonderful in-town hiking trails. One of our favorites was the Brownlow Trail at Pioneer Park. As a boys’ name, Brownlow (Brown-low) joins a host of names ending in -low, such as Winslow, Marlow, and Barlow.

The small town of Black Canyon City lies about midway between Prescott and the Phoenix metro area. Since nature names are trending hard right now, I’ve actually seen the gender-neutral name Canyon (Can-yin) floating around a bit on the baby name boards I frequent, though mostly as a middle name rather than a first name.

Another small town outside Prescott is Dewey-Humboldt, one of the only hyphenated town names I’ve ever seen. According to Nameberry, Dewey (Do-ee) is a Welsh boys’ name meaning “beloved.” And, since Dewey is a variation of David, this name is a terrific option for those who want a unique name but also want to honor someone in their family with the commonplace name David.

One of the campuses of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is located in Prescott. This campus is actually where I had the start of my teacher training. It is also the location where I met my first (but certainly not my last) wild tarantula! The gender-neutral name Embry (Em-bree) is a nice alternative to other popular names with a similar sound and feel, such as Emily, Emory, Emmy, Ember, and Embric.

The second part of the aforementioned town Dewey-Humboldt, this is a name I feel a little lukewarm about. While Humboldt (Hum-bolt) is definitely unique, it sounds a bit too much like “humbug” to me. Also, while I originally thought Bolt was a kind of cool nickname, I think I know in my heart of hearts that Bolt is really more of a dog name than a human name.

Paxton (Pax-tin) was one of my top-ten boys’ name picks when naming my own son. But this name is now also gaining popularity as a girls’ name. Paxton means “peace town,” and I love Pax as a short and sweet nickname.

I like that the stately boys’ name Piedmont (Peed-mont) also has the cutesy nickname option of Monty. The obvious trouble with this name, though, is that it starts with the sound “pee” / “peed.” (Let’s face it: kids can be cruel, and they are also obsessed with bodily functions…) If you’re worried about that connection, perhaps the variant Piermont would work nicely.

Though the name of this town in Arizona is pronounced Press-kit, I prefer the traditional pronunciation for this preppy boys’ name: Press-cot.

Another boys’ name with an aristocratic air to it, Stanton (Stan-tin) strikes me as a unique but slightly more mainstream choice than another name I’ve discussed on this blog before: Scranton. Stan or Anton are nickname choices.

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley

The Baby Name Buff: Places I’ve Lived–Maryland / D.C. Area

After I got my B.A. in English from Marywood, I went to graduate school at University of Maryland in College Park, MD (just outside of Washington, D.C). Getting my M.A. opened many doors for me and helped me get experience teaching college students, a job role I loved. And, on a personal level, my time at UMD led me to many of the dearest friends that I know I’ll have for a lifetime, including my wonderful husband, Kyle.

Even though I was only a student at UMD for two years, I spent six years in the MD / D.C. while Kyle completed his PhD. As such, I got to know this area really well and have so many great memories from a variety of locations in this region.

Here are some of my favorite names inspired by my time in Maryland.

For the majority of my time in MD, I lived in the city of Greenbelt. One of my favorite places to go there was Lake Artemesia, a park with a lovely lakeside walking trail. The girls’ name Artemesia (Art-uh-mee-shuh) is a long, beautiful name with lots of cute nickname options, like Artie, Emma, Mia, or Sia.

As one of the world’s biggest David Bowie fans, I was so excited the first time I drove past a sign for the town of Bowie. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that the town is actually pronounced Boo-ee! But, for the purposes of using Bowie as a (boys’ or girls’) name, I’m going to pronounce it like the singer (Bow-ee).

Dupont (Do-pont) Circle is one of the most hipster areas of D.C., as I already covered in my previous blog post about baby names inspired by beer.

As noted above, I lived in Greenbelt for the majority of my time in MD. And while Green might seem like a stretch for a baby name, Blue has become pretty popular as a name, so why not Green? Green is also my favorite color, so perhaps I’m a little biased.

Hyattsville was one of the places I went often, particularly because it had a decent movie theater and several good restaurants. Hyatt (Hi-it) is kind of a fun alternative to the wildly-popular boys’ name Wyatt.

During my first year in Maryland, I rented a room in a house in a town called Lanham. Stories of “the Lanham House” are notorious among me and my friends Matt (former roomie at Lanham House) and Erin, in large part because the landlords were kind of weird, lurky, racist and sexist old people who loved getting up in our business. As a baby name, Lanham (Lan-um) has a posh feel and could work well for a boy or girl.

In addition to teaching at UMD, I also got to teach at Prince George’s Community College (PGCC), located in Largo, MD. Another thing I loved that was also in Largo was my favorite grocery store of all time, Wegmans! I actually really love the name Largo (Lar-go), for a boy or a girl.

There were several libraries on the huge, sprawling UMD campus. But the main library was McKeldin Library (shown in the featured picture for this blog), a place I spent A LOT of time in during my time as a student and teacher at UMD. As a (gender-neutral) name, McKeldin (Muh-kell-din) joins a long line of Mc names. And I love so many of the nickname options, though Mickey and Kell are probably my favs.

I have many ties to Silver Spring, MD. First, I drove through it every day on my way to work for the three years I worked in D.C. Second, Kyle’s Buddhist temple in MD was in Silver Spring. And third, my friend Lauren and her family still reside there. Another great, gender-neutral name, Silver has both a peaceful / hippy feel and a tough, badass feel all at the same time.

Tawes Hall was the really nice, brand-new building that the English Department moved to while I was a student at UMD. This new location was a major upgrade from the English Department’s previous home in Susquehanna Hall, where 70s-style decor was thriving and where all grad students who were teaching had their “offices” in a single, open space called “the bullpen.” Tawes (Toz) could work well for a boy or girl, though I tend to think of it as a boys’ name for some reason.

And here are many more fantastic MD / DC-inspired names:

Photo credit: carmichaellibrary 

The Baby Name Buff: Places I’ve Lived–Oceanside, CA

After my semester of isolation at Kutztown, I decided I needed a drastic change. At the time, my Aunt Grace, Uncle Al, and cousins Brooklyn and Anthony lived in California. So, I dropped out of college, packed up my stuff, and moved to CA. One of the best parts of this move was actually the drive out. My Uncle Rich drove with me, and that road trip–especially our stop at the Grand Canyon–was one of the most fun, memorable times of my life!

In CA, I lived in Oceanside, a beach town a bit north of San Diego. I lived with my family for a couple of months before getting a job and my own apartment. I spent a ton of time at the beach, since I only lived a mile away from the ocean. (I mean, the town is called Oceanside for a reason!). And I reveled in the opportunity to spend some time getting to know my CA family better.

I was in Oceanside for a year, and my brother Johnny actually came and lived with me for the last few months of my time there. This was an interesting period in my life; by striking out on my own, I began to learn how to take care of myself and started understanding a bit more about who I am. I consider this year of my life to have been a time of great personal progress and discovery.

Please enjoy these names inspired by my year of life on the West coast!

Spanish for “pretty,” Bonita (Bow-nee-tuh) has a lovely sound and several great nickname possibilities, like Bonnie, Ona, or Nita.

While living in CA, I worked at a beautiful resort called La Costa Resort and Spa, located in Carlsbad. Carl or Arlin are possible nicknames.

I’ve been kind of obsessed with the name Diego (Dee-ay-go) lately. Not sure why, but there it is.

In Spanish, Encinitas (En-sih-nee-tiss) means “little oaks.” Encinitas was one of the most quaint little beach towns I’ve ever seen, and it has some of my favorite restaurants in the area. I really like Cini or Sidney as nickname choices.

Meaning “plateau” or “table,” Mesa (May-suh) would be a really cute girls’ name, specially as a middle name.

Inspired by the town I lived in, Oceanside, the name Ocean has long been popular with hippies and other nature-loving parents. Even so, this name has yet to break into the U.S. top 1,000.

Oceanside is a military town (Marines), and the base in Oceanside is called Camp Pendleton. I love any name that can have the nickname Penn.

If I was being objective, I would have left Ramona (Ruh-mo-nuh) off this list, since it is far too well-known a name to be considered “truly unique.” But I just adore the name, so here it sits. (Ramona was high on my baby name list before we knew we were having a boy, but Kyle never liked it, so it would have gotten the axe eventually…)

This is probably my favorite name on this list. Not only does Solana (So-la-nuh) sound lovely, but I adore the meaning too: “sunshine.” Sola or Lana are great nickname options.

Vista (Vis-tuh) is another name with both a lovely sound and a pretty meaning (“view”). I like Vi as a nickname for Vista.

The Baby Name Buff: Places I’ve Lived–Kutztown, PA

My path to getting my undergraduate degree was pretty convoluted. I switched majors three times and transferred four times (between three schools). I’ve already written a bit about my time at University of Miami and Marywood University. The third college I attended–for a single semester–was Kutztown University in Kutztown, PA. This time in my life was a very lonely one. I didn’t make a single friend at Kutztown, and I didn’t get out much. As such, I don’t have any personal connections to the area. Nevertheless, the Kutztown region did produce some great possible baby names, listed below.


