Baby name style is a highly personal thing, and I’m always surprised by the names on birth announcements. Sure, I can guess with sometimes frightening accuracy what parents will have shortlisted for baby #2 or #3, but they’ve already showed their hand by then. Until they’ve hinted at what they’re thinking of for their firstborn, baby name style is surprisingly tough to guess.
Over the summer, I met three siblings, all living in the same area, each with a daughter about the same age. The three girls’ names could have easily belonged to sisters, even triplets: Annabelle, Georgia, and Phoebe. The women of the family clearly share the same general style – so much that I’d guess there must have been some consternation when they found out they were all expecting daughters within the same year.
For every situation where two former roommates both want to use Ethan James for their sons, there are plenty of cases where, no matter how much sisters or friends have in common, name style is simply not one of them. You roll your eyes when your BFF suggests Kestrel, only to hear your sis describe Eleanor as too old-fashioned.
That’s what hit me as I looked at the baby name news this week. The old saw about two nations divided by a common language really does hold when comparing the most popular boys’ names in the UK to those in the US. But the girls? Most could happily leap across the pond without a backwards glance.
This week’s nine most newsworthy baby names all have me pondering at what drives individual tastes – and those of entire nations:
Harry – UK stats came out last Monday and it is clear that British parents are wild about Harry, as in Potter and Prince. American parents aren’t using Harry as a nickname for Henry, either – I’ve heard Hank and even Huck, but Harry has left the playground entirely. He once was a Top Ten staple in the US, back in the 1890s, and he’s been sliding pretty much ever since, headed towards obscurity in the New World.
Amelia – The new #1 name for girls in the UK is Amelia. The name she replaced – Olivia – is a stylistic cousin. She’s not quite as popular in the US, but Amelia has been on the rise, and would probably strike most American parents as a mainstream, attractive possibility.
Pippa – Nancy points out that yes, we name nerds were quite right when we predicted the rise of the world’s most famous maid of honor, Pippa Middleton. The sharp-eyed Nancy also noted that pop star Pixie Lott has pushed her elfin nickname into the spotlight. (Miss Lott was born Victoria.) I wouldn’t be surprised to spot Pippa in the 2012 US numbers, though Pixie is probably best left on the schoolyard with Alfie.
Mohammed – The insightful Elea at BBN combined spellings and reported that, as we’ve heard for the past few years, Mohammed really would be on top, more popular than Harry, if all spellings were combined. I’m fascinated by this fact. While several spellings of Mohammed make the US Top 1000, none is especially popular, suggesting that the proportion of Islamic families is smaller in the US, or that they’re less inclined to consider Mohammed for a son – or both. Anyone have any insights on this one?
Lily – Once again, while the #2 masculine name is very different in the UK, the feminine one is perfectly on track with American trends. Variant spellings Lilly and Lillie would almost certainly push Lily from the #15 spot in the US into our Top Ten, too.
Kash Kade – Here’s a name I’d be slightly surprised to hear in England – Kash Kade. Kash Kade has that brash, all-boy aggressiveness that suits the son of Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member Kim Zolciak and Atlanta Falcon Kroy Biermann. Baby Kash joins Kroy, Jr. – called KJ – as well as Zolciak’s older daughters, Brielle and Ariana. Kash is one thing, but Kash Kade – cascade? It’s a bit much, but then mom’s full name is Kimberleigh.
Callen Christian – By comparison, Drew Brees’ new son’s name feels positively refined. Callen joins brothers Baylen Robert and Bowen Christopher. I wonder if the proud parents broke the B pattern because they couldn’t find another B name they loved, or if they imagine having a fourth child and wanted to avoid sounding like the Duggars? I like Callen. It’s a touch nouveau, but feels easy to wear – just like his brothers’ names.
Huckleberry – May I humbly suggest that some celebrity seriously consider Huckelberry? Yes, it will grab headlines and draw comparisons to a certain blue-hued hound from Hanna-Barbera cartoons. But isn’t it a captivating sound? The Omniglot blog recently dissected the origins of the phrase “my huckleberry friend,” and I find myself loving the idea of Huckleberry, nickname Huck. Country music’s Brad Paisley must agree – he has a son named William Huckleberry.
Capable – Doesn’t it sound like a great Pilgrim name, Capable Standish? Can’t you see Capable Smith on the Mayflower passenger list? It isn’t so, at least not as far as I know. Instead, Capable is among the characters in the new Mad Max movie, the fourth installment in the franchise, due for a 2013 release. This means that Capable probably won’t make anyone’s short list, but I’m still quite fond of the unusual virtue name.