Baby Name News: Fresh and festive choices

By Clare Bristow

This week’s news includes gemstone and virtue names for boys, reasons to choose a popular name, fresh names from the 1990s (yes, really), and Boomer Phelps’s little brother.

Festive, lucky names

At this time of year, the festivals come thick and fast – as do baby names relating to them. Valentine’s Day (or Galentine’s or Palentine’s Day) has been and gone, as has Mardi Gras. In honor of the end of carnival season, Cleveland Evans’ column looked at names inspired by days, including Mardi and Domenica, and the more transparent Tuesday and Sunday. If you like these, here are even more days that work as names.

Coming up this weekend is the Lunar New Year. Whether or not you’re celebrating the start of the year of the Earth Dog, you might find inspiration in these names relating to good fortune and dogs. And because good luck is such a common theme in names (who wouldn’t want it for their child?), here are even more adventurous names meaning luck.

In praise of popular names

Would you consider using one of the most popular names right now? Some parents want to stay well clear of the Top 10, 100, or even 1000, but there are good reasons to use a name that lots of other people love.

The most popular names in each decade will be familiar to anyone who keeps an eye on name trends, but what struck me was the author’s reaction to reading them. Faces and memories popped into her mind:

“My friends from school days: Ashley, Jennifer, Amanda and Sarah. My well-seasoned supervisors as I entered the workforce as a millennial: David, Linda and Deborah. Many of my millennial friends married an Andrew or Joshua. The precious little old ladies at church: Betty and Patricia. My niece, Emma.”

It’s a reminder that names aren’t just words on a list. They’re evocative, they link us to our culture and time, and they show us to be part of our cohort – or stand out from it.

Here’s another example of a name that fits in: in this essay, Amy Wang reflects on the four letters of name her parents gave her. (Her middle name is the letter M.) Along with the usual advantages of a short name – easy to spell, quick to fill in forms – she believes it reflects her parents’ hopes that she would assimilate into American culture. It also raises the issue of mismatched sibling names: her sister has a Chinese name, and Amy doesn’t. So if you’re worried one of your children will feel left out because their name has a different number of syllables from their siblings, know that families can cope with much greater name disparities.

Fresh names from the 90s

Homing in on one decade, this list of popular names from the 1990s might not be what you expect. Instead of names like Jacob and Alexis, it has Cian, Niall and Roisin. Well-used – bordering on humdrum – in Ireland, they still sound fairly fresh elsewhere. So if you’re looking for a name in the sweet spot of “familiar but not overused”, checking out what’s hot in other countries and regions is one way to find it.

Speaking of regions, anglophiles rejoice! The regional name data for England and Wales in 2016 have just been released, so you can compare parents’ preferences in London and Yorkshire, or Wales and the West Midlands. That’s something to keep us going until the 2017 data come out this autumn.

Are boys’ names boring?

Do you find it easier to name boys or girls? We know that parents use a wider pool of names for their daughters: in the US, more boys than girls are given a name in the top 1000, and there are about 4000 more girls’ names than boys’ names in the full 2016 data.

This is a sign, according to this article in the Canberra Times, of the limits we put on gender: girls can be anything, boys should conform. I don’t think it’s as simple as that, and I’d definitely dispute the author’s complaint that no boys are named after virtues or precious jewels.

While they’re not as common as Grace or Ruby, there are absolutely virtue and gem names out there for boys. Justice and Sincere make the US top 1000, and there are more virtue names that might be headed that way. Among the gemstones, there are several that lean male or unisex, like Jasper and Malachite, for parents who want to use them.

Boomer’s brother

One set of parents who weren’t afraid to break the mould in naming a boy were Olympian Michael Phelps and his wife Nicole. Their first son was Boomer, and name lovers have been eagerly waiting to find out what they’d call his little brother.

Enter Beckett! The Phelps’s second son, who was born earlier this week, certainly has a more mainstream name than his brother. Dare I say it’s perhaps a slightly disappointing choice for name nerds? (As if Phelps and his family care.) But both names have a surname feel and punchy consonants. The brothers also share initials and sensible middle names: Boomer’s is Robert, Beckett’s is Richard.

It’s also worth remembering that 20 years ago, Beckett was just as rare as Boomer is now. Most adults today wouldn’t have known any Becketts growing up, so for many it still feels fresh and undiscovered.

Long lists of long names

We’ve already talked about short names, so to balance it out here’s possibly the ultimate list of four-syllable names from Insider. It includes classics like Elizabeth and Alexander, rising stars like Evangeline and Sebastian, and also more colorful choices. To name but a few: Bedelia, Galilea, Theodosia, Cayetano, Leonides and Yoshinori. What are your favorites?

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6 Responses to “Baby Name News: Fresh and festive choices”

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Selkit Says:

February 15th, 2018 at 1:50 pm

I’ve actually always thought it a bit sexist that virtue names are so much more common for girls than for boys–as though girls and women are expected to be patient, chaste, prudent, joyful and graceful while boys and men get a free pass to be virtue-free slobs. I’m an aspiring novelist, and attempting to subvert this by using “Patience” as the name for my main male character in my book-in-progress.

tabitha Says:

February 16th, 2018 at 7:14 am

Actually @Selkit, if you look at a lot of African nations they are fantastic at using virtue names for boys! Innocent/ce, Peace, Truth, Goodluck and Clement come to mind!

SummerSarah Says:

February 16th, 2018 at 9:01 am

True is a beautiful virtue name for a boy! Clement as well.

ItIsThyme Says:

February 16th, 2018 at 1:36 pm

I do tend to have a hard time giving boys something that is used more for girls but I’ve been very much so trying to push the envelope on that one. I think anyone can have any name. I personally love it when I hear something more « feminine «  on boys and I love boys names for girls. It just bugs me how a lot of people behave and I want to save my kids from that. Like how my husband is named M@dison and all his life people say « isn’t that a girls name?! » right to his face! So rude >:@

That being said, We really like Valor and Brave/Bravery for boys 🙂 and Jasper! Middles or firsts, depends on the boy 🙂

zsazsa00 Says:

February 16th, 2018 at 2:36 pm

@ItIsThyme Wow that is rude! And actually Madison has only been popular for girls starting in the late 80’s. And has a much longer history being worn by men. I understand you can’t expect people to know that of the bat but really…. People should be more open/receptive to these things. And not by blurting out the first thing that comes to mind lol!

strawberrytree Says:

February 19th, 2018 at 11:34 am

Not at all disappointed in Phelps- in fact, I’m relieved. Beckett is at least one million times better than Boomer.

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