Boys’ Names in Limbo: Is Roy ready to return? How about Howard?
Last week we took a look at the ladies in limbo, the girls’ names not old enough to fall under the Hundred Year Rule, but were most popular from the 1920s to the 1960s, to question whether any of them were eligible for resuscitation.
And now, as promised we perform the same operation on the boys’ list.
We find several differences between the genders. For one thing, the popularity of the boys’ names tend to stretch over longer periods of time (122 years for Howard, for instance), and clearer syllabic and sound patterns tend to emerge. In the 1920s and 1930s, for example, we see a preponderance of two-syllable names ending in the letters n and d. By the fifties and sixties, there are lots of four and five-letter single syllable favorites—the Todds and Troys, Deans and Dales—those surfer dudes we’ve labeled ‘Beach Boys’ in our books.
Not many of these names, except for a few in the pre-1920 list, have shown significant signs of revival—once again, because they’re the names of our grandpas and great-uncles and fathers-in law—the older men in our lives, the men still smoking pipes on Father’s Day cards.
Here too, we’re eliminating the classics—which are so dominant on boys’ lists—and nicknames, and are listing the names in reverse chronological order, showing the periods in which they ranked in the Top 100, and when they reached their highest ranking ever. And if you’re wondering why so many of them burst into popularity in 1880—they didn’t: that’s simply the first year for which Social Security posts rankings.
Alvin – 1901-38, #70 in 1925
Arnold—1912-31, #91 in 1920-21
Bernard—1885 to 1945, #45 in 1921
Calvin—1923-28, #44 in 1924
Edwin – 1901-41, #52 in 1922
Eugene—1880-1957, #20 in 1927-29
Harold—1884-1966, #12 in 1920-21
Herbert—1880-1946, #25 in 1928-29
Howard –1880-1958, #24 in 1920
Leon—1885-1942, #73 in 1926
Leonard –1880-1957, #37 in 1923
Melvin –1901-55, #47 in 1926
Raymond –1880-1991m #15 in 1923-29
Roland—1924-25, #98 in 1924-25
Russell – 1901-82, #49 in 1922
Vernon – 1908-37, #65 in 1920
Wallace –1920-27, #69 in 1923
Warren – 1917-36, #24 in 1921
Donald—1895-1990, #6 in 1934
Franklin – 1932-41, $33 in 1933
Gerald – 1908-71, #19 in 1936
Gilbert – 1927-32, #90 in 1930
Gordon – 1911-43, $70 in 1935
Jerome – 1935-40, #93 in 1938-39
Kenneth—1889-2001, #14 in 1931-32, 57-58
Marvin –1906-55, #44 in 1933-34
Norman – 1897-1953, #36 in 1931
Dennis—1934-84, #16 in 1949
Douglas—1929-89, #23 in 1942
Lawrence—1911-71, # 30 in 1945
Roger—1921-75, #22 in 1945
Ronald – 1926-90, #9 in 1941-43
Wayne – 1915-71, #29 in 1946
Alan –1938-71, #40 in 1951
Bruce – 1932-70, #25 in 1952
Craig—1947-97, #39 in 1969
Dale—1921-69, #46 in 1953, 58
Gary –1933-87, #9 in 1954
Mark—1944-2002, #64 in 1959
Paul—1880-99, #15 in 1958
Randall—1949-69, #53 in 1955
Scott—1949-95, #10 in 1954
Barry— 1941-69, #61 in 1962
Curtis –1939-85 on and off, #72 in 1963
Darrell—1954-69 on and off, #86 in 1968
Darryl—1960-66, #69 in 1965
Dean— 1956-69, #78 in 1967-68
Glenn – 1912-69, #55 in 1962
Gregory –1945-96, #21 in 1962-3
Jay—1956-70, #78 in 1960
Jeffrey—1945-98, #9 in 1966
Keith—1946-91, #32 in 1966
Kevin—1949-2010, #11 in 1963
Rodney –1946-77, #33 in 1965
Todd—1959-85, #28 in 1964, 68-70
Troy— 1962-79, #40 in 1967-68
Here are some others that peaked earlier, but continued to be used into our period:
Any of the names on these lists appeal to you? Do you prefer one decade over another?
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
on March 8th, 2012 at 12:59 am
I’d like to see a few of these come back in.
Franklin (although I just had a horrible realisation that this could quite possibly come back in as a girls’ name!)
I will be using Raymond and Kevin as middle names for sons because they are my dad’s and FIL’s names. 🙂
on March 8th, 2012 at 1:12 am
I’m about to have a nephew named Keith in a few months, and I think it’s a great name to make a re-emergence. I’m also currently crushing hard on the name Arthur. That’s about it from this list, though.
on March 8th, 2012 at 1:17 am
I will admit to a major soft spot for Earl…if we were having a 4th I would use it. I think it is warm, cute, and strong with a whole lot of character. Unconventional but familiar. But then again I named a daughter Lilith, so I am clearly not concerned about the dirty “how could you give a sweet, innocent baby that name!” looks. Anyways, give it ten years…it is due for a comeback. It will be a hipster hit.
on March 8th, 2012 at 3:39 am
I think these have the potential for a comeback in the near future:
on March 8th, 2012 at 3:41 am
Love Franklin, it’s been on my list for ages. Other favourites are Chester, Frank and Ralph. Others I like but don’t love… Alvin (pity it now reminds me of a chipmunk), Roland, Gilbert (but reminds me of grapes), Troy, Albert. I met a little boy called Albert a few months ago which was a pleasant surprise.
on March 8th, 2012 at 4:14 am
I think a lot of the names in the first list would be perfectly usable today but it was the last list that I can’t take to.
I just cannot see a revival of Lloyd, Lester, Stanley or Willard. I don’t think they were handsome names in their day either.
Nice to see Roland on the list I am surprised it hasn’t taken off with the vintage name fever as it fits right in with Archer, Chester, William and Leo.
on March 8th, 2012 at 4:20 am
Love the name Edwin! I would totally use that for a son if I didn’t love Edmund even more!
on March 8th, 2012 at 6:50 am
Yeah Willard is one like Dick that is just waiting for a terrible nick name or teasing. And I would know my in-laws were going to name MY husband a combo of the grandfathers names so his name would have been Harry WIllard I mean can you even imagine? Harry is one thing but Willard is just rediculous
on March 8th, 2012 at 7:02 am
Our second son is due this summer and Calvin is our top choice. We love that it is “old fashioned” and not something you hear everyday but still has a familiar and quirky feel. Add in the cute nicknames of Cal and Vinny, and we have a winner! 🙂
on March 8th, 2012 at 7:42 am
I would LOVE to see a couple of the 20s’ list come back! Russell and Warren and Calvin especially. The further down there are old-man connotations for sure but that list, and those names especially, are great.
I met a Raymond the other day; THAT one is going to be stuck with the “Everybody Loves….” association for a while, I think.
on March 8th, 2012 at 8:00 am
Well, you’re right–these are definitely our dad’s, uncles, and grandpa’s names. I can’t say there’s much here that I’m in love with. I do know a couple of littler Calvins, so that one might be making a comeback.
My husband’s family would love to see Grandpa Harold’s namesake live on…I’m just not sure we’re ready for that yet. 😉
on March 8th, 2012 at 8:03 am
So many of my favorites!
on March 8th, 2012 at 8:30 am
I really like lots of these!!
Those are my absolute favs from the lists!! I definitely think the 20’s were my favorite time period of names though! 🙂 <3
on March 8th, 2012 at 8:31 am
Well, Russell and Alan are family names, so I hope they don’t get too popular, as I plan on using them. But there are several others on here that I really like.
It’s funny. Before I found Nameberry, I was really hoping that I would only have girls, because I couldn’t find any boys names that I really liked. And now, I can’t seem to narrow down the list of names for either gender!
on March 8th, 2012 at 8:33 am
My brother, born in the 70s, is named Alan. In this case, Alan is my Dad’s middle name, which explains the reasoning.
My son, born in 2010 is named Paul, also a family middle name. We have received mostly positive reactions, even from people who don’t know its a family name. I would group Paul as a classic in line with John, and don’t really see it as tied to any one time.
I have a friend from high school who just had a baby a few months ago and named him Glenn Allen. Actually the spelling of Allen is more unusual than what I used, but I’m trying to hide from search engines.
Since her son was the first grandson on both sides, they named him after both grandfathers. I think they call him by both names. I find Glenn a pleasant surprise.
