Category: unpopular names
By Arika Okrent
Arika Okrent is editor-at-large at TheWeek.com and a frequent contributor to Mental Floss. She is the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, a history of the attempt to build a better language. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and a first-level certification in Klingon. Thanks to Arika for permission to reprint this article from The Week.
Like a lot of people, I was entranced recently by this animated map of the most popular baby names for girls by state over the past 52 years. It shows how the country shifted from Mary to Lisa before giving over completely to Jennifer, after which the Jessica/Ashley and Emily/Emma battles eventually resolved into the current dominance of Sophia. The map was created by Reuben Fischer-Baum of Deadspin using baby name data from the Social Security Administration. The SSA website gives the top 1,000 boy and girl names (as reported on social security card applications) for each year from 1880 onward.
Question of the Week: Which, if any, names do you think will never come back?
What boys names and what girls’ names do you think have zero chance of making a comeback, and why?
Bad, bad namesake—real or fictional?
Too tied to one era or event?
Is this another case where the Yanks will follow the Brits in baby-naming trends and revive such previously verboten Grandpa names as Harvey, Arthur, Leon, Walter and Stanley– all once considered distinguished in their day? Or similar in style name like Gilbert, Murray, Ralph, Howard or Ernest?
Which, if any, of the names of this genre would you consider?
Would you choose it only to honor a relative with that name? And/or only as a middle name?
If you did use one, would you consider it cutting-edge or pleasingly retro or perenially stylish?
Check out our list of Vintage Baby Names.
In the world of baby names, there used to be something called The Hundred Year Rule, based on the assumption that it took a full century for a name to shake off its dusty image and sound fresh again. I use the past tense because this obviously doesn’t hold true anymore; like everything else, the process of name resuscitation has speeded up wildly.
So when we look at the popularity lists for a hundred years ago–1910– we see any number of names that have already popped back—names like Grace, Ruby, Emma, Ella, Violet, Sadie, Ruby, Isabel, Max, Oliver and Felix.
The question is, are there any names from a century ago that we’ve overlooked and are still worthy of re-evaluation? Here are some you might consider, all in the Top Thou of 1910—although we do have to keep in mind that the US population then was about 30% of what it is now, so some of these names were attached to a very small number of babies.
GIRLS (starred names were in the Top 100 then; none of them appears on the current list)
Yesterday, as I was writing about the favorite names on nameberry, it seemed as if all was in perfect harmony and solidarity, complete sweetness and sunshine on the site, and that nameberry.com was as tranquil a place as Mayberry R.F.D.
Not totally true.
Turns out that some visitors are as passionately opposed to some of the popular names on the site as others are passionately in favor of them. And so a kind of rebel thread was set up called Secret Name Heresies, where people could voice–make that vent–their negative feelings. And vent is what they/you have been doing, often in EMPHATIC CAPITAL letters. Not surprisingly, since our opinions are formed from our individual experiences, there were some who disliked a particular name because of, say, an unshakable association with an obnoxious high school classmate, or with a Disney character they will forever attach to its name. Or in some cases a simple dislike of its image or sound.
Here, from the varied responses, are a few choice, disgruntled, examples–some of which we found hilarious:
ASTRID — I liked this before The Office.