Category: Baby Names

Name of the Day: Reynard

An Ancient Germanic name meaning brave advice, this name has lots of spelling variations. I really like Rainard as it has the word rain in it, which I find peaceful and cleansing, but I struggle to find as much information about it being a legitimate spelling…So I’ll go on with Reynard as it’s the most common spelling… though it was still given to less than 5 babies last year.

Reynard is the name of a sneaky Fox (Fox could be a cool nickname) in which many many forklores have been based. These tales started in the middle ages and were popular in Germany, France, England and the Netherlands. In fact these tales were so popular that renard became the new word for fox in France (it used to be goupil.) Reynard’s stories often involve him out smarting the upper class authorities.

His first documented tale is a Latin poem from 1148 called Ysengrimus. Reynard is renamed Rossel in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The character was also used by the Nazi party in an Anti Semitic children’s book (not all the history of a given name can be good!). Disney’s Robin Hood was a fox to make him similar to Reynard. These are just a few of many many examples of Reynard’s many many appearances in pop culture over the years.

I found a modern day pop singer names named Reynard Silva… maybe he’s a big deal… I really don’t keep up with what’s currently hip. Whether a household name or not though, I think he’s pretty talented.

Paul Reynard was a French born artist and art teacher. Many of his paintings exist in the United States, including a mural at Harvard. He was also a very skilled stained glass artist.

 




Name of the Day: Zinnia

The name of a flower, Zinnia has been used rarely as a girl’s name over the years. In fact, it was most popular in 2015 with 120 girls being given that name… but none of those slackers have done anything to make them significant figures yet ūüėČ I LOVE the name though, and I think I can make a strong case for it despite it’s lack of historical namesakes.

In general I love nature names. I believe I’ve mentioned before, however, most nature names remind me of a delicate, soft spoken child, and I don’t feel they fit a large variety of people. I don’t feel this way about Zinnia. As the name of a flower, I think it would still fit the small framed, shy girl previously mentioned. But the Z gives it extra spunk, making it fit the energetic child equally well. And I think it also has a more robust sound, making me associate it less with someone who is very frail and allowing me to picture it on all body types.

The zinnia flower was named for German botanist Johann Zinn. So, in a way, it has German roots. I pitch German names to Peter often as I’m 75% German but they almost always sound too harsh to him. In Germany the surname Zinn refers to someone who works with Tin. This makes me smile as my grandmother collected tins and started me on the same collection as a child.

Johann Zinn himself was not just a botanist but an anatomist. He was the first to provide some detailed anatomy of the human eye. He died at just 31, so nobody knows what contributions he could have made had his life been longer. Carl Linnaeus created the zinnia flower and named it after Johann. Linnaeus himself seems to have been rather interesting.

All flowers have their own meanings. Zinnia’s are an easy flowering plant and bloom longer than most other flowers, they therefore symbolize endurance. Then of course people like to assign different meanings to different colors within types of flowers. According to Pioneer thinking¬†zinnias represent thoughts of friends. Mixed color zinnias mean thoughts of an absent friend. A yellow zinnia represents daily remembrance. White zinnias represent goodness. A scarlet zinnia is for constancy (matching what I said earlier about endurance) and a magenta Zinnia symbolizes lasting affection.

Though I can’t find any real women who have been influential with the name Zinnia, there have been characters with the name. Zinnia Wormwood is the mother in the movie Matilda. A pretty terrible character, but a great movie based off an even better book (in the book I don’t think Roald Dahl gave the mother a first name, I could be misremembering, I haven’t read it in years.) Zinnia is the name of one of the daughters in the 90s British TV series The Darling Buds of May, based off a novella by H. E. Bates. Zinnia is the main character is Chasing Redbird, a 1991 children’s novel.

This name makes me think of my husband and his love for gardening. I like the idea of naming my last child after something in nature. This world is so much more than just the people in it. The simplicity and beauty of a flower is inspiring to me.