Photo credit: the_great_nanners

The Baby Name Buff: Places I’ve Lived – Scranton

After I came home from Miami, I lived for a short time with my Mom in Factoryville, PA. But that little old town is in Wyoming County, a location I’ve already covered in my previous blog post about Tunkhannock, PA. I then moved from Factoryville to Scranton. (Yes, Scranton like on The Office.) More specifically, I resided in South Side and roomed in a nice, big house with many of my guy friends from high school. At some point, I moved to California for a year (blog to follow about names based on that location), and when I returned, I became roommates with my sister in a couple of different locations in Scranton as well. So, today’s blog features baby names inspired by Scranton and other locations in Lackawanna County and other nearby counties in PA.  

Blakely is one of many rural-ish towns to the northeast of Scranton. And while the name Blakely (Blake-lee) might seem uncommon to those not in the naming game, it is actually a very trendy girls’ name that was at #250 in 2018. Blake, Lake, Kell, or Kelly are some nickname options.

I love the boys’ name Cortez (Cor-tez)! I was surprised to find this Spanish-named town in rural PA, just east of Blakely. I was even more shocked to find that Cortez has been in the U.S. boys’ top 1,000 fairly consistently from 1972 to 2013. If you like more unique nicknames, I think Taz would be a really cute option. If you prefer more traditional nicknames for unique first names, Corey would work well.  

I’ve driven past Dalton millions of times on my many treks from Tunkhannock to Scranton. Locals know that the most notable Dalton landmark when driving this route is the Dalton Do-It Center, a home-improvement store whose name not only welcomes but basically requires bawdy parody.  The boys’ name Dalton (Doll-tin) has always been in the U.S. top 1,000, having peaked in 1999 at #85. I like this name a lot, not only because it sounds cool, but because my friend Paula has a sweet and adorable son who bears this name. Also, my Mom is moving very soon to a lovely, rural area of Dalton, so I’ll soon be spending lots of time over the next many years visiting my Mom in this town.

Right next to Scranton, Dickson City is your typical commercial area with a mall, tons of restaurants, lots of big box stores, and many strip malls to boot. While I really like the boys’ name Dickson (Dick-sin), I prefer the Dixon spelling.

Dunmore is a suburb right next to Scranton, and this town is very close to the part of Scranton where I went to undergrad at Marywood University. I also almost lived in Dunmore in 2015, but then my husband got a job in Illinois, so we moved there instead. (So, look out for an Illinois “Places I’ve Lived” blog post in the future!) I really like Dunn as a nickname for the boys’ name Dunmore (Dunn-more), though Maury would be another obvious option.  

I was a little torn about including the boys’ name Forge (pronounced as it is spelled) on this list. On the one hand, no one can deny that Forge is a really badass and completely uncommon name. On the other hand, I find the one thing Old Forge is known for—it’s unique brand of “pizza,”—to be a gross abomination. But, just as not everyone loves the same type of names, I suppose not everyone loves the same kind of pizza…if Old Forge pizza even qualifies as actual pizza (which it does not).

Apparently there’s a town called Harmony Hills just outside Moscow, PA. I have never heard of nor been to this place, but since Harmony (Har-muh-nee)is one of my top-ten favorite girls’ names, I was psyched to see this town on the list of places in the Scranton area.


When my sister and I were roommates, we lived in two different places in Scranton. One was in an amazing apartment in the Hills Section of Scranton, on Clay Avenue. The other was in a somewhat dilapidated, stand-alone house on Keiser Ave. (No one local to Scranton ever seems to say Keiser Avenue; they always shorten it to just Keiser Ave.—not sure why.) Though I’ve seen the boys’ name Keiser (Ky-zer) cropping up more and more on the baby name boards I frequent, this name has never been in the U.S. top 1,000. Kai is a short-and-sweet nickname option for Keiser.  

Like Harmony Hills (above), I’m actually not personally familiar with Maple Lake, located just southeast of Scranton. But I adore the girls’ name Maple (pronounced like the leaf)! It is a sweet and unique alternative to the mainstream girls’ name Mabel, a name I also like. And while Maple is often discussed on baby name groups, it has not been in the U.S. top 1,000 since 1902 (#957). Though Maple is already a short name, May / Mae is a cute, succinct nickname possibility.

When my Mom used to rent a lovely house in Falls, PA, I would often drive through Newton Township on my way to visit her. Though the name Newton is slightly tainted by Fig Newtons (gross!) and Newt Gingrich (gross!), it has been somewhat redeemed by the adorkable character of Newt Scamander from the Harry Potter universe. And I personally have a special place in my heart for the name Newton (with the nickname Newt) because I had a series of dreams when I was younger where my beloved nephew, Nate, was in the form of a Newt; thus, my nickname for him was Baby Newt.   

