In September of 1971, Jet magazine published a one-page article that ended up having a strong influence on U.S. baby names. It was called “African Names for Your Children.”
The intent of this…[i]s to give some African names with their meanings to our readers who may be interested in understanding or giving their babies some African names. The following are some of the common and interesting African names.
The article featured just 20 names overall, but half of them ended up seeing increased usage as baby names in the U.S., including eight (!) debuts in the U.S. data.
Similarly, Diallo was the top boy-name debut of 1971, and ended up ranking 29th on the list of highest boy-name debuts of all time. My guess is that most Americans pronounce the name dee-ah-loh, but the original pronunciation is jah-low. It’s a very common surname in West Africa (where it’s spelled Jalloh).
Finally, discovering this article helped me realize that Lumumba debuting in 1971 actually had little to do with Patrice Lumumba, as I’d assumed years ago. (Though no doubt Patrice was still an influence on some level.)
Of all the names above, which one do you like best?
P.S. In the later ’70s, Ebony magazine also published a list of African names. Their list had a similarly strong impact on U.S. baby names.
We looked at the top baby name rises last month, so this month let’s look at the opposite: the top drops. That is, the baby names that decreased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next in the Social Security Administration’s data.
Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year slides in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Clementine dropped 68% and usage of the boy name Neil dropped 76%.)
The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does become more accurate in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…
I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about a few of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it — leave a comment and let us know why you think any of these names saw dropped in usage when they did.
“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 image below, of the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, was captured in early 1838 by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype.
It may be the earliest surviving photograph of a person. Two people, actually. Both are in the lower left:
Here’s a close-up:
The standing man is getting his shoe shined, and the other man (partially obscured) is doing the shoe-shining.
Of all the people on the sidewalk that day, these were the only two to stay still long enough (about 10 minutes) to be captured in the image.
Now for the fun part!
What would you name these two Frenchmen?
Let’s pretend you’re writing a book set in Paris in the 1830s, and these are two of your characters. What names would you give them?
Here’s a long list of traditional French male names, to get you started:
Abel Absolon Achille Adam Adolphe Adrien Aimé Alain Alban Albert Alexandre Alfred Alphonse Amaury Amroise Amédée Anatole André Anselme Antoine Antonin Apollinaire Ariel Aristide Armand Arnaud Arsène Arthur Aubert Aubin Auguste Augustin Aurèle Aurélien Baptiste Barnabé Barthélémy Basile Bastien Benjamin Benoit Bernard Bertrand Blaise Boniface Bruno Calixte Camille Céleste Célestin Césaire César Charles Christian Christophe
Clair Claude Clément Clovis Constant Constantin Corentin Corin Corneille Cosme Cyril Damien Daniel David Denis Déodat Désiré Didier Dieudonné Dimitri Diodore Dominique Donat Donatien Edgar Edgard Edmé Edmond Édouard Élie Eloi Émeric Émile Émilien Emmanuel Enzo Éric Ermenegilde Ernest Ethan Étienne Eugène Eustache Évariste Évrard Fabien Fabrice Félicien Félix Ferdinand Fernand Fiacre Firmin Florence Florent
Florentin Florian Francis François Frédéric Gabriel Gaël Gaëtan Gaspard Gaston Gaubert Geoffroy Georges Gérard Géraud Germain Gervais Ghislain Gilbert Gilles Gratien Grégoire Guatier Guillaume Gustave Guy Hector Henri Herbert Hercule Hervé Hilaire Hippolyte Honoré Horace Hubert Hugues Humbert Hyacinthe Ignace Irénée Isidore Jacques Jason Jean Jérémie Jérôme Joachim Jocelyn Joël Jonathan Joseph Josse Josué Jourdain
Jules Julien Juste Justin Laurent Laurentin Lazare Léandre Léo Léon Léonard Léonce Léonide Léopold Lionel Loïc Lothaire Louis Loup Luc Lucas Lucien Lucrèce Ludovic Maël Marc Marcel Marcellin Marin Marius Martin Mathieu Mathis Matthias Maurice Maxence Maxime Maximilien Michaël Michel Modeste Narcisse Nathan Nathanaël Nazaire Nicéphore Nicodème Nicolas Noé Noël Norbert Odilon Olivier Onésime Pascal
Patrice Paul Philippe Pierre Placide Pons Prosper Quentin Rainier Raoul Raphaël Raymond Régis Rémy René Reynaud Richard Robert Roch Rodolphe Rodrigue Roger Roland Romain Rosaire Ruben Salomon Samuel Sébastien Séraphin Serge Sévère Séverin Simon Sylvain Sylvestre Télesphore Théodore Théophile Thibault Thierry Thomas Timothée Toussaint Urbain Valentin Valère Valéry Vespasien Victor Vincent Vivien Xavier Yves Zacharie
For some real-life inspiration, here are lists of famous 19th century and 20th century French people, courtesy of Wikipedia. Notice that many of the Frenchman have double-barreled, triple-barreled, even quadruple-barreled given names. (Daguerre himself was named Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre.)