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Mary begat Lisa which begat Jennifer which begat Ashley....
October 19, 2013 10:26 PM   Subscribe

A wonderful animated state-by-state map of the most popular names for girls since 1960. Watch the Jennifer Takeover of 1970! Thrill to the doomed Appalachian Amanda Insurgency of the late 1970s! Cower before the great Jessica-Ashley Battles! Sigh with relief at the arrival of Emma, Isabella, and Sophia as we approach the world of today! Regret naming your child the same thing as everyone else! Bonus, also from Jezebel: How to pick a weird name for your kid
posted by blahblahblah (342 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Empire of Jennifer in the 1970s was pretty impressive compared to the fleeting dominance of everything else.
posted by tavella at 10:34 PM on October 19, 2013 [28 favorites]


Where are all the Amy's I grew up with?

I require a new version by county, please.
posted by etc. at 10:45 PM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


What fascinates me about these maps is the way that names -- specifically Lisa and Jennifer -- come out of one state and gradually spread to the entire country. What's especially interesting about Lisa and Jennifer to me is that they both came out of the West. What was it about the cultural climate that made people in Nevada or Colorado or Utah or wherever so influential when it came to the new hot baby name? And where did these names even come from? Why did some people in Nevada start naming their little girls Lisa in the first place, and why did Lisa of all names spread like wildfire?

Jennifer I sort of get, because it's vaguely mythical (variant on Guinevere) and non-traditional right at a time when the current childbearing generation wanted nothing to do with traditional names and were looking to myth and mysticism for aesthetic cues. I mean, Jennifer is basically the Gunne Sax and Stevie Nicks of names.

But Lisa? Why Lisa?
posted by Sara C. at 10:58 PM on October 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am choosing to believe that the surge in popularity of the name Isabella is related to renewed historical interest in the former queen of Spain, because the alternative explanation is just too painful to contemplate.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:59 PM on October 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have an aunt who named her daughters Jennifer and Amanda and both were born during their respective eras. This is useful useless knowledge.
posted by fishmasta at 11:04 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


ah the origin of the phrase "More useless than screaming Hey Jennifer in a high school cafeteria."
posted by The Whelk at 11:08 PM on October 19, 2013 [40 favorites]


I like the Baby Name Wizard blogger's way of lumping Isabella in with names like Ava, Mia, and Amelia, and talking about vowel sounds and a return to femininity.

Also, I knew some people with a daughter named Isabelle in the 90s, and while that was slightly unusual, it felt like a refreshing and unique name at the time. I'm pretty sure that Bella from Twilight is part of the same trend wave as all the little Isabellas out there, rather than the Isabellas being directly inspired by Stephenie Meyer.

Which is usually the case in pop culture, right? I bet if you look at the main female characters of TV shows and best selling novels right now, you'll see more Sophia and Bailey than Tiffany or Karen. Despite the fact that the average American Bailey is about seven years old.
posted by Sara C. at 11:10 PM on October 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


The way Mary goes from total dominance to total oblivion is astonishing. At this point, naming your daughter Mary is downright rebellious.
posted by Cash4Lead at 11:15 PM on October 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


In the late 90's I think there were only two Marys in my entire high school. And like 30 Jennifers. I was one of 7 Sara(h)s in my graduating class -- my physics lab group was actually all Sara(h)s. Self-consciously, sure. But still.
posted by Sara C. at 11:17 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, is Bailey a girl's name now? And not just the last name of weary old sailor who's tired of life on the high seas and is ready for a warm bed and 3 squares a day come rain or come shine?
posted by fishmasta at 11:18 PM on October 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


also from Jezebel: How to pick a weird name for your kid

1) Name child Pudenda Mae
2) Irrespective of sex
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:19 PM on October 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


So. Many. Emmas.
posted by The Whelk at 11:19 PM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah. I don't know that it's ultra-popular, but it's part of the Kaylee/Raeleigh/etc. trend. I think Bailey is still somewhat unisex, but definitely leans more female.
posted by Sara C. at 11:20 PM on October 19, 2013


Oh my God. That was hilarious. While watching the map change I pictured a giant Lisa stomping all over the US, soon to be replaced by an absolute behemoth, Jennifer--so enormous she held sway for over a decade until Ashley and Jessica teamed up to topple her from her throne.

Cash4Lead: The way Mary goes from total dominance to total oblivion is astonishing. At this point, naming your daughter Mary is downright rebellious.

As someone who went to school with many a Jennifer with initial appended (Jennifer S., Jennifer H., Jennifer P.), it was hard to picture a day when it would be considered quaint to give a baby that name. But that day has arrived!

I am curious about the popularity of "Lisa" too, so I did some digging...it could have been Eva Gabor's character Lisa Douglas on Green Acres, or the pioneering journalist Lisa Howard. Or could have been the novel that inspired this movie about a Holocaust survivor named Lisa Held (or the movie itself, which was nominated for a Golden Globe).
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:20 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, is Bailey a girl's name now? And not just the last name of weary old sailor who's tired of life on the high seas and is ready for a warm bed and 3 squares a day come rain or come shine?

The definitive she-Bailey was from WKRP, and she was literally the anti-Jennifer. I would be proud to name my daughter after Bailey Quarters. She and little Venus and little Johnny would get along so well together.
posted by bibliowench at 11:24 PM on October 19, 2013 [27 favorites]


Wait, is Bailey a girl's name now?

Since 1978.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:25 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


she was literally the anti-Jennifer

Bailey:Jennifer::Marianne:Ginger
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:26 PM on October 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


It was my parenthetical duty to give my children, Bracket, Tilde and Ellipsis, pragmatic names.
posted by maggieb at 11:35 PM on October 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


I honestly thought there'd be more Lily's once the Potterheads starting having kids, fits all the criteria of being simple, easy to spell, vaguely old fashioned....
posted by The Whelk at 11:36 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]




"Millicent", there you go future parents, it passes the "Can it be said next to "Secretary General.." rule and can it have a normal-sounding nickname "Millie" rule.
posted by The Whelk at 11:43 PM on October 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd also like to see more classical Roman names out there, and they're non-specific now. Go forth, Augustus'es and Calpurnias.
posted by The Whelk at 11:46 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Augustices," maybe?
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 11:52 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Calpurnia always makes me think of the Homicide: Life on the Street episode where a hapless man marries his aunt and refers to her as, "My wife, Aunt Calpurnia" (who was murdering her husbands for life insurance proceeds.)
posted by maggieb at 11:57 PM on October 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Re Lily - I have a cousin named Lily who was born in the 80s. Everyone in our family thought my aunt and uncle were nuts when they picked that name. It sounded old and weird and who had ever even HEARD of someone named Lily. Now it's completely normal.

FWIW I know of a few people having babies nowish (last couple years?) named Lillian. It's no Ava, but it's more common than it used to be for sure.

The kind of amazing thing about Harry Potter is that none of the major characters have names people are likely to copy. You either have completely ludicrous names like Severus and Bellatrix or names that are vaguely normal but unglamorous (Ron, Ginny, Hermione*). My guess is that there's probably been an uptick in Harrys in the US, and that names like Neville which are known in the UK but not in the US are probably more common here nowadays. The only Potteriana name I can think of that is seriously trendy is James, especially James as just James and not Jim or Jamie. And I don't think it became trendy because it was in Harry Potter.

*All of the above said, I think Hermione has gone from "so weird nobody can even pronounce it" to mildly heard-of. And it wouldn't surprise me if, by 2020, Hermione is considered a perfectly normal name in the US.
posted by Sara C. at 11:58 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


How to pick a weird name for your kid

Huh, I was at a thing today where there were young sisters named Cedar and Turquoise. My friend and I figured if they have a third the front-runners are Limpet, Mako and Barnacle on account of them already having one plant and one mineral and now needing an animal.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:58 PM on October 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


I know of some people who just had a daughter named Vesper.

And this is for real, not an Orangejello situation.
posted by Sara C. at 12:00 AM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Huh. In the 80s there was a single Jennifer in my grade and maybe 1 or 2 others in the 2-3 years ahead of us. On the other hand, there were 5 Laurens in my grade in elementary school and 9 by the time we got to high school. I have never again been amongst such a concentration of Laurens. It was very odd.

The sudden recent explosion of Isabellas made me gag. Fucking Twilight.

Also here is a link to the gif directly for anyone else who doesn't want to click on a link to the execrable Jezebel.
posted by elizardbits at 12:00 AM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd also like to see more classical Roman names out there, and they're non-specific now.

The problem is that it makes them sound like Death Eaters.
posted by elizardbits at 12:01 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well The One Rule Of Harry Potter Names is that they have to be fun to say, so I can totally see more of those names becoming popular, just on the edge of being out of date (No one thinks "Lily" and thinks "Lily Munster" anymore) while still being fun to say.

On that side note, Columbia. Columbia is a nice name.
posted by The Whelk at 12:02 AM on October 20, 2013


is it odd that I think Vesper is odd but Vesta would be totally awesome?
posted by The Whelk at 12:03 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem is that it makes them sound like Death Eaters.

FEATURE NOT BUG
posted by The Whelk at 12:03 AM on October 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


Livia! There's a nice non-death eater name.
posted by The Whelk at 12:04 AM on October 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I know of some people who just had a daughter named Vesper. And this is for real, not an Orangejello situation.

Vesper is the Bond girl in Casino Royale.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:05 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah but it would be pronounced Liwia, which is not very fab.
posted by elizardbits at 12:06 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why are you telling me how to pronounce my kid's name?

(as for Casino Royale, Eva is a better name. A Vesper is a drink.)
posted by The Whelk at 12:08 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyway I thought Spike Toutman had the best possible kids names: Ransom, Bash, Atomic, Scipio....
posted by The Whelk at 12:09 AM on October 20, 2013


I think The Whelk is onto something with Livia. Lillian, Vivian*, and Lily are all on the rise. Olivia is really popular.

*I am dying to someday have a child named Vyvyan, both to mock the alternaspellers and because of both Oscar Wilde (had a son named Vyvyan) and The Young Ones. Also it looks so rad typed out with all those V's and Y's.
posted by Sara C. at 12:09 AM on October 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I haven't met a Suzanne in forever, did Leonard Cohen ruin that name, or was it Somers?
posted by The Whelk at 12:10 AM on October 20, 2013


We should go further back, to Akhenaten and Ptolemy and Neferhotep.
posted by elizardbits at 12:10 AM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I can't imagine the name Vivian without thinking of flashing eyes and tipped-waist outfits and that is probobly a good thing
posted by The Whelk at 12:11 AM on October 20, 2013


I would love to see one of these for boys' names. I would bet my bottom dollar that the boy's name that dominated in the early 70s, say around '72 and '73, just like Jennifer did, is Christopher. No doubt in my mind.
posted by zardoz at 12:12 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The popularity boom of Jennifer was given an enormous boost from the 1970 book/film Love Story, iirc. Much like Isabella getting a boost from Twilight today, I assume.
posted by lovecrafty at 12:12 AM on October 20, 2013


We should go further back, to Akhenaten and Ptolemy and Neferhotep.

I know a few Celopatras, and I feel like I should see a few more Pullos and Titus'es around.
posted by The Whelk at 12:13 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


ooo, great name, make them hate you forever when filling out name-forms on scantrons: Artemisia

You'd think Dido would be more popular, no love for the classics....
posted by The Whelk at 12:14 AM on October 20, 2013


Vespa is a brand of moped. You don't want that for a child.
posted by Joh at 12:14 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Vesta, the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family - I know ONE Apollo but no Mercury's..C'mon, your nick name could be Merc! How awesome?)
posted by The Whelk at 12:16 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I went to high school with two Suzannes.

That said I don't think it's popular with little girls right now. I think there are probably more Shoshanas.

Additionally, growing up in southern Louisiana there was a weird little bubble of French and French-sounding names that are otherwise not that popular in the US. In addition to a million Michelles, we also had a lot of Aimees (pronounced Ah-MEE, not Amy), and names like Madeleine, Camille, and Adele were not considered strange. I mean, yeah I grew up with a bunch of Suzannes, but I also grew up with a Celeste and a Helene. I think there was a Eugenie at my school, too.
posted by Sara C. at 12:17 AM on October 20, 2013


Suzannes are still out there. But they go by Sues (plural nickname), Suzie (z not s), Z (just the letter) or Zannah (drop the prefix) now.
posted by fishmasta at 12:17 AM on October 20, 2013


And "Madison" wasn't really used as a first name at all until the movie Splash.
posted by lovecrafty at 12:18 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why name your child ageda moped when you can call them Harley, like so many in my hometown. Jim Beam and Slade were also somewhat popular.
I was born in 1980 and the were multiple Rhiannons in my class. When I got shipped out to a private school it was so many Megans (made me think of Heathers).
posted by Trivia Newton John at 12:18 AM on October 20, 2013


Still waiting to meet an Iphigenia.

Or Antigone.


(although if they're anything like me they will endure a lifetime of people calling them Anti-Gone and not An-tigon-ee)
posted by The Whelk at 12:19 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The sudden recent explosion of Isabellas made me gag. Fucking Twilight.

A couple of my friends named their daughter Isabella, eight years ago (eight? or is it nine by now?). No connection whatsoever with the Twilight thing. I don't think she's aware of the books at all, and likely by the time she's old enough to care it will all seem like ancient history. And yet... in her world, Isabella will be a common name.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:19 AM on October 20, 2013


Sigorney is out there people, ready for the taking.
posted by The Whelk at 12:20 AM on October 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I know of some people who just had a daughter named Vesper.

And this is for real, not an Orangejello situation.


Sounds like a pretty awesome name to me, actually.
posted by threeants at 12:22 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Quintus needs a comeback. It's just fun to write.
posted by The Whelk at 12:24 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think there's a difference between your Madisons and your Isabellas, though.

Firstly, the name Madison in Splash was a joke. I'm pretty sure there were like zero women with Madison as a first name at that time. And for a long time after that. It's not like that movie came out and the next year it was the hot new name. Instead, my guess is that you see little girl Madisons happening a generation after the movie, people who saw Splash as children and either didn't get the joke or always thought of it as kind of a quirky interesting name for a girl.

