Category: old man names
While girls’ names are arguably more interesting – there are more of them, with more variations, and they move up and down the popularity ladder more nimbly – boys’ names are where the real baby-naming story lies today.
Parents are virtually reinventing the genre, abandoning traditional masculine names that have ruled for centuries in favor of a new brand of names for boys. These might be ancient names resurrected from the Bible or mythology, established surnames reconstituted as firsts, ethnic choices newly imported to our shores, or – most frequently – names invented to suit the current style.
All these different types of names yield the same result: They identify a new type of boy. He’s decidedly masculine, yet not conventionally so. He’s strong, yet individualistic; he nods to tradition, but doesn’t necessarily follow it.
Our sons, parents seem to be saying via these new boys’ names, are neither sissified nor the same old Dicks and Johns to be shoehorned into some outmoded macho mold. These names herald a quiet revolution in the way parents view their little boys and, by extension, in the way they’ll raise them.
Are we putting too much stock in the power of names to affect a change in something as fundamental as gender roles? Actually, we think it’s the other way around: The vision of gender is changing, for boys as well as girls, and the new boys’ names reflect that.
This week, we’ll look at some of the new masculine choices moving up the popularity list. The first group are the old names made new again.
Tomorrow: Surname names, real and synthetic, for the new brand of boy.
There’s a lively discussion going on over at our message boards on what names have gone out of style and will probably never come back. On the permanent Out List, by consensus, are:
BRUNHILDA (was this ever in, I mean since the 11th century?)
We’re with you so far, name lovers, and can even understand why you disagree on whether some choices belong on the Out-Forever List. One person sees Gertrude as cute, like little Drew Barrymore in ET, while another says it reminds her forever of the word girdle. Myrtle is fresh and flower-like to one visitor, terminally dowdy to another. And Grover is adorable to one message boardie, doomed to Sesame Street purgatory by another.
And Linda! ?! Let’s not even go there.
Here some names that we once declared dead forever (or forever-ish) only to see them rise again.
Are there any besides the ones already identified by the message board devotees that we’d still call as out forever? Gladys. Myrna. Phyllis, Shirley, Wanda. Arnold and Dewey, Egbert and Elmer, Hyman and Melvin. Which I guess pretty much guarantees that they’ll come back into style any day now.
Sam, Max and Jake were once seen as cigar-chomping movie moguls who had retired to Miami Beach to become pinochle-playing Grandpas. But they’ve all gone on to be popular baby names, both in their nickname and long forms, with Jacob topping the list since 1999.
Samuel, Jacob and cousin Benjamin are all, of course, Old Testament names, used in this country since Colonial times–think Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Max is a different breed entirely. A short form of the Latin Maximus‘s derivative Maximilian and the later Maxwell, Max was well used at the turn of the last century, took a dip in the 60s and 70s, now placed in the mid-to-high 100s on the Social Security list (even higher on the pet name list, where it’s sometimes ranked at number one for dogs).
Lately Max has become a starbaby hottie, with first Christina Aguilera and then Jennifer Lopez choosing it for their baby boys. Also following in its slipstream are a number of Maxwells (Atomic Kitten Kerry Katonah), Maxims (as in the men’s mag), Maximillians (the full name of the Lopez-Anthony twin), Maxfields (Ugly Betty‘s Eric Mabius) and Maximuses (Maximi?) –the latter no doubt inspired by Russell Crowe’s striking character in the 2000 Gladiator movie. Maybe it has something to do with the maximal connotations of these names–after all, in Latin, Maximus does mean greatest. To make things even more interesting, one celebrity came up with the idea of maximizing Max–skater Scott Hamilton named his son MAXX. (He’d make a good playmate for Kimberly Roberts‘ little SKYY.
And what were the wives of Jake and Max doing while there husbands were schmoozing and smoking? Sadie (originally a pet name for Sarah) and Sophie (the French variant of Sophia) were at another table playing canasta or mah jongg. Their names have taken a similar leap up the popularity list, both being higher than they’ve ever been before, and showing every sign of continuing to climb.
Here are some other former coffee-klatch names that could be or already have been rejuvenated:
One of the most popular lists on nameberry is the Old Lady Cool Names: names that have been in retirement for several decades now but just might be ready for a comeback.
Antique names for both sexes are popular too, as parents search for names that are out of the ordinary yet have the backing of tradition.
Some of the quirkier old-school names — Olive, Rufus, Hazel, Edwin — have already been resuscitated by hipster parents. But what are the less obvious old gems worthy of a fresh look? We wouldn’t necessarily stake the farm (or the loft) on the comeback of the following, but parents who are both adventurous and tradition-minded may want to consider these choices: