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In Defense of Emma and Ethan: Ten Good Reasons to use a Common Name

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by Abby Sandel of  Appellation Mountain

I love unusual names.  I can defend the wackiest of celebrity appellations, from North to Pilot to Blue.

And yet some parents feel pressure to avoid a popular name – or even a name that might become popular.

If you grew up answering to Jennie S. or Mike T., you might worry that Logan and Mia will have to sign every piece of schoolwork with their last initial, too.  But it might be a mistake to discard your long-time favorite name just because others have discovered how great it is, too.

Here are Ten Good Reasons to call your baby Ethan or Emma, Ava or Jake.

10. Popular names tend to be great names with broad appeal.

Read through any list of popular names and surely you’ll find many that are attractive.  How often have you heard – or said – something like this: “I love the name Olivia. Too bad she’s so popular!”

9. They’re easy to spell.

Unless you name your daughter Emmaleigh or your son Maessen, one advantage of a common name is rarely having to correct others.

8. Repetition is usually unnecessary.

Try this exercise. Call your daughter Clio.  Introduce her to someone new. Hear new person say, “Hi, Chloe.” Politely say, “Actually, she’s Clio.” Repeat a bajillion times.

This probably wouldn’t happen with Evan or Harper – we expect to meet children with those names.

7. Even a #1 name is less popular than it ever was in prior generations.

I don’t know a single boy named Jacob, even with two school-aged kids and a neighborhood packed with little ones.

Fewer children are receiving a Top 1000 name, and fewer kids are answering to the most popular choices, too.  Yes, your daughter could be one of two girls named Sophia in her kindergarten.  But she’s probably not going to be one of four.

6. Avoiding popular names is harder than it looks.

Some parents rule out any name ranked in the Top 100, or even any name in the Top 1000.  But rankings are only part of the story.  Adelaide charted at #343 in 2012, the kind of familiar-but-not-common status that many parents would appreciate.  But add in Addison and Adalyn, and you might hear an awful lot of Addie.  Now imagine that you chose Adelaide over your long-time favorite Charlotte in hopes of finding something more unusual.

5. Some of the most popular names are evergreen.

If you love the classics, why not use Elizabeth and James for your children? Yes, they’ll know others with their name. Hop in a time machine and you can probably meet another James or Elizabeth throughout much of history.  There’s something powerful about such enduring choices.

4. Some popular names will become modern classics.

Miley and Jaidyn will fade, but other names stay with us.  Amanda ranked #3 in 1982, and she still feels wearable twenty years later.  Andrew is less popular than he was a few years back, but you would never call him trendy.

It’s reasonable to assume that plenty of today’s most popular names will remain likeable, and certainly wearable, in the future.  Think of Jennifer.  Yes, she’s in mom name territory today.  But nearly 2,000 newborns were named Jennifer in 2012, and chances are that none of them will share their name with a classmate.

3. Some kids embrace being one of many.

I once met a Kate who grew up with a best friend called Katie. They loved having the same name.  There’s just no way to predict whether your child would rather be Sophie T. or the only Seraphina.

2. There are no guarantees that an uncommon name will stay that way.

The year is 1996. You choose the lovely, unusual Annabelle for your daughter.

Fast forward to 2013, and every time you call your teenage daughter’s name at the mall, three preschoolers turn. (Your teenager, of course, does not answer, because you’re embarrassing her.)

Today’s fashionably obscure choice – Everly or Esme – could be just a few years away from catching on.

1. Your favorite name might have meaning.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to name your daughter Emma, after your favorite book. Or William was your beloved grandfather’s name. If that’s the case, their popularity doesn’t matter one bit. The name will always feel just right.

What do you think? Would – or did – a name’s ranking in the Top Ten stop you from using it?

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About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and a columnist for Nameberry. Look for her weekly name news updates here every Monday.
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