In Memoriam: the departed names of 2008

May 11th 2009

Each year at this time, we pause a moment to reflect on the long-familiar names that dropped out of the top 1000 for the first time. Some 2008 notables:

 

Brad. A top-1000 standby since 1942, Brad was one of the signature names of the 1960's and '70s. Now, you can’t help but notice that it rhymes with Dad. (Celebrity watchers, note that Brad Pitt has had absolutely no discernible impact on this name's popularity arc.)

Karl. Karl was one of the true stalwarts, a name that had made the top 1000 every year on record (since 1880). This year marked the end of that run, as Karl – like Brad – suffered for its 3-to-1 consonant-vowel ratio.

Carrie. Are you surprised to learn that Carrie, too, had been on a 127-year run? In fact, the name's heyday was in the 1800s, with a second wind in the 1970s.

Toni. Toni's been around since the '20s, and held up across cultural moments from Toni Tennille to Toni Braxton. No feminine form of Anthony makes the charts this year.

Annette. The image of Frankie and Annette’s endless '60s beach parties makes this name feel date-stamped, but in fact it had a long, multigenerational run.

Brandy. Yes, the '80s are really over.

Susana. OK, this is a head-scratcher. As of this year, no spelling of this classic name cracks the top 1000. Yet I constantly talk to parents who love the name, especially spelled Susannah. If you're hunting for that elusive Sasquatch of names – a name that everybody knows, everybody likes, and nobody uses – you've just found it.

 

Comments

1
By smismar (Toni) (not verified)
May 11, 2009 9:48 AM

I for one, do not mourn the loss of "Toni". Why anyone would choose to give their sweet little baby girl this as her full given name is beyond me (and it's MY name, named after my great-grandfather Anton - I just wish my parents had chosen Antonia with a nn of Toni instead).

2
By CB, not logged in (not verified)
May 11, 2009 10:15 AM

Well, it really is the name and not the namesake isn't it? Jolie is steadily climbing up the charts.

And what is up with Susannah? Savannah is doing just fine, and there's a strong contingent of classic names - seems like two and two aren't adding up.

And now I'm wondering - are we just trending away from shortened versions of names? Bradley and Caroline are hanging in there.

3
May 11, 2009 10:18 AM

Wow, Laura, I'm so surprised about Susannah! I feel like it's come up a bunch on this blog. I did notice Antonia wasn't on the list when I was looking and while I most likely wouldn't use it myself I wouldn't have thought it'd be so unpopular. As for Annette and Brad I actually like both of them. I had Bradley on my list for kids when I was younger and I'd certainly still consider it. And Annette is nice, maybe more mn for me, but still.

I did notice that there seem to be more and more different spellings of the same names on the top 1000 list and fewer and fewer distinct names. Have other people noticed that? I hope it's not actually a trend and I'm imagining it because I think it's sad if we leave behind great original names in favor of kre8tively spelled names.

4
May 11, 2009 10:22 AM

CB- Maybe all the people considering Susannah are going with Savannah as a "newer" name and to avoid the "Oh Susannah" thing?

5
May 11, 2009 10:43 AM

We named our youngest daughter Susanna in 1982; her name was chosen due to a family connection. I liked the name a lot and still do. Our daughter has always been called "Susanna", not Susie or Sue.

I think today's parents may be drawn to the name Susanna, but then back off due to concerns that their daughter may end up being called "Sue", a name that seems dated now because of the huge popularity of Susan and related names for nearly half a century. Susan became a top 100 name in 1937, where it stayed through 1984. By 1945 Susan had soared into the top 10 and remained there through 1968, peaking at #2 from 1957-1960. With combined spellings and forms (and most of these girls ending up being called "Sue"), it probably was the #1 girl's name for several years.

The 1958 SSA list (50 years prior to 2008), when Susan was #2 for the second year, includes 12 forms of Sue-names:
Susan (2)
Sue (102)
Suzanne (104)
Susie (222)
Susanne (365)
Suzette (461)
Suzan (510)
Susanna (554)
Susana (695)
Suzy (777)
Suzanna (840)
Suzie (984)

Fifty years later Susan has plunged to #712, while her 11 friends are totally gone from the top 1000. No more "Runaround Sue"...

