And Meanwhile, Down Deep In the Name Mines...

Jan 3rd 2012

The most popular baby names are the ones that make the news. The real action, though, is deeper down the name list -- the names that are used dozens of times each year, not thousands. That's where you see parents' minds churning, watch the seeds of new hit names sprouting, and realize that names we think of as creative, unique, or even shocking are far from unheard of.

I've been reviewing thousands and thousands of these lesser-known names for the next edition of the Baby Name Wizard book. Wherever I let my eyes stop and linger, there are fascinating details. Here's a smattering of boys' names that have struck me in the past week. (The number next to each name is the number of newborns given that name in the U.S. in 2010.)

Ruger (64) : Rising fast, this name is more evidence of parents' increasing interest in naming children after firearms. Colt, Remington, and Gauge have all soared, and Gunner is much more common than the traditional name Gunnar. The name Stryker (67) has also taken off since the introduction of the army's Stryker armored fighting vehicle.

Osiris (68) :  You know how Ryan helped make the name Orion seem usable? Well it seems that the resurgence of Cyrus is doing the same for Osiris, Egyptian god of the underworld. (A skateboarding sneaker name Osiris might have helped.) The familiar Greek underworld lord Hades barely makes a naming dent.

Axl (61) : Guns N' Roses went 15 years between albums, but they clearly weren't forgotten. The number of baby Axls has been slowly climbing. This name may be the answer if you're looking for a baby brother for little Zeppelin (24).

Jebediah (11) : No, there is no Jebediah in the bible. The name was created by the writers of "The Simpsons" for city founder Jebediah Springfield. It's been making appearances on the name charts ever since. (If you're thinking "then where does Jeb come from?" the answer is it's an occasional old-fashioned nicname for Jacob, or in the case of Jeb Bush, initials: John Ellis Bush.)

 

Comments

1
By Shani (not verified)
January 3, 2012 11:42 AM

Jebediah may not be in the bible, but I'm not sure this is its entire origin as a name. Looks like there was at least a Marvel character existing before the Simpsons came on the air, plus I'm sure I heard this name as a child (also, before Simpsons came on the air)

2
January 3, 2012 12:33 PM

Welcome back Laura-Happy New Year! This is a fun post. We cannot forget Ryker(1020), Legend(210), Blaze(247), Cannon(411), Danger(5) and Havoc(5). I hope you also do a girls addition of this post as well.

3
January 3, 2012 12:11 PM

Laura- great post, again. Although I can't say I'm fond of any of these!

Shani- maybe you're thinking of Jedidiah? That's definitely Biblical, so has an ancient pedigree.
http://www.behindthename.com/name/jedidiah

4
By Amy W (not verified)
January 3, 2012 12:25 PM

Axl is also the name of the teenage boy character on "The Middle.". The youngest boy is named Brick. I think the show is in its third season now.

5
January 3, 2012 12:55 PM

Shani, the Marvel Comics Jebediah actually appeared years after the Simpsons character. (Remember, The Simpsons premiered way back in the '80s!) There's also an Australian rock band called Jebediah, but they were deliberately named after the Simpsons character.

The name Jedidiah -- d's, no b -- is a traditional biblical name, perhaps that's what you remember hearing?

6
January 3, 2012 2:36 PM

See, and all this time I thought the character was Jedidiah Springfield (based off Jedidiah Smith)!

Shows how little Simpsons I've been getting lately...

7
By Guest617 (not verified)
January 3, 2012 2:48 PM

I'm probably missing something, but I ran a quick search on Google Books for uses of Jebediah that predate the Simpsons first mention of Jebediah Springfield (first season, in 1990): http://tinyurl.com/782cnnd Among the 1100+ references are cemetery records from the mid-nineteenth century and a first-person account of a trial from the early 19th century. Looking at SSA data beyond the top 1000, the first appearance of Jebediah is in 1973 (with 7 babies) and a reasonably steady number since. There appears to have been a slight uptick in usage in 2000, from the high single digits/low teens to the mid-teens/low-twenties. Not that this makes it a traditional, Biblical name, but it does appear to have been in use prior to the Simpsons' Jebediah and his silver tongue :)

8
By Essy01 nli (not verified)
January 3, 2012 3:12 PM

love love love this post! ... how does one find out the names below the top 1000?

