Welcome, visitor! [ Login or registerrss

Amazing story of Parking Lot King Richard III

| Bad names, Famous Names | February 5, 2013

For archeologists, historians and Shakespeare fans, quite an amazing story.

Leicester, England (CNN) — DNA tests have confirmed that human remains found buried beneath an English car park are those of the country’s King Richard III.

British scientists announced Monday they are convinced “beyond reasonable doubt” that a skeleton found during an archaeological dig in Leicester, central England, last August is that of the former king, who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones was matched to Michael Ibsen, a Canadian cabinetmaker and direct descendant of Richard III’s sister, Anne of York, and a second distant relative, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Experts say other evidence — including battle wounds and signs of scoliosis, or curvature of the spine — found during the search and the more than four months of tests since strongly support the DNA findings — and suggest that history’s view of the king as a hunchbacked villain may have to be rewritten.

For more photos and full story:



A Girl named Girl

| Baby Names, How I got my name, Iceland, Name Experts, Name Stories, Press | January 5, 2013

By Anna Andersen, The Associated Press

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Call her the girl with no name.

A 15-year-old is suing the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother. The problem? Blaer, which means “light breeze” in Icelandic, is not on a list approved by the government.

Like a handful of other countries, including Germany and Denmark, Iceland has official rules about what a baby can be named. In a country comfortable with a firm state role, most people don’t question the Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay.


In Blaer’s case, her mother said she learned the name wasn’t on the register only after the priest who baptized the child later informed her he had mistakenly allowed it.

“I had no idea that the name wasn’t on the list, the famous list of names that you can choose from,” said Bjork Eidsdottir, adding she knew a Blaer whose name was accepted in 1973. This time, the panel turned it down on the grounds that the word Blaer takes a masculine article, despite the fact that it was used for a female character in a novel by Iceland’s revered Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness

Given names are even more significant in tiny Iceland than in many other countries: Everyone is listed in the phone book by their first names. Surnames are based on a parent’s given name. Even the president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, is addressed simply as Olafur.

Blaer is identified as “Stulka” — or “Girl” — on all her official documents, which has led to years of frustration as she has had to explain the whole story at the bank, renewing her passport and dealing with the country’s bureaucracy.

Her mother is hoping that will change with her suit, the first time someone has challenged a names committee decision in court. Though the law has become more relaxed in recent years — with the name Elvis permitted, inspired by the charismatic rock and roll icon whose name fits Icelandic guidelines — choices like Cara, Carolina, Cesil, and Christa have been rejected outright because the letter “c” is not part of Iceland’s 32-letter alphabet.

Full international coverage from NBC News

“The law is pretty straightforward so in many cases it’s clearly going to be a yes or a no,” said Agusta Thorbergsdottir, the head of the committee, a panel of three people appointed by the government to a four-year term.

Other cases are more subjective.

“What one person finds beautiful, another person may find ugly,” she acknowledged. She pointed to “Satania” as one unacceptable case because it was deemed too close to “Satan.”

‘Basic human right’
The board also has veto power over people who want to change their names later in life, rejecting, for instance, middle names like Zeppelin and X.

Eidsdottir says she is prepared to take her case all the way to the country’s Supreme Court if a court doesn’t overturn the commission decision on Jan. 25.

“So many strange names have been allowed, which makes this even more frustrating because Blaer is a perfectly Icelandic name,” Eidsdottir said. “It seems like a basic human right to be able to name your child what you want, especially if it doesn’t harm your child in any way.”

“And my daughter loves her name,” she added.



Betting on Kate’s Baby Name

| Baby Names, Famous Names, Name Experts | December 3, 2012

What will it be?  What will it be named?

Paddy Power bookmakers of Ireland were first out of the blocks with prices on royal baby outcomes today. They have made Mary, Victoria and John the joint 8/1 favourite baby names following the announcement that Kate Middleton is pregnant.Next in the running is Diana and Frances at 9/1 with Philip, Anne and Charles all available at 10/1. The current longshots include 80/1 Chelsy, 100/1 Bradley and 250/1 Fergie.Elsewhere, Paddy Power make it an unlikely 6/1 that the child will have ginger hair, with brown the current 13/8 favourite.

