The Baby Name Buff: Catholic Saints Edition

This Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day. In secular American society, this holiday is at best a day to celebrate Irish heritage (in a largely well-intentioned but bizarrely-caricatured and borderline-offensive way) and at worst a day when people get wasted to the point of illness. Don’t get me wrong: drinking is fun, and most modern-day Catholics probably wouldn’t look askance at people enjoying some libations from time to time. But I once saw a guy pee in the middle of a hotel lobby during the annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Scranton, PA…and it was only about 10 in the morning. Not cool, bro.

But for America’s approximately 51 million (adult) Catholics, St. Patrick’s Day is a sacred celebration of a man whose great missionary work in Ireland caused him to become the patron saint of that country (even though—fun fact!—St. Patrick is actually originally from Scotland). In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to search for unique names among the other canonized Catholics in Patrick’s company, and I was not disappointed! Below are my top 16 picks (8 girls’ names and 8 boys’ names), but it was honestly very hard to narrow this list down with so many amazing Catholic saint names to choose from.


St. Scholastica (pronounced Sko-las-tick-a) is the saint of nuns and education. People also pray to this saint to prevent or abate storms, most likely because of lore that says Scholastica’s fervent prayers once caused God to create a storm so Scholastica’s brother would stay by her deathbed. In Latin, the name Scholastica means “scholarly.” The feast of St. Scholastica is February 10th. I like Chola, Asti, and Tica as possible nicknames.

I couldn’t easily find a source that directly states what St. Euphrasia (pronounced You-fray-zhuh) is the saint of. But, based on reading various versions of her life story (from sources like Life of the Saints and Catholic Saints.Info), I think that she would likely be the saint of manual laborers (since she was known to do penitent labor to avoid temptation) and healing (since she is reputed to have performed many healing miracles). The feast of St. Euphrasia is March 13th (or July 25th in the Greek Church). I like Phrae or Rasia as possible nicknames.

Having worked most of her life as a servant in a wealthy Italian family’s home, St. Zita (pronounced Zeet-uh OR Zeed-uh OR Seeth-uh) is the saint of those who serve others, including maids, other domestic workers, and waiters. She is also known for caring for marginalized people, including impoverished, ill, or incarcerated individuals.  Catholics often pray to St. Zita to help them find lost keys or to keep them safe when crossing bridges (though I can’t really figure out why, on either count). The feast of St. Zita is April 27th.  I think either Zee or Ita would be nice nicknames.

It is unclear what, precisely, St. Crescentia (pronounced Cruh-sentch-ee-uh) is the patron saint of, but since she was herself a nurse, my best guess is that she would be the saint of nurses, doctors, or other types of healers. I am also unsure what, if anything, the name Crescentia means, but the root word crescent always makes me think of the moon, so this name could be a nice alternative to more popular moon-related names like Luna or Diana. The feast of St. Crescentia is June 15th. I like Cress, Escent, and Tia as possible nicknames.

St. Hyacinth (pronounced Hi-uh-sinth) is the patron saint of “Lithuania and those in danger of drowning,” as well as pierogis. (Now that’s my kind of saint—a saint of food!) Elsewhere, St. Hyacinth is noted as the saint of weightlifting. And while St. Hyacinth was a male, I actually like this name better for a girl, probably because I first encountered Hyacinth as the name of a female character in a romance novel—don’t judge me. The feast of St. Hyacinth is August 16th. Probably my favorite nickname for Hyacinth would be Cinth.

St. Seraphia (pronounced Sir-off-ee-uh OR Sir-aff-ee-uh) is another saint for whom I could not find a clear indication of what she is the patron saint of. Based on her biography, I would guess she was a patron saint of the poor, since she sold all her belongings and gave the money to those in poverty. In Hebrew, the name Seraphia means “fiery ones” or “burning ones;” this meaning is morbidly appropriate since those who attempted to (and eventually did) execute Seraphia for being a Christian first attempted to burn her at the stake, but it is reputed that the flames did not hurt her in any way! The feast of St. Seraphia is September 3rd. I especially like this name as an alternative to the much more popular Seraphina, and some great nickname options are Sera, Seraph, Raph, Raphi, and Phia.

St. Leocadia (pronounced Lee-oh-kay-dee-a OR Lee-oh-cod-ee-a) is the patron saint of Toledo (in Spain). The name Leocadia  means “splendid brightness” in Spanish. The feast of St. Leocadia is September 9th. Variants of this name are Liocadia, Leokadia, and Laocadia, and there are many great possible nicknames, including Leo / Lio, Cade / Kade, Cadi / Kadi, and Cadia / Kadia.

St. Emiliana (pronounced Uh-meal-ee-ahna OR Eh-mill-ee-ahna) is the patron saint of “single laywomen,” so I feel like this saint is probably my favorite of all time. The name Emiliana means “rival” and is an Italian version of the name Emily. Some Catholic calendars have the feast of St. Emiliana on December 24th (shared with her sister, St. Thrasilla), while other calendars list St. Emiliana as having a solo feast day on January 5th. Emiliana is not only a great alternative for the extremely-common name Emily, but it is also a more unique option versus similar but more popular names like Emmaline or Amelia. This name also has some great nickname possibilities: Emili, Millie, Milia, Iliana, Lia, Liana, or Ana.



St. Casimir (pronounced Caz-ih-meer OR Cass-ih-meer) is the saint of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia.  In Polish, the name Casimir means “destroyer of peace.” (At first I thought this was a terrible name for a saint, but perhaps this meaning is actually religiously positive, along the lines of what Jesus says in Matthew 10:34.) The feast of St. Casimir is March 4th. I really love Caz or Cass as possible nicknames for Casimir, though Simi would also be a cute option.

Because St. Benezet (pronounced Ben-uh-zay OR Ben-uh-zet) was inspired by God to build a bridge, he is the patron saint of bridge builders (which one can interpret both literally and symbolically). Benezet was originally a surname meaning “blessed.” The feast of St. Benezet is April 14th. Possible nicknames: Ben, Bene, Nez, Ezet, or Zet.

St. Anselm (pronounced Ann-sulhm OR Ann-cellm) was another tricky saint to pin down in terms of his areas of particular piousness. But, based on his biography from several sources, like this Franciscan Media article, he sounds like the saint of scholars, philosophers, and theologians, as well as a saint known for service to the poor. Anselm means “with divine protection.” The feast of St. Anselm is April 21st.  I like Selm / Zelm as a nickname for Anselm.

St. Paschal (pronounced Pass-cal) is the patron saint of “Eucharistic Congresses and Societies and shepherds.” Assuming that the meaning of the name Paschal is the same as its more common variant, Pascal, this name means “of the Passover; Easter.” The feast of St. Paschal is May 17th. I like Cal as a nickname for this one.

St. Symphorian (pronounced Sim-for-ee-in) is the patron saint of Autun (in France). In Latin, the name Symphorian means “to bring together,” which is similar to the symbolic meaning of the name Benezet, discussed above. The feast of St. Symphorian is August 22nd. Either Symph or Phorian would be a cool nickname, though I think I like the latter nickname slightly better.

St. Cyprian (pronounced Sip-ree-in OR Sipe-ree-in) is the patron saint of North Africa. Cyprian means “man of Cyprus,” and the name Cyprus means “fair or fairness.” I am unsure of the exact date of the feast of St. Cyprian; I’ve seen September 11th, 16th, and 26th as feast dates associated with this saint. Other spelling variations of this name are Ciprian and Cyprien, and I like Cypri or Prian as possible nicknames, though I prefer the former nickname option.

St. Callistus (pronounced Cuh-lis-tis OR Cuh-lis-tus) is the patron saint of cemetery workers. The name Callistus means “most beautiful.” Two cool variants of this name are Calixtus and Callixtus. The feast of St. Callistus is October 14th. Based on this name and its variants, possible nicknames are Cal and (my favorite) Calix.

St. Odo is the patron saint of rain, which is a super-cool thing to be the saint of. The name Odo means “possessor of wealth,” though St. Odo’s wealth was of course not in worldly possessions or money but in spiritual riches like wisdom, grace, and peacekeeping abilities. The feast of St. Odo is November 18th.  And while I don’t actually like the sound of this name as much as many of the others on this list, Odo made the cut because I love the changeling character Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  

Which of these is the most righteous name of them all? Let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: Miguel Mendez

The Baby Name Buff: My Family Edition

Today is my birthday, so I thought this might be a good time to share some of the most unique names from within my own family. Enjoy!


The Gravianos
*Special thanks to my mom (Lisa Graviano) and my cousin (Nick Graviano) for their help with this portion of the blog.

As you’ve probably guessed from this surname, my Mom’s side of the family is Italian. Very Italian. As such, unique names are a bit hard to come by, since Italian families have some pretty specific and longstanding baby-naming traditions. But, with Mom’s and Nick’s help, I’ve come up with the following uncommon names that honor the people and places on my Graviano side.

Morisco (pronounced More-eese-ko) was my great-grandma Tessie’s maiden name. According to Nick, Morisco means “moor” in Italian. And while Morisco is a great boys’ name, I am particularly fond of the feminine version of this name, Morisca. For Morisco, I like the nicknames Mori, Moris, or Ris (pronounced Reese). For Morisca, I like the nickname Risca (pronounced Reese-ka).

The Gravianos are originally from Partinico in Sicily. Partinico (pronounced Part-ih-neek-o) is a fairly small town of about 28,000 residents that produces lots of great food and drink, including wine, almonds, and olives. Damn, I’m kind of wishing our family never left there! Possible nicknames for the boys’ name Partinico are Arti and Nico.

The Moriscos were from Bari (pronounced Bah-ri), a port city on the Adriatic Sea. Bari is also the town of St. Nicholas, as well as a college town. Sounds perfect! Once again, why did our family leave there?

My first cousin once removed (on my mom’s mother’s side) is named Saverio (or Savario—my mom wasn’t totally sure on the spelling).  Despite this awesome, unique (boys’) name, Saverio apparently decided to take on the much more common name Paddy. And then, as if that wasn’t common enough, he later went by the even more ubiquitous name Sam. I guess there’s no accounting for taste (and, in fairness, I suspect many people from Italy took on more Americanized names to try and fit in, not that they should have had to…). Possible nicknames: Sal, Aver (pronounced Ah-ver), and Verio.

The aforementioned Saverio’s last name is LiTrenta, which I think would be a pretty cool first name. And Trent would work well as a fairly-common but still pretty hip nickname. Other nicknames options: Li / Lee, Tre / Trey, and (if you’re feeling gutsy and really like The Lord of the Rings) Ent.


The Gundlings
*Special thanks to the late, great Warren Gundling (my Grampy)—who always regaled me with tales of our family members on the Gundling side—and Bernice Gundling (my Granny) for their help with this portion of the blog.

Like the Gravianos, the Gundlings have not historically been trailblazers when it comes to naming children. But there are a few hidden gems in our family’s past, as well as some great names that have been inaugurated by the current Gundling generation (and by “current Gundling generation,” I really just mean my creative sister-in-law, Carrie).

This hefty name belonged to my great-grandfather on the Gundling side (Grampy’s dad). Part of me honestly does not love the actual sound of this name. But another part of me feels like this name has some serious gravitas. I mean, you’ve got to be pretty regal and shit if you’re rocking a five-syllable name. (Even my long-ass, hyphenated last name doesn’t have that many syllables!) I like Bono and Ventura as possible nicknames for this sizeable baby boys’ name, but…

Bonaventura’s actual nickname was Fendor (pronounced Fen-door), which was an approximation of the middle of his name: Ventur = Fendor. I can’t stress enough how much I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this name! Fendor is another super-unique name that was on high on my baby boys’ name list but that sadly got shot down by my better half. I think I adore this name because it reminds me of Fëanor from The Silmarillion.  This name is so amazing to me that I almost would hate to shorten or change it in any way (now I feel you, Aunt Sally!), but I must admit that I also really like Fenn or Ender as possible nicknames.

My great-grandfather on the Smith side (Granny’s dad) was named Thomas Aquinas after the renowned philosopher, theologian, and (eventually) saint. And while Aquinas’s argument for the “Unmoved Mover” didn’t move me, this name definitely does. I think most people would consider Aquinas to be a boys’ name, but I could also see it working well for little girls too. Possible nicknames: Aqua, Aquai (pronounced uh-kwhy), Quinn, Ina, or Inas (pronounced Eye-nuss).

Wednesday is my niece, the daughter of my brother (Johnny) and his wife (Carrie), though this awesome name pick was 100% Carrie’s doing. For those who love the morbid little girl from The Addams Family, this name could be a good fit. But, for me, the name Wednesday will forever be associated with spunkiness and sass, since those qualities ooze out of every adorable pore of our family’s own little Wednesday. So, if you are looking for a name to set your little girl on the path toward being a strong, independent woman, Wednesday would be a good choice. Our Wednesday sometimes goes by Wennie (or Wennie bug) for a nickname, but Ness, Nessie, Essie, or Day could also work well.

As if having a daughter named Wednesday wasn’t awesome enough, Carrie upped the ante by solving one of the oldest naming dilemmas in the book with a super-cool name for her second (boy) child. The general quandary is what to do when your partner wants to make your child a Jr., but you love unique names and your partner’s name is super boring. In Carrie’s particular case, her husband’s name is John, which is as boring as it gets. So, Carrie agreed to name their son (my nephew) a Jr., but everyone calls him Jet (the initials for John Edward the Third). Jet is a name that seems like it would be super trendy and yet is still not in the top 1,000 in the U.S. What our own Jet is most known for is his encyclopedic knowledge of every creature on Earth. Seriously, I’m pretty sure he knows about some animals that science hasn’t actually discovered yet. So, if you’re hoping for a little animal lover or budding scientist, Jet could be a good name option. Unlike most names, which have a nickname shorter than the original name, our Jet’s nickname is actually Jetty (or Jetty boy).


The Ridgens
*Special thanks to my mother-in-law (Sue Garton), aunt-in-law (Jean Ridgen), and uncle-in-law (Scott Rigden) for their help with this portion of the blog.

While finding unique names was a bit of a challenge within the families I was born into, both sides of the family I married into (Rigden and Garton) have a wealth of unique names to choose from. The Rigdens boast some of the coolest girls’ first names I’ve seen in a while, as well as some middles names of the gentlemen in their family that could make killer first names.

Ridgen is my mother-in-law’s (Sue’s) maiden name. Changing last names to first names has been a trend for quite some time now, and I really love the sound of Rigden as a boys’ first name. In fact, we know that at least one boy in the United States has had the name Rigden; my uncle-in-law Scott, who worked as a medical doctor until his recent retirement, told us that he used to deliver babies during his residency, and one of the mothers named her son after Scott (whose last name is of course also Rigden). I’m not sure where to go with this one for nicknames, though. Maybe Rig / Rigg? Or Den / Denn? Or maybe Rigden is just too great a name to have a nickname. (P.s.–this was another name that was high on my list, but the hubby vetoed this one too!)

Sue’s great-aunt on her mother’s side was named Halcyon (pronounced Hal-see-uhn), though Sue notes that she always called Aunt Halcyon simply “Auntie.” Sue also described Halcyon as a real jokester, so this name could be good for those who are hoping for a funny little girl. And while this particular Halcyon’s nickname (other than Auntie) was Hally, there are many other great nickname possibilities with this name, including Hal, Halli / Hallie (alternative spellings), Alyce, Cyon, and Aly.

Another of Sue’s great-aunts was named Clermont and went by Aunt Claire. And while Claire is one of the few commonplace girls’ names I actually like, other possible nicknames are Lera (pronounced Lair-uh), Erma, or (if you like boys’ names for girls) Monty.

Sue’s great-aunts are a goldmine of awesome names. Her great-aunt Theodell went by Aunt Ted, which I love because boys’ names for girls weren’t really a huge thing back in the day—yay for breaking gender norms! But other possible nicknames for Theodell are Theo, Thea, Dell, or (my personal favorite) Della.

Rhodes is my uncle-in-law Scott’s middle name. According to my aunt-in-law, Jean, Rhoades was a family name on the Rigden side, but the spelling was accidentally wrong on Scott’s birth certificate, so it went from Rhoades to Rhodes. I personally think that’s a change for the better! And while I really like the name Rhodes itself, I love either Rho or Ode as possible nickname options.

