“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.
In June of 1982, the Toledo Blade ran a short article about two local brothers who “enjoy the distinction of having initials which spell their names.” One was Thomas Owen Matzinger (T.O.M.), the other was James Irvin Matzinger (J.I.M.). Their dad Mike said it was “just as well” that he didn’t have any more kids, because he couldn’t think of any other sets of names to fit the pattern.
My guess is that Mike was joking, because there are several other sets of initials that could work with an M-surname like Matzinger, one of which, T.I.M., is just a letter away from T.O.M.
In fact, there are at least a couple of combinations that would work with every type of surname.
So today, in honor of the Matzingers of Toledo, I’ve come up with a long list of name-spelling initials. They’re sorted by third initial (that is, the first letter of the last name) so you can scroll straight to the set that matches up with your own surname.
Initials that Spell Names & Nicknames
Surname starts with:
Potential full initials (& example combo):
A.D.A. (Adelaide Diane A.) A.N.A. (Anastasia Nadine A.) A.S.A. (Asa Scott A.) A.V.A. (Ava Virginia A.) B.E.A. (Beatrix Elaine A.) E.V.A. (Eva Veronica A.) G.I.A. (Gia Idonea A.) I.D.A. (Idabelle Daria A.) I.N.A. (Ina Nigella A.) I.R.A. (Ira Ralph A.) I.S.A. (Isabel Simone A.) K.I.A. (Kia Ianthe A.) L.E.A. (Leah Elizabeth A.) M.I.A. (Mia Imelda A.) N.I.A. (Nia Ilona A.) O.D.A. (Odalys Delfina A.) O.R.A. (Ora Ruth A.) U.M.A. (Uma Magnolia A.) U.N.A. (Una Normina A.)
D.E.B. (Deborah Ethel B.) J.E.B. (Jeb Evan B.) L.I.B. (Libbie Ione B.) R.O.B. (Robert Orville B.) S.E.B. (Sebastian Everly B.) S.Y.B. (Sybil Yvette B.) T.A.B. (Tabitha Araminta B.) Z.E.B. (Zebulon Ezekiel B.)
B.E.C. (Becky Eowyn C.) M.A.C. (Mackenzie Anne C.) N.I.C. (Nicole Isabelle C.) V.I.C. (Victor Ivan C.) Z.A.C. (Zackary Arlo C.)
J.E.D. (Jedidiah Easton D.) R.O.D. (Rodney Orrin D.) T.E.D. (Theodora Eugenia D.) Z.E.D. (Zedekiah Ezra D.)
A.B.E. (Abraham Benjamin E.) A.C.E. (Ace Corbin E.) E.V.E. (Eve Violet E.) F.A.E. (Fae Adina E.) I.K.E. (Isaac Keith E.) J.O.E. (Joseph Owen E.) L.E.E. (Lee Ethan E.) M.A.E. (Maebelle Alice E.) M.O.E. (Morris Oscar E.) R.A.E. (Raelene Alicia E.) S.U.E. (Susan Ursula E.) Z.O.E. (Zoe Ocean E.)
C.A.L. (Callum Audley L.) D.E.L. (Delaney Estelle L.) G.I.L. (Gilbert Ishmael L.) H.A.L. (Harry Archibald L.) L.I.L. (Lillian Iva L.) M.A.L. (Malcolm Angus L.) M.E.L. (Melanie Eloisa L.) M.O.L. (Molly Odette L.) S.A.L. (Sally Angelica L.) S.O.L. (Solomon Osborn L.) V.A.L. (Valerie Annette L.) W.I.L. (Willy Ingo L.) Z.E.L. (Zelda Erin L.)
C.A.M. (Cameron Aidan M.) D.O.M. (Dominic Orson M.) J.E.M. (Jemima Eleanor M.) J.I.M. (James Irvin M.) K.I.M. (Kimberly Imogene M.) L.E.M. (Lemuel Emerson M.) P.A.M. (Pamela Alys M.) R.A.M. (Ramsey Archer M.) S.A.M. (Samuel Aaron M.) S.I.M. (Simon Isidore M.) T.A.M. (Tammy Anita M.) T.I.M. (Timothy Isaac M.) T.O.M. (Thomas Owen M.)
B.A.X. (Baxter Andrew X.) D.A.X. (Dax Alec X.) D.E.X. (Dexter Edison X.) J.A.X. (Jaxon Antony X.) L.E.X. (Lexie Eliza X.) M.A.X. (Maximus Alvin X.) P.A.X. (Pax Amelia X.) R.E.X. (Rex Elias X.) R.O.X. (Roxanna Opal X.) T.E.X. (Tex Emmanuel X.)
A.M.Y. (Amy Michelle Y.) G.U.Y. (Guy Urban Y.) I.V.Y. (Ivy Verity Y.) J.A.Y. (Jay Adam Y.) J.O.Y. (Joyce Ondina Y.) K.A.Y. (Katherine Addison Y.) M.A.Y. (May Augusta Y.) R.A.Y. (Raymond Adrian Y.) R.O.Y. (Royce Oberon Y.) S.K.Y. (Skylar Kerry Y.)
According to the state-by-state data, Deneen usage tended to be highest in the most populous states. This isn’t much of a clue, but it does tell us that the influence was national (e.g., movie, music) and not regional (e.g., college sports, local politician).
For a long time my only guess on Deneen was the same guess Hilary Parker made in her poisoned baby names post: musical duo August & Deneen. But their hit single “We Go Together” came out in 1968 — long after the 1964 baby name spike. So August & Deneen clearly isn’t the answer.
About a month ago I tried another Deneen search. This time around I found a recent thread on Deneen at the Baby Name Wizard forum. According to intel gathered by forum members, Deneen could have been popularized by a ’60s commercial for Ivory dishwashing liquid.
At first I wasn’t so sure. The only vintage Ivory commercials I could find online were for Ivory Snow laundry detergent and, while many of these did feature names (e.g., Allison, Betsy, Bonnie, Debbie, Esther, Joy, Kerry, Kimberly, Michelle, Terry) the names were never on-screen. You don’t get a spelling-specific name spike if the influence is audio-only.
Then I noticed, lower down in the thread, that someone included a link to a single Ivory dishwashing liquid commercial from 1962. The spot featured a mother-daughter pair, “Mrs. Bernard Pugar and Dana,” and their names were indeed shown on-screen for several seconds. Now this looked promising.
I’ve since tracked down a similar Ivory commercial featuring “Mrs. Blake Clark” and her daughter Nicky, though Nicky’s name was never shown on-screen. No luck finding a Deneen version yet.
So I’ll just sit tight and hope that, one day, someone uploads the commercial in question and puts this whole Deneen baby name mystery to rest. :)
In the meanwhile, some questions:
If you were watching TV in the ’60s, do you happen recall an Ivory dishwashing liquid commercial featuring the name Deneen? (Long shot, I know.)
What do you think of the name Deneen? Which spelling do you like best?
P.S. Djuna popped up on the baby name charts in 1964 as well. I’m declaring 1964 the year of the mysteriously trendy D-names.
Well, I was making a record, and I had to choose a name, because they said, you know, you can’t make a record under the name of Reg Dwight, because it’s never going to — you know, it’s not attractive enough. And I agreed with that, and I couldn’t wait to change my name anyway, because I’m not too fond of the name of Reginald. It’s a very kind of ’50s English name.
So I picked Elton because there wasn’t — nobody seemed to have the name Elton. And I picked John to go with it. And it was — it was done on a bus going from London Heathrow back into the city. And it was done very quickly. So I said, oh, Elton John. That’s fine.
From The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography by Lois Potte:
Though contemporary sonneteers populated their world with lovers called Astrophil, Parthenophil, Stella, Delia, and Idea, the only names that appear in Shakespeare’s sonnets are Adonis, Helen, Mars, Saturn, Philomel, Eve, Cupid, Diana, and Time — and the one non-mythological figure, the author, “Will.”
Black people commonly use the term “Becky” when referring to generic white women. It has a slight negative connotation (airheadedness), but white women don’t have to do anything to deserve the title.
Clearly, this is as problematic as sexual stereotypes against any demographic of people. Women fight on a daily basis not to be objectified, but this portrayal takes it further and assigns white women a role to which they may not ascribe.
Despite my dislike for using a proper name as a slur, it took an actual person to bring it home to me. After my tweet, a white colleague nicknamed Becky told me about how she’s been forced to use Rebecca instead. A group of black men were catcalling her down a sidewalk and she was doing her best to ignore them. One of them yelled out, “Hey Becky!” That’s her name: she automatically swung her head around. But this had the opposite effect of validating the men’s impression that she was a Becky, not a woman named Becky. They laughed. She laughed, too, because…it is kinda funny.
But I stopped laughing quickly. I had never thought about the implications of people using your name as a stereotype against you. Where can you run to escape that?
A memo to every parent who’s ever lived: Giving your kid a special name does not make him special. It never has. It never will.
You know what I mean. It’s one thing to give yourself a screwy moniker. Body-modification enthusiasts have changed their names to Swirly Wanx Sinatra, Grenade Bee of Death, and RooRaaah Mew Crumbs, among other things, and there’s a U.S. Army Ohio National Guard firefighter who named himself Optimus Prime. That’s fine, you’re the one who has to live with it.
It’s worse when you inflict a harebrained epithet on a newborn, who will have to drag it through life like a neon hairshirt.
Originally named Arabella, this cheese underwent a slight name change recently; as Leslie told me, it’s always been named after Matthew’s great grandmother, whose name was America Arabella. To honor her, they combined her two names and came up with the Ameribella, which also has the unique quality of honoring this cheese’s American terroir and Italian origins.
I’m not sure exactly what criteria were used to create the rankings, but it looks like the top unisex names on this list were the top-1,000 names that “stuck around that 50-50 split” the longest from 1930 to 2012.
(In contrast, my unisex baby names page lists any name on the full list to fall within the 25-75 to 75-25 range, but only in the most recent year on record.)
The FlowingData post also mentions that, though the data is pretty noisy, there might be “a mild upward trend” over the years in the number of babies with a unisex name.