And Some Bonus Names:

Photo credit: Fransisco Antunes

The Baby Name Buff: Places I’ve Lived – Miami

After I graduated from high school, I started college as a Theater major at University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. Due to a combination of homesickness and insufficient funds, I only completed one semester of college there before I moved back to Pennsylvania. But I gained some good memories, some important life lessons, and a few good friends during my time in Miami, and for that I’m very grateful. So, this week’s blog is about names inspired by the greater Miami area, including the University of Miami campus.

Often assumed to be a term for the people of Basque, (Wikipedia, Biscayne), Biscayne is a very popular place name around Miami, with locations such as Biscayne Park, Biscayne Bay, and Key Biscayne. I love Biscayne as a boys’ name, with nickname options that include Biz, Buzz, Cay, and any of the various spellings of the name Cane (discussed further just below).

The U of Miami sports teams are known as the Hurricanes, Canes for short. The boys’ name Cane (said as it is spelled) has been translated to mean many different but related things: “warrior,” “battle,” “little battler,” or “spear.” While this name gets coolness points for being strong and succinct, the name might be a bit of a hard sell because of the negative role of Cain in the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Still, this name has been gaining traction, especially as a middle name. Cane is also sometimes spelled Cain or Kane.

University of Miami is located in the city of Coral Gables, one of Miami’s many pretty, affluent suburbs. Coral (Cor-ull) is a nature / jewel name that was on the fringes of the U.S. top 1,000 sporadically between 1902 and 1939; Coral also barely made the top 1,000 in 1991 and 1992. I personally adore this girls’ name and have always been surprised that it is not as popular as other mainstream jewel names (that I also love), such as Ruby or Opal.

The dorm I lived in at U of M was named Eaton Residential Hall. This dorm was normally reserved for upperclassmen. But, since I had a sort of work study role at Eaton Hall, I got to live there. The boys’ name Eaton (Ee-tin) means “riverside” (Nameberry, Eaton).    

I don’t have any personal connections to this particular city, but Hialeah (Hi-uh-lee-uh) is one of the prettiest girls’ names I’ve ever heard. Translated as either “pretty prairie” or “upland prairie” (, Hialeah), this melodious name presents several nickname options, such as Isla (my fav), Lee, or Leah.

Islandia is part of the Florida Keys. And while I did visit the Keys once to sing in a concert with the university choir I was a part of, we did not visit Islandia. But I think this name is really pretty, despite the fact that the name’s ending makes me think of the show Portlandia, which then makes it hard for me to take this name seriously.  I also like the girls’ name Islandia (Eye-land-ee-uh) because Isla could be one of its nicknames, and I’ve been falling in love with the name Isla lately. Other nickname options: Landi, Landis, Andi, and Dia.

At U of M, one of the popular places to meet friends, grab a bite, and/or have a drink was the Rathskeller. While not a place I frequented, I do remember having lunch there a couple of times with my college pals. The boys’ name Keller (Kell-uhr) is a German occupational name meaning “cellar master” (Nameberry, Keller). I like the nicknames Kell or Lore for Keller.  

I don’t know anything about the city of Medley, but I do know that the word medley’s meaning (a varied mixture of things) is a lovely concept to attach to a child’s name. I also really like this name possibility as a fresh newcomer to the many music-related names that are getting a bit played out, like Melody or Harmony. (I actually really love both of those names, though!) I think Medley could work well on a girl or a boy, though I tend to think of it as slightly more of a girls’ name. Possible nicknames include Ed for a boy, Edie for a girl, or Lee for a boy or girl.

Sanibel Island is actually on the West Coast of Florida, about three hours away from Miami. But I recall taking a very fun trip here with a couple of my U of M friends, and I also just think this name is really beautiful. Possible nicknames for the girls’ name Sanibel (San-uh-bell) include Ani and Belle.

Another place I fondly remember visiting with my U of M friends is Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a lovely seaside manor with gorgeous grounds, open year-round for self-led tours. I tend to think of Vizcaya as a girls’ name, with possible nicknames Viz, Izzy, Cay, or Caya.

And a few bonus names:
Cosford—inspired by Cosford Cinema at U of M
Fisher—inspired by Fisher Island
Gable—inspired by Coral Gables
Mahoney—inspired by a dorm and a dining hall at U of M
Miami—inspired by, well, the city of Miami!
Pearson—inspired by a dorm and a dining hall at U of M

Photo credit: Ines Hegedus-Garcia

The Baby Name Buff: Places I’ve Lived—Susquehanna County, PA (Part II)

Last week’s blog was about names inspired by place locations in Susquehanna County, PA. But my dear friend Kristen Shipsky—a Susquehanna County native—pointed out a host of great names I missed! So, here’s a Part II post, courtesy of Kristen’s personal knowledge and research efforts. Enjoy!

