How many young girls do you know named Florence and Harriet? If you live in the USA, the answer is probably "none." In Britain, though, those are likely names to hear in any playground.
Many name trends in the two countries are the same, but the points of difference make for a fashion opportunity for American baby namers. They're fresh-sounding ideas pre-vetted by thousands of other parents. What could be a more sincere recommendation than choosing the name for your own child?
All of the names below are British hits that could stand out on your U.S. playground. The numbers indicate each name's current ranking among all girls' names in England and Wales.
These dignified ladies may seem a little stiff for a toddler, but they're full of nickname possibilities.
U.S. parents have embraced a few sweet old nicknames, like Molly and Sadie. British parents have dived head-first into the cute end of the pool.
U.S. parents love Celtic boys' names like Liam, Aidan and Declan, but have been slower to pick up on Celtic options for girls.
Ffion (270, but #24 in Wales)
These names peaked in the 1930s-1960s in the U.S. Could they be ready for a second look?
What's Stopping You?
And finally, a group of names with full fashion potential that just haven't managed to cross the pond.
Can you guess which of these Halloween-ready baby names made America's official name popularity stats last year?
The answer is all of them. A generation ago those names were unheard of, but now they show up every year. Names are getting spookier.
photo credit: devinf, flickr
On both the boys' and girls' popularity charts, you can see a new willingness to name on the dark side. Once upon a time, American parents liked to name their daughters Dove. The bird of peace was a top-1,000 baby name in the 1800s, and the diminutive Dovie was even more popular. Not any more. For the past generation America's favorite bird name has been Raven, the bird of ill omen
What's more, parents shopping for fresh names are now willing to look in the villain aisle. Dark, violent antiheroes like Draven (undead vigilante of The Crow) and Kratos (from the God of War video games) have soared. The X-Men films made villainous Mystique a hot name, and the Death Eaters of Harry Potter inspired scores of babies named Bellatrix and Draco. Even Vader showed up in the baby name stats for the first time in 2012.
It's not just new names that show the effects. The name Alucard ("Dracula" backwards) has been a staple in vampire tales for generations. The monster master himself, Lon Chaney Jr., played an Alucard in the 1943 film Son of Dracula. Since then the name has been steadily used for bloodsuckers in movies, tv series, comic books and video games. But it wasn't until the past decade that parents started giving the name to real-life, warm-blooded children.
You can see traditional namers turning darker, too. Biblical villains used to be mostly out of bounds as baby names. Today, Delilah is soaring toward the girls' top 100. Even biblical names that are negative words in English have risen: Judas, Lucifer, Jezebel.
For the record, I don't believe that American parents are raising a generation of vampires and supervillains. I think that the rising tide of sinister names reflects the rising triumph of style in baby naming. We're drawn to names that sound fresh and intriguing and have an eye-catching edge to them, regardless of where they come from. And let's face it, a good villain can be awfully stylish.
When Disney decided to give Sleeping Beauty's nemesis Maleficent her own film, they hired Angelina Jolie for the role. A cosmetics company stands ready to help you capture her look, or that of sisters in evil like Cruella De Vil, with their "Disney Villains" makeup collection. Even in the realm of names, the lure of the dark side isn't entirely new. Demon spawn from horror movies have been baby name hitmakers for years. (Damien from The Omen, Regan from The Exorcist, Gage from Pet Sematary, et al.)
As long as the shadowy depths are filled with such stylish names, parents are going to be lured in. And if the names happen to come with a curse attached, so be it.
Back then, booze was taboo, flappers flocked the dance floors, Model Ts ruled the roads, women won the vote and gangsters were up to no good. Welcome to the Roaring Twenties! There are so many things this spirited decade in American history gave us. To this day, we're crazy for jazz age music, sleek bobs, Chanel No. 5, even crossword puzzles. And now, along with debonaire mustaches and cloche hats, we're becoming newly enamored with the names that flappers and their fellas wore proudly in that era.
Parents of these "wild ones" must have had a little foresight when they chose names that included zippy letters like x, v, and z; they sound a little sassy and, well, ready to Charleston!
Certain of these jazzy names are short and sweet, and come complete with no-frills nickname like Jo. Others are inspired by flowers, or lore from the careers of silent film stars and jazz artists who came before, but they're all ready to roar once again.