Had no idea that the Simpsons invented Jebediah I always assumed it was a real Biblical name. I've always loved the name Rainier Wolfcastle, it just flows so incredibly well. the show is littered with awesome names.

For Stryker - could some of the influence be because of the X-Men movie X2 that increased interest/awareness of the name Stryker - the baddie is named William Stryker but is more often than not referred to as Stryker?

9
January 3, 2012 3:32 PM

I find it utterly repellent and wrong that parents call their children after weapons - why would you do that?
I love Jedidiah, and even more the Hebrew version - Yedidya, which always feels like a bit of teen slang.

10
By Essy01 nli (not verified)
January 3, 2012 3:33 PM

oh also love that Amy W brought up The Middle, that is a show with fascinatingly named main characters. The main family consisting of a Mike (Dad), Frankie (Mom), Axl, Sue, and Brick. Brick used to sound weird to me but after hearing it on the show for a while it sounds like a name now, especially since you just hear it without seeing it. It's a mash of Brock and Rick but reminds me the most of Bic lighters/pens - and is super Palinesque. A pre-teen/teen Sue also was weird at first but it fits her character, it's made me like the name a lot more.

11
By hyz nli (not verified)
January 3, 2012 3:33 PM

So funny--I grew up with Jebediah Springfield in my head (Simpsons fan from way back), and only recently realized Jebediah wasn't a real biblical name, when we were talking about the Duggars and I looked it up, wondering why they hadn't used it yet. D'oh!

12
January 3, 2012 3:51 PM

I had a Hispanic (I think?) student named Axel several years ago. Maybe he was Filipino. I feel like it was pronounced with the stress on the "el" sorta like to rhyme with Noelle. Sorry I'm not putting much effort into Googling, but just thinking about whether Axel is related to Axl.

13
January 3, 2012 3:53 PM

Is Axl a respelling of Axel?

14
January 3, 2012 5:14 PM

I think Axl is indeed a respelling of Axel, which I associate with Axel Foley (protagonist of the Beverly Hills Cops movies).

OK, here's a challenge for you all: Over Christmas I read "Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage" by Joe, Alina, Vicki, and Valerie Darger. The Darger family lives outside of Salt Lake and has 24 children. The three wives have seven, eight, and nine children. One of them had five children with her first (also polygamous) husband (those five are included in the total of 24 kids; she went on to have four children with Joe). Can you sort out which children go together?

Ages as of 2011 are included next to the kids' names:
Joseph (20)
Sam, boy (20)
Caleb (20)
Amanda (19)
Laura (18)
Jed (18)
Grayson (16)
Liesl (16)
Shad (15)
Louis (14)
Logan, boy (13)
Ashton, boy (13)
Madison (12)
Tavish (11)
Kyley (9)
Sabrina (8)
Kadence (8)
Allie (7)
Vanessa (5)
Angelina (5)
Boston, boy (3)
Krista (2)
Victoria (1)
daughter Kyra died as an infant

Alina has 7 children
Vicki has 8 children
Val has 9 children, 5 of whom are the product of her first marriage

Can you group them correctly?

15
By hyz nli (not verified)
January 3, 2012 5:45 PM

Elizabeth T., fun game! Ok, it's a shot in the dark, but this is my guess:

Alina:
Joseph
Laura
Louis
Tavish
Sabrina
Angelina
Victoria

Vicki:
Sam
Jed
Liesl
Shad
Logan
Allie
Vanessa
Boston

Val:
Caleb
Amanda
Grayson
Ashton
Madison
Kyley
Kaydence
Krista
Kyra

I mainly grouped this by style, with some assitance from ages (which only works assuming that there were no twins, etc.--for instance, I wanted to put Logan and Ashton together, but took the bet instead that they are not twins, or otherwise born within 12 mos of each other--but that could be a bad bet in this case).