Sue’s father, Russell Rigden, had Snyder as his middle name. I sadly never had the chance to meet Russ myself, but I’ve heard many stories attesting that he was a wonderful person, a fantastic musician (as are all the Rigdens and Gartons!), and a complete bad-ass for living a full and happy life after surviving polio. I was actually a bit surprised that Snyder was not in the top 1,000, though, since this name sounds like something hipsters would really love. So, be on the lookout for this last-name-gone-first-name to be on the rise in the next decade.

The Gartons
*Special thanks to my father-in-law (Roland Garton), uncle-in-law (Ray Garton), and cousin-in-law (Geneva Wainscott) for their help with this portion of the blog.

When it comes to unique (and sometimes outright unusual) names, the Gartons exemplify the phrase “save the best for last.” Both in quantity and quality, these names definitely take the cake for originality and rareness within my family.

Roland’s paternal grandmother was named Malinda (pronounced Muh-Linda), and Roland’s sister, my aunt-in-law Ina, also has Malinda as her middle name. On the surface, Malinda is nothing more than an alternative spelling of the common name Melinda. But something about that simple change from an “e” to an “a” gives this name a lovely and lofty cadence. Possible nicknames: Mali, all variations of Ali, Lynn, Inda, and Linda.

Roland’s first cousin, Lilinda (pronounced Luh-Linda), had a combo name before combo names were cool (eat your heart out, hippsters!) and before Stephanie Meyers created the horrible hybrid name Renesmee (in the Twilight book series). Lilinda’s name honors both her grandmother (the aforementioned Malinda) and her great-aunt, Lily. Possible nicknames: all variations of Lily, Lilin, Lynn, Inda, and Linda.

Roland’s maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Ina Barlow. I was surprised that this name was not on the top 1,000, since it sounds so similar to other trendy names like Harlow (which has been in the top 1,000 for girls since 2009) and Marlowe (which just eeked into the top 1,000 for girls in 2017 at #981). While I initially thought of Barlow as a boys’ name, I think it could actually be cute for girls as well. Possible nicknames: Bari (for some nice crossover with my Graviano side) or Arlo / Arlow. I also like the alternative spelling Barlowe.

Roland’s uncle’s name was Encell (pronounced En-sill, rhymes with pencil), but he actually went by his much more commonplace middle name, Dean. This was another boys’ name I really liked and proposed to Kyle (no luck again…), but I would have spelled it Ensel instead of Encell, since the latter spelling makes me think of a technology company or some kind of medication. Like…should I ask my doctor about Encell?

My cousin-in-law’s full name is Geneva Eygul Wainscott. All three of these names would make a cool first name (though Geneva has already been in the top 1,000 for girls every year from 1900 to 1995). But I highlighted Eygul (pronounced Eye-gull) because that name has particular importance to Geneva, as it honors her Russian heritage.

Safety aka Reuel
This is perhaps the most bizarre name-related story I’ve ever heard. Roland has a branch of relatives whose last name is First. When Roland’s uncle in that part of the family was born, the child’s mother wanted to name him Reuel Allen First (with Reuel pronounced Rue-uhl, similar to Rule), and that is what she called him. But his father wanted to name him Safety. Yes—Safety First! So, that is what his father called him. When the child’s name was finally legally settled, it became Safety Reuel First. Folks, I could not make this stuff up! While I don’t personally like Safety as a first name (even if your last name isn’t First), I love the sound of the name Reuel, though I would prefer the alternative spelling Rewell.

Which of my family members’ names would you love for your little one? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

The Baby Name Buff: Spices and Herbs Edition

Spices and herbs have long been a go-to source for baby names in the U.S. Rosemary has been in the top 1,000 every year from 1900 to the present. Ginger had its heyday from 1933-1989. Sage has been in the top 1,000 since 1993. Basil was a top 1,000 boys’ name from 1900 to 1971. And newcomers Juniper (2011-present) and Poppy (2016-present) prove that spices and herbs continue to inspire great baby names. So, for all you culinary geniuses and nature-loving hippies out there, check out these spices and herbs to find the right name for the budding little one who will soon add flavor to your life.

My Top Ten Picks


Native to the Middle East and parts of Europe, this aromatic plant is used for a variety of culinary and medicinal purposes (Pistacia terebinthus). Because Terebinth (pronounced Ter-uh-binth) is a pink, flowering tree, some might assume this name would only fit girls. However, based on the sound of this name alone, I think Terebinth would be a very cool name for a girl or boy. Also, I put zero stock in pink stuff for girls and blue stuff for boys; in fact, pink used to be associated with boys and blue with girls (When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?). But I digress. Terebinth could also work well as a name for Christians who want a unique Biblical name or Muslims who want a unique Quranic name, as the terebinth tree is mentioned many times in versions of each of these sacred texts. Possible nicknames: Tara / Tarah, Terre / Terra, Ereb, Rebi, Ebbie / Ebby, or Ebin.

Zeera (pronounced Zir-uh) is one of many variations of the Hindi word for cumin (Indian Spices – Cumin). I love cumin because it is a versatile spice featured in various cuisines, most notably Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Latin American (How is Cumin Used as a Spice?). But while Cumin (in my humble opinion) would make a terrible baby name, Zeera (or its other spelling, Zira) is a beautiful name for a baby girl. I also think Zee would be a really cute nickname.

The Italian word for basil, the name Basilico (pronounced Buh-zil-ih-co or, Americanized, Buh-sil-ih-co) has a lovely, almost musical quality. This name would also work especially well for Catholic parents, given how similar this name sounds to the word basilica. Since a basilica is “a large and important Catholic church that has been given special ceremonial rights by the Pope,” (Basilica), naming your baby boy Basilico could be very auspicious if you hope that your child will be particularly pious when he grows up. Nicknames include Baz, Basil, Azul, Asil, and Ico.

Despite its alias white turmeric, the spice zedoary actually tastes most similar to ginger (White Turmeric / Zedoary). That comparison makes me really want to get my hands on and cook with some zedoary, since fresh ginger is hands-down one of the best smelling, most delicious spices ever. Zedoary (pronounced either Zeh-do-airy or Zeh-door-ee) is a great gender-neutral name option, and I really like Zed as a boys’ nickname and Doary / Dory as a girls’ nickname.

According to The Spruce Eats, Elaichi (pronounced E-lay-ih-chee) is “the Indian name for black cardamom.” Elaichi would therefore be a very flattering baby girls’ name, since cardamom is a precious and expensive spice that elevates any meal it is part of. Likewise, your precious baby girl Elaichi will no doubt bring joy to your every moment. And, as a Star Wars fan, I think Leia would be a terrific nickname.  

In the Urdu language (of Pakistan), darchini is the word for cinnamon. I adore cinnamon! When I was a kid, my mom used to give us cinnamon rolls every Christmas Day, so right there that gives me the warm and fuzzies. My sister-in-law Carrie also makes homemade cinnamon buns that are TO DIE FOR (or maybe to kill for is more accurate, since anyone who has already tasted these gooey, cinnamon-filled confections would definitely shank a guy to get some more). And cinnamon is of course prevalent in all of the best autumn foods and beverages, my top favorites being apple cider and pumpkin pie. Unfortunately, Cinnamon is not a great baby girls’ name choice (unless, of course, you want your child to become a stripper); but Darchini (pronounced Dar-chee-nee) is a unique boys name that does not have a similar career-related stigma. (All seriousness, though, I’ve got nothing against strippers; Americans can be so prude sometimes, geesh!)

Korarima (pronounced Core-uh-reem-a or Cur-rawr-ih-muh ) is also known as Ethiopian cardamom and is one of the many fragrant spices used in the spice blend berbere (Cardamom korarima). If you’ve never used berbere before and are interested to try it, let me know, and I’ll send you a delicious, simple recipe for berbere lentils (aka yemisir wot) that my husband and I love. The strong, smoky, warm taste of korarima definitely comes through to me whenever I taste berbere, so I think Korarima would be a great girls’ name for parents who are hoping for a bold but loving little lady. Possible nicknames: Kora, Ora, Ori, Ari, and Arima.   

