What Are the Trendiest Popular Names of All Time?

A biotechnologist named David Taylor has come up with a new way to study trendy, popular names. Instead of looking at currently “hot” names from TV shows and movies, he used a chemistry algorithm called “chromatography” to analyze Social Security Administration data from inception to date for the purpose of finding the trendiest popular names of all time.

The names he found had made the biggest up and down moves are likely to surprise you. Perhaps you’re thinking of newly popular names like Khaleesi (“Game of Thrones”) or Arya (“Hunger Games”). Nope, Taylor was looking for “the trendiest popular baby names of all time”—which refers to all the Social Security popularity data in more than a century–since 1900. So, here are the top four names he came up with:

The Trendiest Popular Names for Boys:
Jason (extremely popular in the 70s)
Mark (extremely popular in the 50s and 60s)

The Trendiest Popular Names for Girls:
Linda (extremely popular in the 40s, 50s, and 60s
Shirley (extremely popular in the 30s)

So if your name is Mark, or Linda you’re probably a grandpa or grandma. If your name is Shirley, you’re a great grandma or you’re under a gravestone. If your name is Jason, you’re just over or under the BIG 40.

What’s worthwhile about Taylor’s chromatography approach to popularity is that he focuses our attention on HUGE up and down trends, which makes the kind of trends most pundits write about pale in comparison. It’s worthwhile clicking on the link to read the vocative article, so you can see the magnitude of the trends (as demonstrated by Taylor’s charts.) They remind me of stocks that triple, quadruple or quintuple in a bull market, but if you don’t get out in time, you lose it all.

Knowing that names like Jaden (a combination of Jason and Hayden) and Nevea (heaven spelled backwards) are baby-naming fads should warn you that when the uptrend is over, the downtrend might look like Taylor’s charts for Jason and Shirley (both of which were extremely popular for only a single decade).

 

 

 

 

Pamela Redmond Satran’s Latest Thoughts About Names That Do and Don’t Age Well

After taking a brief vacation from blogging, imagine my delight at receiving an invitation from Google Alert to read an article by Pamela Redmond Satran about names that don’t age well–and how to avoid that problem.

Satran starts by pointing out that names popular enough to show up on top-ten (boys’ or girls’) lists are likely to give your age away. I listed some girls’ and boys’ names with one or two decades of popularity. I made separate lists of names that had much longer periods of popularity—from 30 to to 59, 69, 89 or more than years of popularity. For example, Mary has 69 years on top-ten popularity lists on the girls’ side and boys’ names with 89 or more years of popularity on the boys’ side include Robert, John James and William. (Of those boys’ names, only William has been listed among the ten most popular names from 1900 through 2014.)

Girls’ Names with One or Two Decades of Popularity

2000 to 2014: Isabella, Sophia, Madison
1990 to 2009: Samantha
1980 to 1999: Jessica, Amanda, Sarah
1970 to 1989: Jennifer, Stephanie, Melissa, Nicole, Heather
1960 to 1979: Michelle, Lisa
1950 to 1969: Susan
1940 to 1958: Linda
1930 to 1939: Shirley
1920 to 1939: Betty
1920 to 1929: Doris

Girls’ Names with Three or More Decades of Popularity

1980 to 2014: Emily
1980 to 2009: Elizabeth and Ashley
1900 to 1939: Dorothy
1900 to 1969: Mary

Boys’ Names with One or Two Decades of Popularity

1990 to 2014: Jacob
1990 to 1999: Tyler and Nicholas
1990 to 2009: Andrew
1960 to 1969: Jeffrey
1950 to 1969: Mark

Boys’ Names with Three or More Decades of Popularity

1980 to 2014: Daniel
1970 to 2009: Christopher, Matthew
1950 to 2014: Michael
1940 to 1989: David
1930 to 1969: Richard
1900 to 1969: Thomas
1900 to 1959: Charles
1900 to 1989: Robert, John, James
1900 to 2014: William

I agree with Satran that when names which have been popular for a decade or two (or more) drop off the top–ten list they start showing their age and the age of anyone who acquires that name while it was still highly popular. But keep in mind that the title of Satran’s article is “Names That Age Well.”

Girls names like Mary, Dorothy, Doris, Betty and Shirley sound like great-grandmother names. Boomer names like Linda and Susan are now grandma names. On the boys’ side, Boomer names like Mark and Jeffrey are now grandpa names. But names like Charles, Thomas and Richard, though associated with great grandfathers, still tend to maintain a level of acceptability as what Satran calls “classic” (and I call “traditional”) names that “old-fashioned” girls’ names like Betty Doris and Shirley don’t retain.

In her article, Satran makes a case for using names that have “deep meaning,” by which she means

“the name of someone you loved and admired, the name of your favorite fictional character, the name of the lake where you spent every childhood summer. That deep meaning will resonate far more for you and your child than any swings of fashion.”

And I think she means that if you love your great grandmother Betty or Doris or Dorothy, that “deep meaning” trumps how old and arthritic or dead and buried those names now sound.

But parents who are picking names for their child rarely only consider one name. And when making the final selection, it would be folly to pick a name that has been passed down from generation to generation and has always been a source of embarrassment or teasing. Hand-me-down family names like Pierpont or Francis or Carroll or great-grandmother names like Doris or Mildred or Shirley are just as likely to frustrate your child as they bothered other relatives who got stuck with them (except perhaps the original Betty who was given the name when movie star Betty Davis was still popular). You don’t want your child to complain about his or her name to friends who share the sentiment: “What were they thinking (or drinking or smoking) when your parents made that inconsiderate choice?”

But what interests me most about Satran’s article is her queer notion that picking highly unusual names will help parents “sidestep” the problem of sticking their child with a name that won’t age well.

“Unusual names, which we might define (at least for American parents) as those that lie outside the Top 1000, can transcend time, especially if they’re not among those unusual names that seem poised to zoom up the popularity charts…The trick is to pick an unusual name that’s appealing yet sidesteps stylishness. Augusta and Delphine might qualify for girls, while Noble or Leopold might work for boys.”

I can’t understand how she or anyone can maintain that archaic names found in the “recycle bin” whose popularity is below 1,000–like Augusta and Delphine, Noble or Leopold–would be more appealing, attractive, comfortable to live with and age better than almost any other name you could pick out of a hat, blindfolded. In fact that’s just what Augusta and Noble sound like: names picked out of a hat on an unlucky day. To be more specific, why is Delphine more likely to “age well” than Delia, Delilah , Dulce or Diana? Why is Leopold a better choice to stave off aging than Leonardo, Leonard, Levi or Lorenzo? I don’t know and I don’t think Satran does either.

Here’s a thought to keep in mind when someone suggests a name that has a low (sub-1,000) popularity rank: If it’s a relatively recent name like Apple, Blue Ivy or North, the name could have a low popularity rank for two reasons: 1) Not many people have heard of the name. 2) People have heard of the name, but don’t like it. But if the name under discussion is one or more centuries old, like Delphine, Augusta and Leopold, the main reason for it’s low popularity is that people don’t like the name.

There’s nothing wrong with calling attention to out-of-favor old names to bring in the hope that people who hadn’t heard of them might like them. But Satran’s recommended names are very old, so it doesn’t make sense to say they will “age well.” They will always sound like very old names.

 

 

 

 

11 Alternatives to Old-Fashioned and Ancient Boys’ Names You Can Use in 2014

I have no idea why Pamela Redmond Satran spends so much time and energy recommending and promoting clunky, old names that are rarely used for very good reasons. I’m referring to boys’ names like Randolph, Archibald, Dashiell, Benedict, Finian, Wolfgang, and Horace, (to list just seven names from Satran’s most recent posts). One thing is for certain: calling out-of-date names stylish doesn’t magically make them stylish. Ralph Lauren loves to study old fashions, but instead of stitch-for-stitch replication of fashions, say, from the 1890s, 1920s or 1940s, or 1960s, he updates those fashions to give them a more contemporary look–so people will enjoy, and look good, wearing them.

Of course, that takes time, effort, inspiration and a desire to be of service to one’s customers (which, switching back to baby names, would be readers). In a previous post I labeled some of Satran’s least usable recommendations odd, old-fashioned, off-putting and ancient. Seems to me an interest in unusable old names could be put to good use by simply refreshing or updating those “dinosaurs.”

