Category: classic baby names
By Linda Rosenkrantz
For what seems like forever, this pair of sainted sister names, Agnes and Agatha, have seemed like the quintessential starched, buttoned-up, high-lace-collared, mauve-dressed Great-Great-Grandmother appellations.
I’d like to propose that we let the unbuttoning commence.
When the 2013 US Popular Baby Names list came out back in May, we ran Kelli Brady aka The Name Freak‘s wonderful Playground Analysis blog, with her count of the REAL Top 50 baby names. Kelli tallies all spelling variations of the top names to arrive at their actual rankings, which puts Aiden et al instead of Noah at Number 1 for boys, for instance, and bumps Jackson (and Jaxen, Jaxon, and Jaxson) up to Number 2.
Our focus is usually on which names are MORE popular than you’d think when you add in all their spelling variations. The idea is that parents want to be forewarned when they’re likely to hear their favorite baby names far more often than they’d guess based on the official rankings. Zoe and Aubrey, counting all spellings, are actually in the Top 10 for girls, for example, while Kayden and his many near-identical twins rank not at Number 93 but at Number 9.
But what about those baby names that are LESS popular than they seem judging by the official statistics? Parents may veer away from some names, both classic and modern, that are actually somewhat more distinctive than they appear. I’m not talking about names that are a couple of rungs further down the ladder, based on Kelli‘s analysis, but those that are significantly softer by our own subjective measure.
The point is: If you’re shying away from these baby names because you believe they’re too popular, maybe you owe them a second look. They are:
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!
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.
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 visualizer. Elizabeth 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.