As a Name Nerd, I eat, breath and dream names. They are omnipresent for me, and I can't go a day without turning something around to names in my mind (or in conversation if those around me are unlucky enough). Here are some of the names which have been rattling around my mind this month for various reasons.
I was reminded recently of an old favourite I had in my late teens. Mireya is the Spanish cognate of the French Mireille, both of which were based on the Occitan name Mirèio. I had already discovered the name by the time I went to Andalusia at the age of seventeen and was delighted to see it -- and the Catalan spelling Mireia -- on personalised hats and mugs etc. As it derives from the Latin mirar "to admire," I've always appreciated its connection to my sister Miranda's name.
I have a feeling Kit may make big leaps this year. At least, it certainly has the potential to do so. Not only is Kit Harington making waves in the world of celebrity, it was also chosen this year by Wayne and Coleen Rooney for their third son. But, it strikes me that Kit may be a little short for some tastes.
Of course, Kit itself is traditionally a nickname for Christopher. Even Kit Harington revealed to James Corden that he didn't realise that his full name was Christopher until he was eleven years old. However, like Kit (and Corden) I think many people won't realise the Christopher-Kit connection.
This brings me to Kitto, which seems to me a prefect alternative longer form for Kit.
Kitto is Cornish name and, because of its similarity to Kit, many have long thought of it as a diminutive of Christopher. However, its original origins more likely lie with the Welsh Gruffudd (Griffith). In the Middle Ages, Guto (GIT-ō) developed as a diminutive for Gruffudd, and Kitto was probably its Cornish cognate.
Kit Harington is most famous for bringing Game of Thrones character Jon Snow to life on our screen. John has been a perennial favourite for centuries, though it has been declining in recent years, falling down to #101. The more svelt spelling, Jon, was at a peak in the 1980s, but may once again start to pick up thanks to GoT.
This name was brought to mind recently while teaching my class. A mention of a Victorian named John Snow had one of my ten year old girls whisper "Jon Snow! Jon Snow is in Game of Thrones," excitedly to her fellow classmate. It seems Mr Harington's appeal is quite wide.
Personally, I'm neutral on the spelling. I have an uncle named Jon and a fellow-80s-born cousin named Jon, so both seem very natural to me. I do have a rather vivid memory, however, of writing a "what I did at the weekend" piece when I was seven and being very proud that I knew how to spell my cousins' names: Neal and Jon. I was very put out when I got it back and my teacher had crossed them out in red pen, replacing them with 'Neil' and 'John'.
Another name which I'm going to be carefully monitoring what the 2015 stats come out in August is Alba, at #312 and rising. I've long had my eye on it, but with the nation recently enchanted when Gareth Bale's daughter, Alba, stole most of the limelight with her cuteness in the Wales vs Northern Ireland quarter-finals Euro 2016 match recently, I can see the name having even more impact in 2016.
I still have no idea why Vaila hasn't caught on. True, it's a name mostly confined to the Shetlands, being the name of a Shetland island. That said, Scottish islands are vogue at the moment. Just look at Isla, Skye, Arran and Harris! Add in the fashionable V and the two-syllable -a ending with strong vowel sounds and its hard to think that, if this name were a little bit more widely known, it wouldn't catch on.
So come on, world. Let's spread the word about Vaila. Who knows where it may lead?
Trawling through the 2014 data a few weeks ago, I came across a new name for me. Given to just five girls that year, Bryher is the smallest of the inhabited islands of the Isles of Scilly. Regional data from 2010 has Bryher only appearing in the data for the South West (given to four girls that year) which means that, like Vaila, it most likely is used only within the local area. It is pronounced the same way as Briar -- a name I'm also a fan of -- but with a bit of a topographical and Cornish twist.
My mind recently keeps being drawn to Lewin. It ticks so many stylish boxes: it's a surname, it's two syllables and it halfway between popular favourites Lewis and Owen. Lewis is not just a surname though, originally it was a medieval given name; an inheritor of the Anglo-Saxon Lēofwine from leof "beloved, dear" and wine "friend." It is a rare given name, but is in consistent use having been registered for between 4 and 13 boys every year in England and Wales since 1996.
Another leof inheritor is Liveva. Unlike Lewin, it hasn't survived from the Middle Ages, but I feel it has bags of potential. Yes, it may seem like a Liv + Eva smoosh, but that makes it more accessible to modern sensibilities to my mind. The name actually derives from the Anglo-Saxon Lēofgifu meaning "beloved gift" and is also found in the spellings Liviva and Leviva.