Saffron (pronounced Sah-fron) is an extremely delicious but ridiculously expensive spice that I’ve encountered in some of the most delicious Indian dishes I’ve ever had (and that’s a lot of dishes, since Indian food is my favorite type of cuisine). Based on how dear this spice is (monetarily), Saffron would be a good name to highlight just how precious your baby is to you.  However, if you do name your little girl Saffron, be prepared for people to constantly tell you that they are “just mad about” her, and then you’ll have to live with the fact that you’re never going to get the tune to “Mellow Yellow” out of your head. “…they call me mellow…”—dammit! See what I mean?

According to The Epicentre, “cassia is an aromatic bark, similar to cinnamon, but differing in strength and quality.” I’ve always loved pretty much any girls’ name that starts with Cass—Cassidy, Cassandra, Cassie, etc. And I find Cassia (Cass-ee-uh) to be an even more beautiful, slightly less common version of those more mainstream names, so that’s why this spice name is in my top 10. I love Cass as a nickname, though Sia / Cia (pronounced See-uh) is also very pretty.

This pepper is named for the region in which it is grown in French Guiana (Cayenne Pepper). Cayenne pepper is not for the faint of heart, as just a pinch of this spice can instantly take a dish from mild to tongue-burning. So, for those parents hoping for a fiery female child, Cayenne fits the bill. Also, Cheyenne is one of my favorite baby girl names, but—alas!—that name has been in the U.S. top 1,000 since 1980. Cayenne is a unique alternative. Possible nicknames: Kai, Cay / Kay, Ann / Anne, or Enne / Ennie.

More Gender-Neutral Names

More Girls’ Names

More Boys’ Names

Comment below which of these spices would make your top 10!

Photo credit: THOR

The Baby Name Buff: Bird Edition

My husband’s Aunt Jean and Uncle Scott are huge birders. They’ve been to every continent, including Antarctic, to see some of the rarest and most unique birds in the world. Whenever we see Scott and Jean after a major birding trip they’ve been on, Jean shows us all their awesome pictures and narrates information about many of the birds they saw. I love these presentations, and it didn’t take me long to realize that birds have a lot of cool names that could work well as baby names. In fact, several bird-based names are already so popular that they’ve broken into the top 1,000, such as Robin, Wren, and Raven. Below are ten of my favorite less common bird-inspired names and some fun bird facts to boot. (And be on the lookout for a future blog post, TBNB: Birds Edition—Part II, which will include ten more of my favorite bird-based baby names!)


The American Kestrel is a member of the falcon family known for its “quick and buoyant” flying style.   And, as these pictures show, American Kestrels are pretty adorable; I especially love the grayish blue coloring on male American Kestrels. Kestrel could work well as a girls’ or boys’ name, though I tend to think of it more as a girls’ name because Kes (one possible nickname) is the name of a female character on Star Trek: Voyager.  Other nicknames besides Kes / Kess include Estre / Ester and Trel / Trell.

Photo credit: Laurel L. Russwurm


I first learned about ibises during the single semester of college I spent at University of Miami. While ibises look fairly unassuming, the U of Miami’s Athletics Website explains that they chose the ibis as their mascot because of the strength, speed, and especially courage associated with this noble marsh bird. As a name, Ibis has a similar sound to the name Idris (as in Idris Elba), so I tend to think of this name as a boys’ name. Although, if Ibis was used as a girls’ name, then I think Bee would be a very cute nickname.

Photo credit: michelle galloway


While there are many types of finches, the finch most common in the American imagination is the American Goldfinch. This past Summer Solstice, my husband and I honored the day with a leisurely walk at our favorite local park. While there, we saw a stunning display of dozens of these small, bright yellow birds darting from tree to tree. As our own little ray of sunshine was due to arrive any day, and actually did arrive just four days later, we took this goldfinch gathering as an auspicious sign. For those of you who were teens in the 90s and enjoyed the American Pie movies, the name Finch could be a reference to these films’ MILF-loving character. Or, if you really love the book To Kill a Mockingbird but want to steer clear of already trending names like Atticus and Scout, Finch could be a great option. This name would work well for a boy or a girl, and I like the nickname option Fin with just one “n” as a neat alternative to the quite popular name Finn.

Photo credit: Frank Boston


Kiwis—the little flightless darlings of New Zealand–are too cute for words! Likewise, I find the girls’ name Kiwi absolutely delightful. Because Kiwis are flightless, it is a bit of a mystery how they ended up in New Zealand (Kiwi Facts and Characteristics). Kiwi would therefore be an especially great name for a little girl who is a pleasant surprise to parents who did not think they would be able to conceive (or adopt) a child. Another interesting fact about kiwis is that “female kiwis lay one of the largest eggs in relation to their body size of any bird in the world,” with a body-to-birth object ratio four times that of humans (7 Curious Facts That Prove Kiwis Are Amazing Little Birds). In other words, birth is even more difficult for kiwis than it is for humans—hard to imagine, am I right, ladies? So, if you want to instill some grit in your girl from the get-go, naming her after these birthing badass birdies would be apt.  And, if the name Kiwi still isn’t unique enough for you, the name of the genus to which kiwis belong is also a super-cool name option: Apteryx (Kiwi).

Photo Credit: Biodiversity Heritage Library


Tanagers boast some of the most kaleidoscopically colorful birds you’ll ever see.  But, according to a fascinating study co-conducted by graduate students at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology and colleagues at San Diego State University, the tanager with the fanciest feathers is the Paradise Tanager. So, if your child’s in utero activities lead you to believe he or she will have a vibrant personality, Tanager could be a good name choice. Possible nicknames are Tan, Tana (rhymes either with Hannah or Donna), and Nage (rhymes with mage).

Photo credit: Drew Avery


There are only two species of this South American bird: the Red-legged Seriema and the Black-legged Seriema (Seriema). The Red-Legged Seriema, in particular, is known for its conspicuous crest and “far-carrying song” (Sariemas: Photo Gallery). The girls’ name Seriema has a couple pronunciation options, as well as multiple nickname possibilities. The pronunciation of the actual bird name is Serry-ee-muh. But you could also change the pronunciation to be similar to the name Serena, with Seriema pronounced Suh-ree-muh. Nickname choices include Seri (pronounced Serry), Erie (pronounced like the city in PA), Rie / Ree / Rhee, or Ema (pronounced Ee-muh). Bonus name option: sariema are also sometimes called Cariama (Car-ee-ah-muh), which I almost like even better as a name than Sariema itself (Seriema).

Photo credit: Rusty Clark – 100K Photos


While the European Starling seems to be the most easily searchable and oft discussed of the starlings, the member of this group I’m most familiar with is the Red-winged Blackbird. These glossy black birds with crimson wings are so ubiquitous at our local park that I can identify them by their song alone. In keeping with the fact that starlings have “less sexual dimorphism in plumage” than most other birds (Starling), I think Starling could work as a gender-neutral name rather than an exclusively female name. Nicknames include Star, Arli, and Ling.

Photo credit: USFWS Mountain Prairie (via Neil Mishler/USFWS)


Among the many different types of larks, melodious singing is one commonality. As Nameberry’s entry for the name Lark discusses, this girls’ name has been used for quite a while, especially as a middle name, and is on the rise as a first name as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lark busted into the U.S. top 1,000 in the next few years.  Related name versions include Larkin, Skylark, Larkia, and Larka.

Photo credit: Brian Ralphs


Found in the tropics of Central and South America, aracaris—such as the Collared Aricari—are toucans with bright, colorful plumage. One thing that is common to both aracaris and babies is that they are both known to produce high pitched, squeaky cries, but that commonality doesn’t exactly recommend the name Aracari (pronounced Are-uh-car-ee). However, many aracari are known to be social / travel in groups, so Aracari could work if you’d like your child to be a social butterfly (or social aracari, as it were). And, bird facts aside, Aracari just sounds beautiful, a great possibility for boys or girls. Possible nicknames: Ara, Raca, Rocco, or Cari / Kari (pronounced either Car-ee or like Carrie).

Photo credit: Charles Patrick Ewing


Sparrows are one of the most common bird types in the U.S., particularly in the case of the House Sparrow. These cute little birds are so used to humans and so friendly that you can fairly easily entice them to eat food right out of your hand! So, for those who hope to have a friendly child who loves being around lots of people, Sparrow could be an appropriate moniker. Also, Baby Name Wizard’s entry on the name Sparrow mentions a Bible reference where sparrows are described as worthy birds “not to be forgotten by God,” so the name Sparrow could have a lovely meaning for Christians or others who believe in God.  And while that same Baby Name Wizard entry lists Sparrow as a girls’ name only (which was my initial thought as well), other name sites, including Nameberry, cite Sparrow as a gender-neutral name option. Possible nicknames: Spar / Sparr, Arrow, or Row / Roe / Ro.

