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My Favorite Names
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January 29, 2015 10:17 AM

I've heard Ottilie discussed a lot on various name sites. To me it doesn't seem that "ahead of the curve" because of its similarity to Olivia. I'm finding that a lot of parents, myself included, keep being drawn to names that sound a lot like very popular names, but are just a wee bit different. We kid ourselves by thinking they're avant-garde naming choices. I also worry they'll get lost in the crowd. If you had a pre-school with 5 O-LIV-ee-ahs and 1 O-TIL-lee-ah, how much will that Otillie really stand out? How often will her name be confused with the uber-popular name?


David and Elizabeth. Really can't go wrong with those names! Michael and Sophia a close second, although Sophia is just too, too popular these days. I also kind of love Noah, especially in the context of global warming and sea level rise. 

December 22, 2014 03:35 PM

I have to tell you that I, a nearly 40 year-old adult, have a friend named Lucas, and I always think of him as Lucas mucus pukus. Or sometimes poo-kus, without the y sound. In an affectionate way.

That said, the name is now much more popular among young kids when my slightly-younger-than-me friend was named. So people will probably just think of it as a name, rather than as a set of syllables which unfortunately bring to mind other syllables. 

I agree that Lucca will be pronounced differently than Luca in Italian. Lucca is a beautiful city. But I think Luca or Luka are the best ways to go. 

December 21, 2014 04:11 PM

I think this may be because many East Asians are Christian. Although this doesn't explain the custom of having Chinese/other East Asian names as well as English-ish names that they use in public. 

Many Indian names--at least Hindu ones-- have import related to the child's horoscope. I don't know/don't think that's the same for East Asian first names. Perhaps this importance disinclines people to assign Western names to their kids.

Also, I think that since English is an official language in India, many Indians are used to hearing their names alongside more Western names. That is, plenty of people (Catholics) in India are called Mary, Margaret, Catherine, Dolores, etc. So my sense is that their naming universe is just more cosmopolitan than ours. They might not think of the name Anjali or Geeta or Geetanjali as particularly foreign sounding in a Western context, because in India they're used to hearing Geetanjali alongside Mary, Gertrude, Samira, Faiza, etc. 

This also doesn't explain why it holds across generations. 

It would be nice if there were an East Asian or Indian who could clue us in instead of me trying to speak for them! Anyone?

December 19, 2014 07:12 PM

Very strange that she worets that her name, Geetanjali, is "not easy to pronounce, even for Indians like myself." Geetanjali is super easy to pronounce for those familiar with the name (like Indians). geet-uhn-juh-lee. Anyone who knows the names Geeta and Anjali--super duper common Indian names-- would know how to say this compound name. 

December 19, 2014 09:19 AM

I'm intrigued. So I googled it, and learned the following helpful information: "Thursia contains 7 letters: 42.86% vowels and 57.14% consonants." So there you go. All your questions answered!

December 18, 2014 10:09 AM

Thanks Emerald Bee!!!!!


I'm so, so, so desperate for new ideas. Hopefully this will help.

December 18, 2014 09:40 AM

Nope, seems to go up to at least 400. Nevermind. But still I feel like I need a list. And a longer one. Any other leads?

December 18, 2014 09:39 AM

And I think that only includes the top 200 anyway, so same info as I found on Social Security. Hmmm...

December 18, 2014 09:38 AM

Thanks! Is it just me, or is that sort of hard to navigate? Like you can't necessarily see all the names in the graph, only those the site happens to register your cursor as hitting?

December 16, 2014 09:08 AM

Yeah, that's the vibe I'm getting from Selma as well. Even though it's only a phoneme away from Velma or Thelma, I don't categorize it with those names, but more in the Sadie or Thora category, both names I love. Selma peaked int eh 1890s while Velma and Thelma peaked in the 1910s. And I recently disocvered that Selma is a family name on the Ashkenazi side, which makes me love it more. But I'm very cognizant of the negative connotations. My mom, when I mentioned the name to her, said, "Oh, I knew someone name Thelma I really hated." I'm like, "Good to know, mom, but that's not the name I'm talking about." But therein lies the problem. And my husband hates it too. But I kind of love it. Hmmm...

I'm glad I'm not due until the end of April, so I can get a sense of the general vibe around the name before I commit to it.


