What’s Your Baby Name Style? Harry or Huckleberry?
Baby name style is a highly personal thing, and I’m always surprised by the names on birth announcements. Sure, I can guess with sometimes frightening accuracy what parents will have shortlisted for baby #2 or #3, but they’ve already showed their hand by then. Until they’ve hinted at what they’re thinking of for their firstborn, baby name style is surprisingly tough to guess.
Over the summer, I met three siblings, all living in the same area, each with a daughter about the same age. The three girls’ names could have easily belonged to sisters, even triplets: Annabelle, Georgia, and Phoebe. The women of the family clearly share the same general style – so much that I’d guess there must have been some consternation when they found out they were all expecting daughters within the same year.
For every situation where two former roommates both want to use Ethan James for their sons, there are plenty of cases where, no matter how much sisters or friends have in common, name style is simply not one of them. You roll your eyes when your BFF suggests Kestrel, only to hear your sis describe Eleanor as too old-fashioned.
That’s what hit me as I looked at the baby name news this week. The old saw about two nations divided by a common language really does hold when comparing the most popular boys’ names in the UK to those in the US. But the girls? Most could happily leap across the pond without a backwards glance.
This week’s nine most newsworthy baby names all have me pondering at what drives individual tastes – and those of entire nations:
Harry – UK stats came out last Monday and it is clear that British parents are wild about Harry, as in Potter and Prince. American parents aren’t using Harry as a nickname for Henry, either – I’ve heard Hank and even Huck, but Harry has left the playground entirely. He once was a Top Ten staple in the US, back in the 1890s, and he’s been sliding pretty much ever since, headed towards obscurity in the New World.
Amelia – The new #1 name for girls in the UK is Amelia. The name she replaced – Olivia – is a stylistic cousin. She’s not quite as popular in the US, but Amelia has been on the rise, and would probably strike most American parents as a mainstream, attractive possibility.
Pippa – Nancy points out that yes, we name nerds were quite right when we predicted the rise of the world’s most famous maid of honor, Pippa Middleton. The sharp-eyed Nancy also noted that pop star Pixie Lott has pushed her elfin nickname into the spotlight. (Miss Lott was born Victoria.) I wouldn’t be surprised to spot Pippa in the 2012 US numbers, though Pixie is probably best left on the schoolyard with Alfie.
Mohammed – The insightful Elea at BBN combined spellings and reported that, as we’ve heard for the past few years, Mohammed really would be on top, more popular than Harry, if all spellings were combined. I’m fascinated by this fact. While several spellings of Mohammed make the US Top 1000, none is especially popular, suggesting that the proportion of Islamic families is smaller in the US, or that they’re less inclined to consider Mohammed for a son – or both. Anyone have any insights on this one?
Lily – Once again, while the #2 masculine name is very different in the UK, the feminine one is perfectly on track with American trends. Variant spellings Lilly and Lillie would almost certainly push Lily from the #15 spot in the US into our Top Ten, too.
Kash Kade – Here’s a name I’d be slightly surprised to hear in England – Kash Kade. Kash Kade has that brash, all-boy aggressiveness that suits the son of Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member Kim Zolciak and Atlanta Falcon Kroy Biermann. Baby Kash joins Kroy, Jr. – called KJ – as well as Zolciak’s older daughters, Brielle and Ariana. Kash is one thing, but Kash Kade – cascade? It’s a bit much, but then mom’s full name is Kimberleigh.
Callen Christian – By comparison, Drew Brees’ new son’s name feels positively refined. Callen joins brothers Baylen Robert and Bowen Christopher. I wonder if the proud parents broke the B pattern because they couldn’t find another B name they loved, or if they imagine having a fourth child and wanted to avoid sounding like the Duggars? I like Callen. It’s a touch nouveau, but feels easy to wear – just like his brothers’ names.
Huckleberry – May I humbly suggest that some celebrity seriously consider Huckelberry? Yes, it will grab headlines and draw comparisons to a certain blue-hued hound from Hanna-Barbera cartoons. But isn’t it a captivating sound? The Omniglot blog recently dissected the origins of the phrase “my huckleberry friend,” and I find myself loving the idea of Huckleberry, nickname Huck. Country music’s Brad Paisley must agree – he has a son named William Huckleberry.