Photo credit: Reading Tom

Which of these names has flown to the top of your baby name list? Let me know in the comments!

Featured Photo Credit (Peacock): Tim Green

The Baby Name Buff: Anne of Green Gables Edition

The Anne of Green Gables book series sparked my love of literature and influenced my decision to major in English in college. And even though I’m that picky, snobby person when it comes to book-to-film adaptations, especially of my favorite books, I was blown away by the awesomeness of the 80s miniseries adaptation (starring Megan Follows as Anne). So, when I started looking at possible baby names for my own child, the Anne books and miniseries were obvious go-to inspiration sources. Here are a few of my favorite names from the AoGG universe.


“Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place.”

When I was pregnant, I was convinced I was having a girl, and Avonlea was in my top 10 list.  But, just as Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert received Anne from the orphanage instead of a little boy, I ended up having a boy instead of a girl, so Avonlea was off the table for me. Avonlea is the fictional town in which the story AoGG is set, so this name would make a lovely first or middle name for any AoGGs lover.


Here sat Marilla Cuthbert, when she sat at all, always slightly distrustful of sunshine, which seemed to her too dancing and irresponsible a thing for a world which was meant to be taken seriously; and here she sat now, knitting, and the table behind her was laid for supper.”

Just as the character Marilla took a while to grow on me when I first read AoGG, the name Marilla also did not immediately strike my fancy. But now I adore this name, especially with the nickname Rilla (though the more common Mari / Mary would also be a nickname option). As a result of being a parent to Anne—a girl with an imagination and a romantic spirit the size of Texas—Marilla grows as a person and opens herself up to many of the joys of life she previously ignored. As such, naming your little girl Marilla could help encourage her to always be willing to change and grow, even when doing so is hard or scary—a great life lesson to instill in any child.


“Anne, you certainly have a genius for getting into trouble. You went and gave Diana currant wine instead of raspberry cordial. Didn’t you know the difference yourself?”

Who could forget the time that Anne confused Marilla’s currant wine for raspberry cordial and accidentally got her best friend drunk during their two-person tea party? In addition to referencing this hilarious mishap, Cordial is also a neat choice for true AoGG fans because it could be considered a unique alternative version of the name that Anne—a lover of unusual names herself—wishes was her own: Cordelia. Also, the word cordial means “warm and friendly,” a decidedly positive connotation.


“Anne’s cup of happiness was full, and Matthew caused it to overflow. He had just got home from a trip to the store at Carmody, and he sheepishly produced a small parcel from his pocket and handed it to Anne, with a deprecatory look at Marilla. ‘I heard you say you liked chocolate sweeties, so I got you some,’ he said.”

Carmody is the “big” town near Avonlea where everyone goes to send mail, go to the store, attend concerts, etc. This name has a lovely, flowing sound; it’s like a combination of Carmen and Melody, two names I really like on their own. But the possible nickname Carma / Karma is probably what makes me most love this name.


“A bosom friend—an intimate friend, you know—a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul.”

I love the term “kindred spirit.” It’s just such a beautiful concept. So, the idea of naming a child Kindred definitely appeals to me. There are also so many great nickname possibilities with this name: Kin, Kind, Indre / Indri, or (if you want to double the AoGG influence) Red. 


“I think your Gilbert Blythe is handsome,” confided Anne to Diana, “but I think he’s very bold. It isn’t good manners to wink at a strange girl.”

Oh, Gilbert Blythe! While I’m not usually a fan of the love-hate relationship paradigm common in love stories, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the tumultuous romance between Anne and Gilbert. As I mentioned in TBNB: Super Bowl LIII Edition, Blythe is a name that’s been gaining in popularity for a while now, so don’t be surprised if this name busts into the top 1,000 in the next few years. Possible nicknames include Bly, Ly, and Lythe.


“Marilla wore her amethyst brooch to church that day as usual. Marilla always wore her amethyst brooch to church.”

The amethyst brooch fiasco is another classic Anne scrape. When Marilla can’t find her brooch, she assumes Anne lost it, even though Anne insists she did not. Believing that Anne is telling her a “falsehood,” Marilla bars Anne from going to an upcoming community picnic until Anne confesses. So, even though she didn’t actually lose the brooch, Anne of course concocts an elaborate story about how she lost it and performs an extremely dramatic confession to appease Marilla. The brooch is eventually found, and the whole mess gets sorted out, but that ridiculous confession sticks out as a moment of true “Anne-ness.” Amethyst has a fantastical yet regal sound and joins the ranks of many other popular gem names like Ruby (another AoGG-associated name), Jade, Opal, and Diamond. Possible nicknames include Ame / Ama, Ethy, or Hyst. (Or, if you are really into drugs, I guess Meth would be a possible nickname, but drugs don’t really fit in with the wholesome aesthetic of the Anne universe, unless maybe if you are thinking of that hideous Anne with an E remake that Netlix did—yuck!)


“Mrs. Rachel Lynde was one of those capable creatures who can manage their own concerns and those of other folks into the bargain.”

Speaking of over-the-top theatrical Anne monologues, Anne’s apology to Rachel Lynde toward the start of the story is another crowning achievement of impassioned teen angst. Rachel is the poster child for a character that you love to hate to love, which may not make her an AoGG fan’s first choice for a baby name model. But, when times get tough, Rachel proves herself to be a true friend to Marilla, which almost redeems Rachel’s obnoxious personality and her obsessive meddling ways. Lynde (pronounced Lynn-d) is a cute alternative to the very overdone middle name Lynn. Or, you could instead pronounce this name with the “e” at the end (Lynn-dee). I knew a girl who lived down the road whose name was Lindi (or maybe Lindy?), and I always thought that was a unique and lovely name, so Lynde could work as an alternative spelling for that name.  


“Green Gables was built at the furthest edge of his cleared land and there it was to this day, barely visible from the main road along which all the other Avonlea houses were so sociably situated.”

Green Gables is the idyllic secluded homestead of the Cuthbert siblings, Anne’s adoptive parents. Gable is a great baby name choice for those who want a unique baby name but a more mainstream nickname possibility (Gabe). And, for those who like AoGG and also enjoy the movies of Clark Gable, this name is a perfect match.


“It was Anne’s idea that they dramatize Elaine. They had studied Tennyson’s poem in school the preceding winter, the Superintendent of Education having prescribed it in the English course for the Prince Edward Island schools. They had analyzed and parsed it and torn it to pieces in general until it was a wonder there was any meaning at all left in it for them, but at least the fair lily maid and Lancelot and Guinevere and King Arthur had become very real people to them…”

What kind of teenagers would enact scenes from Tennyson poems for recreation in their spare time? Anne and her crew, that’s who! (Now that I think of it, I feel like me and my high school friends probably would have done something like this as well—at least I wish we had!) As a fan of both AoGG and this poet’s work in general, Tennyson is one of my all-time favorite baby boys’ names!


“…and Anne was devoured by secret regret that she had not been born in Camelot. Those days, she said, were so much more romantic than the present.”

I know many people might think this name sounds like a horse name rather than a baby name, but I humbly submit that Camelot works well as a baby name on several levels. First, Camelot is a fresh addition to the existing abundance of excellent, unique names that start with “Cam,” such as Camden, Cameron, Camry, Cambry, Camella, and Cambridge. Second, Camelot could be a good name fit for parents from many different fan bases, including AoGGs buffs, musical theater nerds, and those who love going to Renaissance fairs in full period garb. Third and finally, Camelot has several fun nickname possibilities, including Cam, Camy / Camee, Mel, Melo / Melot, or Lottie. (I would steer clear of Lot as a nickname, though, since most parents don’t want to think about the possibility of their kid’s future partner getting turned into a pillar of salt.)  


“‘What can I do for you this evening, Mr. Cuthbert?’ Miss Lucilla Harris inquired, briskly and ingratiatingly, tapping the counter with both hands.”

