The Antique Name Illusion: In search of the Next Ava and Isabella

Jun 2nd 2011

Like optical illusions, naming illusions are surprisingly powerful. You can see one working its magic in this excerpt from the official Social Security Administration announcment of the top baby names of 2010:

"A recent trend in the top girls names is a return to names that were popular in the early to mid-1900s.  Names like Isabella, Ava, and Chloe, which had disappeared almost completely from the top 1,000 girls names, have surged in popularity in recent years, which suggests a trend in naming newborn girls after their grandmothers."

The SSA, the very keepers of our nation's name data, were taken in by the "antique name illusion."

Faux antique names sound like living embodiments of a bygone age. They take you back to the time when they were all the rage, when flocks of little Avas and Isabellas trailed behind fashionable young ladies in shirtwaists and high-button shoes. And yes, that image is an illusion. The names existed back then, but they were heard only occasionally and were far from typical. None of them ever cracked the top 200.

To put the old-time usage of Isabella, Ava and Chloe in perspective, here are some groups of names that were more popular in the early 20th century. I doubt any of them will conjure up those high-button shoes.

Mid-century sound: Janet, Peggy, Ellen, Lee, Carol

'60-'70s sound: Amy, Leslie, Sara, Christine, Jennie

'80s-'90s sound: Shelby, Jewel, Callie, Amanda, Katie

"You mean those were actually popular?" sound: Elva, Virgie, Alta, Mittie, Ollie   

Or to put it visually, compare this historical graph of three names that are genuine antique revivals, Emma, Grace and Amelia...



...with the graph of Isabella, Ava and Chloe:



Together, the SSA's three "grandma" names are 40 times as common today as they were in the early 20th Century -- meaning there's no chance their popularity comes from being named after grandma. (Or great-great-grandma. Today's typical new grandma was born in the 1960s.) Rather than emissaries from the real past, Isabella and friends represent an imaginary past. Like much fiction, this alternate history keeps a foothold in our world but spins something more exciting and stylish than mundane reality.

The SSA's faux-antique faux pas got me thinking more about the nature of this imaginary past. If it's such a rich source of attractive names, can we explore it and mine for more? Perhaps Isabella, Ava, Chloe and their kin can point the way.

Statistically speaking, those names do have a historical pattern in common. They were used in past eras, not often but at a slow, steady rate for a generation or more before declining. That gave them enough time to acquire a coating of antique-style dust without becoming so common as to sound hokey or boring. In other words, part of their appeal is that you don't have a great-grandma by that name, you've never known a great-grandma by that name, but you do have the impression they're out there.

Are there other names that fit that description? I looked through decades of old stats to find names with untapped faux-antique potential. Could one of these be the next Chloe or Ava...or better yet, a stylish but uncommon choice for your baby?

GIRLS
Adelia
Avis
Celia
Cleo
Cornelia
Delia
Eloise
Evangeline
Geneva
Helena
Ione
Iva
Lavinia
Leora
Lenora
Lilla
Marcella
Rosalie
Vesta
Willa

BOYS
Abram
Alton
Anton
Bruno
Coleman
Conrad
Fletcher
Foster
Harris
Hugo
Judson
Lionel
Lowell
Lucian
Pierce
Porter
Rex
Truman
Ulysses

Comments

1
June 2, 2011 12:32 PM

I know a baby Willa, so I wouldn't be at all surprised to see some of the other names on this list start popping up more often.

2
By Sharalyn (not verified)
June 2, 2011 12:55 PM

As a mother to a 5 week old Evangeline.... :-)

I've seen multiples (as in 3 or more) in the 3 and under crowd:

Adelia
Celia
Cleo
Cornelia
Eloise
Evangeline (up to 333 in 2010)
Helena
Lenora
Fletcher
Pierce
Porter
and
2 Rex.

They are coming....

3
By haj (not verified)
June 2, 2011 1:24 PM

Wow! We just had a daughter and we were deliberately, specifically looking at old-fashioned, not too unusual names but not in common use right now. On our short list was a bunch of the names you've got here: Celia, Geneva, Helena, Ione, Rosalie (Cleo was suggested as well but rejected as "a cat name" - I do like the sound of it though, simple, punchy, cute). Also we considered: Esme, Thea, Honora, Isadora, Moira, Minerva (Minnie), Laurel.