Name of the Day: Otis

Peter’s rejected Otis several times already, but I just love it!! So, I’m going to look into it’s history anyways. Peter says it’s a cat’s name… which is so stupid because it’s the dog’s name on Milo and Otis, which happens to be a phenomenal movie that I loved as a kid and my kids love now. So if I’m going to name my kid after a dog, it’d be that protective little pug!

Otis has 2 different origins, cognate of Otto (which is another name I love) it means “wealth and fortune”. Or the Greek version of Latin Nemo, it would mean “no one”.

Several musicians bear the name Otis. For the sake of (somewhat) brevity¬†I’m just going to provide links to some of their music and let that inspire you (or, rather my husband.)

Otis Dudley Duncan is one of history’s most influential sociologists. Much of his work focused on social mobility (or the lack of it) in the United States. His works are still being expanded upon today. When he retired in 1987 he took up composing electronic music and computer graphics. I love to learn how people influential in a given field are multidimensional and see how their passion drives them to other hobbies. In 2000 (4 years before his death) he published a few more pieces as a member of the Humanist Society. These included topics such as euthanasia, atheism and creationism.




Name of the Day: Vera

I mentioned my love for Vera in a recent post about Lavender. It’s such a sweet name, I thought it deserved it’s own post. It’s sweet, simple and means faith in Russian or true in Latin and summer in Albanian!

This name has lots of history, let’s start with its musical history, as that will most interest my husband. It’s a Beatles name, one of the grandchildren in “When I’m 64”. Vera Lynn is a singer known as “the Forces’ Sweetheart” as she was popular during WWII and sang many songs for the troops and toured giving concerts specifically for them. At 100 years old, she is still active both musically and charitably. I could do a whole post on how awesome she seems. The Pink Floyd song “Vera” is a reference to her.

In the movies Vera-Ellen is an actress and dancer  best known for her role in White Christmas. Another actress, Vera Miles is best known as Lila from Psycho. In modern day the name also belongs to actress Vera Farmiga.

A lot of literary characters have been named Vera, including Vera Rostov in War and Peace. The first time I considered the name was while watching Cheers with Peter years ago, as it’s Norm’s often mentioned, never seen, wife.¬†

Vera Brittain was a writer, feminist and pacifist. She served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse during WWI, she also lost her fiance, brother and several close friends. This led her to feel very strongly against war, though she still volunteered to help provide for those serving in wars. Her books were typically at least somewhat autobiographical and show a very real picture of life during her time. 

Many associate this name with the designers Vera Wang and Vera Bradley. Though I don’t feel super strongly for or against their designs I find them to be inspiring namesakes as they are powerful business owners who followed their dreams. If my next daughter is half the fashionista as my first I’m sure she’d love to share her name with 2 designers.

This is as far as I’m going to go because holy cow, there is a massive list of influential Veras. If you want to see more check out the Wikipedia page.




Name of the Day: Bayard

Meaning “bay colored” this name was used in a medieval poem for a horse that could change size to accommodate more or less passengers. In some areas it’s become a common synonym for horse. But not where I live, so I shall continue.

Bayard Taylor was a 19th century poet, novelist and travel author. His travels were many, and he did his best to fully immerse himself in the culture. This led to both literature about his journeys and inspired creative fictional pieces. His most well-known travel piece is probably his book on the gold rush, El Dorado. His 2nd novel Joseph and His Friend: a Story of Pennsylvania is considered the first gay novel in America. A smart, adventurous and talented man, he makes the perfect namesake.

Bayard Rustin was a civil rights activist. Many consider him influential in gay rights as well. As an out of the closet gay man, he certainly spoke out in support of gay rights. However, he did not feel comfortable being known as a gay role model. He was outted on accident, he believes a person’s sexual preferences are private and he never had any intentions of letting the public know his. However, the public did know and in the last five years of his life he spoke out more about it. In 1982, since homosexuals had no way of marrying or solidifying their relationship legally, Bayard and his partner took an unconventional step; for themselves and to start discussion. Bayard adopted Walter, so that the law would recognize them as family. Walter was, of course a grown man, but his mother gave up her rights and a social worker had to approve Bayard as an acceptable care giver… the process seems ridiculous… but I wholly admire their desire to do something official! And they didn’t have other options.¬†¬†In 1986 (a year before his death) he made a speech in support of New York State’s Gay Rights Bill called “The New Niggers are Gays”. In his life he’d seen (and helped provide) many improvements in the treatments of African Americans in our society… but believed gays were now the most vulnerable group.

