Names on the Verge: Alice
In the most recent edition of The Baby Name Wizard book, I wrote of the name Alice:
This plain and simple classic has been neglected for years. Right now, opinions on it are divided. To some, the model Alice is long-suffering housewife Alice Kramden of the “Honeymooners. “ To others, it’s the girlish enchantment of Alice in Wonderland. Expect to see the name come back first in the tony urban neighborhoods where Lucy and Henry are hits.
Signs are now mounting that Alice's comeback time may be sooner rather than later.
The first sign: vampires. I've written before about the stylish names of Twilight's undead Cullen clan. Eye-catching names like Jasper and Esme got the most dramatic boost, but Alice has quietly benefited from the connection too.
Sign two: top billing. What could tilt Alice toward the "Alice in Wonderland" side better than Alice in Wonderland itself? Tim Burton's phantasmagoric take on that classic story hits theaters next month. The media coverage should make more parents think of the name, and all the blond curls and pinafores should help push images of diner waitresses into the background.
But no amount of publicity can boost a name that parents aren't ready for. So the most important sign that Alice is a "name on the verge" may be one from a much less glamorous source: the Swedish Bureau of Statistics. A week ago, the Swedish number-crunchers announced that Alice was their #1 girl's name of 2009. That's a dramatic rise from #6 the year before.
Sweden is often a step ahead of the United States in reviving old-fashioned names. Emma, for instance, became the #1 name in Sweden in 2002, 6 years earlier than in the U.S. Alice will surely rise here too. But how far? Do parents who like Alice for its sweet quirkiness have to brace for an Emma-like onslaught?
My crystal ball says that Alice will never reach those heights in the United States. The name's appeal is deep, but not broad enough.
Alice doesn't end in a vowel, like Emily and Ava. It isn't multisyllabic with strong nicknames, like Elizabeth and Abigail. And it isn't lilting and romantic, like Isabella and Olivia. Culturally, Alice is closer to boys' names like Henry and Charlie. Those names walk a fine style line. They have a slight whiff of old country bumpkin about them, which scares off some parents -- but not the most affluent and educated ones. The farther you are from a country bumpkin, after all, the less you risk being mistaken for one. That has made Henry and co. favorites of Ivy League and Hollywood parents, and Alice seems destined to follow.