Category: spelling of names
The idea for this blog arose, as so many good things do, from the nameberry forums, in this case one on name spellings. In particular, the focus was on names that had more than one legitimate spelling, and asked visitors to pick their favorite of the two (or more).
With so much talk these days about yooneek spellings of names – variations invented to make a name more “special” – it’s interesting to explore those names that have more than one bona fide spelling.
Of course, there may be some controversy over what constitutes bona fide name spellings. On the forum, some people took issue with spelling variations springing from different origins of a name: Isabelle as the French version and Isabel the Spanish, for instance, and so not really pure spelling variations in the way that Katherine and Kathryn are. Others argued over spelling variations that might more accurately be differences in a name’s gender or pronunciation.
There are obviously a lot of ways to split this hair. And we’ve made a lot of judgment calls some of you may disagree with. Sure, Debra might be a modern variation of the Biblical Deborah, but it was so widely used in mid-century America it’s now legitimate, or at least that’s the way we see it.
Here are some girls’ names with more than one spelling that we consider legitimate.
- Annabel and Annabelle (and Anabel)
- Anne and Ann
- Ariana and Arianna
- Briony and Bryony
- Brooke and Brook
- Claire and Clare
Maybe contemplating the name Rufus sparked my revelation. Or it might have hit me when I encountered an Otis. Whatever the inspiration, I suddenly realized that my most-loved boys’ names end in the letter s. Yep, almost all of them.
Amias? One of my all-time underappreciated favorites.
What is it about s-ending names that hold such appeal?
It’s true, I prefer their soft, sybillant ending to the harder –er ending that’s so popular right now for boys’ names. Besides being more gentle, it feels a bit more surprising, intrinsically distinctive.
Many of my favorite classic boys’ names end in s: Thomas, James, Louis, Charles, and Nicholas. And trendier choices of decades past, from Chris and Curtis to Dennis and Douglas to Ross and Russ to Jess and Wes, helped whet the overall appetite for s-ending names.
Some of the names that end in s are fairly fashionable today. These include:
What are the most popular girls’ names in the U.S.? If you consult the official Social Security list, or most of the state lists, you’ll get one version. With each name counted individually by spelling — Sophia and Sofia are counted separately, in other words — the national list of most popular girls’ names (I’m going to include the Top 15, for reasons that will become evident) is:
But to Katharine Hales — aka nameberry’s k_lareese — this didn’t look quite right. Hales, an attorney who is studying to be a law librarian, wanted to name her first child Lillian, with the nickname Lily. But when researching the name, she noticed that both Lily and Lillian were in the Top 30. If you added all the spelling and variations of the name together, she wondered, mightn’t you end up with a true popularity number that was significantly higher?
On a beautiful Saturday in July, I found myself where most people would love to be on a beautiful Saturday in July: sitting in a painfully boring continuing education seminar, hopelessly trying to remain awake. The air conditioner must have been set at a brisk 52 degrees, and after catching a glimpse of my now cerulean blue toes, I wondered if my lips had suffered a similar fate. My chattering teeth thankfully prevented me from entirely nodding off, but I was in need of a more cerebral distraction. Desperate for entertainment, I decided to count the goosebumps on my lower left arm, first by twos and then by threes.
As the counting fun began, I happened to glance at a piece of paper in front of the 20-something-year-old woman sitting to my left, and I realized that she had written her name in the upper right hand corner. Ever the name nerd, I simply had to take a peek, and after a lingering glance, I discovered that her name was Mykailah. Figuring it was code for Michaela, I naturally wondered about my other neighbor’s name. Pretending to do some right arm goosebump counting, I quickly looked at her paper, and was pleased to meet Tyffani. Mykailah and Tyffani? Tyffani and Mykailah? I was now the official filling inside of a yooneek name sandwich.
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.
1845. The Irish famine sends masses of Bridgets and Patricks to America.
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.
1974. The first issue of People magazine accelerates fascination with celebrity culture, parents start to be increasingly influenced by names stars give their babies.
2000. The Internet inspires parents to search genealogy sites for old family names.