Bayard was a big proponent of non violence, having worked with Gandhi during his movement in India. He helped Martin Luther King Jr to fully understand the movement, and Martin then brought it more attention. He worked behind the scenes with Martin and many other civil rights leaders and organizers but was rarely a spokesperson. Because he was known to be gay and have a previous association with the communist party he wasn’t a very wholesome figurehead. The list of all that he worked towards for equality is so overwhelming I can’t begin to summarize it in a paragraph. If you’d like to read more, check his Wikipedia page.¬†Interestingly, Bayard was also an accomplished tenor who’s voice can be found on several albums from the 50s-70s.

I love the history of this name but I also love the nicknames Bay and Bear. I wish this name was used more. To appear on the social security list a name must be given to 5 or more babies in a year, Bayard was given to 5 boys in 2014 and has not reappeared since.




Name of the Day: Lavender

Peter doesn’t suggest many names. For girls he has suggested Janis (as in Joplin), Jane (after his grandmother), and now Lavender. I’ve considered this name before, but I’ve never given it serious consideration as I feel like it only fits certain types of people. I feel this way about a lot of nature names. I picture a delicate looking girly girl. Small with soft features in a pretty dress. But Peter disagreed and said he could picture it on pretty much everyone, so I decided to give it a shot. (I also gave Janis a shot despite it reminding me so much of the character on Friends. I somewhat warmed up to it. Now that Peter’s watching Friends he can get past the association though. Jane is lovely, I did not have to research to make myself love that one.)¬†

Lavender seems to be a much more common name in literature than in the real world. A good friend of the title character in Roald Dahl’s Matilda. I love Roald Dahl and Matilda is definitely one of my favorites of his books. I tried to put Matilda on my list when I was pregnant with Lucille, but Peter wasn’t impressed. I think her best friend’s name is a good substitute.

In the Anne of Green Gables books Lavendar Lewis is the name of a sweet and eccentric older woman. Her tale is really endearing, she falls in love, they are young and stubborn and fight too much so they break up. Years later, when they’ve both calmed, they fall back in love and marry.

Lavender Brown is a Harry Potter witch. I’ve never read the books, I tried to figure out if she was a good character or not but it seems people love or hate her. Maybe someday I’ll read the books and decide for myself. Tolkien also named a hobbit Lavender, but I don’t think she’s a very significant character. (Ive only read The Hobbit so I’m not a Tolkien expert.)

I also recently read a book called “The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender”. In the book Lavender is the surname of the mysterious family of characters. They’ve suffered a lot of heartache and Ava, the strangest of them all, seems to be the only one who wants to leave the tragedies in the past and go through life as a normal person. The end of the book is hopeful and over all I liked it quite a bit.

Sweet Lavender by Arthur Wing Pinero is a play from the 1800s in which Lavender and Clement find love and fight for it to be accepted. 

Lavender’s Blue is a very old folk song and nursery rhyme that has been recreated in several forms over the years. Read about its long history on Wikipedia. I haven’t listened to all the versions, but I really love the Burl Ives one¬†as it seems so old fashioned and nostalgic. Laura Wright’s version is lovely, her voice and the instrumentals are so captivating but also calming.

Lavender as a word means to wash, however flowers represent many things to those working with them. Roses for example usually represent love, forget me nots meaning is right in their name. Lavender stands for devotion. It is also very associated with serenity… maybe if I use this name my 3rd child will be the calm one?

