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Category: Nevaeh

Baby Name Timeline

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When we were preparing the article “Bizarre Baby Names: A Growing Trend?” for the July issue of  Reader’s Digest magazine that’s just hit the stands, we put together a lonnnnnng timeline of the key markers in American name history–much longer than they could possibly use with the story.  So here we offer you some of the dates and events that you won’t find in the magazine.

1620.  The Mayflower arrives bearing 102 passengers, mostly with classic English names, but also one Degory, one Resolved, one Remember, one Wrestling, and one Oceanus, who was born mid-voyage.

1750s. Enter classical names (Homer, Horace), chivalrous names (Arthur, Elaine), and romantic girls (Lavinia, Rosalind).  More boys are being called Junior.

1768. Birth of Dolley Madison, one of the increasing number of babies with nicknames on their birth certificates.

1825. John Quincy Adams is the first President to have a middle name, a rarity at this time, when it becomes fashionable to use the mother’s maiden name.

1845. The Irish famine sends masses of Bridgets and Patricks to America.

1925. Girls’ names ending in ‘s’ are fashionable–Gladys, Doris, Phyllis, Lois; also those ending in een (Kathleen) and ette (Paulette).

1946. Publication of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care encourages parents to be more relaxed, confident and collaborative: husbands participate more in child care–and baby naming.

1950.  Linda unseats the seemingly unseatable Mary as the number one name for girls.

1959. First Gidget movie released; surfer dude names like Gary, Scott, Dwayne and Bruce catch the wave.

1959.  Mattel introduces the Barbie doll; other nickname names like Lori, Cindy, Sherry and Terri are hot.

1966. Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. renounces his “slave name” to become Muhammed Ali; other celebrities follow suit, influencing African-American baby naming.

1967.  Frank Zappa names his first child Moon Unit,  a seminal ’kooky’ baby name.  Son Dweezil will follow two years later.

1968. TV westerns like Here Come the Brides, featuring brothers Jason, Jeremy and Joshua, signal a return of old cowboy names.

1974. The first issue of People magazine accelerates fascination with celebrity culture, parents start to be increasingly influenced by names stars give their babies.

1987. Movie Wall Street proclaims “Greed is good,” summing up the Go-Go 80s and inspiring Waspy surnames for boys (Carter, Parker) and androgynous exec names for all (Kyle, Blake, Blair).

1998. Parents continue to get more and more kreeatif with spellings like Adan, Austyn and Alivia all in the year’s Top 700.

2000. The Internet inspires parents to search genealogy sites for old family names.

2003. Extreme starbaby names grow more extreme–this year alone sees the arrival of Pilot Inspektor, Audio Science and Banjo.

2008. Reason returns: With economic downturn, parents look back to solid, traditional girls’ names like Ella, Grace, Olivia, and biblical boys Jacob, Ethan, Benjamin.

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A Backwards Look at Names

In the history of baby naming, rarely has a new name taken off with the supersonic speed of Nevaeh.  Its surge was spurred by one singular event, the announcement by Christian rock star Sonny Sandoval of his baby’s name on MTV in 2000, when he explained that it was “Heaven spelled backwards.”  Sandoval didn’t invent the name–in the previous year there had been eight other baby girls called Nevaeh, but there can be no doubt that his public announcement was what triggered the explosion.By 2001, it had leaped up to #226 on the popularity list, and four years later it entered the Top 100.  On last year’s list, it reached #31, obviously striking a chord with the many parents who didn’t actually want to go all the way to Heaven.

Palindrome Names

There have always been a number of names that are palindromes — spelled the same backwards and forwards, such as Ada, Ava, Hannah, Otto, Eve, Anna, Aviva, et al–but that differs from the Nevaeh model.  This got us to thinking about which other names might  do a similar about face as a way of creating something new and truly original.  Already there is some use of the name Semaj (James spelled backwards) among Rastafarians, inspired by Leachim Semaj, a Jamaican activist, psychologist and radio host whose birth name was Michael James.

Exotic Reversals

Here are a few other exotic reversals, giving a nouveau twist to an old name.  You could probably come up with some more yourself–perhaps as a way of creating a namesake for someone you wish to honor:

ADAJ from JADA
ADIA from AIDA
AMABALA from ALABAMA
ARON from NORA
LEXA from AXEL
LEZAH from HAZEL
NAJ from JAN
NEELIA from AILEEN
NEVAH from HAVEN
REVILO from OLIVER
SIANA from ANAIS
SIRI from IRIS
SITO from OTIS
ZENI from INEZ
You might  also use this backwards principle for naming twins: AIDAN & NADIA, ALAN & NALA. IRA & ARI, MARA & ARAM.

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