Of Names and Politics: The Palin Story

Sep 3rd 2008

It's an unprecedented event in American political history.  Never before has a vice-presidential selection caused such a stir, such a surprise...with her children's names.

In fact, no naming event has ever filled my inbox with as many reader queries as the unveiling of Sarah Palin--mom to Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig--as John McCain's running mate.  "Any comment?"  "I've never heard Trig as a name for anything but a math class."  "Is this 'an Alaska thing'?'"

In a way, yes, it is "an Alaska thing."  If you had nothing to go on but the baby names and had to guess about who the parents were, you'd guess that that they lived in an idiosyncratic, sparsely populated region of the country...and that they were conservative Republicans.

When I divided the U.S. map into name style regions, Alaska was a mix of two styles: Frontier and Creative Fringe.  Frontier naming regions include the Mountain West and the Appalachians.  The typical Creative Fringe state is a world unto itself in history and culture, like Hawaii or Utah.  Alaska is a natural blend of the two.

Frontier names, especially for girls, lean toward nature names and androgynous surnames/place names.  That would cover Bristol, Willow and Piper.  Creative Fringe names include new word-based names, elaborate, romantic names, and well, the creative fringe.  Neologisms are rampant, from Nevaeh to Track.

But there's more.  One reader noted, "Palin is an evangelical Christian, yet there is not a biblical name in the bunch."  It's a telling observation.

For the past two decades, a core set of "cultural conservative" opinions has served as a theoretical dividing line between "red" (Republican/conservative) and "blue" (Democratic/liberal) America.  These incude attitudes toward sex roles, the centrality of Christianity in culture, and a social traditionalism focused on patriotism and the family.  If you were to translate that divide into baby names it might place a name like Peter—classic, Christian, masculine—on one side, staring down an androgynous pagan newcomer like Dakota on the other.  In fact, that does describe the political baby name divide quite accurately.  But it describes it backwards.

Characteristic blue state names: Angela, Catherine, Henry, Margaret, Mark, Patrick, Peter and Sophie.

Characteristic red state names: Addison, Ashlyn, Dakota, Gage, Peyton, Reagan, Rylee and Tanner.

Even when biblical names are trendy in conservative, Christian-focused communities, they're typically not the classic names of Christian tradition.  They're Old Testament names that summon up a pioneer style with an exotic flair, often with a modern spelling twist.  Names like Malachi, Levi and Kaleb are hot in Alaska, while names like John and Elizabeth rule in liberal Washington D.C.

Why is it the blue parents who name with red values?  Because in baby naming as in so many parts of life, style, not values, is the guiding light.  The most liberal and conservative parts of the country differ on key style-shaping variables, like income, education level, and the age when women marry and have children.  A community where the typical first-time mother is a 22-year-old high-school grad is going to have a very different style climate from the community where the typical new mom is a 28-year-old with a college degree.  When you factor in the creative-naming effect that comes with remote and ideosyncratic regions, you get a neo-naming explosion.


p.s. If you're interested in regional naming differences, look for much more here soon!

Comments

101
By Aybee (not verified)
September 4, 2008 10:16 PM

Also-- I'm relatively new to this board so I'm not sure if this has been brought up before but:

It seems the majority of the people on this board are teachers, writers, or people with Jewish backgrounds. I personally am the last two.

I just wonder if there is some kind of NE profile we all fit!

102
By Jan (not verified)
September 4, 2008 10:23 PM

From metafilter:
Sarah and Todd Palin have five children: boys Track, 19, and Trig, 4 months, and daughters Bristol, 17, Willow, 13, and Piper, 7.

Dear GOD! Vice Presidents don't get to NAME anything, do they?!
posted by ColdChef at 8:09 AM on August 29

I had to LOL when I read this. I guess I have a different naming style.

103
By Miriam (not verified)
September 4, 2008 10:30 PM

More possibilities for Penelope's brother, along the lines of Edison (scientists):

Franklin (what Edison didn't invent, Franklin did)
Graham (for Alexander Graham Bell)
Pascal
Darwin
Isaac (Newton)
Leonardo
Wright (brothers)
Kelvin
Russell (Bertrand)
Mitchell (Maria)
Ptolemy (well, with Penelope....)
Davy (Sir Humphrey)

104
By J&H's mom (not verified)
September 4, 2008 10:32 PM

Jessica-I totally missed that.
Thanks.
I don't know remotely enough to comment, though!

