Spot the Missing Sibling: Answers

Jan 30th 2012

Last time I offered a baby name puzzle: spotting the "missing sibling" to go with a list of hand-selected style matches. Answers are below...but if you haven't made your guesses yet, take the sibling challenge first!

 

1. Brooklyn
Brothers: Camden, Kingston, Cooper, Grayson, Trenton, Chase, Bryson, Hudson
Sisters: London, Peyton, Aspen, Berkeley, Gracelyn, Alexa, Sydney, Bristol

A collection of contemporary place names, surnames and similar creations. Note that the B names give you a clue -- I try to offer alliterating options, especially for contemporary-styled names, for the many parents who seek that sound.

2. Lucy
Brothers: Leo, Sam, Oscar, Charlie, Max, Jack, Henry, Oliver
Sisters: Ruby, Ella, Sadie, Gracie, Lena, Stella, Alice, Molly

A collection of cozy picture-book classics.

3. Atticus
Brothers: Gideon, Beckett, Sawyer, Cassius, Soren, Emerson, Tennyson, Phineas
Sisters: Beatrix, Paloma, Oriana, Hermione, Guinevere, Aurora, Briar, Athena

A mix of the literary and classical, with a creative but not "invented" style.

4. Stephen
Brothers: Michael, Anthony, Philip, Thomas, Andrew, Daniel, Mark, Matthew
Sisters: Diana, Theresa, Christine, Rebecca, Cynthia, Andrea, Laura, Deborah

This classic was the #1 toughest challenge, based on reader responses! Note that this is Stephen, not the subtly different Steven. Brothers for Steven are Jeffrey, Kevin, Brian, David, Timothy, Eric, Patrick, Gregory.

5. Trinity
Brothers: Talon, Maverick, Orion, Tristan, Chance, Jett, Maximus, Zion
Sisters: Genesis, Destiny, Serenity, Nevaeh, Journey, Phoenix, Cadence, Harmony

Lots of you picked up on the modern power-meaning name with the slight sci-fi spin.

6. Adrian
Brothers: Julian, Damian, Xavier, Sebastian, Rafael, Dominic, Elias, Gabriel
Sisters: Natalia, Isabella, Giselle, Emilia, Mia, Ava, Valeria, Sofia

Another challenging one. Strong guesses included Felix, Nicolas and Diego.

More of these soon! I'm matching more every day. (In fact, I just had a devil of a time with Alistair. Any clever ideas?)

 

Spot the Missing Sibling: A Baby Name Challenge

Jan 26th 2012

Of all the features of the Baby Name Wizard book, I've always believed that the brother and sister name suggestions are the most important. Not only do they give you sibling name ideas and alternate paths to follow, but they define a kind of "style space" for each name. Together, the group of suggested names show you the stylistic and cultural place the name occupies.

Not surprisingly, this most important feature is also the most challenging. I've developed all kinds of tools to help me identify stylistic matches, but the ultimate selection is a hands-on process. The set of names should carry a similar feeling, but not be too close in sound to the original. Variety is critical too. It's no help to parents to suggest brothers named Kayden, Hayden, Grayden and Jayden for a boy named Brayden.

In many cases, the group of names also has to reflect a complex cultural setting. Take Tyrone. Tyrone is the name of a county in Northern Ireland, which became an American boy's name quite suddenly in the late 1930s thanks to actor Tyrone Power. Over the decades the name was embraced by African-American families and influenced other popular names like Tyrell and Tyree. It remained an African-American favorite through the '90s, but is now slipping out of fashion. No other single name can capture that whole story, but as a group the suggestions should come close.

So that's a tough job. And for the upcoming 3rd edition of the book, I've made it far, far tougher for myself. In a moment of wild optimism, I decided to expand from 10 suggestions for each name to 16: eight brothers and eight sisters. And rather than just tacking on extra names, I'm wiping the slate clean and starting each sib set from scratch.

Hmm...let's imagine that I spend just 10 minutes on each set. With a planned 1,750 full name snapshots, that should be 291.7 hours of sibling selection. Ok, breathe slowly Laura....

Sorry, sorry, back on topic now. Here's what I meant to say:

With 16 suggestions for every name, the new sib sets define their name spaces more clearly than ever. That makes for a nifty baby name brain teaser. If these names all gather around one name in their center, can you identify that name? Who's the "missing sibling" tying together each of the following sets?