I think you're on point here with this post - these are the names to look at. I also think those namers looking for the same mix of unusual-now-but-not-weird names should look at some of the midcentury classics - Joan, which was a top 10 name in the '30s and top 25 in the '40s, is not even in the top 1000 now! Donna was a top 10 name in the '50s and is also not in the top 1000 now. Jeanne and Marianne both hit in the top 200 mid-century and are not in the top 1000 now. None of these names sound fusty or too much of their era to me.

4
By Birgitte (not verified)
June 2, 2011 1:29 PM

So typical... Evangeline is my favorite baby girl name. I have even convinced hubby that we will go for that if we get a girl. And here it is, leaping upwards. However, I doubt it will be popular in my area of the country.

To illustrate: I met an 8-year-old boy called Raz0r yesterday... Poor kid, he is pretty much doomed to get piercings and tattoos and play in a metal band. Other popular names are Addison, Jaden, Mackenzie and you know the rest.

5
By craftyerin (not verified)
June 2, 2011 2:05 PM

I know an Eloise and a Rex. I think we can expect to see those coming back strong. My daughter's name could be, too. I have a Hazel, named for my great-grandma.

6
By Melanie1 (not verified)
June 2, 2011 2:09 PM

I actually do have a great-great-great grandmother names Adelia. That was how it got pretty hi on my list when I played the game a few years ago about naming 18 kids. I would be considering it today if only I was ready to pop with my 4th girl instead of my 4th boy. I do like some of the other names too. I wonder how much historical fiction names help perpetuate these names as faux antiques and how much they are symptoms of the same thing. I mean I love Gerogette Heyer and her Regency romance novels and she used names like Sophia and Arabella.

7
By Allison (not verified)
June 2, 2011 2:19 PM

I can't believe Adelia is at the top of this list! It goes back in my family 5 generations, but was never a popular name. Honestly, I'm not sure that I want it to be....

8
By Jessica T. (not verified)
June 2, 2011 2:22 PM

My 3 year old son is named Lucian. I'm actually surprised to see it on the list, considering I always get asked where I possibly came up with the name. I wouldnt mind if it did grow in popularity, so long as it doesn't reach Aiden proportions, haha.

9
By TM (not verified)
June 2, 2011 2:38 PM

My grandma's name was Ione, so it was cool to see if on the list. She pronounced it "I own" but most places it shows it as "I own ee". Which is the "correct" way? Was my grandma's pronounced wrong or is it a valid pronunciation?

10
By Kari
June 2, 2011 3:21 PM

My great-grandmother's name was Evangeline (born 1905) and it's pretty high on my list of names. I wouldn't be sad to see it become more popular so that it's not perceived as "weird"!

11
By hyz nli (not verified)
June 2, 2011 4:09 PM

Fun topic. I know I did a version of this process when researching for our kids' names. I looked through years and years of the old data, looking for "legit" old fashioned names that sound good today but don't top the charts. From your lists above, I considered Adele/Adela (not the same as Adelia, but same idea), Cleo, Eloise, Geneva, Helena, Leora, Lenora, Rosalie, Willa AND Lionel, Lowell, and Truman (ever so briefly) on the boy side.

So, here's a question: anybody know (anecdotally or otherwise) if the parents picking Carol and Janet midcentury, or Leslie and Christine in the 70s/80s, etc. etc., were looking for "antique" names then just as we are today? I mean, I know we've talked about the 100 year name cycle, which is similar, but it would be pretty funny if the same names that were chosen as "antiques" 30 or 50 years ago are now discarded as too recently "dated".

12
By EVie
June 2, 2011 5:34 PM

I have both Adelia and Cleo on my long list, but I tend to forget about them because they're so rarely discussed here. Will have to give them some more thought!

