I have always fancied myself an amateur etymologist. I love words. I love learning the origins of words. Names, however, are my favourite words of all.
The books I keep by my bedside, to which I refer most often, are baby name books. Every time I hear a name I don't know the meaning of, I look it up, if I feel so inclined. Most names are diminuitive or variations of other, older names.
My son, Artan Wonder, was named two months before his birth. We found 'Artan' on a baby names web site and we hadn't heard it before, but we loved that it's an ancient Gaelic name meaning, 'little bear'. Art means bear. Arthur, too.
I believe in some ways we help our parents to choose our names. Some parents just can't get a certain name out of their heads. I just read a list of names to my little one in utero, told him to kick when he heard the name he liked. I didn't know he was a boy, so I was reading boy and girl names, but he honestly only kicked on the name Artan and not at all otherwise (and that boy was a real kicker). His middle name, Wonder, to me is only partly for Stevie Wonder and mostly for being synonymous with miracle.
Most parents choose a name they like the sound of, even moreso than the meaning. I think sound and cadence are very important and should fit with the way the family speaks and lives. There are so many variations for boys and girls with names like Michael, John, Mary and Christina. It's endless and to me that is quite fascinating.
My husband, Kelt, also has an unusual name and his parents indeed feel they invented it. I know it's not as easy to find in the baby name books (and I have them all), but through research we have discovered its meanings to be, aptly, 'hidden king'. His parents 'made up' Cory and Kyle as well, which are, of course, fairly common names now but maybe were not so much in the late sixties.
Some families have strange naming traditions. Almost all of Kelt's family have names beginning with the 'k' sound - mother Carol and her three boys, Kyle's wife Candice, their daughters Cassandra and Kelynn and Cory's daughters Kiera and Kyla. We broke that tradition, because we’re rebels.
I had a friend in Calgary whose first name was Doctor. He went by his middle name. His family tradition for three generations had been to name the first boy Doctor, after the person who delivered the first baby of his family on Canadian soil. It's kind of a snicker, but it's for real. I knew him for years and it was on all his papers.
I once heard of someone commenting on how awful sounding 'Marna Finney' was and who would name someone that. I suppose any different name is a culture shock to some.
If you asked my mom, she'd tell you that my name came from 'a girl in a bottle on The Land of the Giants'. It originated from Marnina, the Hebrew word for 'Rejoice'.
My middle name is Raye, which is a fine example of 1970s middle names for girls. Lynn, Lee, May, Jo - there are a variety, but middle names are often about properly framing the first name.
Plenty of new babies are being named for their great grandparents, which is also not a new practice, so names are indeed quite cyclical. But when it comes to connotation, would you choose to name your son after your grandpa Adolf?
I know a few people who have used the mother's maiden name as their child's first name. I could totally have a little boy (or girl?) named Finney, but since Finn is currently on the short list of most popular names, I would likely not choose it!
If you've never done it for fun, go online to a baby names site with a list of names to look up. You might be surprised to find that Dingbang means protector and Jessica means wealthy.