105
By Miriam (not verified)
September 4, 2008 10:43 PM

Aybee--

The demographics of this board have come up before. Quite a few of us have advanced degrees, often in some field related to language and literature. Others of us are in different fields, and some of us are younger and still in high school or college. In general, the posters skew high in educational level.

Several of us are Jewish, but together we cover a wide variety of ethnicities, religions, political stances, and places of residence. I don't know how many countries are represented, but it's quite a few.

And we are all interested in onomastics from one perspective or another.

BTW I myself fall into all three categories you mentioned.

106
By Aybee (not verified)
September 4, 2008 10:55 PM

Thanks Miriam (which by the way is my aunt's mn)!

107
By Jane (not verified)
September 4, 2008 11:05 PM

Congratuations, Hyz! She is beautiful. I especially like the picture wherein she is wearing the little pink outfit. And Minna Ivy seems to fit her so well.

108
By Jane (not verified)
September 4, 2008 11:07 PM

Also, hyz, I've always had epidurals myself, so I have endless awe for those who do it the natural way.

109
By Jane (not verified)
September 4, 2008 11:07 PM

Though not *quite* enough awe to actually emulate.

110
By Jane (not verified)
September 4, 2008 11:08 PM

Or maybe too much awe would be a better way of putting it. Last post.

111
By Zoerhenne (not verified)
September 4, 2008 11:15 PM

Wow, it took me a while to read all the comments.
Laura-interesting thoughts regarding regional name trends. I would like to see more of this.

Hyz-WELCOME BACK!! I'm glad everything turned out okay for you. I was one of the ones who was wondering when you'd be back. Congrats on Minna Ivy!!

Coll- You said-"While the temptation to apply broader social characteristics to individual situations is potent--and can be harmful and inaccurate--that doesn't mean those social characterizations have no merit. Name choices *do* correspond to various social factors, and discussing those factors is a part of discussing naming trends. And isn't the sociology factor one of the reasons we enjoy discussing names so much?"
I think you very eloquently related my feelings on the political vibe of this topic. Thank you.

Now further commenting on that-I am white, from the North, now mid-atlantic, was older when I had my kids, college-educated, not brought up with any religious background, and not really all that versed in politics or the like. I chose to name my children semi-popular names (lower towards 50-100) because A) I didn't want anything too out-there B) didn't want confusion with spelling and C) just liked the names. I guess I'm kind of purple! I think my husband's veto power very much played into my choices as well. This is also something that has come up recently on this blog. Laura, can you comment and run an article on this sometime?

Jessica-Jamon Axel does not seem to match the other children.

Amelia-Eliza seems like a very flexible name that could go in a lot of directions. It could match "old-fashioned" names or "new again" names. It also fits in with the Ella craze. So my thoughts for sibs are many that have already been posted:
Charlotte; Beatrice; Paige; Hazel; Bridget; Vivienne; Martha; Ruth. BTW, there was a poster here not too long ago (i forgot who sorry!) that had posted about her soon-to-be-dd being Phillippa Tate. I'm not sure if that was the end result but if you search the last few months you'll probably find it unless someone wants to repond to this.

Megan- Penelope Mae sibs:Rebecca, Isabelle, Charlotte, Lydia. I agree many of the thoughts for Eliza are also interchangeable with this name as well.

112
By Elaine (not verified)
September 4, 2008 11:29 PM

Megan-I know a Penelope with a sister Candace. I like that pair of names!

113
By Zoerhenne (not verified)
September 4, 2008 11:32 PM

Philippa-I am one of those who pronounces this name as Phil-LIP-ah. Apparently, this is not how you prefer YOUR name to be pronounced and you asked for an explanation. Here is mine.
I say it this way because of the following: I am from the north. I am accustomed to saying Phil-LIP which your name seems to be derived from. It seems odd to me to put the emphasis on the first syllable and say PHIL-i-pa. It seems most "Phil" words I know do NOT put the stress on the first syllable ex. Phil-a-DEL-fia; Phi-LAN-der. I think to me it would make a bit more sense to spell it with an F to get that pronunciation along the lines of FIL-a-buster; FIL-ter. But of course Filippa doesn't really seem correct. Anyway, just giving you my ideas. Take em or leave em.