I really have talked myself into liking the name quite a bit. It is romantic, artistic, and the more I say it the more natural it seems, which allows me to see it on many personalities. Here’s my remaining problem: nicknames. I’ve noticed that people have trouble calling people by a 3 syllable name if the emphasis is on the first syllable. They tend to just stop after syllable 1 or stick a y after it. My first thought when hearing Lav and Lavvy is lavatory… now I admit, after saying if a few times, Lavvy’s actually kind of cute. But I don’t want everyone she meets to think toilet right away. I don’t want her name to have to grow on people…. of course being a 3 syllable name, I can put together lots of other nicknames, I just don’t think they’ll come as naturally. I love Lady. And Vennie is cute.¬†I LOVE the name Vera, which Peter has rejected before… all the letters are there to use it as nickname, but the A is in the wrong order. Is it too much a stretch? I can’t decide… Val has all the right letters too, in reverse order. Van a is really pretty. We can’t use Lenny because we have a Lennon, but others certainly could. Or Larry or Andy if you like boyish nicknames. Lana. Vandy. Vendie, Lannie. Landy. Endy. Ven. Aven. Ugh, but with all these options, is she still destined to be Lavvy? I’m going to have to continue pondering this one….




Name of the Day: Malcolm

The name of 4 Scottish kings, an Australian prime minister and of course Malcolm X, this name is great for a boy you want to teach to be a strong leader. An old name, with lots of history, Malcolm is pretty uncommon, ranked at #410 in 2016.

I think for my generation the 2 immediate associations with the name Malcolm are Malcolm in the Middle and Malcolm X. Malcolm in the Middle was a fictional show about a gifted boy in a dysfunctional family.. it was funny. It was clean humor without being goody goody and boring. I think it’s a positive association. I have fond memories watching it with my brother on Sunday nights.

Moving to Malcolm X, the real life association. I’m embarrassed to say that my knowledge of Malcolm X from my public school education is very limited. I was taught that he was a civil rights activist, but resorted to violence and anger.. ¬†the educators of my youth presented Martin Luther King Jr as the good guy and Malcolm X as the bad guy. As an adult I obviously recognize that they can both be good while having different methods and different journeys. I wonder if my teachers truly thought of Malcolm X as a bad guy, or if they were just scared¬†to teach about his complex and murky history. To summarize my opinion, in case anyone reading this is realizing that their own education on the subject is lacking: Malcolm X had spent his life being treated unfairly. In looking for a fix to the solution, he presented ideas in a compelling manner, with good intentions. Though I disagree with many of his ideas, I can appreciate where they were coming from. By the time of his death has had reformed many of his ideas. He was more peaceful and loving. If given the chance to live a full life, he may have changed his position on other matters, too. He was young and excited and I think, like most young people, he expressed some of his feelings before properly exploring them. Overall, him and Martin Luther King Jr were on the same side, after their deaths, their widows were best friends.

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth Malcolm is based of the real life Malcolm III of Scotland. The rightful heir to the throne, this reference combines royalty, leadership and literature in one.

Malcolm Young is one of the founding members of AC/DC, Malcolm Lowry a poet and novelist (best known for Under the Volcano), the list of great namesakes goes on and on… Lastly I think the nick name Mac is adorable!




Name of the Day: Liza

“There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza”… anybody else sing this song on every road trip of their childhood? We had several other songs we’d sing on the 4 hour drive to visit my dad’s family, but Liza and George’s tale of a bucket was my very favorite.

I’m usually not to keen on nickname names instead of using the full name, but this is an exception, I think I’d prefer to name my daughter this simple nickname rather than Elizabeth (though I do find Elizabeth pretty too).

I think Liza is most commonly associated with Liza Minnelli, or as I like to refer to her as, Lucille 2 (if you haven’t seen Arrested Development, you should). The winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Oscar, it’s hard to deny she’s talented. The daughter of Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli, Liza was named after the song “Liza (All the Clouds’ll Roll Away” by Ira Gershwin, which Judy sings beautifully. Like Judy Garland, Liza’s life has not been all sunshine and rainbows. Though their lives have been on display for the public and painted as glorious, the pressures of both their lives have resulted in drug abuse and failed marriages.

