The Nameberry 9: Newer oldies and bolder boys
Last week’s baby name news demonstrated two things: first, there’s no such thing as a name too fusty to make a comeback. Girls’ names change constantly. Now that Emma, Charlotte, and Evelyn are appearing on kindergarten rosters all over America, choices like Alice, Josephine and June feel fresh.
Second, parents truly are becoming quite daring when naming their sons. For years we took risks with our daughters’ names, using frilly feminissa appellations like Arabella as well as tailored ones like Ingrid or Sawyer. The name pool for boys remained relatively shallow.
Until the past few years, that is. We learned the names of three new boys this past week, and none of them is the kind of stalwart classic we’re used to for a son. The names are softer and tougher and break with more than one tradition.
The nine most newsworthy baby names from last week are:
Irene – A Nameberry thread asked if certain names are still too old-fashioned for a comeback. Happily, plenty of posters felt that Irene and Ruth were poised for revival. I’ve met little girls named Dorothy and Helen, and Gloria, Martha, Esther, and Betty are all edging back into use. Irene feels charmingly retro.
Olive – The spare sister of Olivia, she’s quickly becoming a starbaby staple. Isla Fisher and Sacha Baron Cohen led the way. Drew Barrymore welcomed a daughter Olive earlier this year, and now country singer Jake Owen has also chosen the name.
Pearl – Jake Owen and wife Lacey Buchanan named their daughter Olive Pearl, and intend to call her Pearl. The gemstone is another antique revival gaining favor in recent years. Maya Rudolph has a daughter called Pearl. Rocker-turned-grandpa Ozzy Osbourne’s granddaughter is Pearl Clementine.
Fiona – She’s the admirable ogre-princess of the Shrek series. Plus, Fiona shares sounds with the chart-topping Sophia. Actor Chad Lowe and his wife recently welcomed a daughter named Fiona, a little sister for Mabel. She’s a feminine name with just the right amount of frill.
Miranda – Speaking of feminine names, comedian Rob Schneider chose a startlingly lovely name for his new daughter, Miranda Scarlett. Miranda has a grown-up big sister from Rob’s first marriage. Her name is far less elaborate, but still lovely – Elle. With a great meaning and ties to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Miranda makes for an enduring choice.
Phoebe – Style blogger Lesley Graham welcomed a second daughter last week. I’ve loved watching her maternity fashion and layette planning. Since her firstborn is Matilda, I knew I’d love the name she chose. Phoebe is the perfect sister name – very on trend, with just a hint of quirkiness.
Phaedra – Now here’s a shocker. Peaches Geldof is no stranger to strange names. She answered to an edible appellation years before Apple Martin arrived. And her firstborn son is called Astala, a name that barely makes a ripple in the baby name pool. Now she’s expecting a second child, and she’s announced the name. Phaedra might strike you as slightly more conventional, the wife of Theseus in Greek myth. Except that Peaches is using this one for a son. Do we celebrate her daring? Or hope that she settles on a middle name that is more obviously masculine?
Matteo – That’s not to say that all boys’ names have to be all boy. Matteo has become a completely mainstream pick for celebrity parents and regular folks, too. The latest mom to settle on the romance language version of Matthew is Leonor Varela, most recently seen on Dallas.
Rocky – When Sarah Michelle and Freddie Prinze, Jr. failed to announce their new son’s name, I blithely assumed it was Freddie III, or maybe Frederick. After all, their firstborn is Charlotte Grace. But I was knocked out to hear that baby #2 is named Rocky James! It’s a tough guy name, but then again, mom rose to fame slaying vampires.
Are there any new again girls’ names that have caught your eye recently? And do you agree that parents are taking more risks with their sons’ names? And are there any conventionally feminine names that seem just right on a boy? I’ve always liked the idea of Jane …
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on November 26th, 2012 at 2:36 am
I would love to see Ashley return to the males. Also, I’m bugged that so many people I’ve talked to sees Kimball as a girl name (I’m considering it for my soon-to-arrive baby boy). However, it has gotten to the point, I think, that you can’t really count on any name staying in the solidly male category so I’m thinking I might give up and go with Kimball anyway.
As for Rocky–it doesn’t sound macho, it sounds like a pet.
on November 26th, 2012 at 5:28 am
Jane was a very manly male character on Joss Whedon’s drama, Firefly.
on November 26th, 2012 at 10:12 am
nativoyoung, I agree on seeing Ashley on boys! I don’t mind it on girls, but I can see it as an equally unisex name. Along with Aubrey! I met a little boy named Aubrey and it suited him nicely.
