Most parents look for names that sound strong and confident. Some, though, demand even more. They want their baby names turbo-charged! Enter the Men of Action.
This name style leapt out at me when I analyzed regional name trends for the Baby Name Wizard book. The names were brash and spiky, packed with X's and K's and one-syllable power punches: Ryker, Maddox, Gage, Drake. Together, they sounded ready to storm an action movie or a first-person-shooter game. But in some parts of the U.S., they're more likely to make up a preschool class list.
The Men of Action names are popular throughout the plains states, their lightning-bolt style shining in nurseries from Wyoming and North Dakota down through Oklahoma. Their dominion reaches West into Idaho and East into Tennessee and West Virginia. In Men of Action country, the x-tra dynamic spelling Jaxon is now more popular than the traditional Jackson. If that spirit calls to you, you'll find plenty of options for your own future action hero below.
We all mark the season in different ways, but most of us can agree that we love this time of year. Between the gift giving, candle lighting, song singing, and cocoa drinking, we're ready for a perfectly joyful holiday season and a sparkling happy new year.
If you're preparing for your own bundle of joy this time of year, you may be hoping to mark your child's entry into the world with a festive name. And while we love some of the typical holiday favorites like Holly, Joy, or Noelle, we were inspired to dig a little deeper for names that ring clear as a bell.
With bright sounds and meanings that are cheerful and brilliant, they remind us of a sunlit romp in the glimmer of a fresh snowfall. We think these refreshing, happy names are sure to spread smiles and warmth this holiday season.
Aliza: With a breezy sound and a zippy "z", this lovely Hebrew name sounds as cheerful as its meaning, "joyful". Aliza may feel like a twist on names like Alice or Eliza, but it's an independent name that's much more rare.
Asher: It's not often that a name finds itself in the position to appeal to a variety of styles and across different faiths, but that's exactly the case for Asher. Like Archer or Ashton, Asher has a trend-worthy sound, but it's the sturdy biblical background and beautifully simple meaning--happy--that make us jump for joy.
Beatrice, Beatrix: The classical stylings of Beatrice, featured in Dante's Divine Comedy, are charming today's parents once again. The variation Beatrix sounds a bit more spunky, and carries a literary association in children's author Beatrix Potter. Both names have a bright sound and are Latin, meaning she brings joy.
Blythe: An English surname coming from the word blithe, meaning "carefree, happy, light," we think Blythe is the epitome of a cheerfully fashionable name. Some may associate it with Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables, or from Blithe Spirit, a comic play written in the 40s. Or, you may think of actress Blythe Danner, mother of Gwenyth Paltrow (and subsequently daughter Apple's middle name).
Brighton: On the shores of Great Britain, Brighton ("bright town") is a spirited seaside resort town that some are turning into a given name. This name feels like a proper British gent with a gleaming white smile. In the bygone TV series Everwood, the character Bright Abbott's middle name was Brighton.
Claire, Clara: These two names are pristine and light, with a sound as clear as their meaning ("clear, bright"). While Claire is a French-styled classic, Clara brings to mind a ringlet-haired Victorian girl, as portrayed in the Christmas ballet The Nutcracker.
Crispin: The sound of this name is what gives it an unmistakable clean, crisp feeling, evocative of a brisk winter's day. With similarities to names like Kingston, Christian, and Tristan, we think this Latin name is poised for more attention. Recent bearers include actor Crispin Glover and a character in the Harry Potterseries.
Cyrus: While Cyrus has debated roots and meanings, the Persian word for "sun" aligns with its sunny sound perfectly. A multitude of contemporary associations, from singer/actor Billy Ray Cyrus to a character in Scandal, converge to make this name more accessible. With the cheerful nickname Cy as a possibility, it's no wonder that this name is showing lots of potential. Chosen by actor couple Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy for their son.
Elena: At the risk of sounding overly enthusiastic, we adore the Greek classic Helen in all her forms (there are at least more than 60). Elena happens to be the most popular right now, and we can see why: its sweeping, lyrical sounds create the style our very own Baby Name Wizard penned "liquid names". (And a certain Vampire Diaries character doesn't hurt!) Its meaning, "shining light" or "bright one" is a beautifully subtle nod to the holiday season.
Felicity: A virtue name meaning "happiness", Felicity is a charming, upbeat darling that's perfect alongside Serenity and Grace. We've seen this name before in the late 90s TV show by the same name, and worn by a "spritely" American Girl doll (whose surname is, appropriately, Merriman). But Felicity remains more popular in the UK, where it's ranked at 141, compared the 579 in the US.
Felix: For awhile there, Felix had a tough go of things. A cartoon cat and the neat-freak character from The Odd Couple meant parents were much less enthusiastic than they once were over this Latin name meaning "happy, fortunate". The good news is that the dip in popularity during the 20th century gave Felix a chance to sound fresh and winning once again in the 21st century.
Ilaria: On a list of merry, bright names, it's a bit ironic that we're avoiding the once-beloved Hilary/Hillary, a cheerful name that has the same roots as the word hilarious. In its place, we give you Ilaria, the Italian form that transforms the now-passé Hilary to a fresh, melodic name filled with fantasia and lyricism.
Jovie: With the meaning "joyful, jovial", Jovie is a sweetly cheerful name with a holiday ring to it (Jovie was Zooey Deschanel's character in the movie Elf.) It fits right in with Evelyn's "Evie" and Sophia's "Sophie", giving it a familiar but creative feel. A runner-up to Jovie may be Jolie, a French name meaning "pretty" that feels a little jolly this time of year.
Lucia: An international name with "bright" written all over it, Lucia (pronounced loo-SEE-ə, LOO-shə, or loo-CHEE-ə) is a stylish choice with international flair. As a holiday bonus, the Scandinavian celebration of St. Lucia is a glowing event, with girls carrying candles and singing in procession as one is crowned with a wreath of candles on her head. Nicknames like Lulu and Lucy give this name even more charm.
Miles: While it's great that this name means peaceful and calm, we chose Miles for its similarities to the word "smile". It may be a surprising connection, but we discovered that many parents who chose this name found that they love this happy little coincidence. Anagrams aside, Miles has a cheerful sound with a little bit of jazz influence and it's sure to please.
Phoebe: This winsome Greek name means clear and bright, and its lighthearted demeanor and cross-cultural associations have made it an offbeat classic. Helped back into fashion by the character on Friends followed by Charmed, parents will continue to sing this name's praises long after we first heard "Smelly Cat". It's hard to go wrong with a gorgeous, intriguing, and moonlit name with roots in Greek mythology and mentions in the Bible.
Samson: A robust Biblical name with a stronger-than-steel image, Samson's swagger is balanced by its bright meaning, "sun," and the friendly nicknames it affords (Sam, Sammy). It's started to make some strides in popularity, but this brilliant choice remains outside of the top 500 boys' names.
Silvan, Sylvan: Silvan comes from a Latin word meaning "of the forest, woods," which brings to mind a snowy scene this time of year, but its the silvery sound that sparkles with holiday cheer. The ending imparts a masculine sturdiness, though the feminine forms Sylvie and Sylvia have given some parents pause. We think this name is all too rare, given its magnetic sound and nature-inspired meaning.
Stella: Drawing from the popularity of names like Ella and Isabella, parents rediscovered this otherworldly "star" in the past decade. Now a top 100 hit, Stella's come a long way from Marlon Brando's tearful cry in A Streetcar Named Desire. This pretty, twinkling name is a favorite chosen by celebs like Antonio Banderas, Matt Damon, Paul McCartney and many more.
Tate: It's hard to top the unabashed happiness of a sweet and simple name like Tate, which appropriately means "cheerful". This English surname is cute and underused, making it a refreshing choice that will fit the bill for a one-syllable charmer.
