Category: classic names for girls
The news was filled with so-called normal names this week. But what defines a normal name? Is it a Top Ten choice that plenty of people your age share? Or are normal names the ones that remain in popular use for decades?
Singer Ne-Yo insisted that his son’s name is fit for a gentleman, and I wouldn’t argue – it’s a great name. But it is also a name that seems poised for the Top Ten, meaning that some perceive him as trendy, a cousin to Jayden and Aiden.
A widely-discussed report trumpeted the demise of Mad Men names, citing Don and Betty as examples of the most endangered appellations in all of nameland. There’s some truth to that, but it is equally true that plenty of names are enduring classics, the kind of choice that makes it difficult to pin down a child’s year of birth.
Normal changes, at least when it comes to given names. The endangered name list included plenty of perennial favorites, and that leads us right to our nine most newsworthy names this week:
James – The buzz about poor Betty and Don being so out of fashion included a list of others supposedly on the brink of extinction, like James – a name never out of the US Top 20 – and William, currently in the US Top Ten. The boys’ list was packed with timeless choices, including David, Charles, and Thomas. Maybe you won’t name your next son Roger, but many of us would consider one of the names on their so-called watch list.
In this era of boys’ or at least boyish names for girls, feminizations — classic feminine forms of male names such as Charlotte and Georgia — seem almost quaint. Why not just name your daughter Charlie….or George?
Well, there are a lot of reasons. And choosing a more traditional feminization can give you the best of all name worlds. Most are distinctly female without being frilly, have deep roots yet feel right for the contemporary world, let you honor a male ancestor without creating any confusion about the gender of his little namesake.
There are so many great feminine forms that it was difficult narrowing the list down to just a dozen. But these are our current favorites:
Antonia – Antonia is a lush and gorgeous name that has not found favor the way sisters Charlotte and Georgia have. In fact, it fell off the US Top 1000 in 2007 — which may be a very good reason to use it now. While some may find it too Old World, we think it’s lovely in its full form, not shortened to the considerably less classy Toni or Tonia.
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?
May, as any Catholic schoolchild can tell you, is the official month of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Which might make Mary an appropriate name for a girl born this month, except after a four hundred year run, Mary is more than ready for semi-retirement.
The good news is that you can hold onto Mary’s symbolic value by choosing one of her fresh, appealing variations. And there are literally dozens of them, formal and breezily nicknameish, ultrafemme and down-to-earth. Some of the options:
MADONNA – There’s only one Madonna – and it’s not the plaster one in the blue alcove at church. The pop star has all but taken over this formerly holy name and rebranded it with a modern in-your-face sexuality. Do you dare use it for your child? Do you want to? Maybe not yet, but with names like Elvis and Scarlett gaining widespread popularity a generation or two after the fame of their original bearers, we all might end up having grandchildren named Madonna.
MAE and MAY – A mere handful of years ago, Mae was a quintessential old-lady name, barely baby-appropriate, but today it feels as sweetly simple as a warm day in the sun. Can be a short form for any of the Mary variations and also makes a good middle name.