Whereas, for Isabella, I'm pretty sure it's more a case of Stephenie Meyer choosing a name that was already popular for baby girls. Which a lot of pulpy/genre/romance novelists do. I really want to like historical fiction bodice rippers, for example, but I can never get into them because they always feature women in 16th century France named, like, Alexis or something. I bet every character in a romance novel right now is called Ava, Mia, Sophie, etc. despite it being grossly inappropriate for the setting.

I had a theory that Nicholas Sparks was responsible for all this, but I checked and he apparently gives his heroines vaguely appropriate names. He does have a WWII soldier named Noah, though, which, ugh. CANNOT.
posted by Sara C. at 12:25 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Noah Webster
posted by maggieb at 12:29 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Interesting to watch southern-block names like Hannah move north, and northern-block names like Emily move west and south.
posted by stbalbach at 12:29 AM on October 20, 2013


FEATURE NOT BUG
We could go with an older tradition:
Clytemnestra, Calypso, Medea, Circe.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:29 AM on October 20, 2013


I am totally on board with more Circes.


Firstly, the name Madison in Splash was a joke. I'm pretty sure there were like zero women with Madison as a first name at that time. And for a long time after that. It's not like that movie came out and the next year it was the hot new name. Instead, my guess is that you see little girl Madisons happening a generation after the movie, people who saw Splash as children and either didn't get the joke or always thought of it as kind of a quirky interesting name for a girl.


I was always told the name "Donna" was jokey cause it means "lady" and it was a har har new immigrants name their kid something fancy-sound like Madison har har but I have no idea if that's true.
posted by The Whelk at 12:32 AM on October 20, 2013


Noah the biblical name? There's a Noah in the Grapes of Wrath, too.
posted by lovecrafty at 12:33 AM on October 20, 2013


Yes, Calypso. And Penelope and Calliope. Melodic names. Had two Melodys in my school.
posted by maggieb at 12:35 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


(If it wasn't for Jon Lennon getting shot I would've been a DONALD. DON*. I think my life would've been totally different as a result)

* I narrowly escaped "Kirby" cause...I mean dear fucking god
posted by The Whelk at 12:35 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


My point isn't that Noah was never ever heard of before 2008 or something. I'm aware that it's in the bible.

Just that it was very, very rare until the last couple years. Your average soldier returning from WWII would have been named Eugene or Gerald or something. But nobody writes romantic novels about Genes and Jerrys these days. Instead they are full of Aidans and Noahs.

Seriously, Noah was probably about as common a name as Ahab or Ezekiel pre-2000.
posted by Sara C. at 12:38 AM on October 20, 2013


Ariadne is nice, also Agrios
posted by The Whelk at 12:38 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


What? No Edeltraud?
posted by mazola at 12:38 AM on October 20, 2013


Kirby was a good name for a great Golden retriever. My neph-dog.
posted by maggieb at 12:38 AM on October 20, 2013


Your average WW2 guy probably had an Anglicized German name or a seemingly fussy "named after Grandfather" name.
posted by The Whelk at 12:39 AM on October 20, 2013


What? No Edeltraud?

We're not ready.
posted by The Whelk at 12:40 AM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


(yes I know they're different names the lengths I go for a joke)
posted by The Whelk at 12:42 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Surprised that Heather didn't seem to make it onto the maps, as the Heathers certainly gave the Jennifers a run for their money all throughout my school years.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 12:43 AM on October 20, 2013


The Heathers killed each other off.
posted by The Whelk at 12:43 AM on October 20, 2013 [43 favorites]


I'm waiting for the Anglo-Saxon names to make a comeback. Alfred and Ethel and Wilfred.

I mean, we're getting close, what with Edward the sparkly vampire, anglophilic names due to Harry Potter and Doctor Who, and the perennial vogue for Gaelic names.
posted by Sara C. at 12:43 AM on October 20, 2013


What's really interesting about Jennifer is how long it was dominant.

I looked at the individual maps to track where the dominant names originated. From a casual look, I'd say:
  • WV, KY, and TN region: Amanda, Ashley, Hannah
  • The South: Kimberly, Angela, Brittany, Taylor
  • Upper New England: Jessica, Emily
  • Upper Midwest of MN and ND: Emily, Emma, Samantha, Ava
Then also:
  • Utah: Jennifer
  • CO: Michelle
  • Washington: Olivia
  • Kansas: Madison
  • NM and CO: Isabella
And then Sophia comes out of about twenty states in several different regions in one year, quite unlike any other name.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:45 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Also, as a bearer of one of the names Sara C. mentions above, I met only one other in high school, one more in college, but in the past ten years or so have seen, not an explosion, but certainly a dramatic increase since my lonely childhood years of people always, always either spelling or pronouncing my name wrong.)
posted by Hal Mumkin at 12:46 AM on October 20, 2013


I'd bet the Flame and the Flower had something to do with the rise of Heather as a popular name. (I had a friend who was named Shanna directly because of the Woodiwiss novel.)

One of my prized possessions is a 80s historical (revolutionary war period) romance novel with a heroine that has my name. The title has the name in it, right above the cheesy clinch painting. I have a fairly uncommon hippie-ish 70s name.
posted by lovecrafty at 12:46 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I assume everyone found gnostic philosophy all at the same time.
posted by The Whelk at 12:46 AM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I know a Calliope. Goes by Callie.
posted by moonmilk at 12:47 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I wanted to honor my folk culture I'd probobly name my kids Elvis and Janis. Or Fscott and Flannery.
posted by The Whelk at 12:48 AM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Maybe a daughter named Huey. Or Delano.
posted by The Whelk at 12:50 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a child, I once read a book or story with a girl named Dorcas and thought it was about the most hilarious thing ever. Maybe I'll name my kids Dorcas and Nimrod, the latter in honor of my actual great uncle.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 12:51 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tiamat is just asking for trouble.
posted by The Whelk at 12:52 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


But Lisa? Why Lisa?

My theory is that it was at least partly popularized by Grace Kelly's character in Rear Window, which came out in 1954.

Of course I could just be wanting to glamorize a name that was pretty bog-standard by the time I got it in the '70s. My parents later claimed they'd had no idea how popular it was. And they were Elvis fans! (Lisa Marie had been born in '68.)
posted by lisa g at 12:52 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yep, that's exactly what I'm talking about, lovecrafty. 19th century orphans in London named Heather? Nope. My puny brain just cannot suspend its disbelief long enough to read 50 pages, rub one out, and toss it into the recycling bin.
posted by Sara C. at 12:53 AM on October 20, 2013


Vesper could also be for Vesper Holly, who is a total badass.
posted by emkelley at 12:55 AM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


All 19th century orphans are named Agnes.

It means lamb! Lamb of god!
posted by The Whelk at 12:55 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My parents later claimed they'd had no idea how popular it was.

Mine, too, with Sara! My mother insists that she gravitated to it because it was unusual and old-fashioned.

I like the theory that people think names are unusual because they don't know anyone their own age who has that name. And thus the next generation of trendy names is born. And it's true that my parents had me relatively young and would not have known that many people with kids at the time. And, hey, at least they didn't go for Jennifer or Lauren.
posted by Sara C. at 12:57 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re 19th century orphans, I'm just imagining seas of Marys. Like there would probably be an entire wing of the orphanage just for the Marys. But, you know, Mary isn't a sexy name for a badass heroine in a romance novel. It doesn't have scope for imagination, as Anne Shirley would say.
posted by Sara C. at 1:00 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now I'm wondering how many girls in the 30s were named Scarlett. I know one Scarlet, but her parents got it from a Grateful Dead song.
posted by lovecrafty at 1:01 AM on October 20, 2013


For more info, a table of the five most frequent given names for male and female babies born in each year 1913-2012. Jacob has been the number one name for boys for 14 years, as of 2012, so yeah. Twilightin'.
posted by taz at 1:02 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Seriously, Noah was probably about as common a name as Ahab or Ezekiel pre-2000."

Well, Noah is a common Jewish name; I've known a number of people named Noah. I think that Ezekiel is not uncommon. I've never met an Ahab.

But, yeah, among American gentiles you're probably right. And it's the evangelicals. For example, my two nephews' names are Noah and Ephraim.

A longtime friend (and ex) named her daughter Ada, which I think is pretty awesome and, as far as I know, not a burgeoning "uncommon" name.

And I met a woman who was a coworker and friend of some of my friends named Molybdenum. She'd explain that her father was a chemist. She goes by Moly, mostly. She and my friends (who were also all college friends of mine) were all working at that time as textbook editors. I met her at a party made up mostly of that crowd and also a group of game developers (hers or someone's SO). And so basically everyone there was in complete agreement that her name was totally awesome.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:02 AM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I know one Scarlett
posted by The Whelk at 1:02 AM on October 20, 2013


Watching the "Emilys" on the map is kind of painful.


When I was growing up, I was the ony Emily I knew. I didn't meet anyone else witn that name until I was in college.

In the early to mid nineties, this started to change.

Soon, the world was full of toddlers with my first name. Now, if you grew up ad a "John" or a "Jennifer" I am sure you are used to hearing many, many people referred to by the same first name.


I, on the other hand, still have repetetive motion injuries in my neck from other people hollering for their own personal Emily.

(I should have known better, of course. Nobody hollers for me.)
posted by louche mustachio at 1:03 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


In my neck of the woods, the Lauren craze mutated to Laurel, I think, in tribute to our plentiful supply of Kalmia latifolia.
posted by maggieb at 1:04 AM on October 20, 2013


You have no idea how many e-mails I get from people thinking I'm a hundred and twenty year old choral composer.
posted by The Whelk at 1:04 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sara C.: Re 19th century orphans, I'm just imagining seas of Marys. Like there would probably be an entire wing of the orphanage just for the Marys. But, you know, Mary isn't a sexy name for a badass heroine in a romance novel. It doesn't have scope for imagination, as Anne Shirley would say.

Aww, Anne Shirley! Anne with an e! Do you remember how she longed to be named Cordelia?
Anne: I've always imagined that my name was Cordelia - at least, I always have of late years. When I was young I used to imagine it was Geraldine, but I like Cordelia better now. But if you call me Anne, please call me Anne spelled with an e....It looks so much nicer. When you hear a name pronounced can't you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-N-N looks dreadful, but A-N-N-E looks so much more distinguished. If you'll only call me Anne spelled with an e I shall try to reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:06 AM on October 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


In any case I got into the bad habit of calling people by their last name from too many re runss of The X-files. I thought it was grown up. I still do it unconsciously even though I know it's rude.
posted by The Whelk at 1:07 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


There were so many Elizabeths, Mollys, Sarahs, and Erins at my school. And Laurens.



You'd think Dido would be more popular, no love for the classics....


All I see is "dildo" when I look at that, and I don't think that can be escaped. Not these days.
posted by discopolo at 1:07 AM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


In order to ensure future total ingooglability ever child on earth will be named One Weird Old Tip.
posted by The Whelk at 1:09 AM on October 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


My mother is Ann without an e, which I guess has plagued her her entire life. She nearly demanded a divorce when my father once bought her a tourist cartouche from Egypt that she could immediately tell had 4 glyphs on it instead of three. I suppose if I were shooting for (American) uncommonality I could go with my grandmothers' names: Stanisława and Gilberte.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 1:13 AM on October 20, 2013


At this point, naming your daughter Mary is downright rebellious.


That name has always reminded me of clunky shoes and nuns and girls who came to my high school from strict Catholic schools. And grandmothers who insist that you wear pantyhose with open toes sandals.
posted by discopolo at 1:13 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Scarlett wasn't popular in the 30's, but there was a slew of movie star related names that trended right around then. Judy, Barbara, Linda, and Shirley were all inspired by Hollywood starlets of the 30's and 40s.

Re Cordelia, I have a feeling it's the next Madison. I know someone who just had a baby Cora, and the Buffy/Angel generation are growing up and having kids now. And it fits right in with the vaguely old fashioned trend of Emma, Grace, Sophia, etc. I could see Coraline edging it out, though.
posted by Sara C. at 1:14 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone who has done genealogy research, seas of Marys is about right. I had one ancestor who married three Marys, as far as I can tell.
posted by tavella at 1:14 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think marrying three Marys is the 19th century equivalent of a Kelly marrying a Kelly or a Chris marrying a Chris.
posted by Sara C. at 1:16 AM on October 20, 2013


Yeah, I've been thinking that while once upon a time having an unusual, cool-sounding name was distingué, now it means that you'd better not ever put one step wrong because every school admissions office, potential employer, date, or landlord will be doing the google on you, and you won't be able to shelter amid the likenamed.
posted by taz at 1:16 AM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've traced genealogies where James Anderson was the son of James Anderson, who was the son of James Anderson, and so forth. The reason being, presumably, that it was a perfectly good name and why mess with things? The difficulty comes when you have two James Andersons producing kids at the same time (which is quite possible) and they don't think the name of the mother is worth mentioning. Grr.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:17 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually the trend now is for people to try to be more individual rather than more traditional. Everyone is looking for the name that will make their child unique.

Which is weird when you think about the google liability, as well as the degree to which everyone ends up with an email address that is some version of their name. I know my parents could not have known email was going to happen, but OMG IF I HAVE TO SPELL MY NAME ONE MORE TIME I WILL DIE. I can't even imagine how bad it's going to be for little RaeLynne and Brynnleigh. As much as I joke about Vyvyan.

I wonder if the next generation -- the children of all the Pipers and Liams -- is going to make a serious return to name conformity in the face of the annoyance of having a weird name in the digital age.
posted by Sara C. at 1:25 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kirby was a good name for a great Golden retriever.


pffff everyone knows Kirby is a beagle's name doy
posted by louche mustachio at 1:30 AM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sara C.: At the turn of the century, Americans were naming about 900 boys Noah per year, declining to 4-500 / year by the early '20s. So there would have been around 14-16 thousand fighting age Noahs.
posted by lastobelus at 1:39 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


My name is both incredibly common in my native language and rare in the US. Which means I'm both the only person with it in the room and impossible to Google. I'm wondering if we will start seeing more immigrants keep their ethnic names for that reason.

