October 23 – Happy Birthday, Ireland Basinger-Baldwin

Posted October 23, 2018

Once upon a time (in 1995), a baby girl was born in LA, in Southern California. Her parents were both superstar actors, and her relatives included the über-famous Baldwin family, and her father's ancestors included someone who came over to the U.S. waaaaaaaayyyyyyy back when, on the Mayflower.

Ireland Basinger-Baldwin
This baby girl was destined to have problems in her life, but of course she would have a super easy life in some important ways. She grew up to become (so far) a model and actor.

But I don't want to get into any more particulars about Ireland Basinger-Baldwin. Instead, I want to talk about being named for a country!

Names are funny things. Some are just sounds - sounds that sound cool or different or name-like but still unique. I think that Beyoncé, which the famous singer's mom chose in a tribute to her own maiden name, Beyincé, is a pretty perfect name invention. It sounds like a name, but at the time of the singer's birth, it was unique. 

Many names have meanings, often in other languages. Some examples are of first names with meanings include Aaron, which means "lofty" or "exalted" in Hebrew, and Prince. Last names that have meanings include Cooper, which means barrel maker, and Brown.

Gosh, who wouldn't want to name
their child after a gorgeous mountain?
Many last names (also known as surnames or family names) become first names. That's what happened with the name Whitney and Wyatt. But, to confuse matters, many places are dubbed with last names - like Mount Whitney being named after geologist Josiah Whitney - and then, when those names become first names, we wonder if the inspiration was the place or the last name itself. For example, the city of Austin, Texas, was named after the "Father of Texas," Stephen F. Austin. Now Austin is a pretty popular first name.

Lots of countries are named for people, such as Bolivia (named for "liberator" Simón Bolívar) and Saint Lucia and the United States of America (two continents and a nation have been named after explorer and mapmaker Amerigo Vespucci). Some city names are pretty common as first names (in addition to Austin, there's Paris, Brooklyn, Savannah, and many more), and some state names are used as first names (Georgia, Virginia, Dakota, etc.). Naturally, there are also some country names that are used as first names.

Jordan, Chad, and Israel may be the most common first names that are also country names. Famous people whose names are country names include, in addition to Ireland, musician India.Arie (who was born India Arie Simpson) and actor America Ferrara. France and Kenya and Zaire are sometimes (but rarely) used as first names. 
America Ferrara
I wonder if we will ever see a baby named Morocco or Italy, Latvia or Belize, Argentina or Malawi? They may exist already, tucked away in some corner of the world.

News Flash!

I never knew that some nations are super controlling about names people give their babies. I mean, isn't it weird that Morocco insists that names given to babies must be "Moroccan in nature"? That means, for example, nobody named Sarah (although Sara is fine). Luckily, in 2010 the rule that Moroccan names must be Arabic was expanded a wee bit, and parents can now name their children Berber or Amazigh names. (I guess "Moroccan" itself expanded to more diversity?)
I find it kind of scary that the nation is so controlling about names. But Morocco is not alone. Portugal doesn't allow names they consider nicknames on birth certificates, and laws that names have to be traditionally Portuguese and cannot be unisex are still on the books. Malaysia doesn't allow names from animals, fruits, or vegetables. Mexico bans names that the nation considers might cause bullying, including Hermione and Lady Di; Portugal has a 40-something-page list of banned names, including Mona Lisa. 

The things that most shocked me were: (1) New Zealand bans names that "could cause offense to a reasonable person" - but that has been interpreted to include Duke, Prince, King, Major, etc. (2) Iceland has a naming committee that keeps an official list of approved given names, and it decides if a new name is "acceptable." And (3) Germany is far more controlling than I would have dreamed. The rules include no surname names, no names of objects or products, and - very much worst of all - all names must be gender specific! Yikes, Germany! Whyyyyyy????

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