I was talking to an acquaintance the other day and when she mentioned her young daughter Becca, I suddenly thought, “Hey, whatever happened to Becky?” You rarely hear of a Rebecca under the age of 13 these days who is called by that traditional diminutive.
This is something that happens with pet forms in general–they go through phases and changes as much as–or indeed more than–the mother name. For example when you hear the name Elizabeth, you have no idea of her age–she could be 99 or 9 months old–but you can certainly guess that Betty is a Grandma and that Liz and Beth are probably young adults.
Some other examples: Patricia‘s nicknames went from Patsy to Patty to Pat to Tricia to Trish to practically non-existent. The no longer popular Mary spawned any number of offshoots before it faded, including Mamie, Molly and Polly. Katherine moved from Kate and Katie to Kit and Kitty to Kay and Kathy, back to Kate and Katie, to the current Kat; and Edward launched not only Eddie and Ward but Ed, Ted and Ned.
But the prizes for the two names with the most mutable pet forms and offshoots have to go to Margaret and Elizabeth, many of whose diminutives have become stand-alone names. Here, in the roughest chronological order, is what Margarets and Elizabeths been known as over time:
When the latest starbaby was announced the other day, Michele Hicks and Jonny Lee Miller‘s boy Buster, I wasn’t as surprised as I would have been a few years ago. Already on our celebrity kids’ roster, after all, are Buck and Lucky and Marmaduke and Duke and King and Prince and Princess and Count and Countess, names once reserved for other species. On the other hand, few of these names appear on pooch popularity lists.
And neither do Fido or Rover or Spot or Lassie, the old traditional canine favorites, which have been replaced by top-listed Maggie and Molly and Max and Jake. Is there some kind of switch going on, or is this just a way of affirming to our pets that they are indeed full-fledged members of the family, so that in addition to getting spiffy wardrobes, health insurance, doggy day care and spas and shrinks, they get a real kid’s name too? For the first time ever, 50% of all pet names come from the human name pool, and a recent survey showed that 74% of participants viewed their dogs and cats as family members rather than merely family pets.
Celebrities have jumped into this people’s-names-for-pets phenomenon with particular enthusiasm. For example,the following have or have had dogs named Bob and Stan (David Letterman), Flossie (Drew Barrymore), Milo (Diane Lane), Martha Stewart (Jennifer Garner & Ben Affleck), Lloyd (Courtney Love), and Chloe (both Lindsay Lohan and Lauren Conrad). Hey, wait a minute–Chloe is my daughter’s name!
Here are some of the most popular human names for dogs, Max being the overall favorite: