Where all boys end up nowadays

Jul 19th 2007

As I research names I'm constantly poking into dusty corners of data and compiling arcane charts. Most will never see the light of day, but one has grabbed me so hard I just have to share. So strap on your helmets, we're going data mining!

For background, I'm convinced that that the whole baby-naming enterprise has changed dramatically over the past 25 years. Part of what I'm trying to do is to demonstrate that this change is real and get a handle on what it means. One natural place to look is in name endings. As I've discussed in the past, endings do a lot of the work of giving a generation of names its trademark sound. (See the posts called "It's how you finish," parts one and two.)

So here is a graph of boys born by the last letter of their given names, back in 1906:

Only 11 letters were in common end-letter use, led by a clear "Big Four" that memorably spell ENDS (think George, John, Edward, James.) Now let's leap 50 years ahead and chart the same data for boys born in 1956:

It's hard to compare the graphs in this format, but the changes are relatively modest given the 50-year time span. The exact same 11 end letters dominate as in 1906, and the Big Four ENDS all rank among a new Big Five. This is the fundamental conservatism of the English men's naming stock, the immovable core of Johns and Jameses that endures across generations. Or did, at least. 'Cause take a gander at 2006:

Ladies and gentlemen, that is a baby naming revolution.

More on this in the months to come...


By Elizabeth T. (not verified)
July 26, 2007 9:47 PM

Go, Allira! Good for you for sticking to your guns. And Leonidas has a much cooler vibe about it right now than Jayden since there are so many of the latter running around.

By BoscoMama (not verified)
July 26, 2007 9:47 PM


After hearing the story of why you've chosen Leonidas as the name for your baby, I say absolutely go for it! Plus, I love Leo as a nickname (and I don't especially like Jayden as a name.)

By melanie (not verified)
July 26, 2007 10:10 PM

On "stealing" a name from another family memeber, I think that it does depend on the family circumstances. Including step, there are 17 kids in my family. by the end of the year there should be 15 grandkids and half of the family hasn't even begun on their families. I'd hate to judge my 14 yr old borther too strongly for not avoiding all the names already taken and as my stepbrother is not close and set on all J names, I could handle it if he picked James for a potential 3rd son, even though I used it first. I've decided to prioritze avoiding names on my husband's side of the family. It's much smaller and they would also share a last name which I think would really add to the confusion.

By MD (not verified)
July 26, 2007 10:46 PM

Thank you Robyn and Wendy.

I'll go through the list and get back to you on what i think would work.

By MD (not verified)
July 27, 2007 12:20 AM

also Robyn and Wendy you can contact me off-blog at mrowatt (at) lycos.com

By a.c. (not verified)
July 27, 2007 1:16 AM

MD:You have lots of great options here! I think Genevieve-or possibly Julianne or Jessica-gets my vote. And, imo, of course a woman with a feminine name can be respected and powerful! Sandra Day O'Connor, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks....If you have a feminine name, have you ever felt disrespected because of your name? Anyway, I wouldn't worry so much about anyone who bases their respect for a person on their name. But if you want an andro name just because you like it, go for it!:) Anyway, Jennifer's cute, too, if you really like it, but I have to disagree with the suggestion of the nn Jinx above, as it means an unlucky person...but I agree about not using Jen if you're worried about popularity...maybe Niffy (I've always liked this nn)?

kristi-I'm so sorry for your friends, I really am. I hope little Sylas is in good health?

b-I seriously think you (or whoever) SHOULD ASK THE SISTER FIRST. Using that name, to me, is direspectful, and confusing for the family, unless, like, one goes by Betty and one by Elise

By Tansey (not verified)
July 27, 2007 1:17 AM

Allira - wtg! I really like Leonidas as a name because it has an intelligent feel about it which is something I think everyone should aspire to. Jayden is such a dreary mix of kr8tiv spelling along with high popularity in sound(hayden/kayden etc) and frankly something I'd expect on a kid that left school early and works as a cleaner or packing shelves in a supermarket(nothing wrong with those jobs but not as a life career unless you're unable to cope with something better.)

