Death by androgyny? The old name rules meet the new generation

Oct 21st 2009

It's one of the classic maxims of the baby name business: most parents who like "androgynous" names really like masculine-sounding names for both sexes. Parents of boys carefully avoid anything feminine. When a boy's name starts to show up on the girl's chart, the male version's days are usually numbered. Take a look at the NameVoyager graph of Leslie for a classic example.

In the past decades we've seen an explosion of new androgynous names. In addition to the 65 names that make both top 1000 lists, countless more names are surnames that could go either way (Jensen), new inventions you'd have to guess at (Braelyn), or spelling variations on androgynous names (Kamren and Camren make the top 1000 for boys only, Kamryn only for girls, Camryn both). It's not just individual names used for both sexes, it's a broad androgynous style that's defining a generation of names.

Does that mean an entire generation of names is destined to turn feminine? Will boys eventually find themselves stranded on a tiny name island with nothing but kingly classics and absurdly macho inventions to choose from? Don't panic yet, parents of boys. There are reasons to think that this crop may be different

Remember that the common wisdom on androgynous names comes from a history of long-time male names being adopted by females. Many of today's favorite emerged simultaneously as names for both sexes. What happens when a name starts out gender-neutral? Is one sex destined to "win" the name, or can it maintain a balanced sex ratio over time? And if there is a winner, who wins?

In many cases, these questions end up moot because the trendy names fade away before any resolution. Yet examples are mounting to suggest that the old rules may not apply, and all bets are off.

Take a look at the name Devin, in all its many spellings. 50 years ago it was essentially unknown, then it started climbing for boys and girls alike. The boys eventually took the lead, and in 2006 every spelling (Devin, Devon, Devyn) dropped off the girls' chart simultaneously, leaving the name suddenly, authoritatively masculine. The girls, meanwhile, are "winning" Addison. And still other names are showing staying power on both sides of the charts. As in the case of Kamren/Camren/Kamryn/Camryn, many of these splinter into multiple variants, each with its own sex ratio. For instance, Jalen is masculine, Jaelyn feminine, and Jaylin a tossup. What that means, in practice, is that you can't assume anything when you hear the name.

So it seems that unlike established names, new androgynous names don't inevitably tip toward the feminine. The trick is, they don't inevitably do anything. What crystal ball could have told you 15 years ago that Ashton would end up masculine and Addison feminine? In each case, the name's fluid gender identity made it easy for a celebrity example to shape public perception. (Check out this past post on Ashton to watch the forces of celebrity in action.) You can weigh risk factors, like whether the name contracts to a girlish or boyish sounding nickname. But in the end, if you choose a new androgynous name today you have to be prepared that 10 or 20 years down the line it may come across very differently.


By sarah smile (not verified)
October 23, 2009 2:24 PM

I actually think Anna's point and hyz's are both part of the same larger issue. There is a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) discomfort in many parts of American society with men who don't fit traditional gender roles or ways of expressing themselves, and I think that plays out in the concern about soft names. I would argue that some (not all) of the homophobia that we still see is actually based on that rather than sexuality per se. Otherwise why do people seem so much more bothered by gay men than by lesbian women? As much as we talk about gender discrimination for women and how to create opportunities for our daughters, in some ways I think the opportunities available to our sons are even more limited at the moment, just in different ways.

The thing that is tricky about this, though, is that it really isn't an issue with those doing the naming. (I mean, it certainly can be, but that's incidental here.) Because at a certain point it becomes like the political names discussion. It's all well and good to name your child something you love, but if you know it is likely to cause problems for them, then why put them in that position if you can choose a name without that added baggage. And unfortunately I think softer names for boys are seen as having that potential, especially in certain parts of the country.

October 23, 2009 2:29 PM

Alr-Congrats! Welcome Mabel Parker to this crazy world of ours.

Tirzah, hyz and Anna-I totally get what you all are saying. It is so subjective though. One person's geeky name is another's most beautiful perfect name.(that's of course not to say that geeks aren't beautiful people but you get it I hope). Anyway, Tirzah I'm not a huge fan of nature names but Phoenix and Indigo work for you and your family. If I saw them in print w/o knowing you though, I would tend to think Indigo=girl and Phoenix=boy because of the sounds and associations I have.

