Thursday, April 02, 2009

What's in a Name?

Fred MachentanzHave you ever Googled your name? It's quite a shock because up until that moment you somehow lived with the false reality that you were the only person with your name in the whole world.

Even if your name is a little different you usually have someone else walking around answering to the same moniker which is a little unnerving--names are such personal things it's almost like finding out you have a Doppelganger.

Well here are some of my favorite names--both fictional and real--and I find myself rolling them around on my tongue from time to time. Or maybe I should say that they're some of the most unusual names I've heard. And made-up names don't count--I could make up a name easy enough but finding a real name and making it cool? That takes talent.

1. Q'Orianka Kilcher. This is probably the name that inspired this post as last weekend Andrew and I were at a black-tie benefit for the Alaska Native Health Consortium and the guest of honor was this beautiful young woman who starred with Colin Farrell in the movie New World (never saw it). She plays the more realistic version of Pocahontas (she was 14 when the movie was filmed--kind of a Olivia Hussey/Roman Polanski kind of thing) but after seeing her and hearing her name it's like not being able to get a tune out of my head. Q'Orianka . . . Q'Orianka . . . Q'Orianka . . .

It's pronounce corry-ahnka and she happens to also be Jewel's cousin (if you remember that blast from the past). Whatever. She has a fabulously unique and cool name and I've been saying it all weekend.

Q'Orianka Kilcher2. Traeger Machentanz. Normally I'd feel kind of funny about putting someone's real name up here in a post--at least someone who wasn't a celebrity--but I figure if you're in Wikipedia then you're fair game. If you're at all familiar with Alaskan artists then you'd recognize Fred Machentanz, who painted gorgeous oil paintings of the scenery and people of Alaska. Very famous.

Well his son is an attorney here in town and his name is just fabulous (Charles Traeger was an uncle). Having a name in iambic pentameter has got to be a real boost in life (well almost, he's missing a couple of feet but you get the idea).

Jamaica Kincaid3. Jamaica Kincaid. Okay this was a bit of a let-down because I always pictured this writer as a Caribbean beauty frolicking on the beaches as she wrote words on banana leaves in charcoal but it turns out her real name is Elaine Cynthia Potter Richardson. Hmmm . . . not that exciting. No wonder she changed her name to Jamaica Kincaid--now THAT'S a power name for you and I love it. I know someone whose first name is Sonnet and it's paired with a strong Irish name like that and I just love the sound.

4. Eustacia Vye. Or almost any of Thomas Hardy's characters. Besides Eustacia there's Tamsin Yeobright, Bathsheba Everdene, Giles Winterbourne, Jude Fawley, Angel Clare, Lucette de Seour, Arabella Donn, the list goes on and on. Dickens had some great character names too--Uriah Heep and Mr. Micawber are gems. I find that the key to having a dramatic life is a really great name. Just ask Hero and Leander if it's not so. Or Daphnus and Chloe or Tristan and Isolde. Their lives wouldn't have been half so romantic or tragic without a great set of names. "Bob and Elaine" just isn't the same.

It probably helps too that I saw a version of Return of the Native done by the BBC where Catherine Zeta Jones plays Eustacia which produced the "Mel Gibson Effect." You get an unusual name paired with stunning good looks and *BAM* the name suddenly becomes cool and hip. My Dad, also named Mel, has been grateful to Mel Gibson for his help with the situation.

5. Heath Bannerman. If Andrew and I had had any more children I was determined that we would have had a boy and we would have named him Heath. Andrew's got great Scottish names in his family tree (we favor giving last names as middle names) and with the Bannerman family name in there plus "Heath" the kid would have been born with flaming red hair, a blue face and wielding a sword while crying "Freedom!" (Speaking of Mel Gibson). Not that that's really what we're aiming for but boy it sounds cool. Kind of like a Superhero name. Or am I thinking of Bruce Bannerman?

