Category: Name Image
By Linda Rosenkrantz
For what seems like forever, this pair of sainted sister names, Agnes and Agatha, have seemed like the quintessential starched, buttoned-up, high-lace-collared, mauve-dressed Great-Great-Grandmother appellations.
I’d like to propose that we let the unbuttoning commence.
The character names to be found in the comical, light operas of Gilbert & Sullivan, for the most part, represent names that Victorian society either found to be fancifully appealing (as in the fairy names from Iolanthe) or absurdly amusing (as in the faux Japanese names from The Mikado). By comparison, some G&S character names may seem a bit mundane to us.
But viewing a rousing performance of The Pirates of Penzance could do much to redeem such names, as one finds oneself charmed by the dutiful and beautiful Mabel, or one cheers the “piratical maid of all work,” Ruth, who is later transformed into a feminist swashbuckler in her own right.
There’s a new class of boys’ names trending today that has a short clipped sound, contains only one syllable, is undeniably masculine yet not traditionally so. Many of these boys’ names barely existed a generation or two ago: They’re definitely not your father’s or grandfather’s baby names.
But in some ways, they are the heirs to names like Glenn and Craig and Sean that took over in the 1960s and 70s from the traditional Bills and Toms. They seek to reinvent masculinity while preserving qualities like strength and energy.
But I’d like to focus today on those boys’ names that are newer and, some may say, fresher than Jack or Jude. In 1970, most of these boys’ names barely squeaked onto the Social Security extended list, given to only a handful of baby boys. Today, most are on the Top 1000, many of them moving up quickly.
The new boys’ names on the block include:
Recently I featured a list of “cheesy” names at Baby Name Pondering. No, not names that are bad puns – names that are derived from types of cheese. It started out as just a bit of fun, as generally food names are not very highly regarded. But I was genuinely surprised by what a nice list it made! Such variety, and many that wouldn’t necessarily scream “cheese”.
While Australia does have a class system, it’s a flattened-out one, with fewer social divisions, and a large middle ground. Class is more fluid and less structured here than some other places. Of course, that doesn’t mean we are free of all status markers and snobbery – including name snobbery.
So if we don’t have an upper class, do we have upper class baby names? I don’t think so, because any particular name is used by a wider variety of people than you might suppose. Although in our imaginations, poor people have children named Jaidyn and Tayylah, and rich people send Agatha and Lucius off to St Barnaby’s or the Kindergarten of Higher Consciousness, in real life it is a lot less stereotypical.