Category: Baby Names Popularity
When people ask me what letter I would use if I had to name ten children with the same letter, my answer is S. But I also clarify that it is S and not Sh! To me, since they are different sounds they are different “letters” with which to begin a name. As my mind ran with this thought, I wondered how have the two sounds differed in terms of popularity?
To do this research, I used the S and Sh names with percentage of use above 0.01% since 1938*. This cutoff was chosen because the Top 1000 in 2012 include names with a percentage higher than 0.0131% for girls. Because the S and Sh sounds are not exclusive to the letters S and Sh, I also added the names that begin with the letters C and Ch that have the S and Sh sounds. This can be subjective as some of the names can be pronounced with either the S/Sh sound or the hard C/Ch sound, but I went with what I thought would be the mostly likely sound heard.
For years there has been a theory floating around the name world that names appearing on personalized items in the Pottery Barn Kid’s catalog are up-and-coming names to watch. The topic has come up on the Nameberry forums.
Being a big time name watcher, I’m curious of course.
To test this theory, I perused some Pottery Barn Kids online catalog archives this past summer. The online catalog archives go back four years. I sampled one issue for each year: 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. For every catalog, I included every name that was legible in the sample.
Apart from the letter ‘U’, ‘O’ is the least likely vowel to be used at the beginning of names. In fact, there have been zero ‘U’ names in the Top 100 since 1880. On my blog I have already looked at I names, and putting together posts on’ A’ names and ‘E’ names is a daunting task at this point, so, without further ado, the ‘O’ names!
In 1880, there were three ‘O’ boy names in the Top 100: Oliver, Oscar and Otto. While Otto fell out after 1898 and Oliver became sporadic from 1897 until it fell out after 1903, Oscar stayed on top through 1925. Otis also made some appearances in 1899, 1905 and 1909, but from 1926 through 2001 there were no ‘O’ boy names in the Top 100. In 2002, Owen appeared and remains so currently. Oliver returned to the Top 100 in 2009 and also remains.
This diversity is a source of pride for many Americans. Consequently, when naming their offspring some Americans like to recognize the country of their ancestors.
And coincidentally most of these ancestors come from countries with lovely lyrical romance languages–languages such as Greek, Italian, and Spanish. There are also many Americans who claim Irish heritage, another source of trendy names.
I envied those Americans. My heritage doesn’t come from a place with a language that was considered lovely or fashionable when I had my kids.
The observant among you may notice my long, vowel-heavy last name that is–yes, Italian–and wonder why I was squawking.
I’m not Italian. Obscured by my married last name is my (mostly) German ancestry.
Legions of expectant parents search for that “underused classic” name each year.
But what exactly is an “underused classic” name? Do underused classic names even exist? Are they some impossible standard like names that are universally appealing and forever-guaranteed-to-stay-unique?
“Classic” can be interpreted differently by different people. Instead of describing a name as “classic” I usually use “traditional” or “timeless” instead.
Semantics aside, a working definition of how I decide what makes a name “classic” might be useful. And in my world there is more than one type of classic name:
Authentic Classics – Evergreen names like Elizabeth and James. Ideally these names have never left the top 50 since 1880, the earliest year name rankings are available from the Social Security Administration.