The economic downturn has affected just about every aspect of American life, and that even extends to baby naming. We’ve noticed–and I don’t think it’s just among our enlightened readers–a definite change in attitude, away from trendiness and towards more solid, serious, traditional names. In other words, frivolousness is out, and substance is in.
With the President stressing the importance of our kids getting to college, many parents start to wonder–consciously or not–whether Caroline might just have some slight advantage in the acceptance process over Coco when her application to MIT is being considered, and if Charles might be considered a more serious prospect than Karrsen.
And it’s not just the timeless classics like James and Elizabeth which have never gone out of style that I’m talking about, but rather names that until lately were judged to be too solemn and serious and unbabyish and dated for consideration: dusty in-law — or grandparent –names like Murray and Marian. The baby namers of the recent past, who were calling their kids Ashley and Brittany, Madison and Montana, and on to Jayden and Caden, would probably have laughed or turned up their noses at most of the names below, seeing them as way too adult, starchy and uncool. But the times they are a-changing and the tide is turning, and these names have, in addition to a solid past, a foreseeable place on the kindergarten cubbies of the future.
If you’re looking for a theme for your baby-to-be’s nursery, you could do worse than factoring into your name decision those that have animal themes. (I’ll bet half the little boys named Jonah, for instance, have at least one whale on their walls.)
I’m talking mostly about names that refer to a specific animal in their meanings, as well as some literary and pop culture characters. There are some caveats though–I mean does Portia really want to be reminded constantly that her name is related to ‘pig’ or that Clifford is eternally a big red dog?
That aside, here are some of the more appealing names and the beasts they’re associated with:
Just about every name starting with Leo: LEO, LEON, LEONARD, LEONID, LEONIE, LEONTYNE. But also ALEX, ARI/ARIEL/ARYE, ATALANTA, ELSA, GURI/GURYON, LEANDER, LEV, LEYA, LIONEL, LLEWELLYN, NALA, SARAFINE, SIMBA
When I heard yesterday that former child star (I bet she hates that) Mayim Bialik had named her baby boy Fred (only to discover later in the day that it was actually Frederick) I must admit a warm comfy feeling swept over me. Fred, I thought, what a great name! And not just because it wasn’t yet another day-of-the-week name or a South American capital city name or an invented name starting with X–I’ve learned to adjust to those names over the years to the point where I can honestly say nice things about (some of) them and mean it.
It’s just that there’s something about Fred. And Frank and George and Joe, and even Ralph–something so straightforward and honest and unfashiony and I have nothing to prove about them, it’s like the honking traffic suddenly comes to a halt for a minute on the naming superhighway and time stands still and dads are still smoking pipes and going bowling every Thursday night. It’s probably why so many pressured parents have named their kids Jack and Henry over the past few years–except that by trying to escape the trendy they unintentionally established a couple of trends of their own.
A few celebs have more successfully tried this path as a detour around the cleverness competition by choosing names like George (Kristen Scott Thomas, Eva Herzigova) and Frank (Diana Krall & Elvis Costello), Joe (Kate Winslet), and Ralph (Matthew McFayden)–except that, being British, it might be pronounced Rafe, thereby destroying my whole premise.
Strangely enough, I can’t think of any female names that produce quite the same feeling. Classics like Margaret and Virginia are too buttoned-up, others like Ann and Jean are more cool than warm and fuzzy.
No, it’s definitely a guy thing.