Category: different spellings
When we were preparing the article “Bizarre Baby Names: A Growing Trend?” for the July issue of Reader’s Digest magazine that’s just hit the stands, we put together a lonnnnnng timeline of the key markers in American name history–much longer than they could possibly use with the story. So here we offer you some of the dates and events that you won’t find in the magazine.
1845. The Irish famine sends masses of Bridgets and Patricks to America.
1946. Publication of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care encourages parents to be more relaxed, confident and collaborative: husbands participate more in child care–and baby naming.
1974. The first issue of People magazine accelerates fascination with celebrity culture, parents start to be increasingly influenced by names stars give their babies.
2000. The Internet inspires parents to search genealogy sites for old family names.
But there are other names that are given to more than twice as many babies as those Number One names. Not many parents realize that the names they’re choosing carry this huge degree of popularity. No states or government agencies track these names or alert people to what vast numbers of children receive them.
Why not? Because they’re not a single name but a meganame, or a cluster of names, if you like. These are names that are closely related in form and spelling, with lots of overlaps that sound exactly alike. There are many examples in modern U.S. baby names – including to some extent Jacob and Emily themselves – but let’s focus on three of the most notorious.
For boys, the premier meganame might be thought of as the Aden cluster. It includes the following names, arranged so that the relationships are most obvious:
While I’ve come to prefer Pamela to Susie, I’m still fascinated by all the variations of that early beloved name. Susannah is one of my very favorites, for example, undoubtedly inspired by my early love of Susie. If I had six daughters, I’d certainly name one of them Susannah.
Alas, I had only one daughter, and a husband who didn’t like the name Susannah – upon hearing it, he could never resist breaking into a chorus of Oh Susannah! Which, obviously, is one of the few big downsides of this otherwise beautiful name.
The original version of the name is Shoshana, Hebrew for ‘lily.’ Appearing in both the Old and the New Testaments, the name wasn’t common until the seventeenth century, when it was sometimes found in the archaic forms Susanney and Shusan or Shusanna.
Over the centuries and throughout the Western World, the name has moved in and out of fashion in so many different forms that they might comprise a chapter of a name dictionary all by themselves. The major variations include:
SUSANNAH and SUSANNA – What’s the difference between these two versions of the same name? The ‘h’ ending makes the first more properly Hebrew, and is the spelling used for the Old Testament figure falsely accused of adultery. Susanna, usually the Italian, Swedish, Finnish, Russian, and Dutch version of the name, appears in the New Testament and as the name of two virgin martyrs. SUSANA is the usual Spanish spelling. Susannah feels more old-fashioned but also more complete, relating to such currently fashionable names as Hannah and Mariah. No form of Susannah has been in the Top 1000 for nearly ten years, though they all hold some style currency.
One of nameberry’s hidden wonders is its lists of names that peaked in every year from 1880 to 2007, the most recent one counted. These lists, created by our brilliant yet anonymous (ironic, huh?) software engineer, give a snapshot not of the most popular but of the trendiest names at any given moment.
It’s possible to look at the peaking names and their variations to pinpoint trends current and future. Some directions evident in the 2007 list include:
THE AD NAMES
In 2007, we see the peak of Addison: no surprise there. Also peaking are Addisyn, Addyson, Adison, and Adyson. A little further removed are Adalyn and Adelyn. And from there it’s only a quick hop to Adrian and Adriel (and not such a stretch to include all the Aidens in this group). Look for other Ad– names to follow: Ada, Adelaide, Adelia, Adeline, Adair. Adolph, not so much.
THE EL NAMES
THE DOUBLE L NAMES
You’ve probably noticed that Aiden is now way more popular than the original Irish Aidan. And also that Zoey is catching up with Zoe, while other names like Isiah, Kaleb, Camryn and Sienna are either ahead of or breathing down the necks of their conventionally spelled cousins. Sometimes the reasons for these changes are clear-cut, sometimes it’s just something in the ether.
Not that this is a new thing. I remember the first time that someone asked me to spell my first name. “Huh?” “Well, is it Linda with an ‘i’ or Lynda with a ‘y’? Without my really noticing, Lynda had become a spelling alternative in the wake of the popularity of Lynn. Something similar has happened with Aidan/Aiden. When the epidemic of rhyming ‘en’-ending names erupted–Jaden, Braden, Caden et al–it was a logical development to make Aiden a legitimate member of that family. And when ‘K’-beginning boys’ names became a rage, Kaleb began pursuing Caleb up the list.
The case of Zoe/Zooey is a little different, as the spike of the latter version can be pretty much traced to a single phenomenon–‘Zoey101’–the Emmy-nominated teen sitcom starring (now teen mom) Jamie Lynn Spears, which appeared on Nickelodeon in 2005. And the publicity surrounding Jamie Lynn’s big sister Britney’s second son helped spread that spelling of Brayden. The rise of the British actress Sienna Miller spurred the spelling change of the Italian town of Siena, actress Jorja Fox legitimized the phonetic spelling of Georgia, and Gossip Girl hottie Chace (originally his middle name) Crawford has the spelling of his name chasing Chase.
In terms of image, rather than spelling, Scarlett Johansson challenged the long-term connection of her name to Gone With the Wind spitfire Scarlett O’Hara, just as the charms of Jude Law have managed to erase the age-old associations of his name to Judas.
Can you think of any others?