The Anglo-American Baby Name Divide

by Michelle ShepherdBarron of  whatiwas wearing

Move to a different country, you’ll encounter the unfamiliar – new culture, customs, food, weather and attitudes.  I was prepared for that when I left America to live in Britain. Even the language –notionally the same in both nations – had its variants: biccy for cookie, jumper for sweater, lift for elevator and the English tendency to jam a silent ‘u’ into the middle of perfectly ordinary words.  All of this was to be expected. The one difference I hadn’t anticipated, and that took me by surprise, was in the way British name their children, and the coded meaning of those names.

For obvious reasons, baby names are still THE topic of the day in Britain, following the much anticipated birth and naming announcements of Baby Cambridge.  To everyone’s surprise, the string of names was shortened from four to three, beginning with the consistent front-runner George, followed by the somewhat less expected Alexander and Louis.

But despite the diminished thickness of the royal baby’s name sandwich, the whole package will be distilled down to a single nickname. This nickname will be very affectionate. It may also be a little goofy, because that is what the upper classes do in Britain: they give a child a long line of important, reverent names, dripping with heritage, and then reduce them to one irreverent tag. 

For example, an upper class British family of my acquaintance has a great many uncles, aunts, siblings and cousins. I’ve met them all, stayed with them many times, but if you held a lit match to my toes I still wouldn’t be able to come up with their real names. Everyone, from friends to business associates, knows the members of this cultured, well-educated family by the following nicknames: Pookie, Wacky, Barkie, Bunny, Shrimpie, Goatie, Essie, Abblie, Pila, Pippi, Plotta, Lully, Tig, Pin, Toot and Blodge.

The American analogue to the British upper- and upper middle classes, are of course the preppies and those who aspire to preppydom. This segment of American society tends to give its children traditional names in the style of the British upper- and upper-middle classes, and for the same reasons: like their British counterparts, they are referencing their heritage and predecessors.

But the similarities end there.

The parents of America’s first families often favor masculine first names for their daughters:  Kyle, Blaine, Blake and Elliot are not uncommon. They’re also happy to christen children of both sexes with surnames as first names: Anderson, Brooks, Walker. It’s one more way to fit their forefathers into the naming mix. The British upper and upper-middle classes generally shun these styles, characterizing them as trendy and too unconventional.

Conversely, when it comes to nicknames, US preppies seem to prefer the relatively conventional; an American boy may wear a jaunty, sporty tag – Trip or Scooter – and both sexes may be known, familiarly, by shortened, diminutive versions of their given names —Tom or Tommy, Chaz, Lizzie and Gaby — but they don’t tend to embrace the silly, sardonic sobriquets that appeal to the British uppers.

In fact, if the naming or, rather, nick-naming quirks of the British uppers have an American counterpart, it would be with Americans from the southern states and, more specifically, with that strata of Southern society that is disparagingly described as redneck. Honey Boo Boo is more akin to the intimate, irreverent spirit of an upper class Brit nickname than any Scooter, Trip or Ty.

The truth is, despite the fact that the two nations share a language, the differences in baby naming habits are great. There is one major similarity, though: in both Britain and America, baby names are very much about aspiration. Heritage and aesthetics come into it, of course, as does the desire to honor a beloved and/or important relative. But in the main, in both the USA and the UK, the names parents give their children reflect the hopes and dreams they have for their offspring.

But there, of course, the difference is in the nature of those aspirations.

Putting aside regional and cultural issues, certain generalities can be made about the distinctions between baby naming in the UK versus the USA:

In Britain, naming aspirations adhere to class boundaries and conventions.  In America, it can be argued that class is less of an issue, perhaps even a non-issue, given that it’s a country that celebrates the self-created individual. Conceivably, if a Russian or Vietnamese or Peruvian immigrant aspires to have her American-born child perceived as a Mayflower descendant, then they might choose names such as Jefferson, Bradley, Nathaniel, John Adams, Quincy or Zachary. And no one would laugh or even judge. Those parents’ aspirations would be out there for everyone to see – and respect.  But immigrant or working class British parents, whatever their aspirations, would be squeamish about reaching that high and revealing those aspirations. As a result, they would tend to steer clear of traditional, upper-class sounding names such as Sophie, Charles, Emma, James, Arabella, Toby and Henry. To hang such a name on a child in that milieu would be construed as putting on airs.