Melanie1 - Georgette Heyer's Regency romances were set about a hundred years before the period Laura is discussing (the English Regency was 1811-20). Unfortunately, we don't have official name data for that period, so it's hard to tell exactly how popular certain names were. But both Arabella and Sophia were used in real life, as well as in literature from the time period. Heyer was a very thorough researcher, so I would guess that her name choices are generally appropriate (though I've found a few that seem off to me—particularly Jennifer in These Old Shades, set in 1756. It would be fine if she were Cornish... but I don't think she was). I'm just reading The Foundling now, and there is a line where the Duke's uncle complains about his father insisting that he be christened Adolphus, "although it is one of these newfangled German names that I very much dislike."

I do wonder, though, how much our perception of what is an "antique" name is reaching farther back than our data goes. Isabella, for example, may not have been heavily used in the 1900s, but it seems to have been popular in the late 18th c. and Regency periods in England (based on my reading from the period... again, no data to back up my point). I wouldn't be surprised if that period were a bit more vivid in people's minds than the early 20th c., especially given the recent resurgence of Jane Austen (who used Isabella for characters in both Emma and Northanger Abbey, incidentally).

13
June 2, 2011 7:00 PM

First of all, YAY for fellow Georgette Heyer readers! I love her books so much! I almost wish I was brave enough to use Cressida as a name, because I loved that character in False Colours.

Secondly, I know two baby Eloises and a baby Truman, and a grownup Pierce and Porter.

Willa wouldn't surprise me at all. And while I personally don't like Lavinia much (too Roman for me), I could see it being a natural next step for the Ava/Lily crowd.

14
By kgstar (not verified)
June 2, 2011 7:02 PM

My grandma (now in her late 80s) is named Vendla with sisters Otella, Bethea, Edna, Elvaletta (nn Elvie) and my personal favorite, Ivaloo. Can't see any of them making a strong comeback anytime soon.

15
June 2, 2011 8:55 PM

So many of those names are ones I love, of course I'm so predictable!!!

From the girls I love Cleo, Cordelia (rather than Cornelia/Delia), Eloise, Evangeline, Helena, Ione and Willa.

From the boys I love Abram, Conrad, Fletcher, Hugo, Lucian and Pierce.

I know that both Eloise and Hugo have cracked the top 100 in my state so am not at all surprised to see them on the list. I've seen a few of the others floating around but most babies near me don't have the most interesting names :)

16
June 2, 2011 9:02 PM

Laura-I laughed when I started reading your post because I knew where you were going with it. These names are not on any grandmothers I know. However, you made me feel old saying that current grandmothers were born in the 60's. (I started my family late). I have a Lucian in my family tree but none of the others. I can see where some would choose these names but they are not really my style except for maybe Celia.

hyz-I wonder if there were Carol's out there in 1870's or so. I know there were male Leslie's. I have always thought that the names changed in the mid 1900's because of their sounds. I still think that today's names are going through a sound evolution as well. Speaking of the sound of names, I had a dream last night (I never dream about names), and in my dream was a boy named Banyon-yes like the tree. I kind of like it in a Brandon, Brendon, Braydon sort of way.

17
June 2, 2011 9:04 PM

OK, so following on from my name help request from the last thread....... hubby has been very helpful and we now have a good list of 'agreed' options.

The agreed first names are:
Astrid
Ariadne
Cordelia
Allegra#
Elodie
Xanthe*
Zinnia*
Eirlys*

#We aren't in the US so don't care about the allergy med issue.
*Probably prefer these as a middle but will consider them a contender for first names

The agreed middle name options (along with anything on the 'first name' list):
Juliet
Mathilde
Ottilie
Juniper
Delphine

So the list has morphed a little from what it started as. All these names were originally on my long list but I'm quite surprised I got so many past hubby. Based on the other comments I've had, I think Astrid Cordelia is an excellent combo. I'm also shying away from Xanthe a bit due to flow with the last name but when I took it off the list it was put back on ;).

We still aren't sure of how many middle names. I want 2, hubby isn't convinced but said he will go with 2 if the flow is good. We aren't doing a family name as a middle any more at this stage.

So, given the above criteria, what are you favourite/best/most stunning combos? I kind of feel like we almost have too many options :) Surname is similar to 'Worth'.

