“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 2015, Emma replaced Lea as the top girl name, William joined Thomas as the top boy name, Beatrice replaced Charlie in the girls’ top 10, and Noah replaced Olivier in the boy’s top 10. (Here are the 2014 rankings.)
[UPDATE, May 2017 – The Quebec rankings for 2015 have since been updated and it looks like William has pulled ahead of Thomas to become the sole #1 name.]
Of all 9,096 girl names on Quebec’s list in 2015, 74.5% of them were used a single time. Here are some of the unique girl names:
Allegresse – the French word allégresse means “joy, elation.”
Confiance – the French word confiance means “confidence, trust.”
Exaucee – the French verb exaucer means “to grant a wish.”
Garance – the French word garance refers to a shade of red created from the root of the madder plant.
Sadly, Karac died of a stomach infection in 1977 while Led Zeppelin was on tour in North America.
In 1979, Led Zeppelin released the album In Through the Out Door, which included a tribute to Karac called “All My Love.” At least one high-profile magazine, People, mentioned Karac in its write-up of the album. My guess is that this and other press mentions are what caused the baby name to debut in ’79.
(For the record, several U.S. babies named Karac before 1979. And I found one born in London in 1977 named “Zeppelin Karac.”)
In September of 1987, musician M.C. Hammer welcomed a baby girl named A’Keiba Monique.
But the name Akeiba didn’t debut until 1992, when A’keiba was four years old:
1994: 5 baby girls named Akeiba
1993: 6 baby girls named Akeiba
1992: 49 baby girls named Akeiba [debut]
M.C. Hammer wasn’t famous in 1987. (“U Can’t Touch This” didn’t become a hit until 1990.) So A’Keiba’s birth wouldn’t have affected the baby name charts that early.
But why did it suddenly hit in 1992?
Because A’keiba was in the spotlight several times that year.
Various publications ran a photo of A’keiba and her father attending the American Music Awards together in January, for instance, and Jet put Hammer and A’keiba (and her name, sans apostrophe) on the cover in May.
Delayed celebrity baby name debuts still occur these days, though less often — at least relative to the sheer number of celebrity baby name debuts that we now see on the charts.
The best internet-era example I can think of is Kailand, son of Stevie Wonder and fashion designer Kai Milla (Karen Millard-Morris). He was born in 2001, but his name didn’t debut until 2005 — the year he started showing up to fashion shows (one in February, another in December) with his parents.
Can you think of any other celebrity baby names didn’t debut on time?
Update, 5/1/16: Forgot to add Shangaleza to this list! Baseball player Dock Ellis welcomed a baby girl named Shangaleza in 1969, but her name didn’t debut until 1971. Why? A mention in the August issue of Sports Illustrated (“On the Lam with the Three Rivers Gang“):
Dock Ellis, the hottest-talking, hottest winning pitcher in the National League, explained that his one-year-old daughter’s name, Shangaleza Talwanga, meant “everything black is beautiful” in Swahili.
According to Wikipedia, Stedman Graham is an “educator, author, businessman and speaker.” But without Wikipedia’s help, how would you describe Stedman? That’s right: “Oprah’s boyfriend.”
Oprah began dating Stedman in mid-1986, a few months before The Oprah Winfrey Show premiered. We’ve already seen how the baby name Oprah debuted on the national list that year, but did you know that the talk show gave the baby name Stedman a boost as well?
1991: 28 baby boys named Stedman
1990: 38 baby boys named Stedman
1989: 82 baby boys named Stedman
1988: 29 baby boys named Stedman
1987: 20 baby boys named Stedman
Not only did Stedman reappear on the national baby name list in 1987 after a 48-year absence, but the variant names Steadman, Stedmen, Stedmon and Stedmond all followed suit in 1988.
And what accounts for the Stedman spike of 1989?
In February of that year, Stedman appeared as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show for the first time. The episode was about “men who marry or date famous women, and how they cope with it.” The other guests were actress Susan Lucci and her husband Helmut, and singer Barbara Mandrell and her husband Ken. (Here’s the episode, if you want to watch.)
While usage of the name Stedman has tapered off since 1989, the relationship between Oprah and Stedman is still going strong nearly 3 decades later. They attended the Oscars together last month, in fact.
Stedman is one several “significant other” baby names I’ve spotted on the SSA’s baby name list so far. Others include Josanne, Movita and Tarita (all associated with Marlon Brando), Syreeta and Londie (both associated with Stevie Wonder), Loray and Altovise (both associated with Sammy Davis, Jr.), Kayatana (girlfriend of Flip Wilson), Marva (first wife of Joe Louis) and Sonji (first wife of Muhammad Ali). Stedman is unique, though, in that it’s a male name that was popularized by a famous female — not a common scenario, it seems.
“Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night, and wouldn’t you love to” …know a little more about her name?
The Welsh name Rhiannon comes to us via the Mabinogion, a famous collection of medieval Welsh tales that was written during the 1300s (or possibly earlier).
What’s the etymology? Here are two theories:
Rhiannon’s persona is much older than the medieval text, however. She appears to be derived from the pre-Christian goddess hypothesized as Rigantona and also Epona, the horse goddess. Her pedigree within the Mabinogi also implies supernatural status as she is thought to be the daughter of the king of Annwfn, the otherworld; her name may mean maid of Annwfn.
The reconstructed proto-Celtic name Rigantona means “divine goddess.” The definition “maid of Annwfn,” on the other hand, would come from combining the word rhiain, meaning “maid,” with the place name Annwfn.
Before the 1970s, the name Rhiannon was rarely used as a name for newborns. The few babies that got the name tended to have a direct connection to Wales (i.e., either they were born there or their parents were).
Then two novels featuring the name came out: Song of Rhiannon (1972) by Evangeline Walton and Triad (1973) by Mary Leader. The first was based directly on the Mabinogion; the second was not.
Both books probably played a part in putting Rhiannon on the map in 1974:
1975: 15 baby girls named Rhiannon
1974: 5 baby girls named Rhiannon [debut]
The first book might have been the one with the word “song” in the title, but it was the second book that inspired a young Stevie Nicks to write her hit song “Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win).” Here’s how Stevie tells the story:
I got the name from a novel, I think I bought in an airport just before a long flight; it was called Triad, and it was about a girl named Rhiannon and her sister and mother, or something like that. I just thought the name was so pretty that I wanted to write something about a girl named Rhiannon. I wrote it about three months before I joined Fleetwood Mac, in about 1974.
The song was first released on Fleetwood Mac’s album Fleetwood Mac in mid-1975. It was then re-released a single in February of 1976, and, four months later, peaked at #11 on the Billboard charts.
The single is what made an impact on the baby name charts. Hundreds of baby girls were named Rhiannon in 1976, and the name entered the top 1,000 for the first time at an impressive 593rd. A year later it peaked at 418th.
Here’s how many U.S. baby girls were named Rhiannon (or a variant) from 1973 to 1980, sorted by 1977 levels of usage:
Usage cooled off after that, but rose again in the late ’90s and early 2000s, probably thanks to Fleetwood Mac’s successful 1997 tour The Dance and resulting live album, which features an extended version of “Rhiannon.”
The song was voted one of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” by Rolling Stone in 2004, but by then the name Rhiannon was falling out of fashion. In 2008, it dropped out of the top 1,000. In 2013, only 106 baby girls got the name.