114
By Valerie (not verified)
September 4, 2008 11:51 PM

Zoerhenne- that's interesting. I've never come across anyone who pronounces Philip with an emphasis on the second syllable (and it's my brother's name, so I've heard many people tackle it), but if you do, that would explain pronouncing Philippa in a similar way. In the UK, where both names are classics, the emphasis is on the first.

Hyz- yay! So glad to meet Minna Ivy and that all is well!

115
By Tess (not verified)
September 5, 2008 12:19 AM

Hyz-- She is so very pretty and bright-eyed-What a treasure. I,too, have thought of you and hoped that all was well. Her lovely name, Minna Ivy, suits her well. Congratulations!

116
By Jessica (not verified)
September 5, 2008 1:18 AM

Zoerhenne: no but they have a very hard time naming kids and if they both like it...

So I googled Axel. Every site that has it give reference to it being Hebrew with varying forms of Father is/of Peace as a meaning. Can't say I blame her on that count.

117
By Tirzah (not verified)
September 5, 2008 1:21 AM

Hyz - Congratulations! The pictures are adorable. I love that fluffy baby hair. I'm so glad to hear that she arrived safely.

I think the perfect match for Penelope is Clementine. But that might be too perfect!

118
By Laura P. (not verified)
September 5, 2008 1:33 AM

On Alaskan names: you have to be a certain kind of person to live in Alaska, I think -- adventurous, kind of tough, and a little edgy, and a bit non-conformist. Palin's names fit these qualities, IMHO.

On the what-will-Bristol-name-her-baby question, go to: http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/trailhead/archive/2008/09/04/name-bristol-s-baby-the-results.aspx

Juneau was inspired, I think!

119
By JN (not verified)
September 5, 2008 1:33 AM

I am delighted with this subject, so I thought I'd share a few of my ruminations after giving the Palin names some thought.

Track: This name has such a sporty appeal to it. I think one-syllable names work especially well for boys who feel at home on a ball field. So much easier to shout "Track!" than "Oliver!" for instance.

Bristol: This is the one I gawked at... or should I say bristled. However, as soon as I thought of it as rhyming with Crystal, it made perfect sense to me and it help me fit it stylistically into my name lexicon.

Willow: This name seems the most conventional to me of the bunch. I think Buffy, I think trees...

Piper: I've seen this name mentioned many times before on name sites, so I understand that it's trendy although I personally don't get it. In my mind, it would fit better schematically with boy names. But I guess it has the same cross-over appeal as a name like Riley or Parker.

Trig: I can see the parents clearly wanting his name to "match" with the older brother's name. It also sounds cute and sporty, although I fear it may lend itself too easily to teasing names (e.g. "don't bump the trigger")

I would be curious how the public at large may or may not be subconsciously influenced by her naming choices. I definitely feel like people's name choices help color my judgment of them-- an inner tendency I embrace although I'm happy to be proven wrong.

120
By rose (not verified)
September 5, 2008 1:58 AM

it's silly to try to guess what bristol palin will name her baby. while trends and stereotypes are fun, they're barely relevant for predicting what individual people will do. especially people you've only "met" through the media.

121
By cara (not verified)
September 5, 2008 4:49 AM

An Alaskan here, and lurker...love the thoughts that Laura puts onto the blog! Anyway, Sarah's kids' names seem more out-there to me than typical names. There are definitely some more unusual names I here, but I think that happens anywhere. Maybe more Denali/Dakota/McKinley/Willow names, but those are all places up here. I work with pregnant families at the hospital in our largest city, so I here a lot of names, and they seem on par with the rest of the country. In my son's preschool class last year, he was 1 of 3 Jacks, out of 30 kids. I didn't realize the name was so popular when we named him; he was named after my grandpa. Names I here more often are Jayden; Hayden; Lila; Grace; Faith; Andrew; Sam; Kira; Annika/Anika; Maya; James...that's just off the top of my head, it's late!
On a different subject, I'm overdue with baby #4 and have no name! Any ideas? My boys are Jack & Max, and my girl is Leia...don't know if this baby is a boy or girl. I like my boys' shorter names, and I like that my kids' names all start with a different letter...so shoot me some ideas! I might add to this post later on, it's late and I'm logging off now...

