The View from Abroad: A Look Back at the Future Part 2

Feb 26th 2010

Yesterday I talked about old-fashioned "lady and gentleman" names that were hot in Europe five years ago, and looked at whether U.S. parents had followed in those fashion footsteps. The result was yes and no -- yes for girls, no for boys.

Why the divide? As usual, each name has its own story. Phil is fighting against a middle-aged vibe in the U.S. and doesn't fit the dominant sound patterns of the moment: lots of vowels, -r and -n endings, and high Scrabble-value letters. Yet the European favorites that do fit those patterns fare little better here. Leon, Felix, Simon, Theo and Victor are all much hotter across Europe than in the States.

I think there's a broader pattern underlying the boy-girl difference. Here's the question that leaps out at me: If American parents aren't choosing "international gentleman" names like their European counterparts, what are they naming boys?

I believe the role played by the "gentleman" names in Europe is largely filled by Old Testament names over here. So instead of Leon, Felix and Theo, we have Caleb, Eli and Jonah.

The recent surge in OT names has been much stronger in the U.S. than elsewhere. 17 of the top 50 U.S. boys' names are now from the Old Testament. (That doesn't even count OT/NT crossovers like Michael and Joseph.) There seems almost no limit to the style here, with names like Ezekiel, Nehemiah and three different spellings of Isaiah in the U.S. top 500. And names like Jacob and Ethan, which are runaway hits here, are merely popular in the UK. Where we have a flood of Jakes, they have Jacks.

In the United States, Old Testament boys' names carry special cultural signals. They have a rustic pioneer style, owing to their 18th-19th century American history: Ethan Allen, Eli Whitney, Levi Strauss. That trailblazing aura appeals to a lot of American parents. As a nation, our style leans rugged rather than urbane; no fancy-pants boys' names, thank you very much. In fact, many of the Old Testament names are most popular in the rural, rugged parts of the country that also favor names like Colt and Maverick (two names that are virtually unheard of in Europe).

The Minuteman and Conestoga Wagon imagery doesn't play the same role in the European cultural imagination. Nor do the names play the same role in history -- just try to think of an Englishman named Eli. To European ears, then, Old Testament names tend to sound more esoteric, or more strictly biblical...or more Jewish. More than one American parent of an Old-Testament baby has told me of European friends being confused, or even concerned, that they chose such a Jewish-sounding name.

It's not a hard and fast rule, though. The Old Testament classic Reuben is a hot name across Europe but has gone nowhere in the U.S., despite its fashionable vowels and -n ending. That's a humbling reminder for those of us who seek order in the swirling chaos of name styles. You can have history, sociology and phonology on your side, and still be felled by a simple sandwich.

Comments

51
February 27, 2010 2:17 AM

Jenny also- thanks for that list. We've considered most, if not all, of those names, and unfortunately being one of the younger siblings of a large family all the good names seem to have been taken (Naomi, Esther, Tova). I liked Eden but was talked out of it by my mother/siblings because there's something about it that doesn't really constitute it as a name I guess (not really sure that the reasoning stands up but I'm not in love with the name so at this point I'm letting it go). I love the name Ruth but I know my orthodox family members (including my mother, grandparents, MIL, etc- they call my son Judah, Yudi most of the time, which I don't mind and he doesn't mind it...yet) will insist on calling her by her hebrew name most of the time and therefore she will be called Rut or Reut which I just don't love. Currently were between Shoshanna and Zipporah. Everyday I like a different one so we'll have to see what happens as the months progress...

52
By William 2 (not verified)
February 27, 2010 10:05 AM

Qwen-
Like some other posters here, my wife says the same thing about Oliver- "that's the kid who gets beat up!" I have NO idea where that comes from, and it's very funny to me that other people have the same impression.

Incidently, we're leaning toward an OT name for our forthcoming boy: Zebediah. Not because of the OT, but because we like "Zeb" and the meaning. I guess we fit the American trend with an OT reference plus major scrabble points. The 2nd choice was Sean, which fits the entirely different current trend of Irish names for Irish Americans. So dang trendy! Didn't even realize it.

