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Goldilocks Classics for Boys: Holden, Noah, Wyatt and Beau

abby--8-31-13

By Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain

It’s been a great week for welcoming boys!

Eric Christian Olsen, Kate Levering, Fergie and Josh Duhamel have all brought home new sons.  The parents have something in common besides making headlines.  Their naming style might be called modern classic.

On Friday, Angela wrote about some appealing and underused choices, like Patrick, Lawrence, and Lewis.

This category is different.  These are names that would have been considered unusual – maybe even strange – just a few decades back.  But today, they’re mainstream, go-to appellations.

Call them Goldilocks names.  There are buttoned-down classics like James and George, and daring never-heard-before ones like Pilot and Zuma.  Goldilocks choices are at neither extreme.  They’re just right, falling into the wide middle: very wearable, but probably not your grandpa’s name.  Sure, they might be this generation’s Larry and Jerry, Ronald and Keith.  But they make for great choices in 2013.

Last week’s birth announcements were filled with this generation’s favorite names:

Wyatt – He brings to mind the Wild West, thanks to legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, and his history stretches back all the way to the Middle Ages.  But he’s at his most popular right now, ranking #41 in 2012.  Actors Eric Christian Olsen and Sarah Wright chose the name for their new son.

OliverWyatt’s middle name is Oliver, another name with rich history: think Cromwell and Twist.  Like Wyatt, he’s been a Top 100 pick in recent years.  But Oliver has been there before, back in the nineteenth century.  As of 2012, Oliver was the 73rd most popular name given to boys in the US, and seems on track to go even higher.  Wyatt Oliver is a pleasing combination – current, but not fleeting.

Noah – He’s the faithful builder of the arc, a Biblical patriarch name now heard on nearly every playground.  At #4 in 2012, Noah is the most popular name on this week’s list. He’s also ranked in the US Top 100 since the mid-1990s, making him a true modern staple.  After joking about choosing a wild name like Dirt, singer singer Michael Bublé and wife Luisana Lopilato went with the far more conventional Noah for their baby boy.

HoldenHolden was obscure when JD Salinger gave the name to his protagonist in 1951’s Catcher in the Rye.  It wasn’t until the 1990s that the name started to catch on.  As of last year, Holden ranked #296 – his most popular ever.  Drop Dead Diva’s Kate Levering and husband Reza Jahangari named their new baby boy Holden Robert.

Axl – Okay, the spelling chosen by Fergie and Josh Duhamel is a little unorthodox.  But Axel ranked #160 in 2012.  He’s an alternative to Alex, a Scandinavian heritage choice, a spin on the Old Testament Absalom.  There are lots of reasons to like Axel.  Lose the ‘e’ in this one, though, and most people think of Guns N’ Roses frontman, Axl Rose.  Not a bad reference, but maybe not quite a classic.

Jack – The middle name Fergie and Josh chose for Axl is another story – and a long one!  Jack has been an affectionate form of John for generations.  He’s long been bestowed as an independent given name, too, though John remains slightly more common.  Jack and John have both been eclipsed by surname form Jackson in recent years, but Jack feels like the steadier choice.  I’ve heard him as a middle more and more.  Could Jack be the new James?

ArcherArchibald has been obscure since the 1920s.  Archie held on longer, but he’s since faded, too.  But surname name Archer is on the rise, a smart, sharp A name that charted at #404 in 2012, and shows no signs of slowing down.  Elea’s report on Archer suggests that he’s poised for success in the UK, too.

Beau – He’s a Southern gentleman with a vibrant, upbeat sound.  Does Beau make you think of soap operas or Gone with the Wind?  He was briefly popular in the early 1980s, but never quite caught on.  At #311 in 2012, this could be Beau’s moment, bolstered by high profile arrivals like Cutter Dykstra and Jamie-Lynn Sigler’s new son.

RoccoRocky is a raccoon, but Rocco is a saint.  He’s also been an established name for celebrity babies ever since Madonna and Guy Ritchie gave the name to their son in 2000, followed by plenty of Hollywood kids called Rocky and Rocko and so on.  Now actor Donald Faison and CaCee Cobb have given gone with the classic Rocco for their baby boy.

Which names would you consider modern classics for boys?  Do you think any of these names are likely to gain in popularity?

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