Weight wise, the 5/2 favourite is for the new arrival to be born between 7lbs and 7lbs 15oz, while Pippa and Prince Harry are leading the charge to be named godparents ahead of 25/1 David Beckham and 100/1 Victoria Beckham.

A spokesperson for Paddy Power said “There’s very little to choose from between the top ten or so names in the betting. The nation will wait with bated breath on the blighters name – but I’d imagine some of our punters will be paying closer attention than most”

Name of Royal Baby
8/1     Mary
8/1     Victoria
8/1     John
9/1     Diana
9/1     Frances
10/1    Phillip
10/1    Anne
10/1    Charles
10/1    George
12/1    Sarah
14/1    Alice
14/1    Louis
14/1    Richard
16/1    Elizabeth
16/1    Arthur
16/1    Henry
16/1    Edward
16/1    William
16/1    David
16/1    Spencer
16/1    Carole
20/1    Caroline
20/1    Andrew
20/1    Catherine/Kate
20/1    James
20/1    Marie
25/1    Phillippa
25/1    Alexander
33/1    Albert
33/1    Oliver
33/1    Frederick
33/1    Sophia
33/1    Jane
40/1    Patrick
40/1    Fiona
40/1    Christian
50/1    Janet
50/1    Georgiana
66/1    Camilla
80/1    Chelsy
100/1  Wallis
100/1  Bryan
100/1  Bradley
250/1  Fergie

Hair Colour
13/8    Brown
2/1     Black
2/1     Black
6/1     Ginger

Sex of First Child
5/6     Male
5/6     Female

Weight of first child
5/1     Less than 5lbs
7/1     5lbs to 5lbs 15oz
7/2     6lbs to 6lbs 15oz
5/2     7lbs to 7lbs 15oz
3/1     8lbs to 8lbs 15oz
6/1     9lbs to 9lbs 15oz
5/1     10lbs or more

Evens  Prince Harry
3/1     Prince Charles
5/1     Thomas van Straubenzee
6/1     Michael Middleton
8/1     Guy Pelly
10/1    Earl Spencer
12/1    Prince Edward
15/1    Prince Michael of Kent
15/1    Peter Philips
25/1    David Beckham
30/1    Mike Tindell

Evens  Pippa Middelton
2/1     Carole Middelton
8/1     Sophie, Countess of Wessex
8/1     Zara Philips
12/1    Princess Beatrice
12/1    Princess Eugenie
100/1  Victoria Beckham

Monogram it!

| Name Stories, Press | November 8, 2012


Monogrammed gifts, a mainstay for holiday retailers, gets updated for modern living. Elizabeth Holmes reports on Lunch Break. Photo: F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street Journal.

Monogramming, the reliable standby of wedding and baby gift shoppers, is reinventing itself for the holidays.

Retailers are stepping up their personalizing game, offering more objects with new fonts and creative typography to attract a new generation of shoppers. And they are offering more single-letter products to help monogrammed gifts become impulse purchases.

Consumers, meanwhile, are coming up with more ways to be identified, whether it’s their nickname, Twitter handle or home address. “Or the name of their boat,” says Valerie Smith, owner of The Monogram Shop in East Hampton, N.Y.

“The whole idea of monogramming has morphed from something patrician dudes did on their cuffs to ever-more-creative venues,” says designer Jonathan Adler. “People are mad for personalized anything.” Mr. Adler’s home goods assortment includes single-letter needlepoint throw pillows ($110) and monogrammed crystal paperweights ($42.50).

Williams-Sonoma Inc. WSM -1.70% this week is launching Mark and Graham, a home and accessories catalog and e-commerce brand centered around monogramming, with personalization included in the product’s price. Options for people with hyphenated names and couples with different last names include two-letter monogrammed napkins (four for $45).

Gift site RedEnvelope this season has added personalization options for blended families and same-sex couples, including a customizable family drawing with different combinations of adults and children (starting at $79.95).

Specialty brands like C. Wonder are stocking shelves full of “pre-monogrammed” gifts that boast a single letter, improving last-minute shopping odds.

