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Confessing... - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
As a member of deleterius and occasional Sue-hunter (if of the sort of timid variety), I must confess something about myself.

I adore weird names.

Oh, not weird spellings of normal names, or names that are made up because they sound pretty without really thinking about them and what kind of effect they would have on their bearers. And I think parents who give their children joke names really should be charged with something.

But just unusual names? Old family names? Ethnic names from non-mainstream cultures?

Dude, I love them, and think that one of the great advantages of living in 2004 as opposed to 1904 is that no told Keanu Reeves that he had to become "Ken" in order to be an actor. (Well, that's a case in point, obviously; I don't give much of a rip about Mr. Reeves. But you know what I mean. That we as a culture just kind of shrugged at his name and said, "Huh, cool," is a truly groovy thing.)

That said, I mainly collect odd old names for the purpose of staring at them and saying, "Man... people were really named that?" But I did find them handy for one thing, which brings me to a second transgression, more serious than simply liking the names: I have encouraged people to use them in writing.

When I did a writing workship this summer, I liked to start with a kind of warm-up exercise, in which I gave the students something unfamiliar and told them to spin a spontaneous story or character (or setting) sketch from them. I used a photo of Main Street, Perry, and told the kids to tell me what was around the corner of a street at the bottom of the hill (that would be Lake Street, to chienar). And I used a list of some of the weird names I've been collecting. All from my own family history, I'll note--I'm not having a laugh at anyone else's expense.

I grabbed these names out of a New England Historical and Genealogical Register article. They are old Yankees all, with surnames like Smith or Winchester or Chubb (mostly Winchester). Some of them are flatly ugly, some too flowery for my taste, and some I actually like (I've mentioned "Reconcile" before). But I thought all of them sounded like they might have an impact on the people who owned them, and might therefore be a good kick-start to just create a character on the fly. (My favorite OMGIcan'tbelievesomeonenamedakidthat!name is "Cyaxaras Cyprian"... WTF?)

DelightCyaxaras Cyprian
Welthy AnnYermah

First, I had them choose names from their respective genders. Then, when they finished, I made them switch.

I have no idea why I posted it, except that it turned out to be a kind of fun little exercise, even if anyone with any of the above names (except maybe "Yermah" and "Welthy Ann") showed up in fanfic story, it would end up on deleterius without passing go or collecting $200.

43 comments or Leave a comment
hughroe From: hughroe Date: January 6th, 2005 12:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Jubal is a good name, got more than 1 in my history.
anaid_rabbit From: anaid_rabbit Date: January 6th, 2005 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I like Orilla. And Reconcile. Call me weird. ;) Dilectus strikes me as funny though.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 6th, 2005 12:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I like "Jacintha" (as well as Reconcile) myself--sounds like a Star Wars-ready name.
barbara_the_w From: barbara_the_w Date: January 6th, 2005 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)
I actually worked with a girl named Jacyntha (her parents fell prey to the "y" virus of child-naming).
gail_b From: gail_b Date: January 6th, 2005 12:33 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't think collecting names is strange at all...heh, I used to do it myself. Several years ago, I worked at a major Life Insurance company, in the filing department, and all day long I'd have to go up and down long aisles of filing cabinets, putting away health and life insurance policies of workers who used to be employed by a major car company. Most of the policy holders were old, from a different era and had names that reflected that...others were like recent immigrants to America. So, after a while, to amuse ourselves, a co-worker and I would jot down particularly interesting names on a slip of paper when we saw them as we were filing these documents and then compare notes later.

Until the boss-man found out. Then we had to stop. Blah.

But even before that, when I was still in high school, I'd love to look at baby name books, just to dig on the different names and their meanings...and believe me, I had no intention of having a baby of my own at that time. Heh. I still do, although to a limited extent.
melyanna From: melyanna Date: January 6th, 2005 12:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Unusual names are fine, but when I was typing something up for my mom to use in her class and had to type both "Raechel" and "Abbigail" more than once, I drew the line at strange spellings. These poor kids have perfectly normal names and they're still going to have to correct people on how to spell them for the rest of their lives.

