Freckle-Faced Names: Polly, Peggy & Penny

There’s a certain species of girls’ names that we’ve referred to in our books as freckle-faced, pigtailed and button-nosed: they’re the kind of character names inhabited by Shirley Temple as a curly-haired moppet, and Judy Garland as a wide-eyed, innocent teen, as well as starring in dozens of old popular songs. Basically nickname names that have long stood on their own, none can be found any longer in the current Top 1000 — though one of them ranked as high as Number 31 in the 1930’s.

They’ve been gone a long time, but they still project a lot of spunk, and so, with the revival of nickname names in general we’re wondering if any of these could get their youthful mojo back. 

We’re talking about:

Betsy

Gone since 1995; Highest rating: Number 228 in 1959

Associations: Betsy Ross, Betsy Wetsy doll, Sweet Betsy from Pike, Betsey Johnson

Betsy originated as a combination of other classic pet forms of ElizabethBetty, Beth and Bessie, and makes appearances in two Dickens novels—Pickwick Papers and David Copperfield.  The ‘B’ Elizabeth nicknames were superseded by the ‘L’ ones– Liz, Lizzie, Liza and Lisa— but maybe now might be the time for a switch back.

Patsy

Gone since 1975; Highest rating:  52 in 1936 and 1941

Associations: Patsy (born Virginia) Cline, Patsy (born Patricia) Kensit, numerous Italian and Irish restaurants and bars

Patsy was replaced as a Patricia nickname first by Pat, then Patty, then Tricia/Tricia, then Trish. Probably the least likely candidate for a comeback.

Peggy

Gone since 1989; Highest rating:  31 in 1937

Associations: Peggy Lee, Peggy Sue Got Married, Peggy (born Margaret) Olson on Mad Men

Peggy, a pet form of Margaret, is the one that’s climbed the highest of all these names. Perky and pure, Peggy was the perfect date for the prom—in 1953.  In later decades it’s been traded in for Maggie.         

Penny 

Gone since 1987; Highest rating:  86 in 1963

Associations: Penny Lane, Penny Marshall, Penny Pingleton in Hairspray, typical Disney girl character, characters on Lost and The Big Bang Theory, devalued coin

Peppy Penny is miles away from its haughty mother-name, Penelope—which today’s namers are more likely to choose.

Polly   

Gone since 1977; Highest rating:  225 in 1881

Associated with: Tom Sawyer’s aunt, parrots (Polly want a cracker?), Polly Peachum, Polly Wolly Doodle All Day, Nirvana and Kinks songs, Along Came Polly

Polly, together with Susie, has been gone the longest, having peaked 130 years ago.  Though livelier than MollyPolly never achieved the comeback that her cousin did, perhaps because she sounds too Pollyanna-ish.

Sally      

Gone since 2005; Highest rating:  52 in 1939

Associations: Sally (born Sarah) Hemings, Sally Field, Sally Ride, Sally (Mad Men) Draper, Sally (Cabaret) Bowles, When Harry Met Sally, Long Tall Sally

Originally a nickname for Sarah, Sally was big in the eighteenth century, and then again from the 1920s to the 1960s, but totally lost her momentum around the Millennium.

Susie  

Gone since 1988; Highest rating:  68 in 1881

Associations: Susie Q, If You Knew Susie, Wake Up, Little Susie, Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones

Also spelled Susy, Suzy and Suzie, Susie faded away in tandem with the once mega-popular Susan, and is seen less as a stand-alone name today than the rest.

Some others that could be included:

  • Becky – off since 1992, peaked at 102 in 1959
  • Billie—off since 1997, peaked at 79 in 1929-30               
  • Ginny—off since 1982, peaked at 632 in 1958
  • Kitty— off since 1966, peaked at  375 in 1887               
  • Lizzie—off since 1959, peaked at  62 in 1882
  • Mamie—off since 1966, peaked at 53 in 1888
  • Margie –off since 1982, peaked at 96 in 1933       
  • Patty—-off since 1978, peaked at  140 in 1959
  • Rosie—off since 1982, peaked at 114 in 1910
  • Trudy—off since 1978, peaked at  238 in 1946      
  • Winnie –off since 1957, peaked at 162 in 1881     

And a few of that have stayed the course:

Do you think any of the long-gone ones could make a comeback?  Would you ever use one?

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42 Responses to “Freckle-Faced Names: Polly, Peggy & Penny”

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Elle Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 1:43 am

I think right now people are more interested in the formal sounding version of these names…but would be willing to use the nickname.