Edwin and Calvin would git in well today. I think they will be among the first to come back.
on March 8th, 2012 at 8:39 am
BTW, I love Douglas. I like Douglas on its own and the nickname Doug. I can totally picture both on a little kid. My Dad had a lot of friends and a cousin named Doug, and therefore I have positive connections with all Doug’s I know. I would love to see it come back.
on March 8th, 2012 at 9:13 am
Wow! So many favorites here!
Of course, my Dad: Wayne is here. He loathed his trendy moniker but I’m beginning to see why it appealed to Grandma.
My OH, Kenneth is here too, which makees me sad, I think Kenneth should be a classic!
I like lots of these and often call for their use: Calvin, Eugene, Leon, Raymond, Roland & Warren from the 20’s. I’m most fond of Leon, Roland & Warren here.
From the 30’s: Gordon & Kenneth.
From the 40’s: Dennis & Wayne. Love those two!
From the 50’s: Bruce & Gary. Bruce is lovely, if only my OH didn’t lisp him!
From the 60’s: Dean, Gregory & Troy make me happy. Dean, especially.
From the extended list: Albert, Arthurr, Carl, Cecil, Clarence!, Clancy!, Edgar, Ernest, Floyd, Frank!, Harvey!, Luther!, Roy & Stanley. If we have another boy, ever, he’s likely to be Clarence/Clancy. I just adore Clarence! 😀
on March 8th, 2012 at 9:27 am
Ohhh! I love Calvin, Edwin, Raymond & Jerome.
I’d consider using Herbert (Herbie) and Roy to honor relatives.
on March 8th, 2012 at 9:44 am
I would love to see Howard come back, (though I dislike the nn “Howie”, …”Ward” would be better)
I love Russell and Lawrence and would definitely use them.
on March 8th, 2012 at 9:56 am
My son, born 2008, is a Paul. It’s a family name (he’s the 4th Paul in a row, but NOT Paul IV- all have different middles). I also really like Gregory, and Scott. We’re having #2 in August, don’t know if boy or girl yet but are having a hard time deciding on names since it was so easy with #1!
on March 8th, 2012 at 10:02 am
I can totally see the following making something of a comeback:
Howard (prefer Ward to Howie as nn)
I can only see Chester with the nn Chet.
on March 8th, 2012 at 10:49 am
A lot of these appeal to me (in stark contrast to the girls’ list), probably because a lot of them are classics in my opinion, or are names I’ve never/rarely seen used so already have that alluring patina:
Arthur (my future first-born son’s name!)
on March 8th, 2012 at 11:41 am
I like quite a few of these,
My grandad’s name was Clarence Eugene and I have a little cousin names Clarence for him (called CJ though)
We’ve toyed with Eugene as a middle but it kind of reminds me of eugenics…
Well anyway our first born son will be Leon which I love. So keep that one on the DL!!
on March 8th, 2012 at 12:01 pm
Oh, gosh, I love these! My faves by decade:
20s: Calvin, Leonard, Warren
30s: Gilbert, Jerome, Kenneth
40s: Douglas (the name I’d pick for myself if I needed a male pseudonym for some reason; I just love it!) and Lawrence
50s: Alan, Bruce, Mark
60s: Dean and Gregory.
I also love Frank.
Douglas, Calvin, Mark, Dean, and Gregory have all been off and on my short list for a while now, so I can totally see myself using a name from this period. I’d love to see them revived.
Elisabeth Rae Said
on March 8th, 2012 at 12:05 pm
Calvin, Warren, Franklin, and Arthur seem right on trend.
Kids were still being named Mark, Paul, and Kevin into the 90s and maybe even 2000s. Isn’t Kevin still in the top 100? So to me those really aren’t fresh.
Personally, I can’t picture babies named Gordan, Gary, Bruce, Wayne, or Dennis
on March 8th, 2012 at 12:47 pm
I love the title of this post, especially since Roy and Howard are both family names for us. 🙂
on March 8th, 2012 at 1:18 pm
Another mom of a Paul here. Mine was born in 2002. People I met back then used to frequently mix up my huband’s name (Nathan) with my son. Clearly Nathan should have been the baby and Paul the dad.
on March 8th, 2012 at 1:54 pm
I would use the following:
Earnest (spelled like in The Importance of Being Earnest)
I’m not really a big fan of the rest.
on March 8th, 2012 at 5:21 pm
My brother was named Raymond in 1993, so a bit beyond it’s time. But I couldn’t see him as a Josh or a Corey like all the other boys in his year. He’s definitely a Ray. My mom use to call him Ramona Sue when ever he was bad, haha.
on March 8th, 2012 at 5:28 pm
For me… not enough time has gone by for many of these… I taught a baby called Karl recently… its hard to imagine a baby called Darryl…
on March 8th, 2012 at 6:01 pm
Ah, as a Brit I’ve already seen Arthur, Alfie and Stanley make a bit of a comeback.