53
February 27, 2010 12:56 PM

I got to thinking some more about how through American history there has been a shift in the preference between the two types of names mentioned in this post (Old Testament vs. Euro-style), and noticed that it closely correlates with the Strauss and Howe cycle that I mentioned in a previous post. Here's my blog post on it:
http://millennialkelly.blogspot.com/2010/02/old-testament-vs-european-style-names.html

If I'm right it looks like this rise in OT names may be relatively short-lived.

54
By EVie
February 27, 2010 12:58 PM

I don't know much about OT name use on real people in 19th-century Britain, but there does seem to be a swell in OT names being used in 19th-century English literature that parallels the American use of those names. Just a few that I can think of:

Thomas Hardy - The eponymous Jude the Obscure; Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba Everdene in Far From the Madding Crowd; minor characters named Jonathan and Abraham in Tess of the D'Urbervilles

George Eliot - Hepzibah in Silas Marner; Caleb Garth in Middlemarch; The eponymous Adam Bede, plus other characters Dinah, Seth, Joshua and Jonathan

Elizabeth Gaskell's eponymous Ruth, with a supporting character named Jemima

In all these novels, the OT names seem to be pretty casually mixed in with more traditional English names like George, Edward, Henry, etc.

Re: Biblical villainesses - count me as another who thinks they are treated unfairly. I've written at length here about why I think it's ok to use the name Delilah, so I won't go into it all again, but I'll just say that it's a matter of perspective - if the Philistine version of the story had been the version that survived, we would consider her a hero. Also love Eve, Mara (though she's not really a villainess, just someone who suffered greatly), and Lilith.

55
February 27, 2010 1:49 PM

evie,
i think the thing with delilah is that to those of jewish or christian background, the philistine version of the samson & delilah story is....i don't want to say irrelevant, because it's always a good thing to know both sides of a story. but the philistines aren't our culture (speaking as someone of christian background; i can't speak for judaism). in america, we rarely say, "well benedict arnold was GREAT from the perspective of the british!" because...the perspective of the british doesn't matter so much to us; it wasn't great from our perspective. so i think, even though there is another way to look at delilah, it won't change the fact that she still betrayed an israelite, which...is our culture and would affect the way we view the name and name our children. i hope that makes sense without sounding terribly narrow-minded.

on the otherhand, i know christians who feel that the name has largely moved past the samson & delilah story and while they may not use it themselves, wouldn't find it terribly shocking if someone else did (i would probably fall into that catagory). but i think we cannot really blame those who would not use the name for religious reasons: that's just their beliefs.

56
February 27, 2010 2:22 PM

KellyXY-I was having trouble posting to your bolg so if everyone will forgive I would like to post here-
Thanks for giving me an interesting read today. I was unfamiliar with Strauss+Howe and have now read through their theories. I disagree with them as to the fact that the 4th turning has not begun yet. I think we entered this about 2001 with the bombing of the WTC. I think we have been in "crisis mode" for a while. I will have to look at the name correlation more and make a comment regarding that at another time. Interesting stuff-thanks again.

57
February 27, 2010 7:01 PM

@zoerhenne-That page you looked at was written back in the late '90s (before the Fourth Turning began). If you visit their forums (http://www.fourthturning.com/forum) you will see debate on when the 4T began: Some say 9/11, some say Hurricane Katrina, some say the economic collapse of 2008, some say something else, but most agree that it has begun (I post there as Kelly85).

58
By hyz nli (not verified)
February 27, 2010 4:07 PM

Jenny also, one of the names on your list caught my eye. I've never heard/thought of Dahlia as a Jewish name. What's the story behind that? I've only ever known one Dalia, and she was Indian. It's one of the names on my mid-length list (lol, I have lots of lists), and I'd like to know if there's some history to it I'm not aware of.

59
February 27, 2010 4:12 PM

@ hyz and Jenny also: I know one Dahlia who's a very religious Jew and I don't know where it came from, but I always thought of it as a Jewish name because of her. Her little brother was named Ari and I've known a few Jewish boys named Ari, but to me that was a girl's name because of a friend named Ariana who went by Ari. Does anyone know about it as a boy's name? Is it just a name? Is it short for Ariel or anything like that? Same with Avi, another one where I've known a few Jews with this name.

