A while back, I stumbled upon a register of people associated with Oxford University in the late 1500s and early 1600s. The most interesting part? The author of the register included a chapter dedicated to first names and surnames, and that chapter featured a table of male forenames ranked by frequency of occurrence from 1560 to 1621.
The author claimed that, for several reasons, these rankings were “probably…more representative of English names than any list yet published” for that span of time. One reason was that the names represented men from “different grades of English society” — including peers, scholars, tradesmen, and servants.
Ready for the list?
John, 3,826 individuals
Ralph (sometimes confused with Raphael/Randall in the records), 182
Matthew (sometimes confused with Matthias), 116
Alexander, 98 (tie)
Arthur, 98 (tie)
Simon (sometimes confused with Simeon), 83
Joseph, 78 (tie)
Lewis, 78 (tie)
Roland (also Rowland), 65
Griffith (also Griffin), 60
Abraham, 54 (tie)
Leonard, 54 (tie)
Morris (sometimes confused with Maurice), 51
Bartholomew, 46 (3-way tie)
Oliver, 46 (3-way tie)
Timothy, 46 (3-way tie)
Martin, 44 (tie)
Rice (sometimes confused with Richard), 44 (tie)
Jeffrey (also Geoffrey; sometimes confused with Godfrey), 38
Toby (also Tobias), 34
Bernard, 28 (3-way tie)
Gregory (sometimes confused with George), 28 (3-way tie)
Isaac, 28 (3-way tie)
Jasper (also Gaspar), 26
Randall (also Randle, Randolph; sometimes confused with Ralph), 26 (tie)
Did the relative popularity of any of these names surprise you?
Entries lower down on the list included Lancelot (23), Jarvis (22) Theophilus (19), Marmaduke (18), Fulke (17), and Cadwalader (9).
The author also included every other Oxford-associated name from that general time period, so here’s a sampling of the rare names that popped up in the register just once:
“Everly” is hot…”Beverly” is not. It’s a one-letter difference between fashionable and fusty.
If you’re sensitive to style, you’ll prefer Everly. It fits with today’s trends far better than Beverly does.
But if you’re someone who isn’t concerned about style, or prefers to go against style, then you may not automatically go for Everly. In fact, you may be more attracted to Beverly because it’s the choice that most modern parents would avoid.
If you’ve ever thought about intentionally giving your baby a dated name (like Debbie, Grover, Marcia, or Vernon) for the sake of uniqueness within his/her peer group — if you have no problem sacrificing style for distinctiveness — then this list is for you.
Years ago, the concept of “contrarian” baby names came up in the comments of a post about Lois. Ever since then, creating a collection of uncool/contrarian baby names has been on my to-do list.
Finally, last month, I experimented with various formulas for pulling unstylish baby names out of the SSA dataset. Keeping the great-grandparent rule in mind, I aimed for names that would have been fashionable among the grandparents of today’s babies. The names below are the best results I got.
Oodles of multiples — eight sets of twins, one set of triplets, six sets of quadruplets, and one set of quintuplets — were featured in an early 1944 issue of LIFE magazine. Most of these multiples had been born in the 1920s and 1930s.
Curious about the names? I knew you would be! Here they are, along with ages and other details.
Marjorie and Mary Vaughan, 19.
Lois and Lucille Barnes, 21.
Betty and Lenore Wade, early 20s.
Robert “Bobby” and William “Billy” Mauch, 22.
They had starred in the 1937 movie The Prince and the Pauper.
Blaine and Wayne Rideout, 27.
They had been track stars at the University of North Texas in the late 1930s along with another set of twins, Elmer and Delmer Brown.
Charles and Horace Hildreth, 41.
Horace was elected Governor of Maine later the same year.
Ivan and Malvin Albright, 47.
Auguste and Jean Piccard, 60.
“Honors as the world’s most distinguished pair of twins must go to Jean and Auguste Piccard, stratosphere balloonists, who are so identical that not everyone realizes there are two of them.”
Diane Carol, Elizabeth Ann, and Karen Lynn Quist, 11 months.