Although in this age of "personal branding," maybe being easily found online is a feature, not a bug.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:44 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sara C. Eugene was 10-20 times as common as Noah. But among the oldest soldiers, Gerald would have only been a little more than twice as common.
posted by lastobelus at 1:46 AM on October 20, 2013


Well I call the elk-man stalking me Gerhardt and I leave it at that.
posted by The Whelk at 1:47 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Still a dumb romance novel name.
posted by Sara C. at 1:47 AM on October 20, 2013


^By cracky, right you are.
posted by maggieb at 1:50 AM on October 20, 2013


I will admit that Noah is at least better than Heather and Brandon for 19th century Brits turned Southerners.
posted by Sara C. at 1:55 AM on October 20, 2013


The only Potteriana name I can think of that is seriously trendy is James, especially James as just James and not Jim or Jamie. And I don't think it became trendy because it was in Harry Potter.

I don't think James-as-James has anything to do with Potter at all. It happened before Potter. Anyone I know with that name born after, oh, about 1975 or so, goes by James and not Jim or Jamie. It's like how if your name is William, and you were born in the 1950s, you're Bill, but if you were born in the 1980s, you're Will.
posted by breakin' the law at 2:37 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The dominance of Jennifer on the map during the 70s made me remember a book I used to see in the library years ago called "Jennifer Fever: Why Older Men Pursue Younger Women", so titled because at the time so many young women were named Jennifer.

The book was published in 1988, right about the time the first wave of Jennifers would have been about 18. However as this was a phenomenon that was apparently already a thing by the time she wrote her book, the majority of the young women involved would have been more likely to be Lisas. The Jennifers of her day would have been little girls to young teenagers.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:42 AM on October 20, 2013


Seriously, Noah was probably about as common a name as Ahab or Ezekiel pre-2000.

I went to high school in the mid-1990s, and I personally knew 3 Noahs in my (large) graduating class. I never met an Ahab or Ezekiel.
posted by barnoley at 3:24 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And then Sophia comes out of about twenty states in several different regions in one year, quite unlike any other name.

It's probably the first name where its spread was Internet-based, rather than physical community based.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:32 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


My mother gave her four sons very traditional English names (what, with her being English). I can honestly say that none of us ever encountered another student with our same first name throughout our K-12 schooling. As far as I know, I was the only boy with my first name in every school I attended through to the end of high school, and I'm absolutely confident that's the case for my brothers as well.

Our names aren't weird as such (plenty of famous people share them, even modern famous people)--they're just very, very English and uncommon outside that wet island, especially here in the states.

It's still fairly startling for me to meet someone with my first name, and it's very funny to see that's true for them, too, most of the time. My user name here is geographical in origin, not eponymous.
posted by maxwelton at 3:47 AM on October 20, 2013


I was a Jennifer before the diaspora. I asked my mother why Jennifer, and it was because she had a friend from England named Jennifer and liked the name. Little did she know... I remember being at summer camp with 5 of us in the tent, and 3 of us were named Jennifer. I spent a week being called "Hat" instead, because I always wore one. I did manage to escape the ubiquitous Jennifer middle names Ann(e) and Lynn though.
posted by booksherpa at 3:58 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Welsh girls' names to be weird (outside Wales) but wonderful - Angharad, Ceridwen and Blodeuwedd.
posted by Abiezer at 3:59 AM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


baby graymouser came close to being a Sophia, but we know two other young Sophias. So it's best that she's an Iris. (Which has gotten us all sorts of compliments on the name.) mrs graymouser liked Sophia and Olivia but we decided against them because she's a Jennifer born in the early '80s.
posted by graymouser at 4:03 AM on October 20, 2013


I, on the other hand, still have repetetive motion injuries in my neck from other people hollering for their own personal Emily.

I know your pain, being a 36-year-old Jack in the UK. The streets are full of women calling my name, but it is not me that they want.

When I was little Jack was a very peculiar name for a child, and the only other Jacks I encountered were elderly blokes using it as a nickname for John - every adult I met would comment on it being an old man's name, and my fellow children would question whether it was a real name at all! Then, at some point in the late '80s, there was what you might call a new Jack swing. Come 1994 it was the most popular name for baby boys, and held the top spot for the next fourteen sodding years. Thousands upon thousands of little fuckers unodded my odd name! I hate them all!
posted by jack_mo at 4:10 AM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


ah the origin of the phrase "More useless than screaming Hey Jennifer in a high school cafeteria."

Mike Doughty, "27 Jennifers."
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:29 AM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Most of the names seem to spread sort of organically across the country, but not Jennifer. In 1969, it's nowhere. In 1970, it's got the nation in a vise-grip.

This, according to Wikipedia, is because love means never having to say you're sorry.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:37 AM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Girls are named after the day they are born on, boys after the direction they are born in.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:51 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Vespa is a brand of moped. You don't want that for a child.

It could be worse. Say hello to little Ruckus and Zuma.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:00 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Come 1994 it was the most popular name for baby boys, and held the top spot for the next fourteen sodding years. Thousands upon thousands of little fuckers unodded my odd name! I hate them all!

And it's still #1 in Scotland!

Comforting the British baby name lists for 2012 (England and Wales; Scotland (PDF)) to the US equivalent is interesting. The trend towards old-fashioned-sounding names (for lack of a better term) is definitely stronger in Britain, especially for boys - the US doesn't have the Alfie/Charlie/Harry/Freddie invasion at all.
posted by Catseye at 5:03 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


My name is one of the ones that Sara C. mentioned and yeah, no one my age, ~50, has it. I don't know how many people have told me that their grandfather or great uncle had my name though. In my recent job there was one same-named coworker and when I thought about it, I realized that it was the first time in my entire life that I'd been either at work or in class with someone of the same name. I'd finally experienced something that all of the Mikes, Chrises, Daves, and Bobs of my generation took for granted.
posted by octothorpe at 5:11 AM on October 20, 2013


Obligatory posting of East/West College Bowl and East/West College Bowl 2
posted by Rhomboid at 5:11 AM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I did manage to escape the ubiquitous Jennifer middle names Ann(e) and Lynn though

Weird. For Sarahs it's Elizabeth or sometimes Jane. Luckily I escaped, too.

Personally, I always felt the worst for Jennifers with really common last names, like Smith, Jones, or Johnson.

the US doesn't have the Alfie/Charlie/Harry/Freddie invasion at all.

We somewhat do, but in manifests in different ways. People here who want an old fashioned name tend to go biblical, or to go to something that evokes Old Timey without necessarily being a name that was traditionally popular. People like Liam and Ethan because they sound like old fashioned Irish names. You've also got stuff like Wyatt and Mason and Jameson which evoke traditional American heritage.
posted by Sara C. at 5:21 AM on October 20, 2013


Oh this explains that gym class I took with five Jennifers. Of course you had to remember too who wanted to be called Jen or Jenny that week.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 5:26 AM on October 20, 2013


Still waiting to meet an Iphigenia.

Or Antigone.


I know an elderly Greek woman named Antigone. I also know a man in his 20s named Perikles. Greek people have great names.
posted by apricot at 5:31 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Am I the only person OCD enough to get annoyed that the color for a particular name would not stay constant and change during the animation?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:35 AM on October 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


I also heard the explanation that Love Story was behind the Jennifer boom. It was quite an uncommon name before 1970.
posted by medusa at 5:42 AM on October 20, 2013


My niece is an Olivia, but my brother got that from our paternal grandfather (middle name "Oliver"). He's always been pretty big on Using Family Names for both kids ("Oliver" was the considered name for her if she were a boy, and he was also considering using "Hurley" as a girls' name - Hurley was our great-grandparents' surname). And that made me realize that that could be an explanation for the apparent recurrence of some "old-fashioned" names now and then - kids being named after older relatives. Think about it - there are a handful of names that are common among a given generation, and there are also a cluster of people who try to name kids after grandma or whatever. So if you have a bunch of people in a given point in time who are naming their kids after people who were given names themselves at about the same time, then that leads to a mini-bumper-crop of a couple specific "old-fashioned names", and other people hear them and it spreads.

I'm actually a bit puzzled how my own New England family got my name from the south.

As someone who has done genealogy research, seas of Marys is about right. I had one ancestor who married three Marys, as far as I can tell.

Aaaaaaand now I have a Great Big Sea song stuck in my head.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:51 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would like to throw my inconsequential weight behind getting a trend going for Irish names that are spelled not-at-all how they sound. Siobhan! Aoife! Niamh! Come on, America, you can do this!

Maybe Sophia's sudden and trans-regional surge is to do with Golden Girls nostalgia [he suggested unseriously]?
posted by erlking at 5:59 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, considering the regional variations this gif unveiled for me, I'd love to see a province-by-province Canadian map. I went to school with many a Jennifer and an Amanda, as to be expected, but Pams and Erins were also very very common in the 1980s and 1990s. There were 3 Pams in my small-town class of 45-or-so!
posted by erlking at 6:06 AM on October 20, 2013


I didn't know Sophia was becoming really popular just now (I don't know many babies) but I was glad to see it, because it's one of my favorite names. Good choice, America.
posted by a birds at 6:07 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would like to throw my inconsequential weight behind getting a trend going for Irish names that are spelled not-at-all how they sound. Siobhan! Aoife! Niamh! Come on, America, you can do this!

I've seen a few "Shevauns" now and then. And there's always "Shawn".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I knew a Shyvonne. It still has a better chance of getting pronounced correctly than Siobhan by most Americans, I'd wager.
posted by Jeanne at 6:14 AM on October 20, 2013


Gah, what is going with all the Ava naming? When did that happen?

Also, it's worthy of note, Hannah was never the top name in Montana.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:14 AM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Mainly, the world needs more Harry Potter names, like Albus Dumbledore or Hardcastle McCormick or Benedict Cumberbatch
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:15 AM on October 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


Jennifer I sort of get, because it's vaguely mythical (variant on Guinevere) and non-traditional right at a time when the current childbearing generation wanted nothing to do with traditional names and were looking to myth and mysticism for aesthetic cues.
I recently read elsewhere, in relation to this same animation, that the sudden rise from obscurity to dominance of Jennifer can be attributed to the character "Jennifer Cavilleri" from the popular novel Love Story. I find this (no offense) more plausible than a vague "people wanted mysticism" explanation, especially given the recent rise of Isabella.
It was my parenthetical duty to give my children, Bracket, Tilde and Ellipsis, pragmatic names.
When I hear "pragmatic name", I think something more along the lines of "The Vice President of Corporate Development", being pragmatic as in "Don't you know who I am? I am The Vice President of Corporate Development! Now stand aside and let me through that door!"
posted by Flunkie at 6:23 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And that made me realize that that could be an explanation for the apparent recurrence of some "old-fashioned" names now and then - kids being named after older relatives. Think about it - there are a handful of names that are common among a given generation, and there are also a cluster of people who try to name kids after grandma or whatever.

Laura Wattenberg has addressed this theory. In short, some (maybe) are, some aren't.

Oliver and Olivia through the years.
posted by lalex at 6:28 AM on October 20, 2013


I wonder if the olden day's Mary dominance could be taken with a grain of salt because so many Marys and Josephs went by their second name.

The Sean, Shawn, Shaun battles of the early 80s would be cool to see.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:33 AM on October 20, 2013


You know what really kills me? I, a total snob who (let's face it) prides themselves on their unusual taste and general above-the-herd-ness, am totally taken with all the names that kick in once people of my generation really start having babies. Olivia? A great name! Ava? Also a great name, one I've liked for years! Emma? The name of one of my favorite novels! Sophia? What's not to like about wisdom! I love those names. There may be, like, ten Avas in my friends' kids' classes, and yet I still think Ava is a great name. I try so hard all my life to be a special-wecial snowflake, and I'm totally brought low by the Olivias. (I even think Madison is kind of okay.)
posted by Frowner at 6:39 AM on October 20, 2013 [27 favorites]


Still waiting to meet an Iphigenia.

I'm trying to imagine this particular epic as a bedtime story, and it's not going well...

...I say, despite being named after a bloody biblical character*. But at least I didn't have nightmares about being slaughtered and sacrificed by Dad so the warships could sail!


*SO awesome, by the way-- a little old-fashioned, rarely used nowadays, easy to spell, distinguished, good story...I never could buy those souvenir license places though.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:46 AM on October 20, 2013


Well if someone is in this thread looking for a less common yet not unknown moniker, let me pitch Samantha or Samuel, everyone knows exactly one other (if only a friends pet) but except for a Jewish grade school there is unlikely to be ever more than one in the room.
posted by sammyo at 6:47 AM on October 20, 2013


I've always wanted a son named Jacob, so that every time he wanted something I could say "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown"

AHAHAHAHA!

...what? I can't seriously be the only person who wants to spend the rest of his life doing that to a child. You all lie.
posted by aramaic at 6:48 AM on October 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I like the theory that people think names are unusual because they don't know anyone their own age who has that name. And thus the next generation of trendy names is born.
I think there's something to this - at least some people gravitate to names that are sort of "old timey", but not yet completely unheard of, and there's a limited number of such names to choose from. Of that limited number, a certain few become more popular than the others (more or less randomly), and then there's a snowball effect.

I remember when I was a kid, I thought if ever had daughters, "Emma", "Emily", and "Abigail" would be pretty and unusual-but-not-weird names. Then like (I don't know) a decade or two later, I noticed that every eight year old girl on earth was named either Emma, Emily, or Abigail.
posted by Flunkie at 6:49 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ghidorah: "Gah, what is going with all the Ava naming? When did that happen?

Also, it's worthy of note, Hannah was never the top name in Montana.
"

1996 (or 1997?) it was. But it mostly seems to be the Dakotas where it stuck. I thought maybe that's when the show started, but it started a decade later, with Hannah nowhere to be found in Montana. WTF?

I like Emily. As for Emma, one of my friends from high school was an Emma. She was killed in 97. If the rest of the Emmas are like her personality wise... LOOK OUT WORLD!

Ah, Jennifer. I have a cousin Jennifer. In my class of ~100, we had 5 Jennifers that I can think of just off the top of my head, which is like, if you figure 50/50 10% of the girls named Jennifer. I can't think of any guys with that number. There were 2 Daves (myself included), 2 Bobs, 2 Brians, 2 Joes. No Larries, but 1 Darrell.

