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vintage boy names

Not too long ago, Arthur was your grandpa, and Theodore was the family name you vowed you would never use. Now that those names are both back in fashion, which boy choices could be the next to stage a comeback? Here are eleven candidates, from those already rising, to the well-why-not?

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blkactmorgan

In the past we’ve commemorated Black History Month by celebrating the names of great figures in history and the civil rights struggle. This year we salute some of the notable thespians, some now sadly forgotten, who have contributed so much to the cultural fabric of this country—and of course paying particular attention to their distinctive names.

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flash

This week, Appellation Mountain’s Abby Sandel finds boys’ names that are anything but traditional, and wonders if nickname-free is the new priority when naming a son.

Flip through on an old high school yearbook, and you’ll probably find pictures of WilliamBillyJones and MaryMimiSmith.

For generations, there was the name your parents chose, and then there was the name you actually used.

Some names were outgrown, of course.  Others held on long after you’d expect them to fade.  My great-uncle Flash was once a high school track star, but even as a portly gentleman in his 60s, he still answered to his nickname.

Of course, Billy and Mimi and Flash grew up in an era when lots of kids shared the same names, sometimes in the same family.  Flash was really Anthony, as were a few of his cousins.  Mimi is one of three Marys on her yearbook page alone.

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noble

There was a time when the titles of nobility seemed to be reserved strictly for the canine world, as in “Here Prince!” “Here, Duke!” But that seems to be changing.

When Guiliana and Bill Rancic recently named their son Edward Duke, the Edward was for family members on both sides, but they always intended to call him by his middle name, because, said Guiliana, Duke is such a strong name.  And she’s not the first celebrity to think so. Diane Keaton bestowed it on her son in 2001, and Justine Bateman followed suit the following year.

In fact, several of these blue-blood titles have been a lot more popular than you might imagine.

Earl is the one name in this category that came to be accepted as a name apart from its noble heritage—but has anything but a lofty image—especially since My Name is Earl.  But Earl didn’t fall off the list until 2006—before that it was a Top 50 name until 1939 and then stayed in the Top 100 through 1954, attached to such distinguished figures as Chief Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, banjo player Earl Scruggs and jazzman Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines, as well as basketball star Vernon Monroe known as “Earl the Pearl.”  Perry Mason-creator E. Stanley Gardner spelled his first name Erle.  Is it possible that Earl could follow sister Pearl back into favor?

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abby-secret

In this week’s Nameberry 9, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel talks about names with some personal significance that’s not necessarily obvious on the surface.

Sometimes the craziest name becomes instantly charming the second we learn the backstory.  Meaning matters, and I’m always impressed when parents take the time to seek out names rich with personal significance.

Passing down family names is great, but this idea takes it one step further.  It’s a process of thinking about what’s important to your family.  Favorite places, artists, experiences that signify something about the pregnancy.  Think of Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt’s middle name, inspired by architect Jean Nouvel, or Zuma Rossdale, possibly a nod to a Malibu beach important to his dad.

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