I love talking about names. (Probably why I frequent Swistle’s baby name blog even though I am NOT pregnant.)
Recently, I came across a baby name on Facebook (the friend of a friend) that I can’t stop thinking about.
I’m always a little afraid to talk about names online, because they are so very personal. And I wouldn’t want to offend someone who has the name or wants to use the name for her child.
But names are SO FUN and SO INTERESTING. And I have never heard this particular name before and I thought it was so unusual I just HAD to talk about it.
Animal names are not terribly unusual… In fact, I rather like the names Fox and Wolf. (My husband does NOT.) And Colt seems to be growing in popularity. (Although that could be some sort of error of perception, seeing as the only two Colts I know of are a) a football player and b) a reality TV contestant.) Cat and Kitty, though nicknames, are not uncommon. I could see Hawk being a perfectly reasonable name. Of course, there’s Tiger Woods. (Not that I would really consider naming a child Tiger, for some reason.)
But Bronco seems… odd. I don’t know why. It seems like it should be a BETTER name than Colt: A bronco is a manly, powerful creature, while a colt is a spindly-legged child.
It got me thinking…
What makes one type of word (color, flower, profession) appropriate for a name when others from the same category just don’t work?
Consideration #1: Obviously, the general feeling about or meaning of the thing itself has a lot to do with it.
For instance, Heather is a lovely name… but Crabgrass is not. Marigold, Lily, Rose – all fine. Pansy, maybe not – but only because “pansy” is also a derogatory slang term.
Brown, Red, Silver, Grey, Goldie, Pink, Green – all perfectly fine as names. But I can’t imagine naming my child White or Black or Puce or Yellow.
For all of the animals that seem to make perfectly good names, there are many that seem out. Eel. Elephant. Ostrich. Snake.
Tanner and Hunter and Sergeant and Judge – good. Plumber and Pharmacist and Mortician and Manager – not quite.
Harmony and Honor and Earnest and Felicity – these all strike me as lovely. Obedience, Endurance, Reliance, Zeal – these just don’t quite cut it (for me, at least. But that is perhaps because I am not a Puritan).
Consideration #2: Once we get rid of the feeling of a name and the meaning, does the appropriateness of a name come down to sound?
Is it that Colt sounds enough like Cole and Colton and other similar, more-common names that it automatically “feels” more name-like than Bronco?
Is that why Petunia seems like an adorable name choice… While Carnation just seems out of the running, for some intangible reason I can’t pinpoint?
Or why Coriander and Sage seem (to me) to be lovely names… But Cumin and Paprika don’t quite seem to work?
Let’s go back to Bronco for a second. (Do you see that I am typing it over and over, to see if familiarity will make it more Namelike?) If we’re talking about sound… I believe I’ve heard the name “Bronx” before. And THAT sounds like a perfectly reasonable name to me… while “Bronco” – which has similar sounds PLUS a generally positive meaning – still seems like Not A Name.
Bronco also reminds me of Leo, which is a name I LOVE. They both end O (along with names like Milo and Willow) and Leo is animal-ADJACENT. But Leo is so much more of a NAME to me than Bronco. Leo is well-established as a name, though. So there’s that. In fact, that leads me to…
Consideration #3: Perhaps all it takes is for some established person to come along WITH the name to make it feel more like a name?
I mean, I never would have considered “Apple” to be a name until Ms. Paltrow popped out her own little seedling. Nor would I ever have considered “Pilot” or “Inspector” to be reasonable occupation names. Then Jason’s little Pilot Inspektor arrived. (I actually am still not convinced of either of these nouns’ appropriateness as a name. But whatever.)
When I was a teenager, I read a book (by, I believe, the wonderful Caroline B. Cooney) about a girl named Dove who had a “vanished twin” named Wing. I always thought those both SOUNDED like they could be names, but I haven’t ever heard them in real life. Nonetheless, if I encountered them in the wild, I wouldn’t bat an eye simply because the book made them real to me.
Consideration #4: Of course, we do have to consider that some names may seem unusual in the U.S. … but they may be perfectly common in other countries or cultures.
For instance, in the few minutes since I started writing this post, I did a little looking around. (Pro Tip: Do the research BEFORE writing the post.) And it turns out that Bronco is/may be (I never know which sites to TRUST on these matters) an established boy’s name, possibly of Spanish/Mexican origin.
One of my brother’s classmates growing up had the name “Nacho.” Growing up in a tiny, very homogenous town in a relatively unpopulated, homogenous state, I always thought Nacho was very odd. But it turns out that Nacho is/may be a common nickname for the name Ignacio. And the instant I heard that it was an established nickname for an established name, I saw the name in a whole different light.
Likewise, I’d never name a child Tongue… but I have a friend of Chinese descent whose middle name is Tung. Both names sound the same. Both call to mind the same fleshy organ. But once I know the name is Chinese? It’s perfectly fine.
By the way – I am ALSO aware that names are totally subjective. I might love the name Ernest while you may think it is a hideous old man’s name. There’s a LOT of personal preference wrapped up in a name. I get that. And if it’s An Appropriate Name to YOU, then it’s an appropriate name. (Okay – with SOME exceptions. See below paragraph.)
But still. It DOES SEEM that – while there are outliers, some of them HORRIBLE (remember Talullah Does the Hula from Hawaii? And that poor child named Adolf Hitler?) – most names on the Baby Name Bell Curve fall into the big fat middle range of “acceptable” or “appropriate.”
What I’m interested in today are the names that lie along the edges of that bell curve – the ones that seem (or are) unusual but aren’t totally Cray-Cray-Crazy. And I’m also interested in what makes something Worthy of Being a Name.
So, Internet, please discuss. What makes a word Name Appropriate? And what do YOU think about Bronco as a name?
And, just for fun, let’s talk about some of the names you love the most and like the least. You know – the noun/color/occupation names. The names that you secretly love but make your husband look at you like you’ve lost your ever loving mind. (Or the names HE loves that make YOU think he’s gone off the deep end.)
Like I said, I secretly love Fox and Wolf. I also love Sonnet and Story. And Poem and Plum and Pepper. No way would my husband EVER okay one of those names. Hence the secret love.