December 14, 2014 12:52 PM

The fact that you're finding Selma reminiscent of Myrna clues me into the fact that my interpretation of Selma may be way off the norm. Because to me it's a sweet, liquid-ish name in the realm of the raindrop category with humble American and German connotations and more expansive, exotic international overtones. Myrna to me is just straight up horrible (no offence). I also don't like Irish names for us.


Miriam, yes, thank god for Miriam!! 

December 10, 2014 08:34 AM

Lucubratrix, that is adorable! 

December 9, 2014 10:35 AM

Thanks again Miriam. And the story of your grandson's love of Hanukkah is so, so cute.

I'm loving Sissel and the -l names in general. Thank you thank you thank you!

December 9, 2014 09:39 AM

Miriam, thank you so much. That is incredibly helpful.

I think you've hit on what we'd really like, namely names that are either Biblical and thus pan-European, or more specificaly Yiddish names.

I'd hate to pick a German name that sounds nice but connotes a sort of Aryanness that would be inappropriate for someone for whom, I assume, her Ashkenazi heritage will be important (it's important to me, even though I'm only half, and so it's something I'll prompt her to value. Of course you can never tell whether kids are going to embrace or rebel from that sort of thing). So no Valkyrie names. Which raises the issue of Freya. I think one of the reasons I like it is because I find it reminiscent of Yiddish names like Frayda or Fraydie (sp?). But then I find that Frayda make me think of "I'm a frayda you," and Fraydie sounds like Fraydie cat. These concerns make me favor Freya, but then I'm back in the inappropriately Viking territory.  (I realize Aryan, Valkyrie and Viking aren't equivalent, but you get what I mean). 

I love the name Miriam and its various adorable nicknames. The perfect combination of serious and cute. And it's so international that it would work very well in our Indian friend circle. My last name starts with an M, which give me pause. But it's something I'll consider. I seem to be drawn to M names like a moth to the flame: Miriam, Marit, Margot. 

Any other Yiddish names one could suggest? I like Shayne/Sheine, but it doesn't quite feel like us. What a great name though.

December 8, 2014 01:45 PM

Miriam, I totally agree with you. But I'd really love some suggestions from you!!!!  What would you name this little 1/4 Ashkenazi 1/2 German 1/4 English (I'm talking ethnic descent, not nationality, obviously) baby?  I'd love to hear suggestions from an insightful philologist like you!

December 6, 2014 05:03 PM

Arg! A movie called Selma about the civil rights movement?! Arg! Thanks for telling me.

OK. I think forget Selma. 

So now I need other suggestions, people. I know you've come up with a lot for me. A bit more pretty please?

December 5, 2014 04:23 PM

I like Salma too, but not as much, as you lose the German connection. Zelma's cute too, but then you lose the Indian connection. Selma in the Indian case is from Arabic--a version of Selima. Zelma would often get pronounced Jelma in India, at least by many speakers for whom the z sound isn't native.

No, we live in the US, but we spend a lot of time abroad. I may decide to just own Selma. Let me see what the hubs thinks abou this. 



December 5, 2014 11:40 AM

Sela doesn't do it for me. Too Cecilia Celia Sela for me. I get that song stuck in my head, "you're breaking my heart" etc. But thanks for the suggestion.

This is so darn hard! How are we going to pick the name of a little new human being? I wish there were just strict naming traditions in our families so we could name her Ruperta Wexler-Busby the Fourth or something and be done with it.

December 5, 2014 11:37 AM

(why did I make a big deal about masking the name Selma when it's the first one on our list? Baby brain!)

Darnit. My mom thought of Alabama too. I do think you could think of it as a good association--a lot of good came out of something bad. But... I know the image you're referring to, and it is not nice at all. 

I like Anselma too. Selma I liked because it emerges from Germanic and Indian naming practices (different name, spelled in English and pronounced exactly the same way. That's rare. And I like the sounds and the brevity of it a great deal). So Anselma doesn't have the same power for me. Elma's nice, but a bit too Elmo for me. 

Selma. Hmmm... Could get over the association. In my fantasy she's more likely to live abroad than in the US South, but that may be wishful thinking. She could end up being a big sports-loving Southern belle type (no offence, just so, so, so not us) for whom the name would be awkward. Doubtful, but possible I suppose. She will be a Caucasian American. That much we're pretty certain of. ;)