Like, 100 Totally Amazing Hipster Baby Names, Really!

This article by Michele Zipp from The Stir seems like it might be fun. (I’m always looking for fun, funny or charming articles about baby names to share with my readers.) Unfortunately, she forgot to mention what hipster names are. After staring at the list for a while I could see they were names associated with books, comics, entertainers, ballplayers and a variety of famous people (fictional or real) from the 40s and 50s. And in the process of identifying the people associated with each name, while writing this article, I realized how entertaining it might be if I identified some of the names and let you identify some, too.

On the girls’ list I found: Lana (Turner), Edie (Gorme), Stella (Kowalski, from “A Streetcar Named Desire) and Everly (an homage to the group I used to call The Everly Sisters because the brothers had such high-pitched voices) and (Little) Lulu. Here are some other girls’ names without any identifying last name or reference: Daisy, Pearl, Violet, Juniper, Wren, Evie, Piper, and Clementine. Did you figure out who they refer to?

On the boys’ list I found: Holden (Caulfield, from The Catcher in the Rye) Milo (Minderbinder from Catch 22), Atticus (Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird) Otis (Redding) and Roscoe (one of the great all-time New York R ‘n R DeeJays). Here are some other names without any identifying last names or references: Jasper, Duke, Miller, Sanford, Elvis, Arlo, Calvin and Hudson. Did you figure those out, too?

Now that I realize how much fun Michelle Zipps’ like, “100 Totally Amazing Hipster Baby Names” really are, I’ve provided a link so you can find the whole list and I challenge you to figure out why Michelle put each of those names on her list.

The Evolution of Nicknames: How John Became Jack, Margaret Became Peg, Henry Became Hank, and More

Linda Rosenkrantz of Nameberry.com has written a fascinating article that explains the evolution of nicknames. It’s must reading for anyone with the slightest interest in nicknames. Here’s a very brief sample of some of Linda’s fascinating facts:

From Henry to Hank: The Dutch form of Henry is Henryk, which was shortened to Henk. The “e” was changed to an “a” which produced Hank.

From Richard to Dick: Richard used to be pronounced Rickard, which was shortened to Rick; Dick is a rhyming cousin. “R” is hard for young children to say, which made Dick the more popular nickname.

From Margaret to Peg: The “a” in Margaret was switched to an “e” which produced Meg. Peg is a rhyming cousin (and Peg is easier for young children to pronounce than Meg).

From John to Jack: Once upon a time, John was pronounced Jen. Adding the Norman pet form “kin” produced Jenkin—which morphed into Janken, then Jackin, then Jack.

From Sarah to Sally: Because “r” is harder for young children to pronounce than “l,” younger siblings found it easier to call Sarah Sally.

From Francis to Frank: Adding the Norman pet form “kin” produced Frankin, which was shortened to Frank.

From Barbara to Babs: The Normans introduced the “r” sound when they invaded England, which the Brits dropped in nicknames.

From Charles to Chuck: The Middle English term of endearment, Chukken, imitates the clucking sound–so the short form of Chukken (Chuck) worked well as a nickname for Charles.

From James to Jim: In Scotland, James was pronounced Jeames, the pet form of which was Jem, which ultimately morphed into Jim.

Linda’s article is a gem (which rhymes with Jem). I hope these tidbits convince you to read the original article by clicking on the link.

What Are the Coolest Names for Boys and Girls? Visit Ranker.com and Find Out

I started thinking about “cool” names while visiting a website I’d never seen before—to find out if I wanted to “follow” their blog posts on Twitter. (I did.) But when I clicked on their lists of “Cool Boys’ Names” and “Cool Girls’ Names,” I realized the names they listed were more often blah, dated or clunky than cool. I went to another website that seemed to have hundreds or thousands of cool names. If I showed all those names to a representative sample of parents, and gave them a choice of: Forgettable, Pedestrian, OK, Pretty Good, Very Good, and Cool, I wonder if more than 5% to 10% of their list would be rated “Cool.”

This made me wonder what makes a name “cool.” So I started listing qualities that might describe cool men and women:

Strong, sharp, clever, charming, stylish, athletic, courageous, resourceful, resilient, confident, attractive, effective, likeable, humorous, sassy, spunky, and original men and women who have the ability to keep their cool when everyone else is losing theirs. Of course, whether male or female–cool people are “good guys.” (Bullies and “mean girls” aren’t remotely cool.)