By a.c. (not verified)
July 27, 2007 1:20 AM

And on a random note, what do you guys think of Aloe as a nn for Aloisia (AL-o-EE'-zee-ya)?

By a.c. (not verified)
July 27, 2007 1:22 AM

Tansey--I apologize for my ignorance, but what is wtg?

By RobynT (not verified)
July 27, 2007 2:21 AM

I thought of another circumstance where cousins having the same name might be okay. I think the further apart they are, the better. Then they can be Big John and Little John or something. I think they would have to be at least five years apart though, and 10+ would be better.

Re: Aloe/Aloisia: Would Aloe be pronounced uh-LOY? Or AH-loh? Where I live, everyone pronounces aloe the plant like the first one, but I think the rest of the (English-speaking) world pronounces it like the second one. In any case, it is sort of a cute nn, although I definitely associate it with the plant and would have to be told how to pronounce it. Of course since it is a nn, it would probably be said more than written anyways. Oh, uh-LOY also sounds like Alloy. Definitely different, but not bad necessarily.

By a.c. (not verified)
July 27, 2007 2:47 AM

RobynT--AL-oh, like Alli but with an -oh sound at the end instead of an -ee. That's the way I say the plant name (I kind of mean that association). Would Alo be a clearer spelling?

By MD (not verified)
July 27, 2007 2:54 AM

What do you think of Julianne or Jessica Parker Lastname?
What about Christine Sidney Lastname or Genevive Morgan Lastname?

By Suzanne (not verified)
July 27, 2007 3:50 AM

MD, all of those are great, though I would think twice about Jessica Parker (only because of its similarity to Sarah Jessica Parker, the actress). I think Genevive Morgan is my favorite!

By a.c. (not verified)
July 27, 2007 3:52 AM

MD--My opinions:

I really, really like the sound of Jessica Parker, but it's too similar to the name of the celebrity Sarah Jessica Parker for me.

Christine Sidney Lastname sounds somewhat clunky, but if you don't have a two-syllable last name, it might not.

And I really like Genevive Morgan.

But Julianne Parker is my favorite.

Of course, it's up to you.

Good luck!:)

By Valerie (not verified)
July 27, 2007 4:37 AM

For what it's worth, I have a friend named Aloysius and it's pronounced Al-oh-ISH-us. No OY sound. Which surprised me when I first met him, but now I'm used to it. BTW, his father and his two brothers are also named Aloysius....but that's another story!

By MD (not verified)
July 27, 2007 6:39 AM

Julianne Parker is firming up for me too A.C. though I'll think on Genevive Morgan.

my email is upthread. I'd really like to talk with some of you off-blog.

By RobynT (not verified)
July 27, 2007 7:18 AM

ac: I think most people would pronounce Aloe the way you want it. Oh yeah, but I forgot to say last time that I wasn't sure if it was a male or female name... I guess I was thinking of Aloysius because Aloisia looks pretty feminine.

MD: I would vote against Jessica Parker too--because of the actress mostly. I like Julianne Parker and Genevieve Morgan too! Love Morgan especially.

By molly h (not verified)
July 27, 2007 11:46 AM

a.c. - wtg is "way to go". and allira - i too am happy to hear that you're sticking with leonidas!

md - i really like genevieve morgan.

robynt - do you mind if i ask where you are that people pronounce "aloe" differently? i've never heard of an alternate way, but my sisters and i were just talking about variations of word pronunciaton in different parts of the country. the word "tour" prompted the discussion. we grew up in new england and pronounce it like "tor" but on the west coast where they now (and i used to) live most people say it with the "u" sound more audible (too-r) so that it almost rhymes with "pure".

By Katharine (not verified)
July 27, 2007 12:51 PM

Allira: You've converted me! I love the reasoning behind your choice of Leonidas and I thin Leo is a cute nn too - plus, I'm really not into Jayden as I think it's a name that will date you're little boy...

MD: How about Jenna as a nn for Jennifer, I agree with whoever said that the name sounds refreshing within the current baby naming climate. Although I have to be honest and say that I do prefer Genevieve...

By Meegan (not verified)
July 27, 2007 1:42 PM

MD: I'm casting my vote for Genevieve Morgan! I love the way that sounds.