I've always like most Sarahs that I've met. Wonder why that is.

Fact: In the 90s, I was half asleep, and Mr. Rogers popped up in the background (yes, I watched Sesame Street as a teenager)... I thought i heard him say "Today we'll have a visit from Schoolbus" and I perked up "What?" I can't recall what he really sad, but I pondered it and for a looooooooooong time (like, say, 5-6 years), I really was insistent that if I had a child, I would name it Schoolbus (all one word). I had to tell people to remove all concept of what we think of with the word and listen to the sound AS IT IS... and how it worked with my last name... nobody liked it. The crumb bums.
posted by symbioid at 6:49 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I never thought I'd be so grateful for my mom giving me an (not totally) unusual name.

My newborn nephew, Jasper, goes both ways when his parents get asked about it. They live in England, so the older generation thinks of his name as lovely and old-fashioned, but their friends and co-workers (around their mid-30s) think of it as strange and terribly modern. To my ears, it is an old-fashioned name and all the cooler for that.
posted by Kitteh at 6:50 AM on October 20, 2013


So it wasn't my imagination that every datable girl around me in the mid-80s was a Jenny.
posted by Legomancer at 6:50 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Being named Jeremy was a trial for most of my early life. I didn't meet another kid with my name until I was fourteen. I went to a regional gathering of USY, and met four other guys named Jeremy. For each of us, it was pretty much the first time they'd ever met another Jeremy. More than that, we all became good friends pretty quickly, and hung out together all weekend, and then after that, at all of the big regional events, we would get together.

It was considered the height of comedy for other kids to poke their head into whatever room we were in and say 'Hey, Jeremy!' then burst out laughing as all of us immediately turned our heads. We'd just never been in any situation where we weren't the only Jeremy in existance.

Then... then Pearl Jam. I spent a year in high school dealing with the wittiness of the guy who sat behind me in Econ. Every time I answered the teacher's question, he'd start singing.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:52 AM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I came across one 18th century person in parochial records called Admonition Bastard.

Now that, dear readers, is hardcore. Especially for a woman, which she was. She made a good marriage, too.
posted by Devonian at 6:58 AM on October 20, 2013 [26 favorites]


Now I feel kinda lucky that I was born past peak-Jennifer. If 1985 produced enough of us for a(nother) five-Jennifer gym class, then I can't imagine what it must have been like in the '70s.
posted by gueneverey at 7:00 AM on October 20, 2013


I came across one 18th century person in parochial records called Admonition Bastard.
Obligatory Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned
posted by Flunkie at 7:00 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a father of a six year old Sophia, I have to admit not checking the popularity index first. Now I'm bummed because she goes to school with multiple Sophias and it has become the Jennifer of this generation. We picked Sophia because it was rare and unique sounding which I think is just some sort of generational cultural unconcious phenomena.

As for the gnostic philosophy theory up thread, check out the rise of Zoe as well...
posted by spaceviking at 7:01 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I knew some people with a daughter named Isabelle in the 90s, and while that was slightly unusual, it felt like a refreshing and unique name at the time. I'm pretty sure that Bella from Twilight is part of the same trend wave as all the little Isabellas out there, rather than the Isabellas being directly inspired by Stephenie Meyer.

Yeah, Stephenie Meyer has actually said that Isabella was the name she was saving if she ever had a daughter. Robbed of the chance through sheer fate, that's where we got the fictional character from.

As a pre-schooler, I desperately wanted to be a Jessica. Weird thing, that Phoebe is a common name now. I never met another one in the flesh until I was in college, and that was my forty-something-year-old professor.

Also having gone through the kiddie name selection thing recently, how odd it is. We surprised ourselves by going with a name that's currently in the top-100. It's been popularish for about a decade, but I suspect I'm not the only 30-year-old woman naming her kid after her doll.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:03 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was so disappointed by the rise of Sophia. See, I know the pain of having that name, the one everyone has (there were eight Jennifers in my elementary class!), and I wouldn't want to inflict that on a child. Although it is nice at times to be fairly ungooglable. But my dream baby name has always been 'Sophronia', with the intention of having 'Sophie' as a nickname. And now it wouldn't even escape the most popular name curse!

(Sophronia is basically Greek for Prudence. It was the name of one of the signers at Seneca Falls. Old-fashioned virtue name plus women's history! What could be better?)

Curse you, Sophia!

Also, Jennifer does appear to be finally starting a comeback--I have one high school student this year with that name for the first time ever (been teaching ten years) and another with the given name Jennie. So maybe someday my name won't automatically narrow my age down to within a few years!
posted by lysimache at 7:07 AM on October 20, 2013


I come from a long line of fathers giving their sons obscure first names (my great-great-grandfather Charles was probably the last time that any of us had a name that was in the top 250 for a given year). On the other hand, my mother's people go for fairly mainstream choices -- and I do indeed have a cousin Jennifer born in the midst of that early-seventies wave. I recall once looking up the frequency of my mom's oh-so-typical-for-the-forties name and my dad's unusual one and noting that I was one notch away from being the kid of Mary and Thurman.

The best name explanation I have ever encountered is a friend of the family with the lovely first/middle combination Ann Withany. As has been repeated to us, when her mother was still recovering from the difficult labour, her dad was dispatched to go register his new daughter's name for the birth certificate. The parents had considered several names but finally settled on one post partum. As he left, Ann's mother gave him the parting directive, including clarification: "Anne! With an E!"
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:12 AM on October 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oh FFS why give more hits to that attention-whoring website? Just go to the Social Security Administration website and get the actual data.

I am doing data entry for a few weeks, I input email addresses, one about every 5 seconds. For hours. So I see thousands of names a day. Just WTF is it with some of these names? I have seen about every variant of Mikayla, Mikala, Mikaylah, Michayla, Makayla, Makaylah etc. And there are so many Skylars that I wondered if that TV show with the villain named Skylar was popular when our data set was born (it wasn't).

But my pet peeve.. yeah I know your child is your unique snowflake and you want him or her to have a name that reflects your ethnic identity, but you just should not be naming your kids things like Latishawnell or Tavonalayah. You are dooming your kid. There have been studies of resumes sent to HR departments, identical resumes with generic names like John vs "cultural" names and compared with "normal" names, the ones with unusual names had a very low response rate, almost zero. Yes, it's blatantly discriminatory and unfortunately, a very real problem that you saddled your kid with.

Also do your kids a favor and do not give them names that will confuse data entry typists. Your kid will invariably make email addresses like CHANTELL11@AOL.COM and due to your kid's crappy handwriting, I can't tell whether that ends in L111 or LL11 or LLL1. Your kid will be denied basic services because nobody can guess their correct email address.

I swear, if I had kids, I'd name them John and Jane.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:15 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My daughter's name is Charlotte. When she was born in 2001, nobody was naming their daughters Charlotte (it is definitely a bit more popular now). She is the ONLY child in her middle school of 900-ish kids with that name, and one of only maybe four or five in the entire school district. And, no, she is not named after the "Sex In The City" character.
posted by briank at 7:20 AM on October 20, 2013




My wife and I were discussing baby names years ago and thought Isabella would be great. Then, suddenly it was everywhere. So we dropped it in favor of Sophia. No joke. I didn't realize we were such complete pawns of the name zeitgeist.
posted by vorpal bunny at 7:29 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I devote a somewhat stupid amount of brainspace to hypothetical future baby names. I don't want to give my kids the same name as any of my cousins' kids (so Leah, Lucy, Josie, and Penny are all out) or the kids of anyone I know from high school or college (goodbye Phoebe, Beatrice, Audrey, Willa). I go back and forth on Molly in case it continues to be a drug name. Lena seemed like a sure bet until Lena Dunham got big. I'm not sure if Lauren and Morgan will be passé by the time I spawn. And I keep writing and then erasing names in the "old but not old enough to be hip again" generation: Beverly! Lorraine! Wait, no, what am I thinking?

If my hypothetical future baby is a boy, I guess I'll name him Joe or something.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:36 AM on October 20, 2013


I came across one 18th century person in parochial records called Admonition Bastard.

One of my own Puritan-era forbears was a woman named Freelove.

I really, really want to believe that she was seriously hedonistic, kind of like the Mae West of 1645 Cape Cod.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:40 AM on October 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Your mother's name sounds old, your grandmother's name passe, but your great-grandmother's name sounds prettily old-fashioned. So there's lots of Lilys and Roses and Ruths and Judiths and Cecilys running around right now.

For boys, they're always trying to escape the feminization of boy names (Francis, Mallory, Hilary, Madison). I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old and we know an INFINITE NUMBER of boys-who-rhyme-with-Aiden. We know: Aiden and Ayden, Brayden, Caden, Drayden, Haden and Hayden, Jaden and Jayden and Jaeden, Kaden, Raiden (wasn't that a Nintendo character?), Xaiden, and Zayden. Also a Macon and a Lacon, which I feel like are in the same group but "Maiden" and "Laden" are words so they went with Cs. Also Mason. And those are just among personal acquaintances under the age of five. All of them except Aiden's mom were looking for "unusual" names. (Aiden's mom was looking for Irish names.)

We also know a Griffin, a Falcon, multiple Hunters, a Danger (first name), and a boy whose middle name is Danger (which is a little bit cooler but also his dad is obnoxiously proud that his kid can say "Danger is my middle name" and that is the only reason he named his son that).

We do not know any Jacobs but I'm sure they will turn up. Probably spelled "Jaykub."

I keep a list of unusual names that I like or loathe or find very unusual that I see on my class rosters. It's pretty long at this point. (But those are teenager/20-something names.) One of the oddest ones was "Sleeth," which sounds like a bad fantasy novel name for a villain. I never asked him why his parents named him that. Other notably odd ones: Draneol, which sounds like Draino taken as a pharmaceutical to make you poop; Glorier (not GloriA), as in someone who is always giving Glory to God ... she is a Glory-er; Shybee (he's shy! and a bee!); and Jkya, who dropped before class started so I never learned how to pronounce it. I have many, many, many more.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:45 AM on October 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm a 1980 Amy, and my sister is a 1986 Emily. (My brother, in the middle, has a more obscure name). If I ever have a girl child, though, she will be named after her late grandmother, Rosemary. It was ranked #603 last year, so I feel pretty safe. Nobody else name their kid Rosemary.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:46 AM on October 20, 2013


But my dream baby name has always been 'Sophronia', with the intention of having 'Sophie' as a nickname.

I wanted to use that name, too, but I couldn't talk my wife into it, having expended all my political capital talking her into Aletheia (Allie for short) for our first child. Daughter #2 is Tessa, which fits well in the sea of young Emmas, Avas, and Sophias, but is still pretty uncommon, as far as I can tell. We've yet to encounter a non-adult Tessa, and not many of those.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:49 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would like to throw my inconsequential weight behind getting a trend going for Irish names that are spelled not-at-all how they sound. Siobhan! Aoife! Niamh!

Names like Niamh make me wonder what the Roman alphabet ever did to Eire to deserve such abuse.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:50 AM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Xenophobe - it's not that. It's that The Irish language only tends to use about half of the 26 letters because using all 26 felt too easy. ;-)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:55 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since our might-have-been daughter isn't going to be, I'll offer her would-be name for service: Evangelia (pronounced with a hard "G" here in Greece), which would have been a) naming her for one of her grandmothers, as they do here (and grandfathers for boys), as well as b) for my husband (full first name, Evangelos), and c) most importantly, it also offers a ton of choices for preferred nicknames if the child doesn't prefer going by her full name: Evan, Eve, Eva, Evie, Angel, Angie, Vangie, Lee (Li) or Lia. Problem: full name hard to pronounce (not really, but it's unusual, so same thing) outside of Greece.
posted by taz at 7:56 AM on October 20, 2013


Every time I see Sansa on Game of Thrones I secretly feel sorry for the poor girl named after an mp3 player, though I'm pretty sure the books and the name came far before the company.

Niamh is far too close to NiMH (nickel metal hydride battery chemistry) in my nerd brain.

The stream graph makes a neat way to visualize the flow of name popularity over time.

For all we know, in another few decades we'll be swimming in Berthas and Chesters.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:59 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a really interesting article on Slate from a few years back that discusses how and why names spread. It all comes back to socioeconomics.
posted by leitmotif at 7:59 AM on October 20, 2013


My friend gave her baby daughter "Sophia" as a middle name but ran into trouble when she informed the vicar it was in honour of the early Christian tradition of Gnosticism. It took some persuading before he agreed to baptising the kid. My friend still cackles every time she sees a young girl called Sophia. Ah, the price you pay for hanging out with Comparative Religion scholars.
posted by kariebookish at 8:00 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Once upon a time in a land far away, I stood for a local council seat in London. As I was the only representative of the middle class for around a thousand miles in any direction and was an active member of the Green Party at the time, I was not going to win - I was there to make the numbers up, as under UK electoral rules parties that put up a certain number of local candidates qualified (and may still, i don't know) for the right to things like party political broadcasts during national elections. Also, the area I was in was solid, solid Labour - the local council had never been anything else, ever ever - and enormously multi-culti.

Election night, and the polls were being counted. I came last, but did at least get something like 400 votes. I was chatting to the returning officer and said "Oh, it wasn't a total wash-out...". "No," she said. "But you've got the only Anglo-Saxon name on the card." (The Tory candidate had a French name) "Those votes were the local fascists..."

I've never felt quite clean since. Local politics. Don't play unless you've got the right name - and a strong
stomach...
posted by Devonian at 8:05 AM on October 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I was looking around the SSN website yesterday for background on this, and because apparently I have nothing better to do with my life, and the trends were really not all that notable if you looked at the actual rates of those names. I cannot find the page that showed what the percentages were now, but the most popular girl names in any given year were at least mostly below 1%, not much above the runners up. (The trends are still interesting, but I think zombie map format makes the trends look a lot more pronounced than they are.)

Here is the really weird thing, though. For all the apparent dominance of Lisa, for example, it's only the fifteenth most popular name of the past 100 years, below Betty. (Betty and Lisa are both shortened versions of Elizabeth, though, which is #3 overall.)

But look at the boys' names! Each of the top 5 most popular boy names over the past 100 years has a greater incidence than Mary, the most popular girl name. And Mary is way ahead of the pack. So back to Lisa, if you compare its popularity with boys' names, it's in between Jeffrey and Gary.