6
May 11, 2009 10:38 AM

Jenny L3igh, I think incorrect (substandard) spellings are definitely a big trend right now, and I too am feeling sad to see lovely names like Susanna being overlooked in favor of some new name spelled in a novel way.

7
May 11, 2009 10:41 AM

Huh, I just was looking at the ssa limits and only 67% of girls are represented in the top 1000 names in 2008. That means over 30% of girls have a name not included on the list. I think that's interesting. I guess when you think about names like the above mentioned that are familiar but not in the top 1000 it makes sense, but I tend to forget that not every name I know is on that list.

8
By michellek (not verified)
May 11, 2009 10:44 AM

Susanna or Susannah is our name of choice if we have another baby girl (our two-year-old's name is Miranda). I was very surprised that no spelling of the name was in the top 1000.

9
May 11, 2009 10:50 AM

I really like the name Karl too! Guess I've come across some cool Carl/Karls in my life. Hard to see it on a baby though...

10
By CNH (not verified)
May 11, 2009 10:54 AM

Yes, EVERYONE is talking about Susannah. It's beyond shocking. EVERYONE. When this name comes, it will explode and be a hideous disaster for all those who were trying to be different, just like Ava was...the disaster tempered only by the variety of accepted spellings for Susannah.

11
By Melanie1 (not verified)
May 11, 2009 10:57 AM

I can definitely see the fear of a dated nickname like Sue, however. Both my husband and I have aunts names Sue born in 51. I was a little surprised about Toni, not just that Toni isn't in the top 1,000 but that no long version like Antonia is available. I could definitely see how most parents are going with a Bradley over just plain Brad. It reminds me of the post about Gray being turned into Grayson. Parents are worried about naming their children "nickname" names. In contrast, however, I know of a few just Katie's running around.

12
May 11, 2009 11:18 AM

I looked at SSA stats for Sue as a given name and saw that Sue was in the top 100 from 1939-1949. I think the 1940s were when Sue Ellen and, maybe to a lesser degree, Sue Ann were popular combined names. Fifty-some years ago the frequency of "Sue" as a short form, combined name, or middle name made the name extremely common. Who hasn't known at least one "Sue"?

I think that the possibility of "A [Girl] Named Sue" is what's decreasing the number of babies being named Susanna. Yet with so many children being called by their full given names now, and going by my daughter Susanna's experience with the name, I believe that parents can choose the lovely name Susanna for their baby girl with the expectation that her name will remain Susanna (and not Sue).

13
May 11, 2009 11:21 AM

michellek, I like your name choices. We have an almost two-year-old granddaughter named Miranda.

14
May 11, 2009 11:35 AM

Off topic, but I don't think anyone else posted this yet. The Freakonomics blog at the nytimes had this on May 7th:

"A German court recently upheld a ban on surnames that are hyphenated three or more times, claiming long names could cause 'intolerable administrative difficulties' for German officials. As Time reports, local German authorities must also approve first names, which have to match the child’s gender and 'must not expose the child to ridicule or discrimination.' (Germany is hardly the first country to crack down on wayward names.) As German courts have already rejected names like Stompie and Woodstock, the chances are slim you’ll meet any Marijuana Pepsi Schmidts."
http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/07/sorry-no-marijuana-pepsi-in-germany/

We were talking about hyphenated names recently! So there's Germany's take on it I guess.

15
May 11, 2009 11:40 AM

Oo, and there's more at Times magazine:

"In a country whose Economics Minister is named Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Freiherr zu Guttenberg, the verdict seems illogical. But on Tuesday, Germany's Federal Constitutional Court rejected a woman's appeal to go by her new married name, Frieda Rosemarie Thalheim-Kunz-Hallstein, arguing that the name is too long."

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1896443,00.html

I have to say I do sympathize with the public workers trying to do administrative work with these names...

16
May 11, 2009 11:42 AM

Could someone link to the recent conversation Jenny L3igh mentioned about hyphenated names? I'd love to read it.

17
By Jessica L (not verified)
May 11, 2009 12:05 PM

CNH, I agree, Susannah is poised for an explosion in the next 5 to 10 years. It's the name I keep hearing quietly mentioned on naming boards.