18
By Someone registered the user name Guest? (not verified)
June 2, 2011 9:05 PM

SSA data only captures babies born in the US, yes? So if Grandma was an immigrant, she's not in the SSA data, and neither is Great-Grandma.

I wonder what the graphs for western Europe look like for the same time period.

19
By EVie
June 2, 2011 10:49 PM

Briefly off topic: Laura, I love this site, and have been a daily reader for about four years now. But I have to express my disappointment with the pop-up ads that have been added recently. I understand that you're making a living off the site, and that ads are necessary. But I just lost a whole post that I wrote because of a pop-up Alberta tourism ad that refused to close and then crashed my browser. This made me sad :( Can we please go back to ads that don't interfere with content?

Anyway, trying to reconstruct what I wrote:

Anne with an E - I haven't read False Colours yet, but I love Cressida. I don't know if I'd be brave enough to use it as a first name either, but it's exactly what I look for in a middle name—unusual but not weird, literary, feminine but not overly frilly. Hmm, maybe I'll have to add it to my list!

Chimu - Another vote here for Astrid Cordelia. My other top picks from your list are:

Ariadne Delphine
Ariadne Juliet
Cordelia Juniper
Cordelia Xanthe
Allegra Xanthe
Allegra Juniper
Allegra Juliet
Elodie Juniper

I love Xanthe as a middle name—I think a middle initial of X would be just the coolest (Cordelia X. Worth? Awesome).

20
June 2, 2011 11:14 PM

Chimu, I'm amazed that Hugo has made the top 100 in some state. Can you tell us which state that is -- or at least the region of the country? Hugo is a name that has been considered by two couples in my extended family. Perhaps knowing that the name is rather mainstream somewhere in the US may prompt the couple planning to have a second child in a couple of years to give Hugo another look. (Dad's given name is Herm@n -- goes by a nn -- and they were looking for a name beginning with H, Henry being already 'taken' within our family -- by the other couple who had earlier considered Hugo.)

Laura, I thought I might find the answer to my query above through NameMapper, but that tool isn't working for me. Is NameMapper ready to go -- which means I have a computer problem -- or are you still updating it?

21
June 2, 2011 11:29 PM

Chimu, I just clicked on your name and see that you live in Australia, so it's an Australian state where Hugo is ranking in the top 100. Not surprising as I think the name has been pretty popular in the UK too. I hope Hugo becomes a bit more popular in the US too... but checking SSA 2010 stats just now, I see that Hugo lost ground last year, going from #409 to #441.

22
By fishbulb (not verified)
June 3, 2011 12:31 AM

One of my best friends from college had a Lenora back in January! I agree that it's due for a revival, but hopefully not too soon so the child doesn't have to be known as "Lenora D." her whole life.

My two cents: To my born-in-the-70s ears, Eloise and Marcella still sound too "grandma" to me. Then again, my great grandmothers had genuine antique names like Margaret, Myrtle, Pearl, and Ethel. None of those seem to capture the early 1900s/faux antique revival vibe either.

23
June 3, 2011 2:20 AM

@Patricia, yep I'm in Aus and the state is New South Wales. I'm fairly sure it's top 100 elsewhere too but our national stats aren't as good as US ones and I haven't checked everything recently. I think it might be top 100 in Victoria too. NSW and Victoria are our 2 most populous states so it's definitely gaining ground. Even at #400ish in the US, I would have though that isn't so out-there someone wouldn't consider it?

@EVie, thanks for those combos, off to write them down :) Yes, hubby and I both agree that an X is a pretty awesome middle initial! He is also partial to Zinnia as a middle as it's quite funky and a bit unexpected.

24
By Amy3
June 3, 2011 8:37 AM

Love this topic. I think you're right, Laura, that many of those names will rise. As for names that were actually in use in the early 1900s, my mn is Christine and my sister's name is Ellen. We were both given those names after our great-grandmothers (whose births would have pre-dated the turn of the 20th century and who were born in Europe) so in my family those would have been legitimate "antiques." (I'm not sure that's an answer to your earlier question, hyz, but it's at least tangentially related, I think.)