Presenting: 11 Contemporary Options to Old-fashioned or Ancient Names for Boys

Randolph Fictional Namesake: Randolph Duke, old-fashioned, bow-tie-wearing Wall Street tycoon in “Trading Places” (1983) as portrayed by Ralph Bellamy.
Instead of Randolph, consider Randall.

Mortimer Fictional Namesake: Mortimer Duke, old-fashioned, bow-tie-wearing Wall Street Tycoon in the 1980s in “Trading Places” (1983) as played by Don Ameche.
Instead of Mortimer, consider Morgan.

Archibald Namesake: Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982) Poet, Playwright and Librarian of Congress in the1940s, ’50s and ’60s
Instead of Archibald, consider Archer.

Cornelius Namesake: Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1807) American steamboat steamship and railroad magnate in the 1830s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s)
Instead of Cornelius, consider Connor.

Benedict Namesake: Benedict Arnold (1741-1801) was an American hero in the battle for Fort Ticonderoga in the 1775 who was passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress. In 1780 he was given command of West Point and, in an act of treason, he tried to turn West Point over to British. Later he served as Brigadier General for the British and eventually moved to Britain.
Instead of Benedict, consider Bennett.

Wolfgang Namesake: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was one of all-time great classical composers and musicians who composed more than 600 works.
Instead of Wofgang, consider Wolf.

Phileas Fictional Namesake: Phileas Fogg, protagonist in the 1873 Jules Verne novel, Around the World in Eighty Days.
Instead of Phileas, consider Phillip or Phil.

Dashiell Namesake: Dashiel Hammett (1894-1961) author of hard-boiled detective novels and screenplays, including The Maltese Falcon, and The Thin Man.
Instead of Dashiell, consider Dash.

Finian Fictional Namesake: Finian, the protagonist of Broadway Musical, Finian’s Rainbow (1947) who moves from Ireland to Missitucky to bury a pot of gold in the hope that it will grow.
Instead of Finian, consider Finn.

Valdemar and Waldemar Namesakes: Fifteen Kings of Denmark, Sweden and Prussia from the 1141 to 1945.
Instead of Valdemar, Waldemar and Waldo, consider Walden.

Horace Namesake:Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC to 8 BC) was known to the world as Horace, the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.
Instead of Horace, consider Horst.

 

Pamela Satran Hides 15 Usable Names In a List of 100 Mostly Unusable, Rarely-Used Names

I have no idea why Pamela Redmund Satran would want to scatter (in effect hiding) 15 usable names in a long list of Rarely-Used Boys’ Names most of which are problematic for any child who gets them. Why? Because they will strike many as cartoonish, odd, off-putting, old-fashioned, ancient, strange and/or unrecognizable.

Here Are 36 Examples of Problematic Names That Aren’t Used Much Any More for Good Reason:

Cartoonish names: Linus, Abner, Casper, Waldo, Kermit, Homer
Odd names: Basil, Eamon, Vladimir, Boaz, Wolfgang, Caspian, Cosmo
Off-Putting names: Benedict, Enoch, Valentine, Ambrose
Old-fashioned names: Archibald, Woodrow, Clarence, Cornelius, Alistair, Thaddeus, Rupert, Randolph, Phineas
Ancient names: Obadiah, Esau, Horace, Horatio, Leander, Ignatius
Strange, Unrecognizable names: Ozias, Osias, Amias

Why would Pamela Redmond Satran choose to hide 15 pretty good names among such a long list of mostly unusable, unusual names. Maybe the idea of discriminating between names that will strike most people as usable and names that will strike most people as unusable is not in her job description. Or, maybe she’s penurious and likes the idea having someone like me organize and edit her list, without paying me a penny.

Here are the 15+ Usable Names Satran Tried to Hide:

Gordon
Grey, Gray
Glenn, Glen
Otis
Ralph
Nigel
Clyde
Clifford
Harris
Finnian
Robin
Wallace
Dashiell
Montgomery
Monroe

Notice, I didn’t say these were great names, but I think you can use them without too many problems. You may think Finnian is old-fashioned or odd. But if you’re familiar with “Finnian’s Rainbow” (a great Broadway musical) you’ll probably think the name is charming and if you go for cool nicknames, Finn is a winner. I also like these nicknames: Dash for Dashiel, Cliff for Clifford, Harry for Harris, and Monty for Montgomery. BTW, it helps to know that Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery (a Brit) defeated the Germans commanded by “Desert Fox” Erwin Rommel at El Alamein.