I’d love to see Leon, Scott, Dean, Gregory and Jeffrey make a come back though.
Especially Leon, Dean and Gregory.
on March 8th, 2012 at 6:29 pm
I quite like Calvin, Edwin, Arthur, Lawrence and Dean. Franklin is alright too, though I can’t help but think of the turtle. I can’t say I like any of the others. They’re all old-manish – or worse, middle-age-ish – to me.
on March 8th, 2012 at 7:14 pm
I read this list and think of my grandparents, great-grandparents, and all of their siblings. These feel on trend to me:
Calvin, Edwin, Leon, Russell, Warren, Alan, Paul, Dean, Kenneth
I know teenagers named Mark, Scott, and Todd so maybe that’s why the names don’t feel old to me? Gordon is so similar to Jordan. Wayne could be saved by Lil’ Wayne and there’s also a Troy in High School Musical. Gregory – instead of Greg – could be Grey or Rory. And Franklin could be Frankie!
Arthur, Clifford, Frank, Harvey, and Roy have the greatest chance at a comeback from the bottom list, I think.
on March 8th, 2012 at 7:46 pm
I love Dean and I think Leonard should come back. I’ve heard little ones lately called Mark, Todd, Scott, Troy. I also know teenagers name Darryl, Gregory, Jeffery, Keith, Frank and a couple others.
on March 8th, 2012 at 8:21 pm
Very interesting to see Roy on any list, I remember making a post about this recently because for some reason it is really one of my dh’s favorites.
on March 8th, 2012 at 9:14 pm
I was so surprised when I saw the title because our little Howard will be here this weekend! Still looking for a name for his twin brother so this list was perfect timing for us! We do plan on using Howie as a nn, Ward just doesn’t do it for me…
on March 8th, 2012 at 9:25 pm
Some of these names have always been favourites of mine:
Bernard (love Bernie)
Calvin (I know a 6 yr old Calvin)
Keith (this is still popular for my Black students)
I love these variations of the above names:
Laurence (love Laurie)
And I really love Albert, Alfred, Arthur, Carl, Cecil (prn ses’l), Chester, Clarence, Edgar, and Harvey.
Can’t ever see Bruce or Gary coming back, yuck.
I really, really dislike Warren for personal reasons, along with Dean, and Willard is Romney’s first name — just makes me think of that terrible rat movie!
on March 8th, 2012 at 9:37 pm
Just heard about a baby Alvin today–a family name used by an Arcade Fire member. Thought it sounded fresh.
on March 8th, 2012 at 11:31 pm
Like several others, I thought Calvin was already making a comeback. I know a 21-year-old and a 15-year-old Randall; one goes by Randall and the other by Randy. (As an interesting note to other name nerds, 21-year-old Randall just became a first-time dad to Elliot William.) I know a 7- or 8-year-old Howard; he was named after family friends whose surname is Howard. I also know a 19-year-old Keith.
I think many more of these are certainly ready for a comeback. The ones I like best from the lists are Roland, Jerome, Douglas, Roger, Alan, Paul, Curtis, Gregory, Alfred, and Luther. Eugene is a bit of a guilty pleasure lately 🙂
on March 9th, 2012 at 11:28 am
We’re expecting in June and if we have a boy, Russell will be his middle name. It’s my dad’s name and goes back six generations, so we’re glad to carry on the tradition! I had hoped to convince my husband to use it as a first name, but no luck.
