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Category: 1930s baby names

Billy and Bob are Back in the Playground

vintage nicknames

By Linda Rosenkrantz

The nickname-name trend is nothing new. Who among us hasn’t known a baby Max or Maggie or Sam or Ellie? Or even one of those with a whiff of vintage nostalgia, like Millie or Josie?

But lately there’s been a new twist on this phenomenon, especially seen in the celebrisphere. Several stars have resurrected some of the All-American Boy nicknames of the Depression Era, like Billy and Johnny and Tommy, and haven’t hesitated to plunk them right onto their babe’s birth certificate. In particular:

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posted by: upswingbabynames View all posts by this author
1930sad

by Angela Mastrodonato of Upswing Baby Names

There’s a theory that baby names come back in style about every 80-100 years. Names that come back in style after 80-100 years are often called vintage or revival names.

Based on that theory, baby names from the 1930s (about 80 years from time of writing) should be the next wave of vintage revival names, poised to appear on monogrammed nursery accessories within the next 10-30 years.

But here’s the thing: the biggest revival names aren’t usually the mega-hit top 10 names from 80-100 years ago. The biggest revival names are usually the names that were moderately popular the first time around.

A perfect example of the 80-100 year rule is 2012’s top girl name, Sophia. Sophia had been somewhat popular over a century ago and then gradually declined, only to turn around in the 1990s when it rapidly climbed the Social Security list. However, Sophia is a lot more popular now than it was during its first peak back in 1882 at #116.

Based on that knowledge I set out to find names from the 1930s that weren’t always super common top 10 names, but rather names that peaked during that time and seem to represent the style of the decade.

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limboys

Last week we took a look at the ladies in limbo, the girls’ names not old enough to fall under the Hundred Year Rule, but were most popular from the 1920s to the 1960s, to question whether any of them were eligible for resuscitation.

And now, as promised we perform the same operation on the boys’ list.

We find several differences between the genders.  For one thing, the popularity of the boys’ names tend to stretch over longer periods of time (122 years for Howard, for instance), and clearer syllabic and sound patterns tend to emerge.  In the 1920s and 1930s, for example, we see a preponderance of two-syllable names ending in the letters n and d.  By the fifties and sixties, there are lots of four and five-letter single syllable favorites—the Todds and Troys, Deans and Dales—those surfer dudes we’ve labeled ‘Beach Boys’ in our books.

Not many of these names, except for a few in the pre-1920 list, have shown significant signs of revival—once again, because they’re the names of our grandpas and great-uncles and fathers-in law—the older men in our lives, the men still smoking pipes on Father’s Day cards.

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limbox

We’ve all pretty much on board with the Hundred Year Rule that says it usually takes a full century for a name to shake off its musty image and start to sound fresh again. Which is why so many turn-of-the-last-century names have returned, names we don’t associate with any older person we have actually known–those belonging to the great-great or great-great-great grand generation–all those lacy girls’ names like Amelia and Matilda and Clementine that now sound so appealing.

But what about the girls’ names of the generations that followed those in the first half of the twentieth century? Most of them are much more simple and matter of fact, often two syllables rather than three or four, feminine rather than feminissima.  These would be the names of our grandmothers and great-aunts and mothers-in-law—the older women in our lives.

Though there are some exceptions, such as the relatively recently revived Sylvias, Audreys, Lillians and Evelyns, and starbabies like Julia RobertsHazel and Sarah Jessica Parker’s Marion—most of these examples that were mega-popular from the twenties to the sixties have been consigned to onomastic limbo.

Our question today is: Are any of them ready to be sprung?

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