By Catharine (not verified)
July 27, 2007 2:20 PM

Love Aloysius, it's the name of Sebastian's bear in Brideshead Revisited. For a girl, Aloisia, I'd prefer nn spelled Alo since Aloe makes me think of the plant!

I do think it has a bit of pronunciation prob, when I read Brideshead in high school I thought it was pronounced Alloy-see-us.

'Course I also thought it was Her-mee-ohn all throughout the first Harry Potter. Yeah, I'm phonetically challenged.

By Catharine (not verified)
July 27, 2007 2:27 PM

MD - I also vote for Genevieve Morgan. I much prefer the look of Gennie or Genny to those with a J, and I think Genevieve Morgan is a great combo of traditional feminine name with andro modern mn.

By a.c. (not verified)
July 27, 2007 2:51 PM

Valerie--Weird about the Aloysii! :) I knew about the pronunciation though, and I'm 95% certain that Aloisia is still said the way I specified.

Molly--Thanks for the info!

By a.c. (not verified)
July 27, 2007 2:55 PM

MD--I'd love to talk off-blog, but I kind of make it a policy to not contact anyone I meet on the Web by email, IMing, etc. Nothing personal, I just feel more comfortable that way.

Anyway, some new thoughts on your name choices:

1.Christine Sidney--Have you given this one up? Only because you haven't mentioned it. The only new thought on this is that I think part of what I don't like about it is that the consonants are all piled up in clusters, which is just my personal preference, maybe no deal to you.

2.Jessica Parker--No new thoughts. :(

(This is gonna be long, so I'll split my post.)

By a.c. (not verified)
July 27, 2007 3:03 PM

3.Genevive Morgan--
It's really pretty but with more strength than the fluffy-frilly names like Tiffany. My favorite nn is Eve or Evey, although I like all of this name's options. Genevive is also a great, not-overused alternative to Jennifer. Plus, the two names are different styles (although close enough to work well together), so that on the off-chance that she really hates Genevive and its nns, she can go by Morgan.
First, assuming you're using the standard pronunciation: Genevieve is the usual spelling, so forms and things might get kind of complicated, and there may be some mispronunciation. And then second, Genevieve is the name of Madeline's dog in the stories by Ludwig Bemelman. And, not that, like, anyone will ever care about this, but Morgan means death. Just saying. Don't know if any of this matters to you, just putting that out there. :)

(Okay...I'll split again...)

By Elly (not verified)
July 27, 2007 3:50 PM

Genevieve (I'd go with the usual spelling- prevents headaches) Morgan is an interesting combo- does anyone else make the immediate connection with Arthur? Genevieve/Guinevere/Jennifer was his wife and Morgan/Morgaine/Morgana was his fairy adversary/half-sister etc. depending on the version you follow. Not that it's a bad connection, just something to be aware of.

By BoscoMama (not verified)
July 27, 2007 4:10 PM

Catharine, I thought that Hermione was pronounced Err-Mee-Ohn. I kept talking to my mother about the character, and she had no idea who I was talking about. Finally she said, "Oh, you mean Her-My-O-Knee!" I felt a bit foolish...

By wendy (not verified)
July 27, 2007 4:32 PM

I like Genevieve Morgan and Julianne Parker. But Genevieve Parker would be my first choice. And personally I prefer Juliana to Julianne

Jessica is too popular for me...

By molly h (not verified)
July 27, 2007 4:54 PM

re: hermione - i too had *no* idea how it was pronounced when i read the first book. and went with something similar to boscomama's idea, but it tripped me up almost everytime i read it... never heard or saw the name before the books became such a phenomenom (and i'm a name geek like most people here, not to mention a big reader).

By Catharine (not verified)
July 27, 2007 6:28 PM

In grade school, I had some trouble with the Greek myths: Per-see-fone for Persephone, and Penny-lope for Penelope! Something about the -one really tripped me up I guess.

By molly h (not verified)
July 27, 2007 6:44 PM

This topic just brought back memories or reading the comic strip "Rose is Rose" when I was a kid and pronouncing Pasquale, the son's name, "Pa-squeal". Ha. My sister gave me such a hard time about that one.

