Category: boys’ baby names
Naming a boy has always been a little bit different.
It isn’t harder, necessarily. For some parents, settling on a son’s name is a picnic compared to naming a daughter.
But there are definitely some differences in the way we think about boys’ names.
It’s been noted before that one of the most striking trends when analyzing American baby names is the rise in popularity of boys’ names ending with the letter ‘n’ over the past few decades. What I haven’t seen is a visualization that truly demonstrates the scale of this phenomenon. And for a good reason; it’s difficult to show trends over time in 26 variables. So I made this animated GIF of bar graphs; pay attention to the ‘n’ after the mid-70s.
The most popular names for boys used to hold steady for years. In 1932, the ten most popular names for boys born in the US were Robert, James, John, William, Richard, Charles, Donald, George, Joseph, and Thomas. Twenty years later, eight of those ten names were still dominant. Fast-forward to the 1980s, and 30% of the 1932 boys’ Top Ten still ranked.
As for the girls? That’s a different picture. Between 1932 and 1952, seven of the girls’ Top Ten fell. Shirley and Doris made way for Linda and Susan, and the change has continued at a rapid pace. None of the 1930s or 1950s girls’ favorites still held a top spot by 2012.
And yet there are more wearable names for boys than ever before. Plenty of parents are still passing down grandpa Joseph’s name, but the pressure to do so seems to be on the decline. We live in a more accepting age, where diversity in names feels quite normal.
I’ve often said that if our second child were a boy, he would have gone nameless.
Blame it on our preferences. My husband and I planned to source family names for our children, without thinking about the imbalance. We have tons of women in our family, with a rich list of interesting names. The pool of masculine names is much smaller, and repeats, again and again, over the generations. Naming a second – or third or fourth – son would have required a willingness to reinvent some antiques and reconsider a few imports.
Is Zbigniew wearable in the US?
But let’s say that we were open to finding a great name, not one with family ties necessarily. Just a name that would serve our child well from infancy into adulthood.
Happily, there’s no shortage of those.
When we named our son Alexander in 2004, it was a no-brainer, a family name that my husband very much wanted to pass down. Despite my baby name obsession, the choice was made without much thought.
I knew girls could answer to Alex as a tomboyish nickname for Alexandra. Heck, it was the kind of name I’d craved as a child. And I was fascinated by the medieval French Alix, the Italian Alessandra, the Russian Sasha.
The possibility of a girl Alex didn’t bother me a bit.
The classmate who told him that his nickname was a gender bender?
His name is Delaney.
So what’s happening with boys’ names in 2013? There’s pressure to choose a name that is clearly masculine, coupled with frustration that so many fresh possibilities for boys could easily be the next big thing for girls. Parents will drop Elliot if they see it mentioned on a message board as a vague possibility for a girl. Emerson has been ceded to Team Pink before she even cracks the Top 100 in the US.