The best baby name story I've heard, though, was a friend of mine who wanted to name his baby Evil-Merodoch. His wife said no, thank God. ;)
leeflower From: leeflower Date: January 6th, 2005 06:12 am (UTC) (Link)
when I was volunteering as a Teacher's Aid in a third grade class, I had a 14-letter long Caitlin.

Khaiyghtlyhnne, I think it was.

I love creative names, too, but if you're going to do a creative name, do one that's actually creative, for heaven's sake. Don't curse your child with a name that makes them look illiterate to the end of their days. And honestly, can you invision a name plate that read "The Honorable Khaiyghtlyhnne Jones, presiding?" or a newspaper article about President-Elect Benjyamine Grey?

I'm very much in the 'if it doesn't change the meaning, don't change the spelling' camp (Kerry and Carrie, after all, are actually two entirely differnet names. Robin and Robynne, on the other hand, are not).

http://www.behindthename.com is a really awesome resource for anyone who wants to name-geek.
From: magnolia_mama Date: January 6th, 2005 12:56 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't collect strange names per se, but I do have a great fondness for archaic names that haven't been made fashionable again. I'm probably one of the very few people who don't think "Hazel" is a weird name for one of Julia Roberts' twins; I happen to have had a distant cousin named Hazel, thankyouverymuch, not to mention great-aunts named Antoinette, Garland and Seabury. So you could say that I collect old-fashioned names. For example, I'm just waiting for the perfect story in which to write about Gladys Arbuthnot. :-)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 6th, 2005 01:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. In a business where people name their kids Dweezil or Rumor... There's nothing whatsoever odd about "Hazel." In fact, it strikes me as potentially being a new "Hannah" name--thought of as fusty and old-fashioned until something (like, say, a major movie star getting it out and dusting it off) brings it back into the public mind. I can see a lot of people now saying, "Oh... Hazel. It's actually pretty, isn't it? And no one else in my baby's class will be named Hazel." To their great disappointment, they may discover that many other parents thought the same thing. But I could definitely see Hazel making a comeback as a name.

I'm a big fan of Beyond Jennifer and Jason, and they have a section called "So Far Out It's In," with old-fashioned names that might make a comeback. Their doubtful choice of a name in this category was "Edna," which just doesn't strike the ear right anymore. But Hazel has a nice long "A" and no more pop culture associations, and "All in the Family" has been off the air quite long enough for a few Ediths to start appearing without being expected to warble "Those Were The Days." And for boys, if "Elijah" is cool again, could other old Biblical names be far from being dusted off? Josiah strikes me as well-poised for the person who wants an Elijah-like name but doesn't want to tip her hand on a fascination with the young Mr. Wood.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: January 6th, 2005 01:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I have a copy of "Beyond Jennifer and Jason" too - bought at a used bookstore. I like scouring it for character names. Like you, I'm a big fan of odd, unusual, and period names.

The oddest name I've found was in a history book - a girl named "Flie Fornication." She got into the historical records because she, er, fornicated, and was suing the father of her child for support.

While I could see "Jubal" and "Jacinta" in fanfiction, I don't know about a character named "Flie Fornication." Though it might be kind of amusing in a shipper fic. ;)

Incidentally, I had a "Jubal" in my Geology class. He was loud and covered in tattoos.
ivylore From: ivylore Date: January 6th, 2005 02:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh my. The couple I babysat for when I was growing up had a copy of Beyond Jennifer and Jason and I practically memorized it. Obsessing over names is great hobby! Like you, I adore old or unique names.

I'm not a fan of all turn of the century names though. At my husband's grandmother's nursing home (or should that be grandmother-in-law?), the names of the residents are posted outside their rooms. The men's names are a mix of classic old, from Stewart to John, but the women's names leave me feeling depressed and grey inside. Harriet, Marjorie (there are five on one floor), Martha (five again), Blanche, Edna and Mabel.

