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Why So Few Girl Juniors?

November 17, 2016 Katherine Morna Towne

By Katherine Morna Towne

I read an online comment recently from a name enthusiast arguing that “lots of men” give their own names to their sons (whether as Juniors—using their exact names—or using variants in the first or middle spots), while “very few women” do the same for their daughters.

This argument didn’t seem quite right to me, based on my limited experience, so I posed the question on my blog and indeed, my readers produced quite a lot of examples of girls named after their moms. Nevertheless, it is true that the idea of specifically “Junior” girls—girls with at least the same first name as their moms, never mind the same first+middle combo—is an unfamiliar one to many of us, and I wondered why.

Several of my readers expressed the thought that moms have a greater involvement in the naming process than do dads. If this is the case—if mothers really have more of a say in their babies’ names—then “more male Juniors and less female Juniors” could be Mom’s doing rather than Dad’s. It was interesting to hear that one person has been trying to convince her husband to name their son after him, and another has also “tried to convince my husband to use his name on a son, and he is always opposed.” I was reminded that my own mom also wanted to name a son after my dad, but he didn’t like the idea either (she did bestow her name as one of my sisters’ middle names).

Assuming for the moment that naming rests primarily with mothers, here are some theories my readers came up with to explain why moms might be okay with Junioring their sons, but not their daughters:

Moms prefer to honor the women important to them

More of my readers suggested this idea than any other: that they’d prefer to name daughters after the beloved women in their lives, especially their own mothers or grandmothers, and sometimes also sisters or dear friends, than to name daughters after themselves. One even said she’s “in the middle of this discussion with my husband right now … We are 33 weeks pregnant and hotly debating names. My husband is adamant that a daughter carry my first name as her middle name. I’m pushing to use my mother’s name because I want to honor her.”

Creativity in honoring Mom (middle, variant, etc.)

While a Baby Boy, Jr. is obviously named after his dad, baby girls named after their moms don’t tend to be so obvious as various creative methods are used. Little Miss could have her mom’s first name as her middle, or her mom’s middle name as her first name; she could have her mom’s maiden name, or her same initials; or, as in the case of one of my readers, a name with great meaning that’s baffling to any who don’t know the name story:

“Both my sister (Andrea) and I (Sara) were named after our mom (Carolyn).

Say what?” I hear you say….

     Carolyn is a feminine form of Carl, deriving from Old High German karl ‘man’, Old English c(e)arl, ceorl ‘(free)man’. Andrea is a feminine form of Andrew, from Greek, ‘man’. So that’s that one.

     Sara comes from Hebrew ,‘princess’. You know the fairy tale the Princess and the Pea? It’s a running joke in our family that my mom is that kind of princess. So, that’s the other one.”

(It’s clear where Sara gets her love of names from!) (It’s also worth noting that, obviously, the same methods used to honor Mom are often used to honor Dad as well—straight-up Juniors aren’t the only way.)

Fashionable names for girls change faster than for boys

While many moms might prefer to honor the women in their family tree with their daughters’ names for sentimental reasons, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Grandma Emma’s name is now at the height of fashion. One of my readers made the good point that, now that “the Ashleys and Jessicas of my generation are old enough to have children, their names feel dated and they’re less likely to pass them on to daughters. The Michaels and Matthews don’t have that problem; their names still feel current. This is all changing with the new generation of babies. Boys’ names are becoming just as varied and subject to trends as girls’ names, but traditionally it hasn’t been that way.”

Moms don’t like their own names OR like them too much, or simply want uniqueness

Related to the idea of what names are in fashion, one of my readers said, “[T]here are hundreds of names I like better than mine which is why I wouldn’t choose to name a daughter after me,” while another said, “I wouldn’t like to share my given name. I’m selfish like that.” And in true namiac fashion, one of them said, “I actually think it’s kind of a waste of names. I mean you never know how many children you’ll get to name … rehashing an old one seems like a missed opportunity!” For those men who actively want to name a son after themselves (rather than the idea that moms might be the driving force behind such decisions), another wondered if “maybe men tend more toward the sentiment of having a son take his name instead of having lists of names they simply like?”

An interesting bunch of theories! What about all of you?

Is it your experience that fewer girls are named for their moms than boys are named for their dads? Do you agree with the suggestions here for why there are less female Juniors than male? Do you have other explanations?

About the author

Katherine Morna Towne

Katherine Morna Towne is a writer, Catholic baby name blogger and consultant at Sanctanomina, and author of Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018). She lives in the northeast with her husband and seven sons (ages 1 to 15).

View all of Katherine Morna Towne's articles

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