122
By Guest (not verified)
September 5, 2008 8:04 AM

I love this post and all the thought that Laura put into it. I do think these naming trends are regional and can indicate things about social subset in many cases. However, doing so by state may be a little broad. I live in Ohio and out in the rural areas you will hear very different names than where I live (middle to upper middle class neighborhood) which is different from a primarily African-American urban area.

Just curious about my son's name (Abram) - some people see it along the lines of Oliver, Milo, and other names with a similar appeal. Some see it as mainly Biblical (which it is, of course, but not everyone sees that as it's main attribute) Where would it fall on the map? I wanted a real, legit name with history without too much popularity.

123
By Philippa (not verified)
September 5, 2008 8:15 AM

Zoerhenne, that pronunciation of Philippa makes sense, then, if you say "Phil-LIP." Like Valerie, I haven't heard this pronunciation, but maybe I'm not getting it right in my mind. I wish we had a voice feature on this site so I could hear exactly how you say it.

On the Sarah Palin front, I have to admit that Bristol has grown considerably on me since I first heard it. It's really NMS (I'm not into androgynous names, I like names with some historical weight, and I desire an easily derived nickname). Nevertheless I actually find Bristol somewhat charming compared to other names in this ilk.

124
By Sarah (not verified)
September 5, 2008 8:28 AM

Hi -

hyz - welcome back, and congratulations on a beautifully-named, beautiful little girl!

Valerie summed up the reasons why I find the speculation about Bristol Palin's naming choices distasteful. She is not a public figure in her own right, although she is the child of one, and although she might be pregnant she is under 18. Her mother's naming choices, as with Gwen Stefani or Angelina Jolie, are total fair comment, because those are adults who have chosen the spotlight, not a child who has had it thrust upon them. Also, I remember how I felt when people made a joke out of me when I was 17. (Don't you?)

Of course, not everyone has to agree with me.

Now, on a lighter note, a naming challenge for all you NEs. I recently met a friend for drinks and the topic turned to what she should name her potential children. Here's the challenge: she is Belarussian, her husband is half Danish and half Greek, and they live in London, so any names they pick for these hypothetical children need to work across all four cultures. We were stumped! Any ideas?

125
By Aybee (not verified)
September 5, 2008 8:44 AM

Cara: Congrats on your new addition. As for younger siblings for Jack, Max and Leia, here's what I got:
Boys (trying to keep to one-syllable, no first letter matches, strong-sounding like your sons):
Sam
Drew
Dean
Paul
Brett
Scott
Troy

Girls:
Tess
Eva
Willa
Sophie
Paige
Pearl
Rose

126
By Eo (not verified)
September 5, 2008 9:07 AM

hyz-- What fantastic news about your lovely little girl. Somehow I had forgotten that "Minna Ivy" was a contender-- it's great. Didn't you say she would go by her second name? I also like that Minna has many meanings-- Nurnberg and Rosenblum identify it as Germanic, with the meaning "memory", or "love". How perfect is that?!

cara-- rats, every name I come up with that is short and compatible with your existing names, ends up duplicating one of the beginning letters!
But for what it's worth:

Boys: Piers, George, Paine, Miles, Hugh, Tate, Ralph. (I do think "Ralph" is a sleeper, long overdue for revival.)

Two obvious mates for your boys, "Gus" and "Ben" I rejected because unlike Jack and Max, they are too closely identified in my mind as nicknames, not formal names. (Besides, as the parent of a Benjamin NOT nicknamed Ben, I can tell you that that nickname has become tired through over-use in this generation of boys...)

Girls: Ariel, Daisy, Naomi, Tatiana, Ione, Verity, Kitt, Ivy (hyz-influenced!) Cecily, Eden, Georgia.

I had a bit of a harder time guessing your naming style for girls, since there weren't two examples like the boys. Could you give some more examples of ones you like?

Other posters will have better ideas!