While store clerk Lucilla Harris is a very minor character in AoGG, the scene in which she sells Matthew a dress for Anne is a hilarious and sweet situation (if you can set aside the gender stereotyping underlying the whole situation, of course). Matthew is embarrassed to buy a dress (because, you know, men can’t buy dresses—gasp!!!). So, in addition to buying Anne’s dress, he also buys, like, 20 pounds of brown sugar, since apparently brown sugar is somehow super manly. Anyway, the name Lucilla is a more melodious version of Lucille, and I really like the idea of the nickname Luci spelled with an “i” instead of a “y,” though Lucy could of course work as well. (I have a puppy cousin named Lucy, and I’ve always found this name adorable, for sure.)

Which of these AoGG names strikes your fancy? Or what other AoGG names do you love? Let me know in the comments!

Photo Credit: Robert Linsdell

The Baby Name Buff: Candy Edition

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. In the spirit of love and kindness, I’ll spare you all my extended tirade on why I personally hate and don’t celebrate this holiday. Instead, I’ll focus on the positive and highlight 15 unusual baby names inspired by the one redeeming aspect of Valentine’s Day: candy!


The top candy company in the U.S., Mars makes some of the best mainstream candy bars around, including Twix, Milky Way, and Snickers. Mars is also our neighboring planet, so this would also be a great boys’ name for space enthusiasts. And, of course, Mars is the Roman god of war, though I’m not sure gory battle is necessarily what you want to invoke when naming your child. Still, as Meatloaf hath taught us, two out of three ain’t bad.

This name is unique for being somehow both preppy and rugged at the same time (prugged?). So, if Chuck Norris and Jackie Onassis (Kennedy) had a baby boy, this would be the perfect name for him. But, as we all know, Chuck Norris doesn’t need another person in order to have a baby; he can just will a child into being.

Whereas the name Rancher is only half preppy, Werther is a full-on khaki-wearing, trust-fund receiving, Starbucks drinking baby name. If you choose this name for your little boy, you’d better start saving up now for his exorbitant law school tuition.

Toblerone is one of the most scrumptious-yet-underrated candy bars around. Likewise, while I personally love the uniqueness of this stately baby name, I doubt we’ll ever see Toblerone in the U.S. top 1,000. Possible nicknames: Tobler (like the last name of this candy bar’s inventor) or Toby / Tobi.  

Part of me thinks this name is really cute. Another part of me thinks that, like the name Grigsby from last week’s Super Bowl LIII blog, you’ll be pigeonholing your child into a single career choice: butler. (Or, to be charitable, your kid might also be able to become a chauffeur.) But the biggest part of me is too busy wondering what the hell that disgusting gelatinous goop is in the middle of Cadbury cream eggs to really provide an objective opinion on whether or not this name would be a good pick for a little boy.

This is one of the cutest boys’ names I’ve come across in a while. The obvious cultural touchstone for this name is the movie Patch Adams, which makes this name an excellent option on a couple levels. First, there’s the allusion to the real-life doctor who brings joy to the lives of sick kids, and who wouldn’t want their own child to grow up to have that kind of compassion? Second, for anyone who adores Robin Williams (i.e. everyone) but wants a more zazzy name than Robin or William, Patch is perfect. 


This is a great name for all you feminists out there. Legend has it that Lady Godiva constantly entreated her husband to stop over-taxing the people of the town of Coventry, to no avail. “Nevertheless, she persisted.” Finally, in frustration, her husband said he would reduce the taxes “when she rode a horse, naked, through the streets of the town at midday” (Harvard Magazine). Challenge accepted! And though many scholars believe that this story is a myth rather than actual history, naming your little girl Godiva could still set the tone for her to become a strong, independent woman. Plus, when it comes to chocolate, Godiva is the top-shelf good stuff; likewise, nothing but the best name for your little one. And finally, this name will always make me think of Queen’s rockin’ tune “Don’t Stop Me Now,” given the line: “I’m a racing car passing by / Like Lady Godiva.” There’s so much to love about this name! Possible nicknames: Godi and Diva (which could be pronounced Dive-a or Dee-va).

I love this name because it is very unique yet legitimately sounds like a name (unlike many other “names” that crop up on my blog lists, #sorrynotsorry). I’ve heard this name pronounced two different ways: Val-roan-a and Val-a-rona-a. I don’t know where that additional “a” came from in the latter pronunciation, but I’m a fan of the former sound. And, in case your kid wants a more mainstream nickname, Val works well, though Rhona would be a very nice, more distinctive nickname possibility as well. Another fun nickname option is Rho / Ro / Roe. (I like the Rho spelling the best, though I also like the Ro spelling because of the nod to Ro Laren from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and later Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.)  

I must confess that, candy lover that I am, I’ve never actually tried any of the Galaxy line of chocolates—gasp! I need to get on that. But Galaxy is a name I’ve loved for a long time; I adore any name associated with the cosmos. And Galaxy has several great nickname possibilities. First, there’s Gal, which puts me in mind of another great feminist icon: Wonder Woman. Second, there’s Alax / Alex, which is a bit more common for girls these days. (I myself have a sweet little niece named Alex.) And finally, the much less conventional nickname Axy / Axie could work as well. (Surprisingly, I also know a little girl with this name!) With the name Galaxy, the sky’s not the limit—the universe is!

I like this name because it is short and sassy. But doves are also a symbol of peace, which is another lovely layer to this name’s impact and meaning. The only possible drawback is that people might think of the soap instead of the tasty candy, but those aren’t my kind of people anyway. And, despite this name’s brevity, I think Doe could be a nice nickname option for people to fawn over.

I know what you’re thinking. “Kit-Kat as a name for my baby girl? Gimme a break!” But hear me out. First, this candy bar is named after a person, so naming your kid Kit-Kat would really just bring things full circle. (Candy bar imitates name imitates candy bar.) Second, both Kit and Kat are already nicknames in use for Katherine / Catherine. Third, as I noted with the name Blue-Jean in my David Bowie Edition blog post, hyphenated first names are on the rise. And finally, Kika would be an adorable nickname.

Yes, Pixy sticks are a total trash candy—just colored sugar in low-quality paper tubes. But Pixie is by far my overall favorite name on this list. This name conjures images of mythical woodland sprites, so it’s the perfect name for your sweet little fairy. Also, since there’s not a parent among us who doesn’t ask themselves daily, “Where is My Mind?,” this hip name’s allusion to the band The Pixies is also quite appropriate. (And yes, I changed the spelling; Pixie looks so much better than Pixy, but maybe I’m biased because I’m Vickie with an “ie” instead of a “y.”)


Like the Galaxy treats, this confection from Nestle is yet another candy bar that I’ve regrettably never tried (yet). But I really like Aero as a cooler spelling alternative to the increasingly-popular name Arrow. The Aero candy bar is known for its light, bubbly texture, so this is a great name if you’re hoping your little one will have a peppy personality.  

This name is a shout-out to all my northeast PA peeps. Gertrude Hawk is a chocolate company based in Dunmore, PA that is most famous for their filled chocolates called Smidgens. This name of course also brings to mind famous skateboarder Tony Hawk. So, if you are from NEPA, love Gertrude Hawk chocolates, and also enjoy skateboarding, then Aero hits the holy trifecta of all your naming requirements.

It took a while for this name to grow on me. But names with an “ee” sound at the end, like Bree, have been popular for a long time, so why not Spree?

What do you think is the sweetest name on this list? Let me know in the comments.

Photo credit: Andrew_Writer

The Baby Name Buff: Super Bowl LIII Edition

I want to preface this blog by confessing that I don’t give a rat’s tail, let alone an entire rat’s ass, about football. First, football is super violent, so right there I’m not a fan. Second, even though many would argue that competition is the cornerstone of a well-functioning capitalistic society, I hate watching sports competitions because I don’t like to see how sad one of the teams is when they lose. This sentiment is especially true for ultimate showdowns like the Super Bowl, where one of the teams that worked so hard to make it to the final game will eventually have to feel the deep sting of the jaws of defeat. And finally, I think football is just plain boring.  All that said, football is the most popular sport in the United States, and I’m sure there are many parents out there who would love to name their child in honor of their favorite football team or player.

