12 Surprising Risings: Cindy? Bruce?

Yup, and Linda and Lisa, Harold and Jay!

By Linda Rosenkrantz

Certain comeback kids have been getting a lot of buzz lately—names like Elsa and Amelia and Elias and Tobias, all of which have that nice vintage 19th century vibe. But there’s another group of names inching their way back that you might find a bit more surprising. Mostly midcentury mom and dad names, they are flouting the Hundred-Year Rule, returning way before their expected due dates.

Here are a dozen prime examples:


CindyYes, Cindy, as in the baby of the Brady Bunch. Cindy rose 82 places last year, rising from her lowest point in recent history. This pet form of Cynthia and Lucinda first came onto the list in 1938, and within 15 years had entered the Top 100, peaking at Number 19 in 1957 (representing more that 20,000 baby Cindys), very much in the Mindy, Stacey, Tracy, Randi, Ricki cheery cheerleader zeitgeist. So is this just a blip, or will we be seeing more baby Cindys?

ElaineElaine may date back to the days of Camelot, but to most of us it has more of an Elaine Benes image, and so I’m wondering what was behind its 105-place advance this year. Was she a beneficiary of the current love for all names El—from Ella to Elle to Eloise to Elsa to Eliza? Ellen and Eileen, by the way, also saw significant gains.

JoyceJoyce, which started life as a male name, saw a double-digit rise, its first upward movement in decades. It was in the girls’ Top 100 for 43 years, topping at Number 11 for a couple of years in the thirties. It’s now associated with writers of a certain age like Joyce Carol Oates and Joyce Maynard. Cousin Joy also saw a slight rise.

LindaThis couldn’t surprise me more, my name moving up 24 places. Linda did famously unseat the perpetual Mary for the Number 1 spot—but that was in 1947! (On a personal note, my two almost-names, Laurel and Lydia, also rose on the charts this year.)

LisaAnother name that once reached the top spot, reigning from 1962 to 1969, when this Elizabeth diminutive was given to around 50,00 baby girls in each of those years, Lisa had a fairly rapid fall. But now we’re seeing some small signs of an uptick, indicating that the tide just may be turning. There are, of course, many prominent Lisas around, including the iconic Lisa Simpson.

MyraA poetic invention of the 17th century, Myra was in the US Top 150 in the 1880s, started sliding in the 60s, fell off completely in 2004, then suddenly made a return in 2009, and this year moved up 135 places to Number 638. Could any of this be due to her minor role in the Divergent series? Or her resemblance to other 4-letter names with a y, like Lyla, Anya, Arya, Ayla, Maya, Nyla et al?


BruceIs Bruce back? He’s now at his highest point since the mid-90s, just outside the Top 400. One of several Scottish names that were considered cool from the 40s to the 60s, such as Douglas and Craig and Keith, Bruce is the human name of two superheroes—Batman and The Hulk—and seems to have begun appealing again to parents seeking a single-syllable name with history, as also with Clyde and Clark.

GaryUp 18 places this year, Gary managed to crack the Top 10 in the early 1950s (thanks to the enduring fame of Gary Cooper, stage-named after the Indiana city), but we can’t quite see that happening again. Does this mean we’ll also be seeing a return of Cary, Barry and Larry? Also rising: Gordon and Grant.

HaroldHarold, which rose almost 60 spots in 2014, had developed a dowdy image that contradicts its distinguished early royal history. A Top 20 name in 1900—he was the typical teen in the comic strip Harold Teen, Harold has been in freefall for a long time, almost dropping off completely. Current namers might be attracted by his cooler nicknames Harry and Hal. Howard, Hank and Hugh are other H-boys gaining traction.

JayAs May and Fay/e rise for girls, brother Jay is seeing a bit of an upturn as well, climbing 18 places last year. In the recent past, Jay was superseded by more elaborate forms: first Jason, and then Jayden, Jaylen et al. For the record, Jays Gatsby and Leno were born James, Jay-Z was Shawn.

JuliusYes, it’s an ancient Roman name attached to the greatest emperor of them all and to several popes, but Julius is also the guy who does your uncle’s taxes, explaining why many more parents prefer the softer sounding Julian. On the other hand, Julius has caught the wave of ancient Latinate us-ending names, and has risen 38 places this year to a respectable Number 309. Lucy Lawless chose it for her boy and it’s the son character on Happyish.

RussellRussell was mega-popular in the 1950s and 60s, meaning that there are a lot of middle-aged Russes out there on the golf course. But after a deep dip, red-haired Russell is seeing a slight upturn, along with golfing partners Ronald and Roland.

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20 Responses to “12 Surprising Risings: Cindy? Bruce?”

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lesliemarion Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 12:45 am

Anything but Gary and Lisa!!!!! No offense to the Gary and Lisa contingent, but I am not eager for their comeback. Maybe I just knew so many of each name that naturally I would dislike some.

