“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.
The U.S. National Park Service has a birthday coming up!
When the NPS was created on August 25, 1916, there were only 35 national parks and monuments. (The world’s first, Yellowstone, had been established in 1872.)
Nowadays the agency oversees 411 units. These units are located in the 50 states and beyond, and include national monuments (82), national historic sites (78), national parks (59), national historical parks (50), national memorials (30), national battlefields (11), national seashores (10), national lakeshores (4), national scenic trails (3), and more.
Let’s celebrate the upcoming centenary with over 100 baby names that pay tribute to the national parks specifically:
The derivation of Kenai is unknown, but it could come from either Dena’ina Athabascan (“big flat” or “two big flats and river cut-back” or “trees and brush in a swampy marsh”), Russian (“flat barren land”), or Iniut (“black bear”).
Ask White if she still drives and she replies, “Of course!” She owns a silver Cadillac nicknamed Seagull. “I love Cadillacs and name them after birds.” Her previous ride, the pale-yellow Canary, was preceded by the green Parakeet.
“If innovative birth names first appear as expressions of cultural capital, then liberal elites are most likely to popularize them, especially given that liberals are typically more comfortable embracing novelty and differentiation,” the study said. “Sometime afterwards, the name will diminish as a prestige symbol as lower classes begin adopting more of these names themselves thus sending liberal elites in search of ever new and obscure markers.”
When elite liberal parents do search for novelty, the authors write, they are “less likely to make up a name rather than choose a pre-existing word that is culturally esoteric (e.g., ‘Namaste,’ ‘Finnegan,’ ‘Archimedes’), because fabricating a name would diminish its cultural cachet.”
After all, they note, “the value of cultural capital comes, not from its uniqueness, but from its very obscurity.”
“With our first we did not keep the name a secret. We told everyone. Then at 36 weeks, my cousin got a puppy which she named the same name as I had picked for our baby. When I asked why she used the name she choose she said she had heard it somewhere and really liked it but couldn’t remember where. I was devastated. Baby ended up coming at 37 weeks and we had not yet picked a new name! After that we kept the names quiet until they were born.” – Nicole Storms
Last month, on the blog he writes for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates explained the origin of his first name:
[F]or the record Ta-Nehisi (pronounced Tah-Nuh-Hah-See) is an Egyptian name for ancient Nubia. I came up in a time when African/Arabic names were just becoming popular among black parents. I had a lot of buddies named Kwame, Kofi, Malik (actually have a brother with that name), Akilah and Aisha. My Dad had to be different, though. Couldn’t just give me a run of the mill African name. I had to be a nation.
Coates’s father was a former Black Panther who raised seven children by four mothers, while running an underground Afro-centric publishing house from his basement. When Bill Cosby complained about black parents naming their children “Shaniqua, Taniqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail,” he may very well have been thinking of Paul Coates.
I was watching the Little League World Series the other day and the team from New Castle, Indiana has a great bunch of kids and much to be proud of.
But, unfortunately, that wasn’t what I noticed first about them. What I noticed was the first names of their lineup card: Mason, Janson, Cayden, Hunter, Niah, Bryce, Jarred, Blake, and Bryce (again).
So no John? No Jimmy, Bobby, Richard, or Chris? There’s nothing wrong with their names — like I said, their parents should be bursting with pride — but, as an apprentice old fogey, it’s hard to get used to.
I myself was named after Craig Breedlove, a daredevil who broke all sorts of land speed records in what was pretty much a rocket on wheels. I absolutely love my name and am proud of my namesake, but I always feel I’m letting Mr. Breedlove down when I putter along Route 3 at 55 miles per hour, content to listen to sports radio and let the world pass me by.
Today is not just the anniversary of the first manned space flight. It’s also the anniversary of the start of the Civil War. (They were exactly 100 years apart, in fact.)
I’ve seen military names catch on as baby names during times of war, so I was curious to know if this had happened during the Civil War. The problem? The war ended in 1865, so all that easy-to-access SSA data, which only dates back to 1880, wouldn’t be of any help.
But census data would work. And economist Douglas Galbi has made things easy for me: he’s used 19th-century census data to come up with lists of popular given names, sorted by decade of birth. Talk about convenient.
Using only data from the 1880 census, I looked up the following Civil War-related names:
Abraham & Lincoln – Abraham Lincoln was the leader of the Union
Jefferson & Davis – Jefferson Davis was the leader of the Confederacy
Ulysses & Grant – Ulysses S Grant commanded the Union Army at the end of the war
Robert & Lee – Robert E. Lee commanded the Confederate Army at the end of the war
William & Sherman – William T. Sherman was a Union general
Elmer & Ellsworth – Elmer E. Ellsworth was an early Union casualty
Here’s what I found. An x indicates “fewer than ten.” Also, keep in mind that the number of births overall increased significantly from decade to decade — 20,862 the first decade, 36,188 the second, 48,000 the third and 64,041 the fourth.
So it seems as though the Civil War did indeed give certain names a boost.
I was most surprised by Elmer. Elmer E. Ellsworth, though not well-known nowadays, captured the nation’s attention in early days of the war. He was killed in mid-1861 while trying to confiscate a Confederate flag. Here’s how the NYT ended Ellsworth’s obituary:
He has been assassinated! His murder was fearfully and speedily revenged. He has lived a brief but an eventful, a public and an honorable life. His memory will be revered, his name respected, and long after the rebellion shall have become a matter of history, his death will be regarded as a martyrdom, and his name will be enrolled upon the list of our country’s patriots.
According to Wikipedia, Ellsworth’s death inspired thousands of men to enlist. His many namesakes include U.S. Commissioner of Education Elmer Ellsworth Brown (1861-1934), artist Elmer Ellsworth Garnsey (1862-1964), Minnesota legislator Elmer Ellsworth Adams (1861-1950), and pro baseball player Elmer Ellsworth “Mike” Smith (1868-1945).
Source: “Obituary; Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth.” New York Times 25 May 1861.
UPDATE, 6/15/15: Turns out that the data I used for this post isn’t so reliable after all. (See the comments here for specifics.)
So here are some new numbers — basically, search “hits” for these names on the 1880 Census (via FamilySearch) grouped by birth year. These aren’t perfect either, but I think they’re an improvement.
Let’s go backwards…
Elmer & Ellsworth:
And here are the year-by-year “hits” on Elmer specifically:
1856: 236 babies named Elmer
1857: 259 babies named Elmer
1858: 325 babies named Elmer
1859: 388 babies named Elmer
1860: 605 babies named Elmer
1861: 2,533 babies named Elmer
1862: 3,964 babies named Elmer
1863: 2,665 babies named Elmer
1864: 2,097 babies named Elmer
1865: 1,617 babies named Elmer
William & Sherman:
Robert & Lee:
Ulysses & Grant:
Jefferson & Davis:
Abraham & Lincoln:
If anyone has any tips on using the U.S. census to get relatively accurate data on first names (only), I’m all ears!