Unisex Baby Names: Emerson, Everly and more
By now, you’ve almost certainly heard about Blaer Bjarkardottir.
She’s just won the legal right to use her name. Fifteen years ago, Blaer’s mom unknowingly gave her daughter a name that does not appear on the official list of 1,853 names permitted for baby girls in Iceland. The mistake was discovered only after Blaer’s baptism.
A Nobel Prize-winning novelist had used the name for a female character. Plus, Blaer’s mom knew another woman with the name – it’s where she got the idea in the first place.
It turns out that even in a country with official lists, things can be a little bit fuzzy.
There are no official lists in the U.S., but plenty of us might like to impose them.
Trouble is, even if there were rules at a given moment, they’re always subject to change. What was true in 1960 – or 1860 – won’t hold in 2013.
This brings us to a great quote from Swistle: “Names, like colors and toys, are given to male/female babies according to fashion, not according to stone tablets.”
The baby name news this week is a mix of gender neutral choices and a few that are more clearly meant for a son or a daughter.
The nine most newsworthy baby names are:
Blaer – Blair is the name of fictional rich girls from The Facts of Life to Gossip Girl. In Icelandic, Blaer doesn’t exactly rhyme with Claire. And “ae” is actually one letter: æ. But after all these headlines, will the name Blaer appeal to English-speaking parents? Spellings like Kaelyn have seen some use in recent years.
Tempany – Did you see Baby Name Pondering’s post on this name? It’s new to me, but apparently steadily used in Australia. Tempany likely started out as a surname, but she’s been boosted by soap opera star Tempany Deckert. My first thought was timpani – the drum. It’s an interesting sound.
Robley – While we’re on surnames with interesting sounds, Nancy wrote about Robley. With a famous admiral and a pioneering doctor having worn the name, Robley has history aplenty. He also shortens to Rob or even Bob if you’re inclined, or maybe offers a great way to update Robert.
Greyson James Carroll – Kara DioGuardi, the former American Idol judge, and her husband Mike have welcomed a son. Greyson is a popular choice these days, though Grayson is actually the more popular spelling. Add them both up, and he’s a popular pick. Maybe the best part of his name is that second middle, Carroll, after Kara’s mom, Carol.
Gretel – I’ve yet to see Hansel & Gretel, but it has made a splash at the box office. It’s no gentle fairy tale. Instead, the children who escaped from a candy-coat gingerbread house grew up to be lethal witch hunters. Will their names catch on? Margaret has been the decline, and short forms like Gretchen and Greta haven’t seen much use, either. Still, Gretel seems more likely to be considered than her brother, Hansel, who still reminds me of the outlandish male model character from Zoolander.
Constance – While we’re at the movies, Brad Pitt’s zombie apocalypse flick World War Z won’t debut until June. The trailers are out now, though. Pitt plays a U.N. staffer trying to avert global meltdown. Young actress Sterling Jerins plays his daughter Constance. Could Constance be an alternative to the elegant, but overused,Charlotte?
Boden – Since this past weekend was Groundhog Day, it seems like a good moment for prognostications. Kelli took a crack at names that might enter US Top 1000 when we see the new numbers in May. Boden is on her list for boys – I think she’s nailed this one.
Everly – Kelli’s list for likely risers for girls includes Everly. Doesn’t it seem incredible that Everly isn’t a Top 1000 choice? It feels like she’s been everywhere in the past year or three. She’s part-Eve/Evelyn/Evangeline, part-Kennedy/Delaney. Anthony Kiedis gave the name to a son, the stylishly named Everly Bear.
Emerson –Swistle counseled parents worried about giving this name to a daughter. They didn’t make international headlines, but their choice caused controversy amongst friends and family. Ultimately, the parents stuck with their instinct and went with the name they loved – though they spelled it Emmerson. Along with Ellis, Ellison, and a few other names, Emerson is part of the next wave of surname names for girls. Though, happily, it remains well-used for boys, too. Could it be that we’re finally learning to share?
Do you think we should have official name lists for boys and girls? Maybe rules about gender and spelling? If there were rules, would you be tempted to break them?
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on February 4th, 2013 at 3:16 am
I love the name Everly! It’s in my category of names, like Novalie and Waverly, that I crazy heart love but make husband cringe. We both love Gretchen though, very fetch.
on February 4th, 2013 at 6:49 am
Just came across a new colleague named Vandy and came running to Nameberry to learn the background on a name I’ve never heard. Turns out my colleage is a woman, but Vandy’s on my list of unisex names, as I really wasn’t sure by name alone.
on February 4th, 2013 at 7:02 am
Quit trying to make “fetch” happen Gretchen! 🙂
I know a little girl named Emerson, but no boys. I guess I didn’t really realize it is used for boys, too.
In terms of spelling, I could get on board with rules….I really hate alternative spellings (I work in a school and it gets complicated and is VERY frustrating for the kids themselves-just don’t do it!!) But I don’t think any sort of naming rules would be appropriate in the United States, we like our freedom to choose whatever we want.
on February 4th, 2013 at 7:42 am
Sadly, I don’t think any naming rules will come to pass here in the States. Millions would protest, saying it’s a violation of the First Ammendment. They have the right to name their kids what they choose. Even Hashtag and Kdynz…
on February 4th, 2013 at 10:09 am
Funny that in a blog about unisex names, you didn’t even point out the fact that the actress, Sterling Jerins, has a name that was used for boys. It seems like parents these days find a name that used to be in fashion for boys that isn’t in use much any more, and they steal it away for the girls. (Aubrey, Avery, Garnet, etc) Then boys get named some trendy versions of Aidan. sigh
I am a follow the rules kind of person, and I dislike most boys names on girls, however, I would not want to have to choose from a list of names. My favorite names are ones that are vintage and out of fashion and not popular. It would be boring to have 9 out of 10 children named Jane or Henry, like it was in the days of Henry VIII.
on February 4th, 2013 at 10:34 am
Sorry nameberry, doesn’t matter how many blogs you post claiming stuff like Emerson is “unisex” is going to change the fact that they are, in fact, masculine.