Victorian and Regency names with royal connotations (Louise, Beatrice, Albert, George, Eugenie, Victoria, Clarissa, Jane, David and Annabel) are always in favor with British upper and upper-middle class parents; oddly enough, the grandest families are also partial to what are known as housemaid names: Ruby, Mabel, Daisy, Matilda and Rose.

Americans like what I call alphabet grouping for their children’s names: an entire family of ‘K’ or ‘J’ names, for example: Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, or Jasmine, Jessica and Jaden. In the UK, those kinds of euphonious links would be considered lower class, as would the style of naming one’s child after a celebrity, a Kylie, Britney or Elton.

Celebrity baby names, in fact, are anomalies; in essence, celebrities are a nation unto themselves. But even among British celebrities, there are distinctions and conventions within the realm of baby naming. In America, celebrity baby names are accepted as the provenance of the great and wacky. Apple, Blue Ivy, North West,  none of these names is assessed in class terms. In Britain, though, celebrity baby names do not escape the strictures of class and convention. For example, the names assigned to the Beckham children – Brooklyn, Romeo – and to the children of other sporting icons (footballer Wayne Rooney gave both his sons ‘K’ names) are judged as distinctly lower-middle class. In contrast, actress Kate Winslet satisfied the naming criteria for an upper-middle class creative by calling her daughter Mia Honey and her son, Joe Alfie. Similarly, keeping within the boundaries of upper-class bohemianism  is singer Bryan Ferry; he and his wife named their children Otis, Perry, Merlin, Tara and Isaac. Eccentric, but very much of a certain class.

It would have been nice to be able to write a piece comparing British and American baby names and not have to discuss class values. But the reality is that while American names are often about aspiring toward a certain world or status, British names are all too often about guarding status and ensuring your child’s name conveys the right class message.

I was called Michelle in honor and memory of my grandmother Minnie. In New Jersey, where I grew up, Michelle was considered rather exotic, a pretty and even glamorous handle. Imagine my surprise when I moved to Britain and discovered I was in possession of what’s known in the UK as a soap opera name – code for lower class (in America, soap operas are aspirational, peopled with upper- and upper-middle types; in Britain the settings are working and lower class), a name that was clearly trying too hard.

Michelle ShepherdBarron is a writer and professional namer, with bases in London and New York. In her blog, whatiwaswearing, she writes about life as an American in England, river swimming, motherhood and trying not to smoke.  Her twitter address is: @M_S_Barron.

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33 Responses to “The Anglo-American Baby Name Divide”

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sapphires Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 4:25 am

“they give a child a long line of important, reverent names, dripping with heritage, and then reduce them to one irreverent tag. ”

I’ve lived in England my entire life, and honestly it’s not like this at all. Nicknames are rare – nicknames as full names are very popular, so nicknames are scarce. For example, names like Alfie, Charlie, Poppy, Katie are really popular, and an Eleanor will likely just go by Eleanor rather than Ellie or Nora. Most Ellies are just Ellie, no longer name.

There’s a stereotype that British people give their children long, classy names, when we don’t. We have “trendy” names just like in the US, although our “trendy” is a little different – names like Owen, Rhys, Alfie, Callum, Tyler, Scarlett, Ruby, Isla, Summer might be considered trendy to a lot of people here, at least in my area. {I’m not saying these are bad names, so no offence to those with children by these names}

orphanedhanyou Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 6:24 am

so basically the British seem to constrain themselves to some invisible social normal and rules and classes while America gives people more free reign in names even if they may not be the best idea which makes sense due to our history and different philosophy as a nation. it seems Britain and other nations do this a lot with their lives – its like a false freedom, a freedom within rules. which of course we have has well it just seems their ‘guidelines’ are tighter. it also comes to mind that its such a small nation – square footage wise – that gives me the idea that since they are so much older they are just growing and growing and covering each other up like falling leaves layering themselves and never getting disturbed. part of this is nice that is brings tradition, the other aspect seems quite stagnant and very close minded, but again in the false/blind sense in that they believe they are the opposite.

