Boyish and Girlish
I've talked in the past about the trend toward androgynous names, and how it's a one-way street. We like girls who sound like boys, but not vice versa. And it is a powerful trend -- over the past decade a tenth of all American girls have received androgynous/boyish names, which is an all-time high by a mile.
Yet at the same time, there is an opposite trend at work. Lacy, ultra-feminine names have also risen dramatically over the past generation. Names ending in -a are a traditional marker of femininity. (With occasional exceptions, I admit in deference to all you manly Joshuas out there.) Today, almost four out of every ten American girls get names ending in -a , which is also an all-time high. When you focus in on the longest and laciest of those names, the trend is even clearer. Take a look at the rate of -a names with more than six letters over the past century:
Not only has the use of these names shot up, but so has the variety. Back in the '40s, Barbara and Patricia accounted for the majority of the long, lacy girls' names. By 2003 there were more than twice as many of these names on the charts, none especially dominant. It's the lacy style itself that's in vogue.
It seems that when it comes to femininity, parents are going to extremes: it's either Parker or Anastasia. Left out in the cold are the traditional names that are unquestionably womanly, but no-frills. A perfect example is the timeless classic Ann. Look at what's happened to Ann over the past generation:
Add an extra feminizing -a, though, and it's a whole different story. New young Annas outnumber Anns 19 to 1.
Extremes naturally make an impact. Yet as parents race to the ends of the femininity spectrum, they're leaving a hole in the middle. Right now, the most creative name ideas might be actually the plainest. Think plain Jane, or Alice, Ruth, Ellen or Sue.