Charlie and Sam are typical of an emerging pattern linking two current trends: nicknames and ambigender names. Sam followed on the avalanche of Samanthas, often called Sam, which resulted in some parents cutting straight to the short form–Denise Richards, for one, used it for her daughter in 2004. And Charlie, Tiger and Elin Woods’ new nickname-name choice, (and it’s really not hard to see why someone who was christened Eldrick and gained fame as Tiger might be partial to nicknames) is another that’s being used increasingly for both sexes. Just recently, Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell chose it for one of their twin girls (the other being the much less ambi Dolly). Charlie is already in the Top 800 on the girls’ list for 2007, and I’m expecting to see it even higher when the new list comes out in May.
This is actually Phase 3 of tomboyish short-form girls’ names. In the early decades of the 20th century, it wasn’t unusual to find girls named Billie and Bobbie, and then in the 1960s and 70s there were lots of Rickys and Randys. Modern starbabies with such names include Carrie Fisher’s Billie and Melissa Etheridge’s daughter Johnnie. Most of these girls are given distinctively feminine middle names, like Rose, Grace and Tamara Tulip–probably a pretty wise idea.
Here are some other traditionally male nicknames that could conceivably cross over into the unisex zone. Of course some of them have been used for girls before. Think of Kate & Allie, Charlie on Ugly Betty, Spice Girl Mel B, Joey on Dawson‘s Creek. (In the show Sisters, all the women had boy-nickname names: Teddy, Frankie, Georgie, Alex, and Charley.) The difference is that in almost all these cases there was a more formal (and feminine) name on the birth certificate, be it Charlotte or Allison or Melissa. The question is, could and would the names on this list ever stand alone as girls’ given names?