“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 movie Willow was released in May of 1988 — exactly 30 years ago this month. It didn’t do a thing for the baby name Willow, which hadn’t become trendy yet, but it did affect a couple of other character names: Sorsha and Elora.
The character Sorsha (played by Joanne Whalley) was the red-haired princess/soldier who was the daughter of the evil queen. She was also the love interest of Madmartigan (played by Val Kilmer). She started out as a bad guy, but changed sides mid-movie and was a good guy by the end.
The baby name Sorsha debuted in the U.S. data right on cue in 1989:
Usage of Sorsha
Usage of Sorcha
5 baby girls
5 baby girls
5 baby girls
5 baby girls
6 baby girls
5 baby girls [debut]
5 baby girls [debut]
Curiously, parents opted for the spelling Sorcha as often as they opted for Sorsha. Why?
I couldn’t find any typos in contemporary sources — newspapers all used the more logical “Sorsha” — so my best guess is the baby name books.
Expectant parents wanting to know the definition of Sorsha would have instead encountered the Irish name Sorcha in those books. They would have learned the meaning (“bright”), but probably not the pronunciation, which is unfortunate because Sorcha isn’t pronounced SOR-sha. It’s more like SUR-kha. (Irish names that sound more like Sorsha include Saoirse, SEER-sha, or even the male name Seoirse, SHOR-sha.)
The character Elora Danan was the adorable read-haired baby at the center of the action. Her birthmark identified her as the one destined to depose Queen Bavmorda, so of course the queen wanted her found and destroyed. It was Willow’s job to deliver Elora Danan safely to those who would raise her.
The baby was given a good amount of screen time. Film critic Roger Ebert even complained about it: “One of the crucial problems…is that we see so much of this baby.”
As a result, the baby name Elora re-emerged in the data in 1988 and saw a distinct jump in usage in 1989/1990. The rise of Alora was even greater.
Usage of Elora
Usage of Alora
34 baby girls
72 baby girls
63 baby girls
84 baby girls
91 baby girls
108 baby girls
87 baby girls
103 baby girls
30 baby girls
11 baby girls
Many similar-sounding names (like Ellora) also got a boost, and several (like Alaura and Allora) appeared for the first time in the data in the late ’80s. And I spotted even more spelling variants when I did records searches.
Speaking of the records…they revealed (unsurprisingly?) that many of the babies with these various Elora-like first names also had Danan-like middles. “Danan” was the most common spelling, but another I saw repeatedly was “Dannon” — possibly influenced by the yogurt brand being advertised on TV during those years.
…What are your thoughts on the baby names Sorsha and Elora? Which one would you be more likely to use for a baby girl?
Valeska Suratt was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Indiana in 1882. Valeska was also a character name in multiple films, including For a Woman’s Honor (1919) and Broadway Scandals (1929).
Valli Valli was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Germany in 1882. Her birth name was Valli Knust. Alida Valli, often credited simply as Valli, was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 2000s. She was born in Italy (now Croatia) in 1921. Valli was also a character played by actress Margaret Livingston in the film What a Widow! (1930).
Vedah Bertram was an actress who appeared in films in the early 1910s. She was born in Massachusetts in 1891. Her birth name was Adele Buck.
Vedah, who died of appendicitis at the age of 20 in 1912, “became the first noted film player to be mourned by the movie-going public.” According to the San Francisco Call, her East Coast family had not been aware of her film career. “Hoping to keep her actions from her friends and relatives, she assumed the name under which she has been acting.”
Vee Newell was a character played by actress Olive Borden in the film Hello Sister (1930).
Velma Whitman was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Ohio in 1885. Velma was also a character name in multiple films, including The Greatest Menace (1923) and The Lone Wolf’s Daughter (1929).
Vermuda was a character played by actress Martha Sleeper in the short film Sure-Mike! (1925).
Verna Mersereau was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in 1894. Verna was also a character name in multiple films, including His Temporary Wife (1920) and Here Comes Carter (1936).
Vesta Tilley was an actress who appeared in films from the 1900s to the 1910s. She was born in England in 1864. Her birth name was Matilda Alice Powles. Vesta was also a character name in multiple films, including The House in Suburbia (short, 1913) and The Duke of Chimney Butte (1921).
Vilma Vilma Banky was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in Austria-Hungary (now Hungary) in 1898. Vilma was also a character name in multiple films, including Federal Agent (1936) and Meet the Boy Friend (1937).
A few weeks ago, The Stir posted a list of 20 pairs of baby names for girl-boy twins.
The problem with their list? Each matchy-matchy name-pair started with the same first letter.
Yes, most parents gravitate toward patterns when it comes to naming twins.
But should they?
If you’re in the “no” camp, here’s an alternative list. I’ve separated the pairings and given each of the 40 names a new, non-matchy partner — different first letter, different ending, different number of syllables.
1st new pairing
2nd new pairing
Hazel & Hugo Emma & Evan Madison & Mason Taylor & Tyler Vivienne & Val Ava & Alexander Chloe & Caleb Sophia & Samuel Eva & Ethan Penelope & Pax Savannah & Sebastian Lily & Luke Dylan & Dean Naomi & Noah Imogen & Isaac Juliette & James Christina & Christian Grace & Gavin Avery & Aiden Claire & Clive
Hazel & Benjamin Emma & Charles Madison & Liam Taylor & Grant Vivienne & Phillip Ava & Carl Chloe & Gabriel Sophia & Owen Eva & Jack Penelope & Duncan Savannah & Zane Lily & Cash Dylan & Matthias Naomi & Joseph Imogen & Grey Juliette & Simon Christina & Thomas Grace & Dominic Avery & Beau Claire & Julian
Hugo & Adelaide Evan & Sabrina Mason & Aria Tyler & Addison Val & Edie Alexander & Daphne Caleb & Lydia Samuel & Hannah Ethan & Amelia Pax & Kira Sebastian & Gemma Luke & Maya Dean & Harper Noah & Abigail Isaac & Johanna James & Tabitha Christian & Veronica Gavin & Bree Aiden & Katrina Clive & Odette
What are your favorite non-matchy baby names for girl-boy twins?