25
By Blythe (nsi) (not verified)
June 3, 2011 9:01 AM

@ Hyz- my great-grandmother had an extremely unusual name- S0phr0na- but her sisters were Jane, Lucy and Emma. Apparently the name had been one of her grandmother's favourites (my 3x great grandmother), which my great-great grandmother knew about and decided to give to her first-born daughter in 1893. Saphrona's sister, my mum's great-aunt Emma told that story to my mum about the time that I was born. According to Aunt Emma, my great-grandmother hated her "old-fashioned" name with a passion as a child...and if you look at the UK census records, the small number of Sophronas who turn up are born between about 1840 and 1875- about the same for the much more popular Sophronia, and even the Saphrona variant that turns up in American records. Just enough older than my great-grandmother to be embarrassing!

As for my nominations for the next batch of faux-antiques, I completely agree with Cleo and can't really believe it's not more popular already! There are some that are already quite popular here (england), like Florence and Clementine, which could be contenders. I quite like Clemency, as an alternative to Clementine.

Also...

Clea
Marilla
Thora
Prudence (I think Pru, the "ence" ending and the Beatles overcome any "prudish" issue...maybe that's just me though).
Blanche
Sibyl/Sybil/Sibylla

26
June 3, 2011 10:25 AM

I'm first-generation American, so everyone from my parents' generation and older has Spanish names. My great-grandmother's name was Edilia. She was born around the turn of the 20th century. Here are some other names from my grandparents' generation and older:

Rafaela
Ramon
Julia
Germania (pronounced her-MAHN-yah)
Augusto
Gilberto
Agustín
Maria
Rosa

Everyone in my generation received English names, like Andrew and Madeline. We were all born in the '80s and early '90s. I think I'm going to give my future-children Spanish names, though.

27
By GeriF (not verified)
June 3, 2011 10:32 AM

TM-

You asked about the pronunciation of 'Ione'. It was also my grandmother's name, and she pronounced it in two syllables too. That was the standard pronunciation in the US in that era...Today people may gravitate toward three syllables, especially if looking at it as a name with Greek roots like Chloe or Daphne.

28
By Amy3
June 3, 2011 11:36 AM

@Chimu, I'll stick with Astrid as my fn pick for you, and Astrid Cordelia is still my fave fn-mn combo so far.

However, taking into account some of your other names, here are other ideas (in order of preference):

*Astrid Delphine (this is beautiful - wasn't there a woman who posted a couple years ago with 4 girls: Penelope, Coral, Astrid, and Delphine?)

*Astrid Zinnia (the A paired with the Z - love it!)

*Astrid Eirlys

*Astrid Juliet

*Astrid Mathilde

I realize some of these break my earlier injunction about a more "conventional" mn as a fallback, but perhaps some that read as unconventional in the US don't seem that way in Australia. You'll know best about that.

29
By Guest-2011 (not verified)
June 3, 2011 12:44 PM

Interesting stuff ... the point I want to comment is the popularity of Hugo: It has a come-back in Germany, too, but I don't know why; because of the definite lack of popular Hugo's here. Maybe Hugo Boss is the clue here.

30
June 3, 2011 12:45 PM

Chimu-That was some morphing but good that you're making progress. I will post the best combo (imo) for each first name that you listed. If you need more yell-
Astrid Cordelia
Cordelia Delphine
Ariadne Delphine
Xanthe Ariadne
Allegra Juliette (the 2 t's help balance)
Allegra Delphine
Elodie Juniper
Zinnia Eirlys
Eirlys Allegra
*I really think the middle should be either Cordelia or Delphine.

31
June 3, 2011 12:54 PM

@Patricia - Maybe in the US Hugo reminds people of the hurricane? That's what I first think of when I hear Hugo.

32
By alr (not verified)
June 3, 2011 1:22 PM

Some oldies-but-goodies that I feel like don't get as much play as I'd expect are Emeline and Marguerite.

33
June 3, 2011 5:35 PM

Well, (in a usual situation) one DOES have one mother, two grandmothers, four great-grandmothers and eight great-great-grandmothers (and sixteen great-great-great grandmothers). Blended families only increase those numbers. So it is possible for a smaller number of Isabella great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers to spawn a much greater number of current Isabella descendants via namesakes.

Depending on the time between generations, a great-great grandmother and a great-grandmother might be very contemporaneous. (20 year generations for four generations ago to a great-great-grandmother = 80 years, while 30 year generations for three generations to a great-grandmother = 90 years.)

However, I agree it's unlikely that ALL of the current Isabellas and Avas have great-grandparents. But, it could be a contributing effect, since great-grandparents are usually not personally known and thus are less likely to be chosen as a namesake based on the relationship and more likely to be chosen because the name is striking. And the further back on the family tree you go, the more ancestors you have in that generation to chose from!

34
June 3, 2011 5:41 PM

Zoerhenne - I've actually met a little Banyon, and also Canyons of various ages. Nature names for boys are really big here!

Chimu - I am really hoping you use Ariadne. It's one of the names I love that will be eliminated from our universe of name possibilities by the name we have in the #1 slot for a girl (Hermione), so I would be super-excited to see it used elsewhere!

35
By Yet Another Guest (not verified)
June 3, 2011 6:38 PM

The comment about most new grandparents being born in the 60s killed me too! My husband was born in the 60s and I'm early 70s and our parents were born in the 30s and 40s. Our eldest is 5 and we're expecting our third this fall. Am I really that old?!? (Someone, quick, pass the smell salts!)

@Chimu Such great names with so many great combinations! Here are my top five:
Astrid Ottilie
Ariadne Xanthe
Elodie Juniper
Astrid Juniper
Ariadne Mathilde

36
By Alli (not verified)
June 3, 2011 7:27 PM

lucubratrix- I love Hermione! Such a pretty name :)

37
June 3, 2011 7:46 PM

LOL Yet another Guest, and to put it even more in perspective. If I wasn't already married with 2 kids. I would love to date the guy on the left of the page in the advertisement for Kohl's IF I was 10 years younger!

38
June 3, 2011 7:50 PM

zoerhenne: iirc, there was a Banyan at my elementary school. i also find it interesting that you dreamt a tree name because one of the only name dreams i remember is one with the name Linden.

Chimu: With your last name, I like as firsts Astrid, Cordelia, Zinnia, and Elodie. (I'm not sure how to pronounce Eirlys and Xanthe so can't say how I feel about those.)

Evie: switch to Google Chrome; I don't get pop-ups on this site.

re: Eloise: I know of one but her father is British I think. I wonder how much that influenced the name choice.

re: Cordelia: This is on one of my friend's (very) short lists.

39
By coachusa outlet (not verified)
June 3, 2011 10:21 PM

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40
By rpcubed (not verified)
June 3, 2011 11:10 PM

I love this blog! I think that the blog, and perhaps even moreso the comments, could turn into a minor addiction. All you name enthusiasts out there, I need help! I just found out that I am having my 4th boy. I have 2 girls as well. DH and I had names picked for the first 4 kids by the time we got married, only minor negotiations necessary. With nothing in place for #5, he turned out as a major outlier. I need a good solid list for #6 or dh is likely to become stuck on something again. Our last name is like Pace.
Children are
Margaret Rosalie
Peter Calvin
Sara Analiese
William Wesley
Heber Nathaniel

I would like to not repeat initials, and I don't want to use E either (actually one of my favorite name starters) because I am still holding out for another girl (I know, I'm crazy) and she will be Elinor if I get my way. All of the kids have at least one family name, but with traditional boys names it will be easy enough to attach one to the family tree.

What's hard actually is the opposite! Paul, David, Robert, Thomas, Aaron, Caleb, Seth, Andrew, Alexander, Henry Richard, and Matthew are all no goes due to family connections. It seems like one syllable names are pretty terse with our last name, ie James, George, etc. I've wondered about staying more traditional like Peter and William, or giving Heber a buddy with a much less usual biblical name. I like the name Jethro (is that too Beverly Hillbillies for a revival? I'm more into NCIS and the book Across Five Aprils so I have a totally different frame of reference for the name.) My grandpa was Jasper, though he was a bit of a rake! Plus I already have one daughter who ended up with a vampire named after her.

