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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:

GIRLS

ADELE
BELLA , BELLE
BESSIE
BLANCHE
CEIL
DORA
ESTELLE
ESTHER
FANNY
GERT
GOLDIE
LIL
MOLLY
ROSE
SELMA

BOYS

ABE
ELI
GUS
HARRY
HY
IZZY
JULIUS
KALMAN
LOU/LOUIS
MACK
MANNY
MEYER
MOE
NAT
REUBEN
SAUL
SOL
WOLF

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Top Names of 2008: Early Results

COVER_TOUHOU_CALENDAR_2008_by_reihaha

One of the downsides–admittedly a fairly minor one–to living in such a heavily populated country as the U.S. is that it takes the Social Security Administration five months to tally up the year’s baby name stats, while some states and other countries put out their results even before the New Year’s Eve ball drops on Times Square.

The full UK report will be arriving any day now, but in the interim, there’s a survey of 380,000 babies born in Britain in 2008 that can give us some strong clues.  For girls, the Top 5 names are Olivia, Ruby, Grace, Emily, and Jessica, with  a noteworthy number of nickname names further down–Evie, Katie, Ellie, Millie, Gracie, Rosie, Abbie and Tilly.  Names hot over there that haven’t taken off to the same degree here: Freya, Poppy, Imogen, Niamh and Maisie.  And those rising fastest?  Isla, Summer and Ava.

For British boys, Jack is #1, as it has been for 14 years, followed by Oliver, Harry, Alfie and CharlieRoyal names–such as George, William and James–continue to rule, and nickname names, in addition to Alfie and Charlie, are popular with this gender too, as in  Archie, Jamie, Freddie, Joe and Billy.  The boys’ names heard more there than here: Lewis, Harvey and KianTheo was the fastest climber of the boys.

Scotland has released its official list, with Sophie, Emily, Olivia, Chloe and Emma, and Jack, Lewis, Daniel, Liam and James in the lead.  Some traditional Scottish favorites continued to hold their own, including Isla, Logan, Cameron, Gregor, Kyle, Finlay , Ewan and Angus.  To go somewhat farther afield, in New South Wales, the most populous part of Australia, the Top 5 for girls were Mia, Chloe, Isabella, Emily and Olivia; for boys it was  Jack (fifth year in a row), William, Lachlan, Joshua and Cooper, while  the starbaby influence was felt in the presence of names like Shiloh, Suri, Sunday, Honour (as it’s spelled there), and even Bronx.  In Japan, the top girls’ names were Aoi, Yui and Rin; for boys Hiroto, Ren and Yuto.

One US state that has weighed in early is Arizona, where the top names were Anthony and Isabella.  Several Hispanic names appeared on the boys’ list: Angel at #2, and Jose, Jesus and Luis in the Top 20.  The registrar of Oakland County, Michigan, which includes several Detroit suburbs, is obviously a name buff.  Among the groupings she noted in her area:  Harmony and Melody; Hope, Faith, Charity and Unity; London, Paris, Phoenix, Aspen, Georgia, Austin, Savannah and Brooklyn; Zinnia, Rose, Lily, Ivy and Violet, and a contingent of ancients: Julius, Marcus, Cassius, Leonidas, Athena and Adonis.

We’ll keep you posted  as more results come in.

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What a Difference a Letter Makes

An expectant mom we know wants to name her daughter-to-be Madeleine.  But only Madeleine, not Madeline, not (God forbid) Madelyn.  What’s the difference?

Everything, in her mind.  Although the names can all be pronounced the same way, all have the same root (the Greek Magdalen) and the same meaning (high tower), they feel completely different to our friend.  Madeleine, the French version and the name of cookie Proust rhapsodized over, feels elegant, well-balanced, distinctive.

Madeline, on the other hand, which is the number one spelling of the name and the way the little Parisian girl of Bemelmans’ books spells it, feels too spare, too apt to be pronounced with a long i to rhyme with line or wine rather than with the more refined “en” sound at the end.

And Madelyn?  She shudders.  Like Carolyn or Kathryn, that feels like an attempt to “modernize” whose result is anything but.

Sophie/Sophia/Sofia is another great example of a name whose variations feel completely different to different parents.  The three versions together were given to nearly 27,000 baby girls last year — 7,000 more than got the top name of Emily.  But most parents who choose one form of the name that means “wise” in Greek would never choose the other.

Sophia is by far the most popular of the tree, at number 6 on the Social Security list, and is for English speakers the most classic version.  Refined and sophisticated, it feels grownup and, well, wise, a name that would serve any girl well throughout her life.

Sofia, the second most popular version at number 35, is favored by Latin parents and those who prefer a more phonetic (fonetic?), streamlined spelling.  Some parents in search of the exotic have gone all the way to Zofia.

Sophie seems saucy, a little grandma, a little quirky.  A Sophie is far less conventional and more animated than any Sophia or SofiaSophie as a name is closer to Sadie or Millie, while Sophia‘s equivalents are Isabella or Olivia.

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