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Monday, September 5, 2011

Baby Name to Consider: Tolliver

In a book I'm reading, a character named Tolliver is briefly mentioned. This name seems to me to have huge potential, and yet it's extremely rare in the U.S.: not even five babies were given the name in 2010. (The Social Security Administration gives out name data only for names given to five or more babies; Tolliver is not in their database, so it could have been given to one, two, three, or four babies---or to no babies at all.)

Periodically we have a parent mention that they like the name Oliver but the other parent doesn't like it, or they don't like the nickname Ollie, or they don't like the orphan/cat association, or it's way too common. Tolliver has the potential to solve any of those four problems, as well as solving any problem where the initial O would be difficult but the initial T would not. For parents looking for a highly-unusual-but-not-weird-or-made-up name (a common request here), Tolliver feels familiar despite its rarity because of the popularity of Oliver. And it's an old established surname name, so it fits in there as well---and would be especially perfect for a family with Tollivers in their family tree.

As to whether it might cause confusion to have Tollivers mixing with Olivers, I think a very close comparison study would be Madelines and Adelines. Probably there is the occasional confusion---but not enough to mean only one of those names can be used.

Mull it over a bit, say it out loud a few times, picture it on some real people of various ages, and then let's have a poll over to the right to see what we think of it. [Poll closed; see results below.]


Poll results (295 votes total):

I love it! I'd use it! - 14 votes (5%)
I like it! I'd consider it! - 31 votes (11%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 92 votes (31%)
No particular opinion - 26 votes (9%)
Slight dislike - 85 votes (29%)
Strong dislike - 47 votes (16%)

21 comments:

Leah said...

The nickname Tolly seems super familiar for me, because one of my favorite book series as a child was the Green Knowe series (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Knowe) which had a character nicknamed Tolly. His full name was Toseland which was a long-standing family name, and one of the side characters made me want to name a baby Linnet, which I still love though I never got the chance to use it.

Meg said...

I love Oliver but I'm not digging Tolliver at all. My reasons seem to be two-fold. I'm not a fan of made up names and to me, Tolliver sounds and looks like a made up name. I also don't like the heaviness in the beginning without something to offset it in the middle or end (unless I'm pronouncing it wrong TAHL-eh-ver?). I picture a teeter-totter that constantly sits on one side.

Allison said...

It's not a name that's to my own tastes (neither is Oliver), but I agree that it works as a name and I'm surprised it isn't used more. It doesn't seem any more made-up than other surname names (Sawyer, Miller, etc.).

StephLove said...

I'm pretty sure I once had a student named Tolliver. At any rate, I've encountered it somewhere other than name forums, so it does seem like a real name to me.

Emilia said...

I like it, not because of it's proximity to Oliver but because it is so similar in feel to Sullivan. They're both clearly masculine, sophisticated, and have the potential for very cute nicknames. In fact, Sullivan and Tolliver might make a really adorable twin set. Sully and Tolly or Sully and Ollie. I don't know if I like Tolliver enough to use it myself, but I would definitely have a positive reaction if someone else used it.

Anonymous said...

There is a former Marine named Tyler Toliver who is a pretty well-known singer in the military circle, and as a military wife I immediately thought of him. But it's a good association to me, and not one I assume many others outside of the military world would pick up on (unless Tyler becomes more famous, which he hopefully will!).

As a first name, I like everything about Tolliver in theory, but for me it's a little like using Alivia or Emilia.... If you're going for Olivia or Amelia, why would you not just do it? That's the sort of naming style (the "made up" differences people do to be more "different") that is a pet peeve of mine. BUT! If someone introduced their little baby Tolliver and explained that they got the name from a novel they'd read, I think I'd be less inclined to be put off by the
change. I know that's a weird line to draw in the sand, but I REALLY don't like inexplicable changes to perfectly good names just for the sake of being unique. But that's just me!

Frazzled Mom said...

The only reason the name isn't used more often is probably because of lack of familiarity among the general public. But Tolliver has the qualities making it ripe for discovery as Swistle mentioned. I wouldn't be surprised, especially if the name gets used in a movie or song, if it suddenly takes off.

Anonymous said...

I think the Madeline-Adeline analogy is a good one. It's not a kre8ive spelling or a made-up name or a change to the name Oliver to make it fakely less common, it's a different name from a different source.

Magic27 said...

First off, can I thank Leah for bringing up "Green Knowe", a series of books I adored as a child and the name of which I've been trying to dredge up from the recesses of my memory for years? I, too, wanted to call my elder daughter Linnet, but my (now) ex hated that, so it was out.
Also, isn't one of the heroes of the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin called Michael Tolliver?
It seems as much like a name as many other surnames-used-as-first-names, but I'm not a fan of that trend (particularly when they're used for girls). I DO like Oliver, though, and always have... Here in France, the French version ("Olivier") is the same word as "olive tree", which would have put me off if I had had a boy.

Jane said...

A note about name differences like Amelia/Emilia. The name Amelia and Emilia are completely different names to me, and I really like Emilia (but not Amelia) because it is the name of a character in Shakespeare's Othello (one of the greatest characters in that play, in fact). Spelling the name Amelia simply because it seems more traditional just would not have the same connection. Tolliver has a number of potential sources and a history independent of Oliver.

Anonymous said...

You know the author of the 'True Blood' books, Charlaine Harris? Her other hit series about a clairvoyant has a hero called Tolliver - so yes, I think this name is probably going to take off. 'Oliver' has been sitting at #1 in the UK for a while and it's certainly rising rapidly with the hipster crowd over here; I can see Tolliver as the hip alternative, as Braden was once a 'fresh' alternative for Aidan.

Anonymous said...

I like it. It's not like we're saying "Oh, let's add random letters to change a popular name! Broliver! Koliver!" It's an actual name that happens to resemble a currently-popular name.

the post girl in dc said...

Tolliver was a name used on Deadwood, and they were historically accurate about the weirdest things, but names I'm pretty sure they kept to the period. So I don't think it's made up and it's pronounced just like Oliver, just with a T at the beginning.

Angela said...

I'm not a fan of Tolliver. Reminds me of Toll Roads, which I loathe! I could see it on a kid though, and it could grow on me I'm sure.

I do like Oliver though.

Patricia said...

Tolliver DOES sound made up, but according to Nameberry it's a tradesman name: "Origin of Tolliver: English occupational name, "metalworker"". Yet Tolliver lacks the history and first name authenticity of Oliver which has been in more or less continuous use since the Middle Ages. To me, Tolliver sounds like Oliver with a T in front of it, similar to the creation or Raiden: R+Aiden.

Anonymous said...

Tolliver reminds me of Oliver Tolliver, a dog, the main character, in Mary Ann Hoberman's children's book "One of Each".

Karen L said...

I'd never heard of Tolliver or Toliver as surnames or given names, so, if I met a Tolliver, I would assume his parents modified Oliver to avoid its trendiness (revival/however you want to characterise it).

I'm voting "no particular opinion," though I considered "slight dislike."

Anonymous said...

I also agree that my first thought would be that it was a made up name, or an obscure surname that the parents were adopting as a first name.

This might be a random thought, but I also think it would sound like a horrible nickname or tease if the child was actually really really tall, or even worse, short (as in: not-so-tolliver)

Over the Rainbow said...

I went to school with a female Tollie and always liked the name. I don't know that it's one I'd use, but I'd like it on someone else's child. It doesn't sound made-up to me.

Slim said...

I immediately thought of one of those insider pronunciation tests (How do you pronounce Botetourt? and such).

Patricia's comment was getting at this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taliaferro

Anonymous said...

I don't like it.