60
February 27, 2010 4:18 PM

a. rose,
i've always thought of ari as a boy's name because of musician ari hest. my copy of bnw2 says it is hebrew for lion.

61
February 27, 2010 4:23 PM

i know (of) an Ari who's Jewish. I believe he's a teenager now. Brother is named Oren I believe. (These are children of a prof I had in undergrad. I had never heard the names before, except Orin in Little Shop of Horrors; should've known I was a name nerd then.)

62
By EVie
February 27, 2010 4:56 PM

emilyrae - I definitely understand the perspective that someone who identifies strongly with the Israelites in the Samson & Delilah story would not want to use the name, and I'm totally ok with that. But I don't think the name should be verboten for those of us who don't identify strongly with that group, and view the text as ancient literature rather than scripture, per se. There are plenty of historical and literary villains whose names are used all the time. The main difference with Delilah is that the Biblical figure is the only real point of reference for the name, while with other "bad guys," there are usually other bearers who dilute it. That makes it effectively a self-fulfilling prophecy - only one point of reference, so we don't use it and there remains only one. Once we break the barrier and start using the name, there will be other points of reference to dilute Delilah as well.

It's interesting that you mention Benedict Arnold, because when we were discussing him the other day I was going to post in his defense but never got around to it :) I think that he too is treated a bit unfairly - he was a very successful general for the American side, made substantial contributions to the war effort, but then was denied promotion and recognition by the Continental Congress. I'm not sure I blame him for defecting.

It goes the other way too - Thomas Jefferson is revered as one of our founding fathers, but he was a slave owner, and George Washington is considered an American hero, but early in his career was involved in some morally dubious military actions - namely, he was responsible for the unprovoked ambush of a French Canadian scouting party (while they were still sleeping/eating breakfast), which basically started the French and Indian War. Not exactly the actions of a role model, in my book.

Anyway, I guess my point is just that when we start dividing history into "the good guys" and "the bad guys," we run a real risk of oversimplifying things - exalting people who were really flawed and demonizing people who just happened to end up on the wrong side of history. I'm not saying there aren't real through-and-through bad guys out there (Hitler and bin Laden come to mind), but I feel like we sometimes tend to mythologize our history in a way that isn't reflective of actual historical reality. And, bringing it back to names, that sometimes means that really nice names can be unfairly cast by the wayside.

63
By EVie
February 27, 2010 5:03 PM

re: Dahlia - I also know a Jewish girl from NYC by this name. Her brother has a very common '80s Jewish boy name, but her sister has a name that I would also not have expected on a Jewish girl. I like Dahlia a lot, but am not sure I could use it due to pronunciation issues - my mother has dahlias growing in her garden, and my English stepfather insists they are pronounced "DAY-lee-ahs," while my mother says "DAH-lee-ahs" :)

Ari is also a Jewish boys' name to me. Avi I believe is a nickname for Abraham/Avraham (I have known one of each, also from NYC).

64
February 27, 2010 5:58 PM

@ emilyrae and EVie: Thanks for the info on the names!

65
February 27, 2010 5:59 PM

evie,
oh, i see--well i definitely agree on all counts. if you're not religious, then i see no reason to not use delilah (or, if you are religious, it's fine too obviously, but you know what i mean). i definitely don't think the name should be globally off-limits--that's just a waste of a pretty name. and i agree with you on everything else. it's dangerous and far too easy to oversimplify things. i actually think there's a monument to benedict arnold somewhere in america (maybe the northeast...?) i guess i just think it's...complicated, which is what you are saying too. i mean it's great that benedict arnold contributed to the american war effort and unfortunate that he wasn't promoted, but on the other hand, is it admirable to put personal advancement and recognition above the larger issue of american independence? i do not know. i just mean that the groups of people closest to such situations are most likely not going to be open those names, and maybe that is okay. BUT, you're so dead on in everything you say: it's so important to not view situations in black and white. that only leads to bad decisions.

66
February 27, 2010 6:16 PM

EVie - not to nitpick but I see Jude as a NT name (Judah would be the OT) and Gabriel is definately both a NT and OT name.