Retailers are hoping monogrammed merchandise will sell well this holiday season. The average U.S. shopper plans to spend some $550 on gifts this holiday, or nearly three quarters of his or her total holiday budget of $750, according to the National Retail Federation. Individuals’ spending on gifts is expected to increase by more than 6% this year, outpacing the expected 4% rise in holiday spending overall.

Monogramming, though, can be a shopping turnoff. It usually means an additional charge, a week or more of delay in delivery and very little option to return or exchange. The process also challenges retailers because it requires specialized machinery or skilled handwork to emblazon the moniker on the merchandise.

F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street Journal; Stying by Ann CardenasLeather wallet from Mark and Graham ($79) is suitable for Dylan, Diane, Mr. and Mrs. Davis, and virtually every other dude and dudette.

But monograms have strong psychological appeal, retailers and shoppers say. A monogram suggests that time and thought went into selecting this present. “There’s just this higher perceived value,” says Kevin Rooney, vice president of merchandising for RedEnvelope, owned Provide Commerce. “It’s a nicer gift.”

While a traditional monogram is three letters interlocking to form a single symbol, shoppers now consider any arrangement of initials, including a single letter, to be a monogram, Mr. Rooney says.

When a full name or motto goes on an item, RedEnvelope considers it “personalization.” “Customization” is when the item has personal text plus other features, such as the brand’s “pet silhouette” wall art, a print available in several sizes and colors, and 20 pet shapes. Buyers add the pet’s name and a message.

“It used to be that you bought the gift and you’d put something else in the card,” Mr. Rooney says. “Now things are actually moving onto the gift itself.”

Monogrammed items have renewed purpose in the digital culture. “There’s so much technology and yet we crave typography,” says Laura Alber, Williams-Sonoma Inc. chief executive. “We crave things that are sentimental to us.”

Mark and Graham, aiming to feel nostalgic yet also keep up with the times, set out to address modern family types and name combinations, whether it’s a married woman who doesn’t use her husband’s surname or a same-sex couple.

“We really wanted to play the idea of monogramming forward,” says Marta Benson, senior vice president of strategy and business development at the parent company, who oversaw the brand’s creation.

A section on monogramming etiquette on Mark and Graham’s website suggests the two-letter monogram is appropriate for couples with different last names, one letter for each name. There are 10 ways to pair the letters, whether with a plus sign, an ampersand or intertwined.

The brand offers dozens of fonts and monogram styles, and techniques from embroidery to laser-engraving to sandblasting. Most of the catalog’s 500-plus items are fairly simple in design. The monogram is meant to be the focus—and change the personality of the product, Ms. Benson says.

The script font called “Cezanne” makes a set of brass coasters “really romantic,” says Ms. Benson. Meanwhile, a block font used in a three-letter diamond-shaped monogram in the “Duke” font makes the same item feel “very masculine.”

Some products have space for an entire word or two, which the brand hopes will lead customers to more “irreverent” options. A water carafe might say “sparkling” or “still”; a sleep mask might say “good night.” “You can put your family motto or a key date,” Ms. Benson said. Swear words aren’t allowed.

Addressing the speed challenge, Mark and Graham is using machinery the parent company has in place at a distribution center in Tennessee for its other brands, including Pottery Barn. As a result, Mark and Graham offers standard delivery of five to seven days, with a rush option of two to three days.

Branded products are looking to monograms to keep their appeal fresh. Luxury department store Neiman Marcus now offers personalization on Ugg boots, Toms shoes and Longchamp handbags. For the holidays, the chain set up a “Monogram Shop” on its website, where shoppers can order initials on items like cellphone covers and leather coffee cup sleeves.

Pre-monogramming appeals to shoppers who don’t want to wait. C. Wonder, which launched last fall and now has nine stores, has expanded its pre-monogrammed selection in response to strong consumer response, says President Amy Shecter.

Items pre-monogrammed with a single letter include coffee mugs, jewelry boxes and belt buckles. And pre-monogrammed merchandise can be returned. Although most items are available in every letter of the alphabet, some letters are far more popular than others, the company says. Custom monogramming is also available in all its stores, although only some locations have an embroidery machine on site.