We almost named David Conrad. All through the pregnancy I really wanted to go with something different so it was going to be Conrad Ballantyne (another family name) partly because I knew a kid in high school named Conrad and he was so cool he went by "Rad." (Okay I'm laughing at that total 80s nerdness now but it was "awesome" at the time). But when my boy came out I looked at him and panicked. I lost my nerve and instead went with David. I kind of wish I'd stuck to Conrad now because there are a million Davids out there and Conrad is ripe for revival. Plus my son has to go by "David M" in school to keep him straight. That was me in the 70s with "Michelle." A million of us, and all with parents who loved the Beatles.

6. Demetria, Dominique and Gabrielle. My very favorite girls names. I really love old fashioned names like Eve, Rose, Ivy, Iris, Hazel, Vivian,Lydia, Julia, etc. and when I was little all my dolls were named Samantha and Amanda but if I was going for the drama and Va Va Voom it's these exotic foreign names all the way. Demetria--isn't that beautiful? I picture someone with flowing hair rather like Botticelli's Birth of Venus only dark. Yes I'd go far with a name like Demetria or Dominique. Or how about Athena? Or Evangeline? I love those too.

Dikembe Mutombo7. Dikembe Mutombo. Oh wow this is a great name. When you say it kind of low and repetitiously it sounds just like African drums. Or a six-foot-seven man pounding down the basektball court.

Dikembe Mutombo Dikembe Mutombo Dikembe Mutombo . . . though I looked it up and his real name is Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo. Hmmm . . . don't ask me how you get Dikembe from all that--how in the world did "Dick" come from "Richard"?

Gotta love a name that is onomatopoetic.

8. Stas. Alaska has quite a bit of Russian influence--it used to be part of Russian if you remember your history lessons--though there's more of the Russian culture in the southwestern parts of the state rather than Anchorage. Still, there are many Russian families, as is the case with David's best friend. His name is . . . get this . . . Stanislav. How cool is that?

I keep wanting to call him "My Little Comrad."

Anyway, he goes by Stas (rhymes with floss) and I think it's got to be the absolutely grandest name for a kid ever. Short, manly, unique, fun to say--it just doesn't get any better. I don't even know what his last name is--probably Raskolnikov which would just add to the mystique. I'm afraid to find out his name is "Herschenmeiler" or something like that.

9. Dorothy Day. That's my grandmother. She passed away from cancer about three months ago but one of the wonderful things about her is her maiden name (we named Lillian after her--Lillian Day). Grandma worked as a secretary during World War II on the air force base in California and I can picture her hanging out with the GIs in the hangers for the parties and dances they'd have as the men shipped out.

Anyway, on June 6, 1944 they named her the official Miss D-Day because . . . get it? Her name was Dorothy Day. Lillian was born on June 7th which barely missed being a fun coincidence--Grandma was even here when Lily was born. Anyway, grandma seemed to have an enormous collection of amazingly attractive young GIs hanging around back then so I can see why they named her that.

When I went through her scrapbook with her once there were half a dozen gorgeous guys who had sent her pictures and written her love notes--though about half had died in the war. Anyway, I love her name.

Usain Bolt10. Usain Bolt. I keep wanting to ask if that's really his name--it's just too much of a coincidence. Kind of like Tiger "Woods"? I mean with a name like "Woods" he'd pretty much have to take up golfing. It would only be better if he were named Tiger Irons. I suppose I shouldn't get into cool sports names, that could be a whole post in an of itself with just the NFL alone. I must wait.

Sponsored by My Good Greetings for earth-friendly cards and stationery and by Tiny Prints for the graduation announcements.

35 comments:

jacjewelry said...

This is funny! I can talk about Russian names with you all day long. While Stas is a somewhat intuitive shorter version of Stanislav, the rest of shorter versions do not resemble the full names. For example, Natasha is the informal version of Natalia (or Natalya); informal - yes, shorter - no. Let's see, Volodya is the informal version of Vladimir. Again, informal - yes, shorter - no. And then the infamous Ivan. The informal version is Vania, and it's just as long. :)

Alice Wills Gold said...

I loved your girls names.....I think we have picked one for this one, but I am seriously adding Vivian to the list.

