“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.
Dick Gregory (b. 1932) is an African-American comedian and civil rights activist.
He’s also, with his wife Lillian, the father of 10 children: Michele, Lynne, Paula & Pamela (twins), Stephanie, Gregory, Christian, Miss, Ayanna (b. 1971) and Yohance (b. 1973).
Those last two births are notable because they inspired other parents to use Ayanna and Yohance, and the resultant upticks in usage made Ayanna and Yohance the top baby name debuts of 1971 and 1973, respectively.
1973: 177 baby girls named Ayanna
1972: 343 baby girls named Ayanna
1971: 194 baby girls named Ayanna [debut]
Dick and Lillian Gregory found the name Ayanna in Jet magazine, which claimed Ayanna was a female name from East Africa meaning “beautiful flower.”
This information probably came from The Book of African Names (1970) by Chief Osuntoki. Name expert Dr. Cleveland Evans says Osuntoki was “half right” about Ayanna:
Ayana is a name used for both males and females in Ethiopia, but its meaning is uncertain. Ayyanaw is a male Amharic name meaning “we saw him.” Ayana is an Oromo word for the spirits believed to mediate between the high god, Waka, and human beings in the ancient indigenous religion of the Oromos, but it’s unclear if either of those is related to the common Ethiopian name. ln any event, it’s easy to see how parents looking through Osuntoki’s book would seize upon Ayanna as one of the few names included that fit in well with the look and sound of American names of the time.
1975: 13 baby boys named Yohance
1974: 23 baby boys named Yohance
1973: 44 baby boys named Yohance [debut]
A 1973 issue of Jet states that Dick and Lillian found the name Yohance (Yoh-HAHN-seh) in a book called Names from Africa, and that Yohance “means “God’s gift” in the Hausa language of Nigeria.”
The only sources I’ve found that mention Yohance are baby name books, so I’m not entirely convinced that Yohance is a legitimate Hausa name. Some of the books claim Yohance is a form of John, but an online Hausa bible I found translates John as “Yahaya” — similar, but not quite the same.
One of Dick Gregory’s children is named Gregory — just Gregory. Like Tifft and Gatewood, Gregory doesn’t have a first name. Here’s the explanation:
My oldest son, Gregory, has just one name. His birth certificate does not read “Gregory Gregory,” but rather simply “Gregory.” In the American system, whose computers, bureaucracy and institutional requirements demand two names to function, my son Gregory is a symbol of independence of the built-in entanglements which predetermine the destiny of the “two-namers” in a controlled society.
One of Dick Gregory’s daughters is named Miss, making her full name “Miss Gregory.” Here’s why:
At the time of her birth, racial hangups in the United States made it difficult for some white folks to call a black woman “Miss” and a black man “Mister.” So to be on the safe side, my wife and I named our daughter Miss. All her life, anyone who calls her by her proper name will have to say, “Miss Gregory.”
Inte & Gration
The middle names of Dick Gregory’s twins Paula and Pamela are “Inte” and “Gration.” Dick wrote in his memoir:
On March 18, 1964, one year and three days after Richard Jr. was born, Lil gave birth to Paula and Pam. We gave them the middle names of Inte and Gration so they would always remember the sacrifice their mother had made while they were still in the womb.
Lillian’s sacrifice was that she’d been jailed for attempting to dine at a restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia. (She went to the restaurant knowing she’s be arrested; her intent was the draw attention to the fight for civil rights.)
“African Names for Your Children.” Jet 16 Sep. 1971: 14.
“All in a Name.” Jet 11 Nov. 1971: 33.
“Dick Gregory, Wife’s 10th Child Given African Name.” Jet 9 Aug. 1973: 16.
Evans, Cleveland Kent. The Great Big Book of Baby Names. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 2006.
Gregory, Dick and Sheila P. Moses. Callus on My Soul: A Memoir. New York: Kensington, 2000.
Gregory, Dick. Dick Gregory’s Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat. New York: Harper Collins, 1974.
While cleaning out my bookmarks the other day, I rediscovered this post on French names from francophile blog Polly-Vous Francais. It contrasts the names found in the birth and death announcements of a French newspaper. Here’s a sampling:
There’s nothing wrong with the list itself. But problems begin when you try to compare this list with the 2006 list.
For instance, in 2006, 49 boys were named Michael or Michele. A year later, there’s no way to tell if either of these names has became more or less popular — all we know is that 24 boys were named Michael, Michele Mikiel or Mikail, and that 29 boys were named Miguel specifically.
And that’s just the beginning. Between 2006 and 2007, Nicholas became Nicholas/Nikolai, Thomas became Thomas/Tommaso, and James became James/Jamie. Alexander became Alexander/Alessandro/Alejandro, while (accent-less) Andre became Andrew/André/Andrea. All of these odd groupings make it impossible to draw conclusions about how the popularity level of a specific name has changed over time.
I am also suspicious about spelling. Aidan (#6) and Jaydon (#19) from the 2006 list seemed to morph into Aiden (#6) and Jayden (#11) in 2007.
Finally — and this may be nit-picky — I dislike how Jeremy and Jerome were lumped together. The names may look alike, but they are unrelated.
I have issues with the girl names as well:
Maria/Mariah, 73 baby girls
Emma & Maya, 34 (tie)
Amy & Jasmine/Yasmine, 30 (tie)
Katrina/Katie & Shania, 27 (tie)
Aaliyah & Hayley & Jade, 21 (tie)
Francesca & Ylenia, 19 (tie)
Emily & Kayleigh, 16 (tie)
Kelsey & Leah & Rihanna & Thea, 15 (4-way tie)
Ella & Elena & Kiera & Kyra, 14 (4-way tie)
Between 2006 and 2007, Julia became Julia/Giula, Nicole became Nicole/Nicola/Nicolette, Jasmin (sans e) became Jasmine/Yasmine, and Elisa/Eliza became Elisa/Eliza/Elisabeth. Michela went from being grouped with Michaela to being grouped with Michelle.
And, as with the boys, I don’t think spelling stayed consistent. Hailey (#10, 2006) became Hayley (#12, 2007) and Kaylie (#17, 2006) became Kayleigh (#17, 2007).
Malta, you’re driving me crazy! I hope the top names of 2008 are listed more logically (i.e., using name-groupings that have been used before). I’m keeping my eye on you… :)
The National Statistics Office of Malta, a tiny island nation in the Mediterranean Sea, compiles baby name rankings by lumping variant spellings of names (like Matthew, Matteo and Matthias) together into a single entry.
The most popular baby names in Malta last year were:
Luke/Luca (79 babies)
Andre & Isaac & Michael/Michele (tie; 49 each)
Christian & Julian & Liam (tie; 27 each)
Jaydon & Kurt & Leon & Sven (tie; 16 each)
Denzel & John Paul (tie; 15 each)
Maria/Mariah (73 babies)
Martina & Emma (tie; 40 each)
Ylenia & Michela/Michaela & Sarah (tie; 35 each)
Amber & Hannah (tie; 19 each)
Emily & Kelsey (tie; 18 each)
Kaylie & Lara (tie; 15 each)
Mireille & Naomi (tie; 13 each)
There were 2,039 boys and 1,846 girls born in Malta in 2006. (The country only has 402,000 inhabitants total.) Based on the numbers above, 46% of those boys and 41% of those girls were given a top-20 name.