A Ray of Hope for Courtney and Leslie?
"Meet my sons, Courtney and Leslie." Nobody would have batted an eye back in the 1920s, when both names were reliably masculine. But the minute they became trendy for girls, parents of boys ran in the other direction.
It's the dirty little secret of androgynous names: they sound like a move toward equality, but in real life they're a move toward masculinity. Parents of girls swarm toward boys' names. Parents of boys recoil from anything girlish. And once a boy's name turns toward the female side, it never turns back.
One boy's name has survived 50 years of sustained popularity on the girl's side and emerged surprisingly strong: Lee. It's a surname transfer, descended from an Old English word for meadow (preserved as the modern word "lea.") Lee became a popular given name in the American South in homage to Robert E. Lee, and spread across the country to settle in as a standard for boys.
Meanwhile, female Lees began trickling in from many directions. Thousands of "Lee Anns," "Leannas" and "Leahs" were called Lee. The romantic spelling Leigh was a big hit starting in the '60s. And just plain Lee was sustained by a string of glamorous actresses like Lee Remick. Yet by 1996, both Lee and Leigh had disappeared from the list of common girls' names...and male Lee was still chugging quietly along.
The most likely explanation for this rare staying power is the simplicity of the name. Lee's just too slim and swift to acquire much baggage. After all, plenty of nicknames have survived androgyny, from Billie and Bobbie in the '30s to Toni and Kris in the '60s. Which lets us make some predictions about current names that are veering into androgyny. By the Lee standard, Drew and Quinn look like good bets to weather the storm--while Avery and Addison may be facing rough seas ahead.