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Vintage Baby Names

vintage baby names

By Linda Rosenkrantz

I was asked by a magazine interviewer recently why I thought some vintage names come back and others don’t. Why Cora and Flora and not Dora? Why Edward and not Edwin? All of which got me thinking about the influences that do propel names out of the attic and into the spotlight.

The most obvious and evident of these is the celebrity factor in all its manifestations. Stars’ names, stars’ baby names and the names of characters they play:

Some examples:

ScarlettYes, the name of Miss Scarlett was used by a handful of parents following the publication of Gone With the Wind, but it wasn’t until Ms. Johansson burst on the scene that it really took off, bringing it now into the Top 50.

Isla –This old Scottish name was barely heard of or even pronounceable in this country before the emergence of the rising redheaded star Isla Fisher. Now it’s one of the fastest rising girls’ names—it entered the list in 2008 and is now at Number 167, with almost 2000 little American Islas born last year.

SiennaSiena was a picturesque town in Tuscany until English actress Miller publicized the Sienna spelling and was instrumental in advancing her name into the Top 300 in the US, the Top 40 in England and Wales, and Australia.

AvaAnd yes, stars of the past can also continue to exert an influence far beyond their own era. The sultry Ava Gardner was in her prime in the 1950s, yet became a 21st century hit, in the Top 10 for the last decade.

It’s also celebrity parents who have revitalized a whole raft of neglected names of the past, as in:

AgnesJennifer Connelly & Paul Bettany

AliceTina Fey

BirdieBusy Phillips, Maura West

ClaraEwan McGregor

CyrusClaire Danes & Hugh Dancy

Elsie–    James Morrison, Ioan Gruffudd

Ethel—   Lily Allen

HattieTori Spelling

HazelJulia Roberts, Emily Blunt & John Krasinski

Olive—   Isla Fisher & Sacha Baron Cohen, Drew Barrymore

Otis—     Tobey Maguire, Olivia Wilde & Jason Sudeikis

PearlMaya Rudolph, Jack Osbourne

Silas—   Jessica Biel & Justin Timberlake

VioletJennifer Garner & Ben Affleck + several others

WinnieJimmy Fallon

Indelible characters in blockbuster books and movies and TV shows have spawned a large share of the vintage name renaissance, particularly from franchises like Harry Potter and Twilight . Here are just a few:

DexterDexter

Downton AbbeyCora, Edith, Mary, Sybil, Elsie

Frozen—Elsa

Harry PotterArabella, Minerva, Lavender, Luna, Poppy

MatildaMatilda

Sex and the City-Charlotte, Miranda

The Fault in Our Stars—Hazel

To Kill a Mockingbird—Atticus, Scout, Harper

Twilight—Edward, Isabella, Bella, Rosalie, Jasper, Emmett, Esme, Ephraim

And then there are less concrete factors.

The British Influence—Let’s face the fact that our cousins across the pond have been way ahead of us in certain significant trends. The vintage Amelia is their #1 name and Poppy is Number 7. It was the Brits who started the whole vintage nickname revival trend, with Evie, Millie, Rosie, Maisie, Ellie, Elsie, Tilly, Alfie, Archie, Freddie, Charlie, Theo, Frankie, Louie, Ollie, Teddy, Ronnie and Sonny all on their Top 100. As are Mad Men-era names that have yet to make it back big time in the US: Arthur, Harvey, Stanley, Leon—though there are signs that may be coming.

Sight & Sound—Both visual and aural pattern trends can lead to the advancement of some vintage names as well. A couple current ones:

S-ending boysOtis, Atticus, Augustus, Rufus, Linus, Lucas, Silas

Ella girlsBella/Isabella have led to Stella, Arabella, Mirabella, Anabella

Ett boys—Everett, Emmett, Beckett, Bennett

The X-factor—Dexter/Dex, Felix, Axel, Knox, Maximus, Maxine, Beatrix, Xavier

One thing leads to another: Emily to Emma to Ella to Elsa to Elsie

So what could bring back Dora or Edwin? It might just take one cool character or one cute starbaby.

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Boy Names for Girls & New Names for Boys

boyish girl names

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Once again, a famous couple has chosen a favorite boy’s name for their newborn daughter.  Last Thursday, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher welcomed Wyatt Isabelle.

Some parents of baby boy Wyatts are nervous.  Will Wyatt go girl?  Others who had shortlisted Wyatt for a possible child someday might be rethinking.  No one wants to introduce their child and have another mom respond, “Oh, like Ashton and Mila’s baby?”

The kerfuffle reminds me of singer Michelle Branch.  In 2005, at the height of her success, she married her bass player and had a daughter called Owen Isabelle.  Owen remained a Top 100 choice for boys in the US – gaining more than 20 places since – and is barely a blip for girls.

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Forbidden Baby Names: Where to draw the line?

abby--9-17-12a

In her Nameberry 9 this week, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel ponders whether there are some names that cross the line– whether there are such things as forbidden baby names.

This week’s baby name news has me wondering: what makes a name truly off limits?  I don’t mean names that just aren’t your style, but names that actually strike you as inappropriate, even unfair, to give to a child.

It’s a tough line to draw.  Some names are fine until they’re paired with a specific surname, like famed Texas philanthropist Ima Hogg.  Others have associations that are difficult to shake, be they positive or otherwise.  Would you name a child Elmo? Adolf seems like a burden, but what if your beloved grandpa was an Adolf?

Creative respellings put many parents off, while others have negative reactions to surnames, invented names, place names … the list is endless.  But when does it cross the line from not for me, thanks, into who does that?

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