I am kind of sad to see Carrie go. People do think of it as a 70's name, but it does have al long history - my great grandmother was named Carrie. Maybe it'll make a comeback if people grow tired of Caroline.

18
By Jan (not verified)
May 11, 2009 12:12 PM

You can connect the conversations about Susanna and its variants with the kre8tively spelled names on the top 1000 list today. Hypothesis: when names are at their height, people find and create variants of it, but a few decades down the road only a few will survive. So maybe the Marleys, Marleighs, Marlees, etc. will be winnowed soon enough.

19
May 11, 2009 12:28 PM

Jan- I agree with you. I think Laura brought this up once before too. There are more creative spellings occuring when a name is popular. As the popularity wanes, so do some of the spellings.

20
By guestgirl (not verified)
May 11, 2009 12:36 PM

What is with the hatred I hear for Sue and Susan? I hear it's plain or ugly or horrible. It's not Bertha. I hear people constantly say they want a traditional name that isn't too high and they always reject Susan. Isn't it a good solid traditional name choice? Doesn't it have that fashionable N at the end, like Lauren?

I sometimes wish we were less beholden to fashion. It's a lovely long established name that deserves some play.

Susannah is a little to frilly for me - like Annette or Anna when there is the option for Anne.

I wonder if Carrie's dissaperance has more to do it hiding from view as Caroline.

Wouldn't a parent who would choose Carrie as a full name probably choose something that sounds newer/fresher like Caylee.

There's probably many little Carries out there. Though perhaps not as many as there are Addies or Bellas

21
May 11, 2009 12:47 PM

Interesting article about the 2008 baby name stats, with quotes from Laura Wattenberg and a link to this website, on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's website: The Morning File: The names are in: Emma and Jacob, you rule. (Shiloh and Maddox, you're cool.):
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09131/969323-294.stm

With a brother named Gary, I especially liked writer Gary Rotstein's humor about his own name:

The rise and fall of good ol' Gary
"At www.ssa.gov, you can learn some interesting things about yourself -- or at least, about your name. For instance, you can discover the history of your name's popularity going back to 1880. And it can be quite dispiriting."

"Let me save you other Garys some trouble: There was a time we weren't so much better off than the Baracks of the world."

"In 1884, there were 1,029 more popular names for male babies in America. But we made a big move during the Depression, and then all the fecund returning vets on the GI Bill loved us after World War II. By 1954, we were ninth in the country, feeling cocky."

"And where do the Garys stand today? Uh, 426th. Where did we go wrong? Gary Hart's womanizing? Gary Busey's strangeness?"

22
By CB, not logged in (not verified)
May 11, 2009 12:54 PM

I agree, Susan is a lovely name. I have a good friend who wanted to honor her departed mother with her daughter's name - but just couldn't bring herself to name her Susan! I still don't understand the hang up.
Susan made the short list for both our daughters, but we went with family names for both (oh, how I looked for a Susan!).
Well, there's just no accounting for taste, is there? ;)
If - probably when - Susannah explodes, I don't think it'll be a hideous disaster. It's a nice enough name to stand up to a trend, I think.

23
By Eo (not verified)
May 11, 2009 1:00 PM

The traditional "Susannah" is my favorite form of the name, and it is indeed strong and appealing.

I like your fresh take on the issue, guestgirl. Considered by itself, "Susan" is also strong and attractive, and I also made the connection with "Anne" in my head!

For me, it's not that it is associated with one time period and therefore becoming "frumpy"-- it's more that it was SO over-used during that time period. I do believe there is a fine distinction between the two phenomena. Somewhat in the way that "Emily", a great name, was over-used a few decades ago, and "Jacob", an equally fine name is, I believe, being over-used now. They'll all seem like viable choices again, but it will take time...

As for hesitating to use "Susannah" because of the nickname "Sue"-- I would bypass that completely by adopting the adorable, centuries-old Susannah/Susan nickname "Sukie" or "Sukey".

There are other nickname possibilities as well-- "Sunny", "Shush", "Zan", and on and on. "Swoosie" is fun too, even though Swoosie Kurtz was never a Susan/Susannah.

And bianca probably could come up with others...

