So today let’s check out another fun set of “top” names: the top rises. The names below are those that increased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next according to the SSA data.
Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year jumps in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Isa grew 240% and usage of the boy name Noble grew 333%.)
The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does get a lot better in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…
(Did you catch all the doubles? Tula, Delano, Tammy, Jermaine, and Davey/Davy.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about many of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it! Leave a comment and let us know what popularized Dorla in 1929, or Lauren in 1945, or Dustin in 1968, or Kayleigh in 1985, or Talan in 2005…
Edward and Lucinda Favor of Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, had at least a dozen children from the late 1820s to the early 1850s:
Orville Burton, born in 1827
Vera Ann, born in 1828
Danville Bryant, born in 1830
Edward D., born in 1833
Josephine Augusta, born in 1835
Daniel Webster, born in 1837
Edward Webster, born in 1839
Angevine June, born in 1841
Eugene Sue, born in 1844
Zachary Taylor, born in 1847
Franklin Percival, born in 1850
Fannie Eva, born in 1852
It’s easy to guess where a name like “Zachary Taylor” came from, but what’s the story behind Angevine June?
On the afternoon of October 22, 1841, the Favor family went to see the circus. They were so impressed that, when Lucinda gave birth to a baby boy the very next day, they decided to name him Angevine June after the company that owned the circus: Angevine, June, Titus & Company.
Several newspapers including the New York Times reported that his full name was “Angevine June Titus and Company Favor.” While I can’t refute this, I also can’t find any official records to back it up.
Angevine “Vine” Favor left home at the age of 19 to serve in the Civil War. After that he made his way west, working as a stagecoach driver. By the late 1860s he was a landowner in Washington Territory, and in 1882 he platted the Washington town of Pataha City, which was briefly known as “Favorsburg” in his honor.
The surname Angevine can be traced back to the Old French angevin, meaning “man from Anjou.”
With combined spellings, I also found 25,451 Jaydens, 13,249 Braydens, 5,102 Haydens and 2,320 Zaydens. When more rare names like Grayden, Bladen, Slayden and Waden are added in, the total number of boys with names rhyming with Aiden was more than 94,000, or more than 4.6 percent of all names for boys in 2011.
Named after acclaimed University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, brothers Bear and Bryant “Bo” Rinehart were born and raised in rural Possum Kingdom, South Carolina, where their pastor father ran a church camp.
I’m reading Lisa Napoli’s Radio Shangri-La: What I Discovered on my Accidental Journey to the Happiest Kingdom on Earth, and wouldn’t you know it? Chapter Five starts with an account of baby naming customs in Bhutan:
If you walked into any village in all of Bhutan and shouted “Karma,” a quarter of the heads would turn. There are only about fifty names in the whole country … As Bhutan becomes more modern, some of the more daring Bhutanese parents break tradition in order to distinguish themselves, altering the spelling of familiar names or abbreviating them.
Napoli also explains that monks traditionally choose children’s names, but some of the boldest parents are also changing that custom. I have a feeling that there’s enough there for a book in itself!
An especially interesting development is the middle-class fashion for retro kitsch, with old-fashioned names such as Alfie, Charlie, Lily and Florence among the fastest-growing. Perhaps this yearning for the past is a good thing. But isn’t there a hint of Cath Kidston tweeness in the hordes of young Ernests and Olivers, Esmes and Maisies? Some friends, or friends of friends, are coming up with names that wouldn’t be out of place in a PG Wodehouse novel. It’s not quite reached the Bertram Wilberforce (or even Pelham Grenville) stage, but it’s getting there.
Are there any boy names out there that aren’t at risk of becoming girl names?
This may not be the answer you want to hear, but: nope. There’s simply no way to guarantee that a boy name won’t suddenly become trendy for girls. (A movie mermaid was all it took for the name Madison — a name with the word “son” right in there — to become a girl name.)
No boy names are girl-proof, but some are certainly girl-resistant. Which ones? Here are five types I’ve come up with:
1. Boy names with unstylish elements, such as “bert” and “stan.” If a boy name isn’t fashionable enough to be popular for boys, it shouldn’t be too tempting to use for girls either.
2. Boy names with few vowels. They tend to sound more masculine than other names.
3. Boy names with length. Most of today’s popular unisex names stop at two syllables.
4. Boy names with hard endings, such as D, K and T. Many of the boy names being used by girls end with softer consonants like L, N and R.
5. Boy names with well-known feminine forms. If there’s a readily available girl-version, doesn’t it seem silly to use the masculine form for a female?
As I mentioned, there’s never a guarantee. (A female Scrubs character is named Elliot — will that be the next to go? How about Blake, thanks to Blake Lively?) But I think boy names that fit into the above categories are relatively safe bets.
Are there any other types of names you’d add to the list?