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Trendy Names in the News: Maceo, Azura, and Knox:

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By Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain

Styles change.

In hemlines and hairdos, in music and cuisine and baby names, too.

Once upon a time, Mildred was a Top Ten name in the US.  Clarence, Connie, Randy, Dawn, Eugene, Norman, Norma, Crystal, Dustin, Myrtle, and Elmer have all ranked in the Top 50 names at one point or another.

It can take years for a name to transition from emerging trend to solidly established choice.  But this week’s baby name news highlights many of the changes happening now.

Change is constant, but some of the outcomes are fresh and new, and it is too soon to say which names will catch on.  Will Americans embrace truly gender neutral names?  Are noun names mainstream?  Should you double-check the spelling on every single name, no matter what?

Read on for nine baby names in the news, and what they might signal for the next generation of children.

James Knight – Let’s start with model-turned-actress Jaime King and her director husband Kyle Newman.  The pair met on the set of Fanboys, a movie about a group of friends dedicated to all things Star Wars.  The couple celebrated with a Star Wars–themed baby shower over the summer.  All of this has led to speculation that their new son’s name is rich with meaning.  James seems to honor mom – she was known as James King early in her modeling career.  Is Knight a great new noun possibility for the middle spot, a nod to Jedi knights from the Star Wars universe, or both?  Either way, James Knight is a nice combination of classic and unexpected.

Knox – Dierks Bentley and wife Cassidy have welcomed baby #3, a little brother for Jordan Catherine and Evalyn Day.  For every outlandish Pilot or Apple, there are other celebrity-fueled baby names that stick.  Before Brangelina gave the name to their youngest son in 2008, Knox was a character from 1989’s Dead Poets Society.  The x-ending name picks up where Alex and Max left off.

Maceo – This week’s biggest buzz was around Halle Berry’s baby boy, her first child with new husband Olivier Martinez, and a little brother for Nahla.  The couple chose Maceo Robert – or possibly the hyphenated Maceo-Robert – for their son.  Some speculate that Maceo evolved as a variant form of Matthew.  What we know for certain is that Maceo was worn by a Cuban revolutionary, and more recently by musician Maceo Parker.  Whatever the inspiration, boys’ names ending with ‘o’ seem like an unstoppable category right now, from Leo to Arlo to Matteo to Maceo.

Clancy – Maybe this isn’t a trend, but I wish that Julie Cole’s enlightened attitude to baby name sharing would catch on.  Cole is the founder of Mabel’s Labels and a mom of six, so here’s guessing she knows an awful lot about names.  She’s gracious about the possibility that others will discover the great names that she’s chosen for her children and want to use them, too.  Plus, in our age of Bailey/Brady/Riley, isn’t it surprising that we aren’t meeting more boys called Clancy?

CressidaRoyal names have been trend-setters for centuries.  If the rumors are true, and Prince Harry of Wales is about to pop the question to girlfriend Cressida Bonas, could this Shakespearean name catch on?  Toyota borrowed it for a popular model, but the car has been out of production for twenty years.  That seems like plenty of time for Cressida to go from mid-sized sedan to lovely British princess.

Isobel Kelly – While we’re visiting the British Isles, how about the name Jessica St. Clair chose for her new daughter with Dan O’BrienIsabella has been a Top Ten pick since 2004, while Isobel – the Scottish form of the name – remains obscure.  It’s my personal favorite of the Isabel- family, and proof that correct spellings are often elusive.

Azura Sienna – Kindergarten classroom or crayon box?  With children answering to Olive, Scarlet, Ruby, and Gray, confusion is possible.  British songstress Alesha Dixon chose two colorful names for her new daughter, Azura Sienna.  It’s an attractive sound, and another sign that color names have gone mainstream.

Phoenix Emmauel – You know Tammin Sursok as a teenager on Pretty Little Liars, but in real life, she’s married to director Sean McEwen and a new mom to daughter Phoenix Emmanuel.  That’s right – Phoenix Emmanuel is a girl.  While the first name Phoenix has a history of use for both genders, the –el spelling of her middle name is almost always masculine, while Emmanuelle is the feminine form.  This seems like a trend, too – parents who might have named a daughter Quinn Allison or Sloane Elizabeth are now fearlessly embracing a fully unisex name – think Quinn Avery, Sloane Sutton – or Phoenix Emmanuel.

Chesney – Here’s something I appreciate in modern naming: the ability to use hero names, regardless of gender.  Choices like Lennon and Presley should be wearable for boys and girls.  I spotted Chesney in For Real’s recent post on unisex names: a girl called Chesney Brooke and a boy named Chesney Storm, presumably both named after country music hit-maker Kenny Chesney.

What’s happening with names in your part of the world?  Are there any interesting trends you’re seeing?

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