Category: overlooked names
We’ve seen it happen again and again. A name–say Emily–becomes mega-popular. Parents like the sound of it, but fear there are too many Emilys, so pick something similar but a little different: Emma. When Emma gets to #1, they turn to Ella–and then perhaps to Ellie, Elle, Emme, Emery, Embry or Emerson.
In the recent past we’ve seen a number of examples of this phenomenon–some rhyming names, some similar in sound or feel–for instance Cody leading to Brody, Brian to Ryan, Kevin to Evan, Jason to Mason to Greyson, Madison to Addison, Brandon to Landon, Kayla to Layla, Kaylee to Bailey, Kylee to Riley, and of course Aidan to its 999 offshoots.
Here are some possible successors to current names, including some unstylish vintage ones (as Ava and Ada were not so long ago) that might be coaxed back, plus a few that are already showing signs of success:
Once more this year the list of most popular names—particularly for girls—is vowel –heavy, with six of the top ten names starting with A, E, I or O, and five more filling out the top twenty.
As a result, naturally, there are fewer consonant-starters visible, some letters practically non-existent. One of these is F, with only a single representative, Faith, in the top 100, and a grand total of nine girls’ names out of the whole list of top 1000.
If we look back a century—testing the 100-year rule–it was a very different story, with 31 girls’ and 34 boys’ names starting with this initial. Several of them were versions of the same name (variant spellings are nothing new!); for instance, Freda, Frieda, Freida and Freeda all made the list—but not the current Kahlo-influenced Frida. Florence—no longer visible on today’s list–was represented in 1910 by Florance, Flora, Flossie, Flo, Florrie and Florene, and Frances (which hangs on at #802 today, with Francesca at 470) showed up in such variations as Fannie, Fanny, Francis, Francisca and Frankie, and there were three spellings of Fay/Faye/Fae.
This being the first day of June, it’s the perfect time to take a look at her namesake. Never as high profile as other month names April or May—or, for that matter, cousins Jane, Jean or Joan— June just might be ready for a quiet comeback.
June is a name that has suffered from, more than anything else, having a goody-goody/perfect mom image. This was formed in midcentury America via June (born Ella) Allyson, who played a succession of sunny, saucy ingenues and adoring, long-suffering movie wives in the 1940s and 1950s, along with ideal mom June Cleaver on the sitcom Leave It to Beaver, whose name became symbolic of the archetypal sympathetic suburban, stay-at-home mom of the 1950s, and June Lockhart, who played another quintessential midcentury parent as Timmy’s mother on the long running Lassie TV series. June Haver was another wholesome midcentury star—so wholesome that she actually entered a convent for a while in the middle of her career.
Blame L’il Abner, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Andy Griffith and even The Simpsons, for the fact that some names have long been stereotyped as aw shucks, rube, hick, hayseed, country bumpkin names. Well, one of our causes here at nameberry is the slaying of stereotypes, and we think there are names here that are definitely worthy of resuscitation. Some of them are already making their way back from that cartoony pigeonholing—there have, for example, been starbabies and civilian named Chester, Gus, Homer, Jasper, and certainly lots of Lukes—but they all deserve a second look–I think several of them have a nice, down home, funky appeal.
BARNEY (has other problems related to prehistoric purple)
A few days ago, I was introduced to Fred Gooltz, COO of the hot new obsession site itsasickness.com. Wow, I thought, Fred, one of my favorite cool retro names. But it soon became evident that Fred didn’t share my enthusiasm, expressing his negative feelings about growing up with a name that seemed to be out of step with his time. To delve a little deeper, we had the following e-conversation:
FRED: There are always certain kinds of people who try to call you Freddy. Some people like to put “ie” on the end of any name, usually because they’re playing at childish schoolyard politics, infantilizing others with nicknames to feel stronger. It’s like assuming that you’ve got the right to call somebody ‘slugger’ or ‘kiddo’ or ‘champ.’ I rage against Freddie. I always picture the ‘I’ dotted with a heart.
Very few nicknames were attempted on me – I had one teacher who called me “Dauntless” for a while, but thankfully it didn’t stick when I changed schools. It’s entertaining and a little sad when a person with a clunky wig of a name like Fred goes by “Thunder” or “The Hammer.” It’s the McLovin joke from the movie Superbad. Nobody wants to be that guy. Naming your son Fred, Poindexter, Egbert, or Sheldon nearly guarantees that they have to deal with a moment like that eventually.
Do you know why your parents picked the name? Does it have any family connections? Did it affect your feelings towards your parents?
FRED: There are Alfreds and Fredericks all over my family history. My family is full of old timey names. But my mom – whose name is Estelle, by the way – insists that she really liked the name. She actually loved the name Friedrich, from a character in Little Women.“ The book probably made Friedrich a popular name in the 1870s, but a century later… not so much. I should probably be grateful–another option was apparently the name Zepherin.