Heidi A. Dooley, a 33-year-old Boston resident, plans to give several of her friends wooden cheese boards from C. Wonder emblazoned with a single letter. “You can just buy a gift for a host or a stocking stuffer with their first or last initials on it,” says the commercial real-estate manager.

She likes monogrammed merchandise and appreciates that she doesn’t have to wait. “When it comes to the holidays, not everyone starts their shopping on Dec. 1,” Ms. Dooley says. “I don’t have three weeks for it to be made.”


Did you unwittingly name your baby after a hurricane?

| Baby Names, How I got my name, Name Experts, Name Stories | September 27, 2012

Hurricanes. They destroy homes and take lives. They cost billions of dollars in damage. And they force our hands in the assigning of names to our offspring. Wait, what was that last part?

Yes, according to a recently published study in Psychological Science, hurricanes names can boost the popularity of corresponding baby names. Well, sort of. It’s complicated.

The study – which additionally examined overall changes in frequency of baby names in the United States during the past century – didn’t just looks at hurricane names, it also considered names with shared units of sound, or phonemes. Because, as it turns out, names with shared phonemes affect each other’s popularity. If the name Jacob is having a good year, for instance, this may bode well for names like Jason and James in upcoming years, and vice versa. The more phonemes two names have in common, the more their usage rises and falls in unison.*

Image: ariel design.

Fine, fine. Sometimes J names are popular and other times it’s K names or D names or whatever. But what does this have to do with hurricanes? Well, the authors of the study attribute the correlation in popularity of sound-alike names to a psychological phenomenon called the mere-exposure effect. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It’s one of a long list of cognitive biases that cause our species to think and do things that aren’t especially logical. The mere-exposure effect is the tendency for people to look more favorably on the familiar. Simply being exposed enough times to a sound or word or image renders it more likable. (As you can imagine, this is the basis for plenty of advertising campaigns.) So a predominance of names with a particular phoneme makes that phoneme more common, which makes it sound more pleasing, which makes us more likely to select names containing that phoneme when tasked with the naming a of child. For the most part, this just means that sound-alike names increase in popularity together until we hear them so much that they become tedious and we turn our attention to some less overused phoneme.

But hurricanes are also given human names, which come from a rotating set of listsmaintained by the World Meteorological Organization (six lists in all for Atlantic tropical storms). If a hurricane is destructive enough to spend weeks or months in the news, we’re bombarded not just by its wind gusts and rain but also by its phonemes. These sounds become familiar, even pleasing. See where this is going?

By sifting through the use frequency of thousands of baby names and about sixty years of storm data, researchers found that in years following prominent (i.e., costly) hurricanes, while use of the specific name of the hurricane might take a dive due to negative associations (Katrina dropped over a hundred spots on the top 1000 list after its stormy namesake ravaged the southeastern U.S.) phonemically similar names experience a boost in popularity. The study reported a 9% increase in the frequency of names beginning with a K bestowed upon babies following Hurricane Katrina.

Of course, weather isn’t the only factor impacting name choice. Celebrities, movies, pop songs and other assorted media can also contribute to the fashionability of certain names. But those variables will have to wait their turn for some future investigation.

It might interest you to know that the authors of the study do not operate out of their university’s psychology department, but rather its business school. Their goal is to uncover patterns that predict the path of cultural evolution, which could in turn predict which products will succeed and which will fail. They don’t really care what you name your baby, they’re more interested in how the popularity of the iPad will affect iPhone, or possibly the number of people dining at IHOP. Business stuff. Baby names just make a good experimental model for examining how trends change, because – unlike products that can be more or less well designed and promoted – names are theoretically neutral in value. Whatever your personal tastes may be, there’s nothing inherently superior about the names Isabella and Jayden (the 2011 chart toppers for New York City’s fashion forward babies), and no company earns royalties if a particular name dominates birth certificates.