67
By EVie
February 27, 2010 6:54 PM

another Laura - Thanks for the clarification on Jude, I get those Jud- names mixed up sometimes (they are all the same in the original Greek of the NT, by the way - Ioudas). I forgot about Gabriel's appearance in the NT. I do think of it as an OT name though, as it is the same character who just shows up again, and not a new character with the same name.

68
February 27, 2010 7:16 PM

re Dahlia- it is a hebrew name that comes from nature, most likely describing a tree branch or flower, so while it is not the name of a person in the bible/talmud it appears there so it gets used as a biblical name. I've also seen it spelled Dalia, and most people who I know with the name pronounce it DAL-ya (two syllables) rather than DAL-ee-ah (three syllables.

re Ari- usually short for Ariel which in the OT is a male name. My brothers mn is Ariel. Ari is hebrew for lion and "el" is hebrew for G-d so it means lion of G-d in hebrew.

re Avi- short for the hebrew version of Abraham, Avraham. In the orthodox community there are lots and lots of boys named Avi and it has become short for many longer names, such as Aviram, Avital, Aviva, Avinoam, Avichai, etc.

69
February 27, 2010 8:30 PM

Thanks Kelly, I will have to check it out.

70
By Jane, Mother of Five (not verified)
February 27, 2010 9:22 PM

Becky and Patricia:

I am expecting, but we don't know for sure yet if he/she is a girl. I have a strong feeling she is.

I like the Mary Violet combo... but nearly every female in my husband's large family is Mary/Maria and I am not exaggerating. I am a believer in family names, but I have no desire to produce the 19th Mary in the family:)

If we are going to honor Mary Lou (and she is a spitfire, btw, totally worth honoring), we are going to have to do it with the Lou part of her name.

71
By Patricia (not logged in) (not verified)
February 27, 2010 10:24 PM

Jane, M of 5, Congratulations on the forthcoming addition to your family!

With your new baby, is Louisa or Louise a possible name to honor Mary Lou? I think either would fit very well with the classic names of your other children. Violet Louise is pretty and sounds more complete to me than Violet Lou. And I think Violet would be an appropriate name for the much younger sister of Juliet.(My sister and I are 11 years apart, with three brothers in between, and we each have a 3 syllable first name ending in 'a'; it never occurred to our parents that the names might be too 'matchy'.)

Or how about Louisa for her first name? She could be "Lou" sometimes too. I love Louisa -- such a pretty name that fits well with many of the names that are popular right now (Isabella, Amelia..); I'm surprised Louisa isn't more popular.

72
February 27, 2010 10:39 PM

Patricia, you've read my mind! I was just about to recommend Louisa or Louise. My favorite combos are probably Louisa Violet or Violet Louise. Both are lovely.

73
By Peregrinette (not verified)
February 27, 2010 11:01 PM

Going off Patricia and Becky's suggestion - what about Miriam Louisa? Or Mara Lucille, or Mae Lucia, or Marianne Louise, or... Using a variant of Mary with a longer form of Lou keeps the baby's name close to her great-grandmother's (right? I think that's who you're honoring) without being too similar to all the other Marys and Marias.

74
February 27, 2010 11:05 PM

So I'm watching House re-runs and the episode I'm currently watching is about a little girl, around age 5, named Alice. Thought that was interesting as we were recently discussing the rise of Alice. I feel like the name is popping up all over the place!

75
By Jane, Mother of Five (not verified)
February 27, 2010 11:16 PM

Patricia and Becky:

Thanks for the congrats! We are very excited:) You know, Louise/a has never been really on my radar... But it IS a very pretty name. I'll seriously consider it in some combination, I think. It definitely makes me think of Louisa May Alcott, which is a great association for me.

Peregrinette:

(Love that screen name btw.) The only Mary variation I care for is May, which I've always loved. However, my husband has always been cool to it. It has literally been on every name list I've made (so, on six of them) and every time dh sort of nixes it. He'd maybe go for it if I insisted, but I feel like there are probably names out there we can both like a lot.

P.S. I also like Marianne, but our daughter's real first name is Anne, so that doesn't work, unfortunately.