16
By Essy01 nli (not verified)
January 3, 2012 6:00 PM

oh tricky but fun game! i'll give it a shot (probably way off!).

Sam, Laura, Shad, Ashton, Kyley, Kadence, Boston, and Kyra

Joseph, Jed, Liesl, Logan, Tavish, Sabrina, and Victoria

which leaves

Caleb, Amanda, Grayson, Louis, Madison, Allie, Vanessa, Angelina, and Krista

17
January 3, 2012 7:25 PM

I also find it weird that parents name after firearms.......

I was also going to mention that Jebediah are a well-known Aussie rock band. I knew they had named after the Simpson's character but I didn't really know it wasn't a biblical name. It just seems like it should be!

Friends recently had a baby girl:

0livia Ruby

sister to Emma R0se. They were after popular names so i had suggested 0livia. I name I love but woud never use due to the popularity.

18
By SarahT (not verified)
January 3, 2012 7:33 PM

I'm hoping for some baby naming advice for my next daughter who is due in June.

Speaking of Olivia, my first daughter is Olivia Susan. Her middle name is my mom's first name. We call her by the nickname Livy about half of the time.

I would like to give our next daughter the middle name Joyce after my mother-in-law, or Elaine which is my mother in law's middle name.

My two top choices so far are:

Katherine Joyce, nn Katie
or Genevieve Elaine, nn Nevie

I would love to hear your opinions about which one you like better, and if you have any other name suggestions similar in style. I think Genevieve sounds more unique and Katherine more classic. Do you think Nevie and Livy sound too much alike as nicknames?

19
January 3, 2012 7:38 PM

Essy-Go into the SSA site and look on the page labeled background information. There you will find a link to download them. They are in a rather large zip file though. So you then have to look over them by year. They re-open in a notepad document.
Ok, here's the link for ya: Click on "beyond 1000 names"
http://ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/background.html

20
By SarahT (not verified)
January 3, 2012 7:42 PM

Okay, I just googled Genevieve Elaine and found out there is a playboy model with that name. That is definitely enough to make me rethink that name combination!

21
January 3, 2012 8:03 PM

SarahT-I like those names but I wonder what you think of rearranging the middle names? If you did Katherine Elaine and Genevieve Joyce
you could go with Kate/Katie and Ginny or Gigi for nn's.
Other ideas:
Caroline Joyce nn CJ/Carrie
Aubrey Elaine nn Bree
Camilla Joyce nn CJ (can you tell I like this nn) or Cammie
Molly Joyce nn MJ or Molly Elaine I think Molly stands alone
Sidney Elaine; Madeline Joyce; Miranda Joyce; Natalie Elaine; Rebecca Joyce; Allegra Joyce

Elizabeth T-that is a big challenge!

22
January 3, 2012 8:24 PM

@ Sarah T- i like zoerhennes suggestion of Genevieve Joyce. also would like to suggest Clara Joyce or even Kathleen, since i don't hear that nearly as often as katharine, also karen is pleasant and has the similarity in name meanings.

23
By Handmaiden (not verified)
January 3, 2012 8:54 PM

Naming a son after a firearm or other weapon does seem odd at first glance, and is not something I am likely to do. But upon reflection, it really is not that unusual in the history of names and naming. For instance, the names Roger, Gerald, Gerard, Edgar, and (for girls) Gertrude all have "spear" as an element in their names; I have my doubts that "spear" was *always* being used metaphorically, either, especially when those names were first being used centuries ago. I'm sure there are many more examples from names and cultures around the world.

Oh, and I have an example for the firearm category above, though it is more subtle than some: I know of a couple who recently had a baby boy and named him Wess0n. And yes, their last name is the same as the *other* name in that famous handgun manufacturer.