and i agree- from what i hear, they are very nicknamey (whether or not they are shortened names or ‘real’ names, a name like Alfie is a nickname no matter if only Alfie is on the birth certificate) and i get the impression that underneath their pomp & posh candy shell they give off a ‘lets make fun of ourselves’ aura either intentionally or again through a blindness, example using (to an Americans mind) such odd nicknamey names that are uniquely British and do promote the bad teeth stereotypical images im sure no one appreciates.

BritishAmerican Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 7:52 am

Very interesting read! 🙂

I read something yesterday that said Prince George has been nicknamed PC (Prince Cambridge) in the Royal Family and that Kate is now MC (Mother Cambridge.) No clue how accurate that is, but that supports your article! 🙂

As a British expat in the US, I gave my 3 kids “traditional, upper-class sounding names” – wondering whether I couldn’t have pulled that off back in the UK?! 😛 I’m trying to think of names that friends I grew up with named their kids: Freddie, Lily, Ellie-Dot, Jay, Rebekah, Daniel, Hannah, Alexander, Louis, Emilia. George is so popular in the UK that perhaps I could have pulled that one off? Never heard my daughter’s name (Rose) described as a “housemaid name” either. 😛

vanessaaball Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 7:58 am

I have given my sons very silly and irreverent nicknames but I would never introduce them to strangers by these names or expect them to carry them to adulthood.

I can’t, even for a moment, picture my sister using her childhood nickname BoBo in her career.

Maerad Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 9:12 am

This might just be the Brit in me, but this doesn’t appear to paint British naming in a particularly good light…

@Orphandedhanyou I reject the idea that it’s stagnant and close minded. The article makes it sound as though we all stick to our own class names and that’s that, also that in some way people who immigrate here feel that they can’t use an ‘old English’ name for fear of overstepping a boundary in naming. And that’s just not the case.
I’m not going to deny that there is somewhat of a class system with some names, but it’s no way near as tight as it sounds. There are Olivias, Sophias, Isabellas etc of every ‘class’.

The names that get the most flack are the ones that most people on this site, and I dare say America, find a bit strange like Nevaeh, things Yoonyqk spellings and strange word names like Bright.

British naming style is different to the American one, and in some ways it may lack a bit of ‘freedom’ although at the same time Americans may find names that are completely acceptable here to not be there, to seem too grand or too babyish. For example Cecily here could be used by any one and be accepted, as could Imogen or Agnes. In my name travels I’ve seen these names all be put down by American namers for not fitting in with their society or, dare I say it, class. And names such as Alfie, Maisie, Freddie and Evie – it’s not ‘Posh’ or ‘Lets make fun of ourselves’ it’s just names that appeal to the British as a whole. In face the ‘nickname name’ trend has surpassed many a class boundary. There are lots of little Alfies and Freddies which exist in the ‘highest’ and ‘lowest’ spheres. Same goes for Evie (I know about 8 Evies, one is at a ‘Ladies Boarding School’ and another didn’t finish High School, the rest all vary in between).

This article makes it sound as though in Britain you can tell the race, gender and affluence of a child’s background from it’s name, and that’s just not the case. I think it’s unfair to make it sound as though it’s all incredibly structured and rigid when really it’s quite fluid, varied and in some cases wild, as it is in America.

British naming style is often different from Americas (see the same letter theme, in the UK it would seem tacky, but any ‘class’ could do it) but it’s not ‘bad’ or ‘stuffy’ or, in my opinion, any more or less about status than naming is in any other part of the world, because Americans can and do name for status as well.

As an add on – I know an Imogen who goes by Idgie and a Katriona who is sometimes called Yoyo. However these strange nicknames are only used by family and very close friends and that’s not strange at all, happens all over the world. Idgie as a nn for Imogen was praised by Nameberry a few months a go.
Nicknames are more common, it would appear, in the UK and are often used as terms of endearment and familiarity even if the name doesn’t actually need a nick name thus how you get strange ones like Yoyo. I don’t see how that has anything to do with class or status.

I could write an article about the difference between British and American names without a large look at class values, I’m not sure why this write seems to find it so hard.

Ana Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 10:11 am

I do believe, that this “class” issue, is not exclusively British. I’m Portuguese, and the same class division happens. Upper Class family wouldn’t use a a lower Class name, for example, Jessica, Kelly, Diego, Cristiano, (most of them imported names) and will prefer a traditional Portuguese name like: Benedita, Constança, Carmo, Rodrigo, Afonso.

tfzolghadr Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 11:02 am

Interesting, but I agree it’s an oversimplification. I am American, and have an uncle with the nickname of Boog (after boogers, as he picked his nose as a child). Also, I attended grad school in any Ivy League with some very, very upper class American kids… the kind whose parents name scholarships after them. I must say that youneek spellings and boys’ names for girls were not as glorified as you say. A friend directly said it’s what the lower and lower-middle classes do… she “wouldn’t be caught dead” with a daughter named Kyle (we had a classmate named Kyle… a girl… who was actually mocked by snooty potential employers, and upper class classmates). This exists in the U.S., too… now, perhaps it’s regional or based also on educational levels (not just economic status), but it’s there… Oakleigh and a daughter named Hunter still pin you down as being lower middle or lower class (or just a tad uneducated). Even if people don’t want to directly say it (it’s snooty and judgmental), many will think it.

LucyAlice Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 11:14 am

As an Australian i am suprised and disappointed with this thread; it puts America in an oh-so-better light and then i see ppl posting ridiculous assumptions of the British!! And to say Honey Boo Boo is more akin to English naming trends is a joke! Only in America wld you find such ridiculous names in mainstream sure David Beckham has a nickname ( maybe Doodie, who knows?!?), do you see him going by it everyday? No. I love American naming styles but get so damn disappointed when i continue to read the silliest things assumed about the British. And even Australians and the English have their differences, from way back; to assume Australians are mostly British would be a mis-step. This article makes it sound like the English have never given a child a decent name.

King Buddy anyone??

LucyAlice Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 11:25 am

i apologise to the ppl who have posted here this far; i notice the post that ‘got my goat’ was Orphanedhanyou’s…..and it does not shock me as ive seen some rather nasty, narrow-minded posts from this person regarding suggestions mother’s have posted about naming their unborn child/ren.

I should mention Alana (Honey Boo Boo’s real name) has been popular on and off for a while here. I feel bad hacking on a kid’s name but i was trying to make a point 🙁

I simply found this article biased considering how popular it is world-over…

LucyAlice Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 11:35 am

Nameberry, that is

and im here most every day 🙂

TaylorBlueSkye Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 11:59 am

This was very interesting to read, especially the class idea, because I feel we have a very similar new trend in Germany. It just started about ten years ago and I hate it.

Foreign names (on German children that is!) are considered lower class, comedians make jokes about it and all that. The names that are like stereotypes right nor are Kevin, Justin and Chatal.

The idea of it is that people with lower education dream of something big and name their kids after celebrities or something very international sounding.

I think they just name their kids what they think sounds good to their ears.

On the other hand the upper class apperently feels the need to show they belong to the upper class and go with something very classy, but even here, please not too weird! So they tend to go with very boring names and created their own name trend.

I can’t tell you how frustrating the name trend is right now.

And the funny thing is, we never had that. So it’s not something that is rooted in this country nor do i believe there is more class thinking in the UK or Germany than there is in the USA.

But somehow this trend got started and it’s horrible because in 10 years people who hire will be able to tell which applicant comes from which “class”.

But come on Americans, don’t you have a similar developement?

I mean on nameberry people tend to dislike trendy names and trendy spellings, wouldn’t you read a class difference from Jeydyn Mykkayla and Elizabeth Rose?

StasMarie Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Absolutely, there is a class system among the Americans when it comes to naming. Of course, anyone could give their child an exotic name or a name typically heard in the upper crust of American society, but there are certain names that denote class in America. Anyone who has been a part of the lower classes could tell you without a doubt there is a class system when it comes to naming. Everyone knows those names that are decidedly “lower class.” Likewise, giving a child an unusual name among the lower classes is viewed as snobbish.

AriellaDreams Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 1:23 pm

There are definitely class associations with names over here, but I think that aside from some heavily stereotyped names they are getting better.

I know a lot of working class people who have given their kids names like Arabella and Isaac because of the upper class associations that used to be there. People amongst the working classes are becoming more aware of the impact a name can hold. This isn’t something that can be said for many upper class, especially the old money families. Having briefly worked in a private school I can safely say I have never seen so many … interesting names. But of course, it won’t hold them back. Because while they might be kind of dumb sounding, they aren’t considered chavvy or tacky.

charlieandperry1 Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 3:27 pm

So the international belief that Britain still has a class system akin to that of the Victorian era is still alive and kicking then? *facepalm*

It sounds as though the author has been spending much of her time circulating in the ‘upper classes’. In my experience it’s those kind of people that still adhere to old social values and ideas and identify with a class. The rest of us peasants couldn’t care less. No one is restricted by ‘class boundaries and conventions’. I don’t believe anyone wants to pass off their hopes and aspirations by naming their child. Most people (prepare yourself for this) give their kids names that they LIKE. Shock horror. And the idea that working class/immigrant families are too scared to give their child an ‘upper class’ name is totally ridiculous. I grew up in what would be called a very ‘working class’ area. Most of those kids had names like Emma, Sophie, Emily, Bella, James, Thomas etc. Total non-argument.

“British names are all too often about guarding status and ensuring your child’s name conveys the right class message.” No.

“This article makes it sound as though in Britain you can tell the race, gender and affluence of a child’s background from it’s name, and that’s just not the case. I think it’s unfair to make it sound as though it’s all incredibly structured and rigid when really it’s quite fluid, varied and in some cases wild, as it is in America.” Thank you, Maerad! I’m in total agreement with her/him and would also find it incredibly easy to write an article comparing US/UK trends without having to constantly refer to class.

I was looking forward to a nice article explaining the reasons behind different styles on each side of the pond but I’ve ended up reading a load of bull from someone stoking the flames of the class debate.

And we didn’t jam ‘U’s into anything. The Americans took them out.

TaylorBlueSkye Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 5:51 pm

It is always dangerous to put your own country above other countries. Especially when apparently you have no idea of history and politics. Alone saying that The US is a country of freedom when comparing to Western European countries shows a lack of education. Pretending there are less Class issues is just ignorant. I hope the Author as well as orphanedhanyou will one day have The Chance To live in other countries and learn that The US was once ahead oft other countries in terms oft freedom and democracy but that that was a long time ago and could now in many terms learn from Europe.

TaylorBlueSkye Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Sorry, my auto correct is very ignorant to english words, i meant “of”.

mmljar1 Says:

July 29th, 2013 at 10:30 pm

I found this post very interesting but being neither British nor American I am not well placed to comment.

I have been feeling rather frustrated in recent months though about posts that assume that all readers and posters are from the USA. I see mockery of names pinned as ‘yooneek’ that are perfectly culturally correct. I also a see a constant reference to name popularity that assumes that the American stats are world-wide ones. I have also been upset to see people pilloried over using names that are perfectly acceptable because they have some sort of connection to USA pop-culture that the rest of the world can’t be expected to know about (Allegra springs to mind – the drug is called ‘Telfast’ here!).

