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Category: midcentury baby names

Billy and Bob are Back in the Playground

vintage nicknames

By Linda Rosenkrantz

The nickname-name trend is nothing new. Who among us hasn’t known a baby Max or Maggie or Sam or Ellie? Or even one of those with a whiff of vintage nostalgia, like Millie or Josie?

But lately there’s been a new twist on this phenomenon, especially seen in the celebrisphere. Several stars have resurrected some of the All-American Boy nicknames of the Depression Era, like Billy and Johnny and Tommy, and haven’t hesitated to plunk them right onto their babe’s birth certificate. In particular:

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The 50-Year Rule: 1962 names revisited

1962

Conventional wisdom holds that baby names tend to follow the Hundred-Year-Rule, cycling back after a century has passed. But with everything speeding up exponentially in modern life, and with the great interest in all things mid-century, we’re thinking maybe we should change that to the Fifty-Year-Rule.

Which prompts us to a close look at the Top 1000 names of 1962.

At first glance, the Top 10 are not very inspiring—mostly classics for boys: Michael, David, John, James, Robert, Mark, William, Richard, Thomas, and Jeffrey, and for girls names very much of the period: Lisa, Mary, Susan, Karen, Linda, Patricia, Donna, Cynthia, Deborah, and Sandra.

But digging deeper into the data, we find an interesting mix of revival possibilities—all of them missing from today’s Top 1000, and most of them gone for decades. Towards the lower end we find vestiges of a still earlier time—names like Percy and Virgil, Myrtle and Minerva– as well as nickname names that have been lost to time, some ethnic choices no longer prominent here, plus more archetypal midcentury names which might possibly be ready to return.

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