It's a funny thing about our ancestors: they're all older than us. Worse yet, they were born in the real past. That's the past where babies had names like Bernice, Mervin, Gladys and Wilfred, not the rose-tinted baby name past populated by names like Oliver, Julia, Gracie and Max.
What do you do when you want to honor a beloved relative's memory but her name doesn't fit your contemporary taste? Here are 8 strategies for naming after the name-fashion challenged:
1. The International Variant. If your relative had a traditional name, try looking to other languages for attractive translations. Ellen and Johnny could become Helena and Gianni, or Eleni and Ian. Past eras of English naming can help too; an uncle Peter could be honored with the medieval equivalent Piers.
2. The Nicknamesake. Great-Grandpa Wilfred's name may be a no go, but how about his nickname Will? Your little Will can still be a namesake, even if his full name is William or Wilson. Get creative with name roots and you'll find a surprising number of problem names can yield attractive "nicknamesakes."
3. The Middle Name. This is the most popular approach for today's parents, and the easiest. Just move the name down to the middle slot and choose a more stylish first name. The middle name solution preserves the honoree's name in its original form, and gives you an opening to tell your child stories of the wonderful individual they were named after. The downside is that you'll probably never use the middle name, so it won't conjure up memories the way a first-name namesake will.
4. The Surname. Don't forget that your loved ones had more than one name. A surname honor can come across as less specific, honoring a branch of the family rather than an individual. But if that family heritage meant a lot to your honoree, it may be a fitting tribute.
5. The Monogram. When more direct namesakes aren't an option, fall back on initials. Sharing initials with a special person is a subtle homage, but you can think of it as a secret message -- an unseen but powerful link between generations.
6. The Meaning. Most names have a literal derivation you can delve into for ideas. Leonard, for instance, comes from Germanic roots meaning "brave lion." You might honor a beloved Leonard with the name Ari, which is Hebrew for lion. WARNING: If you find yourself turning to this option, it probably means you've gotten desperate in your search for some kind of literal namesake. Before you make such an abstract connection, take some time to consider the next option.
7. The Non-Name "Namesake." Naming in honor of a person doesn't necessarily mean naming after him. Did your honoree have a personal hero? Was there a place that was special to him throughout his life? Did he have a passion that he passed on to you, that you hope to share with your child? Connecting to something a person loved can be a beautiful way to honor the life he lived.
8. The Original. Okay, you've run through all of your options for Grandma Martha. The international options stop at Marta. Grandma's unpronounceable surname is out of the question. An initial M won't sound like an homage to Martha, because your name is Melanie! And Martha is from the Aramaic for "lady," which is no help at all. Well, then...how about naming your daughter Martha? Give the original name a chance, it just might grow on you.
Want to make a nickname? No problem! All you need is a pair of name clippers. One quick snip turns Samantha into Sam and Jaxon into Jax.
At least that's how it works today. Once upon a time, nicknames were were less predictable. I recently wrote about some long-lost nicknames that transformed their source names with rhymes, contractions and more.
Today I'd like to look at a different group of nickname relics. These nicknames will be more familiar to you; some are even fashionable given names for babies today. What's lost is their nickname origins. See how many of these nicknames you can pin to their original formal-name sources.
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Daisy (Margaret; note that marguerite is French for daisy)
Baby Name Wizard is delighted to introduce a new blog feature sharing fun, inspiring name lists centered around a theme. We hope you enjoy our new column, "On the List."
No, we're not talking true "bad boys." But the trend of giving kids bold, spunky names is fresh and hip, even outside of Hollywood.
It's no secret that many parents today are crossing traditional favorites off their lists, and opting for names that more directly reflect their lifestyle and personal taste. And sometimes it just feels more fun to choose a name with some get-up-and-go, instead of borrowing a go-to from a great-great-grandfather. Not only does this baby naming path express your family's personality, it will leave an immediate impression.
Whatever your motivation, if you're in search of a baby name that is the opposite of bland, preppy, or stuffy, look no further. These names run the gamut from unusual to mainstream, and they've all got at least a bit of mischief. But don't worry, they are given in affection and won't actually turn your little boy into a troublemaker. He'll do that all on his own.
Brazen: A brash, unusual "word" name that's not too distant from Bryson and Braden.
Cannon: This traditional English name may mean clergyman, but it has a much more explosive side to it. Alternate spellings include Kannon and Canon.
Diesel: A surname that came to be associated with fuel, Diesel sounds edgy and energetic. It's also got some juice thanks to Fast & Furious actor Vin Diesel.
Gunner: Gunner is the most popular name on this list, and it's showing no signs of slowing down. It has a military association and is right on target.
Raiden: Raiden sits right in the middle of the top 1,000 names. A Mortal Kombat character and the word "raid" give this name some major punch.
Rambo: Inspired by Sylvester Stallone's character John Rambo, the term Rambo has become synonymous with a rebellious, reckless attitude. It's also a rare choice … given to just five American boys last year.
Rebel: There's no double meaning behind this name—Rebel is a nickname-turned-given name that makes a defiant statement. Rebel is also getting lots more exposure thanks to actress Rebel Wilson.
Rekker: Made for a tiny troublemaker, Rekker was chosen by easy-on-the-eyes leading man Cam Gigandet—fittingly starring in the sitcom "Reckless"—and his fiancée Dominique Geisendorff. Can also be spelled Wrecker.
Riot: A more intense cousin to the Western name Wyatt, Riot has a catchy sound and a chaotic personality. We've also seen it spelled Riott, Ryatt, Ryett, Ryot, or Ryott.
Rogue: Rogue may bring to mind the Marvel Comics X-Men character or even the political memoir, Going Rogue, by Sarah Palin. However, as a name, this word seems to have distanced itself a bit from its real-life definition—dishonest, scoundrel, and rascal are all synonyms.
Rowdy: This name got lots of exposure as Clint Eastwood's character on Rawhide. It gets the point across quickly, bringing to mind a rambunctious little guy with a sly grin.
Storm: A nature name with turbulent associations, Storm becomes a little bit cheesy only if it belongs to a meteorologist.
Stryker: A Stryker is an armored fighting vehicle in use today by the US Army. It's a strong name that some military families are looking to in recent years, though it's never broken the top 1,000 boys' names. A similar, less aggressive choice is Stryder.
Maverick: A nonconformist name that appeared after the 2008 presidential election, Maverick is on its way up in popularity.
Wilder: Wilder is an untamed choice that is a little familiar to us as a surname (à la Gene Wilder). Oliver Hudson, actor and son of Goldie Hawn, chose this name for his son.
Wolf: A wild nature name with a rebellious side, or short for the more domesticated German name Wolfgang. Actor Nat Wolff, seen recently in The Fault in Our Stars, could bring this name to the attention of expecting parents.