I feel that nameberry are trying to overcome this by featuring overseas bloggers and data but readers don’t all seem to be getting the message. Is there any data that would indicate the actual readership of the blog? I would love to see data of USA readers vs other parts of the world. If the readership is 95% USA then I will move on and accept that an American-centric view is valid but if things are as I suspect and the numbers are a lot more egalitarian then I think this should be pointed out to posters who step over the line!

Perhaps a blog post about naming your children as an emigrant or minority culture would be very interesting…

clairels Says:

July 30th, 2013 at 2:00 am

Of course, this article presents a simplistic view of British life, but that’s the point. To acknowledge that England has the same number of class-related nuances that we do would mean that the author could no longer feed into her delusion that her role in life is to gallivant around the countryside with Lord and Lady Autumn-bottom, teaching the rest of us poor American commoners how the aristocracy lives.

ottilie Says:

July 30th, 2013 at 2:17 am

Charlie&perry & Maerad; hear hear! Wholeheartedly agree with everything… Especially the U thing, that annoyed me too.

I come from an upper middle class background, Husband from upper class, and I can say no one in our families call each other those ridiculous nicknames. People have family pet names, but that’s true for all families despite your “social ranking”. And the idea that immigrants and lower class people avoid Sophie, Emma and James is laughable.

I’m quite disappointed that nameberry even poted this.

leahmarie512 Says:

July 30th, 2013 at 7:13 am

Even though I am an American and cannot say with any certainty that the information in the article is incorrect, it did seem incredibly biased to me, even while reading it. Now, after reading through the comments, I intend to take this post with a big grain of salt.

However, I would like to address a comment made by mmljar1:
While posting in the forums, I try to take the person’s location into account. However, many people do not have their country listed, at least publicly. In that case I don’t think it’s “country-ist,” or whatever you’re trying to imply, to assume that the person is from the same place as I am. It’s perfectly natural to do that, as that is what’s familiar, and I highly doubt that it is a strictly American tendency.

Also, I have posted in the thread that you seem to be referring to in your comment about the name Allegra. I feel that the reason a lot of the reason people post in forums like the ones on NB are to gather opinions and associations of names that come from outside their immediate circle of family and friends. Therefore, I feel highly justified in mentioning that a particular name brings to mind a certain medication (and there is no way that I would describe how I, or others I saw making similar comments, said it as the OP being “pilloried”). If the poster is from a different country/culture, than obviously they can ignore my comment, but if not, I feel that I’ve given a very helpful piece of advice.

Having said all of that, I do feel that I am likely guilty of referencing only the US popularity stats, and will take more notice of that in the future. I too would love to see some data on the membership of NB; I think it would be very interesting!

mmljar1 Says:

July 30th, 2013 at 9:46 am

Hi Leahmarie,

Thank you for drawing my attention to the recent forum post about the name Allegra. I wasn’t referring to this post (in fact I wasn’t even aware of it) but was fishing around in my memory for an example that easily illustrated my point.

There was an old post about this name that was more heated but I can’t find it so possibly it was removed or edited? Either way I wasn’t trying to rehash old history but just to give an example of a name that works very well in some parts and not so well in others but which wouldn’t be immediately apparent.

As for assuming that everyone comes from the same place as you – do people do that? I think that is an interesting question. I don’t think that I do but possibly this comes from being from a small place, maybe others do and I am missing something.

I am not trying to offend anyone with my post – just contribute fairly to the discussion and explain some genuine thoughts that I have about a site that I enjoy being part of.

MissyLynn Says:

July 30th, 2013 at 9:55 am

@mmljar1 and @leahmarie512 I’m with you guys! I would love to see some stats/points about naming your children as an emigrant or minority culture, proper cultural spellings that people think are yooneek, what the top ten names around the world are (what are they in Turkey? Romania? Nova Scotia? Costa Rica?). As well as nameberry membership data!

Just like everyone else here, we only know what we grew up around and even when exposed to different cultures/countries we only know what is around us- it’s not always a proper sample of the majority. Grand assumptions around ANY topic can lead to inaccurate information. But, a blog is a blog, it is one person’s point of view so naturally it will differ from other individuals.

