Compound names (Anne-Marie, Jean-François) are falling out of style.
Once-taboo English names (Elliot, Mia) are seeing new acceptance.
Similarly, French names are flipping languages (Anne to Anna, Guillaume to William).
Names are also flipping gender (Ariel, Noa).
Pop culture is influencing names (Shania, Logan).
Unique names are on the rise.
Speaking of unique names, sociologist Laurence Charton of the INRS (Institut national de la recherche scientifique) suggested that the rise of unique names starting in the early 1980s was fueled in part by a 1981 change in Quebec’s Civil Code that loosened restrictions on babies’ surnames.
This claim makes me wish the article had included data from the ’60s and ’70s. I don’t doubt that parents felt liberated by the law change, but I do suspect that unique names were already on the rise by 1981.
The transition from Lew to Kareem was not merely a change in celebrity brand name — like Sean Combs to Puff Daddy to Diddy to P. Diddy — but a transformation of heart, mind and soul. I used to be Lew Alcindor, the pale reflection of what white America expected of me. Now I’m Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the manifestation of my African history, culture and beliefs.
The adoption of a new name was an extension of my rejection of all things in my life that related to the enslavement of my family and people. Alcindor was a French planter in the West Indies who owned my ancestors. My forebears were Yoruba people, from present day Nigeria. Keeping the name of my family’s slave master seemed somehow to dishonor them. His name felt like a branded scar of shame.
Some fans still call me Lew, then seem annoyed when I ignore them. They don’t understand that their lack of respect for my spiritual choice is insulting. It’s as if they see me as a toy action figure, existing solely to decorate their world as they see fit, rather than as an individual with his own life.
Luu writes that words with “a nostalgic air, reflecting the cultural values and tastes of the speaker,” are suddenly popping up everywhere. These include: bespoke, peruse, dapper, mayhaps and bedchamber. You’ll also find that old-timey prepositions like amidst and amongst are back. The same goes for baby names that were long considered lost to the past, such as Silas and Adeline.
From a Graham Norton Show episode [vid] that aired in October, 2014, in which comedian Stephen Fry gives actor Robert Downey, Jr., a baby name suggestion:
Could you, just as a favor, cause I know that, you know, some stars like to give unusual names, could you call him or her Uppy? Uppy Downey?
Spoiler #1: Downey and his wife Susan welcomed a baby girl that November. But they didn’t name her “Uppy.” Her full name is Avri Roel Downey.
When Simone and I were first considering names, we thought we should err towards the gender neutral side of the girl-name spectrum. We know a good number of masculine-identifying women and so many trans men who haven’t liked their more feminine given names. But that’s the problem with “gender neutral.” It mostly has just come to mean sort-of masculine. Lover of femininity that I am, was I really willing to write off all the beautiful feminine names because our kid might not be femme?
We decided no, we wouldn’t do that. Our kid can change her name if and when she wants, and in the meantime, we will call her a name we love, even if that’s feminine! In any case, I have friends who’ve later changed their names not because of gender at all, but just because they wanted to be called something else, so there really are no guarantees.
Spoiler #2: Haley and Simone’s baby girl was born in late August. Her full name is Juniper Everhart Jude [vid].
From an article about a 21-year-old Ariel (pronounced “are-e-elle,” not “air-e-elle” like the Disney mermaid):
“I mean, it’s annoying when people say ‘Ariel’ because that’s not my name,” Malloy said. “But it’s great because they’ll be like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re a princess,’ and I’m like, ‘You’re right.'”
“Everyone thinks I made up my name or I changed it at some stage and I’m actually called Joanne. But I like having a different name. Brian and I squabble all the time over baby names – because I want to give any children we have an equally mad name as the one I was given.
“Our friends in Australia had a baby girl about four years ago when we were living there and they called her Sailor. Now Liv Tyler has had a boy and she’s named him Sailor. So that’s top of the list at the moment.”
I was born in 1937 to an American mother and a naturalized German father. I was named “Gretchen” which was a mistake since war with Germany was looming and there was a lot of anti-German sentiment. Anything German was stigmatized, even innocent little daschund dogs were kicked and hated for their German origin. I was referred to as “the little Nazi” in the neighborhood and school because of my name and my father’s heavily accented English. We moved when I was about 12 years old, and I took the opportunity to change my name, dropping “Gretchen” and insisting on being called by my middle name “Lesley.” My parents knew nothing of this, and were confused when the neighborhood children came to the door and asked for “Lesley.” It took a lot of self control not to respond to “Gretchen” or even acknowledge the someone had spoken to me, but gradually I morphed into “Lesley” and have since legally dropped my birth name.
Second one is from Lloret de Mar Pelayo:
I cringe when people ask me my name. In Spanish it sounds beautiful, even in it’s native Catalan accent, but in English it sounds dreadful.
Lloret De Mar is a city north of Barcelona, a beach town. The double L can be pronounced like a Y or a J. But in English everyone and I mean everyone sounds out the double L like the L in laughter. I feel terrible correcting people because they immediately question whether I spelled my own name wrong (“You know there’s two Ls right?”) And I politely smile and have to further explain…
My father is Catalan and he and my mother (who is Puerto Rican) wanted a name that reflected Catalan ancestry and therefore Lloret was what they picked. I absolutely love the history of the name and its ties to Catalan culture…I just wish they had spelled it with a Y or a J so it’d be easier to pronounce in English!
Here’s the Wikipedia page for Lloret de Mar, which is on the Mediterranean coast.
According to data from Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority, the most popular Jewish baby names in Israel for the Hebrew calendar year 5775 (September 25, 2014, to September 13, 2015) were Tamar and Ori.
Plenty of Disney Princesses (Ariel, Mulan, Tiana, Elsa, etc.) have had an impact on the U.S. baby name charts. But two of the earliest Disney characters to affect the charts weren’t princesses. In fact, they weren’t even human. They were white-tailed deer.
The classic animated film Bambi came out in August of 1942. The next year, the baby names Bambi and Faline both debuted as girl names on the SSA’s baby name list.
1946: 11 baby girls named Bambi
1945: 9 baby girls named Bambi
1944: 7 baby girls named Bambi
1943: 8 baby girls named Bambi [debut]
1943: 5 baby girls named Faline [debut]
The name Faline remains rare to this day, but the name Bambi went on to be given to hundreds of baby girls per year from the mid-’50s to the mid-’60s, then again from the mid-’70s to the mid-’80s.
The New York Times states that “Bambi reached peak popularity in 1979 after the release of the song “Who Killed Bambi?” in a movie about the Sex Pistols, an influential punk rock band.” It’s an interesting coincidence, but I doubt the song had any influence on usage.
The Disney movie was based on the 1923 novel Bambi, Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde (Bambi, a Life in the Woods) by Austrian author Felix Salten. In German, Faline’s name is pronounced fah-LEE-neh (as opposed to fah-LEEN in English).