My grandma was Dorothy too. She had a thing for 7's. She was born on 7/7/17, at 7 o clock something. She had seven letters in her name...and there were others. I love Dorothy too, but my hubby won't go for it.

I am in a writing mood.....waiting patiently for the next contest topic.

Average Jane said...

According to what I can find on Google, there is exactly one other person with my same first and last name. She lives in Orlando and works in PR, but she must not do as much online stuff as I do because she only represents about 5% of our Google results.

verygoodyear said...

I enjoyed this post -- I am a big name geek! Evangeline/Evangelina is definitely on my list if we end up having another girl... so I could call her Evie, which is probably my favourite nickname in the world ;)

The Source said...

You've got some good ones on here. I named all of mine fairly boring names...but they go to school with some interesting ones. Jagger, Layla, Race, Chaney, Xiomara and LaPouche (pronounced La PORSHA although there is NO letter R in the spelling.) I love names that have a unique flair to them, but wasn't brave enough to give one to any of my kids.

Kristin H. said...

I think Dorothy Day is my favorite. She sounds like a movie star.

PuebloMom said...

I have to say that my mom and dad were into unique names. My parents had a foriegn exchange night club so I grew up with people from all over the world. They had some influence on my parents thinking. While pregnant with me my mom was either going with Zeamora or Danielle. Well she decided to go with Danielle but could not have it as normal as that so see added a Jo to it. So my first name is one word DanielleJo. I have yet to come across another one. Go mom! heehee

Jane @ What About Mom? said...

New World is fantastic. It was a great love story, and the "twist" at the end was incredibly satisfying (not the part that was historically accurate and came right after that -- that part pretty much sucked, but then it was "true").

Highly recommend, and I do remember the actress' name 4 years later!

Neas Nuttiness said...

I had a OB once, whose name was Dr. Bottoms. I met him in the delivery room (he was a resident on call). I laughed so hard, when he introduced himself...that I swear, my water broke.

Scribbit said...

Neas--maybe that was a tactical professional move on his part? Change you name to something that makes you more efficient.

Janet said...

This is really funny.
My maiden name is mine alone. Actually I share it with an aunt who died at age 2 months, which is why I have it, but obviously she's not on the internet! If you use my married name, there are about 15 of us. We should form a club.

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

There's only one other person that comes up when I Google my maiden name, Montserrat Ventura. She's a bodybuilder in Spain. Don't I wish I had a ripped body like that! NOt really but I couldn't be more opposite with seven children. :D

Nobody else comes up when I Google my married name. Course how many Montserrats would be paired with an English surname? Not many.


Our own girls have common names, or at least names that everyone knows how to pronounce. Our son's name is very old fashioned (Ira Hinckley) but he was named after an ancestor so we went with it.

Suzie B. said...

Someone sent this site to me a while back. You can see how many persons in the U.S. share your name. howmanyofme.com

TJ said...

names are a bit of a pet peeve with me. i know someone who named their daughter revkah mckenzie. just horrible. my name isn't a "normal" one, and paired with my maiden name, it was a recipe for disaster. while my kids don't exactly have super common names, they aren't spelled crazy. another friend named her daughter kiya mirabelle. or how about families that give their kids names all with the same initials? i think it's just nuts.

gretchen from lifenut said...

When I google my maiden name, the #1 result is a pet psychic living in NYC.

I wonder if any of my old school friends think I make a living reading the thoughts of poodles?

MoziEsmé said...

I've googled before to make sure I'm the most famous "ME" online, but I just found this one now: "Jane Maritz was the first woman pilot in Tzaneen to receive instruction and the first to solo"

Definitely not me - but how cool is that?

I love your list...

Stephanie said...

Vivian and Lydia, now those are two beautiful girl's names aren't they?!

Heather said...

I tried to name my kids names that weren't as common so they wouldn't have the initial thing like I did too. So far we've been successful and not had 2 kids with the same name.

I like saying Gerard Depardieu.

Evie said...

I have met Traeger before and yes, I think that is a fabulous name.