24
By Guest11 (not verified)
January 3, 2012 9:04 PM

Just wanted to add that in the South, Jeb seems to be a name commonly given in honor of the confederate general J.E.B. Stuart. In fact, every Jeb I've ever met down here has had Stuart as a middle name.

25
By emag (not verified)
January 3, 2012 9:25 PM

Axl doesn't seem new to me- just the same as Axel. I don't like any of the names on that list. :)

LAURA. Are you ever going to say with the new edition comes out??? With a baby due in June, I could use my third copy of of Baby Name Wizard!! You know, like now. ;)

26
By lanagator1 (not verified)
January 3, 2012 9:45 PM

"Jebediah Masterson...that's my real name. You know, you're the first person I've ever told that to?" (Sky Masterson, from Guys and Dolls)

27
By SarahT (not verified)
January 3, 2012 10:23 PM

@zoerhenne and danasurfside~ thanks so much for the great suggestions! I will definitely think about changing up the middle names. I had been thinking Genevieve Joyce was too much alliteration, but it does sound nice in a way. And Ginny is an interesting nickname choice (Gigi is what we call Great Grandma so I don't think that will work). I like Ginny better than Genny.
As far as the other suggestions, Clara and Caroline are both great names, but my sister and my best friend already used those names for their daughters. Kathleen is the name of my boss and two other coworkers, so that is out. I like the suggestion of Rebecca and Molly is cute, too. My husband likes Aubrey. You gave me lots to think about. Thanks!

28
By Jennyanna17 (not verified)
January 3, 2012 10:32 PM

@lanagator - I think Sky Masterson's real name is Obediah, not Jebediah, but I could be wrong!

29
By Tarmie (not verified)
January 3, 2012 11:01 PM

Cyrus is making a comeback? *LOVE* That makes me so happy like you wouldn't believe. I've loved that name since I was little. :)

31
By mk
January 3, 2012 11:40 PM

SarahT: Katherine and Genevieve are two of my favorite names. If I had to choose one I'd probably go with Genevieve because it isn't heard as much. But you can't go wrong with either of those, in my opinion.

32
By justpupsfornow (not verified)
January 4, 2012 12:00 AM

This was a funny discourse in "The Office" a couple years back:

Dwight: Acceptable names include and are limited to...Ebenezer
Angela: Jebediah
Dwight: Honas
Angela: Jedediah
Dwight: Worf
Angela: No Star Trek names!
Dwight: Okay, fine
Angela: What if it’s a girl?
Dwight: Irrelevant question. Section 5a: child shall be male

33
January 4, 2012 12:57 AM

justpupsfornow-That's a cute convo.

SarahT-Thanks for the compliments. I wish you the best. Let me know if you need further advice, I love to do that kind of thing. Another thought I just had though, Ginny is a Harry Potter character so you may get some associations with that. If it will bother you good to know now.

34
By Charly (not verified)
January 4, 2012 3:32 AM

My brother has the traditional version, Gunnar. My mother had heard the name in Norway and saw a firefighter with the name in the newspaper. It suits him well.

My best friend recently gave birth to a Roy III, which is pretty aggressively un-stylish and I'm still getting used to.

35
By Lady Harvatine (not verified)
January 4, 2012 3:41 AM

I have an almost one year old named Virginia who we call Ginny. I've read all of the Harry potter books and seen all of the movies but didn't think of the name connection until someone else mentioned it, after she was born. I have noticed that there is a group of people who grew up with HP who think of it immediately. Anyone older or younger, it doesn't occur to them. I don't have a problem with it. She's a cool character and they are great books!

36
By TrapperJenn (not verified)
January 4, 2012 10:18 AM

We are having a hard time name our third child who will be born in less than two weeks! We already have Sophia Eleanor (both names just picked out because we liked them) and Warren Michael (both family names).

If this one is a boy, we've decided on Conrad Philip. For a girl, we are leaning toward Beatrice for a first name but are having middle name trouble. Our last name is one-syllable and starts with H.

Any suggestions?

37
By Birgitte (not verified)
January 4, 2012 10:39 AM

I met a 10-year-old boy named Razor last year. Shook me to my core. Can't imagine a judge with that name. Maybe a doctor though *giggle*

38
January 4, 2012 10:59 AM

TrapperJenn-I love the names you already have. Both are elegant and sophisticated. The boys are simple underused classics. The girls are more popular but still classic in style to me. I would recommend the following:
Beatrice Fay(e); Beatrice Kathrine; Beatrice Nicole; Beatrice Lucille; Beatrice Victoria;
Beatrice Josephine; Beatrice Penelope; Beatrice Madeline; Beatrice Frances; Beatrice Johannah

39
By Essy01 nli (not verified)
January 4, 2012 11:08 AM

zoerhenne - thanks!!!

40
By Guest78 (not verified)
January 4, 2012 5:08 PM

I'm currently enamored with the name Matilda, but am wondering if it's the next name set to skyrocket here in the US. Any predictions?

41
By Lanagator1 (not verified)
January 4, 2012 6:47 PM

Darn, you're right!

42
By Anna S (not verified)
January 4, 2012 6:58 PM

Re: Gunnar vs Gunner

Gunnar is an old Nordic name from way before guns were invented so in that way it's distinct from Gunner-as-in-gun-shooter. Its elements do (did?) mean something with fighter/warrior so it's not exactly peaceful either.

That said, I personally don't really care what a name meant 1000 years ago, and Gunnar is an alright name then. Gunner is a different case though, and I do find its meaning utterly unappealing as a name. I suppose the same argument could be made for Archer, but apparently it's just a bit more romantic shooting people with bows and arches.

As for Ruger, Colt and Remington; those are not just firearms brand names, they're the real last names of the firearm makers. And possibly of other non-firearm-making people? I do see the trend in giving children brand names, including firearm brand names, but in some cases it could be a lastname-as-a-firstname thing?

43
By Anna S (not verified)
January 4, 2012 7:07 PM

@Lady Harvatine

FYI; Ginny in Harry Potter is short for Ginevra, not Virginia.

@SarahT

I like Genevieve Elaine, and it doesn't bother me that there's a Playboy model out there with the same name. I mean, Playboy is like 60 years old, and with 12 issues per year and who knows how many models per issue...

44
January 4, 2012 7:33 PM

@SarahT - I wouldn't be too concerned about the playboy model either but that said I much prefer Genevieve Joyce to Genevieve Elanie. I like the aliteration in this case. Genevieve is a favourite of mine but was vetoed by my husband. I was planning on using the nickname Neve, so if you think Livvy and Nevie are too close what about Livvy and Neve?

Other suggestions for you:
Juliet
Ivy
Eleanor
Adelaide/Adeline
Norah

I also second Clara and Caroline.

@Trapper Jenn,

I like Beatrice Mae
and second the suggestions of Beatrice Victoria, Beatrice Katherine and Beatrice Josephine

@AnnaS, I agree that those names are firearms manufactureres rather than firearms but to me they immediately conjure up the image of weapons so I'm not a fan. Interesting point about Archer though, I hadn't though of that. I do have problems with a lot of the occupation names though, most of them were not neccessarily something I'd want to name my kid after. Particulary some of the more gruesome ones!

45
January 4, 2012 8:12 PM

This celebrity couple that I never heard of named their daughter Sebella Rose.

http://celebritybabies.people.com/2012/01/04/roselyn-sanchez-eric-winter-welcome-daughter-sebella-rose/

Anyone know where that name comes from? Since mom is Hispanic, I wonder if it is pronounced -se-BAY-uh or se-BELL-uh.

BTW, it's been confirmed that Lily Allen's daughter (born in late Nov.) is named Ethel Mary. It's hard to get over the I Love Lucy character. I guess since Edith is on the rise, Ethel is just a stone's throw away!

