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Category: classic baby names

Names That Age Well

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by Pamela Redmond Satran

I’ve been thinking lately about the name Jennifer.

The biggest down side of being named Jennifer, I think, is not its enormous popularity — it was the Number 1 name from 1970 through 1983, when over a million Jennifers were born.  It’s certainly not the name itself, which has always been and remains lovely.

No, the biggest problem to my mind is that the name pretty much pegs you as someone who is now in her thirties or forties.  You’re date stamped, as surely as someone named Shirley is getting on 80 or Susan is a Baby Boomer or Mason was born in the Kardashian Era.

This is not a problem so much when you’re young, but as you get older, you (or more precisely, your child) may not appreciate having a name that broadcasts to your employers and everyone on Match.com: Yo, I’m 58!

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By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Snooki is looking for another Italian name.  David Arquette promised to name his baby something normal.  Kerry Washington honored her daughter’s Igbo heritage with a distinctive middle, and blogger Dana Miller borrowed a street name for a deeply meaningful choice.

For many of us, we know the characteristics we’d like in our child’s name long before we arrive at the actual name.

It seems sensible.  It’s the way we shop for a car – seats six, good safety record – or a couch – stain-resistant fabric, big enough to fill up the family room, convenient delivery available.

But it isn’t the same at all, is it?  When it comes to naming our children, we’re not completing a checklist that gets us to good enough.  The standard is higher – we’re looking for a certain magic.

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By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Last month, two high profile birth announcements both featured Bodhi within days.  Not Mason, not Noah.  Bodhi.  Proof that choosing a different name is no guarantee that it will actually be different.

But here’s a strategy that might work – pick a name that qualifies as a twist on a classic.  It works for Swedish royals, Olympic gold medalists, and Hollywood types, too.

Need proof?  Try the Zato Novo baby name visualizerElizabeth consistently turns the map various shades of blue, showing a long and steady history of use.  But try Elsa or Bess or Elizaveta, and suddenly, she’s far more rare.

All too often, the names that strike us as outlandish are on their way to the top of the popularity charts.  Remember when Top 100 picks like Harper and Trinity were surprising? Now names like Haven, Skyla, and Aspen are on the rise, slowly transitioning from “what an unusual name” to “oh, my cousin/co-worker/neighbor’s sister named her baby that.”

Twists on classics elicit a very different response.  They usually can’t be dismissed as trendy or fleeting.  Of course, some – like Nora, Eliza, or Kaitlyn – can become very popular.  But many of them occupy a middle ground – pleasing names that show their history, while still standing out on the playground.

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The Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Brooklyn is big in Sioux City. Jack remains #1 in Scotland, Jayden is #2 in California, and Liam is most popular in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

If it is the end of the year, it is time for top names, and individual health systems to entire countries oblige by releasing their data.

But what does it mean if you are actually choosing a name for a child in the next few months?

Some parents insist on avoiding the newly-declared Top Ten, even if Noah or William was a long-time favorite. Others hope for something familiar, but not shared with too many others. And some of us will go to the fringes, considering obscurities from the dictionary and our family trees.

Maybe the best part of naming a kiddo in 2014 is that you don’t have to opt for something as daring as Godred or Thelonious, or as Hollywood-issued as Rainbow or North to choose a distinctive name.

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Alice in Nameland

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A tribute today to the wonderful writer Alice Munro, winner of the prestigious 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature—and to other notable Alices who share her classic name. We love Alice for its blend of great qualities—she’s sweet and dainty yet strong and substantive, traditional and timeless but still feels young and fresh. Here, some Alices who’ve made a name for themselves.

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