JessicaT11 Says:

July 30th, 2013 at 9:58 am

I think everyone (regardless of nationality) names their children what sounds best and means the most to them. I also think that what sounds best or means the most can be heavily influenced by our social circles.

TaylorBlueSkye Says:

July 30th, 2013 at 10:23 am

I’d also love to read blogs from people all over the world about baby naming in their country. When it comes to stats from other countries, name trends, why not let people who actually grew up there understand the culture, see the developent of names (instead of just lived there for one or two years) write a blog? I think it would be super interesting!

iamamiam Says:

July 30th, 2013 at 11:15 am

I don’t think the author did a good job of describing naming in the U.S., either. There are differences in attitudes towards giving children unusual names in rural vs suburban areas. Alaskans, for example, tend to give more unusual names. Also, there are cultrul/racial differences in naming. Attitudes in both countries were (by the sounds of it) over-simplified.

When giving stats, I try to say “In the US” for clarification, but I probably have forgotten that caveat at times. If there was a place to find worldwide stats, I’d love to see and use that for popularity citations. A plus to U.S. data is large sample size. Posters from other countries should feel free–and be proud to–post data from their countries. We can only give advice based upon the cultures we know about, and for those of us in the U.S., that is probably U.S. data. Likewise, if you are from Australia, you should know to ignore the U.S. drug comments…but they are helpful to nameberries in the states so why try to hush those comments? Again, feel free to post comments about Australian-centric drugs. The more info about a name, the better! I can sift through the data and decide what applies to my situation and what doesn’t.

leahmarie512 Says:

July 30th, 2013 at 12:12 pm

@mmljar1: I apologize, I thought you were referencing the more recent thread. I do think my comments on the topic still stand, though. Also, I didn’t word my comment about assuming other people are from the same place as me very well. What I meant to say was that, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I work under the assumption that the other person is from a similar background to mine, as otherwise I would have no point of reference on which to comment. I hope that makes more sense.

Going back to the article, it does seem that it would make more sense (and be more accurate) for NB to have bloggers native to the country comment on their naming cultures.

leahmarie512 Says:

July 30th, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Also, @iamamiam: I agree with everything you said!

kayso Says:

July 30th, 2013 at 5:26 pm

I have to say that I do agree with the OP’s point that nicknames seem more prevalent in Britain than in the general US culture. The Southeast is of course the obvious exception, but the OP could have proved her point with a better example than Honey Boo Boo. I have a lot of family in/from the Southeastern US, and EVERYONE has a nickname, often assigned along with the given name. And let’s not forget that the only US presidents whose nicknames are still predominantly used hail from the South- Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower, from Texas, James “Jimmy” Carter from Georgia, and William “Bill” Clinton, from Arkansas. This similarity is possibly due to the close ties that the Southeastern region of the US historically had with Britain. But the practice of nicknaming in that region is certainly not restricted to the class of “rednecks.” Honor names are HUGELY common in the South, making nicknames necessary. There’s also the once-quintessentially-Southern practice of giving a daughter the mother’s maiden name, which in some cases would make the parents feel obligated to give their daughter a girlier nickname, to differentiate Hildreth from her brother Jackson.

I feel that this surname-name use in the Southeast has also contributed to the easy acceptance of surname names in the US at large, particularly on girls, which has never happened in the UK. For example, the name Madison, the most popular surname name for girls in the US, has never ranked about 35th for stats on England and Wales, but in the US, it hasn’t been below 29th since 1995.

And class associations are strong in both countries, it seems. Here in the States, it would seem to me that the only people who care are those who belong to the upper class- but they REALLY care, and they REALLY judge names based on class- or is it class based on names? Now that I think about it, I can’t say that it’s necessarily confined strictly to old-money, upper class blue bloods. And sometimes there is a bit of racism involved, to be honest. Being Alaskan, I can’t really speak for the British, but I imagine it’s quite similar.

novaberry Says:

July 30th, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Brit here!