Are you expecting a holiday baby? What names bring you cheer this time of year?
We close out a year packed with deadly serious news and stunningly silly diversions. For the Name of the Year announcement, please walk back through the year with me. Back before the Ebola epidemic, before the latest Kardashian escapades, to March 2, 2014. That was the birth date of the Name of the Year:
It was the evening of the 86th Academy Awards presentation. Actor John Travolta took the stage to introduce Best Song contender "Let It Go," from the movie Frozen. (That film also launched another Name of the Year contender in Elsa, the magical ice princess. She's proof that half a century after Samantha Stevens twitched her nose on Bewitched, a pretty blonde with supernatural powers remains America's surest recipe for a hit baby name.)
The song was to be performed by Broadway superstar Idina Menzel. Travolta had a little trouble with Menzel's name, which came out something like, yes, Adele Dazeem:
How does a simple twist of the tongue earn Name of the Year honors? The key is what happened afterwards. Adele Dazeem became the official fake name of the fake name era.
As soon as Travolta uttered his magic words, Twitter accounts under the name Adele Dazeem exploded. Even the "real names" network Facebook teemed with scores of Dazeem impersonators like these:
Hundreds more Facebook users took advantage of the site's nickname/AKA feature to enter Adele Dazeem as an alias, making it the world's alter ego. Slate.com, the online magazine that piles up awards for its coverage of world events, created an Adele Dazeem Name Generator to let you "Travoltify your own name." It quickly became the most popular article in Slate's history.
In the months since, Adele Dazeem has been enshrined as a verb meaning "to say a name wrong in a high-profile setting." During the Emmys, the Huffington Post tweeted "Gwen Stefani just Adele Dazeem'd 'The Colbert Report.'" USA Today recently ran a headline "The names most in danger of getting Adele Dazeemed this Oscar season." Then there are the memes, like:
This feeding frenzy is the modern life cycle of a gaffe. A generation ago, we might have waited for a late-night comedian's monologue to see what he made of Travolta's Dazeem moment. But social media has turned us into an entire nation of joke writers, 140 characters at a time. Millions of us are constantly on the alert for juicy material. As soon as anything odd or amusing happens, there's a mad race to write something witty about it and elicit applause from our public.
If Tweets and status updates are the new one-liners, then the more elaborate viral bits, like Slate's Travoltifier, are the new comedy routines. It's a quick, in-and-out brand of humor that requires a simple and recognizeable hook. Names, which pack a world of meaning into two little words, make ideal hooks. In this new world where we all give as well as receive soundbites, a noteworthy name packs more power than ever before.
Just ask Ed Balls. He's the British MP who, a few years back, tried to search for his own name on Twitter but accidentally tweeted his name instead. That two-word post has been retweeted more than 30,000 times, inspired countless viral imitators, and is memorialized every April 28 as "Ed Balls Day." Do you think the internet would have gone similarly mad if another pol like, say, fellow Labour MP Ed Miliband had made the goof? His name just doesn't pack the same punch.
That was a contained viral name outbreak. Nobody else pretended to be Ed Balls, because the whole point of the joke was that it was his own name. Adele Dazeem multiplies this weird-name magic with the power of the fake name.
Fake identities are a staple of the new online humor world. Every volcanic cloud that looms over Europe, every snake that escapes the zoo is now skewered with online impersonation. Even real people who can speak and tweet for themselves have fake doppelgängers, from Fake Chuck Norris to Fake Warren Buffett.
Of course, fake identities are also a staple of the broader online world. Issues of authenticity and identity protection go far beyond the realm of Adele Dazeem. Yet within her realm -- the realm of viral insta-comedy, name bloopers, fake accounts and unbelievable aliases -- she is queen. That realm grows every day.
Wishing you a great naming year ahead,
(also known as Laura Wattenberg)