Category: classic girls’ names
The 12 classic girls’ names here qualify. All have deep and illustrious roots yet are also listed by the official U.S. roster of names that were the fastest-rising in the past year. That makes all of them excellent choices, offering both style and substance.
With a number of classic names taking a downward turn these days, it’s nice to see that a few are going in the other direction—William, James, Charlotte –and one that we’re especially happy to see making a return: our featured name of the day, Alice.
Alice is unique among the body of traditional, classic girls’ names. She’s more feminine and dainty than Mary and Helen, more substantive than Ann or Jane or Jean, yet with more lightness, sweetness and innocent charm than Margaret and Katharine.
From the late nineteenth century through the 1920s, Alice was an enormously popular Top 20 name–reaching as high as Number 8 several times—then slowly made its way down until 2005 when it suddenly reversed direction again. Tina Fey named her baby Alice the following year, and from then on its upward trend has accelerated, with the name getting to 142nd place last year.
“BRAHNwyn!” he said incredulously. “BRAHNwyn?”
“Well, when you say it like that, it doesn’t sound very pretty,” I pouted.
Granted, Bronwyn was a guilty pleasure. I didn’t really expect my husband to go along with it as the given name for any daughter we might have. But must his voice take on that grating nasal edge when he said it out loud? He sounded like a goose honking.
No more than eight weeks up the duff, I was still newly pregnant when my husband and I began discussing potential baby names for our unborn child. I had just informed him that I really liked the name Bronwyn Rose for a girl, but admitted that with the last name of Alexander, I was worried about her initials spelling “bra.”
“That’s your only concern about the name Bronwyn?!” my husband asked in amazement.
I recently watched one of the seemingly countless Masterpiece Theater/BBC/theatrical versions of Jane Eyre, and I couldn’t help noticing how many times this particularly dreamy Rochester (Toby Stephens) repeated the heroine’s name, imbuing it each time with various shades of sweetness, sadness, passion, and more–and it made me fall in love with not only him but the name Jane. And to start wondering what’s become of baby-name Jane, one of the most classic girls’ names.
For a long time Jane was so popular that she became the Generic American Girl’s Name, as in Jane Doe/John Doe and G.I. Jane/G.I. Joe and the everygirl in the Dick and Jane readers. In 1935 there were 8,900 baby Janes born in this country, whereas in 2010, there were just a little over 800 in all of the U.S.
So why did Jane get shunted aside, while her male equivalents have survived and thrived? Was it because—unlike Mary and Elizabeth—she didn’t have biblical roots? Was this strong, simple name a victim of over-smooshing—too many Maryjanes and Bettyjanes and Sarajanes for it to stand alone? Was it mortally injured by the pejorative phrase Plain Jane?