76
February 28, 2010 12:58 AM

JaneMO5-Now I need to remember your other 3 again so I can rerun Nymbler! However, just inputting the Anne, Juliet, Violet, and Louise names gives some nice ideas. Have you thought of these:
Audrey; Charlotte; Grace; Elise; Lucy; Claire
Emily; Celeste; Ivy; Danielle; Evelyn; Cecelia

Some combos I like:
Audrey Louise/ Charlotte Grace
Violet Grace/ Ivy Celeste
Lucy Claire/ Ivy Louise
Evelyn Violet/ Danielle Louise
Emily Louise/ Violet Elise
Lucy Violet/ Violet Claire
Emily Claire/ Cecelia Violet

77
By Beth the original (not verified)
February 28, 2010 10:40 AM

I'm surprised that nobody made the Oliver Twist connection with "Oliver is a kid who will get beaten up in the schoolyard." Because isn't Oliver treated cruelly by a variety of people, including Fagin's boys, at first?

I was reading this post with a big hmmmm, since everyone I know is naming their boys Julian, Reuben, Simon, Oliver, Leo, and Felix. Then I realized that because I live in a trendy SF neighborhood with easy access to Silicon Valley, most of the parents I know are European or from one of Europe's former colonies (my local parents' group includes moms and dads born in Sweden, Australia, Denmark, France, Italy, England, Iran, and India). So of course! I haven't met a Colt or an Isaiah yet.

78
By Melly C (not verified)
February 28, 2010 12:13 PM

Zoerhenne:

Mitchell is much different to my ears then Simon, Oliver, Philip, Louis, Hugo.

Mitchell to me is timeless with a bit of an 80's vibe... grew up with quite a few Mitchell's. No bad associations though. The nickname Mitch always sounds very youthful to me much like Corey. I think Mitchell fits well with today's trends without being trendy.. by being a last name for a first name. I think it ages quite well.

79
By Amy3
February 28, 2010 3:39 PM

There is so much to comment on here! I'm sure I'm going to miss stuff.

@Laura, this was a fascinating post! And it makes perfect sense to me why Americans on the whole would be more inclined to choose OT names for boys. I also think part of the appeal of those names is that they can read differently depending on your community (e.g., observant Jew or Christian, rugged individualist, etc.).

Re: OT names for boys and old-fashioned names for girls ... I was immediately struck by a sibset in my neighborhood, Charlotte and Ezra. The family moved from a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood (to my untrendy one in the Bronx) so they seem tailor-made to have chosen these names.

Re: Dahlia and Ari ... I know a 2nd grader named Dahlia (I also say Dahl-ya) who happens to be Jewish. Her brothers are Jacob and Caleb. The only other Dahlia I've known was a Hispanic woman. I also used to have a neighbor named Ari. He and his wife, Marcy, were modern orthodox.

Re: Violet ... I don't think having the same ending syllable for widely spaced girls' names is a big deal. I love the suggestions of Violet Louise or Louisa (nn Lou) Violet. Beautiful!

80
By Amy3
February 28, 2010 1:28 PM

Re: Oliver... In her school glee club, my daughter is singing songs from Oliver. She and I spent quite a bit of her last snow day watching songs from the 1968 movie version on YouTube, and the Oliver cast in that seems the epitome of the milquetoast Oliver.

81
February 28, 2010 3:00 PM

interesting. to me, oliver isn't milquetoast. it's gentlemanly, but to me it's also...mischievous. a bit of a scamp. and i think oliver twist contributes to that.

82
By AJ (not verified)
February 28, 2010 3:03 PM

"I was reading this post with a big hmmmm, since everyone I know is naming their boys Julian, Reuben, Simon, Oliver, Leo, and Felix."

As mom of a Felix (and a Xavier and a Raphael), I know what Beth the Original is talking about in SF. A friend in SF tells me she knows tons of kids with my kids' names, and they are all Top 20 names in Quebec. So, definitely a Euro bent there. Some of the other names she mentioned were on my short list, too, for one child or another. :-)

As for predicting the FUTURE, as soon as I heard it at U.S. Nationals, I thought MIRAI would have a lot of appeal with its "exotic" sound, plenty of vowels, and yet sounding sort of like variants of more common names like Mariah or Mira. And that was before I knew it meant "future," another plus to the Destiny and Honor crowd. Being attached to an attractive and talented ice skater is just another bonus.