But Clyde is cool as is.  It was made cool by Warren Beatty who played bank-robber, Clyde Barrow, in “Bonnie & Clyde” and by Walt (Clyde) Frazier of the New York Knicks who stole baskeballs the way Clyde Barrow stole money. Batman and Robin were a great team and Robin pulled his own weight. And if you’re an aficionado of single-malt scotch whiskey, it’s hard not to like the name Glen as in Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and Glenmorangie.

I probably like Grey because of Grey Advertising, Grey Goose and “Grey Gardens.” If you’re looking for a color name, Grey is more nuanced than, say, Red or Blue.  I’d use Grey if my last name started with a “G.” Grey Gordon. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  But, to be honest, I prefer Gordon Grey. I suppose I like Gordon because it goes well with Grey, if that happens to be your last name. Grey Goldberg? Maybe not. I’d suggest Gary Goldberg, but Gary isn’t on Satran’s list.

Can you see how baby-naming is about finding exactly the right name–with the right meaning, the right sound and the right vibe? Take your time; it helps to weigh all your options over a seven or eight month period. Here’s an important take-away: Never look for names in a list created by someone who doesn’t care enough to sort out the most usable names from the least.

 

 

 

 

11 Alternatives to Old-Fashioned and Ancient Girls’ Names You Can Use in 2014

You may have a family obligation to honor someone with a name that seems either dated or unusable in the year 2014. Or you might like the biblical Esther or the literary character, Lorna Doone, but wonder whether either of those names will be a good fit for the baby daughter you are expecting in 2014.

Those are reasonable concerns, particularly because Pamela Redmond Satron and Aela Mass of Nameberry are trying convince expectant parents that out of date, rarely used names are “stylish.” (I find it comical that a little-used “flapper “name, like Zelda, or the name that launched the”Victorian Era” could possibly be called “stylish” in 2014.) Stylish names are names that are rapidly growing in popularity, because trendy people are flocking to them like mindless herds of sheep.

So I’ve created this list of alternatives to 11 old-fashioned or ancient girl’s names that may come across to you as out of date and unstylish. If you’re wondering, many of the alternative names have the same root (hence the same meaning) as the names in question. And some are simply “name-book neighbors” that are likely to be more pleasant for you and your child to live with–if you are worried about picking a name likely to subject your daughter to embarrassment or teasing (or worse)

Esther Biblical Namesake: Queen Esther was crowned by Ahasuerus, King of the Persian Empire during biblical times, and is said to have helped liberate Persian Jews and gain rights for them–according to Jewish tradition.
Instead of Esther and French form Estelle, consider Estee or Stella.

Lorna Fictional Namesake: Lorna Doone was the protagonist of a romantic historical novel of the same name, written by Richard Blackmore and published in 1869.
Instead of Lorna, consider Laura, Laurel, Lauren or Lori.

Louisa Namesake: Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) was a popular American novelist whose most famous work was Little Women, published in 1868.
Instead of Louisa, consider: Eloise, Louise, Lois, Lola, Lolo or Luisa.

Lucille Namesake: Lucille Ball (1911-1989) one of the most popular female comics, Ball teamed up with husband Desi Arnaz to star in “I Love Lucy” from 1951-1957.
Instead of Lucille, consider Luci,  Lucie, Lucy or Lucia,

Millicent Namesakes: Millicent Garrett (1847-1929) a British suffragist and early feminist. Millicent Fenwick (1910-1992) a 1974-1992) a Republican congresswoman from New Jersey with moderate views on civil rights.
Instead of Millicent, consider Amelia or Mila.

Sybil Namesame: Sybils were oracles who relayed messages from the gods, according to Greek mythology.
Instead of Sybil, consider Cybele, Cybelle or Cybill

Tanith Namesake: Tanith was the goddess of love according to Phoenician mythology.
Instead of Tanith, consider Tania or Tanya.