It's probably a weird side effect of patriarchy or something--people are much more likely to name their sons after male relatives, girls' names are maybe seen as more frivolous or insignificant, so they're more subject to trending. Things like that.

So if some dude starts making fun of you for being named Jennifer, feel free to say, "Shut up, [James|John|Michael|Robert|William|or any of the 8 other boy names more prevalent than Jennifer]."
posted by ernielundquist at 8:06 AM on October 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


CheeseDigestsAll: Am I the only person OCD enough to get annoyed that the color for a particular name would not stay constant and change during the animation?

It's worse than just OCDishness, this is genuinely poor visualisation design: the mapmaker's choice to colour only the #1 name destroys the ability to see whether or not changes are abrupt. Jennifer's accession in 1970 happened all of a sudden, from winning one state to thirty-two in a year, and by comparison nothing much happened in 1991, but in the animation they're equally attention-grabbing flashes.
posted by finka at 8:07 AM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I must be tapped deeply into my generation's subconscious, because for years and years my favorite baby names have been Sophia and Emma, GOD DAMN IT.

I'm hoping the next baby name wars will be between Ethel, Agnes and Gertrude.
posted by sonmi at 8:13 AM on October 20, 2013


Huh.

Michelle first appeared as a dominant name in Colorado in 1967. "Michelle" by the Beatles came out in December 1965.

Donna was still holding on in the Northeast in 1960. "Donna" by Ritchie Valens came out in 1958.

Waylon Jennings cover of "Amanda" was the top country hit of 1979, which was the same year that Amanda beat out Jennifer in Appalachia.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:17 AM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm a Jacob born in the mid-70's. Never encountered another one growing up, but now, of course, they're everywhere. I wanted to change my name to Rick because Silver Spoons was the bomb yo.

We went with Miles and August for our boys... Both of which seem to be rising in popularity. I pushed for Alaistar, but was vetoed... If we'd had a girl, the name would've been Mina... Couldn't bring ourselves to go all the way to Wilhelmina, but no matter now.
posted by Jacob G at 8:18 AM on October 20, 2013


ernielundquist: "But look at the boys' names! Each of the top 5 most popular boy names over the past 100 years has a greater incidence than Mary, the most popular girl name. And Mary is way ahead of the pack. So back to Lisa, if you compare its popularity with boys' names, it's in between Jeffrey and Gary. "

I was going through some old documents for a story on local history, and while going through a Junior League directory from WWII looking to see where people were stationed and tracking down the names of a couple of local women who flew with the WASPs, I noticed how many husbands named John there were, got distracted, and ended up counting ... fully 10% of Junior League members in 1942 were married to men named John.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:18 AM on October 20, 2013


If this kid's a girl, I am vaguely toying with the idea of naming her Ida, like my late mom. But then again I don't think Ida's rolled over to "lovely old fashioned name", it might be stuck in "smelly old lady name" for a while yet.
posted by lydhre at 8:22 AM on October 20, 2013


The way Mary goes from total dominance to total oblivion is astonishing. At this point, naming your daughter Mary is downright rebellious.

My son and his wife are expecting their first child (a girl) in late December. Guess what name they chose?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:33 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


lydhre, just put an h at the end and you're trendy. Idah.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:37 AM on October 20, 2013


I go back and forth on Molly in case it continues to be a drug name.

Someone on reddit helpfully pointed out to me that Molly is a drug name (as if we didn't know). I told her that the kid's full name would be Molly Crystal Mary Jane Black Tar Bath Salts.

Got down voted for that one. Wonder why.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:42 AM on October 20, 2013 [32 favorites]


In any case I got into the bad habit of calling people by their last name from too many re runss of The X-files. I thought it was grown up. I still do it unconsciously even though I know it's rude.

My favorite line ever in the X-Files is that scene where Scully calls Mulder "Fox" for the first time, and it's a little strange, and Mulder says "don't worry, I even got my parents to call me Mulder growing up."

Also, I indirectly know an Akhenaten from Miami. Apparently grade school went okay for him.
posted by invitapriore at 8:43 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lovecrafty mentioned The Flame and the Flower above. That rang a bell so I looked it up and yep, that's the book my mon was reading when she was pregnant with me.

Signed, Brianna
posted by annathea at 8:45 AM on October 20, 2013


If I'm ever given a male child* I'm naming it Bertram.

* or a huge orange cat. Bertram is a great huge orange cat name.
posted by The Whelk at 8:45 AM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I kinda like Vesta. Though ti me it sounds very Sailor Moon. The Amazoness Quartet - Sailors Vesta, Juno, Ceres, and Pallas, named after the asteroids.

I could totally see Azure as a boy's name.

The -Aden trend bothers me less than replacing the first letter/syllable of a name. Like Kevin changed to Devin, and even a Nevin. I also don't like word names much, like Gage (gauge) or Chase.

Unusual names I have heard recently: Indigo (female, as middle name), Zeke, Rush (female middle), Archer (2 boys).
posted by IndigoRain at 8:48 AM on October 20, 2013


Bertram is so great.

The hardest part of naming, I found, was working with another person. I'd "saved" the names Percival and Verity for years, but my husband hates both of them. Meanwhile, he always wanted his daughter to be named "Miranda." Which, ick.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:49 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My only problem with Vesta is it was a brand name for "ready meals": (TV dinners, I suppose) in the UK - quite an appropriate classical reference to the hearth goddess now I think about it but not actually very good food. (and Google tells me they're still going)
posted by Abiezer at 8:52 AM on October 20, 2013


boy name: wizardsleeves spartacus pantaloons
girl name: gorgonzola mephistopheles hun

either gender: hamilcar barcalounger
posted by elizardbits at 8:55 AM on October 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


It could be worse. Say hello to little Ruckus and Zuma

Oh geez, for some reason this made me think of Roku as a boy's name. Then comes Nexus and Xbox.

Also, I have known a Chevonne and a Dallas.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:57 AM on October 20, 2013


Miranda was ruined for me by that awful stuck up arrogant character in the Mass Effect series who kept being posed as a Love a interest and I was no " No ma'am my dorky pasty paragon face is mfor Kaiden smooches* and no one else"

*Thank you, Citadel expansion, for allowing us to go on a date. TWO dates, it's like you realized most of us where playing it like a dating sim after all.
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on October 20, 2013


The one girl's name from antiquity that I have always wanted to see come back is Atalanta, but it probably sounds too much like Atlanta. Still, a good character from mythology for a kid to be inspired by, I think.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:58 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have just consulted my eight-year-old self for assistance with a thoroughly scientific study on the 20 most popular boys' and girls' names of 2012. The results:

Boys' Names
Your name is normal: 55%
Your name is kind of weird but that's OK I guess: 5%
Your name is definitely weird: 15%
Your name is really weird and I am keeping an eye on you so don't try to pull anything funny: 5%
Your name is totally weird and I don't think my parents want me playing with you: 20%

Girls' Names
Your name is normal: 15%
Your name is kind of weird but that's OK I guess: 45%
Your name is definitely weird: 15%
Your name is really weird and I am keeping an eye on you so don't try to pull anything funny: 0%
Your name is totally weird and I don't think my parents want me playing with you: 25%

The boy/girl disparity between "Your name is normal" and "Your name is kind of weird but that's OK I guess" is interesting - they're more or less flip-flops of each other - while the remaining categories are basically the same between boys and girls.

As a side note, one of the names that my eight year old self has categorized as "totally weird" is actually one that I have in more recent times considered for the name of a potential child. And I did not realize that it is now popular until seeing it on the list just now.
posted by Flunkie at 8:58 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whatever happened to all the Sally's?
posted by KingEdRa at 9:05 AM on October 20, 2013


My 8-year old went to school with a Matisse (girl), a Kale (boy), an Anakin (boy), a Zephyr (boy), and an Arctic (I honestly don't remember). So really, sky's the limit on names today.
posted by bibliowench at 9:06 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


So are the early-adopter states trendsetters? Or are they more pluralistic namers, allowing a surging name to become "most popular" at a lower threshold (maybe 4% rather than 9%)? North Dakota and Maine are great states, but I somehow doubt the "Jessica" trend originated there despite the conclusions one could draw from the map. I assume something similar is going on with names appearing to "come from" Colorado and points west.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:08 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The way Mary goes from total dominance to total oblivion is astonishing. At this point, naming your daughter Mary is downright rebellious.
My son and his wife are expecting their first child (a girl) in late December. Guess what name they chose?
It's not really that rebellious; it only looks so in comparison to its erstwhile dominance. It's #123 in 2012; there are about eight or nine Sophias born today for each Mary.
Oh geez, for some reason this made me think of Roku as a boy's name. Then comes Nexus and Xbox.
Tryin' to play me out like as if my name was Sega
The one girl's name from antiquity that I have always wanted to see come back is Atalanta, but it probably sounds too much like Atlanta.
Yeah, I think your best shot is multi-step: If "Atlanta" becomes popular in a "Brooklyn" or "Madison" way, and then "Atalanta" as an alternate spelling.
posted by Flunkie at 9:08 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was an Amanda way before all the other Amandas. I was the only one in town, in fact. All of the other Amandas who came later in the 70s had it much easier, because their childhood didn't correspond with Barry Manilow's "Mandy" ascending the pop charts.

(People sometimes ask me if anyone ever calls me Mandy. My standard answer is "Not twice.")
posted by mudpuppie at 9:10 AM on October 20, 2013


It's not really that rebellious; it only looks so in comparison to its erstwhile dominance. It's #123 in 2012; there are about eight or nine Sophias born today for each Mary.
To put it another way, "Mary" today is about as "rebellious" as "Jenny", "Anne", "Melinda", "Lacey", or "Gina" were thirty years ago, or "Karen", "Desiree", "Rachel", "Sydney", or "Kendra" twenty years ago.
posted by Flunkie at 9:22 AM on October 20, 2013


Molly Crystal Mary Jane Black Tar Bath Salts.

Bath Salts is a lovely name. She could be Batty for short!
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:26 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


^My grandmother came from a very isolated, very religious community. She was named Dorcas. Next-door lived a woman called Bathsheba. In this culture, "Aunt" and "Uncle" were more general honourifics, used by everyone regardless of actual relation, so she was usually "Aunt Bat."
posted by erlking at 9:30 AM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


The -Aden trend bothers me less than replacing the first letter/syllable of a name. Like Kevin changed to Devin, and even a Nevin.

Devin is an old Irish surname and it's been getting use as a given name at least since the 60s.

Nevin is an Irish surname too — but apparently also has a long history as a given name in Turkish.

Neither one's a disguised version of Kevin, any more than Gary is a disguised version of Mary.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:38 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I had a child, this listing of female saints (since imaginary kid is always a girl) would probably get consulted. The temptation to have a little Annunciata, Illuminata, or Hildegarde would be immense. Or perhaps Wulfhilda to ensure my girl would grow up to be a mostly invincible badass.

But in the age of Google, one must be practical. A name popular 10-20 years ago would blend in with the crowd but would be relatively unique in her school.
posted by honestcoyote at 9:38 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


DoctorFedora: "Mainly, the world needs more Harry Potter names, like Albus Dumbledore or Hardcastle McCormick or Benedict Cumberbatch"

Gristle McThornbody.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:42 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Whelk: "* or a huge orange cat. Bertram is a great huge orange cat name."

More like Purrtram, amirite?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:45 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, originally my granddaughter-to-be was going to be named Paraskevi, which is a lovely Greek name which means Friday.....but then one of my daughters mentioned to my son that most likely people would wind up calling her Paris.

So, Mary it will be!


(I personally do not have a problem with Paris for a nickname but my uberconservative Orthodox son....naah, that wasn't gonna fly.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:02 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My geologist father wanted to name my sister Cambria so he could refer to time before she was born as Precambrian. He also wanted to name me Linus (after Pauling - this was long before the poor man went off the rails). Voted down twice.
posted by skyscraper at 10:11 AM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Weirdest names in my daughter's 7th Grade class:

Tacouri (M)
Kenaz (F)
Shudasia (F)
Hyhsun (M)
My'Ceir (M, pronounced like Macier)
My'Richrle (F, pronounced Miracle)
Suquoria (F)
Mickiia (F)
Baby (F)
posted by Rock Steady at 10:19 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I was coming up in the '80s in the South, there were definitely Marys my age, but Mary was used as a prefix. The girl would either be Mary Mother's-maiden-name or Mary Kathryn or similar. Whatever it would be, Mary was treated as the first two syllables of the girl's name, especially when she was being shouted for. "maryGRAYSON! maryKATHRYN! Get back inside!"

It's never failed to amaze me that I decided Sophie would be a good name for a daughter (short for Sophonisba) at the same exact time that everyone else did, with no prompting of any kind. I never had that daughter, which is just as well.

After a lifelong interest in ancient Egypt, one might think I would have a bunch of ancient Egyptian names to suggest for a child, but I'm not keen on it. The only contemporary people I've known or heard of with ancient Egyptian names (with the exception of Ta-nehisi Coates) were either in tragic circumstances, or screwed up, or both. I could recommend Meryet for a girl, though. It means "beloved," and you wouldn't have to constantly stop and explain it, if only because people would think you were saying Mariette.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:21 AM on October 20, 2013


I don't think Ethel or Gertrude will be making a comeback any time soon or ever (and it'll be a long time before Dorothy or Deborah are common again, I'd predict) but I have Agnes as a dark horse contender for trendy-name in my lifetime.

And I'm surprised that there aren't more programmers naming their daughters Ada.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:22 AM on October 20, 2013


Évariste is a badass boy name, with a badass exemplar in Évariste Galois. Not a lot of good nicknames tho, even if you go to the Latin Evaristus.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:23 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


NOBODY PUTS BABY IN A LIST OF WEIRDEST NAMES IN THEIR DAUGHTER'S 7TH GRADE CLASS
posted by Flunkie at 10:32 AM on October 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


I'm childless and it is looking like I will be thus for good, so lemme come clean and confess to having picked names anyway - Sean Stephen and Meghann Amanda. I think I managed to have missed all trends throughout the past 20 years without also sounding weird.

