“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.
From a 2009 interview with 80s/90s pop star Taylor Dayne (born Leslie Wunderman):
Taylor Dayne had a major influence on pop culture when she hit the big time in 1987 with a string of hits that included Tell It To My Heart, Prove Your Love, I’ll Always Love You, Don’t Rush Me, With Every Beat of My Heart, Love Will Lead You Back and I’ll Be Your Shelter.
By 1993, the name Taylor hit its peak in popularity of baby names.
“You wonder where they generated from, right?” she yuks. “It was a very uncommon name in 1987, that’s for sure, but it’s a compliment.”
Perhaps she even inspired the name of country’s latest sensation, Taylor Swift, who was born in 1989. She laughs off the suggestion. “I would say that her mother was a fan.”
(The name Taylor had been rising steadily on the girls’ list throughout the ’80s, but Taylor Dayne helped kick the name into the top 10 in 1993. It stayed there for nearly a decade. According to records, some Taylors from this era did indeed get the middle name Dayne.)
From a 1911 newspaper item about about Georgia writer Corra May Harris:
Mrs. Harris finds much trouble in impressing the fact that her name is “Corra” and not “Cora”–the word being a family name.
From an interview with a man named Jörg who was raised in England, but later moved to Germany:
For my entire life up until the point I arrived in Germany at the age of 28 I pronounced my name wrong, saying Jurg instead of Jörg. Now that I’m in the land of Jörgs I pay more attention to getting the umlaut right, but I still say it slightly differently depending on whether I’m speaking English or German.
CONAN: Give us an example of a one word poem aside from Pentium.
COLAPINTO: Yeah. I mean, one of their really great and successful ones is Swiffer, the – that cleaning product. And what was interesting about that is that the word – I think the first time I ever saw Swiffer on the shelf, it seemed sort of familiar to me, and I think it had something to do with that word, which – actually, when you look at it, you realize, no, it’s not saying swift. It seems to be, but it’s not quite saying that. What it is doing is it’s using certain parts of words that we think of when we mop up or clean. We sweep. We swipe.
We decided to give her a name: Aisling. Aisling’s the country girl who works up in Dublin but has precisely zero time for your city notions, thank you very much. She loves working in the Big Smoke – very sophisticated altogether – but she loves going Down Home every weekend even more. We saw Aisling everywhere: walking to work with her packed lunch in an old Brown Thomas bag, minding the handbags in Coppers on a Saturday night, being the one who knows how to work the office fax machine.
And so we started sharing our Aislingisms: “Aisling loves a good wake”; “Aisling has never hidden from the television licence inspector”; “Aisling knows the Weight Watchers points in everything”. Word started to spread because it turns out everyone knows an Aisling, or is an Aisling. Emer set up a Facebook group called Oh My God What A Complete Aisling, which has grown from just our circle of friends to having more than 37,000 members, all there for the love of Aisling and her quirks.
From the book Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt (2002) by Lynn Meskell:
The [Egyptian] newborn was named at birth…since without a name the individual could not exist.
Q: Speaking of your kids, you named your boy “Skate,” is that right?
A: Haha, yeah, I gotta give my wife credit, when she was pregnant in ’97-’98 there, we didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, and she wanted to name it if it was a boy “Skate,” and I was like “Come on, I can’t have a boy named Skate.” So, we had a girl, and I was like “Thank God” [Note: the Skalde’s daughter is “True”] and then you know she gets pregnant again, and sure enough it’s a boy and we decided to go with it. And sure enough, he fits it perfectly, he loves the game, he’s passionate about it, he helps out and he’s around the room all the time with the guys.
One cast member had very few complaints about shooting in Hawaii, never letting it get in the way of her own agenda on the set. The filmmakers found Bertha, the water buffalo that [Jack] Black’s character rides, in Texas and flew her to Kauai on a special plane. But about midway through filming, everyone was in for a big surprise. One day the trainer called us and said, Oh, by the way, Bertha can’t work because when we showed up at the corral this morning, she had a calf, recalls producer McLeod. We didn’t know she was pregnant. No one knew she was pregnant. Bertha having this baby was definitely kind of a humorous morale booster for everyone. In honor of Jack Black, the animal trainer named Bertha’s baby Little Jack.
Leslie Hills worked as a teacher in Scotland for several decades starting in the 1960s. Writing about her experiences in the 1990s, she mentioned Senga Syndrome:
Years later I heard my experience summed up by a very senior official in Lothian Region. The Senga Syndrome he called it and when pressed for an explanation by his male east-coast audience, explained that Senga, a name found only among the working classes in the West, was Agnes backwards and Senga was the typical Glasgow working class girl from a state school, who goes to Glasgow University, does an Ordinary degree, goes to Jordanhill College and returns, if she has ever left, to live near and teach in her old school or very close to it. Unfortunately this cruel description was largely accurate.
Senga Syndrome reminds me of Germany’s Kevinismus and of Sweden’s y-name syndrome. In all three cases, a certain name or type of name emerged to symbolize (in a derogatory way) a particular group or class.
Senga, FWIW, might be Agnes backwards, or it might be based on the Scottish Gaelic word seang, meaning “slender, lanky.”
Hills, Leslie. “The Senga Syndrome: Reflections on Twenty-One Years in Scottish Education.” Identity and Diversity: Gender and the Experience of Education, edited by Maud Blair, Janet Holland, and Sue Sheldon, The Open University, 1995, 51-60.
One of the pop culture baby names we’re keeping an eye on right now is Misty, which may have gotten a boost in 2015 thanks to ballerina Misty Copeland.
But before we find out about Misty (in a matter of days!) let’s talk about Gelsey, which debuted in 1979:
1979: 5 baby girls named Gelsey [debut]
The inspiration? American ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, whose first name is pronounced with a hard g, like Gilbert and Gertrude.
Gelsey Kirkland started dancing at the age of 8. She was asked to join the New York City Ballet (NYCB) in 1968, at the age of 15. She was promoted to soloist in 1970, then promoted to principal dancer (the highest rank possible) in 1972.
In the mid-1970s, she left the NYCB to join the American Ballet Theater and begin her famous partnership with Mikhail Baryshnikov. They danced together in Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, and most famously in a televised performance of The Nutcracker, which aired in late 1977.
In May of 1978, Gelsey — dressed as Kitri from Don Quixote — was featured on the cover of Time magazine. This cover is likely what gave her name the exposure it needed to land on the SSA’s baby name list in 1979.
[She might have had an even earlier impact on the charts had she performed alongside Baryshnikov, as planned, in the dance movie The Turning Point (1977). Instead the part was played by ballerina Leslie Browne, who received an Oscar nomination.]
The list was created by amateur genealogist G. M. Atwater as a resource for writers. It contains names and name combinations that were commonly seen in the U.S. from the 1840s to the 1890s. Below is the full list (with a few minor changes).
Victorian Era Female Names
Victorian Era Male Names
Abigale / Abby
Almira / Almyra
Ann / Annie
Dorothy / Dot
Elizabeth / Eliza / Liza / Lizzy / Bess / Bessie / Beth / Betsy