Twyla Namesake Twyla Tharp (born 1941) formed her own dance company and toured with them from 1971 to1988. Her choreographed dance pieces are performed by the leading modern dance and ballet companies and in popular movies and Broadway shows. Although Twyla’s career is “now” her name is an old tailoring term. It means “woven of double thread.”
Instead of Twyla, consider Tyler or Tyra.

Willa Namesake: Willa Cather (1873-1947) an American author who achieved recognition for her novels of life on the Great Plains, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1922.
Instead of Willa, consider Willow or Winona

Victoria Namesake: Queen Victoria (1819-1901) ruled for 63 years, longer than any other British monarch during a period known as the Victorian era. It was famous as a period of industrial, scientific and cultural change and the expansion of the British empire.
Instead of Victoria, consider Tori, Tory, Torrey, Vicki or Vicky.

Zelda Namesake: Zelda Fitzgerald (1900-1948) A southern belle born in Birmingham Alabama became a major celebrity when her husband Scott Fitzgeralds’ book This Side of Paradise became a bestseller in 1920. He called her “the first flapper.” The name Zelda means “grey woman warrior.”
Instead of Zelda, consider Grey

 

 

 

Nameberry Predicts 12 Baby-Naming Trends for 2014: A Few Might Take Off; The Rest, Probably Not

Here’s a quick summary of 12 trends Nameberry has spotted on the horizon for 2014. Will all of them pan out? Will any? Nobody knows for sure, but some of the trends would be a welcome change; and some—not so much.

Which of these trends are likely to materialize in 2014? Which are pipedreams? What are the odds each will pan out? To find out, read on.

1. Eccentric Ancestor Names. Examples: Edna and Ethel, Wihelmina and Wolfgang.

Comment: This trend sounds awful. I pity the poor kids who get stuck with these gleefully discarded names. (With any luck, this trend will never pick up an momentum.) Odds 25/75.

2. Boys’ Middle Names for Girls. Examples: Autumn James, Agnes Charles and Lucy Thomas.

Comment: When I wrote about  Autumn James, I thought James might be a family name. Whether it’s a family name or a boy’s name used as s middle name for a girl, it’s confusing and off-putting. What if this idea were turned around and John Smith was given the middle name of Melissa. His full name would be John Melissa Smith. If this is a trend, I can’t think of a single good reason for anyone to introduce gender confusion and a possible source of embarrassment and teasing into middle names. Middle names should function as a dependable “insurance”policy  (aka “back-up name) in case the first name doesn’t work well for the child. But “cross-dressing’ the middle name gives the child less viable options rather than more. I hope this “trend” dies a quick and merciful death. Odds: 10/90.

Notice that Charles and Thomas could also be confused for family names. (I hope this trend dies a quick and merciful death.) Odds: 35/65.

3. Spice Names. Examples: Saffron, Ginger, Cinnamon and Lavender.

Comment: The idea of aromatic herb and spice names is very exciting. But as much as I like the idea of spice names, there aren’t that many I’d want to name a baby. Ginger  might work well for babies with yellow/tan complexions and Cinnamon might work well for babies with reddish-brown complexions. To be fair, both of those names are also descriptive of personality types. Ginger for example, may make a feisty and spirited impression; Cinnamon may project a warm and welcoming image. But that said, are there enough great spice names to fuel a hot trend? Odds: 40/60.

4. Pope Francis Spinoffs. Examples: Francisco, Francesco and Francesca, Francine, Frank and Frankie.

Comment: Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air! This trend is already happening, big time, in Italy. But, we’ll need to come up with some more attractive Francis spinoffs if this trend is going to work in the U.S.The name Francis is not exactly a “cool” name in the States. Other options, Francois and Francoise, are hard to spell and pronounce for Americans. Which leaves Frank and Frankie–which sound dated. Odds: 40/60.

5. Virtue Names for Boys. Examples: Noble, Valor, Justice, and Loyal.

Comment: Sorry to be a buzz-kill but I don’t think the bad-boy naming trend is over yet. Names from “Breaking Bad” are still hot. Faith, Hope and Chastity may work well for nuns, but they don’t go over well in high school. Names like Valor and Loyal for boys are so sappy, I don’t think this trend will ever get out of Sunday School. Odds: 25/75.