When I started looking for names I thought were cool on the lists I found, I realized many of the names that seemed cool to me were fairly informal. For some reason, formal names didn’t come across to me as cool. And it helped if the names were “fresh.” Ace might have been a cool name during WWI and WWII (signifying “ace” fighter pilots like Manfred von Richtofen, the Red Baron), but now it’s often used sarcastically as a term of derision (meaning not an Ace).

When you think about “cool” movie heroes over the years (like Humphrey Bogart’s “Rick” in “Casablanca” and “Sam Spade” in “Maltese Falcon,” Sean Connery’s “James Bond,”  Harrison Ford’s “Indiana Jones,” Sandra Bullock’s “Gracie Hart” in “Miss Congeniality,” and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”) they all knew how to get what they want with wit, style charm, confidence, resilience, toughness (when needed) and a sense of humor. Spade, Bond and Indiana Jones were famous for their self-confidence as expressed in the wisecracks they used to charm women and throw their enemies off balance. Gracie Hart was more vulnerable, and (for that reason) more endearing, but she could solve “problems” with her fists, if needed. Mr. and Mrs. Smith were equally resourceful, tough and resilient.

Having “defined” cool men and women, here’s another way to think about it: If Sam Spade, James Bond, Indiana Jones, Sandra Bullock, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith had kids, what cool names would they pick for their cool kids?

What follows is a very short list of boys’ and girls’ names that (initially) strike me as cool.:

Cool Boys Names: Beckham, Boone, Channing, Chase, Cruz, Dash, Finn, Frisco, Hudson, Hunter, Forrest, Kobe, Lennox, Matteo, Reno, Rio, Ryder, Taj, Trey, Wyatt

Cool Girls’ Names: Amelia, Annika, Catalina, Cleo, Darcy, Delaney, Dixie, Elena, Everly, Gianna, Harley, Lola, Maya, Paz, Sasha, Saki, Shay, Siena, Skyler, Starr

I’m planning to list these names on our Ranker website to find out which names you think are cool. Here are the links to Cool Names on Ranker.com:

Cool Names for Girls: http://www.ranker.com/list/cool-names-for-girls/baby-name-news

Cool Names for Boys: http://www.ranker.com/list/cool-names-for-boys/baby-name-news

I hope you’ll visit Ranker so you can add names you think are cool to the lists; and re-rank the lists (by putting the names you like first and the names you don’t like last).

P.S. I uploaded about 30 boys’ names and 30 girls’ names I thought might be cool on Ranker.com. (Some of the names I had found on several lists of “cool names” online; some of the names I found while scanning the SSA top-1,000 list looking for likely options. Very early returns confirm my initial skepticism. It’s very hard to find names people think are cool. Very few of the names have more positive “votes” than negative “votes.” Take a look and register your opinions. If you’re looking for “cool names,” I think I’ve found some.

You Named Me…What? The GQ Guide to Naming Your Baby

If you’re interested in reading a bare-knuckles introduction to baby naming, I strongly recommend Drew Magary’s article that ran in GQ a few months ago. If you missed it, you’re in for a treat. Jump right in, here’s the intro:

If name is destiny (Destynee?), then judging from the dumb-ass, intentionally misspelled, needlessly apostrophe’d names we Americans are giving our kids nowadays—Jaxxon, Branlee, Scot’t—we’re raising a generation of meth heads. What can be done to stop this? Presenting GQ’s rules for naming a baby in the worst baby-naming era in human history.

Congratulations, your wife/girlfriend/au pair is pregnant! A little bundle of colicky delight awaits you mere months from now. And one of the great joys of this period of anticipation is brainstorming all kinds of kick-ass names for your offspring.

But be warned: The power that comes with naming a child can be both intimidating and addictive, and we are currently in the throes of a child-naming crisis here in America. Seemingly rational people are naming their kids Baylynn, and Daxx, and Nirvana. Ethans are becoming Aythans. Marys are becoming Jazzmins. Wannabe elitist parents keep trying to one-up each other, as if a uniquely horrible name serves as some kind of guarantee against little Aston Martin growing up to be merely ordinary. Soon we’ll be staring down an army of Apples, and the entire country will collapse upon itself. Each of us will get only a few opportunities (or if you’re Antonio Cromartie, two dozen) to help in the fight against this encroaching apocalypse, so when your turn comes, please do your part by following a few simple rules.

