GOODBYE, GLADYS?

Historic Baby Names

There’s a lively discussion going on over at our message boards on what names have gone out of style and will probably never come back.  On the permanent Out List, by consensus, are:

BERTHA

BEULAH

BRUNHILDA (was this ever in, I mean since the 11th century?)

CLORIS

DORCAS

DORIS

EUNICE

GAY

HESTER

HILDA

HORTENSE — Enjoys the shortest entry in The Baby Name Bible: “No.”

IRMA

RHODA

SELMA

VERNA

boys

CLETUS

DWAYNE (This reminds me of a very funny line from the Pioneer Woman: “I didn’t even know his name; I just hoped it wasn’t Dwayne.”)

EBENEZER

HORTON

HUBERT

LEROY

MORRIS

NORBERT

WILBUR

We’re with you so far, name lovers, and can even understand why you disagree on whether some choices belong on the Out-Forever List.  One person sees Gertrude as cute, like little Drew Barrymore in ET, while another says it reminds her forever of the word girdle.  Myrtle is fresh and flower-like to one visitor, terminally dowdy to another.  And Grover is adorable to one message boardie, doomed to Sesame Street purgatory by another.

And Linda! ?! Let’s not even go there.

We’ve learned the hard way that there are very few names you can categorically declare out of style forever.  Today’s Shirley — terminally dated name — is tomorrow’s Ida or Arthur: born-again hottie.

Here some names that we once declared dead forever (or forever-ish) only to see them rise again.

girls

AUGUSTA

ESTELLE

ESTHER

FLORENCE

FRIEDA

IDA

LENORE

MILDRED

MURIEL

PEARL

VERA

ZELDA

boys

BERNARD

EDGAR

EDWIN

ERNEST

FRANKLIN

HARVEY

JULIUS

MARTIN

RAYMOND

VICTOR

VINCENT

WARREN

WOLFGANG

Are there any besides the ones already identified by the message board devotees that we’d still call as out forever?  Gladys.  Myrna.  Phyllis, Shirley, Wanda.  Arnold and Dewey, Egbert and Elmer, Hyman and Melvin.  Which I guess pretty much guarantees that they’ll come back into style any day now.

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29 Responses to “GOODBYE, GLADYS?”

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Erin Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 1:29 am

There’s a Morris in my son’s preschool class. He often goes by “Mo.” Works for him, definitely! I kinda like Selma, too.

Melissa Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 7:00 am

I could totally see Leroy making a comeback. Geek chic.

realpraise Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 8:23 am

Rhoda should not be on this list. She doesn’t sound heavy footed like the others. And Ebenezer… shoot me, but I think the Dickens association is great. Ben is a great nickname.

Andrea Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 8:31 am

Duane/Dwayne and Leroy have never really been out of use. Dwayne was listed at 660 on the popularity chart last year and the spelling Duane was still in the top 1,000 until 2002. Leroy was hanging on in the top 1,000 at 999 last year. They’re names that are out of style, but that’s not the same thing as “out forever.” I run into boys with these names every now and then and am not terribly surprised, since they’re more classic than anything else. Such boys are often “Dwayne Jr.” or “Little Leroy” because they have dads or grandpas with the same name.

The girls’ names are definitely more rare. I don’t mind Hortense, actually, even though I can see what boys will probably do to it on the playground. Hortensia is kind of pretty too.

Andrea Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 8:33 am

Rhoda isn’t that out there either and is definitely still in use on occasion.

Lola Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 10:26 am

Aww, Doris! My girl had a baby doll named Doris (she has one eye that never closes and weird dreaded hair, but still, Doris!) I think she did it so she could call her Dory, like in “Nemo (which, incidentally, is a most awesome name for a Fish!). Just wait ’til she realises Grandma Honey’s real name is Pandora! I am going to have wicked awesomely named Grandkids someday! 🙂

And I know a little Morris! He goes by Morry, and is 2 and a half. Cute little blondie, big green eyes and glasses. Wat a sweetie too. yeah, i think Morris is still doable.

Lesley Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 10:37 am

I actually think Shirley is really cute. I could see that one coming back, although it probably would need someone to shake the Shirley Temple image like what has happened with the name Scarlett.

Elizabeth Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 10:45 am

I don’t think Dwayne is out forever. The rapper Lil Wayne’s real name is Dwayne and I think that might be enough to keep it from obscurity for now. Lil Wayne and I are both from the Southeastern U.S. and it still seems fairly common here.

marikm Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 11:57 am

I do know a (nineteen-year-old) Shirley and it works for her, but I feel like it’s part of the Asian-American parents naming their children baby boomer names thing…. That does exist beyond just my friends, right? I know an Asian Arnold, Cindy, Terrence, Deborah, Karen and Regina.

ricamaca Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 1:45 pm

I think Selma is cute! And I really don’t mind Leroy, at all. I just hope to the heavens that Dorcas is gone forever. It really makes me cringe!

Pam Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Wait, two toddlers named Morris? I’d call that a trend! Geek Chic indeed.

