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No Expiration Date on Names

expiredmeter2If you’re looking for some eye-opening  name moments, try browsing  through some vintage name books and you might be surprised to discover just how dramatically perceptions of some  names have changed over time.  In some cases what we think of as perfectly valid current choices have actually been written off as dead and gone.  Today’s popular Ava, for instance, was rarely thought worthy of inclusion  in most name books, even fairly recent ones.  But one generation’s dusty skeleton can be reborn as another’s darling baby boy or girl, so it’s a risky business to write off a name (at least post-Etheldred period),  as can be seen from the comments below about some names we love today:

 ABIGAIL – turned into a cant term for a lady’s maid, and thenceforth has been seldom heard even in a cottage  (1884)

DEBORAH – has acquired a certain amount of absurdity from various literary associations which prevent ‘Deb’ from being used except by the peasantry (1884)

CHLOE —  its main use has been by pastoral poets   (1945)

ESME – is now sometimes given to girls   (1945)

MATILDA —   among the most disliked names for girls   (1967)

SOPHIA – went out of fashion in the 19th century   (1945)

VICTORIA – is now almost obsolete  (1945)

COLIN — by the 16th century was regarded as a rustic nickname and it gradually died out altogether  (1945)

CONNOR —  now survives mainly as a surname  (1945)

ELIJAH—it died out in the general 19th century deline of biblical names, but not before it had established its shortening to be Lige (1979)

Masculine names like HARRY, JACK and SAMUEL are rarely used for babies today   (1950)

ISAAC, ABRAHAM — names from the Old Testament are disappearing  (1967)

JONAH – most everywhere regarded as sissy  (1967)

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Creative Baby Names

When Matthew McConaughey chose the name Levi for his son, he was, in a subtle way, naming the baby after himself.  How so?   Because in the New Testament, Matthew and Levi are two names for the same person.

There are many other such pairs of names with close  connections that aren’t immediately evident, whether they be  different ethnic versions of the same name, double identities for the same person, having historic or literary ties, or as sharers of linguistic elements.  Being aware of this can be a useful tool for baby namers seeking not-too-obviously linked twin or sibling names or, like McConaughey, another less egoey version of your or your spouse’s name.

And of course it could also come in handy when looking for a more modern substitute namesake for a fustily-named family member.  As much as you may have  adored your Grandpa Roland, for example, you still might prefer the more dashing Orlando for your baby boy.

Here are a few examples, though of course there are countless other ethnic-switching possibilities out there:

GIRLS

AURORA has the same meaning as DAWN

AVELINE means HAZEL

AZENOR is the Breton form of ELINOR

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Popular Baby Names

When we parse the annual Social Security list, we usually focus on the top names–what’s the new Number One, which names have made it into the Top 25, even the Top 100. But there are many names on the Popularity List that actually aren’t all that popular– certainly not commonly enough used  to deter parents who are looking for a distinctive name.

In the lower depths of the list, there are a number of neglected names that were given to fewer than 350 babies across the country last year, real hidden gems sprinkled among the more unusually configured Cloes, Alyvias and Jovanys.  These are appealing names that are recognizable to all, with real history and meaning, but which would still stand out in a crowd (or in a pre-school).

Among them are:

GIRLS

DIXIE — One of the most engaging of the saucy showgirl nickname names, with an added dash of Southern spice.

GIADA — An undiscovered Italian jewel (it translates as Jade) brought into the spotlight by celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis.

JUNE — Springtime month name starting to come back into bloom.

JUSTINE –An elegant name with deep Latin roots and a righteous meaning.

LIBBY –The lost Elizabeth nickname, sounding so much fresher than Liz and Beth–not to mention Betsy and Betty.

LILIA — A charming, rhythmic, more exotic spin on the well-used Lily.

LIVIA –Not a chopped-off version of Olivia but an ancient Roman favorite used on its own.

MARIN — A shimmering water name, distinctive and sophisticated.

MATILDA — Sweet and feminine vintage classic, with a choice of appealing nicknames–Mattie, Tilda, Tillie; hasn’t caught on despite highly visible image of Matilda Ledger.

OLIVE — Quieter alternative to trendy Olivia; young heroine of Little Miss Sunshine, and pick of cool couple Isla Fisher and Sacha Baron Cohen.

SLOANE — Sleek executive name chosen by comedian Rob Corddry.

TAMARA –With both Russian and Hebrew roots, has a dramatic, creative image.

TESS — Has a lot more substance, strength and style than most single-syllable names; a good middle name choice too.

THALIA –One of the Three Graces, and the Muse of Comedy, in Greek mythology; does at the moment tend to be associated with single-named singer.

BOYS

AUGUSTUS –Old Roman name sounding less and less fusty, especially when softened by nicknames Augie or Gus.

CASSIUS –A Shakespearean name with the patina of antiquity, plus a choice of two cool nicknames–Cass or Cash.

CONRAD –A solid, serious name with literary cred.

CULLEN — Winning Irish surname name–but in danger of increased popularity via being the surname of Edward in the popular Twilight franchise.

