N. Portman's baby name?

Some of you may or may not remember (I actually don't know how much I posted about it at the time) that I had dreamed up the name Alif for a hypothetical son a few months before Natalie Portman named her son Aleph. How's that for a shared zeitgeist?

(of course my Alif was from Arabic, her Aleph from Hebrew. But still. I was irrationally peeved. To make myself feel better, I decided that Aleph sounds too much like Olive and pooey to her anyway.).

I'm now curious/anxious about whether she's going to "steal" one of my other favorites. The last I saw her on the celebrity bandwagon, she was quite pregnant

Any guesses or sightings? How would one follow up on an Aleph?


February 15, 2017 3:09 PM

Miriam: Good one! Or perhaps Tav?



February 15, 2017 3:11 PM

Like Alpha's sibling Omega?

February 15, 2017 3:24 PM

So, in all seriousness, or serious silliness, do we think the Portman-Millipieds have painted themselves into a bit of a corner? How do you name a sibling to Aleph wihtout them seeming... secondary? One of the appeals for the name for me was that, at least in the Arabic incarnation, it has a sense of unitary/unique/solitary -ness. 

February 15, 2017 4:16 PM

Given that in general there is no end to celebrity ingenuity in naming children and given that Ms. Portman is smarter than the average bear, I'm sure she/they will come up with something.

For example, they could pivot from alpha to numeric and name the kid Infinity, which is pretty much second to nothing.

February 15, 2017 11:16 PM

Has anyone heard anything about why they picked Aleph?  Like, I could kind of see it as a compromise between 2 honor names that both started with the letter (which I think is actually a pretty cool work-around).  Although, it could also just be another Hollywood unique Apple/Pilot kind of name (which seems much less cool).  

Knowing why Aleph was picked might help us predict what this baby will be named.  For example, if Aleph was somehow meant as an honor-type name, I wouldn't be surprised if baby #2 ended up with something pretty traditional that was also an honor name.  If it was just meant to be unique, baby #2's name is more likely to be something random.

February 17, 2017 2:58 PM

I haven't heard any discussion of the motivation for Aleph. 

I've heard from friends in Israel, where Portman is appartently a big deal, that the name was generally derided for being a letter name rather than a person name. So, if my sources are correct, that's at least a tiny clue: that that wanted to point to Judiasm but didn't mind do it in an iconoclastic way. 

February 17, 2017 3:30 PM

For those who don't know, Hebrew letters also have numerical values, and gematria is a kabbalistic way of interpreting the Hebrew scriptures by adding up the numerical values that adhere to the letters of the various words.  From the perspective of gematria, the numerical value of aleph is one, and my guess is that Aleph's parents were thinking of the mystical kabbalistic associations of one when they chose the name: one=first, origin, unity, and so forth.

My grandfather, who died just before I was born, was a kabbalist (the real kind, not the Madonna charlatan kind), and about the only legacy he left behind was a kind of poorly understood mystical superstitious mumbo-jumbo that permeated my mother's world view.

February 20, 2017 6:18 PM

Thanks for the explanation Miriam!  I did vaguely know that Hebrew letters also have numerical values, though I had no idea that this is part of what Kabbala is supposed to be about.  My entire knowledge of Kabbala is that Madonna is/was into it and something about a red-yarn bracelet?  Meh, it didn't take much for me to dismiss the celebrity version as hokum.

Without knowing Ms. Portman's reasons for picking Aleph, I think it's just too hard to try and predict what the next baby will be named.  It's possible that whatever she calls baby #2 will give us a clue as to her thought process.  Maybe baby #3's name will be easier to guess?


February 15, 2017 8:36 PM

I think that many offbeat names would work. Especially noun names. 

Aleph and Indigo? Sure! Aleph and Jacob? Less so. 

February 17, 2017 7:15 PM

See, I think of Aleph as an old-fashioned, clunky-type (think Arthur or Theodore). So I can see Aleph working with something like Jacob.

February 17, 2017 7:23 PM

The difference is that I cannot separate the letter name from the child name, so it's firmly a non-name-noun-name to me. I mean, it's certainly not awful with Jacob or anything. You're right, I should have used something like Brayden rather than Jacob.