Earlier up thread someone mentioned Samuel for a little boy - the one "Sam" I know is actually short for Samson.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:36 AM on October 20, 2013


Seriously, what is the deal with Ava? The spelling is very unusual compared to Eva, and Ava Gardner is an unlikely candidate for having an influential name in recent years.
posted by stopgap at 10:40 AM on October 20, 2013


I submit a proposal to replace all Baby Name books with a list of suggestions given to David Ryder in the MST3K commentary for Space Mutiny.

Dibs on Blast Hardcheese.
posted by bibliowench at 10:51 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I could recommend Meryet for a girl, though. It means "beloved," and you wouldn't have to constantly stop and explain it, if only because people would think you were saying Mariette.

On the other hand, you are then likely to end up on someone's "hurf durf listen to this dumb name" list. I mean, really, can't people spell Mariette? Gah.

The spelling is very unusual compared to Eva, and Ava Gardner is an unlikely candidate for having an influential name in recent years.

It sounds old fashioned without sounding stodgy, and it has a popular combination of sounds. Also, nowadays people really like names that seem classic but are still unusual. Ava fits that perfectly. It sounds like the kind of name someone's great-grandmother would have, but you dodge the bullet of it seeming boring like Mary or stodgy like Bertha or Hilda.
posted by Sara C. at 10:52 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's actually a Saint Ava, so for Catholic families choosing saints' names for their kids, I guess that was one that was always in the mix of possible choices... and for why it's popular now, I think it just has the right sound and feeling, as Sara C. describes.
posted by taz at 10:53 AM on October 20, 2013


I sort of assume Ava is after Ava Phillippe (daughter of Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe). Either that or whatever attracted Reese Witherspoon to the name also attracted others.

My grandmother named her children Patricia, Barbara, Judy, and Nancy. Three guesses what decade(s) they were born in.

My mother named me one of the most popular names women of her generation picked to name children--but I was born twenty years after most women of her generation were birthin' their babies. So I have a 'most popular name' from two decades before I was born but it neatly matches the zeitgeist of names from the time my mom was thinking about naming children.

It makes me think you can't escape your generation's influence, even if your child ends up with a unique name for their generation.
posted by librarylis at 10:56 AM on October 20, 2013


taz: "For more info, a table of the five most frequent given names for male and female babies born in each year 1913-2012. Jacob has been the number one name for boys for 14 years, as of 2012, so yeah. Twilightin'."

There's that one funny period from 1947-1952 where Linda edged out Mary for the top slot.

I'm a Mary, born in 1971. Named for a grandmother, with the other grandmother's name for a middle name, and used, so like "Mary Pat" but not with Pat. I haaaaaaated my name. Haaaaaaaaaaated. No one else in any of my grades through high school (Catholic school, mind you) was named Mary anything. Now I'm old and over it. And I go by my initials a lot.

My daughter's name hasn't been in the top 5 in the last 100 years. My boys' names haven't been in the top 5 in the last 40 years/80 years respectively. They are plain, old-fashioned names. We are all OK with that.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 11:01 AM on October 20, 2013


I think like 99% of the trend names can be explained by "it evokes the zeitgeist in X way and has a string of sounds that are agreeable to a lot of people".

For example, nobody is going with Ida because the "eye" sound is not really a popular vowel sound right now. Same for Bertha -- in a world where schwa and th sounds are all the rage for baby names, Bertha would be the new Jennifer.

And you can probably even look at Jennifer and see it as part of a continuum of names like Megan, Lauren, Shannon, etc. Though, in that light, I'm really surprised that Rhiannon never took hold. I bet if the character in Love Story had been Rhiannon, we'd have a nation of Rhiannons instead of a nation of Jennifers.

(For the record, my Secret Baby Names are Eleanor, June, and Arthur. DO NOT STEAL. I WILL FIND YOU.)
posted by Sara C. at 11:02 AM on October 20, 2013


If for no other reason than my sanity, I'm agreeing with the take that Stephanie Meyer isn't a phenomenal trendsetter but rather just checked baby names that were trending already because that was the extent of her creativity.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:07 AM on October 20, 2013


When I hear "pragmatic name", I think something more along the lines of "The Vice President of Corporate Development", being pragmatic as in "Don't you know who I am? I am The Vice President of Corporate Development! Now stand aside and let me through that door!"

Major Major Major Major
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:11 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and how about "Jane"? Poised for a comeback, or no? Maybe "Jane Doe" or "plain Jane" will keep it squelched, because of bad associations, but it's sounding nicely old fashioned and smartcool to me now.
posted by taz at 11:12 AM on October 20, 2013


That or she did the same thing we're all doing when we admit that we think Olivia and Sophia are really nice names that we had no idea were the #3 in the country. She probably just likes the names Isabella and Jacob on a personal level, and didn't delve any further into naming her characters than that.

I love the name Edward, for totally personal reasons that have nothing to do with sparkly vampires, and am hoping that by the time I have a kid the Twilight thing is long over. Even though I'm pretty sure Edward isn't that popular a name. I just hate the idea that some kindergarten teacher is going to see it and smugly reduce me to a series of novels I haven't even read and hate as much as she undoubtedly does. ITS AFTER EDWARD ALBEE OK GAH (also kind of a little edward scissorhands)
posted by Sara C. at 11:15 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I kind of resent that Sophia is so popular because it's my grandma's name and I would love to name my fictional daughter Sophia after her, but it is just so common right now.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:17 AM on October 20, 2013


taz - I went to high school with a few Janes and have always liked that name.

I hereby predict that its use in Daria and Firefly (well, Jayne, and yeah, a dude) have served it well, and in about a decade when the younger millennials are reproducing it will see an upswing. And someone will write a blog post about The Netflix Generation of names.
posted by Sara C. at 11:17 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I work with 3 women named Shiny. They are all really great people. (one spells it 'Shini'). I'd love it if that took off.
posted by dog food sugar at 11:17 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


::stealing Sara C.'s secret baby names::
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:18 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did anyone else notice an uptick in Frances for a girl among Gen X and older Millennials? I'm blaming that one on Dirty Dancing. Because nobody is really going to name their kid Baby. But Frances was the character's real name.
posted by Sara C. at 11:26 AM on October 20, 2013


It makes me think you can't escape your generation's influence, even if your child ends up with a unique name for their generation.

Thank you for that insight -- I got one of the top names, but about 7-8 years after its peak, and my parents had me about 7-8 years "late" compared to what the rest of their generation was doing. I've always wondered about the name choice, and now it makes sense!

My mother told me the other name she considered was Magdelena, after her grandmother, which I so much would have preferred that I decided I would name my future daughter some form of Magdelena/Maddalena/Madeline/Maddie, because it would be totally unusual. Except that apparently everyone my age, including many of my family members, now has a daughter named some variation on Madeline. It is still one of my favorite names, but cultural zeitgeist indeed.
posted by jaguar at 11:26 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


.... And I just checked and it looks like Frances is still way on the downward trend, despite me personally knowing 4-5 little girls with that name.
posted by Sara C. at 11:29 AM on October 20, 2013


I find it really interesting that my Catholic grandmother named her children Joseph, Mary, and Richard (in the mid 50's). I just can't figure out where such an un-Biblical name as Richard fits in with uber-Catholic Mary and Joseph.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 11:39 AM on October 20, 2013


Neely O'Hara: "I find it really interesting that my Catholic grandmother named her children Joseph, Mary, and Richard (in the mid 50's). I just can't figure out where such an un-Biblical name as Richard fits in with uber-Catholic Mary and Joseph."

BIBLE, SAINTS, OR KINGS OF ENGLAND.

(Also there are plenty of Saints Richard.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:46 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


In terms of naming kids, I'd consider:

1) Unique enough that there won't be several of them in a classroom, but not so unique that it seems like a "funny" name to the other kids. Kids are ruthless.

2) Spell it in, if not the most common way, an easily understood and pronounceable way. This will prevent teachers/coaches/other important adults from mispronouncing it and helps the child learn to spell his/her own name phonetically. Once they know how the letters in their own name sound it's easier to move on to reading other words with those same letters.

3) Think of the rhyming possibilities. Once again, kids are ruthless.

4) Don't use last names/nouns. Cause we all knew that kid.
posted by fishmasta at 11:47 AM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Eyebrows, that's awesome - I had no idea that was the trend! And my dad totally rejected the church and raised us as heathens, so I also had no idea there were Saints Richards. Very cool!
posted by Neely O'Hara at 11:53 AM on October 20, 2013


I hope to one day know someone who has named their children Gargantua and Pantagreul.
posted by elizardbits at 11:55 AM on October 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Still waiting to meet an Iphigenia.

I know an Iphigenia, she goes by Jean (another name due for a revival I think).
posted by cali at 12:08 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd argue against taking bullying into account much when naming a kid. I have one of the more invasive names on that graphic, and I didn't get picked on any less than my friend with a stinky old lady name, or my brother with a girl name. If your name is bully-proof, it just means bullies have to look for some other angle to attack from.

And based on my admittedly biased observations, kids whose parents put the most time and effort into bully aversion seem most prone to either being bullied or bullying themselves.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:09 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had are rare bit of luck, being a Genevieve born in the sea of Jennifers. As a kid I was Jenny but eventually rebelled because of course everyone assumed I was a Jennifer also. Every once in a while I meet a toddler Genevieve or someone says their grandmother had the name but it hasn't climbed the naming popularity lists. I'm not having kids but I advocate the name for everyone else!
posted by PussKillian at 12:09 PM on October 20, 2013


BIBLE, SAINTS, OR KINGS OF ENGLAND.
This is why I named my son Nimrod Abadiu Harthacnut.
posted by Flunkie at 12:10 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]




Re bully aversion, I just don't think there's any meaningful way to predict this. I mean, beyond reasonable stuff like don't name your kid something completely stupid and maybe try to avoid things like Harry Butts.

But within the reasonable range of names for human beings, I just... I mean, classrooms are full of little Bentleys and Masons and Dantes. Which are the names that are going to be prime bullying material, and how can parents even tell?

Furthermore, I'm Sara -- nice, classic, understandable and very common name for my peer group -- and was relentlessly bullied in school. By girls with much weirder names, some of which may have been pointed out as likely to result in bullying.
posted by Sara C. at 12:19 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Until moving back to Portland, I never had to give my daughter's last name because there was only one Opal. Now there are at least two in her grade.

Of course, one of the squares in my personal version of Portland bingo is "kid named after an animal, vegetable, mineral or body of water."
posted by pernoctalian at 12:20 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]




Damn straight they are.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:31 PM on October 20, 2013


Odd, on the slow chart Sophie makes a brief appearance in Hawaii several years before whole trend starts...


The original Biblical King Ahab (married to Jezebel) was the sort of person you wouldn't really want to be named after. The more famous Ahab from the Melville book was an interesting guy, but kinda weird.
posted by ovvl at 12:31 PM on October 20, 2013


146 Baby Girls In the US Are Named Khaleesi.

And probably not a lot of them in Quebec, where it sounds like a swearword.

P.S. Madison.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:33 PM on October 20, 2013


Of course, one of the squares in my personal version of Portland bingo is "kid named after an animal, vegetable, mineral or body of water."

Obviously Huron is for boys, Erie for girls, Superior is unisex and Ontario and Michigan are just ridiculous.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:33 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is an uptick of Jamen in my very rural area. I had never heard the name until a few years ago though I understand it is common out there in our big old world.
posted by maggieb at 12:39 PM on October 20, 2013


roomthreeseventeen: "lydhre, just put an h at the end and you're trendy. Idah."

Camptown ladies sing this song, Idahhhh Idahhh
posted by notsnot at 12:45 PM on October 20, 2013


Idah.

Potat.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:52 PM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It could be worse. Say hello to little Ruckus and Zuma.

One of Gwen Stefani's sons is named Zuma. She's pregnant again so there's still a chance for Ruckus!
posted by ghost dance beat at 12:59 PM on October 20, 2013


Sophia is a nice name with a nice meaning and I don't care if everyone else has independently arrived at the same conclusion.
posted by moorooka at 1:27 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obviously Huron is for boys, Erie for girls, Superior is unisex and Ontario and Michigan are just ridiculous.

No, Michigan will be the new Madison and Ontario will be the name of some indie singer.
posted by pernoctalian at 2:06 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


moorooka: "Sophia is a nice name with a nice meaning and I don't care if everyone else has independently arrived at the same conclusion."

This is the only possible way to go about naming your child -- pick a name you like, whether for its sound, meaning, history, family connection -- and go with it. DO NOT CONSIDER HOW POPULAR IT IS. People trying to avoid popular names always end up with a kid named the trendiest thing in the world AND upset about it.

1) Pick something you like. Ignore its popularity.
2) Google it, just in case it's the name of an obscure mass murderer
3) Consider whether it looks better on a doctor's prescription pad or a pole dancer's marquee -- Nobody's visiting Dr. Tastee Candee Jones for a broken arm
4) Spell it in a reasonably comprehensible way
5) Enjoy baby and try not to get upset when people offer unsolicited opinions on the name, usually how they knew a girl in high school named Anthrax and GOD she was a bitch, but I'm sure your baby won't be a bitch, that's just what it made me think of, mmmm, my foot is so tasty ...
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:14 PM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I feel like one is always safe naming your child after your great grand-parents. They will be uncommon, and everyone who would think they sounded old-fashioned is probably dead.
posted by empath at 2:15 PM on October 20, 2013


My name has never made the popular lists, anywhere. Everyone always assumes my family name is my given name. All together, it's too long for official records here, so they lopped a letter off my middle name which I have to remember to omit on tax forms.

For all that, it's not so much a name, more a law partnership. Just add LLC, and your name just got sued by mine.
posted by scruss at 2:15 PM on October 20, 2013


This is the only possible way to go about naming your child -- pick a name you like, whether for its sound, meaning, history, family connection -- and go with it. DO NOT CONSIDER HOW POPULAR IT IS.

Nah, see above about "Freelove." We haven't known how to properly name our children for centuries.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:16 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My older sister was the first-born, and has a name that is unusual enough that I have never run in to anyone with the same name and spelling as hers, ever. I was born two years later, and named Jennifer. This was Utah. In the early 70s. Apparently two years of having to repeatedly spell and explain my sister's name was enough for them to adopt the polar opposite strategy when naming me.

