While girls’ names are arguably more interesting – there are more of them, with more variations, and they move up and down the popularity ladder more nimbly – boys’ names are where the real baby-naming story lies today.
Parents are virtually reinventing the genre, abandoning traditional masculine names that have ruled for centuries in favor of a new brand of names for boys. These might be ancient names resurrected from the Bible or mythology, established surnames reconstituted as firsts, ethnic choices newly imported to our shores, or – most frequently – names invented to suit the current style.
All these different types of names yield the same result: They identify a new type of boy. He’s decidedly masculine, yet not conventionally so. He’s strong, yet individualistic; he nods to tradition, but doesn’t necessarily follow it.
Our sons, parents seem to be saying via these new boys’ names, are neither sissified nor the same old Dicks and Johns to be shoehorned into some outmoded macho mold. These names herald a quiet revolution in the way parents view their little boys and, by extension, in the way they’ll raise them.
Are we putting too much stock in the power of names to affect a change in something as fundamental as gender roles? Actually, we think it’s the other way around: The vision of gender is changing, for boys as well as girls, and the new boys’ names reflect that.
This week, we’ll look at some of the new masculine choices moving up the popularity list. The first group are the old names made new again.
Tomorrow: Surname names, real and synthetic, for the new brand of boy.