How's this for a literary murderers' row?
The root "mor" is English literature's surest marker of dread. The classic examples above have rooted themselves so deeply in our culture that storytellers can tap into their sound for ready-made villainy. Videogames and comics are rife with diabolical Mordacks and Mordos.
The mor names also tap even deeper veins in our language. The names' individual origins vary. For instance, the mor in Moriarty comes from the Gaelic muir ("sea"), the mor in Moreau from Mauritania, and the mor in Morrigan probably from the same ancient root meaning "terror" as in the word nightmare.
But critically, all of these mors coincide with the Latin mors, meaning death. That root is ubiquitous in modern language, including English words like mortal, murder, moribund, and mortify.
On the face of it, then, the murderous mors seem like simply a part of our language of death. That would make them a rare example of names' cultural meanings arising directly from their linguistic derivations. But I think there's another piece to the puzzle. Consider these alternate lists of English mor words:
These positive terms, too, derive from powerful Latin sources. Amor is love, familiar from French amour, Italian amore, and more and more amor. Mores means conduct and morals. Yet neither of these admirable words has had much impact on English names, real or fictional. Amanda (via the Latin for "lovable") and actress Dorothy Lamour are as close as it gets.
In the world of names, then, death has triumphed over love and morality. And the path from linguistic origins to names seems to be paved with names themselves. Every Mordred and Voldemort strengthens the link between mor and mortality.
Do you any of these boys' names appeal to you?
Emmett, Wyatt, Beckett, Elliott, Garrett, Bennett, Everett
I'll take a wager that at least one of them strikes your fancy. And even if the name Scarlett isn't quite your style for girls, you can understand its allure, too.
Multisyllable names ending in -tt are one of the hottest trends in America. The names I listed above are all in the top 1000 and rising, along with Barrett, Emmitt and Jarrett. And take a look at the total trend in -tt names, common and uncommon, since the year 2000:
This is a notable development in an era when strong consonant sounds are generally out of fashion. It's particularly intriguing since names ending in a single -t have been in the doldrums for a generation, and don't seem likely to wake up soon. The same is true of most names ending in -tte (Annette, Bernadette, etc). That would seem to pinpoint the double-t craze as a purely visual trend: a spelling phenomenon that separates written vs. spoken names. But if you look deeper, sound and spelling turn out to be more in sync than they appear.
First, conisder that a double-t ending is almost always preceded by a vowel. (Compare to single-t names like Herbert, Ernest, Robert, etc.) Then consider that the French ending -tte is typically stressed. If you look for names ending in an unstressed vowel +t sound, they turn out to be hot in any spelling. Take a look at the past decade's popularity of the classic names Charlotte, Juliet, Elliot and Violet:
If you're drawn to the sound of these names but fear that your favorites are becoming too popular, here are some rarities to consider:
...or, if you're feeling more adventurous:
Last time, we looked at the "most British" baby names -- the names that are far more popular in England and Wales than in the United States. Today we'll turn that around and identify the names with that are most characteristically American.
The Most American Names of the Year are:
A full half of the names on the boys' list share something huge in common. If it doesn't leap out at you, that's a sign of how pervasive this "something in common" has become in the current generation of American boys' names:
Landon, Gavin, Brayden, Christian, Colton and Jackson are all two-syllable names ending in -n.
A third of U.S. boys now receive a name ending in -n, a historically unprecedented concentration of sound and style. In Britain, the -n rate is just one in five, and the combo of -e and -y (as in Alfie and Harry) outpaces it.
The key cultural cues on the most-American boys' list are Spanish and Wild West. Just as Muslim names (e.g. Mohammed) and Celtic names (Niamh) reflected the British population, names like Jose and Angel, and even the non-Spanish Latino favorite Anthony, represent the contrasting ethnic makeup of the U.S. Names like Wyatt, Colton and Jackson, meanwhile, show off the distinctive cowboy strain of American style.
The Most-American Girls list shows off two seemingly contradictory styles. It's full of androgyny, and of girlishness. Half of the names are converted surnames or place names, and/or have a history as male names: Avery, Aubrey, Addison, Hailey, Brooklyn, Harper. Yet half of the names also end in the sound -ee, associated with girlish diminutives.
Put the two together and the list gives off a definite "Andro-Girly" vibe. That fast-rising American style is a kind of gender collage, building a girly sound out of boyish materials. Female names ending in -son are the classic examples, so it's fitting to find the name that launched that sub-style, Allison, on the most-American list.