By Rebekah (not verified)
July 27, 2007 6:56 PM

Speaking of Pasquale, I met a baby girl with the name Pasquale and her sister was Ezra. I guess the family must of really wanted boy.

By SJ (not verified)
July 27, 2007 8:53 PM

I know a newborn Genevieve... I think her nn will be Gigi.

I like the name "Gingi" (nn or as is). I knew a Gingi and she was a great person (probably still is!). I think she was named after a Brazilian musician (circa 1970?). I think he was "Dindi"...?

(Both g's in "Gingi" are pronounced like the "g" in "gin" and not like the "g" in "go"; the second syllable is pronounced "gee").

By RobynT (not verified)
July 27, 2007 10:07 PM

molly h: i'm in hawai'i. it might be a hawaiian language pronunciation cuz it seems to follow those rules... not sure...

By MD (not verified)
July 28, 2007 12:11 AM

It's going to be either Genevieve Morgan or Julianne Parker i think.

What's wrong with frilly-fluffy just our of interest?

By a.c. (not verified)
July 28, 2007 12:41 AM

...Sorry, MD, something pressing happened. But I'm back now. :)

4. Julianne Parker--still my favorite! To me, Julianne is one of those names that fit beautifully at any age, both as itself and with a nickname (Julie, Julia, Jan, Lia, Lee, Lianne, Anne, Annie, Anna, and, with your combination, Parker, Park, and JP). It's also really elegant without being snobby or prissy, and it makes a really strong, confident impression, especially with the crisp contrast with Parker. And the two names flow together beautifully...which I think is a least part of why I prefer it to Genevieve Morgan--although both are really great!

Good luck!

By a.c. (not verified)
July 28, 2007 12:42 AM

MD--Nothing's wrong with frilly-fluffy, it just didn't seem like your style. :)

By Cathie (not verified)
July 28, 2007 12:58 AM

MD, am I right in guessing that you are a younger mom? I think to a lot of us on here (older than 25), the name Jennifer seems "too common" because we knew many of them but I bet it seems fresher to young moms. Same with Christine, Susan etc. They are classic names that were a bit too popular for us, but I think they will be used more now that the Ashleys, Brittanies, and Courtneys are naming their little ones!

I guess it also depends where you live. Julianne/Juliet are red-hot trendy around here. I know two Jennifers, one is 5 and the other is 9 and I remember thinking, "hey, how cute for a little girl". I think the danger with the "fresher" Jenna etc. is that you really time-stamp the name because everyone is using them now.

J&H's mom, I know three girls under 3 named Sally, so maybe it's around the corner.

I like Leonidas a lot! I do agree with the prediction that it will become used quite often once the teens who got into Spartacus become parents. But not as much in Europe because of the chocolate.

By Eo (not verified)
July 28, 2007 4:27 AM

I'd love to get your opinions on this ongoing issue of our son's nickname. As I mentioned way back, we have three or four nicknames for "Benjamin", NONE of which are "Ben".

We were starting to go with "Banks" as the main one. Then one of the posters reminded me that it rhymed with some undesirable British slang, and it became less appealing!

By Eo (not verified)
July 28, 2007 4:43 AM

Eek, sorry, I posted too soon above. To continue-- More and more of his little friends and even teachers are succumbing to the (familiar, I suppose) nickname Ben.

To head this off, we've settled on our other favorite nickname, "Baines", or a variant thereof. It relates to the longer name, and has meanings in English, Welsh and Scottish that we like. But can't decide on which of the many valid variant spellings we like: Baines, Baynes, Bayns, Beyns, Bainns. To top it off, the spelling "Beinns" means mountain or hill in Scottish Gaelic, and the similar "pinnacle" or "summit" in Manx Gaelic.

Anyway, does anyone have a visceral like or dislike of any of the above spellings? If so, why? Help! School will be starting soon!

By Laney (not verified)
July 28, 2007 11:50 AM

I like Ben for a little boy. You also can't much control what people call him at this point (if he was always known as Baines from day 1 it would be something else).

MD I would go with Juliana over Genevieve. I personally dislike Genevieve. I like Jeneva better.