But that shouldn’t stop you from having a philosophical crisis and questioning the existence of free will. If hurricanes are naming our children, what other “decisions” might be swayed by forces beyond our control? And don’t forget that this stormy manipulation of monikers affects more than just babies. Our pets, boats, and fictional characters need names too. Perhaps it’s best not to leave these important decisions to our faulty, cognitively biased human brains. Naming is clearly a job for computers. Which is why, should I someday decide to adopt a cat or dog, I will be christening it using this random name generator I found on the internet. It lets you set the level of obscurity, and even gives you last names. “Here, Marcellus Macvicar, dinnertime!”

* The effect was much stronger in the first phonemes of names than subsequent ones. Which means that the popularity of “Jason” may affect that of “Jacob”, but it won’t do much for “Allison”.

 If you want to play along at home, here’s the U.S. Social Security database that I’m using.

 By the way, as more and more people finish their copy of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, you should brace yourself for a continuing deluge of articles explaining how thoroughly irrational we all are.

In the Presidential Name Game, Keep it Quirky

| Famous Names, Name Experts, Name Stories | September 14, 2012

If you want your child in the White House, for heaven’s sake don’t name him David.


Charles, David, Joseph, Michael and Robert are five of the 10 most common male first names in the United States. But none of the 43 men who have been president has borne one of them as a first name (although David was Dwight Eisenhower’s middle name).

We have had presidents, however, with such uncommon first names as Warren, Zachary, Chester and Lyndon. We have even had presidents with even more rarefied first names, such as Millard and Rutherford. We have had two presidents with the uncommon first name Franklin but none with the far more common Frank. And we have had one with a first name, Harry, that is only common as a nickname.

The candidate elected in November will continue the tradition of odd first names, either Barack or Mitt.If Mr. Romney is elected he will be the fourth president to have shed a first name—in his case, the uncommon Willard—and used his middle name instead. The others were Stephen Grover Cleveland, Thomas Woodrow Wilson and John Calvin Coolidge.

To be sure, we’ve elected some commanders in chief with common names. There have been six presidents named James (Madison, Monroe, Polk, Buchanan, Garfield and Carter). Four have been named William (Harrison, McKinley, Taft and Clinton) and four named John (Adams, father and son, Tyler and Kennedy). There have been three Georges (Washington and the two Bushes) and two Andrews (Jackson and Johnson).

But more than half of the presidents (22 in all) have borne presidentially unique first names. That’s odd given that only since World War II have we had some presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy and Obama), who were not of primarily British or Dutch ancestry.

Two presidents have had not one uncommon first name but two. Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant. But when he was appointed to West Point a bureaucratic snafu, which he never bothered to straighten out, listed him as Ulysses S. Grant, the S being short for his mother’s maiden name, Simpson. (It is speculated that Grant rather liked the sound of U.S. Grant, and he was known at West Point as Sam, for Uncle Sam.) Gerald Ford was born Leslie King, for his father, but was given his step-father’s name after his mother remarried when he was 3.

What accounts for the odd distribution of presidential first names? We could compare them to monarchs, but since monarchs are usually related by blood, and families like to repeat names, that doesn’t work. Only two kings of England since the Norman Conquest, Stephen (1135-54) and John (1199-1216)—both disastrously bad monarchs—never had another eponymous king on the throne.

What about vice presidents? We’ve had 47, including five Johns, three Thomases, three Georges, two Daniels, three Richards, two Williams, two Henrys and three Charleses. There’s one Joseph (the incumbent), but still no David, Michael or Robert. In 1984, we had a candidate named Geraldine (Ferarro), a first in American politics. Like our presidents, more than half (24) of our vice presidents have borne a singular first name, including such unusual ones as Elbridge, Adlai, Hubert and Garret. Among the unique vice-presidential names are Hannibal, Schuyler, Levi and Alben.

What about candidates who never quite made it to the White House? Beginning in 1856, with the emergence of the modern two parties, 30 candidates of major parties have lost presidential elections. Four were named John, two were named Alfred (both invariably known by their nicknames, Al Smith and Alf Landon), two were named William, and two James. We also have had a Michael (Dukakis) and a Robert (Dole). But we have had as well a Horatio, a Horace, an Alton, a Wendell and a Barry—which, like Harry, is an uncommon proper name but a common nickname (just ask Barack).