Capable – Doesn’t it sound like a great Pilgrim name, Capable Standish? Can’t you see Capable Smith on the Mayflower passenger list? It isn’t so, at least not as far as I know. Instead, Capable is among the characters in the new Mad Max movie, the fourth installment in the franchise, due for a 2013 release. This means that Capable probably won’t make anyone’s short list, but I’m still quite fond of the unusual virtue name.
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on August 20th, 2012 at 12:00 am
These are some great names and I like Callen and Lily in particular. I was talking to my sister the other day about our ancestors and I said that if I ever have a boy, I want to name him Charles nm Charlie after our Great Grandfather who was a wonderful man. Her immediate response was that she was going to have a Charlie as well, but on a Charlotte! Because it will be at least another ten or fifteen years before either of us have a child (go teen berries!), I find it funny how intent my sister has become in the race for a Charlie!
on August 20th, 2012 at 1:35 am
My sole sibling and I have fairly similar styles. She prefers vintage modern names (like Kate) while I prefer vintage fusty (like Millecent). No Jaydins in sight.
My favorite form of Lily is the Hebrew one, Shoshana.
on August 20th, 2012 at 2:25 am
My friends and in-laws share different naming tastes that I do. They are into the more modern names. I sometimes get scared that my sister-in-law will somehow steal a variant of a name that I would love to use that honors a family member because she has actually already done it and wants to do it again with this pregnancy.
My friends don’t like the names that I like. I told my friend about the name Georgiana, and she flat out said it was an ugly name. Well, at least I know she won’t ever use it!
on August 20th, 2012 at 3:12 am
I’ve very much a classic namer. I love Alice, Eliza, Helena, George, Alfred etc. Which means no one is going to steal – everyone who I know is quite modern name wise!
on August 20th, 2012 at 3:36 am
I’m surprised that Bear Grylls (Man vs. Wild) didn’t get a mention as he has 3 sons; Huckleberry, Marmaduke & Jesse!
Odd one out much???!
on August 20th, 2012 at 5:09 am
I secretly love Huckleberry! My husband even thinks it’s a pretty cool name. I don’t think I’d have the guts to use it though. A little Huckleberry Smith might get teased in school. I have no idea what name we’ll choose for baby #3( due in March!) Our girls are Zoe (3) and Eden (18 months). I have a completely different naming style than the rest of my family. My mom likes soap opera-y sounding names like Remington and Hamilton and my sister likes extremely old fashioned names like Edwin and Evelyn.
on August 20th, 2012 at 6:45 am
I just can’t see giving my male child a name with the word ‘berry’ in it! I’m sure that’ll breed some animosity when the chikd grows up! Kash Kade definitely sounds like Cascade to me too!! I love Lily but I’m one of those ‘oh em gee can’t use a popular name’ type people, you know us 😉 That doesn’t mean I can’t like the popular names!!
on August 20th, 2012 at 7:20 am
I seem to like European names – Italian, German, Greek…my daughter’s name is Bianca and some of my other favourite girls names are Ursula, Greta, Kallisto, Aria… Boys are tougher for me.
My sister’s style is different, but I like it. For boys, she loves Celtic names like Cillian and Dermot and Murdoch… SHe finds girls names harder.
I don’t think we ever have to worry about picking the same names.
My best friend, who’s having her first in November, seems to have no problem with picking names that are popular. In fact, I think she likes the popular names. I believe Ava’s at the top of her girls list.
And again, it’s highly unlikely we’ll pick any similar names…
on August 20th, 2012 at 7:28 am
Idk what my naming style is. I like a little bit of everything. My kids will probably end up on one of those “mismatched sibsets” in the forums one of these days.
on August 20th, 2012 at 8:06 am
I’m definitely a more traditional girl. There are some modern names and spellings like Mikyla or Kalayna that I adore but I don’t think I could name my children that. The modernity of the name makes it feel too dated.
@Rin Jesse is much shorter than Huckleberry or Marmaduke but I think it’s equally classic. Just think of the infamous Jesse James (1847-1882)- Huckleberry Finn was published in 1884 which sort of makes the two contemporaries in my mind.
On that note I have a friend who named her sons Bill and Jesse after Billy the Kid and Jesse James. Talk about a theme!!!
on August 20th, 2012 at 9:02 am
I can put in my two cents on Mohammed: the proportion of Islamic population in the England and Wales is much larger than in the US. Also, you are technically incorrect when you describe the recent England and Wales list as “the UK” as it does not include Scotland or Ireland in its poll. Those countries have different baby naming trends than England and Wales so it isn’t fair to tar them all with the same brush.
