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Distinctive Classics: Carolina, Raphael and Katie Bea

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The Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Brooklyn is big in Sioux City. Jack remains #1 in Scotland, Jayden is #2 in California, and Liam is most popular in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

If it is the end of the year, it is time for top names, and individual health systems to entire countries oblige by releasing their data.

But what does it mean if you are actually choosing a name for a child in the next few months?

Some parents insist on avoiding the newly-declared Top Ten, even if Noah or William was a long-time favorite. Others hope for something familiar, but not shared with too many others. And some of us will go to the fringes, considering obscurities from the dictionary and our family trees.

Maybe the best part of naming a kiddo in 2014 is that you don’t have to opt for something as daring as Godred or Thelonious, or as Hollywood-issued as Rainbow or North to choose a distinctive name.

Even classics can be stand-out choices nowadays, and this week’s highest profile choices prove it. There’s not a Top Ten or too popular pick on this list, but there are lots of names that will feel nicely familiar – without seeming epidemic:

RaphaelCharlotte Casiraghi, daughter of Princess Caroline of Monaco and fifth in line to the throne, is a new mom. She and French actor Gad Elmaleh have welcomed a son named Raphael. It’s a popular name in France at the moment, but it also feels like a globe-spanning choice for a jet-setting child. In the US, Rafael is the more popular spelling, but both are far less common than other ends-with-el choices for boys, from the evergreen Michael and Samuel, to more recent favorites like Gabriel. If you’re looking for a name that stands out and fits in, Raphael is a possibility.

David – Beauty blogger Kate Hall welcomed a new son this week, and I was pleasantly surprised by his name – David Marcus. After spending five decades in the US Top Ten, David has fallen in recent years. I haven’t met a David under twenty in quite some time. But the Old Testament king’s name is an unassailable classic, less expected than William, more enduring than Jayden. Well done!

Niall – The medieval Irish ruler’s name was almost entirely unknown in the US until, as Duana points out in a recent column, tweenagers fell for British pop quintet One Direction. Now Niall – rhymes with Kyle – could be a great choice for parents seeking a simple name rooted in history, but seldom heard in the US.

Sebastian OscarInside Edition correspondent Victoria Recano and husband Tom Burwell have welcomed a second child, son Sebastian Oscar. Sebastian is the kind of name that might have seemed wildly daring in the 1980s, but today feels like a solid choice for a boy. Victoria and Tom are also parents to Maximillienne Elizabeth, called Emme. The couple has a knack for choosing names that feel classic, but never dull.

Katie Bea – Another blogger birth announcement comes to us from Jessie Knadler and her husband Jake, already parents to June. Katie’s full name is Kathryn Bea, and both girls’ names have family ties. While I’m a sucker for Katharine, as in Hepburn, or even Catherine or Catharine or Cate, I was surprised by how much I liked the –ryn ending. The spelling is faithful to Jessie’s family, and to borrow Jessie’s words, Kathryn, Kate, and Katie “transcend the trends” – a worthy quality in a name.

Alice Kay – The bloggers at Young House Love are expecting baby #2, and it’s a boy! They shared their top name for a second daughter, the name that got away – Alice Kay. Firstborn is Clara Kenley, so something tells me that the stylish DIY duo will choose a charming name for a son. We’ll just have to wait a few more months to hear what the couple chooses.

Mary Juniper – There’s something storybook about this combination. Mary, long the most common name for girls in the US, continues to fall out of use. So much so that’s she’s  downright refreshing to hear on a girl these days. Juniper is a 21st century darling, a nature name that entered the US Top 1000 in 2011. Mary Juniper makes for a surprising combination, a balance of the traditional and the novel.

CarolinaCharlotte is the most popular feminine form of Charles in the US right now, with Caroline and Charlie not far behind. But Carolina isn’t unknown. I spotted her in this German name round-up, where Carolina rhymes with Valentina. In the US, it is part-place name, a quality that hasn’t harmed Georgia. She seems like an interesting thought for parents attracted to feminissa picks like Isabella, but looking for something slightly different.

Elena – We started by talking about the most popular names here and there, and so let’s end with one from Malta. Yes, Malta – a Mediterranean island between Africa and Italy. Maltese is a fascinating mix of Arabic and Italian, and English is also an official language. Their most popular names are a mix of all of the above – Leia and Christabel and Yasmeen, Yannick, Luca, and Miguel. Elena strikes me as the kind of name that thrives in such eclectic company – a go-to choice for American parents with more than one culture to consider. Elena and related names are #2 in Malta, right behind Eliza. In the US, she’s rising fast, but remains outside the US Top 100 – for now.

What are your favorite classic-but-not-common names?

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