My sister is preganant again! Woohoo! Of course, she refuses to talk to me about names until she knows if it is a boy or a girl. Still, I'm starting a list for a Mexican/Chinese baby whose older brother has the Hebrew name Asher.

46
By OperationKiki (not verified)
January 4, 2012 8:53 PM

I am a longtime lurker and was inspired to post when I realized, while reading this discussion during my lunch break, that TrapperJenn is one of my dearest friends! Sorry if I stumbled across confidential information, TrapperJenn - but here are my picks:

Beatrice Jane
Beatrice Amelia
Beatrice Isabel
Beatrice Claire
Beatrice Grace
Beatrice Lillian
Beatrice Adele
Beatrice Helen
Beatrice Olivia
Beatrice Cate
Beatrice Caroline
Beatrice Lydia
Beatrice Maude

Can't wait to hear the final decision!

47
By ErinsFoodFiles (not verified)
January 4, 2012 9:03 PM

@TrapperJenn

I love the choice of Conrad! (However I must disclose I am re-watching all my Mad Men episodes, and have just gotten to the Conrad Hilton storyline!

I second the suggestion of Beatrice Mae. I think Beatrice is such an interesting name, with lots of sounds, so a one syllable middle names works best. Just my humble opinion!

Now for a total side note, we're expecting baby #1 in late May! As a LONG time follower of this blog, and fan of TBNW boox & site, I am so excited to name our baby! I won't be posting any maybes, but I'll announce the name after he/she comes! (We're also not finding out the sex)

48
January 4, 2012 10:29 PM

ErinsFoodFiles-Congrats and best wishes!

Tirzah-Wow! I think that is some challenge. A Mexican/Chinese name that matches a Hebrew name??

Now I am curious, are many of the re-spellings and specifically odd spellings or product names that are occurring today unintentional misspellings? For instance, say a parent likes the sound of Gunnar. Not knowing how to spell it (or bothering to look it up), when asked spells it Gunner. I think the way schools don't teach phonics and proper spelling these days, that some don't really know for sure how to logically spell certain sounds. There are many exceptions to the rules of the English language but there are plenty of them that are steadfast. Reading lists of names further down than 1000 is like reading old census lists to me. You have to make the best guess as to pronunciation and more importantly-intention.

49
By Lucy B (not verified)
January 5, 2012 12:53 AM

Sarah, here's the perfect website to post your question:
http://swistlebabynames.blogspot.com/
If "Swistle" chooses your question, you'll get heaps of responses!

50
By Amy3
January 5, 2012 7:26 AM

I'm really not a fan of the firearm- or more generally weapon-as-name names. I realize many very old names carry elements that are war-like, but for most of us those elements no longer have those connotations in daily language. Naming your daughter Gertrude doesn't have the same "in your face" quality that names like Razor, Stryker, or Ruger have. I also don't really like the last-name-first trend so that knocks out a lot of the manufacturers' names for me on that basis alone.

@zoerhenne, I completely agree that reading deep into the name lists is an adventure in pronunciation and intention. Not that it's difficult to intuit the name meant, but one of the New Year's babies this year had the middle name McKynli. Wow.

@SarahT, I'll cast another vote for Genevieve Joyce. As Chimu said, I love the alliteration of these two together. I do think Nevie and Livvy are a little close so the suggestion of Neve as a nn gets you away from that some. I knew a Genevieve called Gen. If you grew up with a lot of Jennifers (some of whom may have been Jens), that may seem boring, but I've always liked it.

@TrapperJenn, your kids have beautiful names and I love the choice of Conrad should your newest be a boy. I like Mae, Maud(e), or Jane for Beatrice.

@Tirzah, there is a girl at my daughter's school named Sabella. That was the first I'd ever heard of it.

@ErinsFoodFiles, congratulations! Can't wait to hear what you choose when the baby arrives.