February 17, 2017 7:29 PM

That's true, I'm not familiar with any alphabet other than English and Latin. If someone named their child Ess, that would be a different story.

February 20, 2017 6:24 PM

Well, Ess might strike some as silly.  But it wouldn't be shocking (to me) to see it as a nickname for something along the lines of Esther.

And we do have "alphabet" names in English.  I doubt many of us bat an eye when introduced to someone called Kay, Jay, or Bea.  I've also come across a couple of Cici's (cee-cee) and Didi's in my day, and didn't think anything of it.  I think it's all just about what we are used to seeing as names.  If enough people did it, Ess or Que would quickly become pretty standard.  Though, I doubt Pee will ever catch on.

February 20, 2017 7:58 PM

I have known several families that used only initials, not attached to any names, e.g. J. T., R. B., and so on.

February 21, 2017 12:09 PM

Hah, yes, Pee seems unlikely...even Pee-wee (as in Herman) was only played for laughs.

In addition to Kay, Jay, and Bea, we also have Dee, Elle and Em; when doubled, there's Gigi. Also Alfa and Delta, if you're into ancient Greek.

Ess sounds a little weird, but Essie was a top-150 name once upon a time. Q is a pretty common nickname, and was namey enough for a James Bond super-inventor and a Star Trek omnipotent being.

Lots of folks use single initials as nicknames, like Q for Quentin, though not all work; I'm thinking of a scene in Fresh Prince of Bel Aire (yes, I'm old) when Will calls Carleton "C" and Carleton tries to reciprocate, calling Will "W". Without a Texas accent, it just doesn't work ;-).

Overall, while I'm sure there are Israeli cultural issues that don't resonate for me, the concept of a letter that sounds namey enough to be a name makes perfect sense to me.

February 21, 2017 12:59 PM

I must also be old, because I remember that episode of the Fresh Prince.  And now th.e theme is going to be stuck in my head all day.

I agree that there are likely some cultural issues in Israel and within Jewish communites in the U.S. for little baby Aleph.  But at least amongst non-Jewish communities in the U.S., I think the name probably for the majority of people.  If someone is totally unfamiliar with the Hebrew alphabet, my guess is Aleph would have a bit of international flair while still seeming like a "normal" name.

February 19, 2017 2:11 PM

I could see an Aleph with an Ephrem sound-wise.

She's been very open about her desire to raise her children Jewish and he is/has converted to Judaism. I imagine the next name will also be Kabbalistic just as Miriam said.

Will they go for a numerology of 2 (a cutesy pattern) or will they go for a number associated with the virtues/values they perceive the child bringing into the family? I suspect the latter with a hint of the former, as I also suspect it is what played a strong part in their decision of Aleph. I would think they would want to "balance" the second sibling's name with the first's to help the siblings have a good relationship. But the balance depends, in my understanding, on the child's birth date.

I suspect that they are not big into nicknames as calling the child a different name puts out a different vocal pattern and changes the very identity of the child. I wonder if the children will have the same last name or if one is hyphenated and one not, which would completely change the names they consider as "balancing" as well. 

I think it will have a numerology count that "means" something they strongly identify with the baby and that from the list of possibilities they will choose something on the unconventional side, though possibly a bit more grounded.

Aleph is 1-1-1.

I was just reading a gnostic page and I can see why a family that was in their circumstances would strongly identify with it being a worthy representation of who the baby is to the family: "one, one, one. Each of them is one with the other two; this is why the three of them are called the Holy Three-unity or Holy Trinity. This is why the shape of the letter א Aleph is three י Iods. What is the letter י Iod? The letter Iod is just a dot, spot, or point. When you are drawing any letter, that first stroke is the letter י Iod, which is just a point. This is why it is stated that all the letters emerge from Iod, from that dot."

The aleph is highly associated with breath, with the first man (Adam), with breathing in life. Does that not identify the role of that child in his family, which his presence created?

My wild guess idea is that the next child will use the letter mem to represent water, particularly if the child is a girl. This letter is highly associated with the womb and childbirth. The waters were seperated on the second day in the same way that creation will continue to unfold and be revealed by this second child's birth into the family. It is with water (mikvah and torah, et cetera) that the person discovers his or her true identity, a hope she has strongly expressed for her children.