24
May 11, 2009 1:36 PM

Eo, I'm wondering why you see Susannah -- with the 'h' -- as the traditional form of the name? Susanna (no 'h') is in the New Testament and has been in far greater use since 1880, when SSA records begin. Susannah was in the top 100 six times during the 1880s and then didn't reappear until 1967, when it stayed on the chart only 13 years (through 1979), never going any higher than #865. On the other hand, Susanna was a steady presence in the top 1000 from 1880 through 1997, ranking 336 in 1884 and peaking again at 554 in 1954.

"Oxford" says Susanna is the NT form of the Hebrew name Shoshana and that Susannah is a variant of Susanna. Mention is made of the apocryphal book Susannah and that the name was popular, with that spelling, in the Middle Ages.

It seems to me that both forms -- NT Susanna and OT (Catholic Bible) Susannah - could be classified as "traditional" spellings of the name.

25
May 11, 2009 1:50 PM

guestgirl and eo, I want to clarify that I personally like Susan very much and think Sue is fine, but am guessing that some parents think Sue, an easy nn for Susanna, was overused or outdated and thus by-pass Susanna. Why else would Susanna be off the charts for several years, while names similar in sound and background are doing well? (We sometimes call our Susanna "Sus" [pronounced as sooz], but it's not an 'official' nn.)

26
By Jessica L (not verified)
May 11, 2009 2:27 PM

I actually like the nn Sue (along with Suki). It's Susie I'm not so fond of and would keep me from using Susanna(h).

27
By Guest (not verified)
May 11, 2009 3:18 PM

I also lament the loss of traditional names that have 'always' been on the SSA list. How many names are still around that have never left the top 1000? Has anyone compiled a list?

28
May 11, 2009 3:20 PM

I love Susanna (that spelling) myself. I know a Swedish girl by that name who goes by Sanna (pronounced Zanna).

29
By CB, not logged in (not verified)
May 11, 2009 3:31 PM

Ohh.. Guest, that would be an interesting foil to Ms. Wattenberg's One Hit Wonders series.
Of course there are some easy ones like John and Mary. But a complete list would be cool.
So, I guess I'm going to go play with NameVoyager and see what I get!

30
By Joanna (not verified)
May 11, 2009 4:49 PM

Re: Susana/elusive name everyone knows but no one is using.

Susana (nn Suki) was on my list for a girl, though hubby would never agree because he has an aunt named Susan who is a little strange. But now we're having a boy, and I'm trying to find a boy name that "everybody knows, everybody likes, and nobody uses".

Any ideas? Style-wise, my daughter is Juliana, and for boys names I like Peter, Thomas, Russell (all of which hubby has vetoed).

31
By knp (not verified)
May 11, 2009 4:58 PM

A sib set I just saw: Quentin & K@yanna
Never seen a K@yanna before

32
By Em (not verified)
May 11, 2009 5:00 PM

I've actually always been surprised that Carrie never got a bump from Carrie Underwood. I would think that she would add a likeable, youthful spin on the name.

33
By WendyC (not verified)
May 11, 2009 5:03 PM

hmmm... my post did not show up. Excuse me if this posts twice.

I named my daughter Suzanna (born 2001) partially because the name was one everyone knew but no one used. She goes by Suzanna nickname Zan or Zanna sometimes Susie never Sue.

Back in the early 2000's I read somewhere that if all the variants of Suzanna were combined it is actually about 300 on popular names....

Susanna, Susana, Susannah, Suzanna, Suzana, Suzannah

34
By Eo (not verified)
May 11, 2009 5:35 PM

Hi Patricia -- My comments about the name were not meant to suggest that other forms of the name are in any way invalid or not traditional-- not at all.

It's just that of all the myriad forms and permutations, I'm most drawn to Susannah, which I parenthetically noted is "traditional". But that doesn't mean other forms are not traditional.

Interestingly, my battered old edition of Dunkling and Gosling posits "Susannah" as the Biblical New Testament name and "Susanna" as the Latin form, which has been a very frequent variant since the beginning of the nineteenth century. It has an even more streamlined beauty, to be sure.

Weirdly though, I like names with a final "h", like "Josiah" and "Norah". They have a "finished" look to me, that just appeals. And yes, I somewhat prefer "Rebekah" to "Rebecca"!

