The Long and Short of Baby Name News This Week
Juicy name stories: Tobermory and Perstephanie
Who loves an unusual naming story? We do. These parents’ stories in HuffPost are particularly juicy: you’ll find out why they called their kids Tobermory, Amyas, Sidonie, and more…plus what to do if you let the baby’s older siblings choose its name and they pick Undertaker.
I’d love to know if there’s a story behind Perstephanie, or if it’s a case of broken telephone. In a survey of what Australian parents are planning to name their 2019 babies, most of the answers are lovely but not surprising, like Finley, Sebastian, Ariana and Willow. But this mashup stands out.
Does it feel like almost every child you know has a four-letter name? You’re not imagining it. The average length of baby names in America is falling, helped by short names like Emma, Ava, Noah and Liam at the top of the charts. Actually, we can think of it more as a return to normal after long names became unusually popular in the 1970s and 80s – think Jessica and Samantha, Michael and Christopher.
Case in point to show that short names are going nowhere: TV chef Donatella Arpaia just used two of the most popular ones for her twins, Noah Christian and Emma Mariella. The longer middle names make a neat balance.
We’re not quite at the same level as the Netherlands, though. The Dutch charts really are dominated by short names like Finn, Bram, Tess and Mila. Three quarters of the names in their boys’ and girls’ Top 10 have only 3 or 4 letters.
Many short names started out as nicknames. One way to choose a name is to start with the nickname you want and work backwards, like these parents. One family wanted a girl called Isa, and chose Luisa as her formal name; another loved Ike, and made it short for Leon Isaac. But I can’t help feeling a little sad that one mother bypassed a name she loved for her son, Rahm, because she didn’t want people to call him Rahmy. She went with Remy instead.
Want more nickname inspiration? Try this list of German nicknames that, according to the author, are even better than the long form. There are some you might not have heard of, like Lini, Lissi, Matze and Joschi.
British baby names: the last 180 years
To me, that’s not the most exciting part of the story – although it is interesting to have it confirmed that, just like in the States, the proportion of children with the top names has fallen and the name pool has grown.
The exciting bit is this tool. It shows broad name trends from a large sample of birth records in Britain from 1938 to 2016, including the influence of royalty and early film stars. Type in any name and it will show you a graph. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be busy for the next five hours…
Eagles and Capitals: sporty baby names
There’s a baby boom in Philadelphia right now, nine months after the Eagles football team won the Super Bowl. We know that many parents have named their babies Carson after quarterback Carson Wentz. Some were inspired by other players, like the parents of Layla Grace Foles. Dad picked her second middle name to honor Nick Foles and his winning catch last February.
Reclaiming a language, one name at a time
Many parents choose to give their children names from their cultural heritage. Chelsea Vowel, who is of Indigenous Canadian descent, used particularly striking ones.
In this essay, she explains why she gave her daughters the Cree names sâkowêw (meaning “s/he makes a joyful sound”, or “war whoops”) and wâpanacâhkos (“dawn star” or Venus). There are no typos there (I’ve triple-checked): the Cree writing system doesn’t use capital letters.
Vowel calls using these names “a powerful act of reclamation” for Cree language and identity, against a history of having these taken away. So far, she’s found that people’s reaction to the names is usually confusion, followed by conversation and honest attempts to pronounce them correctly.
There were some delightfully vintage names for celebrity babies this week.
Kenya Moore continued the place name theme for another generation. Her new daughter, Brooklyn Doris, is named after the place where Moore met her husband, and after her grandmother who raised her. Doris was a Top 10 name from 1924 to 1933 in the US (and even longer in the UK). Will her time ever come again?
British actress Jennie McAlpine, of the soap opera Coronation Street, has welcomed baby Hilda. The name pays tribute to a long-running character on the show as well as being one she likes – just as with her son’s name, Albert. One can only hope that this is the start of a Hilda revival.
How about you: which old lady name(s) would you like to see come back?