6. Is C Really the Coolest Consonant? Examples: Claire, Cordelia, Cora and Clarissa.

Comment: The girls names listed as examples are OK. But “C”-names like Clarence, Casper, Constantine and Cassius make this idea a non-starter for boys. (Muhammad Ali ditched the name Cassius, as I recall). Don’t bet more than a nickel on this trend taking off. Odds: 35/65.

7. Go Greek? Examples: Chloe, Calliope, Olympia and Cyrus.

Comment: There are plenty of attractive Greek names. For girls: Alexandra, Anastasia, Callista, Daphne, and Delia.  For boys: Alexis, Demetrius, Nicholas, Sebastian and Xander. But why Greek names? Why not French names, German names, Russian names or Polish names? There are just as many attractive names in other languages. So, why Greek names now? I suspect this “trend” is more like a shot in the dark. Odds: 40/60.

8. Boys’ Names Ending in N. Examples: Ethan, Zayden, Camden and Bryson. (Nameberry forgot to mention Jayden and Aiden which, along with Ethan, were top-ten names in 2012.)

Comment: There’s nothing new about this trend. It started about ten+ years ago, when Ethan and Nathan started their assault on the top-ten boys’ list—and when Jayden and sound-alikes were climbing the top-100 list. The bigger and more important trend is the use of soft consonants for boys, like these top-ten names: Noah, William and Alexander. Here’s why: Moms want more sensitive (less macho) boys and soft consonants are the way to go. There’s nothing new about both of these trends. And, they are both likely to last well beyond 2014. Odds: 100%.

9. Dowdy Royal Names. Examples: Helena, Maud, Albert and, of course, George.

Comment: Everyone in the U.K. was caught up in the crowds and the media coverage about this question: “What will William and Kate name the royal baby?” But after George was named, the name started sliding out of the top-ten list. Most of the names bandied about (except for Alexandra) were stuffy and boring, I think the Brits OD’d on them. So, I doubt this trend will go anywhere, either in the U.K. or in America. Odds: 20/80.

10. Joke Names. Example: North West. (Nameberry erroneously called the five names Uma Thurman gave her daughter a  joke.  The joke was that six months after announcing five mostly unspellable and unpronounceable names, Thurman informed the media that she was going to call her daughter Luna–rather than any of the five names.)

Comment: Although North West is pretty much a lock to be named “the worst celebrity baby name of 2013,” (I peeked at the research), I’m afraid that fans of Kim & Kanye, and other celebs who think it’s funny to embarrass their kids with joke names, will be tempted do the same. I hope this doesn’t happen, but some parents don’t seem to understand that a good name is one of the best gifts they can give their child. So keep those baby-naming brainstorming sessions drug and alcohol free–for your baby’s sake. (Kudos to Nameberry for speaking out against joke names.) Odds: 20/80.

11. Baby Boomer Names. Examples: Janet and Jeffrey; Patricia and Paul.

Comment: I’ve been watching parents give names like Max and Millie to their babies–presumably to honor the children’s great grandparents, before or when they die. I suppose that as Baby Boomers age, parents will name babies after them, too. Although boomer names don’t thrill me, I think the “boomer names” trend is inevitable, and not just for one year. The question is: when will it start? Odds: 80/20.

12.  Historic Hero Names. Examples: Lincoln, Scarlett, Chaplin and Dashiel.

Comment: I’m a big fan of names that will inspire children, which is why I like the idea of naming babies after famous namesakes (real or fictional) who parents admire. I wrote a post on this theme, and Lincoln should have been on my list of famous namesakes–and now is. Is this idea likely to take off? Baby Center mentioned this trend recently in conjunction with the release of their 2013 top-100 lists. Names moving up their popularity list (generated by names actually chosen by people registered on their website in 2013) included (Abraham) Lincoln, (Andrew) Jackson and Jack (Kennedy) plus fictional names like Scarlet (O’Hara). Maybe there’s some evidence to support this trend. Odds: 60/40.

Discussion: I assume that Nameberry has some recent data to support some or all of the trends they “predict” for 2014. Although Nameberry noticed the rise of “joke names,” I was glad to read they were concerned about that unwise practice. Unfortunately a number of the other trends they “predicted” are also questionable or unwise. What’s the point of being an commentator if you don’t comment?