Marcy said...

I did google my name. Due to some past jobs, my name is in a lot of weird places.

Gabrielle is a beautiful name. I like Isabelle, as well. Almost wish I had named my daughter that...

I was nearly named Gretchen (family name) but my mom decided against it, making my dad happy.

CoconutKate said...

We are in an all out name battle right now. We both love the "older" names but also want something that isn't so common. So far on the list: Paisley Jane, Amity Lynn, Stella Leslie, Betsy Lynn, and I've been toying with Ember, Eleanor, and Chloe. My husband is just about stuck on Jane or Rose. Hopefully we'll come to a common ground within the next few months.

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com said...

Lol, I'm proud to say I'm the only Sarah Schlothan Christensen in the world, and before that, I was the only Sarah Schlothan.

But I guess you don't get a name like Schlothan (or Schlothan Christensen) if the universe is planning on doling out another one.

That said, when I google the last name Schlothan, these two strangers pop up: Nathan and Adam. I mean, the last name is SCHLOTHAN, it's not exactly common, and I've traced the geneaology and cannot figure out where they came from.

So I think they're imposters.(kidding)

Mean Mommy said...

I have a Samson, but we refer to him as Sam. When we asked my dad if he liked the name we picked out he said it reminded him of luggage. Then he said he'd probably be a tiny kid that got his butt kicked on the playground. I'm still glad I picked a unique name for my son! :)

Oh, and my mom had an OB named Dr. Womber.

a Tonggu Momma said...

If I Google my first and last name together or even my first and maiden name together, every single entry that comes up references ME - even the sites showing Mandarin. LOL.

When I say my first name is unusual, it REALLY is. Only one in every 117,000ish Americans have that first name and it's more rare elsewhere. And my last name? Not quite so unusual, but definitely uncommon.

Hence, the need to go by Tonggu Momma in the blogosphere.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I love Apolo Ohno; it reminds me of ancient Greece yet has a hip, cutting edge to it. I agree about the old fashioned girl's names too. May I add Mable, Olivia, and Corabeth? And Dorothy Day. That's just fabulous. I'm sure your grandmother was all class.

Amy @ Experience Imagination said...

Yes, please, please do an NFL version. I want to see what you can do with Lynn Swan, Dick Butkus, and Elvis Grbac. :)

NGS said...

I'm a Dominique!! I am sophisticated and regal and talk about poop a lot!!

Carissa(GoodnCrazy) said...

At least I recognize Jamaica Kincaid and Mutombo!

I think you should add Obama. Even if a person doesn't love him, you just HAVE to love his name.

And a while back I tried the google search where you put your name and 'needs' after...

Carissa needs... and it comes out downright funny.

But even better.. (I'm one upping myself now).. I found this whole wow amazing cool feature about a young girl Named Carissa who was a homeless teen that overcame great odds.. and a documentary was made about her and it was called "The Carissa Project." Seems I need to MEET this girl huh??

Lei said...

I love Gabrielle too! Instead I ended up using Gabriel as a middle name for my 2nd boy. Both variations are lovely!

Jennifer said...

onomatopoetic

That is my favorite word in the whole post, and I'm pretty sure you made it up... but the word itself is onomatopoetic.

Daisy said...

Names are a lot of fun, as long as the parental units spell them realistically! I'm tired of hearing "You spelled my kid's name wrong!" when the parents got "creative" with spelling on the birth certificate.

Janelle said...

(1) Don't bother seeing New World. It was deathly slow.

(8) Just think...if you have named David Conrad, like you wanted to, you'd have Conrad and his friend Comrade!

(9) I have some Days in my ward, and I just found out this week that my husband has Days on his side of the family.

Grace @ Sandier Pastures said...

My name is too common! I love the name Demetria too. It's my grandmother's name!

JAM said...

I love the show History Detectives on PBS. One of the investigators on there is a sociology professor named Tukufu Zuberi. It has a great rhythm to it.

Demorris Smith said...

Bolt has the most appropriate name for his running style.