OK, that's a lot of info to process, though I know that I am among others who like to obsess through all these variables! Thanks for any help.

41
By JM (not verified)
June 3, 2011 11:51 PM

Chimu, for what it's worth, I actually love Allegra Delphine.

42
By izzy
June 4, 2011 1:04 AM

@Chimu, just jumping into the convo, I LOVE Ariadne Juliet, or Ariadne Mathilde. I f you go with Astrid, I really like Ottilie (either pronunciation. But jw, how are you pronouncing it?) I would vote for Ariadne over Astrid, as I really love that name.

43
June 4, 2011 6:02 AM

Thanks for all the combinations, very helpful! I'm writing them all down and will try and sort through and get down to a few favourites. Sometimes I'm not sure if things I come up with actually sound good so having other people help out is great.

Re the pronunciation issues - I didn't realise that Xanthe would cause so many problems. We are pronouncing it ZAN-thee. Eirlys is a little hard too and I originally suggested it to hubby as a middle but he thinks it's quite usable as a first name. The pronunciation would be EYRE-liss.

Ottilie would most likely be o-TEE-lee-ə. Again, we thought this might be a little hard for a first name hence restricting it to a middle name.

Mathilde we like the ma-TEELD French pronunciation so again think it is probably easier as a middle name. That and the fact that Matilda is top 100 here and is ruled out on popularity grounds as a first name. I could see a little Mathilde would get Matilda all the time, it wouldn't bother me so much as a middle name though if it was confused.

Any other thoughts on combinations are most welcome and votes for which name we should use! I'm trying to narrow it down a bit but having trouble.

44
June 4, 2011 7:37 AM

Yet Another Guest,
That comment about the grandparents' age also made me feel like Methuselah. I was born in the late 60s and yes, I'm (unexpectedly) pregnant. Fortunately I have many older moms in my circle of friends, though none are quite as old as I am. Last week one of my son's kindergarten classmates asked me, "How old are you?" When I told her she said, "Well, my mom was 17 when she had me!" I just smiled and said, "That's pretty young," and she said, "Yep." (The girl's parents are delightful and seem much older--but they do look super young!)

45
June 4, 2011 10:11 AM

Chimu-Although my favorite combo is Astrid Cordelia, I think just on the FN/LN wavelength I think these might be the best:
Ariadne; Cordelia; Allegra; Elodie
The mn's added I think these are good:
(commentary on how they appear to me)
Ariadne Xanthe-different but sweet
Cordelia Delphine-old fashioned w spunk
Allegra Juliette-sweet
Elodie Juniper-spunky

rpcubed-I think you've got a great set of names for your children. Using Nymbler and your parameters {Paul, David, Robert, Thomas, Aaron, Caleb, Seth, Andrew, Alexander, Henry Richard, and Matthew are all no goes due to family connections}. Also beginning letter cannot be M,S,P,W,or H gives me these ideas:
Benjamin Robert (seems perfect)
Joshua Conner
Brian Matthew
Oliver Thomas
Gregory Thomas
Noah David
Dylan Michael
Lawrence Matthew
Isaac Aaron
Owen Robert
Daniel Joseph (or flipped)
Charles Nelson
Christopher Joseph (I think the nn CJ is cute)
Quentin Aaron
Nicholas Vaughn
aahhh I'll stop but I could go on for days! Let me know if I'm going in the right direction:)

46
June 4, 2011 2:27 PM

@ Chimu: I know I'm a little late to this, but my favorite combos are (I'll do one for each fn):
Astrid Delphine
Ariadne Mathilde
Cordelia Delphine
Allegra Juniper
Elodie Mathilde or Delphine

I agree that Xanthe and Zinnia would be really cool middle names (Cordelia Xanthe?) and Eirlys might give my pronunciation problems, but it seems really pretty (from your phonetic spelling, still not sure if I'm pronouncing it right.)

@rpcubed: If you like Jasper, you might consider Casper/Caspar (or is that too ghosty?)