I'm pretty sure that right through high school, 5 was the minimum number of people in any given school class who had my same name and that it got as high as 11 or 12. You couldn't even distinguish us by last initial, there was always an overlap.

As annoying as that always was, I guess I got used to it and it freaks me out a little bit that in my current job with about 80 people in our division, there are no other Jennifers. Where did all the Jennifers go?
posted by freejinn at 2:27 PM on October 20, 2013


I know an elderly Greek woman named Antigone. I also know a man in his 20s named Perikles. Greek people have great names.

I just read that as "Perkelies."

And "Antigone" looks like "antigen."
posted by discopolo at 2:30 PM on October 20, 2013


I'm a little envious of the anonymity that anyone named Jennifer has, actually. I've got a slightly unusual first name, and a really unique last name, so a Google search always gives info on me specifically.

Then again, I've always loved the names Dashiell and Celia for kids.
posted by peppermind at 2:41 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Still waiting to meet an Iphigenia.

Or Antigone.

>I know an elderly Greek woman named Antigone. I also know a man in his 20s named Perikles. Greek people have great names.

I know a couple of Antigones and Iphigenias. Ancient Greek names seem to be in vogue, anecdotally speaking.
posted by ersatz at 2:52 PM on October 20, 2013


My last name is Smith and my fist name is/was, at least according to a bit I read in the Tulsa World in 1998, the most common name in America at that time. So I started going by my middle name as soon as I met new people (at a Summer program that year, and then in College starting '99.) Now, my middle name is highly unusual, but is also mostly notable for being half of the name of an iconic teen drama from the late nineties, when I was in high school. ANd I never really got shit for it, people just remembered (and remember) my name. So I like unusual, as far as names go. Just make sure it's still something memorable.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:11 PM on October 20, 2013


I'm curious if other immigrant populations had a thing for certain names. All the Korean American kids I know got the Bible, saints, or kings of England rule applied. I think I know 350,000 Graces and Esthers and Eunices. And there was a Dave Hong club at school. The Grace Lee Project is a great film, the director goes around interviewing women with the same name.
posted by spamandkimchi at 3:16 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Most of the Korean guys I know chose the name Andy for themselves if they were living or working abroad, though I'm not sure that that's reflected in how their kids are named.
posted by peppermind at 3:23 PM on October 20, 2013


I teach a Symphorian (M) and a colleague teaches an Encrashia (F). Thosr aren't even the most unusual.
posted by mdonley at 3:35 PM on October 20, 2013


Last year was the year of the dragon (龍, or Ryu) in Japanese. The first year junior high classes (twelve year olds) I taught had ridiculous numbers of names based on that. Ryu, Ryuichi, Ryutaro, Ryusuke, Ryunosuke, and so on. Out of the fifty or so boys I taught, maybe half of them had that kanji in their name.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:41 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had Emily picked out as a name for YEARS and went with it when my daughter was born in 1999, even though its popularity was undeniable. But pretty much from birth, she's been Emi. (And has only encountered one other Emi, and that's on twitter -- lots of other Emilys, Emmas, and maybe one Emmy, but no Emi.)

In terms of obnoxious names, though, I think I discovered a strong contender: last week in downtown Philly I witnessed a Fancy Mom with a latte and giant sunglasses and spike heel boots and $700 stroller calling after her kid, "Fashion! FASHION! Running is not okay, Fashion!"
posted by mothershock at 3:56 PM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am aware of a family of chemists that just welcomed a new baby girl, whom they have named Ethyl. Which kills me.

I mean, I get the pun, and sure it's chemically stable, but that's gotta be the most boring possible organic group. It's two carbons and some hydrogens, and all it does is sit there.

At the very least, the family could have called the poor girl Acyl. Then her nickname could have been "Ace." As it now stands, the obvious nickname choices for her are limited to "Eth," "Yl," and "-CH2CH3."

I like to think that maybe she'll take "Yl" and run with it. Like, maybe she'll spell it "Ill" and be some kind of badass, old-school rapper or something. Here's hoping.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:04 PM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sasquatch Gherkin has a rather majestic ring to it.
posted by elizardbits at 4:45 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The weird thing is that you can ask people why they chose their kids' names, and they often say "Oh, I named him after my favorite uncle" or whatever, but statistically they're very much more likely to choose names that are popular at the time.

Me, I wanted to name my daughter Yehoyishma. You can Google it. It was apparently popular 2,500 years ago and it's about time it came back.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:55 PM on October 20, 2013


Back before we'd decided firmly against having children, I'd thought about naming my prospective daughters after women in the surrealist movement. So Leonora, Dorothea, Merritt, Remedios, and Joyce would have been my top picks, in that order.

I still really like those names.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 5:01 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've got a couple of Freeloves in the family tree. And a Hopestill. And several Experiences. Puritan virtue names were kinda awesome.

I feel like one is always safe naming your child after your great grand-parents. They will be uncommon, and everyone who would think they sounded old-fashioned is probably dead.

My great-grandparents sound like a preschool class: Oliver, Lillian, Lena, Andrew, Anna, Jeston, Ode, Frances
posted by elsietheeel at 5:25 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


My daughter (b. 2006) is Lillian, because I wanted to name her Rose, but my husband said "no flower names," but accepted Lillian. Now joke's on him because ha ha ha she prefers to go by Lily. Our short list for her was Sophia, Amelia, Cecelia. I liked Hazel, but with my husband's last name it sounded like a punchline more than a name.

My son (b. 2010) is named Alden. Boys' names were tricky for us; my husband pre-emptively rejected "anything generic, strange, or Biblical," which left us a pretty shallow pool of potentials. I had my own requirements, too; I was only willing to consider names with at least a couple decades' history as male American names. Our short list for him was Adrian, Julian, and Victor. I really wanted to name him Cayley, as Sir George Cayley is an ancestor of mine, but my husband was concerned it would get confused with Kaylee, and I guess he has a point. We tell people we named him after Neal Alden Armstrong, but really it was just a solid old American / English name that has been bumping around on the social security register since forever, but has never been very popular, but still fits in with all the Brade / Jaden /Cayden names. The one downside is that everyone thinks it's Aiden until I correct them.

Alden's preschool class has some great names in it; Esme, Ronan, Malachi, McKenna, Joshua, Ava, Grace, Miles, Laurence. I like Esme a lot, personally.
posted by KathrynT at 5:35 PM on October 20, 2013


Oh, but a friend of mine while she was pregnant threatened to name her child Quetzocoatl Slagathor Unimog Glorious-Five-Year-Plan.
posted by KathrynT at 5:36 PM on October 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Kathryn, that's funny about Alden. We considered Alden for our youngest son, because I was pregnant when my mom finished the genealogy tracing us back to John and Priscilla Alden. We ended up going with Cooper, as a sideways nod, as that was John's profession. My nephew is straight-up John. But his middle name is Armstrong, for our astronaut cousin!

I'm a '72 Amy Elizabeth, myself, named for 2 of the 4 March sisters. The WORST of the 4 sisters, I concluded when I read the book. I longed to be Jo, but in middle age I've admitted that I'm really more of a Meg.
posted by Biblio at 5:51 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Out of curiosity I decided to plot the popularity ranking of my name by year, except that I used 1/rank so that the most popular years would have the highest value. (You can get the data from here.) This is the result. Guess where I was born... Yep, mid 70s. My parents were just following a trend, man. So disillusioning.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:02 PM on October 20, 2013


I have a hard time believing 1 out of every 8 kids was named Rhomboid in 1970. Sorry. Doesn't pass the smell test.
posted by baniak at 6:08 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


My 13 month old daughter is an Isabela. My boyfriend was insistent throughout my pregnancy that it was the only girl's name he would consider and I ended up caving in when he pointed out that my only objection (it's too popular) was kind of pretentious. It was a midwife in the hospital who told us about Twilight but luckily I went with one L instead of two - mostly because of I didn't want it to be too matchy with my own name, Narelle. I did get free rein with her middle name which is super-pretentious because I made it up. I do know two boys my daughter's age called Maximus which is having a little surge of popularity at the moment.
posted by Wantok at 6:14 PM on October 20, 2013


I love my name - Layne - it is unusual even in its standard spelling, but even rarer with a "y". I've met one or two Lanes, but no Laynes. It wasn't even in the top 1000 the year I was born. It's unisex, which is pretty cool. For as much crap as I give my parents for being... well... parents... they did a pretty good job of picking out a thoroughly pleasant and unique name. I was named for a guy in one of the accounting classes they took in college.
posted by baniak at 6:16 PM on October 20, 2013


Esme (a name I've always liked) didn't even enter the top 1000 until 2010. That's GOT to be due to Twilight.
posted by lovecrafty at 6:16 PM on October 20, 2013


I feel like one is always safe naming your child after your great grand-parents. They will be uncommon, and everyone who would think they sounded old-fashioned is probably dead.

I think the current trendy names are pretty much exactly those that my generation's great-grandparents had. They're awesome names, but they're not exactly uncommon. (Though I do have a "Tillie" among my great-grandparents, which I haven't heard of among kids right now. I like the name, but apparently my particular relative was kind of a shrew, so I wouldn't use it myself. Someone should run with it!)
posted by jaguar at 7:38 PM on October 20, 2013


I've met one or two Lanes, but no Laynes

There's a professional poker player named Layne Flack...
posted by Jacob G at 7:39 PM on October 20, 2013


empath: "I feel like one is always safe naming your child after your great grand-parents. They will be uncommon, and everyone who would think they sounded old-fashioned is probably dead."

Doesn't work reliably, unfortunately. I was named after my great-grandmother (which means I was also named after my grandmother, but if you asked Mom she'd tell you she named me after Gunga, not Grandma), but my experience growing up was exactly that of louche mustachio. Near-unique in a sea of Jennifers, up until wait, what? where did all these 5-year-olds with my name come from?

peppermind: " Then again, I've always loved the names Dashiell and Celia for kids."

Plus it gives the opportunity to be annoyingly pedantic if one wishes to be. "Dah-SHEEL, actually. Like the author. Oh, you didn't know that?"
posted by Lexica at 7:44 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I associate Layne with the late Layne Staley who is very missed and died far too young. And Tillie is totally a cat name.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:48 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


OMG, Tillie is totally a cat name. I now have my next cat name.

I also believe, however, that Zoe is a cat name and not a human name, so I suspect my cat names are ahead of the curve for human children.

I associate "La(y)ne" with the (female) Lane character from Gilmour Girls. Which makes me wonder if "Lorelei" or "Rory" got a boost from that show.
posted by jaguar at 7:55 PM on October 20, 2013




Plus it gives the opportunity to be annoyingly pedantic if one wishes to be. "Dah-SHEEL, actually. Like the author. Oh, you didn't know that?"

He'll probably go by "Dash." Like the author.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:15 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can trace almost every popular girl's name of the last 25 years to a TV or movie character. Madison? The movie "Splash." Brittany? From "Thirty Something."
posted by cherrybounce at 8:38 PM on October 20, 2013


...I say, despite being named after a bloody biblical character*.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:46 AM on October 20


My Biblical knowledge is a bit rusty, but I call BS.
posted by theora55 at 9:09 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"jetlataddict" is a little-used translation for "wanderer."
posted by jaguar at 9:48 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the current trendy names are pretty much exactly those that my generation's great-grandparents had.

I'm curious about how much this is actually true in a literal way.

I'm 32, so probably just about average age for a child-bearing person the US. My great-grandparents were named thusly:

Victor - I guess it would be an OK name. Definitely not the worst. But clearly not trendy at all.

Anne - Ditto. Perfectly fine name, and one I'd be open to either as a middle name or as a compromise with a partner who had a more traditional outlook than I do.

Harold - I like Harry, and clearly it reeks of "TRENDY OLD MAN NAME", but I don't think it's nearly as popular in the US as it is in the UK. Also, pretty sure any rise in popularity of Harry is more because of Harry Potter (and maybe Prince Harry?) than because of anyone's great-grandfather.

Dora - Actually, this is a pretty rad name. I'd name a daughter Dora in a heartbeat. I don't think it's actually trendy in the US these days, though. It's certainly no Olivia, Sophia, or Emma.

Eunice - Nope.

Earl - Nope.

Mary - See the subject of this FPP; Mary, while perfectly apt for a name to choose if you want to honor your great-grandmother, is specifically unpopular in the US today.

My theory isn't that people are naming their children after their great-grandparents, but that they are choosing names that evoke the era of our great-grandparents, and which, for entirely unrelated reasons sound good to modern ears. I'm sure some people lucked out and have elderly relatives with names like Isabella and Jacob. But many more people just thought they sounded old fashioned and unique. Which is totally fine -- people should name their kids whatever. You don't need the permission/authenticity of a dead relative.
posted by Sara C. at 10:22 PM on October 20, 2013


it freaks me out a little bit that in my current job with about 80 people in our division, there are no other Jennifers. Where did all the Jennifers go?

This is the main reason why it's dumb to worry about baby name popularity.

Eventually babies grow up and go out into the world of other grownups, where they are unlikely to spend all that much time exclusively among people of their own age. This totally stops mattering, and continues to not matter for most of a person's life.

And if one is concerned about uniqueness within one's immediate social circle, it matters even less, because it's highly unlikely you are even still going to know that other family with another baby named Sophia a few years from now. Other Sophia is unlikely ever to be a presence in your Sophia's life in any conscious way. And if the friend is, like, someone you went to high school with a million years ago? That other Sophia might as well not even exist. It matters not one whit to the actual person you are naming.
posted by Sara C. at 10:32 PM on October 20, 2013


I'm curious if other immigrant populations had a thing for certain names.

I've known multiple Greek-American Kallies, and lots of Indian-American Amis, Anis, Meeras, and Leenas. Ajay/AJ is also pretty common for Indian-American guys of a certain generation. With Irish-Americans, at least when I was growing up, there was the whole Erin/Shannon thing. And I've described the weird Francophone name bubble of growing up among Cajuns. I had no idea as a kid that names like Angelle and Rene were not popular all over America.
posted by Sara C. at 10:36 PM on October 20, 2013


Mary, while perfectly apt for a name to choose if you want to honor your great-grandmother, is specifically unpopular in the US today.