127
By Kelly (not verified)
September 5, 2008 9:47 AM

I am, as most of us are, fascinated by this topic, and excited to hear more on it from Laura. I also second the request for a post on the "husband veto." It's why my children are not named Luke (too Star Wars/seventies, also we have a nephew named Beau) and Rose (just too old). Is it a nesting thing? Some version of the old male-practical/female-emotional generalization?

If the father of Penelope isn't fond of Bruno, what about Hugo? Similar, literary, and can be shortened to Hugh, which could be cute.

Back to siblings named with derivatives of the same name, I know of sisters named Michelle and Shelley. Parents were not native English speakers, though. Must have liked the "shell" sound.

128
By Lillie (not verified)
September 5, 2008 9:50 AM

Paxson, Trig's first middle name, is an Alaska town. My friend in Alaska recently named her son that (before Trig was born).

129
By nikki (not verified)
September 5, 2008 10:16 AM

OK, this is TOTALLY off topic....but it's kind of an interesting story.

When I was a young teen (11-14) I wanted so badly to be a writer and I started (but never finished) many many stories and "novels." Most of them got thrown away eventually. But one survived and I unearthed it recently. It was about three high level gymnasts and their mean but lovable coach (based on my perceptions at that time of Bela Karolyi). I named the three girls Dana, Jenny, and Carlen. I named the coach Rocco Miata. What was I thinking, you ask? I even remember how I came up with the names! There was a picture of a very handsome boy in Seventeen magazine named Rocco and I fell in love with that name. And I just liked Mazda Miatas, so I gave him the last name of Miata.

For the girls, I just knew there had to be a Jenny, since the story takes place in the late 80's. For Carlen, I wanted a Karen after a friend, but I wanted to make Karen less common, so I used a C instead of the K and added an L. I actually don't remember how I came up with Dana. I probably just thought it sounded like a good gymnast name.

I do remember naming my characters was the most fun of writing stories. Which is probably why I gave up on all of them by the time the character introductions were complete:)

Like I said, totally off topic and really pretty pointless. But I guess even at that age I was a name enthusiast!

130
By another amy (not verified)
September 5, 2008 11:14 AM

Hyz--congrats! Minna Ivy is a lovely little girl. I tend to think newborns are funny looking (even my own) but she looks like a full-on baby already (if you know what I mean). and while i had natural birth with days of labor, I'm happy I only had to push 25 minutes! 4 hours sounds awful.

Megan--your message is so far up there now I've forgotten the details but we named our son Edison, nn Ned (we're scientists as well). He's only a month old so hasn't been around enough for all of the comments but I have heard elementary kids mix it up with Addison and we've heard several light bulb jokes. I've also been told that his full name (Edison Owen with both of our last names) has a steampunk sound, and many of my students (college) think its cool. there were only 200 Edisons last year according the the SSA so you'll probably not meet too many of them. I'm not much on bruno or hugo, I'm afraid. I think the only o name I really like is Milo. which actually sounds pretty good with Penelope I think. quirky combo.

as for girl names, since we already share an interest in one boy name (and I like a lot of the suggestions thrown out), let me add my daughter's name--Iris. I think Iris and Penelope sound good together. if this baby had been a girl I was planning on Nora.

btw-I think Polly is too similar to Penelope.

finally (this is getting out of hand and the baby is starting to slide onto the laptop), in my class this semester I have both a Jillian and an Olivia, both roughly 20 ya. Their parents were ahead of their time weren't they?! they looked at me blankly when I mentioned it. Luckily they know I have an infant to excuse my interest in their names...

131
By Heather A. (not verified)
September 5, 2008 11:16 AM

I hardly ever have the time to comment anymore, although I still read Laura's posts religiously. This one is so fascinating that I had to find the time because I really, really want to read more along these lines.
Even though regional naming styles and cultural trends by nature need to be generalizations, and of course do not apply to every individual residing in a particular geographic area, they are none the less surprisingly accurate sometimes.
I read a book many years ago on ways of observing and interpreting the natural and cultural landscape. I wish I could remember the name of it. Anyhow, a observational study was briefly mentioned in which travelers were observed on a rainy day at O'Hare airport. The observer attempted to determine which direction people were traveling (east vs. west) based on the color of their raincoats. The theory was that the more brightly-attired travelers were flying west, and the navy/beige/black clad ones east. It sounds ridiculous as I write about it. But, it's still soooo interesting to think that one can gain some insight by looking at the little things, like baby names, or raincoats, or the colors people paint their houses (or around here their front doors). It's so much fun!

