A couple of months ago, we looked at a long, year-by-year list of the top baby name rises. A month after that, we saw the corresponding list of top drops.
On that second post, Frank B. left a comment in which he asked about absolute rises and drops — because the lists only covered relative movement within the data. So I thought two more posts were in order: top raw-number rises, and top raw-number drops.
We’ll start with the rises again. Just keep in mind that the SSA numbers don’t become very accurate until the mid-to-late 20th century, so many of the numbers below don’t quite reflect reality.
Here’s the format: Girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the numbers represent single-year rises in usage. From 1880 to 1881, for instance, the usage of the girl name Ethel increased by 155 babies and the usage of the boy name Chester increased by 106 babies.
“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.
From a 2009 interview with 80s/90s pop star Taylor Dayne (born Leslie Wunderman):
Taylor Dayne had a major influence on pop culture when she hit the big time in 1987 with a string of hits that included Tell It To My Heart, Prove Your Love, I’ll Always Love You, Don’t Rush Me, With Every Beat of My Heart, Love Will Lead You Back and I’ll Be Your Shelter.
By 1993, the name Taylor hit its peak in popularity of baby names.
“You wonder where they generated from, right?” she yuks. “It was a very uncommon name in 1987, that’s for sure, but it’s a compliment.”
Perhaps she even inspired the name of country’s latest sensation, Taylor Swift, who was born in 1989. She laughs off the suggestion. “I would say that her mother was a fan.”
(The name Taylor had been rising steadily on the girls’ list throughout the ’80s, but Taylor Dayne helped kick the name into the top 10 in 1993. It stayed there for nearly a decade. According to records, some Taylors from this era did indeed get the middle name Dayne.)
From a 1911 newspaper item about about Georgia writer Corra May Harris:
Mrs. Harris finds much trouble in impressing the fact that her name is “Corra” and not “Cora”–the word being a family name.
From an interview with a man named Jörg who was raised in England, but later moved to Germany:
For my entire life up until the point I arrived in Germany at the age of 28 I pronounced my name wrong, saying Jurg instead of Jörg. Now that I’m in the land of Jörgs I pay more attention to getting the umlaut right, but I still say it slightly differently depending on whether I’m speaking English or German.
CONAN: Give us an example of a one word poem aside from Pentium.
COLAPINTO: Yeah. I mean, one of their really great and successful ones is Swiffer, the – that cleaning product. And what was interesting about that is that the word – I think the first time I ever saw Swiffer on the shelf, it seemed sort of familiar to me, and I think it had something to do with that word, which – actually, when you look at it, you realize, no, it’s not saying swift. It seems to be, but it’s not quite saying that. What it is doing is it’s using certain parts of words that we think of when we mop up or clean. We sweep. We swipe.
We decided to give her a name: Aisling. Aisling’s the country girl who works up in Dublin but has precisely zero time for your city notions, thank you very much. She loves working in the Big Smoke – very sophisticated altogether – but she loves going Down Home every weekend even more. We saw Aisling everywhere: walking to work with her packed lunch in an old Brown Thomas bag, minding the handbags in Coppers on a Saturday night, being the one who knows how to work the office fax machine.
And so we started sharing our Aislingisms: “Aisling loves a good wake”; “Aisling has never hidden from the television licence inspector”; “Aisling knows the Weight Watchers points in everything”. Word started to spread because it turns out everyone knows an Aisling, or is an Aisling. Emer set up a Facebook group called Oh My God What A Complete Aisling, which has grown from just our circle of friends to having more than 37,000 members, all there for the love of Aisling and her quirks.
From the book Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt (2002) by Lynn Meskell:
The [Egyptian] newborn was named at birth…since without a name the individual could not exist.
Q: Speaking of your kids, you named your boy “Skate,” is that right?
A: Haha, yeah, I gotta give my wife credit, when she was pregnant in ’97-’98 there, we didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, and she wanted to name it if it was a boy “Skate,” and I was like “Come on, I can’t have a boy named Skate.” So, we had a girl, and I was like “Thank God” [Note: the Skalde’s daughter is “True”] and then you know she gets pregnant again, and sure enough it’s a boy and we decided to go with it. And sure enough, he fits it perfectly, he loves the game, he’s passionate about it, he helps out and he’s around the room all the time with the guys.
One cast member had very few complaints about shooting in Hawaii, never letting it get in the way of her own agenda on the set. The filmmakers found Bertha, the water buffalo that [Jack] Black’s character rides, in Texas and flew her to Kauai on a special plane. But about midway through filming, everyone was in for a big surprise. One day the trainer called us and said, Oh, by the way, Bertha can’t work because when we showed up at the corral this morning, she had a calf, recalls producer McLeod. We didn’t know she was pregnant. No one knew she was pregnant. Bertha having this baby was definitely kind of a humorous morale booster for everyone. In honor of Jack Black, the animal trainer named Bertha’s baby Little Jack.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader looking for lists of old-fashioned double names. She was aiming for names like Thelma Dean, Eula Mae, and Gaynell — names that would have sounded trendy in the early 1900s. She also mentioned that she’d started a list of her own.
So I began scouring the interwebs. I tracked down lists of old-fashioned names, and lists of double names…but I couldn’t find a decent list of double names that were also old-fashioned.
I loved the idea of such a list, though, so I suggested that we work together to create one. She generously sent me the pairings she’d collected so far, and I used several different records databases to find many more.
I restricted my search to names given to girls born in the U.S. from 1890 to 1930. I also stuck to double names that I found written as single names, because it’s very likely that these pairings were used together in real life (i.e., that they were true double names and not merely first-middle pairings).
Pairings that seemed too timeless, like Maria Mae and Julia Rose, were omitted. I also took out many of the pairings that feature now-trendy names — think Ella, Emma, and Lucy — because they just don’t sound old-fashioned anymore (though they would have a few decades ago).
The result isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a decent sampling of real-life, old-fashioned double names. I’ve organized them by second name, and I also added links to popularity graphs for names that were in the SSA data during the correct time period (early 1900s).
In 1910, the Boston-based publisher H. M. Caldwell Co. ran the following ad for its “My Own Name” series of books in American Motherhood magazine.
It is the purpose of these charming little books to tell girls all about their names, information about the name, its origin, the name in history, the name in poetry, fiction and romance is given, also notable namesakes past and present.
It wasn’t much of a series, though, as there were only 25 names to choose from:
Alice (ranked 10th nationally in 1910)
Clearly three more names could have fit on that last line (next to Winifred), so let’s turn this into a game. Which three girl names would you add to this list? That is, give us three names you like that would also be logical additions to this list, given the time period. For instance, I think I’d add Iola, Della, and Bonnie. How about you?
(If you want to access the national rankings for 1910, click over to the SSA’s site and scroll down to “Popular Names by Birth Year.”)