1. (Girl)
Brothers: Camden, Kingston, Cooper, Grayson, Trenton, Chase, Bryson, Hudson
Sisters: London, Peyton, Aspen, Berkeley, Gracelyn, Alexa, Sydney, Bristol

2. (Girl)
Brothers: Leo, Sam, Oscar, Charlie, Max, Jack, Henry, Oliver
Sisters: Ruby, Ella, Sadie, Gracie, Lena, Stella, Alice, Molly

3. (Boy)
Brothers: Gideon, Beckett, Sawyer, Cassius, Soren, Emerson, Tennyson, Phineas
Sisters: Beatrix, Paloma, Oriana, Hermione, Guinevere, Aurora, Briar, Athena

4. (Boy)
Brothers: Michael, Anthony, Philip, Thomas, Andrew, Daniel, Mark, Matthew
Sisters: Diana, Theresa, Christine, Rebecca, Cynthia, Andrea, Laura, Deborah

5. (Girl)
Brothers: Talon, Maverick, Orion, Tristan, Chance, Jett, Maximus, Zion
Sisters: Genesis, Destiny, Serenity, Nevaeh, Journey, Phoenix, Cadence, Harmony

6. (Boy)
Brothers: Julian, Damian, Xavier, Sebastian, Rafael, Dominic, Elias, Gabriel
Sisters: Natalia, Isabella, Giselle, Emilia, Mia, Ava, Valeria, Sofia

 

Given it your best shot? On to the answers!

The Next Frontiers in Names, Part 2: Punctuation

Jan 19th 2012

A look at the new trails parents are blazing in search of fresh hit names. (Read Part 1: Wordplay.)

Q: What do these names have in common?

Jmya
Kj
Taylorrose
Jlynn
Kmora
Jordonalexander
Kci
Qmari
Json
Matthewryan
Kden
Jjesus

A: They've all shown up in the official U.S. baby name stats in recent years, yet I doubt they really exist.

That's not to say the names are hoaxes, or even mistakes. (Plenty of typos do creep in, but that's a different story.) I think those names have been stripped of a critical part of themselves: punctuation and capitalization.

In the past generation, American parents have pushed to the very limits of the alphabet with names like Zyquan and Xzavier. Now a growing number of them are looking beyond. Punctuation, spaces and capitalization offer a whole new realm of customization to make a child's name stand out.

These non-letter elements have always been a part of some traditional given names (e.g. St. John) and many traditional surnames (D'Amico, Bulwer-Lytton, al-Aziz, Van Winkle, O'Rourke). Yet computer databases have never liked them. Even today, many identification systems strip out non-alphabetic characters, turning Mr. O'Rourke-Van Winkle into Mr. Orourkevanwinkle. The official United States baby name database is one of these no-punctuation zones. As a result, the stats conceal the scope of the name punctuation story.

First-name apostrophes started gaining momentum in the 1980s. The initial wave of names, especially popular with Black and Latino parents, were styled after Romance-language surnames with prefixes. Names like DeAndre and DeAngelo increasingly morphed into D'Andre and D'Angelo. In the '90s and 2000s that prefix style exploded, spreading to less traditional starters like J, M, and K (J'Shawn, M'Kenzie, K'marion).

Even these contemporary creations, though, were following the traditional prefix form. The apostrophe was serving its traditional contraction role, indicating that a letter or letters had been cut out. But the popularity of this style has given the apostrophe a life of its own. More and more, it pops up without a contraction, just for effect: A'Donis. Kay'La. I'Zaiah. All pretense at function abandoned, it can become a purely decorative grace note: Izza'Bella. Tay'lor. Destini'.

It's not just apostrophes. Hyphens, which used to indicate a compound name (Mary-Helen), now serve many roles. They might turn a traditional single name into a pseudo-compound name, like Cait-Lyn, or simply "customize" a name, as in Ma-kayla.

There's a brand new function for punctuation, too. Much like the "silent E" rule you learned in school, a punctuation mark or capitalization can tell a letter to speak its name. This effect has existed for years in commercial names like KMart. The spillover to baby names, though, took off with celebrity name contractions like A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez) and J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez).

Take a moment to consider the name that shows up in the name stats as Kden. I feel confident that's actually an alternate spelling of Kayden. But what spelling, exactly? It's impossible to say. I'll guess that K-Den is the most common on the J-Lo model, but K'den and KDen are possibilities. For that matter, why not K*Den? (Baby name bling!) Once you move off the letter keys, anything is possible. My condolences to all the database managers out there.

 

P.S. As for that girl you heard about named Le-a, pronounced Ledasha, nope, the literal pronunciation of punctuation is not a big trend. You can read more on Le-a here.