These are quite a mixed bag. Harold and Russell seem to me quaint and old-fashioned unlike Linda and Lisa. Of course, I need to remember my age (early 50’s which still shocks me). To a young person today, Cindy and Bruce probably are old-fashioned.

I do prefer Cynara or Cinda or Lucinda or even Cynthia with Cindy as a mere nickname. It lacks any gravitas as a legal first name.

Similarly, I prefer Belinda and Clarinda to Linda. Lindy is a cute nickname though.

Frankly, I welcome any of these names to the mix, even the dreaded Gary and Lisa, if they make for more variety. I have taught almost thirty years of kids with the most boring names on earth. Great kids, but the names have been for the most part one big, safe yawn.

abbygrace Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 12:59 am

This is a fun list, and apropos as I’ve had two friends welcome a Russell and a Bruce into the world within the last few weeks.

CaitlinBrittin Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 7:04 am

The only name from this list that I personally would use is Bruce (LOVE this name!) but I do think the other names on this list are nice and I would be pleasantly surprised to hear newborns with these names!

amberdaydream Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 9:33 am

You forgot Jolene! Jolene is on the rise 🙂

Sorceress Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 11:08 am

I love Elaine and Harold! Also Jolene.

tararyaz Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Jolene was on my short list and a little Jolene was born the same day as my daughter at our hospital! This is 3 years ago in Brooklyn. I think these mom/dad names have a hipster cool factor. I like Howard, Gregory, Karen, Theresa, Barbara with the nickname Bunny. Honestly these seem cooler than the great grandma names that you hear everywhere now.

Bobcat108 Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 2:31 pm

The only names from the girls’ list I’d even consider using are Lucinda (w/a nn of either Cinda or Lu, not Cindy) & Laurel. The others are either my contemporaries (Lisa, Ellen), my mom’s contemporaries (Joyce, Elaine), or in my personal so-far-out-they’ll-never-be-in list (Myra). From the boys’ list, the only one I’d use is Roland. Harold is cute—I always think of Harold & his purple crayon—but I wouldn’t actually use it as a name for a real person.

Linda—I think the word you wanted to use is “flout,” not “flaunt” (first paragraph). Sorry, my editor’s eye is always on duty! 🙂

vaness1 Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 3:51 pm

I can see the appeal of Elaine, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to hear Ellen. I also know of Myra’s and a baby Joyce! I personally like Russell, and wouldn’t be surprised to hear Julius or Jay either!

LuMary Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 4:50 pm

I’ve had that sense about Jay, and know a little Jayson, named with the ‘y’ in the middle so that he could be called Jay, which could have been done anyway. I know of a preschooler named Lisa. Some of these others I can see, but Gary? Cindy? Bruce? Really?

I’m still waiting for Mary to rebound, but I’ve actually heard of 2 in the neighborhood recently.

I saw Darlene on a Hispanic girl lately, and I’ve since warmed to that mid-century name.

EvaThyssen Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 6:57 pm

I love Lisa, it’s one of my longtime favourites.

JulesBerry Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 8:47 pm

I agree with another commenter that Gregory should be on this list. It’s one of my top choices should #3 be a boy.

LuMary Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 9:38 pm

Lucinda is great, but I would call her Lucy, which would also be a nice nickname for Lucretia.

LuMary Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 9:40 pm

Jay or Jack can be diminutives for both John and James.

linda Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 10:59 pm

@JulesBerry: I only included names that went up in the past year, and Gregory dropped 19 places.

linda Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 11:00 pm

@Bobcat108–oh wow! And I’m usually the one with an editor’s eye! Thanks–will fix.

linda Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 11:04 pm

@Bobcat108–Wow! And I’m usually the one with an editor’s eye! Thanks–have changed it.

ashbee Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 11:55 pm

I’m in my twenties and my friends’ parents’ names are Gary, Lisa, Bruce, Nancy, Susan, and Sally. My mom is Mayra (Cuban spelling). They don’t sound fresh to me just yet, but I see how they are a change from the “old-lady names” that are so popular. I really like Harold and Hugh.

kitchi1 Says:

September 25th, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Really surprised to see Cindy moving on up. And I wish Julius and Russell weren’t…Russell was my great-grandfather’s, and I don’t really want to personally associate that name with anyone else. Julius is just awesome, so naturally I don’t want it to be popular. I can totally see these names moving up though, aside from Cindy, judging the kid’s names where I live. There’s a Bruce here, and I always feel really weird calling him that because I just don’t feel like Bruce fits at all for anyone under 40. But older names, but not grandparent names, people seem to really like here. Of course, we do have our fair share of Neveahs and other made-up names here. Seeing the kindergarteners names always scare me, because some are so crazy! But each to their own. I can see Jay becoming the next Michael, honestly.

Daisychain Says:

September 27th, 2015 at 3:59 pm


mulme944 Says:

January 3rd, 2016 at 9:56 pm

I have a nephew called Bruc3, after his great grandfather. It suits him to a “T.” He is a preschooler.

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