Here are two baby-naming trends I think are high odds for 2014 (and beyond) because an increasing number of parents are looking for names that will have “personal meaning” for the parents and the child.
1. Baby Boomer Names Are Making a Comeback
Like Jenna Bush Hager, who named her baby daughter Margaret Laura (after the two grandmothers), millions of parents want to pick “meaningful” names for their babies which honor family members who are more than likely to be baby boomers (a term that describes babies born between 1945 and 1964). Here’s a quick list of the most popular names for girls and boys born in the 40s and 50s and 60s:
-The most popular names for girls born in the 40s were Mary, Linda, Barbara, Patricia, Carol, Sandra, Nancy, Sharon, Judith, Susan; with Deborah/Debra, Karen and Donna added in the 50s; and Lisa, Kimberly, Michelle and Cynthia added in the 60s.
Comment: Notice that the most popular baby boomer girls’ names come across as much less glamorous and elegant than current top-10 names like Olivia, Sophia, Ava, and Isabella. That may call for a little creativity when you honor family members with the more prosaic boomer names.
-The most popular names for boys born in the 40s were James, Robert, John, William, Richard, David, Charles, Thomas, Michael and Ronald; with Mark added in the 50s; and Jeffrey added in the 60s.
Comment: Two of these names, Michael and William, are still extremely popular. The rest of the names are reasonable options for current use with the possible exception of Richard, due to negative connotations of the nickname, Dick–which is often used with unflattering words like “tricky” or “dirty” or “head.”
Executional Tips: Keep in mind when honoring a relative that there’s no reason you can’t do what Jenna Bush Hager did: name your child after a grandparent and pick another name you plan to use every day. (Jenna Bush Hager wasn’t shy about letting everyone know that Mila was the name she would call Margaret Laura.) And, you don’t have to use the exact version of the name used by a relative. You can use Liam instead of William or Annika instead of Ann. Or, you can just use the first initial–like the “L” from Linda and name your baby Lola.
2.The Use of Inspiring Historical or Fictional Namesakes Is on the Rise.
Another way to pick a “meaningful” name for your baby is to find a name likely to inspire your child. An effective way to do that is to find a favorite historical or fictional namesake you think would be a good influence or role model for your child. Baby Center documented the fact that names like Lincoln, Jackson, and Jack recently gained in popularity. (Those names are associated with presidents Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, and Jack Kennedy.) They also noticed gains made by names of literary characters like Scarlett (O’Hara).
“Trainwreck Alert”: Baby Center’s report went on to document the effect of TV shows, like “Duck Dynasty” on naming trends. But not long after Baby Center published their “2013” trend report, “Duck Dynasty” started receiving negative national media attention due to highly unpalatable comments verbalized by lead actor, Phil Robertson. This illustrates why it is so risky to pick names associated with current TV shows and current celebrities–as opposed to historical or literary namesakes. Here’s a brief list of celebrities whose image has recently changed for the worse as a result of “bad news ” that has come out about them: Paula Deen, Lance Armstrong, Amanda Bynes, Lindsey Lohan, Miley Cyrus and Phil Robertson (which also casts a dark shadow over “Duck Dynasty” character names). Why risk burdening your child with a name connected with a current celebrity or TV show whose image could easily go from “cute,” “all-American,” or “squeaky clean” to “DUI,” “doper,” or or just plain “out to lunch”?
People who named their babies Lance a couple of years ago (when Lance Armstrong was perceived to be an “all-American” athlete who struggled against cancer to become one of the greatest bikers of all time and was viewed as one of the few uncorrupted bikers on earth) seemed to have picked a terrific name for their baby boys. Now, Lance is not just like all other bikers; he’s much worse. How can Lance possibly be an inspiration for your son?
Which is why Jesse (Owens), Lincoln (aka Honest Abe) or (the biblical) David are better choices than Lance by far. You know what you’re getting when you pick an inspiring historical (or literary) name (rather than the name of a current celebrity or TV show character).