Category: guest bloggers
Legions of expectant parents search for that “underused classic” name each year.
But what exactly is an “underused classic” name? Do underused classic names even exist? Are they some impossible standard like names that are universally appealing and forever-guaranteed-to-stay-unique?
“Classic” can be interpreted differently by different people. Instead of describing a name as “classic” I usually use “traditional” or “timeless” instead.
Semantics aside, a working definition of how I decide what makes a name “classic” might be useful. And in my world there is more than one type of classic name:
Authentic Classics – Evergreen names like Elizabeth and James. Ideally these names have never left the top 50 since 1880, the earliest year name rankings are available from the Social Security Administration.
After years of long-frilly girl names, the winds of fashion are once again shifting and one syllable names are getting recognition.
Here are some names that are short on frill but full of spunk.
Bex - This diminutive of Rebecca makes a sharp edgy stand alone name with the trendy X.
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:
I recently moved to the Hartford, Connecticut area for the summer, and one of my favorite things about this state is its long history, because it yields so many fantastic antique baby names! The area is not only beautiful, with green rolling hills and lush forests, but chock-ful of historical, peaceful cemeteries, as well. As many a name nerd knows, cemeteries are ripe with fresh possibilities, and the older they are, the more likely one is to find truly rare names.
With this in mind, I set out to comb the best cemeteries in my neighborhood for the most unique and undiscovered gems. In my quest, I noticed some strong preferences for virtue, occupational, and Biblical names, as well as names referencing ancient historians or philosophers. For girls, anything long and feminine was game, and the “l” sound was particularly popular. For boys, parents seemed fond of either distinguished sounding appellations ending in the fusty “us,” or jaunty, oh-so-cute names with prominent “o” sounds.