Mayim (water) and Miriam appear to be obvious choices, but I don't see them using either as Mayim is already Hollywood-owned and Miriam doesn't have that balancing punch of Aleph as a name. The many names that can add up to the same letter-number, plus the relationship and therefore meaning the letters in each create with each other, plus the difference in meaning when the M is at the beginning/middle of a word (open on bottom) or in the final position (and closed on the bottom) were a bit too much for me to make any more nuanced predictions. Someone familiar with Kabbalah's numerology could probably expand (and correct) me considerably.

Aleph and Mem are among the three "mother letters" which are joined by Shin, which would be my guess for where they'd go if this child is a boy. Shin is associated with fire and can be a three-pronged or four-pronged letter (just as he would be the third male and fourth member of the family): "These Shins symbolize the unfoldment of the three primary forces into four forces." Is that not what this child will do within their family? Which names would represent this to them is beyond me.

February 20, 2017 3:35 PM

First of all, Hebrew does not have a letter "lod"--perhaps you are thinking of of the "yod." Second Kabbalah is not for amateurs. The study of Kabbalah is traditionally restricted to men over forty who have mastered the Gemara, and that's not me or you or Ms. Portman for that matter. A new-age charlatan (I think his name is Berman) ginned up some mumbo-jumbo to separate the likes of Madonna from their money and called the mumbo-jumbo Kabbalah which it isn't. Now, of course, who knows where Ms. Portman gets her kabbalistic information, from the teaching of the charlatan or from a genuine Kabbalist. In any case, anything online about Kabbalah should not be taken seriously, just like most of what is online about names is nonsense.

February 20, 2017 10:59 PM

For what it's worth, mem seems perfectly namey to me after reading the (excellent) works of Mem Fox to my kids for many years. Her birth name was Merrion but she disliked it and started going by Mem when she was 13. She apparently never legally changed it, but it struck me as a distinctive and catchy name when I first saw and I wouldn't be surprised if it did catch on!

February 20, 2017 11:53 PM

One of the Scholastic Dear America books is about a Puritan girl named Remember Patience Whipple nicknamed Mem. I can't vouch for the story, since all I remember (no pun intended) about it is her name. I think it's one of those whitewashed myths of the first Thanksgiving.

February 21, 2017 3:32 AM

Ha! I grew up reading Mem Fox's stories, and read them to my kids. She's such a big part of my childhood that it never occurred to me to question her name.

Mind you, I have vivid memories of meeting her and "Grandma Poss" at the Sail Away book launch in the mid-80s and was horrified as an adult when someone pointed out that "Grandma Poss" was a costume, because I had been so enchanted by the experience. The power of children's literature!

March 2, 2017 9:40 PM

Mem Fox was just detained when trying to enter the US, ostensibly because she was to receive an honorarium. The immigration official went off to verify her background and discovered that she was the author of beloved children's books. So she was allowed entrance with apologies, but that never should have happened.

March 7, 2017 12:56 PM

Dear lord. What are we coming to?

February 26, 2017 2:03 PM

Well, those of you who remember what I named my daughter will understand how particularly miffed I'd be if miss Herschlag used one of the names mentioned above. ARG!

March 4, 2017 9:54 AM

It's been announced by press release that Natalie Portman's daughter is Amalia.

March 7, 2017 12:55 PM

Oh thank effing Chr!st! I was so freakng out that they would choose both my hpyotehtical son's name and my actual daughters' name.

And, to be honest, I was also kind of crushed that you all didn't intuitively get how upsetting that would have been to me. The existential uncanny unheimlich feeling of having one's secret name that one dreamed up used by someone famous, and then to have it suggested that htey might also use one's acutal daughter's name! Imagine! For a name lover like me, the possibilty was profoundly, if clearly irrationally, upsetting.

Amalia means nothing to me, so I'm good with that one. PHEW!

March 7, 2017 1:02 PM

So now we can ask, rather than have they painted themselves into a Hebrew letter or Kaballah-signicicant corner, have they painted themselves into a starts-with-A corner?