“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.
It’s time for the annual Pop Culture Baby Name Game!
This year we’re kicking things off January 8th, the birthday of Elvis Presley! (He was born in 1935 and would have been 83 today.)
So how do you play the game? Just brainstorm for baby names that could have gotten a boost in usage in 2017 thanks to the influence popular culture: movies, music, television, social media, video games, sports, politics, products, trends, and so forth.
Here are the names we’ve come up with so far:
Amilyn – movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi (stolen from Abby)
In April of 1937, the film A Star Is Born was released. It starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March as a married couple at opposite ends of their Hollywood careers: hers beginning, his ending.
The husband was named Norman Maine. The wife, on the other hand, had several identities. At first she was North Dakota farm girl Esther Victoria Blodgett. Then she morphed into movie star Vicki Lester for most of the film. Finally, in that memorable last line, she said: “Hello everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine.”
So how did she go from Esther Blodgett to “Vicki Lester”? Here’s the scene:
Press Agent: Do you know what her name is? Esther Victoria Blodgett.
Producer: Gee, we’ll have to do something about that right away.
Press Agent: …Esther Victoria Blodgett…
Producer: Well that Blodgett’s definitely out. See, uh…Esther Victoria, Victoria, Vicki…how about Vicki?
Producer’s Secretary: Oh I think that’s terribly cute.
Producer: Let’s see, Vicki…Vicki what?
Press Agent: Vicki Vicki, pronounced Vicki Vicki. [sarcasm]
Producer: Siesta, Besta, Sesta, Desta, Fester…
Press Agent: Oh that’s very pretty.
Producer: …Jester, Hester, Jester, Lester…Vicki Lester!
Secretary: Oh I like that!
Everyone in the office started chanting the newly minted name Vicki Lester…and with that the star was born.
On the name charts, the entire name-group — Vicki, Vickie, Vicky, Vickey, and so forth — rode a wave of trendiness that started in the ’30s, peaked around 1957, and was over by the ’80s. It’s hard to say how much of this trendiness (if any of it) was fueled by the movie, but one thing definitely attributable to the movie is the higher-than-expected usage of “Vicki” in the late ’30s:
1941: 542 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 274th]
1940: 405 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 316th]
1939: 334 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 355th]
1938: 367 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 332nd]
1937: 148 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 555th]
1936: 82 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 738th]
1935: 70 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 822nd]
Notice how the number adjusted downward in 1939 before the name was picked back up by the wave.
Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that several baby girls born in the late ’30s were named “Vicki Lester.” In 1940, for instance, the Seil family of Washington included parents Orval (26 years old) and Beryl (25) and daughters Arlene (4) and Vicki Lester (1).
History repeated itself in 1954 upon the release of the first A Star is Born remake, which starred Judy Garland as Esther/Vicki. The name Vicki was again nudged upward a few years ahead of schedule:
1958: 7,434 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 57th]
1957: 8,101 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 51st]
1956: 7,762 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 57th]
1955: 7,978 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 52nd]
1954: 8,220 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 50th]
1953: 6,822 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 61st]
1952: 6,774 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 61st]
And, again, records from the mid-1950s reveal a handful of baby girls named “Vicki Lester.”
In the second remake — the 1976 Barbra Streisand version — the character was called Esther throughout the film. Even if there had been a name change, though, the popularity of Vicki was plummeting by the ’70s and I doubt the film could have done much to boost its image/usage.
Currently the name Vicki is only given to about a dozen baby girls in the U.S. per year. But another version of A Star is Born is in the works — a Lady Gaga version slated for 2018. If this third remake materializes, and if it features the name Vicki, do you think it will influence the baby name charts?
(While we wait for 2018, check out the original version of A Star is Born (1937), which is in the public domain.)
The 2016 Pop Culture Baby Name Game will run until mid-May, but it only covers last year — what about this year? Which baby names will see movement on the U.S. charts in 2017 thanks to popular culture?
Here are five possibilities:
Halley, for the baby born on the TV show Big Bang Theory in mid-December, 2016.
Eissa, for Janet Jackson’s baby boy (with Wissam Al Mana) born on January 3, 2017.
Valerian & Laureline, for the lead characters in the upcoming sci-fi movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, set to be released in July of 2017.
Sonequa, for actress Sonequa Martin-Green, who will play the lead character in the TV series Star Trek: Discovery, set to be released in the fall of 2017.
In 1995, researchers Herbert Barry and Aylene S. Harper invented a way to score personal names to determine how “male” or “female” they sounded. Names with positive scores on the scale were more female-sounding, and names with negative scores were more male-sounding.
+2 points if the accent is on the 2nd or later syllable (Elizabeth)
+2 points if the last phoneme is unstressed and schwa-like (Sarah)
+1 points if the last phoneme is some other vowel sound, not a schwa sound (Melanie)
+1 points if the accent is on the 1st of 3 or more syllables (Emily)
-1 points if the name has 1 syllable (Mitch)
-1 points if the last phoneme is S, Z, F, V, TH, CH, ZH, or DZH (James)
-2 points if the last phoneme is P, B, T, D, K, or G (Jacob)
-2 points if the accent is on the 1st of 2 syllables and the name has 6+ phonemes (Robert)
The authors looked at Pennsylvania baby names from 1960 to 1990 and discovered that the average phonetic gender score for girl names and boy names had become more “female” over time.
Several years ago, linguist Anika Okrent used the same scale to analyze national baby name data from 1880 to 2013. She noticed the same trend — stretching back to 1950 and continuing until today.
Her theory is that the shift was essentially fueled by shifting trends in boy names. As names like Donald gave way to names like Elijah, the result was an overall rise in the average phonetic gender score for boy names. This in turn triggered a corresponding rise in the average phonetic gender score for girl names “in order to maintain the gender distinction” (i.e., Janet giving way to Olivia).