Welcome back to Nameberry’s newest column, The Name Sage. Every week, I answer one reader’s questions about naming a baby-on-the-way, or general baby name angst. We’d love it if you would add your thoughtful suggestions and comments to help expectant parents decide. Want to see your question featured? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As she’s shared the name with others, their reactions have been overwhelmingly negative. It’s too “old lady,” a name for a granny, not a new baby girl.
And so, the question is: What do you do when most of the people around you don’t like a name you love?
It’s crushing, isn’t it? After months of searching for the right name for your daughter, everyone says that you’re making a big mistake. Huge!
It’s easy to say that you should pay no mind to the haters. Your baby, your choice! But I think that takes a pretty thick skin, and you have to assume your child will be tough enough to answer to Algernon or Legend, too.
So let’s talk about two important truths:
There’s tremendous diversity in given names today. Less than 75% of all newborns receive a Top 1000 name, a percentage that continues to drop. A Number 1 name isn’t what it used to be, either. Rewind to 1915, and more than five out of every hundred newborn girls were named Mary. Today? Around one out of every 100 newborns received the top name, Sophia. The good news? More names in use means that more names feel wearable.
Once you hear a name on a baby, it instantly becomes a baby’s name. If the only Gwendolyn you’ve ever known is your elderly great aunt, well, then Gwendolyn is an old lady’s name. But guess what? Jennifer was once a little girl. So were Lisa and Barbara and Ruth. Names age as the generations that wear them age. If Sophia can go from Golden Girl to most popular baby name in the US, it’s true for every other name, too.
The year was 2004, and the general public was aghast. Hazel was an old lady name. A witch name. Totally wrong for a baby!
Except that Julia’s choice was completely on trend – a nature name, color name, with that great ‘z’ sound, and a long enough hibernation that Hazel felt fresh again. Today Hazel is in the US Top 200 and still climbing.
It’s true that Gwendolyn was most popular from the 1930s through 1950s – the previous generation of Gwens are retirement-aged. But it’s equally true that the name is starting to feel fresh once more. Gwen – just Gwen – recently re-entered the US Top 1000 for girls. And Gwendolyn feels like a successor to Madeline and Evelyn, very popular –lyn ending names parents love.
All of this is a long way of saying that Gwendolyn Annalise is a gorgeous name, and you’re ahead of the curve. You can be quietly confident in your choice, knowing that your daughter’s name will stand out, and still fit in.