Nameberry’s List of “Neglected Namesake Names” Are Neglected for Good Reasons

I was very impressed by Linda Rosenkrantz’ introduction to her “Nameberry’s Neglected Namesake Names” article, which accurately describes her premise:

“If you scan the annals of distinguished women in American history, culture and science, you’ll find that a surprising number of them had distinctive names as well, names that could provide unique-ish choices with interesting back-stories. Several of them have a funky, fusty period flavor that may or may not appeal. What do you think?“

Here’s what I think: Even though Rosenkrantz has picked 40+ namesakes who are “distinguished women in American history, culture and science,” almost all of the names “have a funky, fusty period flavor” that could make them very uncomfortable and burdensome to contemporary American girls.

In fact, I only found a few names that might not prove embarrassing or provoke teasing for girls born in 2013-14. And before I list them I want to be clear that inspiring names don’t have to be “cool.” They just have to avoid being so uncomfortable, awkward and clunky for contemporary girls that any possible inspirational value will be lost when your daughter abandons her high-minded name and tells you she won’t answer to it any more.

I raise this issue, because so many (if not most) of the names on this Nameberry list seem likely to be burdensome to contemporary girls. Here are some of the names that come across to me as the least uncomfortable for daughters in 2013-14.

-Alta (The fact that Alta is also the name of a ski resort in Utah may help the name. However Alta means “high.” Which might inspire your daughter when she reaches high school, in a bad way.)

-Asta  (This was the name of William Powell’s clever dog in “The Thin Man” movies. Don’t be surprised if your daughter barks when Mommy calls her to dinner.)

-Cathay (This is what Brits used to call China. I prefer China to Cathay, I suspect Cathay will prefer Cathy—or China to Cathay.)

-Marita (It’s not so bad if you shorten it too Marta.)

-Marvel (It would help a great deal if you call her Marvy; I’m afraid Marvel is too difficult for anyone to live up to—like Messiah, but less so.)

-Romaine (Wikipedia lists three historical personages, one woman and two men, who have used this name; I’ve never heard of any of them. But this is my favorite name on Rosenkrantz’ list. Probably because I’m partial to Romaine lettuce.)

Remember, these are the names I like best on the “quadruple N” list. (I wouldn’t recommend any of these names.)

That done, here’s a very short list of some of the most potentially burdensome names on Rosenkrantz’ list. I ask you to read these and then click on the link and read the complete list of “Nameberry’s Neglected Namesake Names.”

-Effa: (This name will be a huge source of embarrassment as soon as Effa hits high school when the “F-word,” “F-bombs” and “Effing” are in common parlance.

-Gerty (Unfortunately, she’ll be called “Turdy Gerty.”)

-Mertilla (And Mertilla will be called “Myrtle the Turtle.”

-Penina (It you love this name, call your daughter Penny and never mention the name you put on her birth certificate. She won’t move out of the house until she applies for a learner’s driving permit and finally sees her “given name” on an official document. She and her friends will think the name refers to the male sex organ.)

I could go on and on and on, but I’d rather end by addressing Linda Rosenkrantz’ premise. What’s the point of promoting names (however noble) which contemporary American daughters (including your daughter) are likely to dislike. If you already have a daughter, please, please, please read Nameberry’s list of “Neglected Namesake Names” to her. I’m not sure if she’ll break out laughing or suddenly start hugging and kissing you to thank you for giving her a “normal name,” instead of a neglected namesake name.

Like Rosenkrantz, I’m a big advocate of picking names that will inspire your child. (See my article on that subject.) I just re-checked my list of 17 “inspiring” names and estimate that about 14 out of 17 would be more comfortable for contemporary boys and girls than most, if not all, the names on the NNNN list.

High-minded parents may like the idea of picking names which will inspire their children; but if, instead of inspiring your daughter, the neglected namesake name you pick makes your daughter feel bad about herself, giving your daughter a name that’s been “neglected” for good reason will have turned out to be a huge mistake.

The names on the 4N list prove that kids with clunky names can succeed. So does Barack (Obama), Lyndon (Johnson) and the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue.” But that’s not a good reason to give your daughter a neglected namesake name or to call your son Barack, Lyndon, or Sue.