Regarding your original post: I actually know a woman named 'Delight'. That's a great name. So is Keanu!

Regarding Edith: I worked with a woman named Edite (EE-dit), the French version, and I thought it was very pretty.
ivylore From: ivylore Date: January 6th, 2005 02:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh and wait.

I have an old New England ancestor (my fifth great-grandmother, I believe) named Plumey.
chienar From: chienar Date: January 6th, 2005 01:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Down the hill and around the corner you'll find a beat up old subie, bowls of sorted M&M's, Ginger Ale, and a nice comfy sofa to watch the Goonies, Stand by Me and the Lost Boys. Mr. P will be hollering for us to work on a project. And I'll take some pics of our friends that make them look like vampires. All the while the wierdos will be driving their cars up and down Main street, repeatedly, all night long.

Just remember, that what's at the top of the hill and around that corner is much scarier =)
purplerebecca From: purplerebecca Date: January 6th, 2005 01:17 am (UTC) (Link)
I know a Delight.
And she's a delightfully intelligent in-your-face tomboy who does karate and makes chainmail. ^_^
And writes StarWars fanfic, some to think of it. :)

I love cool names.

I'm also love, love, loving Shifts too, by the way. ^^
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: January 6th, 2005 01:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, I love names. I need to carry a little memo pad around with me when I walk around graveyards because I am terrible at last names in stories- every one I know is either terribly ordinary or so strange it would be really odd, in a bad way.

I like Delight (okay, well, I like Sandman) and Electa; Jubal is cool, but Greenleaf? For a first name? *giggle* Could see a fangirl doing it, though.

By the way, your ficlet is up in my LJ.
miss_daizy From: miss_daizy Date: January 6th, 2005 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)
The idea that a unique name is indicative of Mary-Sueism has never made sense to me. I just finished an excellent Anita Shreve "All He Ever Wanted" and the 'heroine' was named Etna. Another recently enjoyed novel, Middlesex, featured Calliope (who, as a hermaphrodite could not be considered the least be Sueish).

Speaking of the "old-fashioned" name, when I was named Jennifer, it was one of those fusty, dusty old names and many were suprised that my parents chose it :)

I had an admittedly irrational fear that the same thing would happen to my daughter Anna - with all the Hannahs and Emmas it seemed likely to me that people might turn to Anna.

I keep threatening to have a baby and name it Lemony, regardless of sex.

Reconcile is cool...very Puritan.

Enough randomness....
leeflower From: leeflower Date: January 6th, 2005 06:19 am (UTC) (Link)
oooh, it definetely happened to Anna...

Take it from one of them. There were at least two others in my grade all through elementary school, three in middle school, and between ten and fifteen in highschool (three of whom all ended up in my class once... ugh).

and people wonder why I go by Annalee and insist they find other ways to shorten it.

From: st_sophie Date: January 6th, 2005 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Weird Baby Names

I actually don't mind Hazel, though it reminds me of my favourite type of Chocolate, so that can't be too bad I guess...

My Mum's a primary school teacher, and has had kids with some really bad names. Shynarlah (Shy-Narl-Ah) is one of them, and she also had 4 girls all with names that were variations of 'Madison' - Maddison, Madyson, Maddieson and Madison. Urgh.

I rather like old fashioned names, which are coming back in fashion I guess. Lachlan, Harrison, Hannah, Thomas, James, William, Emily, Olivia, Lily and Ella.

One of my aunt's friends recently had a daughter called Lily Monet. All I could think about was Claude Monet's paintings of Waterlillies! She didn't know of the connection though, and didn't really like the artist anyway, just liked how the name sounded.

Popular culture always has an influence on baby names, too. Harry has risen in popularity heaps, though I am yet to see a Hermione! I have heard of twins called Luke and Leia, and even a child called Buffy! Xander and Willow have been pretty popular in my area, too, or at least more in recent years.