Beatrice: Once a classic, Beatrice was popular in the Middle Ages after Dante invoked the name in his Divine Comedy. Bea was very much in fashion near the turn of the century, making it a perfect prohibition name ready for revival. We also love its other short forms, including Tris, brought to us by the Divergent series.
Clara: Iconic 20s silent film star Clara Bow embodied the attitude of the flapper. Her simple, pretty name is back in style as parents look for names with a little retro kick.
Duke: What an interesting journey this royal title and nickname has taken—it's very rare, with a few modest blips on parents' radar in the 1890s, 1950s, and again today. It's Duke Ellington's fame as one of the most influential jazz artists and composers that give Duke a distinct 20s flair, and we think it's poised for a comeback.
Ellis: Likely inspired by Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of immigrants, this name reached a peak near the turn of the century. Now it's starting to garner attention again, with a nod to Elliott and feminine counterparts like Ella and Alice.
Evelyn: One of the hottest names on the list, Evelyn is now a top-20 name! We fell in love with Evelyn because of her sound and vintage feel. It was also recently chosen by Bruce Willis and his wife for their daughter.
Everett: Everett seemed to make a perfect male complement to Evelyn, and its genteel sound is inspiring parents today just like it did in the early 20th century.
Felix: A wildly popular comic strip character (and later a movie star), Felix the Cat shared a name with lots of gents in the 20s. We're starting to rediscover this happy, energetic choice again today.
Hazel: Hazel embodies the flapper revival trend, perfect for a blues singer like Hazel Meyers, and also for a modern baby, like the daughter of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt.
Josephine: There were lots of little Jos running around at the turn of the century, and it made for a spot-on, 20s-era name, ala Josephine Baker. Once again this lovely name is making its way up the charts as parents look for spirited, fashionable names with a great history.
Leo: A quintessential 20s name, Leo has a great sound that fits in perfectly with choices like Milo and Liam. Leo was chosen by Penelope Cruz, Roger Federer, and Brandon Routh.
Lillian: Lillian Gish was a silent film star known as The First Lady of American Cinema, and she made this name hot around the age of jazz. These days we have such a love affair with this name that it's (appropriately) ranked in the 20s.
Lola: Lola evokes vintage Hollywood glam, thanks to Lola Albright, and today's stars seem to love it almost as much as most Americans did in the early 20th century. Celebs like Kelly Ripa, Peter Facinelli, Lisa Bonet, Charlie Sheen, and Chris Rock all have a daughter named Lola.
Mae: A short and sassy flapper name, Mae owes a lot of its fame to 20s (and beyond) actress West, who gave it a sexy starlet image. We think it's time for this name to play a starring role and move up a notch from the dreaded middle-name spot.
Max: Shedding the formality of longer names like Maximilian and Maxwell, Max began coming into its own just in time for gangsters, gamblers, bootleggers, and stand-up gents to wear it in the 20s. This quick little name punctuated with an x is doing quite well again today, and celebrities love it too (just ask Christina Aguilera).
Pearl: At the turn of the century, Americans considered Pearl a classic, and it was still doing quite well when future flappers were dancing in the womb. Even more fittingly, long strings of pearls were a flapper trademark, thanks to Coco Chanel.
Rose: A lovely flower name that bloomed in the late 19th century, Rose became a near classic choice, fighting its way through a mid-century slump. Today, we are rooting for Rose to keep climbing and (like Mae) emerge from the middle-name spot.
Sterling: This silvery name strikes us as both surprising and classy. It's gone through a few historical ups and downs, though it was never as popular as it was in the 1900s. Fit for a 20s gangster, a thoroughly modern punk rock star, or maybe even your little guy, Sterling has lots of potential.
Theodore: Today it feels gentlemanly and dashing, but during Roosevelt's presidency Theodore had rugged cowboy appeal. As a result, there were lots of Teddys living it up in the 20s, and now we're swooning over this full name (and its short forms) again.
Vera: It doesn't get more flapper-worthy than the spirited name Vera. A true antiquated gem, Vera is becoming newly fashionable (quite literally), helped along by designers of the same name, like Vera Wang and that paisley-bedecked brand, Vera Bradley.
Violet: A glamorous old-fashioned floral name, we rediscovered Violet early in the 21st century and found its charming lilt worthy of today's top 100. Perhaps the most famous Violet in the 20s comes from Vaudeville, where a pair of now long-forgotten conjoined twins named Violet and Daisy starred in their own musical act.
Love these names? Take a look at our post on The New Antique Generation, which takes a deeper look at the stats behind this trend.