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that men with unusual first names are more likely to make it big in American politics, perhaps because their names, being distinctive, are more easily remembered. So if you want your son or daughter to reach the top of American government, or even come close, give him or her an unusual name. And for heaven’s sake don’t name him David. It’s the sixth most common name in the country, but no U.S. president or vice president has ever had it as a first name. You’d be better off trying Buford or Clementine instead.

Mr. Gordon is the author of “An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power” (HarperCollins, 2004).

Neil Armstrong, a giant name for mankind.

| 2012 Lunar names, Astro Names, Famous Names, Name Stories, Press | August 26, 2012

Man on the Moon

Man on the MoonFirst moonwalker Neil Armstrong’s death at the age of 82 marks the passing of a “reluctant American hero,” as well as the dimming of the Space Age’s brightest moment.

His death followed complications from heart-bypass surgery he underwent this month, Armstrong’s family said today in a statement released by NASA. The first public report of Armstrong’s death came via NBC News’ Cape Canaveral correspondent, Jay Barbree, a longtime friend.

Armstrong has been immortalized in human history as the first human to set foot on a celestial body beyond Earth. “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” he radioed back to Earth from the moon on July 20, 1969.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that “as long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them.”

Armstrong’s fellow moonwalker on the Apollo 11 mission, Buzz Aldrin, was among the legions mourning his passage. “We are missing a great spokesman and leader in the space program,” Aldrin said in a BBC interview. He said he’d remember Armstrong “as being a very capable commander and leader of an achievement that will be recognized until man sets foot on the planet Mars.”

Michael Collins, the crewmate who circled the moon in the Apollo 11 command module while Armstrong and Aldrin took that first trip to the lunar surface, also paid tribute to his commander in a NASA statement: “He was the best, and I will miss him terribly.”

President Barack Obama said that Armstrong and his crew “carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation,” and that the first steps on the moon “delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.”


Hottest Baby Names 2012

| Movie names, Name Experts, Name Stories, Press | July 13, 2012

Written by Pamela Redmond Satran for Nameberry

The hottest baby names 2012 — those attracting the biggest spikes in views on Nameberry for the first six months of this year — are an astonishing group: Highly unusual yet strangely familiar, heavily influenced by pop culture yet boldly individualistic.

The strongest baby name influences right now: “Hunger Games,” “Game of Thrones,” and ancient Rome. Many of the hot names relate to nature and to worlds beyond our own. And most share a transcendence of traditional gender identity, containing elements of names for the opposite gender if not crossing over to unisex territory.

Nameberry’s hottest names so far this year, based on over six million views of our individual name pages, are:


Celebrities Who Became Household Names After They Turned 50

| Name Experts, Name Stories, Press, Uncategorized | May 29, 2012

Everybody has to pay their dues — whether it is in business or the entertainment field — before they make it to the top. In theory. Of course, child actors and (some) reality stars are two exceptions (I won’t name any famous reality stars because I’ll break out in a rash). For the most part, however, hard-working show business types can work for years or even decades before they become a household name. Call them late bloomers. It’s a tough road out there and it takes some longer than others to navigate their way around a few select people in Tinsel Town.

Here are a few high-profile, late-blooming celebrities (past and present) who twisted in the wind for a few years before they became famous and/or eligible for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame:


Wedding Season – Some names better left uncombined?

| Bad names, How I got my name, Name Experts, Name Stories | May 26, 2012

 “What’s in a name?” Shakespeare’s Juliet rhetorically asked, deciding that her beloved Romeo’s surname mattered not.

The couples featured in the slideshow below clearly must have had the same opinion as Juliet. However, while Romeo and Juliet’s surnames only brought them tragedy, the names of these seemingly mismatched pairs are pure comedy.

Click through the following wedding and engagement announcements and vote for the surname wordplay that you think is most hilarious. Did you spot an unfortunate last name online or in your local paper? Let us know in the comments! Via Huffington Post Weddings

Wedding name fails


Page 1 of 41234