~ Sophie
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From: (Anonymous) Date: January 6th, 2005 04:03 am (UTC) (Link)
My ex-roommate's father, who delivers babies, once had to talk a mother out of naming her daughter Chlamydia. He normally makes a practice of not getting involved in naming, but he thought he should make an exception.
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: January 6th, 2005 01:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
There was a child in one of the Discworld books (don't remember which) that was almost named Chlamydia. What would possess someone...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 6th, 2005 04:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, there's a not-very-nice urban legend about this (warning, it's racially based), and someone may have picked it up as a particular joke.
katinka31 From: katinka31 Date: January 6th, 2005 04:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I knew a couple a few years ago who named their little girl "Spydaer". According to her father, "Yeah, we did the 'ae' so people wouldn't call her 'Spider'". Er, yeah...that'll stop 'em. Five Galleons she changes her name in 20 years.

My friend's husband, who worked in a hospital, saw a newborn "Shithed". It was pronounced "Shi-THEED", but really...

And add me to the number that thinks "Hazel" is an absolutely lovely name.
leeflower From: leeflower Date: January 6th, 2005 06:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Shithed. yup, I had one of those in the third grade class I worked in...

I can't remember if she spelled it Shithed, Shitheed, or Shithead, but either way, it starts with Shit. First time I called roll I spelled it out, just to be sure.
katinka31 From: katinka31 Date: January 6th, 2005 06:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Good call, on your part.

Man, that's just cruel. Kids make fun of most names anyway, but you shouldn't give them ample fodder...
stars_fell From: stars_fell Date: January 6th, 2005 04:29 am (UTC) (Link)
If you go through the Lincoln family geneaology (as in Abraham Lincoln's family; I'm his third half-cousin five times removed), practically all the names look like they were lifted straight from the Old Testament. It's freaking scary. :)

I like old-fashioned names myself; if I ever have a daughter, I want to name her Sarah Evelyn.
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 6th, 2005 04:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Only if they're pretending to be LotR or HP fanfic... and I might report an LotR fic sporting an Elijah myself.

Of course, if they were some really weird crossover...
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 6th, 2005 04:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, that would depend on just how sentient (ensouled) the robots are. If they have souls, they can be corrupted. If they're just machines, possibly not, but they could be captured and reprogrammed, especially if they kept to the Laws of Robotics about not killing humans. (It's been awhile since I read I, Robot. I don't remember Asimov's conclusion. As I recall, Tolkien and Asimov aren't thematically similar enough to mix. Though that wouldn't stop a determined Suethor...)
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kakegoddess From: kakegoddess Date: January 6th, 2005 04:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Old names are interesting. My brothers middle name is Parmer. That's one you don't hear anymore. I can't think of an Ethel under 80. My grandfathers' names are Elsworth and Coit.

If my child had been a girl, she would have been named Lilly.

I am glad to see old names coming back into fashion.
genesse From: genesse Date: January 6th, 2005 05:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I have a deep facination for out-of-the-norm names as well. I have cousins named Yadira and Krizia, which aren't common but aren't weird. Yadira is originally Arabic and Krizia is a name of a perfume, and both names are actually common in Mexico.

I had a neighbor named Cynthean. That was going a little far, I thought.
jesspallas From: jesspallas Date: January 6th, 2005 08:36 am (UTC) (Link)
As a writer of fantasy stories, collecting strange and unusual names is a favourite hobby of mine. I write them down whenever I see them (and working in college enrolment I see them often!)though my absolute favourite source of names is a book of 17th/18th/19th century Cornish names taken from parish registers that I bought on holiday - who can argue with the likes of Bryluen, Yselkla, Gwelesyk, Teudar, Meryasek, Petroc, Armynel and Zenobia? ;)
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 6th, 2005 09:59 am (UTC) (Link)


Since a lot of the names in your list (the male ones, chiefly) are indeed lifted from the Bible, permit me to say that they tend to sound a lot better in the original Hebrew.

