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The Nameberry 9: Newer oldies and bolder boys

Baby girl wearing pettiskirt tutu and pearls

For her The Nameberry 9 this week, Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain sees more adventurous names for boys, some recent revivals for girls, and one surprising gender switch.

Last week’s baby name news demonstrated two things: first, there’s no such thing as a name too fusty to make a comeback. Girls’ names change constantly. Now that Emma, Charlotte, and Evelyn are appearing on kindergarten rosters all over America, choices like Alice, Josephine and June feel fresh.

Does this mean that Joan and Geraldine could be the hot names of 2032? Never say never.

Second, parents truly are becoming quite daring when naming their sons. For years we took risks with our daughters’ names, using frilly feminissa appellations like Arabella as well as tailored ones like Ingrid or Sawyer. The name pool for boys remained relatively shallow.

Until the past few years, that is. We learned the names of three new boys this past week, and none of them is the kind of stalwart classic we’re used to for a son. The names are softer and tougher and break with more than one tradition.

The nine most newsworthy baby names from last week are:

Irene – A Nameberry thread asked if certain names are still too old-fashioned for a comeback. Happily, plenty of posters felt that Irene and Ruth were poised for revival. I’ve met little girls named Dorothy and Helen, and Gloria, Martha, Esther, and Betty are all edging back into use. Irene feels charmingly retro.

Olive – The spare sister of Olivia, she’s quickly becoming a starbaby staple. Isla Fisher and Sacha Baron Cohen led the way. Drew Barrymore welcomed a daughter Olive earlier this year, and now country singer Jake Owen has also chosen the name.

PearlJake Owen and wife Lacey Buchanan named their daughter Olive Pearl, and intend to call her Pearl. The gemstone is another antique revival gaining favor in recent years. Maya Rudolph has a daughter called Pearl. Rocker-turned-grandpa Ozzy Osbourne’s granddaughter is Pearl Clementine.

Fiona – She’s the admirable ogre-princess of the Shrek series. Plus, Fiona shares sounds with the chart-topping Sophia. Actor Chad Lowe and his wife recently welcomed a daughter named Fiona, a little sister for Mabel. She’s a feminine name with just the right amount of frill.

Miranda – Speaking of feminine names, comedian Rob Schneider chose a startlingly lovely name for his new daughter, Miranda Scarlett. Miranda has a grown-up big sister from Rob’s first marriage. Her name is far less elaborate, but still lovely – Elle. With a great meaning and ties to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Miranda makes for an enduring choice.

Phoebe – Style blogger Lesley Graham welcomed a second daughter last week. I’ve loved watching her maternity fashion and layette planning. Since her firstborn is Matilda, I knew I’d love the name she chose. Phoebe is the perfect sister name – very on trend, with just a hint of quirkiness.

Phaedra – Now here’s a shocker. Peaches Geldof is no stranger to strange names. She answered to an edible appellation years before Apple Martin arrived. And her firstborn son is called Astala, a name that barely makes a ripple in the baby name pool. Now she’s expecting a second child, and she’s announced the name. Phaedra might strike you as slightly more conventional, the wife of Theseus in Greek myth. Except that Peaches is using this one for a son. Do we celebrate her daring? Or hope that she settles on a middle name that is more obviously masculine?

Matteo – That’s not to say that all boys’ names have to be all boy. Matteo has become a completely mainstream pick for celebrity parents and regular folks, too. The latest mom to settle on the romance language version of Matthew is Leonor Varela, most recently seen on Dallas.

Rocky – When Sarah Michelle and Freddie Prinze, Jr. failed to announce their new son’s name, I blithely assumed it was Freddie III, or maybe Frederick. After all, their firstborn is Charlotte Grace. But I was knocked out to hear that baby #2 is named Rocky James! It’s a tough guy name, but then again, mom rose to fame slaying vampires.

Are there any new again girls’ names that have caught your eye recently? And do you agree that parents are taking more risks with their sons’ names? And are there any conventionally feminine names that seem just right on a boy? I’ve always liked the idea of Jane

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