I have been trying to think of a name which is not common that I could post on here and survey all of us to get a feel for the impressions that arise. Something like Cloud is that a boy or girl name? Paper? Yes I know these are not REAL names, but how do we form our impressions about new names?

October 23, 2009 2:30 PM

yes, i'll give you that: linden might stray a little closer to the merrill side than the oliver/julian side. it does have a president on its side though; maybe that counts for something. :]

also, i have basically the exact same feelings about rowan as you. in my mind, it seems to be now trending more towards hayden and brody, and less towards oliver and simon and julian (which is where it belongs, in my brain). but maybe we're mistaken! one of the top sibling matches for rowan on namepedia is oliver. :]

and hyz pretty much beat me to everything else i wanted to say:
to me, phoenix and indigo, though they are androgynous, do not fall into the catagory being discussed here. or rather, to rephrase more accurately: they are very different to me. i agree with hyz that there's a big difference between sisters indigo & phoenix and sisters riley and ryan.
and i LOVE caspian, hawthorne, and zephyr (i'm a sucker for all those quirky z names (zelda, zora, zebedee).

demeteria...i kind of hope my kids don't grow up in a town like that. : / (though i'm sure your husband turned out just fine! :] )

By hyz
October 23, 2009 3:16 PM

Argh, the internet ate my post!!

Ok, well I just wanted to say that, emilyrae, it's so funny that you bring up Zora, since I was JUST thinking about that one today. It had so much that I love--nature meaning, Slavic origin, vintage feel, spunky sound....

And to sarah smile, I agree with you up to a point--I do think that men's gender roles might be a bit more restrictive than women's in the US today, and I agree that people are generally more uncomfortable with gay men than lesbians. However, I don't think that necessarily underlies the naming issue, at least for me. I basically want the same thing for any child of mine--for them to be smart, happy, compassionate, confident, healthy, and strong. And I do mean "healthy and strong" in a physical sense, as well as the more intangible ways. I grew up pretty heavily involved in various sports, and I sincerely hope that any child of mine will find a sport that they love, too, because I think it can play a significant role in creating a well-rounded person. I think that being athletic goes a long way toward helping a person have a healthy body image, and feel comfortable in their own skin. Additionally, it can help shape good traits, such as determination/perseverance through pain/adversity, teamwork, sportsmanship, goal-oriented focus and drive, etc. I don't value athleticism above all other traits, by any means (if I *had* to pick one, I'd rather have a bright kid than a sporty one), but I do value it. So, all of this is a long way of getting to the point that I am not drawn to names that are too "frilly/fussy" for girls, nor to names that might be too milquetoast for boys. I tend toward the "middle" for both genders, seeking strong but obviously female names for girls, and soft/gentle but obviously male names for boys. And I am the same in my attitude towards parenting--sure, I will allow my kid(s) to follow their interests, but as long as I have a say in it, I go out of my way not to encourage overly "girly" things for my daughter, and I wouldn't be pushing the heavily "boyish" things on a son.

October 23, 2009 3:21 PM

Re: the perception of me Rowan fits more in the Oliver/Julian camp.

But, I have a friend with a five month old named Rowan, and she told me that their other top boy names were Lincoln, Jude, Wyatt, and Lucas, which seems to agree with your associations emilyrae!

October 23, 2009 3:37 PM

We had a 2nd grade tour through here yesterday, and I just noticed that they all signed a thank you card, so of course I wrote down all the names. :D

Brenda (2)
Abby (2)

October 23, 2009 3:49 PM

Anne with an E-Interesting set of names. Brenda x2 that's unexpected to me. And I've never heard of Zalaiya but I like it.

hyz, I was thinking of Zinnia for you but that may be too matchy to Ivy.

Re Rowan: It's a funny name to me. I don't find that in my mind it matches Oliver well at all. I think Oliver and Simon is perfect. Rowan and Logan or Jayden works for me. I think because I am more familiar with the established names of Oliver and Simon and less with newer names such as the latter. They all have a made up quality (even though I know they aren't) compared to Oliver and Simon.

October 23, 2009 3:55 PM

anne with an e,
that's really interesting about your friend and rowan; her tastes seem to be a little all over the place. not as diverging as if she liked alistair and jaxxon or anything (ha! what a sibset!), but i wouldn't have expected all of those names to have come from the same parent. she had some good picks!

yes, zora! i know i've mentioned this before, but i have a little cousin named zora (she's probably about seven now, i'd guess). she's named after our great-great-grandmother, i believe. she's adorable, and while i think the name catches people off guard when they first hear it, it seems to grow on them quickly. sometimes my grandparents call her by her first and middle names (zora ann), which is also sweet. as you say, i like that it is both vintage and spunky. what's the nature association?

By Guest (not verified)
October 23, 2009 4:15 PM

I have to add Rowan to my list of names I'm surprised people find soft. To me, it sounds so much like Roman and Roan that I wouldn't be afraid of any feminine perceptions.

By Qwen (nli) (not verified)
October 23, 2009 4:41 PM

@Anna – I always love your insights from Scandinavia! How interesting that it’s actually against the law to use gender stereotypes in ads. I kinda like it. I also think it’s funny that you dress your boy in girls’ clothes to add some color. As for your question, I do see some homophobia on the boy side of this issue, but I don’t think its malicious, just present.

@zoerhenne – Good point. We wouldn’t have a lot to talk about if we didn’t interpret names differently. And since I’m always fascinated by the conversations and insights that go on here that would be a tragedy.

@Anna3 – Great list! Chris and Timetheos really caught my eye. I wonder if Chris is short for something more unusual than Christopher?

@Alr – CONGRATULATIONS!!! And welcome to little Mabel.

@Tirzah – I love that you put so much thought and history into both of your girls’ beautiful names. On a related note, I find nature names to be less ‘boy’/’girl’. It’s like the aforementioned use of last names. It seems fair that both sexes should be able to be honored by a family name, an important place or an element of nature that holds significance to the parents.

By Betsy (not verified)
October 23, 2009 4:45 PM

Anne with an E -- Brenda x1 would be a surprise to me! Goodness, who are these little Brendas?

By PunkPrincessPhd (NLI) (not verified)
October 23, 2009 4:45 PM


BIG CONGRATS! Such a fabulous name choice, as well! Best wishes for you and wee Mabel.

October 23, 2009 5:03 PM

I'm guessing that the little Brendas are actually doesn't sound that unusual to me. I know little Brendas and Irmas and Marthas and Belindas who are all Hispanic.

By hyz
October 23, 2009 5:19 PM

emilyrae, Zora apparently means "dawn" in Czech, Slovak, etc. Very nice. I was planning to ask my Russian and Ukrainian neighbors if they have any associations with the name that we wouldn't be familiar with. My biggest concern with it is that I wonder if most people see it as primarily an African American name because of Zora Neale Hurston, and if that would then make it seem odd/jarring on an Anglo/Asian child. I have the same concern with another of my favorites, Althea (from Althea Gibson). But this is probably another case of over-thinking, right?

zoerhenne, I actually love the name Zinnia, but am less in love with the actual flower, so I'm on the fence about that one. And about Rowan--well that's the thing--it's NOT a "newer name" at all, but it is newly popular here (which is probably what you meant anyway), and that is contributing to the *feel* of it being a newer name, which makes me sad--and cranky, since that was *my* boy name since I was about 14 or so, and now I have to reassess the whole thing. Hmph.

October 23, 2009 5:45 PM

Alr - congratulations! You've picked a delightful name.

hyz - I think we have a lot in common in terms of our naming styles and sentiments. :)

Chimu - re: Linden - even on Namipedia on this site, Linden is only listed as a girl name, and doesn't have a boy name entry. Thanks for sharing your impressions of the name. It's always nice to get feedback!

October 23, 2009 6:35 PM

oh, dawn is a wonderful meaning! i see what you mean about zora neale hurston; she is definitely the most well known zora. however, it doesn't make me think of any particular race. my little cousin is very caucasian (blonde ringlets), as was the great-great-grandmother she was named after. i think maybe you're over-thinking it, but i don't want to be so quick to judge since obviously i'm not totally objective (since i know a non-black zora). i personally wouldn't hesitate to use it (well...i would. but that's because of my cousin). anyway, i do think it's a great little name. a lot of personality in such a short name!

By Anna (not verified)
October 23, 2009 6:38 PM

PPP: any news?

October 23, 2009 6:59 PM

hyz-I wouldn't have a problem using Zora if I were a person with your background. I would however hesitate to use Althea as that doesn't seem as fitting to an Asian as Zora. Althea reminds me of Dorothea/Dorothy and therefore reminds me of my grandmother (pure white) and it seems odd to envision her being a Zora or Zinnia. Oddly enough though she was Polish and probably could have been a Zora if it was a Slovak name.

Re Rowan: Thanks for trying to be kind, but I actually did not mean newly popular. I have never heard of the name before the last 5-10yrs. Growing up I was familiar with the names Oliver, Simon, and others. There are so many new things I learn on this board every day.

By DanielleM (not verified)
October 23, 2009 7:47 PM

hyz, as a black woman, I wouldn't assume another Zora were African American. The name is so unusal, Zora Neale Hurston is the only one I've ever heard of. I've never heard of another Althea besides the tennis player, but I would probably guess someone with this name was an older (50+) African American woman.

By the other Amber (not verified)
October 23, 2009 8:27 PM

Another wonderful post, Laura, that I can direct people to! The interesting thing about people applying old rules to the rising generation is that I have no reason to believe that those old rules still hold true. We have no way to know how the rising generation will see femininity vs masculinity in names, and I would like to think that teaches are adapting to the new crops of names, or kids getting beat up for having a "geeky" name, etc.

As for traditionally male names like Kelly and Tracy and Morgan - I do see a lot of those names as masculine.

Air - Congratulations! Say hi to Mabel Parker for me!

October 23, 2009 8:49 PM

On feminine names and being judged in a male-dominated world: I've had it happen to me.

My first name is clearly feminine (L0ri). A few years ago I published a paper in an international journal and got a little recognition for it. At some point I googled my own name (first and last) to see who else out there had my name, and I found a blog mentioning my article and my name. This blogger (young and female) seemed quite amused and bewildered, and maybe a bit upset, that women with such feminine "cheerleader"-like names had the audacity to become scientists.

I suspect she knew a cheerleader with this name in high school (funny, in my high school class there were 3 L0ris, and none of us were anywhere close to being cheerleaders). I know the name comes across as soft and feminine, but I never knew people would also assume it meant I'm not ambitious or intelligent.

So in some ways I can really understand wanting to name a girl something more androgenous -- it can be hard enough to get respect in some fields. If I have a girl I'll take a different angle and probably name her Lilith or something similar to it (which is a very feminine name, but she'll be named after the first feminist -- she wins both ways).

By Anna (not verified)
October 23, 2009 9:05 PM

Just thought of this: In France and Spain it is completely normal for men to have hyphened first names with Marie/Maria as the second part, e.g. Jean-Marie and Jose Maria. (And for women, Marie-Joseph and Maria Jose are common as well). I've never heard anybody make a joke about the -Marie names in France. Ever. Marie/Maria is obviously not a completely random female name in this context but still it appears to be a non-issue for men to be Something-Marie/a.

October 23, 2009 9:47 PM

I love the name Zora. It is short, sweet, feminine without being frilly. The only one I know is a four year old adopted from China/has white parents. It is lovely on her. I think it has the potential to be a "new" classic in the near future in large part because it has that "Z".

October 23, 2009 10:04 PM


@ EVie: I realize this belongs on the next post, but just wondering, you said you grew up in NYC. Where? Because that was the EXACT ethnic breakup of my middle school (in Brooklyn), and my high school is pretty much the same (Brooklyn as well). My middle school offered French, Spanish and Italian, I take French but Spanish was by far the most popular, and my high school has those three as well as Mandarin Chinese. I'm still taking French.

Not reposted: (also, sorry in advance that this is so long, I've been really busy this week because tomorrow is my first debate team tournament and my internet broke down yesterday)

@ Tamara: Or, Lior, and Noam are boys to me whereas Yuval and Tal are girls (although I always thought Tal sounded more masculine with Talia being the fem form, but I don't know) and almost all of my Israeli name knowledge is from personal experience with Israeli camp counselors.

Re. Leslie/Lesley: My mom has a cousin Lesley, which is to me, exclusively feminine, although Leslie is both. I think of classmate L3sl!e L! (I dislike the sound repetition though, and sorry for the coding) and Leslie Howard as male Leslies, although I think my dad's aunt is named Leslie, not Lesley. I actually really like Leslie on a boy, I also sort of like Ashley (probably Leslie Howard and Ashley Wilkes being the reasons, lol).

Re. Sexism: What I have to ask is that, although studies have shown that a more masculine name helps women out, will it help them in the future, if, in twenty years, your daughter Annabella or Frillana has that name on a resume will it make that much of a difference because won't things change over time?

Re. Androgynous names: I wrote a paragraph in English on this topic (topic of our choice) and although, it was just one paragraph, I did tons of extra research and the following names have been used for boys in the top 1000:
Beatrice, Laura, Lillie, Lillian, Agnes, Irene, Michelle, Rose, Nancy, Linda, Debra, Deborah, Mary, Maria, Emma, Elizabeth, Sarah, Louise, Gladys, Alice, Eva, Jennifer, Jessica, Anna, Jean, Joan, Margaret, and Joyce.
And used on girls in top 1000:
Robert, George, Joshua, Henry, Michael, William, Mark, David, Jason, Paul, Ronald, John, Charles, Edward, James, Richard, Harry.
My dad's name, Drew, also seems masculine to me because of him, but Drew Barrymore made it feminine.

That's it for today, maybe tomorrow I'll have more from pages 2-4+ on this post, way interesting btw!

By Eo (not verified)
October 23, 2009 11:08 PM

Air-- Love Mabel Parker, just as much as the equally inspired Leo Cortland! All the best to the new family.

It's interesting that there is still a remnant of Catholicism even in secular Europe in the form of Mary/Marie/Maria being appended to names. I like that. As a Protestant I always liked the idea of Mary + your regular name-- seemed exotic. Here of course the boys wouldn't have Mary attached to their names, but there are still a fair number of Mary Kates, Mary Elizabeths, etc. Not too many hyphens, though...

October 23, 2009 11:46 PM

Anna +Eo-What about how nun's pick their names? Laura, is this maybe a post-worthy topic? Do nun's pick their names because of family history, names they just like, a saint who has traits they admire, a saint's name based on a special day for them, etc.? Is there even a way to get ahold of that data? Is there a list of nun names somewhere? I know that common names like Mary Margaret and Mary Katherine must abound. But I am certain somewhere I've heard strange parings like Mary Joseph and Mary Patrick. Maybe someone with a more religious background can point me in the right direction.

By hyz
October 24, 2009 12:16 AM

zoerhenne, from what I know, nuns are assigned their names, and have no choice in the matter. I don't know who chooses the name for them though, or how it's done. I wonder if it has anything to do with the saints' days around their ordainment?

By PunkPrincessPhd (NLI) (not verified)
October 24, 2009 8:06 AM


still here, thanks for asking :)

We're still awaiting Baby Girl of the Irish Moniker, but my OB has put money down on her being a bit early, so I'll definitely keep you all posted!

I'm low on mental energy at the moment, so I've been lurking until I have an intelligent (or at least coherent) comment to make.

By moll (not verified)
October 24, 2009 8:41 AM

zoerhenne, pre-vatican II, it was more common for nuns to change their names. Postulates can suggest names, but the mother superior ultimately decides, and it must be a saint or other religious figure.

These days, most orders of nuns keep their birth names. Growing up in the 90s, most of the nuns that taught me - who were ordained in the 40s - 60s - used their birth names as well. They were mostly sisters of St. Joseph. My great-aunt, who took her vows in the 40s, used her birth name, Marcella.

We always thought that the meanest nuns had man names. heck, nuns STARTED the androgyny trend ;) I slacked off a bit more for Sr. Yvonne than I did for Sr. Vincent...

My mom's the principal of a Catholic school, and a lot of parents can't resist the urge to call her Sr. Kathleen instead of Mrs. D___. My favorite is one who upped the ante and called her Sr. Mary Kathleen - he hadn't been inside a Catholic school since the 70s and I guess just assumed that that's how it went!

By moll (not verified)
October 24, 2009 8:41 AM

zoerhenne, pre-vatican II, it was more common for nuns to change their names. Postulates can suggest names, but the mother superior ultimately decides, and it must be a saint or other religious figure.