For instance:
Jubal - pronounce "Yu-'val"
El-ha-'nan - sounds nice just as it is. My wife's cousin's name.

The female names seem to be more original, perhaps because of the male-female imbalance in Biblical characters.

And I think parents who give their children joke names really should be charged with something.

I, too, am a proud member in the League Against Name-Abuse. Some people choose names for their kids purely for the "shock" factor - just to see people's reactions to hearing them. I cringe every time I hear a name like that.

My sister has a good friend named "Queenie". And I mean officially, as in on her ID! Sheesh.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 6th, 2005 04:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Shloz

I actually adore "Elhanan." We had several generations of them, and as far as I know, it was pronounced correctly. Unlike Lebaneh, who, as I understand it, was called L'BANE-ee. Is there a shortened nickname for "Elhanan"? It might be a little much for a six-year-old to carry around in the U.S., but it's one I would love to revive. Well, presuming I find myself a husband and have kids fairly soon, which means I need to expend some effort in that direction. And of course, bonus--it can be my original heritage and my adopted heritage.

The reason I picked those for the list is that they're really quite rare nowadays here, and it was highly unlikely that anyone in my class would have preconcieved notions of what a Jubal was like. (This didn't stop one girl from going down the list and picking one of the names that could be shortened to a nickname of a girl she knew, which defeated the purpose of the exercise entirely.)
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 6th, 2005 04:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Shloz

My sister has a good friend named "Queenie". And I mean officially, as in on her ID! Sheesh.


My grandmother's husband used to talk about a family that named the children after the months in which they were conceived and the months in which they were born--eg, October July. And after nine kids, they named the last Finale. The worst was some poor kid about whose location I will be vague whose name was "Sterling," which is bad enough by itself, until you add in the fact that his last name was "Silver." The stupidest reason for names didn't actually produce awful names, but have me arrested if I decide on names for subsequent babies because the first was given a monogrammed snowsuit and if the others were to wear it, they'd need the same initials.
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zephprolixity From: zephprolixity Date: January 6th, 2005 12:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Having survived my life with a different sort of name, I can add my considerable weight to the plea for parental sense.

"PLease Do Not Curse Your Child by giving them a name that will make them an easy target for ridicule."

Here are a couple of sites I have found helpful / interesting:



Or just Google for Weird Names sometime it is lot's of fun.

In my genealogy I have an ancestor whose name was 'James Pleasant Hawkins Jacob Irving' we won't start on the surname Sti(y)pe

My name? Kimsey. I was enrolled in Kindergarten as 'Kim'-- Along with three very nice young ladies all named Kimberly... My name ain't 'Sue' but I can sure relate to his pain.

As for the street around the corner at the bottom of the hill... or the one at the top even, having never seen the picture nor been to the place... here's my take:

Round the corner and there you'll find as quaint a neighborhood as ever you'd like to see; filled with friendly folk all of whom would as soon spill your blood for the coin in your pockets as breathe.

From old 'Vance Nutt whose proper name is 'Advance', loitering about outside the bakery, to bonny young 'Gail Bellows' the scullery maid at the public house, there's none to be trusted...

Why might you ask? Because says I, appearances aside, every one of the lot is a pirate and most the spawn of pirates to boot.
ashavah From: ashavah Date: January 6th, 2005 02:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have some American Quaker ancestors. Oh, boy, were there some odd names there.

I love names. I think it's like (and maybe related to, in soem people, like me) collecting words to collect names. Nothing wrong with it at all. I haev an awesome book on British surnames and their origins which is always great for a read.
akashasheiress From: akashasheiress Date: January 7th, 2005 02:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love good 'ole Faroese names that sound 'exotic' to foreigners (mine does NOT. Maria, bleh). Names like Rakul, Ingunn, Rannvá, Hallur, Leivur, Bartal, Gunnvá. You get the drill.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 7th, 2005 07:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yeah... that's what I'm talking about. Old Norse saga happening there.
43 comments or Leave a comment