I moved from England to the US in 2004. My sister and I have always differed in baby name choices and this gap has only widened since I became immersed in the American culture. I discovered recently on a trip home that my sister wishes to name her future daughter something like Poppy, Daisy or Heidi, all of which scream modern British upper class! For a boy, she has in mind the trendy Tristan. I, on the other hand, am of the mindset that the old English names are the most beautiful, and more in line with US thinking, Elizabeth and William are my choices, names that my sister considers too old fashioned in today’s society. Our disagreement may point to the current differences across the pond.
on August 20th, 2012 at 10:01 am
My sister and I have COMPLETELY different name styles, and I must admit I was childishly appalled when she named my niece Yasmine – a name I still hate almost 3 years on, it is only saved by the fact that I love Yassi as a nickname and that Yassi herself could be called anything and still be as amazing! My sister also HATES her middle name Mairead whilst I love it and hope to have a daughter to pass the middle name onto someday!
on August 20th, 2012 at 10:47 am
I am not on par with my sisters at all. While I do like their traditional names like Josiah, Hannah, and Jacob (most “out there” name is Sierrah) they aren’t names we’ve picked for our own children.
Our baby coming in December will be blessed with a name like Bear, Leonidas, Phoenix, or River… we pretty much aren’t even bothering sharing our list with family because we know we’ll get a lot of negative feedback and opinions, haha.
on August 20th, 2012 at 11:25 am
Well I rarely ever talk to my siblings/friends about names, but on the few occasions I have:
My sister has decided her two favorite boys’ names are Aaron and Adrian. I love Aaron, and Adrian’s nice.
My friend told me she loves the name Kylee. Eck
My friend Micaela hates the variations of her name (McKayla, Mikala), loves her almost-name: Zelda, and named her puppy Millicent ‘Millie’. Maybe she’s a name nerd 🙂
My sister hates the name Noah.
Another friend hates her (had she been a boy) name: Maxwell William. i think it’s stunning.
And another friend once told me her future kids’ names: Gretchen, Matthew, Garret, Naomi, Dakota (g), & Cole.
Overall, it really depends on which person. Sometimes we have similar taste, sometimes not, and most of the time we have things in common and not
on August 20th, 2012 at 11:43 am
I’m not a fan of popular names at all. A good friend of mine decided to name her son Aiden, which is WAY too popular for my taste. I’ve decided to name my son Lincoln, which is much less common and I personally think it sounds more vintage/modern without topping the popularity charts.
The only popular name I’m considering using is Madison. Its my sisters name. Although I will not EVER call her Maddie/Maddy.
My sister and I have similar naming styles, however. She’s naming her first son Kingston and her first daughter Keaton. I love them both and I’m super jealous she got to them first!
on August 20th, 2012 at 12:28 pm
I would say I’m literary whimsy. I love Elizabeth and Henry, and both are on my list, alongside Beatrix and Tigerlily.
The one great thing about being an only child is there is no fight to the death over ancestral names (and we have some great ones, from Lillie Beatrice to surname Miller to several lovely Elizabeth variants) or naming style. I can choose the names I want without fear of stealing a sister’s thunder.
on August 20th, 2012 at 12:39 pm
While I like to think myself someone who likes different names, I tend to go middle of the road. While I applaud the use of Huckelberry, I could never see myself use that. I would tend to be more of a Harry (Henry, really) fan. Most names I like are not in top 20, Patrick has been my favorite name since I was 9 and it will stay that way I think. As for girls I keep changing. Everything from Paisley (the most far out there) to traditional Katharine, Emma and Claire. Nothing has stuck for long.
What is most important is that sib sets sound good together. Recently there was an Olympian who had to boys Joesph (a fine name) and Sundance (another good name) but not together! That drives me mad.
on August 20th, 2012 at 3:28 pm
I put my foot in my mouth when talking to a good friend about names. They’re trying to get pregnant, and I mentioned how much I hate the name Madison, and she replied that it’s at the top of her list…awkward pause…
As far as Mohammed goes, I think it’s just that we have a much smaller Muslim population percentage-wise in the US. As a teacher in an area with a high Muslim population, Mohammed (with all its spelling variants) was the most common boy name at my school. At least in my experience it’s very well used by American Muslim families.
on August 20th, 2012 at 3:28 pm
I like strong vintage, Greek mythological names, and “out there but not too out there” names. Haha. Example:
Strong vintage: Clara, Adeline
Greek mythological: Persephone
Out there but not too out there: Ottilie
on August 20th, 2012 at 6:09 pm
I have a friend with a son named Harry (DD named Georgia, FYI), and he’s cute as can be, so I’ve come to like it (I’m in the US). My only problem with it is when the surname is a word, so then you have Harry Something. My last name falls into the word name category so can’t do it. Also know a couple boys named Harrison. Neither is called Harry but that could work really well and be super cute. I could go for that!