on March 10th, 2012 at 11:55 am
I definitely favor Victorian names above all the rest 🙂 But I must say that Franklin, Edward and Gregory are names I’ve played with for middles. I don’t like “Frank”, “Ed” or “Greg” -that just takes the classy right out of them- so I wouldn’t ever use them as FNs. Alas, but my husband dislikes them altogether! Franklin the turtle is such a cute association for me since 1.) we both grew up loving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 2.) both had turtles as childhood pets, and 3.) newly married, we now live on Turtle Creek Dr, but my husband says, “That may be cute for you to think about, but what about the young man who’d have to live with and grow up hating those associations??” True. You do have to think about that. So I think we’ll end up giving our sons other personal faves/classics in the middle: Joseph and Patrick (LOL, again I don’t care for their shorts, “Joe” or “Pat”, so those aren’t first name options either!). And for guilty pleasure’s sake, I also tend to be drawn in by Gordon and Gilbert since both remind me of wonderfully created Victorian literary characters– strong, humble and bravely masculine.
On a more personal note, my grandfather, who died before I was born, was named Clarence, and my mom almost gave my brother–born mid-70’s– the name Loren Kristopher. He ended up a Kristopher John instead (named after my grandpa, John, and my dad, John Paul). My uncles are Howard, Richard, LeRoy, Ronald, Steven and Terrance…wouldn’t even think to use those names! And even tho Roland and Bruce are two friends we couldn’t imagine our lives without, those names are absolutely awful. To make it worse tho, Bruce’s family passes down the middle name Eugene….and THAT name alone makes this girl do nothing less than cringe.
on March 10th, 2012 at 12:43 pm
Well these are on my list:
Vernon – middle name
Norman – LOVE this
Bruce Wayne – as a combo 🙂 gotta love Batman
Gary – dad’s name, middle name only to use
Alfred – middle name
Chester – LOVE this
Clyde – again love this
Edgar – middle name
Luthor / Luther – middle name
Ralph – said as Rafe – middle name
Rudolph – middle name
Professor Plum Said
on March 10th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
I grew up with friends/classmates named: Calvin, Gordon, Doug, Craig, Mark, Paul, Scott, Randall, Gregory, Jeffrey, Jay, Keith, Todd, Albert, Alfred, Earl. Therefore, I would not consider any of these on my name list.
I’ve had students named: Gilberto, Kenneth, Curtis, Keith, Kevin, Troy, Frank
Names that appeal to me: Leon, Leo, Roland, Dean, Clifford, Harvey
Family connections: Harold, Raymond, Gerald, Norman (grandpa), Alan, Kevin (dad & brother), Arthur, Floyd
My absolute favorite: Russell!
on March 11th, 2012 at 2:14 pm
I love Leonard (Leopold is better, but still), Arthur, Russell, Ernest, Ralph, Paul and Chester.
My favourites being Paul and Arthur.
on March 18th, 2012 at 10:50 am
I really dislike nearly all of these names. Overused for way too long, some have no redeeming features and just seem super clunky. Even ugly. The others are just dull, boring, and can’t shake the grandpa associations.
Also did someone really suggest Ward over Howie as a nn for Howard? Are you serious? Ward just reminds me of a wart…
on April 14th, 2012 at 5:10 pm
Roland was our number one pick, as he’s the star of my husband’s favourite book series. (The Gunslinger series’ Roland Deschain), but our last name is Dent, so it would’ve sounded like an auto body shop. 🙂 We had lots of people beg us to name our son Harvey or Arthur though, for the Batman & Hitchikers’ references.
on May 4th, 2012 at 1:11 pm
Just a reminder that before Franklin (too WASPy for me) there was Francis, which is my three year old’s name. He goes by Frankie now but will probably go by Frank when he’s in school. Although we have met a few young boys who use their given name Francis proudly so maybe we’ll go that route. His daycare class also includes a Henry and a George.
on August 12th, 2012 at 6:43 am
I went to school with boys called Leon, Mark, Roy, Scott, Leroy, Kevin, Dale, and two Troys (all Gen y) I also have gen y cousins called Craig and Dennis. And I know a Dean.
Personally I LOVE Eugene, particularly because of the nn Gene (like Gene Kelly). I also love Rudolph, but the poor kid would hate christmas time forever.
Earl is out (my name is earl has ruined it for me)
Wayne (just can’t stand it)
and Rodney . . . just ugh.
Great list though 🙂
on September 7th, 2012 at 12:55 pm
All three names I’m considering for this baby are on this list: Leonard, Calvin, and Marvin. So, yes, I DO think the world is ready for more of these names to come back!
leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.