By Rare Baby Names (not verified)
July 28, 2007 11:59 AM

Hey these are awesome charts and bring it in perspective. Thanks.

By Eo (not verified)
July 28, 2007 12:37 PM

You raise a valid point, Laney. If you name your child "X" and a few persist in calling him something else, you have no control over that instance. But you don't have to acquiesce to the new name, just because it's easier. "Elizabeth's" don't HAVE to be called "Liz" if their preferred short form is "Bess". Benjamin is used to "Baines" and likes it!

What I'd like is people's response to the "visuals" of the different spellings outlined in previous posting. THAT'S the thing that we're debating. By the way, the Scottish name "Bain" or "Bean" is interpreted by some as a corruption of "Beathan", (pronounced "BAY-un") which means "life", but has come to be considered the Scottish equivalent of the Hebrew "Benjamin", and is used interchangeably with that name. Isn't that neat? Other meanings range from "fair" to "bone" to "straight and direct" (as in an honest or fair person) in Middle English..

Personally I like the look of "Baines" but perhaps "Beyns" relates visually better to Benjamin? Thoughts?

By Penn (not verified)
July 28, 2007 12:39 PM

Yeah--I understand the impulse, but you can't much control the nickname thing once your kid starts having a life, friends, teachers... I've known quite a few Benjamins whose moms weren't keen on Ben--but they all ended up as Ben to their friends. Mom and Dad can still use another nickname, though--or none at all.

I'm afraid all the variations of Baines sound a bit "trying too hard," to me, especially if people are already starting to use Ben. What does *he* like? In the end, his will be the only deciding opinion.

By Beth (not verified)
July 28, 2007 12:45 PM

Nina -- ooh, do tell me if your little relative is a Caroline/Carly. It would make me really happy to see the combo work out somewhere. Of course, there's Carly Simon, but you have to be pretty old like me to immediately think of her.

Allira, I'm so glad you are avoiding the tiresome Jayden for Leonidas! And long live history geeks!

MD, I think you have two lovely names to choose from. With all due respect to Laney I'd choose Genevieve (with the usual spelling) over Jeneva (which will date in 5 years).

Eo, I'd go with Baines, the first spelling that will come to people's mind. It will be enough for your little boy to patiently explain that no, he's not a Ben, without having to constantly spell it out ("Beinns" will result in a total halt to all classroom activity beyond roll call, all the way through college). Are you sure you won't reconsider the classic Ben? Baines sounds a bit forced-ly preppy, like having Witherspoon or Chillington for a nickname. Of course if you love it, use it, as always!

By Nell (not verified)
July 28, 2007 1:42 PM

I've just realised that the last few boys names that I added to my mental list, thinking they were sooo unusual, all have that n ending. Maybe I'm more influenced by trends than I thought...

If anyone is interested they were:
Conradin - heard it in an adaptation of a Saki story, pron conRADin. I loved this for about a week than it occurred to me that it rhymes with Bin Laden. Curses!

Urban - I think most people hate this one but I'm very fond of cities and medieval pope names so it sounds good to me.

Gowan - not sure if this is much used as a name but it is another name for the mountain daisy and I rather liked the hippy meaning which is quite difficult to get in a boys name. Probably just sounds like yet another trendy surname, alas.

By Penn (not verified)
July 28, 2007 4:20 PM

You might try on "Urbano," the Italian version of Urban (pr: uhr-BAH-noh). Same history, but maybe less likely to be confused for the adjective among English speakers?

By C & C's Mom (not verified)
July 28, 2007 4:57 PM

Urban Meyer is the head football coach at the University of Florida - so not everyone hates it.

By RobynT (not verified)
July 28, 2007 7:05 PM

I like Baines, Baynes, or Bainns. The rest are spellings that would be hard for me to remember--don't seem to fit in with the spelling rules in my head or something.

By Suzanne (not verified)
July 28, 2007 7:18 PM

MD, Julianne Parker is growing on me - I think I change my vote! Seems to capture the spirit you are going for (as far as I can tell from your posts here) a little better.

Eo, I'd choose Baines - that seems the most obvious spelling to me. If you're worried about it drifting to Ben, is there a middle name to use instead, or to somehow combine with the first name?