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Unisex Names: and other baby name news of the week

October 2, 2019 Clare Green

This week’s news includes popular gender-neutral names, trends in South Africa, and what it’s like to share a name with someone famous.

Unisex names in the US and beyond

Gender-neutral names are a big trend now, but they’re not a new phenomenon. This cool map by NetCredit shows the most popular unisex names in each American state from 1910 to 2018.

As with all baby names, gender-neutral style has really changed over the decades. In the early twentieth century, names like Marion, Merle, Billie and Willie dominate the map. Mid-century, we see waves of Jessie, Jackie, Lynn and Leslie. In the 1970s, the all-time most popular unisex name, Casey, takes over, and in the most recent years Riley and Peyton sweep the country. If this is your style, we’ve got lots more ideas and statistics on unisex names here.

Elsewhere on the web: why not name a girl Tristan? Or Lennon?

It’s not just American parents who like unisex names. South Africa’s top baby names of 2018 have just been released, and once again the number 1 name is the same for girls and boys: Enzokuhle, meaning “do good” in the Zulu language. Four other names are in the Top 10 for both sexes: Melokuhle, Lethabo, Omphile and Amogelang (here are some helpful notes on pronunciation; and the full statistics). Meanwhile, the most popular middle names are English words, and more gendered: Junior, Blessing and Gift for boys, and Precious, Princess and Angel for girls.

Celebrity baby names: meaningful and lyrical

How much does a name’s meaning matter? It’s clearly important to many South African parents, and several celebrities this week have chosen names with great dictionary definitions too.

Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds gave his son Valentine a name meaning “strong” to commemorate the second anniversary of shootings in his hometown of Las Vegas. And acting couple Darin Brooks and Kelly Kruger were drawn to a name meaning “beautiful” for their daughter Everleigh Jolie’s middle name.

Other celebs have chosen short, melodic names for their kids. Actor Michael Sheen has a new daughter named Lyra – a great alternative to popular Luna if ever there was one – and Daniella Monet’s son Gio James has finally arrived. His name honors several family members with the nickname G or Gee, and his uncle Giovanni.

Famous names: tedious or terrific?

We hear a lot about how pop culture ruins people’s names. (Oh hi, latest Alexa story.) So for a change it’s nice to hear that it also helps some people to love their name. The author of this article, called Alessia, liked her name better after the singer Alessia Cara came along. I’m guessing it suddenly felt cooler, and more familiar.

Has this happened to anyone you know? I always wonder about a girl called Moana who I met a few years before the movie came out: does she like the world knows her name now, or is she annoyed by how far it’s gone?

Then there are people with even more famous names. I never tire of hearing how men called Harry Potter cope with a life of “you’re a wizard, Harry” jokes – these ones manage to have a bit of fun with it!

Pet names or people names?

You probably know that some of the most popular names for pets are also popular baby names: Bella, Luna, Charlie and Max are big for cats, dogs and human children alike. But there’s something subversively cool about giving pets names that you’d expect to find on an older person, like this dog named Carl.

Also in pet name news, is it ok for a dog to have the same name as his human cousin?

Nigel newsflash

Remember the man who was planning a gathering of Nigels in his local pub in England? It happened last week and 433 Nigels showed up, including one who flew over from Texas. There were prizes (including one for the youngest Nigel, who was just seven months old), entertainment (by musicians called Nigel, of course) and they even decided on the collective noun for themselves: a niggle of Nigels. Nice!

Clare Green writes Nameberry’s weekly round-up of the latest baby name news, including celebrity announcements, unusual naming stories, and new statistics from around the world. Clare, who has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, lives in England, where she has worked in libraries and studies linguistics. You can follow her personally on Instagram and Twitter.

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