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A “Foolproof” Formula for Finding the Perfect Name?

October 22, 2008 Pamela Redmond

A lot of parents spend hours, days, weeks, months gazing at the Social Security list of most popular names in search of the ideal choice for their baby.  What they want is a name that’s well established but not too popular, neither too recently trendy nor shooting toward the top of the list.

And there’s one dad who thinks he’s found the perfect formula for teasing out the perfect name from the mountain of statistics on the Social Security site.  It’s simple, he says.  All you have to do is write down all the names that made the Top 100 in every year from 1880 through 1930.  Then you cross off all the names on that list that made the Top 300 in the past ten years.  Et voila, you have a list of wonderful names from which to choose.

Um, yeah.  If you have an advanced degree in mathematics from MIT.  And if you think Bertha is a wonderful name.

Actually, I only had the math acumen (not to mention the time and the patience) to check the lists for three years: 1880, 1900, and 1930.  And on the Top 100 lists from those years I indeed found a lot of great names not on the Top 300 in any recent years.

For girls, you might choose a serious name such as Helen or Clara, Cora or Flora (or Dora), Pearl or Maude.  Or you might pick a madcap, fun-loving name such as Minnie or Mamie, Mabel or Lula.  Yes, Lula!

But then there’s Beulah.  Along with a lot of other not-so-beautiful names that were the bee’s knees on those lists.  Bertha, for instance, and GertrudeEthel and EdnaGladys, Shirley, and Phyllis.

On the boys’ side, there are great names to be found on the old lists.  There’s Walter, for example, and LouisArthur, and AlbertRufus, Roy, and Ralph.

And then there’s Herbert.  And Herman.  And Elmer, Dewey, and LesterDon‘t do this to your son.

An intriguing way to look for a great name?  Maybe.  But simple and foolproof, no way.

About the author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show,, CNN, and the BBC. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its new sequel, Older.

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