Category: Unisex Baby Names
By Linda Rosenkrantz
In 2008, shortly after Pam and I moved our shared baby name expertise from the book world into the virtual universe, we inaugurated a tradition of collaborating towards the end of every year on a blog of our predictions for the following year’s baby name trends, based on the cultural shifts we observed, what was happening in society, politics, the arts, and Hollywood.
We pinpointed certain categories, such as an overall big-picture trend, greatest pop culture influence, most surprising comeback name, new trends inspired by a celebrity name, most fashionable vowel and consonant, ethnic name group most likely to rise, newest old people names, and—one of our favorites– a trend ready to jump the shark.
Here are ten trends we predicted that may have seemed outrageous at the time and how they played out.
by Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz
We launched Nameberry in October 2008, the same month the economy collapsed and a few weeks before Barack Obama was elected president.
In that decade, 40 million babies were born in the US, and 235 million people viewed 1.5 billion pages of our site. The Social Security Administration recorded 56,000 baby names, and Nameberry’s database cimbed to 70,000 names, along with nearly 500 curated lists, 3728 blogs, over 180,000 lists created by visitors, and 3,386,947 forum posts.
This week’s news includes boys with gemstone names, girls named after a car, sweet British nicknames, and lot of men named Paul.
By Pamela Redmond Satran
Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds were hardly the first parents to use a boys’ name for a baby girl when they named their daughter James. But they helped popularize a trend that includes Jessica Simpson‘s daughter Maxwell, Mark Zuckerberg’s baby girl August, and Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis’s little girl Wyatt.
Thousands of American baby girls were given boys’ names, or names closely associated with male figures, last year. We’re not talking about gender-neutral names such as Riley and Robin, Blue or North that work equally well for children of both sexes. We’re talking about the female equivalent to naming a boy Sue.
So why is it okay, even fashionable and attractive to name a girl James but not to name a boy Jane or Sue? Why indeed, say some. Where some believe that naming your daughter Ezra or Declan is a feminist act, others claim it’s actually sexist, given that it’s hardly considered cool or cute to give traditionally female names — Elizabeth, say, or Maeve — to boys.
Love the practice or hate it, boys’ names are being given in ever greater numbers every year to girls. We combed the social security lists to find male names that rank below the Top 1000 but were given to at least 20 baby girls in 2017. The statistics represent number of baby girls who received each name in 2007 compared with ten years later, showing increases of double, triple, ten times — even 89 times in the case of Jupiter — in the number of girls given these traditionally-male names.
What actually makes a name female or male? Most names seem to have been assigned a strict gender based on previous usage, but recently more and more we are seeing boy’s names used for girls and girl’s names used for boys. You could say this is the age of the gender reshuffle.
We make assumptions about the gender of unusual and unfamiliar names based on similarities between them and other names that are maybe more familiar to us, so many of us may take one glance at names such as the Nigerian Ajani, and add them to our girls list (due to the long ‘a’ sound in the middle and the -ee sound ending that also appear in typically ‘girly’ names such as Lana and Emily), when, if we researched a little more, we’d find out that they are typically used for boys in their native cultures. This is how ‘namenapping’ between genders starts – with names that most people are unfamiliar with. If I met a little girl named Ajani, I probably wouldn’t even give it a second thought since I’d have no strong gender assignment in my mind, but this gender swapping opens a gateway to more familiar names being used on different genders.