Additionally, the "Rebecca" spelling sort of got tarnished for me early on by the cruel character in the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name...

35
May 11, 2009 5:45 PM

Valerie and CB, a list of names always in the top 1000 already exists. I have it printed out... somewhere, but I can't recall the URL for it. I'll see if I can find it.

Valerie, is your Swedish friend's nn pronounced sahn-na? I'd forgotten about that possible nn for Susanna. I recall that in the movie "The Diary of Anne Frank", Anne mentions her friend Sanne (I think it was spelled that way, but pronounced as sahn-na). I was intrigued by that name and finally discovered that it's a nn for Susanna.

Behindthename.com says of Sanna:
SANNA
Gender: Feminine
Usage: Scandinavian
Scandinavian short form of SUSANNA. It can also be derived from Swedish sann meaning "true".

WendyC, Zanna is nice too.

As for Susana (one 'n'), that's the Spanish (also Italian and Portuguese) form of Susanna. Susana was in the SSA top 1000 from 1953 - 2007, and I've assumed its popularity was influenced primarily by Spanish-speaking Americans.

36
By CB, not logged in (not verified)
May 11, 2009 5:54 PM

Thanks, Patricia. I hope you find it :)

Some names that have always been on the list (that I didn't think were obvious):
girls - Josie, Jessie, Lillian, Eva, Lena, Alma, Nancy, Martha, Cora, Amanda, Florence

37
By Jillc (not verified)
May 11, 2009 6:11 PM

re: number of "unique" names in top 1000 -- in my spreadsheet, I count 683 girls' names after combining different spellings of the same name (which, admittedly, can be more opinion than fact at times). It has stayed in this range since 2002 (the oldest year I have data for), although this year is the lowest number in the past 7 years.

Boys' names are quite a bit less kre8ive: the top 1000 gets me 786 unique names in 2008. The range for boys has also been similar since 2002.

Re: Carrie -- in addition to Carrie Underwood, I always thought Sex and the City would have some impact on the name. However, looking at the names of the other 3 main characters, only Charlotte has jumped in popularity since the show started. As Laura says, it's about the name, not the person.

38
May 11, 2009 6:17 PM

Hi Eo -- always interesting to discuss names with you. I'm pretty sure that Dunkling and Gosling got it wrong when they wrote that Susannah (with the h) is "Biblical, N.T., Luke 8:3." Every Bible version I've looked at has the name as Susanna.

Luke 8:3 (New American Standard Bible)

3 and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.

The website below quotes this verse from many different versions of the Bible and the name is Susanna (no h) in each one:

http://bible.cc/luke/8-3.htm

We named our Susanna after a close relative named Joanna, and I was amazed when I later found the two names linked in this verse.

Dunkling and Gosling go on to explain that the name Susannah (with the h) "is mainly associated with the the Apocryphal [not in the Protestant Bible] story of Susannah and the Elders," and I think that's correct.

Our Susanna was almost named Sarah, but then circumstances led me to choose the name Susanna. I've always preferred Sarah with the h and might have spelled Susannah similarly had I chosen the name randomly.

39
By Fritinancy (not verified)
May 11, 2009 6:42 PM

Susannah with a terminal "H" is a transliteration of the Hebrew שׁוֹשַׁנָּה (Shoshannah, meaning "lily"). In Hebrew, the nickname is Shosh or Shoshi.

40
May 11, 2009 7:47 PM

Hi! I just found out that I am pregnant with baby number four - a girl! I already have my heart set on Callie, but my hubby thinks it's too much of a "cutesy" name that won't translate well to an adult woman. He wants to name her Caroline and just call her "Callie" for short.

Any thoughts? I definitely see his point, but I feel like the fact that Callie has been used for a long time puts it in a different category than similar-sounding Kylie or Miley.

41
By PhilippaThe First (not verified)
May 11, 2009 8:34 PM

Woah. I'm going to have a second baby next year, and honestly, if it is a girl, three names I am seriously considering, and did consider for our first daughter are Antonia (Toni), Caroline (Carrie) or Susannah (Susie).

Does this make me, like, a soothsayer or something, and I so uncool I'm cool again? Are these names destined to become the next Ava?