There are many problems with this article. Yes, there are certain names that have class connotations, just as there are in America. I doubt you would see many Monty’s or Quentin’s in your local Pound Stretcher for example, just as there are probably not many Jordan’s or Dwayne’s roaming the halls of Eton. However, of the names listed by the author as upper-class, Sophie, Emma, James & Toby, have been used by all classes in the UK for ages. Charles and Henry might once have been considered more ‘upper-class’, but are now used by people from all walks of life.

One of the peculiar things about British culture is that, the more upper-class you are, the more ‘down market’ a name you can get away with, and seem ‘eccentric’ rather than ‘chavy’. For example, if Lord Thingymebob decided to call his daughter Bianca, it would likely be assumed he had named her after a Shakespearean heroine. If Bob the Builder did the same, it would be assumed that he named her after a less-than-aspirational character in a long running soap opera. Life’s just not fair sometimes!

Comparing Honey Boo to British nicknaming styles is laughable. While many Brits will have legitimately abbreviated names as their full given names (Alfie, Molly, Freddie, etc), they would almost never introduce themselves to strangers by a familial pet name such as Moo, Siege, or Henners (all nicknames of Brits I know), and certainly not in a professional context. I take it the author met her upper-class British hosts in an informal setting, maybe even their homes, whilst surrounded by their family? I would like to see what sort of ‘silly, sardonic sobriquets’ she would have heard had she canvased people for their names in the street.

IndianRuby Says:

August 9th, 2013 at 6:28 am

@mmljar1 I agree about the assumption that everyone is from the same country as them thing. I am from Australia, but it is often assumed I am American (the Allegra thing has always confused me). I also end up assuming everybody else is American as well because it just seems that everything sways more towards an American audience. It hasn’t really bothered me, but I have never really thought much of it, either.

Anyway, I really didn’t like this article. It seemed very narrow minded and ignorant in my opinion. I’m neither American nor British, but I still saw this post to be biased and unbelievable. In a country that seems to follow some similar naming trends as both countries I find it extremely hard to believe that the lower classes are avoiding names like Emma and Sophie, especially when you look at the popularity of those names in the UK. It doesn’t seem statistically possible that they are being avoided.

Upper Class Baby Names | Waltzing More Than Matilda Says:

August 18th, 2013 at 5:05 am

[…] perhaps unattainable standards for baby names, an American blogger told us how names are done in Old Blighty’s class system, and a random Devonian reality television contestant decided nobody’s baby names were good […]

daisychain_1 Says:

July 23rd, 2014 at 11:31 am

This article is incredibly skewed and innacurate. Nicknames are given within the family home, yes, but they are most often a variation on the persons full name. Also, on comments about certain names being ‘lower class’- these stereotypes are present in all countries- they just vary due to popular culture and the associations made within that culture. I have certainly seen a fair amount of American stereotypes of names on this site!

Back to the cutesy nicknames, previous posters have suggested that they reinforce the ‘bad teeth stereotype’ (a stereotype which I have never understood), but I simply think that they are charming, and show affection between relatives and close friends. It certainly isn’t something to bash the British about!

The simple truth is that this article is basically complete rubbish and that, as with any other country, Brits just pick names that they like or have meaning to then for their children. Honestly, when will this ‘posh and snobby’ prejudice of Brits eventually wear off?

Notes from the April, 2016 Tamale Hut Café Writers Group meeting | Tamale Hut Café Writers Group Says:

April 12th, 2016 at 11:47 pm

[…] The rest of the meeting was taken up with the usual conversation and critiques of the submitted pieces.  One digression that was really interesting was regarding naming your characters.  It seemed that everyone had a slightly different method of assigning a name to a character in their story, everything from using random name generators to baby naming web sites.  Sean found an article which lists names chosen by rich parents.  I know when I was naming characters in my third novel, set in 1926, I used a page on the Social Security Administration site, which helpfully breaks down popular names by decade .  Since the meeting, Sean sent in another article about how names differ by culture. […]

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