Chris is stuck working a double shift this morning at SiriusXM, so we are running this encore presentation of one of his best columns.
There’s a whole industry built around baby names. There are numerous books out listing baby names, their meaning and origin, how popular they are, etc. There are also web sites that offer countless suggestions from “Aabir” to “Zzyzx.” I looked “Zzyzx” up at Babycenter.com, by the way, and I was surprised to find that it listed related names as “Jasper” and “Ollie” (which sounds like a cowboy music duo). It was only #13,229 in popularity in 2010, but it’s a name that guarantees you’ll be called last for virtually everything, which is good for things like IRS audits and jury duty.
I’m especially interested in the origins and meanings of baby names, which are important to know, otherwise you run the risk of giving a baby a name which means “evildoer” or “one who grates on nerves.”
Taking a look at one of today’s most popular girl’s names, I found that “Olivia” means “Ancestor’s descendant,” according to Babynames.com. This strikes me as safely generic, because aren’t we all descendants of ancestors? At least it has no negative connotations (depending on which ancestor we’re talking about). It goes on to say that “‘Olivia’ is a name with English origins. It was derived from the male name, ‘Oliver,’ which is a derivation of the old Norse name, ‘Áleifr.’ Olivia first appeared in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and has become popular ever since.”
Some of these sites will categorize names by themes, I suppose for searching purposes. For “Olivia,” themes listed included “Classic,” “Disney characters” (because of the pig from the children’s book), “Shakespeare,” and “Elegant.”
Bluegrass lovers will sometimes allow their fanaticism to spill over into the naming of their children or pets (I’ve run into more than a few pairs of cats named Carter and Ralph). You may know a girl or two named “Amanda Lyn” (I’m waiting for a banjo player to name a boy “Aban-Joe”). Beyond naming children after bluegrass instruments, I thought perhaps we could use some guidance and suggestions for coming up with other bluegrass baby names.
Here are some bluegrass baby name suggestions, with a few words about their meaning, and origin:
Meaning: “pretty,” “ill-fated”
“Polly” is related to the name “Molly,” though “Molly” is generally considered more handsome than pretty. The name is associated with girls who have very poor taste in men, the kind who plan to kill you if you turn down a marriage proposal.
Themes: Victims, Troubled romance, Adventure
Meaning: “one who does as she pleases in California,” also “handsome” (see above)
“Molly” is a name associated with free-wheeling west coast horses who die young and are buried in coffins ready-made. Also, handsome girls with hair as black as a raven, who are just a little fickle.
Themes: Classic Irish, Dead racehorses, Unusually large coffins
Meaning: “one who is gone”
Historically, “Cora” is a woman known for having a heart made of stone. For some reason she has a mysterious connection to whippoorwills, which remind men of her stone-heartedness. Not to be confused with the variation “Corey,” or “Darling Corey,” which means “unusually sound sleeper.”
Themes: Nature, Independence, Absence
Meaning: “ghostly girl on roadside”
Origin: “The other side”
“Mary” is a name given to deathly pale girls who have a habit of hitchhiking alone on dark and stormy nights. The good news is she only does this 13 times. (See also: Mary, virgin ––that “Mary” name is of Hebrew origin, and she and her husband had a donkey, so hitchhiking wasn’t necessary).
Themes: Transportation, Pale Skin, Numerology, The Occult
Meaning: insecure serial killer
Origin: Germanic, via England, via the U.S. criminal justice system
In bluegrass and folk music history, “Willie” was often known as “Little Willie,” which I’m afraid only added to his insecurity. He was known for the murders of “Pretty Polly,” the “Knoxville Girl,” “Katy Dear,” and a few others, and those are just the ones that people took the time to write songs about. In all cases, he asked them to marry him and they refused (I can’t imagine why), and he didn’t take the rejection well. (See also: “Willie Roy” – meaning: “crippled boy,” and Will, Fiddlin’)
Themes: Stabbings, Sociopaths, Unwelcome proposals
Meaning: Fiddling uncle
Origin: English, Oregonian
“Pen” for “Pendleton,” is associated with Bill Monroe, being his uncle who played the fiddle, mainly late in the evening about sundown. He played numerous tunes, including an old piece he called “Soldier’s Joy,” which is what everybody else called it, too. The name is associated with instrumental ability, extensive tune repertoire, and good nephew relations.
Themes: Fiddle, Bill Monroe, Wool Blankets (Oregon version)
Meaning: “lonesome one,” and “owner of the train” also “corned beef sauerkraut and cheese sandwich”
“Reuben” was a man sometimes referred to as “Lonesome Reuben” (which also happens to be the name of a Reuben sandwich without the sauerkraut), who not only owned his own train, he put in on a track and “run it to the Lord knows where.”
Themes: Transportation, Ownership, Oh me, oh my