This name means “old river crossing” (The Name Meaning, Alford), which makes Alford (Al-ferd) a great name choice if you hope for a son who will always be able to stop and take a look at things from multiple angles before moving forward with a decision or a life path. Alford is a distinguished alternative to the more common boys’ name Alfred. I love Ford as a nickname option, though the more traditional Al is also a possibility.   

For anyone who has read the Bible, the Torah, or the Quran, this name likely conjures an image of Mr. Ararat, the mountain peak that Noah’s Ark landed on after the flood receded (, Ararat). Translated variously as “hill,” “mountain,” “sacred land,” or “high land,” naming your son Ararat (Ah-ruh-rat) can help give him an elevated presence in the world from the get-go. My top nickname choice for Ararat is Arrow.     

I really like the meaning of the boys’ name Brackney (Brack-nee): “wild or uncultivated land” (, Brackney). A newcomer to the surnames-as-first-names club, Brackney offers a variety of cute nickname options, including Brock, Brick, Rocco, and Ace.

Before 1990, the girls’ name Brooklyn (Brook-lin) would have been considered very unique, as it was not even in the U.S. top 1,000. But this name was #47 in 2018 and even got as high as #21 in 2011, so it is much more popular than the names I typically include on my blog. Still, because Brooklyn, PA is such a cute little place, and because I have a cousin named Brooklyn who is dear to my heart, this name makes the cut. While Brook and Lynn are obvious nickname options, I actually really like some of the boys-names-on-girls nickname possibilities for this Brooklyn, like Brody, Bo / Beau, Oak, or Oaklyn.  

As a teen, I loved attending the Harford Fair each year. I therefore like the boys’ name Harford (Har-ferd or Hart-ferd) for the nostalgia factor. Like Alford, my favorite nickname for Harford is Ford, but Harry would work as a more commonplace option.

I like the sound of the boys’ name Herrick (Heh-rick), but the meaning is what really sold me: “peaceful power” or “peace as power” (, Herrick). For me, the only downside of this name is that all the nicknames I’ve brainstormed are not very unique: Harry, Eric / Erick, and Rick. Even so, Herrick’s meaning trumps that potential issue in my mind, and I suppose Era could work as a fun, atypical nickname choice.

Oakland and Oakley
While the boys’ name Oakland (Oak-lind) has yet to breach the U.S. top 1,000, the gender-neutral name Oakley (Oak-lee) has been popular for quite some time now; in 2018, it was #388 for girls and #459 for boys. Both of these names bring to mind a forest full of towering oak trees, which is a beautiful image. And the nickname Oak is a popular choice for either of these full name options. (Fun side note: my father-in-law wanted to name my husband’s brother Oak, which would have been totally bad ass. Instead, they went with a much more mainstream name: Kevin.)

When I first encountered this name on Kristen’s list of Susquehanna County locations, I really liked it. I thought it was short, spunky, and definitely unique. But imagine my surprise when I found out that the name Royal (Roi-uhl) has made many appearances on the U.S. top 1,000, for both boys and girls! For girls, Royal only entered the scene in 2015 at #745, peaked at #632 in 2016, and still remained in the top 1,000 as of 2018 (#805). But the history of Royal on the boys’ top 1,000 list is much more interesting (and puzzling); Royal made the list every year from 1900 until 1971 and then resurfaced again in 2013. An obviously regal name for boys or girls, I like the nickname Ro (for either gender).

While Kristen notes that Starucca township is technically in Wayne County, she included the (girls’) name Starucca (Stuh-roo-kuh) on her list because it has ties to Susquehanna County in a couple of ways. First, the Starucca Creek runs into Susquehanna County. Second, Starucca House—a defunct hotel that is now a historic landmark in the area—is located in Susquehanna, PA (which is, as you might guess, in Susquehanna County) (Susquehanna Station). One of the most unique and interesting names on this list, Starucca reminds me of the more well-known girls name Verruca, which I’ve always kind of liked. And any name with the nickname Star as an option is cool by me.  

According to Kristen, Tirzah is the name of a road in the township of Union Dale in Susquehanna County. By far my favorite name on this list, the girls’ name Tirzah (Tear-zuh) means “delight” or “she is my delight” (Nameberry, Tirzah). I really like Terra, Tira, or Tara as nickname options, though Zo or Zoey would also be very cute.  

Photo Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli