“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.
Amy Poehler has five parenting tips: “Always remember your kid’s name. Always remember where you put your kid. Don’t let your kid drive until their feet can reach the pedals. Use the right size diapers…for yourself. And, when in doubt, make funny faces.”
[T]he single, least important but most amazing thing about covering the life and times of Buddy Cianci for me was always the name of his wife. Buddy Cianci was married to a woman named Nancy Ann. Here name is Nancy Ann Cianci. Nancy Ann Cianci — the single, most awesome name in all of the names tangentially related to American political scandal ever. Nancy Ann Cianci.
Why not give my first born a head start in Californian life? I’m sure when he’s older and I take him and his mates Zen and Jazz out for a wheatgrass smoothie, he’d thank me for it. But what if his cruel English father one day moves him back to London? What then for poor Dove, as he tries to make friends with all the Toms and Harrys back in Blighty? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it: Tom and Harry would throw bird s*** at him and then flush his head down the bog.
JG: In the new book, you explain that all Bengalis have private pet names and public “good names.” But the main character in “The Namesake” is given only one name: Gogol, after the Russian writer.
JL: That happened to me. My name, Jhumpa, which is my only name now, was supposed to be my pet name. My parents tried to enroll me in school under my good name, but the teacher asked if they had anything shorter. Even now, people in India ask why I’m publishing under my pet name instead of a real name.
JG: What does Jhumpa mean?
JL: Jhumpa has no meaning. It always upset me. It’s like jhuma, which refers to the sound of a child’s rattle, but with a “p.” In this country, you’d never name your child Rattle. I actually have two good names, Nilanjana and Sudeshna. My mother couldn’t decide. All three are on the birth certificate. I never knew how to write my name.
Q. Who Is Courtney?: I’ve noticed that whenever you need to make up a fictional female name, you always pick “Courtney.” What’s up with that? Just curious!
A: I used to reflexively write, “Denise” and I once got a funny letter from a Denise asking what a Denise ever did to me. Good point that I need a name book by my computer. I like Courtney because I don’t know any and it’s a likely name of a person in her 20s, the way Susan is Courtney’s mother, Dorothy is her grandmother, and Myrna is her great-grandmother.
…and later in the same chat:
Q. Re: Courtney: I once had a professor who would reflexively use the name “Stacy” for a generic female and then mutter, to a room full of students born in the ’80s, “That’s such an ’80s name.” The Stacys in the room—and there always was at least one—got a good laugh out of it.
A: I’ll add this to my repertoire! But a quick look at a reference confirms my sense that Stacy is such a ’70s name.
The reason is simple. If you really want your kid to be special, a name is not going to do it. Your kid is going to have to earn it. She is going to have to work hard and sacrifice. She’ll have to try and fail and eventually find her place — find whatever she’s good at — and then work harder to develop her talents.
It will be easier to do that if she is humble. And it will be easier for her to be humble if she doesn’t have a name that makes her think she’s precious and special and God’s gift to the universe (such as Nevaeh, which is heaven spelled backward).
It’s nobody’s fault that we’re screwing up kids’ names — we’re screwing up a lot of things. We’re doing it because we’re able to. We’re able to because the American experiment has produced untold wealth — which shifted our focus from trying to subsist, as our parents did, to fretting over what to name our kids.
“My pop [Len] was a DJ while he was in the military and they called him DJ Frost because they said he was cold on the spins. [They called him] Frost, Frostee all that. No matter what he named me they were going to call me Little Frost anyway, so they named me Frostee.”
So Frostee is your given name?
“Yup, that’s my given name.”
What was it like growing up named Frostee?
“It sucked growing up really because kids at Christmas time and teachers, and me being African American, it just didn’t all come together but about [the] time I came to high school it became a household name in Orange County (Calif.).
“It’s just benefited [me] from then. It’s always caught peoples’ eye in the paper and they wanted to know more. So I don’t know if I’ll name my kid that if I ever have one but at the same time being unique isn’t bad either.”
The decision on which names to accept and which to reject is generally left to the local registrar, but that decision can be contested in court. And sometimes the court’s ruling can seem rather arbitrary. While the names Stompie, Woodstock and Grammophon have been rejected by German courts in the past, the similarly creative parents of Speedy, Lafayette and Jazz were granted their name of choice.
A wide variety of Hebrew names came into common usage beginning in 1560, when the first readily accessible English Bible was published. But by the late 16th century many Puritan communities in Southern Britain saw common names as too worldly, and opted instead to name children after virtues or with religious slogans as a way of setting the community apart from non-Puritan neighbors. Often, Puritan parents chose names that served to remind the child about sin and pain.
[I]t’s their mom, Gayal Black, who is behind the girls’ brand-worthy names, designed to minimize comparisons with Venus and Serena Williams, and establish a unique, powerful identities for the sisters.
“I have a marketing degree…and I knew I needed to do something for them to stand out, and we thought it was cute,” Gayal told ESPNW.
Tornado was born Alicia, but Gayal says the nickname came from her daughter’s ferocious tennis skills as a three-year-old. “We couldn’t believe how amazing she was and we knew then we had a champion. When the next one was born, we knew she could do it, too, and so her [legal] name is Tyra Hurricane.”
“[Tornado didn’t like her name] a few years ago. Kids tease you. But now they understand it’s marketing and it’s very big to say a storm blew through the US Open.”
Dad Sly added that the names started as “a little joke” but “turned out to be a pretty big deal.”
“Yes, Tornado and Hurricane are names for marketable athletes, but that’s a big part of it nowadays, and if you can get a good, strong name, all the better.”
(Found out about the Black sisters via Abby – thanks!)
Humans love patterns. Just look last year’s list of popular twin names:
Jacob & Joshua
Daniel & David
Jayden & Jordan
Ethan & Evan
Taylor & Tyler
Gabriella & Isabella
Isaac & Isaiah
Madison & Morgan
Elijah & Isaiah
Ella & Emma
Eight pairs start with the same letter. Seven have the same rhythm. Another seven end with the same letter (and many of these nearly rhyme).
For twins and other multiples, sticking with a name pattern is easy. You know the number of children and their genders ahead of time.
But what if you want a name pattern for an entire sibling set? That can make things tricky. You don’t know how many children you’ll have, or what their genders will be. You also don’t know how your tastes may change over time.
If you’re thinking about a name pattern to cover all of your kids, here are three pieces of advice to consider before you begin:
Don’t lock yourself into something limiting.
Let’s say you like flowers. You have a daughter and you name her Lily. You have another daughter and name her Rose. Then another, Jasmine. And then a fourth, but…you don’t like any other flower names. Iris? Too old. Poppy? Too young. Zinnia? Too weird. Amaryllis will never be spelled correctly. And Daisy is the golden retriever down the street.
Or, let’s say you have a son named Alexander. Then you have another boy, and you decide to name him Xavier so they both have that X in common. Then baby #3–a little girl–comes along. Well, you can’t do Alexis–that’s too close to Alexander. You won’t go near Maxine because you fear maxi pad jokes. Roxanne reminds you too much of that song. Xena reminds you too much of that show. And Beatrix makes you think of rabbits.
When you play chess, you have to think ahead several moves. Look at sibling name patterns the same way. Think ahead as many kids as possible. If you can think of 10 or more usable names that fit the pattern, it’s probably a safe pattern. If you can’t, the pattern may be too limiting to be sustainable.
Consider the pros and cons of visibility.
Have you heard of the Duggars? They have nearly 20 kids, and all of those kids have a J-name. This type of name pattern is one of the easiest to spot. (Especially in large families.)
But name patterns don’t have to be obvious. Let’s say your children will have a whole bunch of aunts and uncles you’d like to honor with baby names. You make a list of their names and simply pick from this list as you have children. In this case, the pattern (aunt and uncle names) is so subtle that it’s basically a family secret.
Here are some example name patterns, ranging from blatant to barely there:
Number of letters (Jason, Frank, Kelly, Alexa)
Spread-out alphabetical (Brian, Elaine, Laura, Paul)
Letter in common (Abigail, Sebastian, Tobias, Isabella)
Chain [last letters into first letters] (Michael, Lauren, Nora, Andrew)
How can you test the visibility of a particular pattern? Make a list of names that fit the pattern. Pick two at random and give them to a friend. Ask that friend what the two names have in common. Did she get it on the first try? Was she unable to guess at all? That should give you a good idea about where the pattern would fall on the spectrum.
Avoid sets of names that have an endpoint.
Your first son is Luke. The next is Sky. The next is Walker. And then…surprise! Son #4. Now what–Anakin? Darth? Chewbacca?
If you start off with a discrete set of names, the universe will laugh at you and you will either:
not have enough kids, or
have too many kids
to match the number of names in the set. Murphy’s Law in action. So don’t tempt fate–stick with an open-ended theme that could end at two names or continue to ten.
What other suggestions would you give to parents considering name patterns?
Yesterday I discovered the “Asian Name Pronunciation Guide,” which was created by California State Polytechnic University (Pomona) to help its students “more accurately pronounce some common Asian first and last names.” What a cool thing for the school to make available.