Breaking the Hundred-Year Rule

It’s one of the unwritten rules of baby names–well, actually it’s been written more than once, including by us–that it takes a century for a name to feel fresh enough again to be used for an infant, to no longer sound like a mommy name (Jennifer) or grandpa (Irwin) or great-grandma (Ethel) name.  This might account for the recently rejuvenated returns of Alice and Grace and Frances, Josephine and Emma, Ruby, Beatrice, Leo and Charlie–all of which were in the Top 50 in 1908.

But rules were made to be broken, and a hundred years is a long time for a name to wait in the wings.  It’s actually not that hard to find examples from every decade of the 20th century, popular from the 1910s through the 1980s, that are worth a new look–even if some of the early ones sound a little fusty and funky, and others sound a little only-yesterday.  So, from way back when to nearly now:

1910s: Geneva, Hazel, Mabel; Oscar, Clyde, Otis

1920s: Nellie, Pearl, Viola; Calvin, Chester, Russell

1930s: Pauline, Patsy, Lula; Floyd, Lowell, Felix

1940s: Penny, Kay, Lydia; Archie, Mack, Rex

1950s: Roxanne, Laurel, Ginger; Terry, Perry, Patrick

1960s: Jill, Gwendolyn, Ramona; Marcus, Vincent, Kyle

1970s: Veronica, Tamara, Meredith; Adrian, Ian, Jared

1980s: Miranda, Jillian, Felicia; Logan, Luke, Omar

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4 Responses to “Breaking the Hundred-Year Rule”

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tikicatt Says:

October 21st, 2008 at 1:05 pm

Yikes! Some of those are names of former pets I have had. Hazel, Mabel, Oscar, Clyde, Otis – Chester, Felix, Floyd, Ginger, Rex. So if looking for names for twin boys of the triplets (one girl identical boys) and Milo was on the list and now maybe not so much and vintage is what we want – but not at the idea that one of us used to have a cat named Otis.. Help! Milo and Owen were first choices but the rising of their popularity, now not so much. But there is vintage and there is too vintage. Any other suggestions? The girl will be Honor Sinclair – we are firm on that. Other sons are Henry and Julian. So any thoughts will be appreciated.

pam Says:

October 21st, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Wow, you’ve had a lot of pets! All with great names. Your taste is pretty clear. Honor Sinclair is lovely, and she’ll be the only sister with four brothers! Wow! I of course have a son named Owen, which we love, but there are a lot of little four year old Owens running around the local playgrounds. A few ideas for you: Rufus, Roscoe, Walter, Louis, Rupert, Sebastian, Malcolm, Dominic, Laird, Arthur, Inigo.

Lola Says:

October 22nd, 2008 at 5:00 pm

Funny! You’ve got two of my three kids names in here (Leo & Josephine [only Simon is missing]) and some of the names on my list for a fourth :
Clarence/Clancy, Viola/Violet, Frances & Edward. Give me old, give me stuffy, heavy and rich, pudding-like. I love them!

linda Says:

October 22nd, 2008 at 5:13 pm

If you’ve read any of our books, you know that we do too!

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