Penny is a big one! I know Penelope is currently #252 and I would bet that many of them go by Penny. Not to mention that there were/are three big shows with Penny main characters. LOST (Desmond’s fiancée), Desperate Housewives (Lynette’s daughter) and The Big Bang Theory (Penny…and we have learned her real name is actually Penelope). I could really see this one making a comeback.

I think Rosie and Ginny could also reappear on the list. Ginny especially because of the Harry Potter character. I wonder if this one won’t show up soon.

Lisa Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 1:46 am

It seems like people love the nicknames right now…but want a formal name to shorten, rather than giving a nickname-name outright. I.e., Betsy may indeed come back, but as a more common nickname for Elizabeth, rather than blazing up the charts as a stand alone.

That being said, Molly made our top 10 for our daughter, along with Amalia with a nickname of Mali or Molly. Ultimately, we used neither, but a long name with many nickname options that are appropriate for the preschool set on up to adulthood.

Natasha Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 5:13 am

I love Betsy and Polly! I think they have such a distinct, retro flair, I would love to hear them more. Betsy or Betsey is downright adorable, and Polly could be a cut nickname for Pauline, or maybe Apollina or Apolline, if you’re feeling adventurous.
Sukie is one I don’t see on the list, maybe it’s too uncommon. It’s an old old nickname for the Susan variants, but I think it’s ready to meet head to head with Suzy.

meggie Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 5:32 am

My lilttle girl is a Susie, short for Susannah, and her sister’s middle name is Molly. I love a lot of these names but would probably use their full names on the birth certificate rather than just the nickname.

Abby Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 6:42 am

Penelope, nn Polly, has been on our long list forever. Didn’t an Australian TV personality just have a daughter Catalina, nn Kitty?

As for names that stand alone, I think Betsy and Peggy seem like the most likely candidates for a comeback.

Megan Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 8:29 am

I’ve got a Minnie in my house and I love her name so much!! I’ve since heard of a few more around Melbourne, where I’m based.

sadiesadie Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 9:02 am

I love Penny, Susie and Betsy. I agree with pp that long names with these nn are more likely right now.

Kathy Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 9:17 am

I would definitely use Sally and Margie, but only as nicknames for Sarah and Margaret. I know a toddler Penny…adorable!

Vanessa Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 9:32 am

I’ve noticed among my peers that are having babies, those that live in more rural areas are choosing sweet, “freckle-faced” , stand-alone names, such as Maggie, Macie, Daisy, and Ruby. And those that live in the more populous suburbs are choosing more traditional or more popular names like Charlotte, Madison, and Ava.

I love this category, but personally I would use a formal name. I think a child needs the option for a formal name in adulthood. Example, I have a friend that is in residency to be a doctor and her name is Staci. “Dr. Staci” just sounds strange to me.

I love Betsy, Patsy, Kitty, and Susie.

Sheila Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 9:45 am

These are all nicknames and I think that parents are getting more conscious of the necessity to have a more formal name. Since it has been common for women to earn degrees and join the workforce, there is more of a need to have a formal name for professional communications and paperwork. A lot more people are starting to name their children based on the fact that they will not be children forever. I think all of these nicknames can be used, for instance my daughter is named Grace Patricia and I call her Gracie and Patsy, though they may not be in the charts anytime soon.

Nicole Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 10:01 am

I’ve always wondered, how do you pronounce Mamie?

Polly Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 10:21 am

Great post! So interesting to read about these wonderful old-fashiond names. As a child, I never liked my name, and was always self-conscious of the teasing: “Polly – wanna cracker?”, Polly Purebread, Pollyanna, Polyester, etc. However, as an adult I really appreciate the uniqueness of my name, and everyone says it really fits me. I don’t have freckles, but am blond and blue-eyed with lots of ‘spunk’! Plus, it’s unique enough (especially with a ‘P’ last name) that lots of people seem to remember it – definitely a ‘plus’ in the workforce.

Sarah Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 10:33 am

In the south, I feel like I know lots of Betsys. High school and college age mostly. Very popular down here. I also know a Mamie, Marjie, lots of Sallys, and a Winnie. I also see a lot of Suzanne and Suzannah nicknamed Susie. I have seen all of these in the sorority I advise at a southern school.

Mamie is pronounced May-mee.

Lola Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 10:48 am

Nicole, MAY-mee. I adore Mamie. Such spirit! I’m also fond of Bess (not Betsy), Penny, Kitty, Rosie & one not mentioned: Tess from T(h)eresa. I love Tess.
I agree about society being aware of the benefits of a formal name on the birth certificate, We did that with our girl. She’s Josephine on paper but Josie day – to – day. (or Fifi, Posie, Sosie or Effie).
I love nicknames but prefer them as options with a formal name on paper.

