Early in the week of the Oscars, Natalie Portman released a statement saying she wouldn’t be attending either the big show or the Independent Spirit Awards, ‘on doctor’s orders’. Turns out that was because her daughter arrived on February 22nd, and I swear up and down that she would have felt nothing but relief. Perhaps there’s an argument that says wearing stilettos while TEN months pregnant would be worth it if you were winning an Oscar – but maybe only if it was your first, and definitely, certainly no chance it would be worth it if you knew you weren’t going to win.
Instead she waited a little over a week to announce her daughter’s name -- Amalia. I have to admit, this surprised me more than a little, in a few ways. When Portman and Benjamin Millepied named their son Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, it seemed pointedly ‘uncommon’, almost a throwback celebrity baby name in its rareness, especially compared to some of her contemporaries, who were much more ‘regular’ in choosing names like Oliver and Wyatt. I did and do like Aleph, but it was clearly meant to be singular… and/or first, since ‘Aleph’ is the same letter in the Hebrew alphabet.
Amalia is different. Though it shares some sounds and style with Aleph, it’s much more accessible. Not common or popular, exactly, but familiar. Even though it was way down at #828 on the popularity lists in 2015, it’s basically a look-alike of Amelia, which is in or near the top 10.
I would have thought that familiarity would put the Portman-Millepieds off the name given the precedent of Aleph…and because, as my friend T opined, “It’s going to be forever misspelled as ‘Amelia’”.
Well…maybe not. This is Natalie Portman we’re talking about, do you want to be the one to misspell her kid’s name on a birthday invitation? Still, chances are high that there will be Amelias in her preschool class someday, and she may well be the start of a probably-overdue Amalia trend.
If she does start to feel like it’s too familiar (even though that hang-up is clearly mine and not Natalie Portman’s), some Amalias go by Lia. But to me, the even cooler nickname is Malia… which, now that I think about it, may actually have been a back-door trendsetter for Amelia, if people didn’t want to look like they were imitating the Obamas.
Amalia. Fits in, stands out. Uncommon, not unheard of. Rest assured, I know Natalie Portman is not sitting around waiting for my name approval, but I’m surprised to say I have no reservations giving it.