A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the favorite girls’ names on a Nameberry Message Board thread–led by the lovely Beatrix, Penelope and Clementine–and now it’s time to look over at the boys’ side.
The most striking result is the strong showing for the good old traditional, timeless classics, with many votes for William, Henry, Charles, James, Edward, Joseph, George, and Thomas, and a resurgence of interest in Theodore (#2!–perhaps because of the popularity of nickname Theo), Frederick, and Peter. Does this mean that parents are still (or once again) looking at safer, more conservative choices for their sons than their daughters? Is it somehow a reflection of the cloudy economic climate?
Some smaller trends noted: a preponderance of names starting with the vowel E–Elliot (in its various spellings), Edward, Emmett, Everett, Ethan, Ezra, Elias; and the characteristic nameberry love of some quirkier choices, several not found in the Top 500 of the Social Security list–Gideon, Amos, Emmett, Dexter, Atticus, Asa, Harvey, Callum and Cullen–and some not even on the list at all–Dashiell, Archer, Malachy, Laszlo, Ambrose. It takes time for the rest of the world to catch up!
So here, as of today, are your top choices:
During the hundred times you’ve watched The Wizard of Oz, you may have noticed that it isn’t a particularly fertile source of interesting names. There’s Dorothy of course, and Aunty Em and Uncle Henry, plus the farm names of Dorothy‘s companions on the Yellow Brick Road–Hunk, Hickory and Zeke–and the nasty, bike-pedaling Miss Elvira Gulch.
But it happens that this was just the first in a series of Oz books. L. Frank Baum himself wrote 13 more, with titles such as The Patchwork Girl of Oz and Rinkitink in Oz, and then other authors stepped in to bring the number up to 40. Just looking at the Baum creations alone, you enter a wonderland of wildly inventive appellations of the Princess-Fluff/Professor Nowitall variety–not particularly baby-appropriate–
If you were to go solely by the tabloids, you might think that every celebrity’s baby boy was given the name of a New York borough or a Disney character or was his parents’ quirky Scrabble-letter invention.
There is a very healthy segment of show biz parents who are creating a major backlash to this trend–either that or they just like conservative, classic names. Instead of screaming ‘Hey-look-at-me!’ (and my mama), these names provide a sort of protective coating against that kind of often mocking attention, a layer of dignity and tradition.
Evidence? Here, just looking at boys born since the Millenium, are some of the timeless classics, in their complete, traditional forms, that have been recent celebrity choices–not that they always succeeded in making their bearers paparazzi-proof. (And, by the way, I’d be interested to know if you think the preference for this kind of name relates to the celeb’s own personal or public image.)
DAVID — Mo’Nique, J. K. Rowling
FREDERICK — Mayim Bialik
In addition–though it’s not quite the same thing–there are the nickname versions, like Kate Winslet’s Joe and Charlie Sheen’s Bob, and the not-so-timeless semi-classics like Rainn Wilson’s Walter. And of course, there are the female equivalents–Amanda Peet’s Frances, Kelly Martin’s Margaret–but that’s for another time.
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.
I have a theory which may have absolutely no validity, but I thought I’d share it anyhow. My thought is that some celebrities who give their kids really over-the-top names are so mocked and ridiculed by the media and other members of the the Name Police that they pick something much more ordinary for their next baby. Evidence:
No baby name has ever been more mocked than Apple, even though her Mom protested that it was chosen because it sounded so fresh and sweet and wholesome; when Paltrow appeared on Oprah she said she was taken aback by the “international outrage” it had caused. When her second child arrived, she opted for a venerable Old Testament name–Moses. There was a little grumbling about that choice too, but nothing like the Apple uproar.
The usual spelling of Phineas is tough enough, but when the Moders added those extra highfalutin’ Latinate letters, it really set off alarms (there probably would have been even more if they’d use the biblical spelling of Phinehas). Things calmed down a bit when they said they’d be calling him Finn (Phinn?). People weren’t that crazy about the name of Phinn’s twin either, dredging up memories of dumpy Hazel the Maid (though nameberry sees it as a soft and gentle old-fashioned choice). In any event, next time around they were taking no chances–this boy had the ultra-safe name of Henry.
Avid baseball fan Lee named his first child after the most famous Negro League player, Satchel Paige (birth name Leroy), just as Woody Allen had several years earlier. Only Woody‘s Satchel was a boy, and Spike’s happens to be a girl. The general consensis was that Satchel was quite a bit of baggage for a little girl to carry. When the Lees did have a son, they gave him the cool but common name of Jackson. Maybe after Reggie?
Most people didn’t care that there was a perfectly logical explanation for the name Banjo–they just dismissed it as another of those crazy celebrity choices–which they might not have done if they were Australian as Griffiths is. Banjo A.B. Paterson (born Andrew) was a famous Aussie poet and journalist who wrote the song ‘Waltzing Matilda‘. When her daughter was born, Griffiths opted for a safer Australian choice–no, not Matilda–but Adelaide, the name of the capital city of South Australia.