Category: creative baby names
Are we becoming more tolerant of creative names?
My kids’ friends and classmates are a diverse lot, and their names reflect it. There’s Seamus and Shivarama, a boy named Delaney and a girl called Jordan. Yes, we have Matthew and Sam and Zoe. But in their school of 300 kids, I can count the number of names that repeat on one hand.
Even though we know lots of boys with unusual names, it seems like girls have the edge. Statistics bear it out. In 2012, over 78% of boys received a Top 1000 name, but fewer than 67% of all girls did.
This past week seemed to be all about unusual, but perfectly wearable, names for girls. I’m not thinking of headline-grabbing choices like North and Khaleesi. Instead, I’m thinking of the wide universe of wearable names, choices that are a little bit different, but not staggeringly strange.
Gwyneth Paltrow probably had no idea how much controversy she was about to cause when she named her daughter Apple back in May of 2004. “That’s not a name” was the most common judgement on people’s lips, and her daughter’s name is now held up as an example on all “Most Bizarre Celebrity Baby Names” lists.
So why did Gwyneth and her husband, Coldplay front man Chris Martin, choose the name Apple? To paraphrase from her interview with Oprah Winfrey at the time, they felt that “apples are sweet, wholesome, biblical and lovely.” They also proposed the question “Is it really so different from the other nature/ noun names out there that are commonly used, such as Rose, Lily or Ivy?”
It’s a little hard to argue with such logic these days, considering the many word names on the rise. Yes, an apple is a fruit, but people mustn’t dislike fruit names that much, since we’re now seeing Plum and Lemon regularly discussed as possible names, albeit usually as middles or nicknames.
Some names are common in the middle but rarely used as first names. Others are common first names but hardly used in the middle. And then there are a lucky few that are popular first and middle names, such as Grace and James. But the ultimate double-threat is Elizabeth.
Elizabeth’s status as a popular first name has endured over a century. Elizabeth is the only girl name that has remained in the top 30 since 1880, the earliest year baby name rankings are available from Social Security Administration. This places Elizabeth among the baby name elite.
While Elizabeth’s many nicknames has kept it a popular first name, Elizabeth’s distinctive rhythm has kept it a popular middle name. This distinctive pattern is four syllables with the stress is on the second syllable.
Four syllable names with the stress on the third syllable don’t flow as well with most first names. For example, compare the following name combinations with Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s Spanish counterpart, Isabella, which has the stress on the third syllable:
This week’s baby name news was dominated by tales of a mom who has agreed to let the general public name her baby in exchange for $5,000. It turned out to be a hoax, but it raises the question: Would you ever let another person name your child?
It’s an unthinkable transaction for most of us. We have extensive lists of baby names carefully assembled and edited over the years. I like to think that I could blissfully name eight more children, each with two middles.
Or could I?
Creative freedom in baby naming is here to stay. Even parents who say they prefer the mainstream often choose names like Chloe and Noah, Avery and Jayden, possibilities that would have been quite surprising a few decades back.