“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.
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).
The likeable names Emma and Ella are both very popular choices for babies right now. Nationally, Emma is ranked 1st and Ella is 16th.
Both can be traced back to Germanic words: Emma to ermen, meaning “entire, whole,” and Ella to ali, meaning “other, foreign.”
Both can also be used as short forms other names, particularly those starting with Em- (e.g., Emerson, Emmeline) or El- (e.g., Eleanor, Ellen).
So let’s say you like these names, but…you’d really prefer to use something a little less common. One thing you could try is moving to the next letter of the alphabet: L, M, N.
Enna isn’t what you’d call a traditional name. And it’s never been in the top 1,000 — though it did come close once, way back in 1894.
That said, the letter string “enna” is popular in longer names (like Jenna, Sienna, Mckenna, Kenna, Vienna, Brenna, Glenna, Gwenna, Zenna, etc.), and Enna as a standalone name has seen seen slightly higher usage lately:
2017: 14 baby girls named Enna
2016: 24 baby girls named Enna (peak usage so far)
2015: 22 baby girls named Enna
2014: 19 baby girls named Enna
2013: 15 baby girls named Enna
2012: 7 baby girls named Enna
What are your thoughts on the baby name Enna? Do you like it as an alternative to Ella and Emma?
So my question is this: Could Essfa, a one-hit wonder from 1921, be another flaw?
According to the SSA data, the name Essfa was given to 6 babies in 1921, and all 6 of these babies were born in Vermont.
But when we look for these Essfas in the SSDI, we get…nothing. Not a single Essfa from anywhere, born in any year.
This doesn’t prove anything, but it is very curious.
Then there’s the fact that all these Essfas were born in Vermont, a relatively small state not known for adventurous baby-naming. The SSA’s Vermont-specific data from 1921 puts oddball Essfa on par with classics like Emma and Julia:
All baby names given to 6 babies in VT in 1921, according to SSA
After doing more research, I was only able to find a single person named Essfa who was born in Vermont in 1921. The intriguing part? She had multiple identities:
She was born Essfa Estella Bickford Vermont on May 7, 1921.
She became Essfa E. Davis upon marrying William Earl Davis in Vermont in 1937.
She became Essfa E. Millette upon marrying Rupert Frank Millette in New Hampshire in 1941.
She became Essfa E. Walker upon marrying Howard C. Walker in New Hampshire in 1953.
She became Essfa E. Davis (again) upon marrying Arthur I. Davis in Connecticut in 1964, and passed away in 1976 as a Davis.
And I found a sixth alias — in Billboard magazine, oddly enough. For decades Billboard operated a mail-forwarding service for traveling performers. The name “Essfa E. White” appeared regularly on their Letter List from 1945 until 1948. (She was also listed under the surname Millette once, in 1946.)
So we know for sure that one Essfa was born in Vermont in 1921, and that this Essfa used at least six different names (if you count Davis twice) throughout her lifetime.
At this point, I can’t help but wonder whether this particular Essfa was counted 6 different times in the SSA data somehow.