I second:
Benjamin Robert
Joshua Conner
Oliver Thomas
Dylan Michael
Lawrence Matthew
Owen Robert
Daniel Joseph
Nicholas Vaughn

Re. Original post:
The grandparents born in the '60s made me feel kind of old too (my parents and the vast majority of my friends' parents were born in the '50s and I'm 15. Are they really old enough to be grandparents??? We're definitely not old enough to be parents!)

I wonder how popular Isabella was in Italy and Isabel(le) in Spain/France during the early 20th century. Parents might name kids after foreign-born (great-)grandparents. And there were a lot of immigrants in the US from Italy around 100 years ago, so that's a possibility for Isabella's popularity. That would definitely not explain it entirely (I know a sibset of Isabella and Sophia who are of Puerto Rican and German descent.)

47
By Alli (not verified)
June 4, 2011 4:50 PM

rpcubed:
Margaret Rosalie
Peter Calvin
Sara Analiese
William Wesley
Heber Nathaniel
Some ideas that I think of as being traditional but having a little bit of quirk like Heber:
Theodore
Lyle
Alden
Oliver
Clayton
Oscar
Vern/Vernon
Atticus
Gideon
Abraham
Levi
Franklin

48
By 4boyzmd (not verified)
June 4, 2011 4:52 PM

I was born in the late 60's (both of my parents were born in the 30's) and there are a few people I know my age who are grandparents, but not many, thankfully! My oldest is 16 years old and my youngest just turned 4, but I didn't start having kids until my mid 20's. If I'd had a child at age 20, and that child had in turn had a child at age 20, I could, conceivably, be a grandmother by now.

A little more on topic: one of my cousins has a 13 or 14 year old Adelia. I also think it's interesting that although Ava was not super-popular in the early 1900's, Ada was in the top 100 for 1900. So was Olive (not Olivia). Maybe it is the similarity to names that were popular that is helping to create some of the illusion.

Off topic a bit again: Speaking of favorite names from books, for a rich source of unusual-but not-too-weird names, try the Williamsburg series by Elswyth Thane. (Out of print now, I think, but still floating around public libraries and used book stores). Some of my favorites: Tabitha, Dorothea, Eden, Dinah, Camilla, Felicity, Susannah, Phoebe, Marietta, Irene, Daphne, Virginia, Regina, Lavinia, Mavis, Evadne, Sylivia, Rosalind for girls. Julian (becoming more popular now), Cabot, Sedgewick, Ransom, Lafayette, Giles, Miles, Dabney, Calvert, Jefferson, Oliver, and Bracken for boys. I'm sure I'm forgetting some! I actually used "Bracken" (my favorite) as a mn for one of my boys. It's my MIL's maiden name, so it is a family name too--perfect!

49
By EVie
June 4, 2011 8:42 PM

I think Laura's statement about new grandparents being born in the 1960s is based on the standard calculation of 1 generation = 25 years. This was in fact the average for the United States as of 2008 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation). That would lead to the calculation that today's new grandparents were born about 50 years ago, circa 1961.

Of course, generation length tends to go up with socioeconomic status, as more educated women tend to delay childbearing. From what I've gathered, the demographic attracted by this blog tends to be much higher SES than average (I've noted a remarkable number of PhDs, among others that I know are lawyers or otherwise hold advanced degrees). So it doesn't surprise me that 50 years seems too young for grandparents to a lot of you folks.

In my family, the average generation gap is closer to 30 years. My mother was born in 1953, and I in 1983. My first child will likely be born in 2013 (if all goes according to plan). Going another generation back, my grandmother was born in 1931 (this is the exception—a 22-year gap), but her mother, my great-grandmother, was born in 1900. This is an unbroken string of first-born women.

50
June 4, 2011 11:14 PM

EVie-When I started off making the comment that Laura's post made me feel old, I was in no way saying that I couldn't possibly be a grandmother. I very well could. I had my first child when I was 34. Pretty late in life-yes. He is 11 now. So had I started earlier and using a 20-25yr gap that seems appropriate. My comment was simply that it made me feel old. Like when you see your old high school friends kids and/or grandkids and you start to think "but wasn't I just in high school like yesterday". I am not ready to be a grandmother. I am glad I still hopefully have around 10-15yrs till that happens.