Blaer is just awful.
Constance, on the other hand, is wonderful.
on February 4th, 2013 at 10:43 am
I agree with Flick. Emerson isn’t unisex, it is a boys name that is being used on girls. It means “son of Emery”, how is that a girl’s name?
on February 4th, 2013 at 11:40 am
I think the reason that a lot of boys names end up on girls is because parents are looking for strong names with more feminine nicknames.
It has more to do with the perception of a future Fortune 500 CEO daughter than just picking a boys name. But I agree that creative spellings and unreal names (Hashtag, etc) should be outlawed.
That being said, Emerson in on our list, with the nn Emme.
And my husband came from left field when he recommended Everly. It was a shocking announcement from the guy who likes Ada and Keegan. 😉
I like the sound of Robley… but that might be because it reminds me of Mae Mobley from “the Help.”
on February 4th, 2013 at 12:45 pm
Emerson is a boys name, period. Go to a Brazil as a female named Emerson, and you’ll probably get laughed at.
Legitimate unisex names are nicknames such as Charlie or Nicky; if they are unisex in other languages like Dominique, Lilian, Noa or Camille in French for example; or because depending on the which country you’re talking about, the name can sway masculine or feminine, for example Zoe, Ruby are masculine in Portugal, Nicola and Andrea are masculine in Italy, yet these names can be feminine in other countries.
on February 4th, 2013 at 3:09 pm
To me, I cannot consider many names “unisex” for example, Riley and Skyler are more popular on girls than boys (btw I love these names for a boy!) but I know no girls with this name, so its hard for me to picture the names on both genders. Taylor- I know several boy and girls named Taylor, so to me this is a name I consider unisex
on February 4th, 2013 at 4:24 pm
@GrecianErn – I think you’re quite right, and maybe that’s why the whole topic sets our teeth on edge. Surely there’s been a CEO somewhere named Daisy or Evangeline or Susannah.
We can all think of lots of women in demanding and authoritative positions with girly names. Carly, Meg, Christiane, Tina, Nancy. Or unusual ones – Condoleezza, Oprah, Indra.
For all our talk that names are destiny, I think your name would have to be pretty crazy to really hamstring your chances of career success.
@skizzo – There are countries where unisex names are far more accepted. Israeli baby names are often truly gender neutral. Certainly, there are places where the rules are very strict, too. The US is just plain in between, I think …
@Poppy528 – Stellar mean girls reference! Made my day. 🙂
on February 4th, 2013 at 7:16 pm
“Could it be that we’re finally learning to share?”
Oh, please! We all know that once girls start using a name they do NOT share. If you choose to use it for your son you get a flurry of “It’s feminine.” and “It’s a girl name.” Now suddenly Maxwell is “unisex” just because of one celeb. Take a look at recent threads asking about Eden and Ashley for boys to see just how much we’re NOT sharing and it’s only the boy side that’s losing
on February 4th, 2013 at 8:21 pm
It WOULD be a violation of the First Amendment to impose baby naming rules on American parents. As much as names like Hashtag, Kaytlyn and Precious make me feel that some parents sure do need rules, I will defend their right to use those names (through clenched teeth) because I believe in freedom.
None of these nine are really my style, though Robley, Gretel and Constance each earned a second look.
on February 4th, 2013 at 10:20 pm
OMG. We literally just decided thirty minutes ago to name our daughter one of these names, thrilled that it isn’t super popular, and here it is featured in a blog post on Nameberry. 🙁 This naming thing is killing me.
on February 5th, 2013 at 11:16 am
Robley Wilson is a well-known older writer and editor so it sounds “literary” to me.
Constance, nn “Connie,” was as popular in the 1950s as Charlotte is today.
on February 6th, 2013 at 9:38 am
Everly is very pretty. I was wondering about the name Beverly the other day and why it never gets mentioned, what with Everly, Waverly, etc being talked about. I forgot about that famous 90210 zip code! Maybe it’s too overdone because of all the TV shows that mention Beverly Hills.
on May 8th, 2013 at 8:44 am
I think boys are getting the low side as well. I love the name Everly and Emerson. I originally liked Emerson as a boy’s name and still do but I can see where the Emer part of it is feminine sounding. To me strong letters like K, G, C etc are more masculine and vowels, A, E, or soft letters like L are feminine. Emme is very cute for a nn for Emerson and I’ve also heard it paired with more traditional feminine middle names like Rose (Emerson Rose is adorable I think)! But I’m determined to keep as a boy’s name for myself, but I don’t mind the sharing. I think it depends on you hear it too. I’ve known a Leslie, Shannon, Kelly, and Morgan (all boys). Even though nowadays those are all common girl names. It took a while to get used to Kelly as a girl and not a boy. The G in Morgan sets it as a boy name for me (and is traditionally), along with the others people mentioned such as Addison, Ashley, etc. I’ve also heard of a girl Kevin. To each his own these days is my thought, altho I think Hashtag is a little out there. My name, Dana, is unisex, and I like sharing it:)
on May 8th, 2013 at 8:45 am
I also have wondered about Delaney, I’ve usually heard it for a girl, but briefly dated a boy named Delaney who said his father picked it for him. I’d like to use it someday but would feel weird since I knew him.
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