Jenmb Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 8:27 pm

I could see Selma gaining popularity if/when the Simpsons finally goes off the air. Hubert’s not bad either. Morris definitely has a cool factor to it. Ever heard of Morris Chesnut? Also Dwayne Wade is a pretty well known basketball player. The rest of the names? I would be surprised to see them make a comeback.

violetsmom Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Selma isn’t too bad, I think of actress Selma Blair

Emmy Jo Says:

April 1st, 2009 at 12:07 am

I don’t think Selma and Rhoda belong on the list. Selma makes me think of actress Selma Blair. And Rhoda is a cute biblical name — it’s hard for biblical names to stay “out” forever, unless, like Dorcas, they sound like a bad English word.

I could definitely see Doris coming back in. When you think about it as a Greek ocean nymph name, it’s actually rather romantic. And its association with Doris Day certainly helps!

And I could get behind Morris, too.

How do we feel about Myron and Murray? They seem to be classified as very “out” names on Nameberry, but I could see them becoming very fashionable rather soon.

How do we feel about Floyd? That one feels very dorky to me, possibly even hopeless.

Emz Says:

April 1st, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Murray is pretty fashionable in Scotland just now. It’s top hundred (can’t remember exactly where) and I know a couple of wee ones with this name. I like it.

JustADad Says:

April 2nd, 2009 at 7:48 am

Phyllis is the name of a major character on the Young and the Restless: she’s smart (often conniving, though) and beautiful, and the name doesn’t seem dowdy on her at all. It’s so close to Phillip, which is a classic name, that I could see it making a comeback.

Magda Says:

April 2nd, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Believe it or not, Hubert is a rising star in Poland right now (though it’s pronounced “HOO-bert.”)

Anya Says:

April 2nd, 2009 at 4:53 pm

I know a two year old named Gladys!! I don’t think that name is going to make a comeback though.

iris1973 Says:

April 4th, 2009 at 1:25 pm

A lot of comebacks happen when a name re-enters the public vernacular through film, literature, or pop culture. Case in point: Hermione. A relatively dusty name on the shelf in England and virtually un-used here until the Harry Potter books came out. I realize Hermione isn’t breaking any records over here, but at least it’s something most people would recognize and associate with a cute little girl rather than a historical queen wearing petticoats. I think any name on this list has the possibility of coming back if the right person or character comes along. Our society is just that fickle!

Liana Says:

April 4th, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Great article, guys 🙂

I agree with you, but I think some names on that list will make a comeback, Brunhilda, Hilda, Norbert and Wilbur (comes with the nn Will) are due for a comeback, I think they’re charming! And I love Augusta.

Annika Says:

April 11th, 2009 at 3:11 pm

I actually met a little toddler named Selma today. Her big sister was called Elisa, so maybe for the parents it was in the area of traditional names that become usuable again.

Angela Says:

May 8th, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Agnes should be on the “Permanent Out List”. Dorothea is pretty bad, too. Edwina, Millicent, Minerva, Rhoda, Prudence, Obedience, Esmerelda, Wilda, Cornelia, and Winifred are even worse.

Charlotte Says:

July 26th, 2009 at 1:22 pm

I happen to think Dorothea, Millicent, Edwina, Morris (a loved family name here) and Winifred are all on their way back. I have 2 archie’s in my mom’s group (both under 1 yr old) and several Dot’s and Dottie’s (nn’s for Dorothy).

linda Says:

July 26th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

That’s interesting…where are you writing from?

Angela Says:

August 21st, 2009 at 12:33 pm

I don’t know why someone would name a child after a disease. I have an aunt named “Ruebella”. This isn’t the name she goes by, so I didn’t know until yesterday. When I first heard the song “Ruebella” I didn’t think it was a real name, but apparently, it is.

Lucy Says:

November 14th, 2009 at 11:45 pm

marikm Says:

March 31st, 2009 at 11:57 am

I do know a (nineteen-year-old) Shirley and it works for her, but I feel like it’s part of the Asian-American parents naming their children baby boomer names thing…. That does exist beyond just my friends, right? I know an Asian Arnold, Cindy, Terrence, Deborah, Karen and Regina.

To reply to this:
Yes! I defininetly know what you’re talking about! I know an Asian Cindy, Pamela, Richard, Sandy, and Janice, all under the age of 13. It’s mostly because the parents are immigrants coming to this country and the only names they know are either old celebrities or names of people in their English textbooks.

Kat Says:

May 20th, 2010 at 9:44 am

I wouldn’t count Melvin out just yet. I have a feeling the nickname “Mel” might jump on the Max/Gus bandwagon.

My mother’s name is Linda, and it means beautiful in Spanish, so I guess I am one person who still likes that name.

Namesy Says:

March 29th, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Sorry, Angela, but I really like those names you mentioned!

I disagree with this post! These names sound crusty and unappealing NOW, but in a decade I bet MOST of them will sound cute and fresh!

Please don’t murder me but I love Hortense and Brunhilda. Bruna, Una, Hilda, Ida, B/H/R/Nilly… So many nicknames! Pam and Linda, if Horatia has the “fusty charm” you say it does, then why not Hortense? Ortensia is very pretty, too.

Claire Says:

July 4th, 2011 at 2:28 am

Namesy — Nice to know I’m not wrong for actually kind of liking Hortense. Brunhilda, not so much…remember BroomHilda, the green cartoon witch?

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