132
By Elizabeth T. (not verified)
September 5, 2008 11:17 AM

Tirzah, an exciting update in the story of the two little boys from your alumni newsgroup! My ex-boss just called for an update on the project (she can't keep herself away even though she retired earlier this year). She had just gotten back from a visit to see her grandsons. I took the opportunity to ask about the baby's name. He is called Rainier after the mountain, which his parents have climbed. I meant to ask her why his first name is his father's, since the family is Jewish, but got sidetracked in talking about good gifts for two-year-old boys. Thought you'd want to know! :),

133
By Cathie (not verified)
September 5, 2008 11:38 AM

Sarah,

I guess it depends if your friend speaks Belarusian or Russian. I don't know anything about Belarusian. If they speak Russian, the first name that came to mind as flexible in lots of languages is Max. Also Sonia, Andre, Anton, Nadia, Sascha (not sure about Danish/Greek on the last one).

HYZ, congratulations!

134
By RobynT (not verified)
September 5, 2008 11:55 AM

Sarah,
I worked with a guy from Greece named Kosta (with a long o). It seemed like a name that traveled well. Other than that, not knowing much about any of these cultures, my only input is that, for better or worse, English is a global language and that might be there best bet. Especially if they plan on staying in London, a name that "fits" there might be most practical. And then maybe making sure that each culture is represented in a middle name? These are the solutions I've seen used by folks that are mixed, immigrant, etc.

135
By Valerie (not verified)
September 5, 2008 11:57 AM

Cara- I like the suggestions so far and would like to add Cole to that list. It would be great to know a little more about your style- which suggestions do you like so far?

For Sarah, whose friends are Belarussian/Greek/Danish and living in London- wow! My first thought was Anna. At one point I knew three mixed nationality couples who chose that name within one year. It seems the perfect pan-European name. BTW, we've had several discussions of suitable pan-European names and when I went back to the archive and searched I found some that might work here.

Boys:
Leo
Alex(ander)
Max
Daniel
Adrian
Rafael
Pascal
Oscar
Luca
Anton
Emil
Darius
Nico
Victor
Sebastian

Girls:
Anna
Rosa
Sofia
Nina
Lena
Susanna
Lydia
Clara
Maria

136
By Brunka de Loof (not verified)
September 5, 2008 11:58 AM

Nellie Kim is the first Belarusian to come to mind (she wasn't born there and she isn't an ethnic Belarusian, but she represented Belarus and coached the Belarusian gymnastics team). Would Nell work for them? It's ultimately Greek, via Helen, it recalls a Belarusian athletic leader, it's no trouble for English and Danish speakers.

137
By Zoerhenne (not verified)
September 5, 2008 12:04 PM

Valerie and Philippa-Thanks for understanding my attempt at explaining my pronunciation of Philippa. After I read it back it seemed strange but I'm glad it made a bit of sense to some.

Cara-Sam and Brett seem like great choices for a match to Jack/Max and Leia. I would also suggest: Luke, Brad, Eric, Owen, Ross and Wes. For girls I would suggest: Claire, Paige, Emily, Carly, Diana, June, Kate, Sarah, and Zoe.

138
By Valerie (not verified)
September 5, 2008 12:18 PM

PS I heard that Dimitri is both Greek and Russian (sorry, don't know anything about Belorussian names). Maybe because of the Greek/Russian Orthodox links?

Found some more by going to behindthename.com and searching under Russian names:
Angela
Diana
Adam
David

Better go now... big family wedding tomorrow and I have loads to do!

139
By Trish (not verified)
September 5, 2008 12:36 PM

Kinder names-
I was looking at the Kindergarden class names (3 classes of 20 kids) in my daughter's school (she's in 5th gr.), and as a list, none of the classes were very interesting. Lots of "typicals"- Jacob, Emily, Hannah, Brandon, Daniel, Andrew names. Here are the ones I find most surprising:
3=e, @=a
L@el- boy, said like Lyle
Sk@i- boy, said like Sky
Ath@n- boy, "lopped off" Nathan
K3ili- girl, like Kayley
Moll3r- girl, like molar
V@nila- girl, like vanilla
Other ones- Ivy, Willow, Iris, Stella, Mara, Elsie. One class has an Annika and an Anieka.