This Sunday, Super Bowl LIII pits the Los Angeles Rams against the New England Patriots. (And yes, I had to look that information up online because, again, I’m all out of rodent posteriors to dole out when it comes to football.) And while even the best sports analysts cannot say for sure which team will win Super Bowl LIII, I am about to reveal whether it was the Patriots or the Rams who won the coveted title of Baby Name Bowl 2019 champion by inspiring the best, most unique baby names. Let me tell you, folks; it was a close game indeed, so get ready to take up residence at 1 Edge-of-Your-Seat Drive.

Also, before we begin the competition, I’d like to extend a hearty thank you to my football-loving brothers, John Gundling and Alex Gundling, for helping me with players’ name pronunciations. Your help with this endeavor almost makes up for all the times each of you tried to talk to me about football’s even more boring off-shoot, fantasy football. But only almost. And I’m grateful for this handy list of Rams and Patriots Starters, Specialists, and Key Reserves from CBS for providing an easy way for me to find out who is playing in Super Bowl LIII.

First Quarter
[The Patriots started the first quarter strong, taking a decisive lead over the Rams.]

FQ: Rams

Tanzel—inspired by Tanzel Smart. I love, love, LOVE this name as pronounced in Smart’s case (Tan-zell). It’s like Denzel (also an amazing name) but with a fun and funky twist. I also like this name because I’m a fan of gender-neutral possibilities, and I think this name could work well for a boy or girl. Possible nicknames: Tan, Anz, Anzel, and Zel / Zell. Or, if you are looking for a unique alternative to the Germanic name Hansel, you could change the pronunciation slightly to that end (Tan-suhl).

Blythe—inspired by Austin Blythe. The correct pronunciation for this player’s last name sounds like the word “blight” to me, which obviously is not a good connotation. However, if you pronounce it instead like the last name of Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables, then I’m a huge fan. And, as a bonus, that pronunciation would make this the perfect name for someone who both loves football and adores Anne of Green Gables (in other words, no one). Blythe, though not in the top 1,000 just yet, is gaining steam as a name for both boys and girls. Possible nicknames include Bly, Ly, and Lythe.

FQ: Patriots

—inspired by Deatrich Wise, Jr. This name is great for those who love both old-timey movies and football, though there’s probably not a ton of overlap between those two fandoms either. Possible nicknames: Dea, Deat, Eatric, and Trich / Trick. I like the Dea or Dee nickname for boys or girls and the Trich / Trick nickname for boys.

Duron—inspired by Duron Harmon. At first, I guessed that this name was pronounced as it is spelled (Du-ron), and I was not loving it, since it reminded me of Sauron from The Lord of the Rings, and I don’t think anyone wants to name their kid after a big, freaky, evil tower-eye entity. But the actual pronunciation (Duh-ron) definitely won me over. Normally, even with short names, I’ve got at least one nickname idea, but I feel like Duron is perfect as is for a little boy’s name.

Edelman—inspired by Julian Edelman (pronounced Ed-uhl-min). Though I’m not quite as into this name as some of the others on this list, I do like that Edelman can be gender neutral and presents a lot of great nickname options, such as Edel, Del / Dell (or Della for a girl), Elm, and Elman. And, in case your child hates having this unique name, they can always fall back on the super-boring nickname Ed. You don’t have to call them that, of course—parent’s prerogative.

Elandon—inspired by Elandon Roberts. Originally, I assumed the pronunciation of this name was E-lon-don, and I therefore figured this would be the right name for those who secretly wish their child was actually a Lord of the Rings character or a dinosaur.  But my brothers (and Roberts himself, pronouncing his own name in a video) corrected my incorrect assumption; this name is actually pronounced E-lan-din, which to me is a more sophisticated and more interesting version of the overused but still reasonably cool gender-neutral name Landon. Possible nicknames: Elan, Landon, Ando, Andon, or Lando.

Keionta—inspired by Keionta Davis. Another gorgeous name, Keionta (pronounced Key-on-tay) would actually make a terrific name for a boy or a girl. Possible nicknames include Kei (pronounced Key or Kai), Eion (pronounced Eon), Ion (pronounced Eye-on), or Onta (pronounced On-tay, rhymes with Dante).  

Final Score @ the end of the First Quarter: Patriots 5 vs. Rams 2
Second Quarter
[In the second quarter, the Rams capitalized on the Patriots’ flagging energy, gaining several points for a marginal lead.]

SQ: Rams

—inspired by Ndamukong Suh. Undoubtedly the most unique name on this list, Ndamukong, pronounced En-dom-ah-ken is especially interesting for its meaning: “house of spears” (Baby Name Wizard). So, if physical or emotional strength is something you feel is especially important to foster in your little one, or if you’d like your child to grow up to value protecting others, this name might be right for you. Possible nicknames include Endo, Dom, Muko (pronounced Mah-kah or Moo-ko), Khan, and Kong.

inspired by Greg Zurlein. While some may find Zurlein (pronounced Zur-line) a bit questionable for its similarity to the German word Fraulein (meaning miss or unmarried woman), unique baby name hunters are always obsessed with names that start with Z, so perhaps this name could work for some people. I’m honestly not as in love with this name as many others on the list, but I can imagine how this name might be alluring for others as a baby boy’s name. Possible nicknames include Zeur and Erl / Earl.

—inspired by Josh Reynolds. Pronounced Ren-uhlds, this is another name that is great because it works for a boy or a girl and has lots of cool nickname possibilities. For a girl, I like the nicknames Rey / Rae or Ren / Wren. For a boy, possible nicknames are Rey / Ray or Nold / Noldy.  

Nickell—inspired by Nickell Robey-Coleman. I initially thought this name was pronounced like the coin, and even then I thought the second “l” at the end really elevated this name. But my brothers both confirmed the name is really pronounced Nigh-Kell, which I love even better; it has a very lyrical cadence. And I also like the possible alternative spellings Nykell or Ny’kell. Possible nicknames include Ni / Ny (pronounced Nigh), Nike (rhymes with Mike), Nick, or Kell.

—inspired by Rodger Saffold. Though taken from the last name of a bulky dude, I really like Saffold as a girl’s name option, mostly because Saffo (a sweet alternative spelling of Sappho) would be an adorable nickname.

Talib—inspired by Aqib Talib. First, I want to throw a shout out to the parents of Aqib Talib for their genius in rhyming their son’s first and last name without having it come off as hokey or Dr. Seuss-like. Kudos. Second, as a first name, I find Talib (pronounced Tuh-leeb) attractive because it is succinct and somehow whimsical. Possible nicknames include Tull, Tal (rhymes with Hal), Li / Lee, or (for a girl) Leeby or Libby.    

JoJo—inspired by JoJo Natson. Much like rhyming first and last names, repeating names are hard to pull off without sounding corny or gimmicky, but—for some unknown reason—I really like JoJo. Maybe it is because my mom’s middle name is Jo, so I have a fondness for that name and therefore don’t mind hearing it twice in a row. Or maybe it is because I really like the girl’s name Josephine (Dawson’s Creek lover over here!), and JoJo would be a cute nickname for that. Regardless, JoJo works well as a boy’s or girl’s name and would also be a great pick for anyone who loves the 90s R&B duo K-Ci and JoJo. This name might also be the choice of the day if you let your four-year-old little girl choose her younger sibling’s name, given the extreme popularity these days of the obnoxious yet wholesome kids’ singer, JoJo Siwa.

SQ: Patriots

LaAdrian—inspired by LaAdrian Waddle. First, I like LaAdrian (pronounced Luh-Ay-drian) because Adrian is a gender-neutral name, so LaAdrian also works well for boys or girls. Second, I’m a big fan of names without a space but with two capital letters somewhere in the name. This trend can even make pedestrian names kind of cool, like MaryAnne or KateLynn. Possible nicknames include LaAdri, Adrian, Dree, and Rian (pronounced Ryan or Ree-anne).

Karras—inspired by Ted Karras. Pronounced Care-iss, I actually like this name option for a girl. It’s like a cool combo of the well-trod name Carrie / Karrie and the currently trendy name of the protagonist from The Hunger Games, Katniss. Possible nicknames: Carrie, Air, or Riss.

—inspired by Nicholas Grigsby. To me, this name sounds super English, so it would be a perfect pick for all the Anglophiles out there. Another convenient benefit of the gender-neutral name Grigsby is that your child can also double as your butler. Possible nicknames: Grig (or Greg), Rig, Igsby, or Bee.