Let's take a little bit of perspective here -- Mary is only noteworthy for falling out of a prominent position as the most popular girl name, a position it held for many years. It is not by any means unpopular; it ranked as the 123rd most popular girl name of 2012. For the same year, Harold ranked at 836, Anne ranked at 561, and Victor ranked at 135. Earl, Dora, and Eunice aren't even in the top 1000, and haven't been since 2006, 1992, and 1995 respectively. Of all the names you mention, Mary is the most popular.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:27 PM on October 20, 2013


I had a great-grandmother named Ethel, which I doubt will be coming back into fashion any time soon. Then there's Ruth, Margery, and Faye. Ruth is still fairly old-fashioned, but I did have a friend my own age named Ruth. She got some teasing for having a grandma name. Margery might get a boost from Margaery Tyrell? I've never met a Faye my own age, nor heard of anyone I know naming their child Faye.

The men were Peter, Sidney, Victor, and Frank. Sidney's probably the most old-fashioned sounding? Though there was a trend for a while for girls named Sydney--from the Mayflower Madam thing perhaps.
posted by lovecrafty at 11:42 PM on October 20, 2013


*NAMES REJECTED FROM OUR EXCEL SPREADSHEET*

Gatherer
Hidden
Shark Week
Tax Shelter
Helicopter (possibly as a middle name, with Hidden as first name)
posted by daisystomper at 11:52 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


So no one does family names anymore? Where you name a girl after her mother or grandmother or the like? I've got four siblings and the five of us, other than me, were named after other people in the family. (Mine was pulled from a history book or out of the blue, because it was not a popular name.)
posted by pracowity at 1:37 AM on October 21, 2013


Then... then Pearl Jam. I spent a year in high school dealing with the wittiness of the guy who sat behind me in Econ. Every time I answered the teacher's question, he'd start singing.

Yep. Pearl Jam can fuck right off.

-Jeremiah (now)
posted by saul wright at 2:56 AM on October 21, 2013


When I was in school in the US, I was surrounded by Ashleys, Jessicas, and Matts. Now since I moved in the UK everywhere I go I meet Emmas, Gemmas, G/Jills, Cla(i)res and Jameses. The name trends are completely different.

My sister has a quite uncommon-in-the-US name (she didn't meet another one until her late teens) that's actually semi-common here, which throws me for a loop.
posted by Gordafarin at 4:33 AM on October 21, 2013


Rhomboid: I associate Layne with the late Layne Staley who is very missed and died far too young.

I know an adorable little 6 or 7 year old boy named after him specifically.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:54 AM on October 21, 2013


So no one does family names anymore? Where you name a girl after her mother or grandmother or the like?

Mother's maiden name as family name is used a lot. Sometimes it's really a Thurston-Howell-The-Third kind of stretch but sometimes (as in my son's case) it works well. Gets tricky in divorce cases though, when mom takes her maiden name back & the kid's name is Major Major Major Major.
posted by headnsouth at 6:02 AM on October 21, 2013


Near-unique in a sea of Jennifers, up until wait, what? where did all these 5-year-olds with my name come from?

Well, name popularity changes. I thought the goal here was to have an uncommon name among your immediate peers, not an uncommon one forever and ever.
posted by empath at 6:03 AM on October 21, 2013


Mother's maiden name as family name is used a lot.

But how about just naming your kid after her mother or grandmother? People don't do that anymore because their family names are just not in style?
posted by pracowity at 6:30 AM on October 21, 2013


So no one does family names anymore? Where you name a girl after her mother or grandmother or the like?

Some people do. I have a cousin who was named after our grandmother, and my brother named my niece after our grandfather. Also, my mother's family and my sister-in-law's family both are those kinds of hoity-toity New England families where there's this really old name that gets used in the family a hell of a lot. There's also a Jewish tradition where you name a child after a deceased relative.

However, a lot of times that "named after grandma" name gets relegated to a middle name precisely because it may sound kind of old; the recurring name in my sister-in-law's family is "Slade", and "Langdon" is in my mother's family, and the only living people I know of with either name have those as middle names. And my Jewish friend Richard was "named after" someone with a very different R-name (and his mother Pelda was ostensibly named after someone named "Paul" - although how you get from "Paul" to "Pelda" I couldn't tell you).

So some people indeed do the family name thing, although if it's a name that sounds a little bit too old-fashioned or weird it probably either gets used as a middle name or altered in some way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:46 AM on October 21, 2013


The Jewish thing is different. Ashkenazi Jews don't give children the names of living relatives or people who died young (bad luck), but pick a similar initial sound and name children "in honor" of those individuals. I was named in honor of my mother's friend Phyllis, for example.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:07 AM on October 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ah, thank you PhoB; this shiksa stands corrected.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:10 AM on October 21, 2013


breakin' the law: It's like how if your name is William, and you were born in the 1950s, you're Bill, but if you were born in the 1980s, you're Will.

I was born in 1972, and I was the only Will I knew of for years -- like twenty at least.

I have only had one "age peer" named Will. Naturally we worked in a small office of three people within a small company. I was there first but he was louder so we each added our last initial (until I got laid off and the confusion ended).

Now I meet other Wills semi-regularly, but most of them are much younger than I am.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:10 AM on October 21, 2013


Have we linked to (These Are The) Daves I Know yet in this thread? I believe it's a requirement when discussing popular names. I'm ashamed in you, other Daves, for not doing so earlier.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:15 AM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


My son has gone to school with all the flavors of "-aiden" and memorably, with kids named both Harley (girl) and Diesel (boy). Lotsa Zachs starting to pop up, and definitely Olivias.

If we'd had a girl, I was wanting to use Sylvia Jane, because it's pretty.
posted by emjaybee at 8:27 AM on October 21, 2013


Our family tree, I meant to add, is littered with names that time still hasn't make good: Ora, Ida, Phineas, Eula, many female names ending in "-nelle" or "-lene".
posted by emjaybee at 8:30 AM on October 21, 2013


Names in my family tree: Hockaday, Hepsy, Valentine, Experience, Asenath, Bartholomäus.
posted by Lucinda at 8:36 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Our family tree, I meant to add, is littered with [...] female names ending in "-nelle" or "-lene".

Triazanaphthalene Suborganelle has a certain ring to it.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:49 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


pracowity: "But how about just naming your kid after her mother or grandmother? People don't do that anymore because their family names are just not in style?"

I think plenty of people do that, you just don't hear as much about it, because it is not an OMG WEIRD TREND! Both my kids have their own first names, but middle names that came from beloved relatives. I have two cousins and an uncle named Michael, and two cousins and an aunt named Ellen. But once they're older than six weeks, people don't so much ask you, "Oh, why did you name him Joseph Phillip?" or whatever. We mostly hear about names that people noticed because they're weeeeeeeeeeird.

My husband kept coming up with AWFUL baby names and I told him, "BIBLE, SAINTS, OR KINGS OF ENGLAND," and he was like, "How about Uriel?" and I was like, "CANONICAL BOOKS ONLY, NO APOCRYPHA!" I mean, geez.

I have a "Narcissus" in my family a couple of generations back. Clearly poised for a comeback, I tell you what!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:59 AM on October 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


In addition to "Langdon", my mother's family tree also has a lot of Lemuels and Lemons. Yes, spelled just like that. I think I also saw a Bathsheba once as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on October 21, 2013


Bathsheba is a pretty awesome name however.

("Experience would also be a good cat name, but only if it like "the 100% Kitten Experience!".)
posted by The Whelk at 9:32 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]




Ancient Greek names seem to be in vogue, anecdotal speaking.

Had my son been a girl, I wanted very much to name her Sophia (after Empress Sophia and the 'wisdom' connection) and I kind of wonder if the uptick in Greek names has to do with people not wanting to pick Sophia and then rooting around in other Greek-related names.

Being a boy, we ended up with his first name being Joseph, which is the same first name as his father, his father's father, his father's grandfather and MY grandfather. But we don't use it on a daily basis, instead using his (ranked 42 for his birth year) second name. His third name is my husband's mother's maiden name, and then his surname. I didn't realize until just recently that this naming structure makes people think we are devoutly Catholic, which we are not.

I do think it's interesting that there are no two children in his class of 150 kids that have the same first name, though. And good.

My mother's name is Dorothy, and she was born in the 1930's. I've always been puzzled that it wasn't actually the #1 name in any year, given how many women of that generation I know who are named Dorothy. I'm further puzzled that it's never picked back up again, although it has recently re-entered the top 1000 after an absence. By either the "your great-grandmother's name" or "beloved fictional character" rule I'd think it would finish higher.
posted by anastasiav at 9:51 AM on October 21, 2013


It feels like Dorothy is on its way - I know a 2 year old Dorothy who was named after her great-grandmother.
posted by superna at 10:02 AM on October 21, 2013


It feels like Dorothy is on its way

Don't be dotty.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:07 AM on October 21, 2013


Makes sense. Sophia, then Dorothy, then Rose, then Blanche.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:24 AM on October 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


Were my union ever to be blessed with issue, I would just generate a UUID.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD, 03b6c0ca-7226-4c80-b6fe-e9f610945e1e.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 10:37 AM on October 21, 2013


sandettie light vessel automatic: WELCOME TO THE WORLD, 03b6c0ca-7226-4c80-b6fe-e9f610945e1e.

Threebee, for short.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:42 AM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


My mom was a teacher and always said that everyone who was having kids at the same time she was named the first girl Jennifer, the second Tiffany, and the third Stephanie. Being one of those, I was always one of a number of them. One of the things I like about my current job is that I am the only one of my name here.

I always wanted to name a (currently theoretical) daughter after one of my great- great-aunts, who was a Madeleine (pronounce with a -len, not a -line, thankyouverymuch!). And then someone I know named one of his daughters that, and he's egotistical enough to think that it would be because of him, which may annoy me in sufficient quantity to rule that name out.
posted by telophase at 11:08 AM on October 21, 2013


You better hope they don't name their own kid "03b6c0ca-7226-4c80-b6fe-e9f610945e1e, Jr.", or all hell will break loose with the registry.
posted by Flunkie at 11:28 AM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


If my four imaginary children were named for their great grandparents on my side, they'd be Charles, Elizabeth, Edward, and Kathleen. Wow! I've never felt so WASPCy*!

* family tree is totes Catholic

On my husband's side, we don't know, because all the records were burned during WWII, and we haven't tracked it down with living relatives, which we should do. But from his grandparents' names they would be Evangelos and Vasiliki, Stephanos and Argiri. I'm particularly fond of "Vasiliki" (accent on the last syllable), which is the Greek feminine of "Vasilios," for which the English form is "Basil," and the usual nickname for Vasiliki is "Vasso," which I also like a lot.

All these names are perfectly contemporary here because of the naming-kids-after-grandparents custom, which means all the names are in the cycle all the time, and we also retain almost all the cool old "Ares," "Athena," "Aphrodite," etc. names from antiquity, too. We gotchyer Odysseus and Penelope rite here!
posted by taz at 11:33 AM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


But how about just naming your kid after her mother or grandmother? People don't do that anymore because their family names are just not in style?

I think there are a few culprits for this.

Firstly, I think the baby boom generation might have burnt over some of this stuff. Both my grandfathers and my dad share the same first name (and an uncle also shares the name, but goes by a distinct nickname). I didn't grow up thinking passing down family names was a good idea, I grew up thinking it made for awkward social gatherings.

Secondly, I think it's interesting that "named after my grandmother" traditions started to die out when the first Ohnoes Trendy Celebrity Baby Name stuff started to happen, in the 20's and 30's. Both my grandmothers have non-traditional Hollywood Starlet names (Carol and Gloria). In that case, not only are the family names not in style anymore, but they aren't names that say Family so much as names that speak to American pop culture. If you don't have a strong familial allegiance to a name like Linda or Shirley, why go back to the well?

Thirdly, I think there are a lot of different traditions around this sort of thing, so it's hard to see at a glance who is named after who.
posted by Sara C. at 11:54 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, wait, I totally just remembered I have an Aunt named Mary.

...Who is married to a George. And my parents' names are "Jane" and "Richard" - and my father prefers to go by "Dick".

Maybe "pop culture spousal pairings" are another family tradition.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:58 AM on October 21, 2013


I didn't grow up thinking passing down family names was a good idea, I grew up thinking it made for awkward social gatherings. Which is how I got my name; it's a variant of my grandmother's! They wanted to honor her, but she'd grown up with another relative having the same name and thought that was terribly annoying. (My sister got named for another relative, a great-aunt with a very great-auntish name, that I'm pretty sure isn't ever coming back, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised?)

My great-grandparents, BTW: George, Elizabeth, James, Carolyn, John, Lillian, Thomas, Helena.
posted by epersonae at 12:07 PM on October 21, 2013


WELCOME TO THE WORLD, 03b6c0ca-7226-4c80-b6fe-e9f610945e1e.

Metafilter's own 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:22 PM on October 21, 2013


My brother is the IVth of a name that likely sounded old fashioned when given to my great grandfather is the 19th century. Neither of his sons inherited his name--they both have literary-sounding names that have ended up fitting into the current naming trends (but I don't think either has broken the top 10 or anything).

I, being a good Southern lady, have my great-great aunt's first and last names as my first and middle names, which continues to make me one of several Elizabeths in every group of women born in the late 1970s-early 1980s. Sometimes on Facebook I have conversations entirely with other Elizabeths (most of us go by Liz, which doesn't help matters).
posted by hydropsyche at 3:11 PM on October 21, 2013


Same map, for the fellas.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:35 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a Jacobite (the eighteenth century says hi, btw), I find the shift in the South from James to William to be rather disheartening. The massive surge in Jacobs is nice though, if overlatinate.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:37 AM on October 24, 2013


And it's still #1 in Scotland!

Will it never end?!

boy name: wizardsleeves spartacus pantaloons

I'm picturing you at the school gates, explaining, "Yes, it's a little unusual for a first name, but we felt it was important to commemorate Victoria Beckham's justification for her elective caesarean."
posted by jack_mo at 3:40 PM on November 5, 2013


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