140
By Zoerhenne (not verified)
September 5, 2008 12:55 PM

Vanila and Moller! Hmm, definitely not "vanilla" names!

141
By bill (not verified)
September 5, 2008 1:26 PM

Megan,
How about these more subtle nods to Edison:
Alva (middle name)
Milan (birthplace in Ohio, pronounced MY-ln, also a Slovenian name pronounced ME-lahn)

Lest we forget the other scientist Franklin, Rosalind. Penelope and Rosalind sound like a good sibset, as do Penny (if this is her nn) and Rosie.

Sarah,
For the Belarusian-Greek-Danish kid:
I, too, thought Dimitri immediately, also Anatoly (which may not jive in regard to Greek-Turkish conflict, or imply irredentist sentiment), or Basil. Any form of Alex or Sasha seems like it'd work. George, Cyril. I don't know how to tweak these names more toward the Danish side. How about Bel(l)a or Dane?

142
By Genevieve (not verified)
September 5, 2008 2:52 PM

Sarah - For a name that works well for Belorussian and Greek, and in London, how about Maia? It's both Slavic and Greek, and travels well to English-speaking countries. I have no idea how it would do with Danish speakers, though.

Rosalind and Penelope would be a great sib-set! Again with the Shakespeare/Homer classical names, with nice nns.

143
By Genevieve (not verified)
September 5, 2008 2:58 PM

Sarah - looks like Maja is the Danish equivalent of Maia (same pronunciation, I think, more or less). So that could definitely work!

144
By AJ (not verified)
September 5, 2008 3:52 PM

Great post, Laura. Keep 'em coming!

145
By Wendy (not verified)
September 5, 2008 4:33 PM

Hyz -- a beautiful name for a beautiful girl! Congrats and thanks for sharing the pic with us. It is always nice to hear what the final name choice is and to see the little one.

146
By Wendy (not verified)
September 5, 2008 4:39 PM

Siblings for Jack Max and Leia

Bryce
Chris
Dean
Frank
Sean
Track or Trax (just joking)
Tom
Paul
Chuck

Anna
Charlotte
Caroline
Claire or Clara
Erika
Eliza
Fiona
Isla
Olivia
Sophia
Sarah
Tessa

147
By Emma (not verified)
September 5, 2008 6:05 PM

I haven't read all of these comments, but I know that there's an article where her husband explained all of her kids' names:

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20222685_2,00.html

"Where do your children's names come from?
TODD: Sarah's parents were coaches and the whole family was involved in track and I was an athlete in high school, so with our first-born, I was, like, 'Track!' Bristol is named after Bristol Bay. That's where I grew up, that's where we commercial fish. Willow is a community there in Alaska. And then Piper, you know, there's just not too many Pipers out there and it's a cool name. And Trig is a Norse name for "strength."'

Trig comes from the Norse name Trygve, and his full name is Trig Paxson Van. Does anyone know the other middle names?

148
By Emma (not verified)
September 5, 2008 6:12 PM

And talking of Penelope: check out the charts!
http://www.behindthename.com/top/search.php?extra=p&terms=penelope&submit=Go

149
By Moonie (not verified)
September 5, 2008 6:19 PM

Sarah- I looked up (top) names popular in Greece, Belarus, Denmark and England and came to the conclusion that the best names to suit all parties would be: Maia/Maya/Maja and Daniel. Genevieve obviously beat me to the Maia suggestion but I wanted to back her up because it does work in all aforementioned languages/cultures. I hope that makes your friend happy to know thee are at least two names she can use to satisfy all parties. Let's just hope that neither has already been used within the close family.

150
By CT (not verified)
September 5, 2008 6:37 PM

I had read somewhere that the name "Bristol" had been derived from Bristol, Connecticut, home of ESPN. Sarah Palin is a sports nut, and once had aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. That doesn't jibe with Todd's explanation. It could be both parents liked the name, but for different reasons.