THE FOUR-GENERATION RULE
It takes at least four generations for names to sound appealing again for babies. The names of today’s moms and dads – names popular from the late sixties through the eighties – are for the most part too familiar to foist upon an innocent newborn. You’ll find a lot of young parents but not many stylish babies with the following 1970s-style names:
Boys are a little more complicated, as styles don’t change as fast and more boys are named after their dads. Still, these are found far less frequently now than in the 1970s.
It’s not until you go back four generations, to names popular around the 1920s, that you start to find some appeal. Names from that decade that are beginning to find a new audience among modern baby namers, for stylish newborns, are:
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on April 2nd, 2009 at 7:25 am
I pity the poor child who gets branded with a name like Edith, Hazel or Chester. Most of the 1920s boys names could use another generation or two of distancing. Henry, Walter and Arthur should be shrouded in the mists of time to disguise their clunkiness.
on April 2nd, 2009 at 8:28 am
Deborah’s in, but Debra’s out.
on April 2nd, 2009 at 10:32 am
Too funny. In my family, Josephine, Marilyn, Bruce, Henry, Arthur, Leo, Violet, Wayne, Leonard & Patricia are all contemporaries. Josephine, Bruce, Wayne (yeah, really), Leo, Arthur, Violet, Henry & Patricia from the parents generation (for me, grandparent for Josie), Marilyn & Leonard are the ones still living, they’re my Aunt/Uncle and Josie’s greats.
Bruce was his Uncle, Wayne was my Pop. (I still giggle when I think about that, Batman freak I’m with) And if I had to choose a 70’s name for a kid of mine, well, Dennis, Glen(n), Steven (as Stephen), Douglas & Jessica would be my choices. (Gods help me if I had to name more than 1 daughter off of that list!)
And for the record, Ken, is aging into a lovely classic from my perspective. Kenneth as a whole is gracefully aging. Just a bit of charming silver. And if he’d let me, I’d name a kid after him.
on April 2nd, 2009 at 12:06 pm
I pretty much agree on all but several on the first list…I know plenty of little Katies, Laurens and Megans these days. And a fair amount of Erins, Lindsays and Jessicas. I’m starting to hear a few Amys and Kellys as well.
on April 2nd, 2009 at 12:40 pm
I still can’t figure it out but I have seen a good crop of baby Jessicas lately. I’m not sure if it is just a blip in my area or not.
It’s not that we missed out when it was popular in the early 80’s. There were lots of Jessicas around at school.
Kim W Said
on April 2nd, 2009 at 1:35 pm
Oh I disagree with one of the previous posters. Hazel, Chester, Edith, Henry, Walter, and Arthur are great names! (Henry, Chester, and Arthur are all on our list). Hazel would be if my husband didn’t have a mean great aunt named Hazel. 🙂
I love the 4th generation names!
on April 2nd, 2009 at 2:55 pm
Some of the names from my generation are classics. Lori and Tracy are probably out, but Amy, Katie, Kelly, Lauren, Megan, Melissa, etc.? Still very much in use. I find some of the 1950s names appealing as well.
on April 2nd, 2009 at 4:31 pm
I was so excited when I found out Alice was the name of the day! It has certainly earned new appreciation. When I was a kid, I was the only ‘Alice’ in my school!
on April 2nd, 2009 at 6:26 pm
I have a Derek and a Darren in class this year (age 13). When I first saw these names on my list, I thought they were outdated too, but they seem fresh among all the Tylers, Lukes, and Nicks.
on April 2nd, 2009 at 6:57 pm
Alison Sweeney of Days and Biggest Loser just named her daughter Megan Hope, I think it’s having a little resurgence.
on April 2nd, 2009 at 7:13 pm
Nah, not really.
Emmy Jo Said
on April 2nd, 2009 at 7:32 pm
I see a lot more appeal in the 70’s boys’ names than girls’ names. Kenneth/Ken charms me, and I could almost like Douglas if the nickname “Doug” weren’t such a silly-sounding English word. Dennis and Bradley could be pretty handsome, too.
Of the baby boomer names, I like Carol, Marilyn, Joyce, and Lawrence.
While a few of the 20’s names sound clunky to me, most of them are lovely. Clara, Eleanor, Violet, Edward, Arthur, and Fred(erick) are all in my personal top 10. Edith and Louise, however, are two that I don’t think will ever appeal to me.
on April 2nd, 2009 at 8:18 pm
It’s so true how right you are. It’s funny because my mom’s name is Kelly, and I actually know a few girls my age with the name Kelly.
But it’s also somewhat funny because I looked through the list of the names from the ’20s. and I love so many of them (some are on my favorites or on my consideration names). These are:
Grace (favorites as a middle)
Margaret (one of my all time favorites)
Violet (love love love)
Henry (another one of my all time favorites)
on April 2nd, 2009 at 8:36 pm
It’s true that there are still plenty of babies named Jessica, Megan, Kim, etc. but the key word is stylish. Many of those names may be appealing or classic, but you can no longer call them stylish.
on April 2nd, 2009 at 8:46 pm
I love this theory and completely agree. I really think variations of Linda, Deborah and other names that sound “mom-ish” to me will be the next big names in 15+ years.
