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There are the eternal boys’ classics that never leave the higher echelons of popularity—names like John, James, William and Daniel.

But then there are those that move in and out of style, names that can appear timeless in one period and then seem tired and fusty in another. These names, once at the top of their class, are now nearer the bottom—in one case having slipped away completely.

Yesterday we looked at forgotten girls’ classics. Today we bring you a dozen classic boys’ names that have fallen off the radar but deserve a fresh look.

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Middle Name Switches

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Clearly, parents today are giving a lot more thought to their children’s middle names than their own parents did.  Long gone are the automatic connective choices like Lee and Lynn, Beth and Bruce;  more likely now might be something more imaginative like Maeve or West—or Sebastian or Story—or Mom’s maiden or another family name.

For some people, the reasoning behind this is to give the child an additional option for later in life.  It works both ways: either he could switch his classic William for his jazziermiddle  Jasper, or she could opt for using her traditional, grown-up Elizabeth middle name over the less sophisticated Poppy.

It turns out that a surprising number of celebrities have done just that—chosen to use their middle as their marquee moniker.  Sometimes it was to drop a wimpy appellation for a more stylish one (Eldred for Gregory, Orvon for Gene), sometimes because a name was too common at the time (Mary, John, James) and the middle had more character (Farrah, Orson, Montgomery), sometimes maybe because probably just seemed cooler to be Brad than Bill.

As a result, some of the most stand-out celebrity names –Evangeline, Reese, Rihanna, Ashton and Jude—started out in second place on the birth certificate.  Here are some of the most prominent–And note that the last names given aren’t necessarily the ones they were born with.

GIRLS

Kathryn BRIDGET (Moynahan)

Lily CLAUDETTE (Colbert)

Mary DEBRA (Winger)

Nicole EVANGELINE (Lilly)

Audrey FAITH (Hill)

Mary FARRAH (Fawcett)

Dorothy FAYE (Dunaway)

Deborah HUNTER (Tylo)

Mary KATHLEEN (Turner)

Olive MARIE (Osmond)

Holly MICHELLE (Phillips)

Carole PENNY (Marshall)

Laura Jean REESE (Witherspoon)

Robin RIHANNA (Fenty)

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baby name zooey

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.

More recently we’ve seen a couple of starbabies who might have some influence on the future spellings of names: Brooke Shield’s Grier (rather than Greer) and Angie Harmon’s Emery (rather than Emory).

Can you think of any others?

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