83
By Amy3
February 28, 2010 3:39 PM

@emilyrae, I want to clarify that I don't see Oliver as a milquetoast name, however I know it seems that way to many (perhaps esp American men), and when you see the boy Oliver in the movie, it only confirms the milquetoast sensibility.

Re: SF naming patterns ... I only know two SF-area families personally. One family has two girls (Olivia and Sofia) and one has a boy (Dante). I guess that at least the boy's name matches up with what the SF residents here are reporting.

84
By TamaraR (not verified)
February 28, 2010 3:47 PM

This isn't quite on topic, but I would love any feedback anyone has to offer ---- what do you think of Mark? Is it too dated as '50s, or does it feel more timeless? Besides the Biblical Mark, am I missing any other strong association or pop-culture reference?

It's the only boys name that my husband really likes. Everything else ranges from 'well, maaaybe' to a flat-out No. (and Marcus / Markus is a No, for some reason)

I didn't like it much earlier, but it's starting to sound nicer. Just would appreciate anyone's thoughts or what I might be missing!
Thanks.

85
February 28, 2010 3:57 PM

Interesting post! Being from the UK, that would explain why I never came across the name Ethan IRL until I arrived here in the US, although I had heard it on a few US film stars. I honestly thought it was a brand new invention and when someone here mentioned that it was an OT name, I was astonished!

Being an NE and a Hardy fan, I was familiar with most of the other OT boys' names, but Ethan.... I have never ever hard of a Brit named Ethan, and now I know why.

86
February 28, 2010 5:17 PM

TamaraR-Mark is right up my alley. To me it seems in the 70's/classic group from where I like to choose. Others in that category would be: Brian, Jeffrey, Elliott, Steven, Eric, Gregory, etc. I can't think of any associations (good or bad) right at the moment.

87
February 28, 2010 6:09 PM

TamaraR: I like Mark. I wonder if you (or your husband) have different thoughts about Marc. I think that when I was young ('80s) I thought "Marc" was weird (I knew more Marks), but now I like it as less dated I guess. (I don't find Mark to be too dated, much less than some other names I grew up with.) Hrm... is Mark '50s? It strikes me as more '70s, '80s. "Marc" also reminds me of Marc Jacobs, the fashion designer. (That might not help sway your husband...)

88
February 28, 2010 6:12 PM

What's funny for me, as someone who grew up in very conservative Christian circles, is that all the OT names seem old, because I've known them all for years...I've gone to church with Malachis and Ethans and Jonahs and Jacobs and etc, since I was little.

So even though we fit the Christian/western US free spirit demographic that picks those sorts of names, I've been slowly talking my husband into the more "gentlemenly" names. I still can't swing Oliver...but he loves Simon and Vaughn now!

and @TamaraR--I like the name Mark...as long as he doesn't end up with a brother Matt or Luke. Literally ALL of the Marks I know are either part of a Matt/Mark set or a Mark/Luke set. But I know a 2 year old Mark, and it's super cute on him, and does stand out amongst all the OT names.

89
By A Rose, nli (not verified)
February 28, 2010 7:07 PM

@ TamaraR: I like Mark and don't think it's dated at all. I thin it's like Michael in that it's perennially popular.

Also, I overheard a little boy being addressed as "Casper" today. I can only think of the ghost, but for my neighborhood, I'm not surprised, it's a pretty trendy neighborhood and that strikes me as a trendy name

90
By Melly C (not verified)
February 28, 2010 7:59 PM

It seems like Lily's are everywhere in my neighbourhood! I know its popular.. but.. I think number #1 around here.. we know 6 age 2 and under.. 2 spell it Lilly.. 3 Lily.. and one Lillian.. who goes exclusively by Lily. Yet we only know one Jacob (age 4), 2 Emily's (one 4, one 3), and one Emma (age 9 months).

New baby in my neighbourhood.. Hayes.

91
February 28, 2010 7:59 PM

tamaraR,
mark, to me, doesn't come from any particular time period and is just a classic name. i like it.

a rose,
have to admit: whether or not it is trendy, i adore the name casper. i don't think it could be TOO trendy, as it isn't even in the top 1000.

92
February 28, 2010 8:17 PM

Another Casper/Caspar fan here! I've never come across one IRL so I don't think it's too trendy. I know it has the ghost association but I don't really think that is a bad association.

As for Oliver, it's in the top 10 here now. You can't move without tripping over an Oliver, so I think it doesn't have any wimpy vibes around here!

93
By Due within a month (not verified)
February 28, 2010 9:00 PM

Now we are entering March 2010, does anyone else suspect we will see an increase of baby boys named Mario?

(Think about it - month and year in the same name...)

Perhaps in July we'll see Julio increasing in popularity too. I don't know if Junio would work, but that's another possibility along those lines.

94
February 28, 2010 9:43 PM

Let's not forget Mark Twain! (Also not a bad reference.)

Mitchell, on the other hand...to me, it's cringeworthy. (It was going to be my name, had I been born a boy.) The "itch" sound, I think, is what makes it so unattractive to me, PLUS to my ears it sounds super 70s. Like the "retch" in Gretchen, it just doesn't sit right with me.

Also, on the Violet/Juliet debate, I have a contribution that hasn't been mentioned. My sister is named 'Amanda.' Melissa, Amanda, not too close, right? But whenever my mom would call for us from downstairs, we'd stop playing, look at each other, and yell back, "Who did you call?" because the same number of syllables with the same ending sound made it sound the same when we were being called. No lie, almost every day for years. (It's because of this that all of my boys' nicknames have different ending sounds.) I wouldn't kick Violet out on that basis alone - especially if she's going to be Violet Lou- but it's something to think about. I think Juliet and Violet are both gorgeous, by the way.

95
February 28, 2010 10:01 PM

I'm a Casper fan as well. I don't think the ghost association is that bad and most kids born now will probably not know much about the Casper franchise so I don't see it as a big problem. I've met one young Casper in my area. I can see it gaining popularity here. It's only one letter off from Jasper but doesn't have the Twilight stigma.

96
By Jenny also (not verified)
February 28, 2010 10:26 PM

I think Casper is sparked from the Jasper trend. Seems like the next in line to Cooper, Tucker, etc..

97
February 28, 2010 11:06 PM

@MelissaM--my brother and sister always had that problem too. Meagan and Nathan sound identical from far away (although they used it to avoid responding to my mom, each insisting they thought she'd called the other...)

And I think that was the first sign of my burgeoning name obsession, when in middle school I realized that my parents and one sister had names ending in -y, and my brothers and other sister had names ending in -n, leaving me the solitary -a ending.

Although I was mostly just fishing for reasons to find anything unique about 'Jessica'. :P

98
By Amy3
February 28, 2010 11:11 PM

@TamaraR, I like Mark. Although all the Marks I know are around my age, I think it would fit nicely on a boy today. To me, as a biblical classic it's more timeless than date stamped.

I like Casper too, but it would sound terrible with our ln (and my husband would never agree to it). It does sound like it's a natural to follow some of the /er/-ending surname names.

99
By Judy M (not verified)
February 28, 2010 11:54 PM

Funny, our son is named Hill*l and no one has ever commented on "how Jewish" that is. Maybe it's so Jewish that it's completely unknown to non-Jews? Or are the people we meet just too polite?

The closest we've come is a woman who opined that Hill*l is "awfully unusual".

100
March 1, 2010 12:07 AM

Judy M- I have a nephew named Hillel (brother is Hershel... always thought that was a bit matchy but my SIL loved the names). He's seven now, so I was in college when he was born, and I remember telling my friends and their response being "like the foundation for jewish campus life?" (or something along those lines). Also, I'm from New York where there are lots of Jews, ranging from religious to not religious at all, and I've come across the name a few times in the last couple of years, but mostly among modern/ultra orthodox families. I like the name a lot actually, and might of had it on my list had it not already been used in my family.