42
By PhilippaThe First (not verified)
May 11, 2009 8:40 PM

PS- Everyone has mentioned this- but how great are the nicknames Zan or Zanna? Love them!

Obviously, now baby 2 (yet to be conceived much less yet to be girl!) can't be a Susannah, b/c it appears EVERYONE and their cousin is about to have a Susannah in 2009/2010!

43
May 11, 2009 8:44 PM

Patricia- Yes, Sanna is pronounced Sahn-na. I like it! I'd forgotten about the one in AF's Diary.

44
May 11, 2009 9:24 PM

kimmy J: I think using Callie as a nn sounds like a good compromise for you and your husband. Given name could also be Calla.

For Susannah, I like the NN Susie. Have also heard Suz. I also like Susan--but then I am a fan of names of that generation (Linda, Nancy, etc.)

45
By CB, not logged in (not verified)
May 11, 2009 9:41 PM

kimmy J - Callie does deserve to be in a different category, but that doesn't mean most people will give it its propers. Not everyone has a working familiarity with name trends through the decades. Most people, I fear, will lump it with those other names.
Also, I always urge people not to work too hard to get their partner to just go along with a name... There are so many names to choose from. Have patience and you'll find a name that clicks with both of you!

and just for fun - Calphurnia turns into Callie quite nicely :)

46
By CB, not logged in (not verified)
May 11, 2009 9:47 PM

Philippa - I'd say Antonia and Susannah are going to have some down time, so why not go for it?
After all, I know an Olivia and an Emma born in the early eighties, who got to have all the glory of an uncommon name through school and now have the fun of having names that make them sound younger!

47
By Patricia (not logged in) (not verified)
May 11, 2009 9:59 PM

Valerie and CB, here's the link for the list of "everpresent" male and female names - those in the top 1000 since 1880 and ranked by total number over all those years. I think this list was put together with 2006 data, so there could be names that have gone off the top 1000, but of course, none could be added to the list. The top ten names on these lists are:

Everpresent Male Names
1. James
2. John
3. Robert
4. Michael
5. William
6. David
7. Richard
8. Joseph
9. Charles
10.Thomas

Everpresent Female Names
1. Mary
2. Elizabeth
3. Linda
4. Barbara
5. Margaret
6. Susan
7. Helen
8. Sarah
9. Nancy
10. Donna

http://www.nameplayground.com/?rep=0

48
By Patricia (not logged in) (not verified)
May 11, 2009 10:10 PM

I was surprised to see Donna in the top 1000: was it really a popular name in 1880 and is it still in the top 1000? Checking SSA stats, I found that Donna was 407 in 1880 -- surprise! But it went off the top 1000 list in 2007; back on in 2008, but its record is broken and Donna is off the list.

49
By CB, not logged in (not verified)
May 11, 2009 10:21 PM

Wow, thanks Patricia!
Some of them are surprising, and of course the list just gets shorter and shorter.
Just a side note - Mollie only missed in 1962.

50
By Eo (not verified)
May 11, 2009 10:21 PM

Fritinancy-- How fascinating that Shosh or Shoshi can be a nickname for Shoshannah! When I half-seriously proposed "Shush" as a possible Susan/Susannah pet form, I wasn't quite as off the wall as one would suspect...

Patricia-- That is indeed very moving to find your personal Joanna/Susanna linkage in the Bible-- how neat! I love those kinds of name coincidences.

Before leaving Susan et al, does anyone remember Truman Capote's beloved relative, "Sook", in his memoir, "A Christmas Memory"? She was such a poignant figure, and it has occurred to me that that would be an attractive, if quirky, Susannah nickname, along with the classic Sukie/Sukey...

Good point, CB, not logged in. The 'vanguard' Olivias and Emmas are actually in an enjoyable position!

Strangely, I've never associated "Carrie" with the Eighties or with the twentieth century at all. It seems so nineteenth century to me-- spunky yet proper, like a "Little House on the Prairie" child. Back then in most cases the full name "Caroline" would be given, and Carrie would be the obvious nickname, along with the equally charming "Caro" and "Caddie".

By the way, if you are there, Beth the Original, when last you checked in I think you said that your little Caroline still went by "Firefly", is that right?
Do you think later she'll be the full Caroline, or something else entirely?