If you want to read the rest of Drew Magary’s guide to baby naming, click on these words. It’s not on the newsstand any more, so I’m making this article available as a public service (and because I agree with Drew’s POV: baby names are becoming Dumber and Dumberer.)

Laura Wattenberg’s “Magic” Formula Is a Sensible Approach to Screening Names

Today I’m writing to praise an idea from Laura Wattenberg, of Baby Name Wizard fame, who has come up with a “Magic” mathematical formula to find names that are both timeless  (because have a “long and steady usage history”) and fresh (because they currently have an above-average popularity ranking in comparison to their average historical popularity ranking ). This mathematical model makes a good deal of sense, although calling this statistical approach to screening baby names “magic” and/or “alchemy” goes a little too far.

But I have to hand it to Laura Wattenberg: when her “Magic 40” names (that were popular 40 years ago in 1972) are compared with a “Control Group” that were equally popular in 1972 but were not selected with the “Magic” formula) many of the “Magic 40” names seem fresher in comparison with  the equally popular “Control Group” names. (I’d swap Diana for Veronica in a heartbeat and I like both Christine and Elizabeth.) What do you think?

“Magic 40 Names                  “Control Group Names

Rebecca                                     Mary

Christine                                   Elizabeth

Maria                                          Stacy

Rachel                                        Stacey

Amanda                                     Leslie

Veronica                                    Diana

Victoria                                      Valerie

Sara                                             Laurie

Now that I’ve praised Wattenberg’s approach as sensible, I have an admission: when I looked at her list of 28 “Magic” girls’ names and 37 “Magic” boys’ names, I had an immediate gut-level negative response to about 1/4 to 1/3 or more of the recommended “Magic” names, which seemed either dated or clunky or unattractive for a variety of reasons. OK, here’s one: naming your boy Prince is an awful idea even if he is a prince–in which case his name would be Prince Prince. Here’s another: does Adelina call to mind “Sweet Adeline” a barbershop quartet that was popular about 100 years ago (or so)?

I’m guessing you may also be less than enthralled with some percentage of the “Magic” names for your own reasons, and your dislikes are probably different than mine. But if you’re looking for names that are “cool,” “trendy,” “clever,” “chic” and  “dazzling” (which will make your baby-shower guests sick with envy), the “Magic” formula doesn’t do that particular kind of magic.

In case you’re curious, here are some of the “Magic” names I’m not wild about. What do you think–are they “cool” or do they come across as “clunky” (unattractive for a variety of reasons)?

Cool or Clunky?                                   Cool or Clunky?

Magic Boy’s Names                        “Magic Girl’s Names

Cyrus                                                      Adelina

Prince                                                     Coral

Asa                                                         Phoebe

Rocco                                                    Ivory

Dominick                                              Aurora

Abraham                                               Amalia

Augustus                                               Libby

Hugo                                                     Audrey

Jasper

Ivan

Israel

Even though I wouldn’t recommend 25% to 33% of the “Magic” names, I think it’s a productive way to quickly screen a large number of names down to a smaller pool of names worth looking at more closely. I hope you can see it gives me pleasure to praise other baby-name experts. In recent posts, I’ve been critical about the practicality of several lists of (TV character and “on the rise”) names from Nameberry. But I think they do a great job of connecting sudden upticks in the popularity of certain names with pop-culture events—about which I am often unaware. Reading their posts makes you feel informed about the fashion aspect of baby naming.)

What Comes to Mind When You Hear the Name Bambi?

A Wall St. Journal article about a Hollywood stockbroker whose license was suspended caught my eye—when I looked at the photo (that accompanied the article) and was informed by the caption that the broker’s name was Bambi.

The first thing I did after reading the article was to pick up a copy of The New Baby Name Survey, a book I co-authored with consumer-research expert, Barry Sinrod, many years ago. In a large-scale consumer research survey that went out to 100,000 adults, we asked respondents to tell us what came to mind when they thought of the name Bambi (and about 1,750 other names).

Here’s what our respondents told us: “Disney’s Bambi was an innocent fawn, but a woman with this name is probably far from innocent. People think of Bambi as a ditzy and bubbly bimbo. It’s most likely a stage name for a hooker or stripper.”

Reading the Journal article, I discovered that a real woman named Bambi…

“spent decades as a financial broker to Hollywood’s rich and famous, dispensing advice from her offices in Beverly Hills California. She wrote financial self-help books and frequently appeared on television. But she had another claim to fame: reaching the top 10 among 550,000 brokers with the highest number of customer complaints.”