Final Score @ the end of the Second Quarter: Patriots 8 vs. Rams 9
Third Quarter
[After an exciting, back-and-forth quarter, the Patriots regain a slight lead.]

TQ: Rams

Whitworth—inspired by Andrew Whitworth. Many people are now using the last names of famous writers (especially poets) as first names, such as Tennyson or Byron. Since I was an English major in college, I’m totally down with that trend. Along those same lines, Whitworth invokes both Walt Whitman and William Wordsworth; since I really like both those poets, I love this unconventional name for a little boy. (Additionally, I think a hybrid poetry style of Whitman and Wordsworth would be really neat, so hopefully your child will invent that writing style combination if you name him Whitworth.)  Possible nicknames: Whit, Twor (rhymes with Thor), or Earth (like the ending sound in this name, but I like this spelling better than Orth).

Ebukam—inspired by Samson Ebukam. I would argue this name is the second most unique name on this list, after the aforementioned Ndamukong. Pronounced Uh-boo-kum, I like the staccato sound of this gender-neutral name. Possible nicknames include Ebu (pronounced Uh-boo or Eee-boo), Uka (pronounced Ooo-ka), or Kam (pronounced like Cam in Camden or Cameron).

Robey—inspired by Nickell Robey-Coleman. In addition to donating his first name as a formidable team member for Baby Name Bowl 2019, Nickell Robey-Coleman also contributes Robey (pronounced Ro-bee) as a cute alternative to the much more common boy’s name Robby. This name could potentially work well for a boy or a girl. And, as with the nickname Ed for Edelman (above), if your kid is all about fitting in with the crowd, he or she could always go by the extremely-common nickname Rob. Or, if your kid likes the uniqueness of being named Robey but still wants a nickname, you could go with Ro / Roe, Obe / Obi (like Obi-wan Kenobi from Star Wars), or Bey / Bae. Or, if your child has trouble listening, you could call him or her Obey for short so you can reiterate a command for them to listen every time you say their name. (I kid, I kid.)

TQ: Patriots

Sony—inspired by Sony Michel.  While this name is unique, I’m feeling a bit lukewarm about it. On the one hand, if I could disassociate this name from the electronics brand, then I could admit that this is a short, cute name. On the other hand, I unfortunately can’t stop thinking about TVs and stereos (yes, stereos—I’m old, okay?) when I hear this name. So, if you are the kind of person who would also name your kid Electronica or Magnavox (actually, I’m kind of liking that last one…), then maybe the boy’s name Sony could work for you.

—inspired by Shaq Mason. I was a little surprised that Shaq (pronounced Shack) has never been in the top 1,000 names in the U.S., but I didn’t check the longer / more formal version of the name (Shaquille), so maybe that name is in the top 1,000. In any case, I like Shaq because it is a nice, single-syllable name with an air of coolness about it. The only downside is that there are no obvious nicknames. Then again, the lack of nicknames could be an upside; for those who are like my Aunt Sally and don’t like nicknames at all, for any name, Shaq could be a nice choice.

Dont’a—inspired by Dont’a Hightower. Before discussing this name, I’d like to take a moment to appreciate how badass the entire name Dont’a Hightower is. This guy sounds like he should be a superhero instead of a football player. But back to the point at hand, Dont’a is a unique version of the extremely-popular boy’s name Dante, which peaked in the U.S. in 1997 (#200) and is still fairly common at #318 as of 2017 (Social Security Administration: Popular Baby Names). Possible nicknames include Don and T’a / Tay for boys and Dawn, Donna, T’a / Tae, or Taya for girls.

McCourty—inspired by Devin and Jason McCourty. Twins Devin and Jason McCourty ( co-donate their last name (pronounced Mick-cort-ee) as a possible first name for a boy or girl. As with LaAdrian (above), I like this name for the no-space, double-capital aspect. But I’ve noticed that, while last names as first names has been a huge part of the unique baby name boom of the last 10-20 years, last names starting with Mc have not often been included in the last-name-as-first-name trend, and I think they should be. Possible nicknames for McCourty include Mick, Mic / Mike, Court / Cort, Tee, or Ty (pronounced like tie in necktie).

Harmon—inspired by Duron Harmon. Like several other players in Baby Name Bowl 2019, Duron Harmon is a very valuable player for contributing both his first and last name to the game. One of my all-time favorite baby girl names is Harmony, so I love Harmon because I feel like it is the male version of Harmony. It also has an elegant sound along the lines of lovely sounding (if antiquated) names like Harlan. I can’t think of any nicknames for this one either, though.

Final Score @ the end of the Third Quarter: Patriots 13 vs. Rams 12
Fourth Quarter
[In the exciting final quarter of Baby Name Bowl 2019…keep reading to find out what happened!]

FQ: Rams

Aqib—inspired by Aqib Talib. Aqib (pronounced Uh-keeb) joins many other names on this list as a nice choice for its brevity and striking sound. And, as one of my own nicknames in high school was Keeb (because of my pointy ears), I like the possible nickname Qib (with the same Keeb sound but a cooler spelling).  

—inspired by Lamarcus Joyner. Another naming trend I like a lot is taking existing and more common names and adding something onto them to make a longer and more unique name. (Examples: Maxton or Kateliss.) Joyner is in that family of names, so I enjoy this option at lot. I would most like this name for a girl, and then the more common name Joy can be a nickname, if desired.  

Natson—inspired by JoJo Natson. While my favorite contribution from this player is his first name (discussed above), Natson joins a well-regarded set of boys’ and girls’ names ending in –on, by far one of the most popular trends when it comes to picking or creating unusual baby names. Also, I really love Nat as a nickname.

—inspired by Sean Mannion. Pronounced Man-yin, this is yet another name ending in –on and is thus a name likely to be popular with many baby name enthusiasts. This name could work well for a boy or a girl, with possible boys’ nicknames Manni / Manny, girls’ nicknames Ann or Anni, and gender-neutral nicknames Yin or Ion.

Lamarcus—inspired by Lamarcus Joyner. While I would like this name much better if it followed the two capital letters in a single name trend discussed above (LaMarcus), this name has…..wait a minute…the referee has just thrown a penalty flag. According to the rules of Baby Name Bowl 2019, as set out in the TBNB charter in January 2019, no names that have been in the U.S. top 1,000 between 1900 and the present can appear on this blog (including during Baby Name Bowls). The referees have confirmed that Lamarcus was in the top 900s from 1982 to 1984. Therefore, Lamarcus is ejected from the game!!! What a stroke of bad luck for the Rams. In a game this tight, this is quite a blow! This ejection puts the Rams ahead by only three points as we see what the Patriots have got in this final quarter.

FQ: Patriots

Cordarrelle—inspired by Cordarrelle Patterson. Cordarrelle is tied with Tazel for Most Valuable Name (MVN)—i.e. my favorite name—of Baby Name Bowl 2019. Whether pronounced as in the case of Patterson (Core-daryl) or more like Corduroy (Cor-duh-rell), this name is just plain awesome. I can’t even say why—I just love it! Possible nicknames include Core, Cordy, Darrelle / Daryl, Drell, and Rell.

Develin—inspired by James Develin. It’s easy to be down on the name Develin (pronounced Dev-a-lin), as are most of the people on the name boards and sites I frequent. Yes, this name invokes the Devil, and I suspect the Devil tops even Hitler in the Western imagination for the most scary, evil entity imaginable. But, let’s face it: all kids are at least partially little “devils,” so it’s not like the name would be completely off base, am I right? To be more serious, though, I like the sound of Develin because it is a longer, more fluid version of the gender-neutral name Devin / Devon, another name I like pretty well.

Cannon—inspired by Marcus Cannon. Well, everyone, it looks like Baby Name Bowl 2019 is going into overtime, as this final name from the Patriots ties the game up 16 to 16.  Despite this name’s militaristic association, it is a promising baby name option because it joins Duron, Elandon, Harmon, Natson, and Mannion as yet another potential baby name ending in –on. While this name…hold on folks! The referees have issued another penalty flag. What’s going on here? Oh no! The boy’s name Cannon has been in the top 1,000 every year since 2003. Cannon is ejected from the game! I repeat, Cannon is ejected from the game!!!!!

The Rams win Baby Name Bowl 2019! The Rams wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin!!!!!!!!!

Final Score: Patriots 15 vs. Rams 16