These days, most orders of nuns keep their birth names. Growing up in the 90s, most of the nuns that taught me - who were ordained in the 40s - 60s - used their birth names as well. They were mostly sisters of St. Joseph. My great-aunt, who took her vows in the 40s, used her birth name, Marcella.

We always thought that the meanest nuns had man names. heck, nuns STARTED the androgyny trend ;) I slacked off a bit more for Sr. Yvonne than I did for Sr. Vincent...

My mom's the principal of a Catholic school, and a lot of parents can't resist the urge to call her Sr. Kathleen instead of Mrs. D___. My favorite is one who upped the ante and called her Sr. Mary Kathleen - he hadn't been inside a Catholic school since the 70s and I guess just assumed that that's how it went!

By moll (not verified)
October 24, 2009 8:41 AM

I'm sorry - I don't know WHY that happened. Moving right along...

October 24, 2009 10:11 AM

Thanks for the info moll and hyz.

By Telle (not verified)
October 24, 2009 12:04 PM

On the topic of male Lindens, I wanted to mention that the president with that name spelled it Lyndon. For me, that association makes the Lyndon spelling more clearly a male name. But then it loses the botanical reference, which I like.

By Anna (not verified)
October 24, 2009 12:39 PM

Eo - religion is much more a private matter in Europe than in the US but I wouldn't say Europe is secular. Catholicism is the predominant religion in France and Spain, so I'm not at all surprised to see names such as Jean-Marie and Maria Jose in these countries. (I think only the French use hyphens, but not sure). Germany which is very strict about gender-specific names also allow Maria/Marie in hyphenated names, e.g. Heinrich-Maria.

Actually I'm equally surprised there aren't any male Mary's (like Joseph Mary) in the US, all things considered. A Rose (#174) has Mary on her list of female names in the top 1000 for boys, but maybe that was a long time ago? Amazing how different things can be!

October 24, 2009 3:10 PM

About what A Rose said about the gender-obvious names in the other gender's top 1000: If those come from the SSA lists most of those instances are probably not actual people with those names, but from coding errors listing that person as the wrong sex. With the most popular names sometimes there would be enough errors for that name to pop up in the top 1000 list of the opposite gender. Since computers (or other technology) have made such errors less likely, you don't usually see them in the lists from recent years.

October 24, 2009 3:49 PM

Baby girls in Spain and Latin America are named María José, while boys are named José María. There is no hyphen.

My daughter has a classmate with that name, but I think she spells it Maríajosé (or maybe that's just the teacher's mistaken idea about how it's spelled).

By Qwen (nli) (not verified)
October 24, 2009 3:50 PM

So I had to share this since it was completely on topic.

By EVie
October 24, 2009 6:06 PM

hyz - I really like the way Althea looks in writing, but for a long time I was pronouncing it wrong in my head - I want to say AL-thee-a, whereas I learned later that it is al-THEE-a. That was disappointing for me - for some reason it feels much fresher to me with the accent on the first syllable.

moonlady - I love Lilith also. It's currently one of my top choices for a future daughter.

A Rose - I grew up in Manhattan and went to school in Manhattan also. A lot of the kids at my high school commuted from Brooklyn and Queens though. It was one of the specialized science high schools - I'm sure you can guess.

By Kim in Philly (not verified)
October 24, 2009 7:33 PM

Qwen- Mosiah? I've never heard of the name and it sounds like Messiah. It's horrible for a boy or a girl!

By hyz
October 24, 2009 11:13 PM

EVie--interesting! I feel like I've heard it as AL-thee-a before--that's how I say it in my head, anyway. Hmmmm...

October 24, 2009 11:35 PM

oh, hyz, i meant to tell you: i have no race connotations with althea, though it is still a bit old ladyish to me. but we know how quickly things like that can change! i'm sure i would change my name once i met a child with that name. and i do say al-THEE-uh. it's not a heavy stress for me, but it is a stress.

October 24, 2009 11:51 PM

i'm thinking a constellations theme might be fun for pets:

or stars:

October 25, 2009 1:15 AM

Baby Alert: Karringt0n, new sister to Huds0n Tayl0r and C0rban Sc0tt.

By Kelly(girl) (not verified)
October 25, 2009 10:56 AM

Several things come to mind with this post.