DARWIN –Perfect for the son of scientists, but also appealing to any parent looking for a name with a stylish sound and historic significance.

FLETCHER –An occupational (arrow-maker) name with an abundance of quirky charm.

JENSEN — An attractive, rarely heard Scandinavian surname name, attached to both a spiffy car and a current TV teen idol, Jensen Ackles–there were only 192 baby Jensens born last year.

KILLIAN — Dynamic Irish saint’s name; only possible drawback is tie to the trendy brew.

LUCIAN — Adds a gloss of Continental elan to Luke and Lucas.

MAXIMO –Lively Latin route to nickname Max, meaning ‘the greatest’–sole caveat is a link to a video game.

REUBEN –A neglected Biblical boy, resonant and rich, belonging to the founder of one of the tribes of Israel.

REX — One of the few trendy x-ending boys’ names with a real–even regal–meaning.

SEAMUS — This Irish form of James has way more substance and spunk than the dated Sean.

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Baby Names: Hottest Trends for 2009

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Which baby name trends do we see coming in for 2009 and which do we see heading out? Here, our predictions for the year ahead.

BIGGEST BIG-PICTURE TREND: DEPRESSION ERA NAMES

The hit TV show Mad Men, set in the early 60s, reintroduced names that were all the rage when the characters were born in the 1930s: Don , Betty, Joan, Peggy.  They’re plain names fit for hard times, and we predict the hardscrabble months ahead will inspire more babies with these names: Dorothy, Helen, Ruth, and Frances for girls; Thomas, Edward, Frank, Raymond, and even Harold for boys.  Plus the stylish new occupational names–Gardener, Ranger, Miller–are likely to gain in appeal for both boys and girls as actual jobs become more scarce.

MOST SURPRISING COMEBACK NAME

Leon, middle name choice for Brangelina twin Knox, had become a joke in the U.S. but was on the rise in Europe, where all lion-related names–Leo, Leonora, Lionel–are tres chic.  Leon and Leonie are the number one names in Germany and for the first time in decades, have style potential here.

BEST NEW TREND INSPIRED BY A CELEBRITY BABY NAME

Jessica Alba’s infant Honor has ushered in a new appreciation for virtue names, on the rise through the name ranks–and hopefully also in spirit–with Faith, Hope, Patience, Mercy, Justice, True, and Pax.

HOTTEST GENDER-BENDING TREND

Boys names that end in a vowel sound and girls’ names that end in a consonant.  Examples: Ezra, Eli, Milo, Noah, Hugo for boys, and for girls, Annabel instead of Annabella, for instance, or Eden instead of Emma.

ETHNIC NAMES GROUPS MOST LIKELY TO RISE

Hawaiian and Russian, thanks to First Daughters Malia and Sasha, short for Natasha, Obama.

TRENDIEST TREND-RELATED TREND

Names that are considered too trendy by stylish parents by virtue of their association with other, trendier names or with high-visibility celebrities.  Examples: Ada, fresh yet too close to the megapopular AvaPearl, too much like groovy RubyRoman, son of Cate Blanchett and Debra Messing.  And Matilda, toddler of Michelle Wiliams and Heath Ledger.

GIRL TREND READY TO JUMP THE SHARK

Names that end in –ella, from Isabella to Gabriella to Bella and even Ella herself.  The long trend for that extra-syllable a ending is about to end.

BOY TREND READY TO JUMP THE SHARK

Names that rhyme with -aden: Braden, Caden, Jaden, Xaden, you’ve had your moment in the sun.

COOLEST MIDDLE NAME TREND

Names that carry powerful meaning, launched when people adopted the middle name Hussein in solidarity with Obama.  Less name than symbol, the new middle name may carry political meaning, convey ethnic background, stand in for a place, animal, character, or thing that has meaning for the parents.

NEW “IT” VOWEL

I, with the rise of such iNames as Isaiah, Iris, Isaac, and Isla.

MOST FASHIONABLE CONSONANT

V, vivifying names wherever it falls: Olive, Vivienne, Eva, Victor, Avery, Violet, Evan, Nevaeh.

NAME TREND THAT’S BEST FOR THE EARTH

Green Names, which include the recycling of grandma and grandpa names like Mabel and Max, and also nature names drawn from the water (Bay, Lake), trees (Birch, Oak), and flowers (Violet, Poppy).

TREND MOST LIKELY TO CROSS THE OCEAN

The hot British baby-naming trend of using nicknames from Millie to Alfie to Dixie and Dot is coming our way, as a light-hearted antidote to tough times.

MOST SURPRISING CELEBRITY NAME INSPIRATION

Arianna Huffington, whose Huffington Post was the media star of the 2008 election, is an attractive and influential person but hardly the kind of tabloid hottie who usually inspires thousands of baby namesakes.  But joining Ashton and Angelina, the name Arianna has ascended with Huffington’s renown, reaching number 70 in the last year counted and certain to zoom much higher.

TREND WE’D MOST LIKE TO SEE DIE

Scary, violent names like Talon, Cannon, Gunner.

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