I remember reading many years ago about how Judy Garland had been pregnant earlier in life and though she was excited to be a Mother, those who wanted to ride her coattails to stardom forced her to get an abortion. (If I remember correctly, this happened several times.) I imagine Liza, being Judy’s first child, was a happy turning point in Judy’s life. Unfortunately, I don’t think having Liza changed her life as much as she hoped. But I love to think of the joy and hope that must have surrounded Liza’s earliest days.

“Me and Liza” is a lovely song by Rufus Wainwright. It’s actually about Liza Minnelli, who he’s a big fan of, but who seems not to be a fan of him. She has not appreciated his covers of Judy Garland’s shows. I think this song is Rufus’ way of saying he understands why she dislikes his work but he still likes her and would love to know her better.

In literature, Liza is a tragic character in War and Peace. Also the name of several foreign films, a hurricane and several lesser known actresses and singers. It’s a familiar name, but I’ve yet to meet one, so for me it’s the perfect mix of common and uncommon.




Name of the Day: Wilfred

Frederick used to be one of our favorite boy names until I realized I dislike it with our surname. And hubby agreed. But Wilfred would still allow the adorable nickname Freddie (which I think is a cute nickname for a girl too!), and the more I think about it, I think I like it even more than Frederick. I’m not crazy about the Rick part of Frederick, but I quite like the Wil part of Wilfred. Wil is a very handsome nickname and I’ve never understood why so many Williams go by Bill when Will is so much more sophisticated. Wilfy is another cute nickname.

Meaning desiring peace, Wilfred is a well known name, rarely used in the states. Throughout history, however, there have been many famous Wilfreds. Wilfred Greatorex was an accomplished television writer, several athletes also bear the name and Wilfred the Hairy was a count in modern day Spain back in the 800s.

Wilfred Gordon Bigelow was a heart surgeon who helped to create the artificial pacemaker and introduced the use of hypothermia in open heart surgery. Through both of these, Bigelow is responsible for saving countless lives!

Wilfred Trotter was another notable in the medical field. An outstanding surgeon, he was also very interested in the field of psychology. His major psychological works involved herd theory, and he was actually a big influencer of Wilfred Bion, who we will learn about in the next paragraph. He was also one of the first few people to see the genius of Sigmund Freud. As a surgeon he was both the surgeon of King George V and the person whom Freud himself turned to when he had terminal cancer.

Wilfred Bion was a very well-known and influential psychoanalyst who has been said to be the greatest mind known to psychology other than Freud. He was unafraid to do things differently and because of this was able to develop many new theories helping us to understand psychology, most notably relating to: our ability to learn from experience, group dynamics, how treatment during infancy affects an individual’s view on people and things during their adult years, and factors that push and pull individuals toward crime.

Wilfred Pickles was an English actor and radio celebrity. (We all know I love a good radio namesake!) He is best known for his radio show “Have a Go”, which co-starred his wife Mabel. The first radio game show in England, Mr. And Mrs. Pickles traveled the UK asking trivia questions to those they met and allowing them to win cash prizes. The show lasted 21 years and had a weekly audience of 20 million. Not only a symbol of success in the arts, Wilfred and Mabel are also a symbol of a loyal, everlasting love.

Wilfred Owen is credited as the greatest poet during the first World War. As a soldier he was relieved of duty after suffering serious injury, but despite the wish of those closest to him, enlisted again after he was healed. This decision was fatal, he was killed in action 1 week before the end of the war. His early life, under his mother’s influence, he was a devout member of the Church of England, but while attending university became upset by the church’s unwillingness to help those that needed it. This and his experience in the army were extremely influential on his poetry, which originally was influenced by romantic poets such as Keats and Shelley.

Wilfred Johnson was a Mafia enforcer turned FBI informant. He grew up with an alcoholic, abusive father, sometimes absent mother and a habit for getting in trouble at school. Eventually his rough life led him to organized crime, but while behind bars, those that claimed to provide for his family did not live up to their promise. This eventually made him switch his loyalty to the FBI. Once his cover was blown, the FBI wanted to put him in the witness protection program but he refused, leading to his murder. Though his story has a sad ending, I think his is a story that shows no matter what your past, you can still turn your life around.

Wilfred Wood is the name of both a Victoria Cross recipient and the first black bishop in England. Soldier Private Wood fought in the first World War and without any orders embarked on a mission that caused 140 enemies to surrender. Bishop Wood was influential not just within the Church of England but also helped raise awareness of racial issues and help unite the masses and bring equality throughout the country. In 2004 the public voted him the 2nd most influential black Briton in the nation’s history.

On the opposite end of the religious spectrum, Wilfred Cantwell Smith is a scholar, professor and author on religious studies most known for The Meaning and End of Religion in which Smith investigates how religions started, changed over time and what they mean to those practicing today. Very controversial but in my opinion very interesting and informative.

Sir Wilfred Stokes was made a knight for his invention of the Stokes Mortar, the first portable mortar, used a great deal in WWI. Any one else notice a lot of these Wilfreds are Englishmen during the first World war? Wilfred Thesiger was also made a knight, many years later in 1995. He was a travel writer, well known for his two books, Arabian Sands and The Marsh Arabs.

Wilfred originated from the name Wilfrid and I’m not even going to research those that had that name because, well, the above list is probably already more than anyone wants to read. My last reason for enjoying the name is it’s the name of a show that Peter and I enjoyed watching together. The title character is a dog, so, I admittedly wasn’t sure this was a positive association at first. But now that I know of so many great human nonfiction Wilfreds, I do not as strongly associate it with the dog character. And the show is HILARIOUS!




Name of the Day: Winifred

I don’t think there’s any hope of selling this name to Peter, I’ve brought it up in the past. But I think it’s beautiful and adorable, one of my very very favorites! So, I’m going to try.

Derived from Gwenfrewi, it means blessed peace or reconciliation. I love the nicknames Winnie, Freddie or just Win or Fred! It has a lot of pop culture associations including characters in Hocus Pocus, Tuck Everlasting, Angel, Once Upon A Mattress, Mary Poppins, Jungle Book, and more. Through these associations, it is a name most are familiar with, though probably most don’t personally know a Winifred.

According to the legend of Saint Winifred, when Winifred decided to become a nun she had a suitor. When she told him of her choice, he decapitated her. Of course, her head was reattached, her attacker swallowed by the ground and she went on to do lots of great deeds. This tale makes her the patron saint of unwanted advances… which I think is pretty powerful!

Winifred Brunton was an artist known best for the pieces she made depicting Egyptian pharaohs. This is because her and her husband went on archaeological digs and she based her art of the ruins that they found, making her artwork more realistic than anything seen before on the subject.

Winifred Atwell was a pianist from Trinidad that had great success in the UK and Australia. She was without question the most successful pianist of her time, which is all the more impressive considering she was a black woman. Unfortunately for us in the states, she was never well known here. She was supposed to appear on the Ed Sullivan show, but producers thought the audience would be confused by a British sounding black woman and never recorded the segment (though she did fly in for it). Despite this, Winifred claimed to have not suffered from racism in her own life, but was very outspoken about the issue in society. Particularly, she spoke about the treatment of the aborigines in Australia, the place she called home later in life. She also donated her time and talents to charity concerts to help the needy and orphanages.

Winifred Maxwell was an aristocrat who saved her husband from the death sentence. The guards let her in to say goodbye on the night before his execution, she dressed him in woman’s clothing and escaped. I think that tale is a great example of bravery and love!

Other famous Winifreds include a silent film star, the first woman to earn a PhD in mathematics, several writers, one of the founders of modern speech therapy, educators, politicians and more. It’s a magical name, and if you’re reading this and considering naming your daughter Winifred, please do it!