Photo by Jessica Miglio/HBO/Everett Collection
By Linda Rosenkrantz
The HBO show Girls is back, and whether you love it, hate it, or couldn’t care less, you’ve got to admit that it has probably the most interesting, eccentric, original roster of character and cast member names ever seen on TV.
First of all there are the four main characters, who each just happens to have a strikingly alliterative name: Hannah Helene Horvath, Jessa Johansson, Marnie Marie Michaels, and Shoshanna Shapiro, played by actresses named Lena, Jemima, Allison and Zosia. And guys named Adam and Ray and Elijah played by Adam and Alex and Andrew.
Photo by Craig Blankenhor/HBO/Everett Collection
OK, so most of those are fairly normal—Hannah a classic biblical name, Jessa an offshoot of Jessica, and Marnie a somewhat retro 70s name that fell off the popularity list in 1977, but may see something of a revival thanks to the Girls character and to the fact that it was recently picked for her daughter by singer Lily Allen (mother also of Ethel).
But then we also have:
Shoshanna. Shoshanna is the Hebrew parent name of Susannah, meaning both or either lily and/or rose. Well used in the Jewish community, its appearance on this show, with its friendly nicknames like Shosh, might extend its usage.
Zosia. This is a Polish diminutive of Zofia, variant of the Greek Sophia, that was given to his actress daughter by playwright David Mamet. Her middle name is Russell, after maternal grandfather Russel Crouse, an eminent Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.
Photo by Craig Blankenhor/HBO/Everett Collection
Jemima. British-born Jemima Kirke bears a name that is far more frequently heard in the UK than in the US, due its unfortunately lingering Aunt Jemima associations. Kirke has sisters named Lola and Domino, a daughter name Rafaella Israel and a son named Memphis.
It becomes even more interesting when we get to secondary characters and their portrayers, such as these:
Beatrix. Beatrix Lavoyt is one of the kids Jessa babysits. Her sister’s name is Lola, showing that the writers are well aware of what Brooklyn hipsters might name their daughters. Beatrix has not hit the national pop list, but is Number 140 on Nameberry.
Booth. Booth Jonathan (which sounds like a name reversal) is a conceptual artist Marnie meets at her gallery job and has a brief fling with. His name is about as preppy as a surname name can be, associated in the past with writer Booth Tarkington (born Newton Booth).
Desi. Desi is Adam’s acting partner and Marnie’s bandmate. It’s never explained whether his name is a short form of Desiderio (as in Lucy’s husband), Desmond, or just plain Desi.
Clementine. Clementine, played by Natalie Morales, is the girlfriend of Desi. The aristocratic name of the wife of Winston Churchill, Clementine is a great Nameberry fave—even though it doesn’t even appear on the Social Security Top 1000. Ethan Hawke, Claudia Schiffer and Rachel Griffiths have all chosen it for their daughters.
Jasper. Jasper is Jessa’s older manic friend from rehab, who follows her to New York. The name Jasper, thanks in part to the Twilight franchise, has been a recent success story, climbing up to Number 248 nationally, and an astounding Number 8 on Nameberry.
Dot. Dot is the daughter of Jasper, with whom she reconnects in one episode, and is played by Oscar hopeful Felicity Jones. Dot is an adorable Dorothy nickname cum middle name—if you can ignore the dot.com connection.
Laird. Laird is Hannah’s neighbor, a recovering addict. The Scottish word for lord, Laird is rarely heard in the US, though Sharon Stone did use it for one of her sons.
Soojin. Soojin is Marnie’s art gallerist friend who hires her as an assistant. Spelled Soo-jin or Su-jin, this is a Korean name with several meanings that was a Top 5 name in South Korea in the 1980s.
And other cast members:
Ebon. Ebon Moss-Bachrach plays Desi, an acting cast mate of Adam’s and a musician in Marnie’s band. Ebon is a fairly obscure Hebrew boys’ name—Eban and Eben are far more familiar.
Jorma. Jorma Taccone, who plays Booth Jonathan, was named after Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen. He has been quoted as saying, “I grew up in Berkeley and my parents were hippies, obviously, since my name is Jorma.” Jorma is the Finnish version of Jeremiah.
Sakina. Sakina Jaffrey, daughter of noted Indian actress and food writer Madhur Jaffrey, appears in one episode as a gynecologist. Her name relates to the Arabic word Sakinah, meaning peace and serenity.
Shiri. Shiri Appleby plays Adam’s ex-girlfriend Natalia. Appleby has an Israeli-born mother, and her name means “song of mine” in Hebrew.
Zuzanna. Polish-born Zuzanna Szadkowski, known for her role in Gossip Girl, has sometimes gone by the simpler name Susan. But we love the Slavic Zuzanna (nn Zuzu)—which takes us back around to Shoshanna!