But Just another thought, if you only go back 3 generations to choose a name right now, will that ensure that you have a cool name as a teenager and people will think your parents were just ahead of the game??
on April 2nd, 2009 at 8:53 pm
Also, there are way too many cool Bruce’s (Wayne, Lee, Springsteen, Willis) for that name to ever go out of style 🙂
on April 2nd, 2009 at 9:33 pm
Yes, there is that phenomenon of the kid with the name that sounds weird when they’re little but very au courant when they’re teenagers or young adults and all the babies have the same name. So yes, you could probably pick something from the 30s or 40s (or 50s) that sounds kinda dumb now but will be extremely cool in about 20 years, like….Pam!
on April 3rd, 2009 at 12:19 am
Aw, I’d love for Pam to make a revival :)! My lovely grandmother is called Pamela and I’m seriously considering it as a 2nd middle name (if I ever have kids, which is a long way off).
A lot of my favourite names are on the list (Rose, Violet, Alice, Josephine, Alice, Ida, Louis, Henry, etc) and while I wouldn’t use them as firsts, I could see myself using some of them as middle names (my favourite first names right now are Jemima or Claudia for a girl and Thomas or Alexander for a boy). I can definitely see them becoming perilously popular in years to come, though :S There are already HEEEEAPS of Henry’s, Jacks, Lucy’s, Alice’s, Grace’s and Eleanors where I live (and all of the ones I know are around my age – between 15 and 25 years old) so if these names are on the rise rather than at the peak of popularity then they’ll definitely replace Ava, Emily and Olivia :S
on April 3rd, 2009 at 12:31 am
Julia, I’m surprised there are so many 15-25 year olds with those names. I wonder if their parents recieved compliments on their names when they were little. I went to school with only one Grace (I’m 28 now), and we always thought her name sounded so old-ladyish. Now the name is considered ultra stylish. Go figure.
on April 3rd, 2009 at 8:40 am
Megan is plenty stylish here. My sister-in-law was considering it for a girl, and the other names on their list were things like Madison, Rose, Lucas, and Sebastian.
Maybe because I only know one Megan born in the 80s. I don’t think it caught on here much. We’re way behind the times … heck, I just started hearing about little Madisons here about 5 years ago.
Happens sometimes when you live way out in the country. 🙂
on April 3rd, 2009 at 8:41 am
Oops, meant 70s! I do know another born in the 80s though.
Boston Girl Said
on May 29th, 2009 at 1:53 pm
Oh no…just more proof that I am impossibly out of it, if you put that much stock in “style”. Going for something “stylish” sounds so shallow and superficial to me. If you like a name, stylish or not, then use it!
I like nearly all the names on the 70s list…and I don’t care if they’re “stylish” or not. I just far prefer them to the currently trendy names (the only 20s name I really like is Anna). I do agree with a bunch of the 50s names being out, though I do like Carol, Denise and Diane…
Maybe I’m just peeved because both my name and my brother’s are on the 70s list as being “un-stylish” (who makes these “stylish or not” rules anyway?), and my best friend’s name is on the 50s list. I may be a maverick and I’d probably get a lot of raspberries for it, but I would much rather choose from a list of 60s, 70s and 80s names for my child–and have him or her be rare, if not unique, in his or her future classes–than pick something from the trendy list just because it’s “stylish”, and have the poor kid lost in a sea of others with the same name. I’d rather name my daughter Amy, Kelly, Lauren or Michelle than Ava, Madison, Emma or (uggghhhhh) Sarah; and I’d rather name my son Brian, Derek, Kevin or Scott than Taylor, Logan, Ja(y)den or Jack. So I’m weird…I’m happy to be that way! 🙂
on June 15th, 2009 at 1:14 pm
I just had a grandaughter named Hazel. She was my great Aunt. My husband nearly died. But all my daughter’s 20 and 30 something friends think it is ADORABLE and THE CUTEST NAME EVER! I have always thought that once these young mothers can no longer remember knowing any real person with one of these names they are permitted again to use them. When my granddaughter has a daughter, she will probably name her Lynda!
on September 19th, 2009 at 8:11 am
I wish my mother, born in 1949, had read this when she named me. I got stuck with a name from her generation that was kind of tired and dowdy by the time she foisted it off on me (I’m 30 and have yet to met anyone else with my name who wasn’t already in menopause). I did a legal name change in my mid 20s to Catherine – and oh yes, I read every one of the website authors’ books when naming my own daughter (Stephanie, 8).
on January 15th, 2010 at 8:11 pm
My name is Olivia and i have a three year old girl named Lindsay ive always loved the name and it was the only one my partner and i could agree on
on January 20th, 2011 at 7:08 pm
It’s so true. All those names are chic and sophisticated now- and the Baby Boomer and 70’s names are so dated and passe.
on February 24th, 2011 at 4:11 am
I got my name from a classmate of my boomer father. It doesn’t at all follow the fourth generation rule, but I don’t think there were quite enough Carolyns in my area of the middle-aged women type to make it sound dowdy or old-fashioned (to me or my classmates, anyway). I think the 4th generation rule probably applies most to the names that were in the top 10, ’cause if every other grandma you meet is a Norma or a Betty, that’s one thing, but grandma alice and great auntie josephine have less of an impact.
on March 11th, 2011 at 10:23 pm
Caroline is back in town.
on October 16th, 2011 at 8:24 am
I do agree that baby-boomer names are passé. I hear them way too often and more often than I should be. My parents’ names are Elaine and Luis and mine is Isabel; Elaine may be a bit dated but not in the way that other names of that ilk are.
on July 25th, 2014 at 8:36 pm
Funny, because some of my favorite names and dream choices are from the 70s through the 90s. Will I ultimately pick one? I don’t know. But there is a certain comfort in their familiarity and normalcy for my generation.
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