Lola Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 10:54 am

Aaaah, forgot Winnie! I adore Winnie. And Winifred n Winnie!

Ruth Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Betsy and Polly are both in my top name combinations as well as Patsy after my grandmother. I do kind of like Penny and Sally but I don’t think I would use them. I also like Ginny, Winnie(Winifred), Lizzie, Tess, and Posey and I would consider them for my kids.

kaybee3 Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I agree with elle on this one, I think besty and penny for example are popular, but, off the radar because parents are going with the full name on the birth certificate. As a teacher I once had 2 betsy’s in one class, and 3 or 4 that I new of in the grade (HS level). As for Penny, it’s on the short list for my current peanut, however, we’d go with the longer, Penelope on the bc. But, primed for comeback? I say Betsy, Penny, Ginny, Lizzie, Sally, Suzie have definite potential. Ones that will have to wait? I say Betty, Peggy, Margie, Mamie, Patty, Patsy. They all still sound like my aunts names to me.

Whit Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 2:22 pm

I basically love or hate these.

I like: Besty, Polly, Kitty, Ginny, Sally, Mamie, and Winnie.

Katy Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I think Peggy is going to come back because of Mad Men. The character really makes it more likeable. And all of these are really, really cute.

Susan Chesney Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I love Sally!

Isabel Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Sally is one of my favorite names. It’s so simple and sweet, with history. I think it stands on its own well, too. I like Susie as a nickname for Susannah. And Lizzie is one of my favorites, for Elizabeth. Love retro nn’s! Another favorite of mine that’s more uncommon is Lollie which is an nn for Laura or Charlotte.

Gingersnap Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I love the Freckle-Faced category! There are some names on the list that I’m not fond of (Peggy, Susie, Lizzie, Margie), but Sally, Penny, and Betsy I think are adorable. I agree that they are nicknames, though, with the possible exception of Sally. I think this is a great time to revive the peppy, spunky, freckle-faced names!

QuirkFlower Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I love these names! Penny, Ginny, Polly, Sally and Suzie are probably my favorites. Some I think can stand on their own, others, not so much.

chakrateeze Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I’m surprised Dotty / Dottie (nn for Dorothy/Dorothea) wasn’t included on your list. I kinda dig Dottie.

Vanessa Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I love, love, love Polly, but I can’t really see myself using it or any other name in this category. I want something more formal for the birth certificate, something mature, elegant, and not perpetually pony-tailed and freckle-faced.

As nicknames, on the other hand, I think they’re wonderful.

NameGoddess Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 9:00 pm

My ratings:
Betsy – I knew a charming girl named Betsy! It’s sweet and cute. One of my favorite nn’s for Elizabeth.
Patsy – Can’t say I’m a fan. It may have to wait another generation or two (which would be perfectly fine with me).
Peggy – I feel like before we go from Margarets called Maggie to Margarets called Peggy, we might have to compromise with Meggy (familiar because of Megan).
Penny – I’ve met a Penny before. I guess I feel as this is already back in style just because of the Penelope association on Nameberry.
Polly – I love this! Possibly my favorite on the list. Molly, but updated.
Sally – Another favorite! This just seems like it should be back in style–I know that Sadie is the cutting-edge Sarah nn right now, but I actually prefer Sally.
Susie – See Penny. I like this, but of course, only as a nn for Susannah.
Becky – A lot of 50/60-ish ladies have this one, but I feel like it will come back in the next generation or two when Rebecca has a new flash, which I don’t really mind. It’s grown on me.
Billie – I used to really not like this, but it’s quite cute, no? Maybe as a tomboyish nn for Elizabeth or Isabelle. I met a Billie once in Britain, so it has quite British air to me.
Ginny – Harry Potter made me love this one.
Kitty – Love as a nn for Katherine (instead of Katie).
Lizzie – Lizzie McGuire? This doesn’t feel old at all.
Mamie – I adore this! Best Margaret nn out there!
Margie – I think Marjorie would be well revived, but not Margie (nor Marge).
Patty – Igg, no.
Rosie – Cute, if not somewhat lackluster.
Trudy – If you must use Gertrude, please nn the poor girl True.
Winnie – I love this one! Too cute for words!
Gracie – Mediocre (but then again, I’m not crazy about Grace, either, although it alright).
Josie – Love Josephine, Josie…eh. I like Posey better.
Katie – Prefer Kitty.
Maggie – If you want an “ag” name, why not just go full-out with Agatha? I’ve never been fond of Maggie’s ring.
Molly – I’ve known a few Mollys. It’s a good name that stands well on its own.

Yeah, where’s Dottie, Dolly, Judy, Posey, Minnie, Lottie, Debby, and so on?