One, as a Kelly born 40 years ago, I don't remember thinking my name was really a boy's name. It seemed girlish to me then (although, there was a boy named Kelly Cottingham in my preschool class. I loved him and named a sock monkey after him.) My name did come from my Irish great-great-grandmother, Madeira Frances Kelly, so I guess it could have gone either way as a surname name.

The other thing, as a teacher, is that in some schools (at least where I live) you do have to list your students on a boys/girls list and post it outside your classroom before school even starts. You can ask a previous-year's teacher (which I have had to do) "Is Taylor a boy or a girl?" if the child was in your school the year before, but if the child is new, you might not be able to find out, which can cause a problem. Many elementary teachers also label their students' cubbies, supplies, etc. before school starts, too. I've known parents who have *flipped out* when the wrong name has been posted for their child, as in the case of a boy who had the name Carter Forbes J____ and the teacher labeled everything with Carter. He went by Forbes. Mom was not nice about it!

The last thing is that I have a little girl in my class this year named Avery. Last year, in first grade, there was another Avery in her class. A boy.

By Anna (not verified)
October 25, 2009 11:39 AM

Kelly(girl) " do have to list your students on a boys/girls list and post it outside your classroom..."

Sorry to ask so bluntly, but what kind of purpose does it serve to split the list into boys and girls?

By Eo (not verified)
October 25, 2009 12:08 PM

emilyrae-- Those constellation names have appeal for human names as well-- it's too bad some of them get snapped up for use on commercial products. They have a certain glamour. I've wondered about "Castor" before-- it has nice sounds, and is similar to "Caspar" a favorite of sophisticates, so maybe it is due for a dusting-off. His twin Pollux might be a harder sell, despite the trendy "x" ending!

Maybe some couldn't shake the ghastly spectre of castor oil, although it was past generations who grew to loathe it.

"Sirius" is another nifty one, but to us satellite radio fans it has a fairly overriding association now with radio. Not necessarily a bad thing..

Anna-- I was referring to Europe's general move away from its religious moorings of past centuries, which indeed has been quite significant. Even the Catholic countries are far less 'observant' than they once were, making the attachment to the name "Mary" all the more interesting. Although I was amused to note one wag who wrote recently that Europe is no longer "post-Christian", it is simply "pre-Islamic."

That had fascinating implications for the name world, especially given that Mohammed is now the most popular baby name in several areas of the U.K., including London, I think. I would expect that trend to only accelerate in future decades...

Bethany, I've noticed the "Karrington" spelling before-- I wonder why some people have shifted from the conventional "C" spelling? There must be some pop culture Karrington out there that people are glomming onto and that I'm too hopelessly clued out about to know about.

Or is it just part of the trendiness of the letter "K", as in "Kaleb", etc.? ("Kaleb-with-a-k" is one that just befuddles me!)

October 25, 2009 1:10 PM


the constellation/star names definitely have appeal for me as people names too, though i think they might be too far out there for a lot of people.

castor and pollux (for twin boys) are pretty high up on my list of fantasy sibsets (along with the four founders of hogwarts and the three pen names of the bronte sisters). i wouldn't want to name themey names, but i do like that it's a pretty subtle theme, that most people wouldn't pick up on.

i'd forgotten about sirius radio; my first thought is actually the harry potter character.

but yeah, they definitely have appeal as people names to me. cassiopeia could be the next cassandra. :]

oh, and i rather dislike kaleb with a k...though i guess befuddled is the more polite word. it just seems like it completely changes the name to me.

October 25, 2009 1:41 PM

I knew a white Althea in college so I think of a poetry-writing intellectual brown haired white woman when I hear it. How funny how much influence one person can have! I had a similar dilemma with Octavia, a name I love but have only heard on African American women, which I am not. It's not that I would be upset if people thought my potential daughter was black, it's more of a fear of cultural appropriation.

By PenelopeB (not verified)
October 25, 2009 2:16 PM

Althea is the name of a Grateful Dead song about a woman with that name. I know of a girl whose Mom was a hippie and named her Althea (the girl is in her 20s now). Thus, I think of it as a hippie name!

October 25, 2009 2:35 PM

that's so interesting about octavia; to me, it is very caucasian. i picture like...a white woman in a toga. ha! i'm sure that's quite inaccurate!