I like Huck too. I do have an issue with it rhyming with a dirty word….can you tell I teach middle school?? Haha. I always think of these things.
Do not like Callen, Kash Kade or Capable. Yuck. Callen is better than the others but still nms.
Love Amelia and Lily. I’m def more of a classic namer. My sis and I are somewhat similar, I think, tho she has no kids yet, she’s told me she likes Sylvie and Vivienne. I like those a lot but I go more mainstream (children are Seth Andrew and Madeline Frances). Luckily DH and I are very similar in style so naming has been relatively easy.
on August 20th, 2012 at 6:19 pm
I think Harry and Huckleberry both rock, in their different ways.
Kash and Callen are both reasonably commonly-used names here – at least, I see them in BAs at least a few times a month.
No luckily I don’t share name tastes with friends or family, and I don’t think any of them do with each other either, so none of the cousins sound like siblings or anything like that. I do see that a lot though.
on August 20th, 2012 at 9:31 pm
I have to point out, in the U.S., Harry is often a nickname for Harrison, which is in the top 200.
on August 20th, 2012 at 10:38 pm
I only have a brother and like most men he doesn’t really care about names, but a few of the names he’s mentioned are names I like — Ryder, Gale, Sylas (the name he picked for his son). His girlfriends taste in names however are not even in the same realm as the names I like.
on August 20th, 2012 at 11:53 pm
I’ve never been able to put a label on my naming style, but I’ve yet to run into anyone– family friend or otherwise who matches it completely, and I’ve never had to compete for/race to a name before someone I knew used it. My son is Thaddeus, and the only one we know. I have Verity or Sylvia and Maxim or Bastien bookmarked for our next (hypothetical) baby and so far no one’s got me worried, aside from the occasional obnoxious celebrity.
on August 21st, 2012 at 3:59 pm
Great! Thank you.
Look at this! It might help you))
on August 23rd, 2012 at 8:30 pm
I have no idea what my brother’s name style would be. Maybe one day. My brother in law also doesn’t have kids, but did name his cats Max & Melody. My MIL did suggest Max as a boy name for us, before the cat came along.
I do seem to have the same style as my friends at church though – we have friends with kids named Pearl, Dexter, Ruby, Olive, Lily, Penelope, Lucy. (Those are from 3 different families.)
on August 25th, 2012 at 8:20 am
Well, since I have my own Huckleberry, I guess it’s pretty easy to figure out what my taste in names is! Granted, it’s his middle name 😉
on April 4th, 2013 at 4:10 am
I have a pretty mixed style but I mostly like popular names like, Amelia and Ethan. My oldest sister Eilish has a similar style, she likes names like, Emma and Aaron and my other sister likes less common names like, Naomi and Blake. I think Huckleberry would be a lovely middle name though.
on July 27th, 2013 at 2:28 am
We don’t secretly love Huckleberry – we love her openly. Our little Huckleberry Florence was two years old a couple of days ago. My daughter graduated from “across the pond” (UCL – UK !) with a degree in Shakespearean Literature so she was familiar with Ophelia, Olivia, Titania, Juliet and Cordelia. But from the beginning – and despite much criticism and eyebrow-raising – her daughter was always going to be Huckleberry Florence ! And no other name would suit this child so well – thank you Mark twain. By the way, many people have trouble with unusual names and Berry is the name they choose to use. For us though, she is just a beautiful little Huckleberry !!!
We follow discussions on the name with interest and although we recognise why it is always found with the “boys” names – is Mark Twain solely responsible (?) it is a pretty name, written and spoken and the association with berries is surely more “feminine”?
Peaches, Plum, Apple, Clementine, Mirabelle – so PLEASE – HUCKLEBERRY – should at the very least belong in the “Unisex” category.
Time to change perception?
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