Andrea Says:

January 18th, 2011 at 9:28 pm

I’ve seen enough female doctors with common nickname names like Wendy, Stacy, etc. I don’t care for those names but it’s not a disadvantage. Doctors will have whatever names were popular at the time they were born.

stephanie_elizabeth Says:

January 19th, 2011 at 12:04 am

My cousin’s littlest daughter was nearly Elsie Jean (she was named Tessa Jean) and her big sister is Millie Claire. I think my cousin is trying to bring retro back!

I actually like the Victorian-era nicknames better than the more “modern” ones. I prefer Nell over Penny for Penelope, or Elsie or Eliza over Betsy/Lizzie/etc. for Elizabeth. But I am weird.

Charlotte Vera Says:

January 19th, 2011 at 4:56 am

I live in Canada, which has a fairly high Chinese immigrant population. Because of that, I personally am friends with four different Winnies and have heard of more. Most of the Winnies I know are around my age, so I’m not sure it’s being used as much anymore, but only one of my three friends has the longer version, Winnifred, on her birth certificate.

Laura Says:

January 19th, 2011 at 10:08 am

Oh, how I love Penny! I think it’s beautiful, but I would prefer to use it as a nickname for a more formal name… but I can’t come round to Penelope, sadly, and I just can’t think of anything else!

It seems that I hear Becky all the time here, but almost always as a nickname for Rebecca. Can’t warm to Becky though… probably because I knew a Rebekah who wore glasses and was called “Specky Becky” as a child…

I do love this category though, there’s just something so refreshing about these lovely names.

brannon Says:

January 20th, 2011 at 12:50 pm

@ Megan — LOVE MINNIE! Praying for a girl right now (find out in 3 weeks!) and using Minnie! Never met any around here and always here “like the mouse?!” … so nice to read your comment!!

Rebekah Says:

January 20th, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I know a Betsy who’s around my age (28), and I love it on her–it feels fresh, not old-fashioned. Penelope is a name I’ve mulled over–I think Penny is such a fun nickname–but I expect my husband to veto that one (and it might be too much with our 4-syllable last name).

Rachael Says:

January 29th, 2011 at 7:38 am

My friends named their girls Meg (11), Josie (6) and Maggie (1). They are not nn but their actual names. My cousin is Sally (late 30’s).

Another friend just named her daughter Elizabeth, but they call her Libby, which tends to more common nn in Australia than here in North America.

I like Sadie, Millie and Gracie, but I’d use them as nn, and use a more formal version on a birth certificate.

Holly Says:

February 3rd, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Love this topic as these girlie names are the ones I seem to come back to.
Minnie is divine and love every one i’ve ever met.
Polly is very sweet too but with my name I just couldn’t!
Kitty is sweet but lots here in the UK already.
Hattie is on my top list but worried people may ask if she’s Harriet?

Lottie is the top of my list and one I never stray from, would love to know what people think though?

Belona Says:

March 20th, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I like Polly and I am missing Poppy in the list. Poppy seems like a freckled-face name to me.

Olive Says:

May 21st, 2011 at 9:45 am

I think that Pippa, and Rosey are both freckled-face names for sure.

ProudMummy Says:

May 23rd, 2011 at 8:23 am

I had my Polly in 2008, and Betsy april 2010 (a week or so BEFORE Denise Van Outen called her little one Betsy!) I thought at the time i was being original, haha! i do live in a small town with no other Polly or Betsy’s so thats ok!
I love old granny chic names, Betsy has a little friend Mabel, very cute!

*person* Says:

May 28th, 2011 at 8:54 pm

No offence to the author but… Hate ’em all. I’m the kind of person who likes names: Septimus, Mae, Gail, Aphrodite, Artimis and the kind of names everyone else thinks are bizarre.
🙂

Baby Name of the Day: Polly | Appellation Mountain Says:

July 1st, 2011 at 3:04 am

[…] Nameberry called her freckle-faced, but she’s picked up an edge in recent years. […]

QuirkFlower Says:

July 20th, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Love Becky, Ginny, Suzy, Winnie and Penny! Poppy is my #1, and I feel like it fits in this category, only it’s definitely on it’s way back.

elynschmidt Says:

November 27th, 2011 at 6:56 pm

We have a little girl due in February, and we decided on the name Penny. That will be her full name since we don’t care for Penelope.

blueberry1215 Says:

October 24th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I think I’ll always love Ginny. How could I forget the great Ginny Weasley? I also like Kitty and Hattie.

I’m really hoping that my kids will have freckles, they are definitely in my genes, though they’re fading on me.

I was surprised that Polly Pocket didn’t get a mention.

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