“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.
Both her parents were curlers, members of a tight-knit sport where an intense reverence for the game tends to bleed over into the players’ personal lives. And so it was only natural that Joe and Kristin Polo decided to name their future daughter Ailsa, after the Scottish island where the granite that makes curling rocks is mined.
After Randall’s birth on Dec. 31, 1982, Ronn wanted to name her Kikki, after Kiki Cutter, the first American skier, male or female, to win a rase in a World Cup event, a slalom in 1968. Deborah preferred Meghan. They compromised on Kikkan.
When I was eight, I changed my name. Until then, I was called Johanna Louise, because my youthful parents, huge Bob Dylan fans, had named me after his mystical 1966 ballad, Visions of Johanna. In mid-70s south Manchester, sadly, the mysticism was somewhat lost. I hated explaining my name […] and thought it sounded clunky and earthy, when I longed to be ethereal and balletic.
From an essay about ethnic names by Australian-born Turkish author Dilvin Yasa
“Have you ever considered changing your name to something more ‘white’?” asked a literary agent the other day. “It’s been my experience that authors with strong, Anglo names tend to do better at the cash registers than those who have ethnic or even Aboriginal names.”
“Leave your name as it is!” [Jane Palfreyman] wrote. “I can tell you that their names have affected the popularity of Anh Do*, Christos Tsiolkas, Kevin Kwan or Munjed Al Muderis – and indeed may well have contributed to their success.”
*Misspelled “Ahn Do” in the original text.
From an article called “Restore Yamhill!” in the March 30, 1917, issue of The New York Sun:
The City Commission of Portland, Ore., has succumbed to an attack of mock elegance and under its influence has erased from the map the excellent, juicy and meaningful name of Yamhill street, substituting for it the commonplace and sordid Market street.
Yamhill is ancient, respectable, typical, historic. Alexander Henry, a fur trader of the Northwest Company, traversing the then unknown Willamette country, met at Willamette Falls, January 10, 1814, seven “ugly, ill formed Indians” leading a horse. They were of the Yamhela tribe, as Henry spelled it in his diary, the name being derived from the Yamhela, or yellow river.
From an article about Rose Collom in True West Magazine:
Rose was the perfect name for the Grand Canyon’s first official botanist, because self-taught Rose Collom blossomed when exposed to the state’s flora.
Rose discovered several varieties of plants previously unknown, and each was named after her.
Have you heard of “Kevinism”? It’s Europe’s bias against people who have first names that are “culturally devalued” like Kevin, Chantal, Mandy and Justin — names that were popularized by American pop culture, typically.
In the case of Kevin, actors like Kevin Costner and Kevin Bacon — not to mention the very successful 1990 Christmas movie Home Alone, in which the lead character was a young Kevin — made the name very trendy overseas in the early 1990s. In fact, it hit #1 in several European countries, including France and Switzerland.
But after the trend cooled off, the backlash began. And it’s so bad now that, just a few years ago, a German schoolteacher told researchers that Kevin is “not a name, but a diagnosis.”
Which makes this recent observation by Andrew Gruttadaro of The Ringer all the more interesting: “Of the scripted shows on the four major [U.S.] networks that currently include a first name in the title–Kevin Can Wait, Young Sheldon, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, Bob’s Burgers, Will & Grace, and Marlon–33 percent of them feature a Kevin.”
It’s a fascinating juxtaposition. Kevin has apparently hit some sort of nostalgic sweet-spot for American TV audiences, and, at the same time, it’s so disliked overseas that an entirely new word has been coined to describe the prejudice.
I wonder if those American shows are being seen in Europe and, if so, whether they’ll affect Kevinism. Will they exacerbate it? Eradicate it? Hm…
Where do you live, and how do you feel about the name Kevin?
Girl-crazy teenager Dobie Gillis was a character created by writer Max Shulman in the 1940s. He was first brought to life in the movie The Affairs of Dobie Gillis in 1953, but the most memorable portrayal of Dobie was by Dwayne Hickman in the four-season TV sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which premiered in September of 1959.
Dobie Gillis is notable for being “the first prime-time series to consistently privilege teenage characters, activities, and spaces over those associated with family shows.”
It was also known for the unusual character names. Dobie (pronounced doh-bee, rhymes with Toby) had friends with names like:
Maynard (a beatnik played by Bob Denver, who later portrayed Gilligan)
Zelda (a brainiac played by Sheila James Kuehl, sister of Jeri Lou)
Thalia Menninger (a rich girl played by Tuesday Weld)
These “uncommon first names [were] evidently meant to seem vaguely silly in their failure to conform with ’50s norms.”
The show ended up influencing the usage of several baby names. First of all, it was behind the debut of the name Dobie in 1960:
1964: 9 baby boys named Dobie
1962: 6 baby boys named Dobie
1961: 8 baby boys named Dobie
1960: 9 baby boys named Dobie [debut]
The name Thalia also saw a spike in usage in 1960, which makes sense because all but two of the episodes featuring Thalia Menninger were first-season (1959-1960) episodes. Dobie pronounced Thalia’s name thale-ya.
1964: 46 baby girls named Thalia
1963: 42 baby girls named Thalia
1962: 42 baby girls named Thalia
1961: 46 baby girls named Thalia
1960: 90 baby girls named Thalia
1959: 30 baby girls named Thalia
1958: 24 baby girls named Thalia
Finally, the name Zelda saw elevated usage in the early ’60s:
1964: 133 baby girls named Zelda
1963: 171 baby girls named Zelda
1962: 178 baby girls named Zelda
1961: 168 baby girls named Zelda
1960: 136 baby girls named Zelda
1959: 142 baby girls named Zelda
1958: 131 baby girls named Zelda
Fun fact: Zelda — who pursued Dobie as ardently as Dobie pursued all other females — once convinced a girl named Phyllis to break it off with Dobie by warning her that her married name would be “Phyllis Gillis.”
Many of the secondary and single-episode characters had unusual names as well. Here are some examples:
Do you like any of the above Dobie Gillis names? How about the name “Dobie” itself?
Kearney, Mary C. “Teenagers and Television in the United States.” Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Television, ed. by Horace Newcomb, 2nd ed., New York: Routledge, 2013, pp. 2276-2281.
Sterritt, David. Mad to be Saved: The Beats, the ’50s, and Film. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998.