And since we’re talking posts…do you have any topic suggestions for 2019? Or, are there any older posts you’d like me to update (à la Abcde)? I can’t make any promises, but I always do my best to honor reader requests that come my way (via comments, email, or social media).
In last week’s “lowest ever” boy names post, I mentioned that reader Caitlin had shared her research on downward-trending baby names with me recently. While many girl names hit relative lows in 2017, for instance…
Sarah, now ranked 62nd — lowest ranking since 1970.
Rachel, now ranked 195th — lowest ranking since 1960.
Melissa, now ranked 273rd — lowest ranking since 1949.
…a couple of the names on her list, Rebecca and Catherine, hit their “lowest ever” rankings last year. (Plus there was Katherine, a borderline case of a lowest-ever tie.)
So I set out to find other “lowest ever” girl names.
Many of the names I checked (like Clare, Lea, and Bridget) hit a low in 2017, but it wasn’t their all-time low. Many others (like Pauline, Sara, and Mary) hit a low recently, but not as recently as 2017. Still others (like Yvonne) had to be disqualified because, even though they hit their lowest ranking on record in 2017, they didn’t appear in the data for all 138 years (1880-2017)…an issue I didn’t encounter with any of the boy names.
In the end, I was able to add a dozen thirteen names to the list:
Ann. Ranked 1,023rd in 2017; peak was 28th in the 1930s.
Barbara. Ranked 908th in 2017; peak was 2nd in the 1930s/1940s.
Carol. Ranked 1,814th in 2017; peak was 4th in the 1940s.
Catherine. Ranked 198th in 2017; peak was 18th in the 1910s.
Celia. Ranked 857th in 2017; peak was 141st in the 1880s.
Cynthia. Ranked 637th in 2017; peak was 7th in the 1950s.
Elisabeth. Ranked 775th in 2017; peak was 286th in the 2000s.
Katherine. Ranked 105th in 2017 + 1938; peak 25th in the 1990s.
Kathleen. Ranked 871st in 2017; peak was 9th in the 1940s. (Late addition–thanks Kelly!)
Linda. Ranked 708th in 2017; peak was 1st in 1940s/1950s.
Priscilla. Ranked 527th in 2017; peak was 127th in the 1940s.
Rebecca. Ranked 216th in 2017; peak was 10th in the 1970s.
Rosa. Ranked 672nd in 2017; peak was 52nd in the 1880s.
Susan. Ranked 963rd in 2017; peak was 2nd in the 1950s/1960s.
Teresa. Ranked 720th in 2017; peak was 18th in the 1960s.
Tressa. Ranked 9242nd in 2017; peak was 761st in the 1960s.
That makes 15 (or 16, if you count Katherine). I certainly could have missed a few, though, so if you can think of a good candidate, please let me know in the comments and I’ll take a look.
Legendary actor Orson Welles was married three times and had one daughter per marriage. The last two daughters had conventional names (Rebecca and Beatrice), but the first had an unexpected name: Christopher.
On the day Christopher Welles arrived in March of 1938, her father sent out a short telegram that read: “Christopher, she is born.” The name Christopher was chosen simply because “Orson liked the sound of the name.”
The same year, the baby name Christopher appeared as a girl name for the first time in the SSA data:
# Boys Named Christopher
# Girls Named Christopher
My hunch is that Orson Welles’s daughter was the main influence behind the debut. That said, the name Christopher was on the rise (as a boy name) in the late ’30s, so it’s possible that some of these female Christophers were simply miscoded male Christophers.
As it turns out, Christopher Welles did not like her name as a child: “I was teased mercilessly in school and was quite miserable as a result. I wanted to change it to Linda.” As an adult, she went by the shortened form Chris.
The name Christopher was in the top 10 for boys from 1967 to 2009, ranking #2 for many years from the ’70s to the ’90s. But it also ended up in the girls’ top 1,000 for 24 years, from 1967 to 1990.
What are your thoughts on Christopher as a girl name?
Country singer Dolly Parton was born to parents Avie Lee and Robert Lee Parton in Tennessee 1946. She was the fourth of a dozen children: six boys and six girls. The names of all twelve, in order, are:
Years ago I posted about Livonia, a baby both born on and named after a Pullman car. Recently I wondered: What other Pullman car names would have made good baby names?
So I downloaded a big spreadsheet of over 12,000 Pullman car names from The Pullman Project and was slightly surprised to see that thousands of them could have been baby names, if we allow for the splitting of compound car names (like Fort Miley, Glen Norman, Meredith College, and West Willow).
Here are a handful of examples. On the left are relatively common/familiar names, and on the right are some unexpected choices.