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Addison, Juno and Jayne: Possible names for boys?

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This week for the Nameberry 9, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel takes a look at the shifting perceptions of boys’ baby names.

When we named our son Alexander in 2004, it was a no-brainer, a family name that my husband very much wanted to pass down.  Despite my baby name obsession, the choice was made without much thought.

I knew girls could answer to Alex as a tomboyish nickname for Alexandra.  Heck, it was the kind of name I’d craved as a child.  And I was fascinated by the medieval French Alix, the Italian Alessandra, the Russian Sasha.

The possibility of a girl Alex didn’t bother me a bit.

In fact, we proceeded to call our son the even more ambiguous Aly for his first six years on this Earth.

Then came first grade. Aly was a Girl Name, he announced.  From now on, he would be Alex.

The classmate who told him that his nickname was a gender bender?

His name is Delaney.

So what’s happening with boys’ names in 2013?  There’s pressure to choose a name that is clearly masculine, coupled with frustration that so many fresh possibilities for boys could easily be the next big thing for girls.  Parents will drop Elliot if they see it mentioned on a message board as a vague possibility for a girl.  Emerson has been ceded to Team Pink before she even cracks the Top 100 in the US.

And yet somehow, I think this is changing.

Names like Jaylen and Kaidyn are worn by boys and girls.  So are Tate and Riley.

This week’s baby name news was dominated by names for boys that are miles away from all-guy stand-bys like Tom and John, Joe and Frank.  They’re modern, inventive, and maybe even unisex.

Alijah – Yes, Elijah is undeniably masculine.  But change the spelling to Alijah, as the New York Knicks Amar’e Stoudemire and wife Alexis recently did, and it isn’t as clear.  The couple is also parents to daughters Ar’e and Assata, and son Amar’e JrAlijah is close to Aliyah and Aaliyah – and could easily be feminine.

Alaska – It’s among the newest names on Nameberry, but I’m not convinced it is only meant for girls.  Most place names, I think, are gender neutral.  Alaska’s status as rugged wilderness, home of moose, bear, and other creatures wild and fierce makes it seem just as suitable for a son.

Juno – Legendary banjo player Béla Fleck and his banjo playing wife Abigail Washburn welcomed a son named Juno last month.  Yes, a son.  Juno may be queen of the heavens and a hit indie flick, but doesn’t it sound surprisingly right on a boy?

Addison – Can Addison still be used for boys?  Swistle weighed in on the question for expectant parents.  There’s quite a debate raging in the comments, with responses ranging from “no, don’t do it!” to “hey, why not?”  I usually fall with the why not club, but given their older boys’ traditional names, I have my doubts.

Riley Knox – Proof that a middle makes a big difference.  While some parents choose completely neutral like names like Quinn Avery or Emerson Jay, others opt for a gender-specific middle name.  This combination, from a recent birth announcement spotted at For Real Baby Names, works especially well.

Rowan – This has always struck me as the ultimate gender neutral name.  I’m delighted to hear it on a boy or a girl, and it feels perfectly balanced for either.

Clare – This name is a big deal on my family tree.  One of our daughter’s names is Claire, and variants of Clar- names go back through the generations.  Clare and Clair have a history of use for men.  Could we ever reclaim them?  I think they’re ready for revival, at least in the middle spot.

Percy – With another Percy Jackson movie headed for the big screen, I keep wondering if he’ll shed his delicate sound and be seen as a valid option for boys.  The teenage demigod gets Percy from Perseus.  I’ve also seen it suggested as a nickname for Persephone.  Here he is in an Australian birth announcement.

Jayne – Television has given us two men who answer to the name Jane – The Mentalist investigator Patrick Jane, always known by his surname, and future world tough guy Jayne Cobb from Firefly.  A recent post from Brooke mentioned yet another fictional boy named Jayne, plus a girl Alex.  Could we be one breakout hit movie away from meeting boys called Jane?

Do you think that our attitudes towards gender and names are changing?  Is the pressure to give a boy a clearly masculine name decreasing, or holding steady?  Have you crossed names off your shortlist because of concerns about gender?

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