Place names as people names

Place names seem to have become very popular as people names in the last ten years or so. And like with all trends, it seems as though most people using place names nowadays are only doing it because they’re trendy, not because they have any kind of personal connection to the names.

Some of these names were people names before they were place names, like Virginia, Georgia, and Charlotte. Other names could go either way, without anyone necessarily assuming the parents named the child after a place, like Austin or Savannah. Other place names have been established as people names for long enough that they don’t seem particularly trendoid or soon to be dated, like India and Sydney. (Providing, of course, that you spell them correctly.)

A lot of the really popular place names in recent years, though, don’t really have a long history of being used for people. London, Boston, Trenton, Camden, Brooklyn, Paris for a girl, Cheyenne, Dakota, Aspen, Montana, Ireland, Dallas, Houston, Hudson, Jersey, Memphis, you get the idea. Often these names are misspelt in all sorts of ways, and many people even act surprised when asked if they chose the name because of the place.

Some of my fellow name nerds may disagree, but I personally don’t have a problem with less-traditional place names as people names if the place has a really special meaning to the parents, or if it’s a beautiful place and/or sounds like a name. For example, Vienna, Odessa, Caledonia, Verona, Sahara, Anatolia.

One of my least-favourite Top 100 names is Brooklyn, in all its myriad of misspellings. I’m far from the only person who seriously doubts the majority of people using this name have even been to Brooklyn. I don’t think it’s a bad place, but it’s not exactly the most beautiful place in the world! A name like Vienna or India conjures up beautiful images rich with history. Brooklyn just conjures up one of the Five Boroughs.

Other inexplicably trendoid names are Camden and Trenton. Who wants to visit either of those cities, or thinks they’re beautiful, cultured places? I’m also told that the vast majority of British people would never even think of naming their children London, just as the name Ireland would get lots of laughs and strange looks in Ireland.

Randomly picking a name from an atlas or map is not a sound strategy for naming a human being. Also, you need to think of how a name will age, or how it sounds paired with a middle and last name. I honestly can’t picture names like Alaska, Italy, Boston, or Sudan as anything but standalone names. Oh, and Paris is a historically male name.

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