I’ve always been on the lookout for news articles that presented stories which indicated some kind of relationship between names and behavior. For example–an item in the news about Thomas Crapper of Crapper, Ltd. Toilets in London who entitled his autobiography “Flushed with Pride.”

I found it noteworthy that Madonna, a superstar with a pious, saintly name, had a well-earned reputation for “romantic escapades” which were not remotely “pious” or “saintly.” I found it noteworthy when I drove past strip joints which featured “Bambi” on their marquee as a star performer. Which explains why I find a real-world example of a Hollywood broker named Bambi who is alleged to have “screwed” scores of (64) big-name clients, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her husband, Brad Hall.

There may be some girls named “Chastity” who live up to that ideal, though once they get married and have a family, the name becomes ludicrous (if it wasn’t already a joke). So the idea of parents trying to “legislate” morality by giving their daughters names that imply chastity, piety or innocence is likely to produce the exact opposite effect than the one intended.

Why Did KayDee (“Private Practice”) Strickland Pick an Ancient, Latin Place Name for Her Baby, Atticus?

KayDee Strickland (of “Private Practice” fame) and her husband, Paul Behr, gave their baby boy an ancient, Latin place name. (If you don’t already know, Atticus means “from Attica.”) Do you know where Attica is? It’s a prefecture in ancient Greece; and a prison in New York State. It’s also the name of the courageous protagonist (Atticus Finch) of To Catch a Mockingbird.)

Why did they select that name? Perhaps because Atticus was one of the fastest rising boys’ names in 2012, jumping from 462 to 410—according to the Social Security Administration. It rose almost  as rapidly as pompous titles like Messiah, King, and Major, and about as rapidly as famous brands like Armani, Remington and Lincoln. In other words, the name is “hot.” Is that a good reason to consider Atticus for your child (as has recently been suggested by Nameberry) which touted Atticus in a recent post called “28 Very Surprising Baby Names On The Rise“?

Nameberry was right. it is very surprising that many of the names they suggested were “on the rise.” Why? Because so many of the “rising” names they listed come across as stodgy, stuffy, old-fashioned or just plain weird. And many of the names also present spelling and pronunciation problems, that make them even less attractive. Take a look:

Atticus (stuffy, an ancient relic that means “from Attica”–which refers to ancient Greece–or a prison in N.Y. State.)

August (old-fashioned)

Bodhi (weird, hard to spell and pronounce)

Azalea (old-fashioned, likely to be misspelled)

Persephone (old-fashioned, in Greek mythology: “queen of the underworld,” possible spelling and pronunciation problems)

Freya (strange, in Norse Mythology: the goddess of love; hard to spell and pronounce: FREE-ya or FRAY-ya?)

Gemma (a stodgy British name)

Arya (ARE-ya or ARE-ee-yah?; lots of confusing spelling options, too)

Perla (a Spanish version of Pearl—a classic old-fashioned grandma name)

Willa (a stodgy German name; short for Wilhemina—a female form of Wilhelm, neither of which are “cool”)

I like fresh, uncommon names (like Catalina and Hudson) and classic traditional names (like William and Katherine) that are always in style. Picking any of the “rising names” from Nameberry’s list of rising names involves a great deal of risk.

If most people perceive the name as an ancient relic from the Roman Empire and just 5% connect the name to Atticus Finch, how will that benefit the child? Or KaDee Strickland’s child—to get this article back on track?

Just because a name is rising in popularity doesn’t mean it will be a pleasure or a positive influence for your child. Romeo is another fast-rising name. Of course, Romeo is the “star-crossed” lover of Juliet in a Shakespeare play that features both names in the title. My gut feel is that Juliet comes across as a romantic name for a girl, but Romeo has become a term used to label a guy as a  “ladies’ man” or a “womanizer.” So I’m not planning to recommend that “rising” name any time in the near future.

Although I often enjoy reading Nameberry’s “trend” articles, I don’t think it can’t be much fun to be the first family on your block with a baby who sports a name that was abandoned by Brits, Germans, or Romans 100 or 1,000 years ago.

I worry that some (if not all) of the stodgy, old-fashioned names Nameberry served up in that “Baby Names On the Rise” post are unlikely to work well for your child. Does it really make a name more appropriate for your child when you learn some of those stodgy names  were selected by the former star of “Private Practice” or a variety of other celebrities? Given the spotty reputation of celebrities for baby naming, I hope your answer is “No.”