Fiona and Mabel are an adorable sib set! I wish I could talk my man into using Mabel someday… I really love it <3 And I adore Phoebe, I think I might use it! I have Gwendolyn Phoebe on my list <3
Loving todays post! 🙂
on November 26th, 2012 at 10:41 am
I like June, Joan and Matteo from the list. I don’t like Irene or Phardra. If boy names are taking back their rights, I sappose Sabastian will be nice again. I have always like it but it just didn’t seem to fit the times.
on November 26th, 2012 at 10:45 am
I’m excited Irene is becoming more acceptable again. It’s my mom’s name and she hates the English prn so she’s been trying to teach everyone a “more” German one – Eh-reh-neh. But I actually kind of like it.
Also @samantha-bianca. It’s actually spelled Jayne (which has the slightly more masculine Jay in it) and he does consistently get teased for having a girls name, so I’m not quite sure that’s a good example. lol.
on November 26th, 2012 at 12:28 pm
Just met a newborn baby girl named Esther!
on November 26th, 2012 at 12:50 pm
I’m curious about Phaedra/Phedre and if either spelling is seeing more of a boost than the other. “Phedre” is the heroine of Jacqueline Carey’s series, Kushiel’s Legacy. She is an amazing character, and the books are really well-written (and are set in an alternate history of our own). Phedre says she is named for the Phaedra of “Greek” history (forgot what it was in the book), and she herself is a courtesan in the service of two of her people’s gods. She’s also a spymaster and anguisette, meaning she *likes* physical pain.
I wonder if these books have had anything to do with the name’s popularity? They’re pretty well-known in the fantasy world, and Phedre is even starring on a new fantasy heroines as pin-ups calendar.
on November 26th, 2012 at 12:51 pm
Also, I don’t like this name being used for a boy.
on November 26th, 2012 at 1:47 pm
There are two one year old girls on my street: Irene and Ruth.
I always wonder about using some of these ancient names, because while they are really great names, the stories of the characters are often less than nice (to put it mildly). Medea? Murdered her children. Phaedra? Shamed and humiliated–ultimately kills herself after falling desperately in love with her stepson. Circe? Turned people into pigs and then ate them. (Okay, I’m being a little reductive in my descriptions, but it’s the gist)
Perhaps the meaning wears off, perhaps a character has come up in the meantime to ward off the association, but I’d have a really hard time giving my kid a name with a famous and deeply tragic origin, especially when it’s not a one-of-many-and-one-was-a-bad-apple situation; there’s only one Oedipus.
on November 26th, 2012 at 1:48 pm
Aghhhhh! Nameberry and Abby, stop announcing the names I have frittered away for my future hypothetical children!
Imagine the minor heart attack I had when my super secret future daughter’s name (in succession, first and middle) was sitting there in my mailbox.
on November 26th, 2012 at 4:48 pm
I know a Ruth who is 8, she’s lovely, I didn’t even think of it being an ‘old’ name!
One of my friends has her heart set on having a little Esther nn Tess.
As for Jane, as Samantha-Bianca said, Jayne on Joss Whedon’s Firefly is about as manly as they come!
I’ve always thought, then removed from the concepts of traditional gender, Jayne for a boy would be pretty cool. Jay for short.
I figure if you messed with the spelling enough it could be done, but I’m not a fan of messing with spellings too much. The most manly spelling I can think of would be Jayn or Jain.
on November 26th, 2012 at 6:36 pm
@melissaintlouis – So sorry! But now I’m trying to pair up your super secret name … I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the names on this list. 🙂
on November 26th, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Oh, goodness…I was excited to see Phaedra, which I love, until you said she is using it on a boy. ugh!
on November 27th, 2012 at 12:37 pm
I vote yes for Geraldine & Joan. I would use either! Goodbye frilly, flowery grandma names, hello stronger, harder grandma names!
on November 27th, 2012 at 4:20 pm
Miranda has always been a favorite of mine. Such a pretty combination of sounds! And so many nicknames if you wanted.
on November 28th, 2012 at 7:28 pm
Sometimes in English class, I imagine some of the boys in my class as having feminine names. Sometimes it’s silly, but sometimes I think that a girl name just seems so right as a male name. Like this one kid in my class that I can picture as a Lillian and another that I envision as Kendra. Don’t those just sound so right? And you’re right, Jane seems like it could be a boy name.
on November 29th, 2012 at 6:11 am
I would love to see Geraldine come back. It is on my top 20 girls list. It still seems a bit fusty to make it to the top 10, but that could change. I don’t think I will ever love Joan though.
on December 5th, 2012 at 12:33 am
I think Phaedra is cool for a boy or girl. I really started liking Phaedrus after reading Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance — odd, but captivating book. It could be an alternative to the up-and-coming Phineas.
Irene & Miranda are both beautiful!
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