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.
"A, my name is Alice and my boyfriend's name is Andy..."
The answers are below, along with each name's current popularity ranking. But before you peek, try guessing -- or better yet, make a game of it at lunchtime with your officemates, or at a baby shower. I guessed some of the names immediately, kicked myself for missing others, and a few caught me totally by surprise.
Ten years ago this week, I published my first Baby Name Wizard blog post. Back then I couldn't imagine that I'd still be filling a weekly column with name talk a decade later. Names have proved to be a far richer topic than even I expected: a reflection of our past, our future and our dreams. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by to discuss names with me during these past ten years, and here's to ten more!
I thought I'd celebrate this milestone by revisiting the first subject I wrote about back in 2004, the rising Scrabble value of American baby names. At the time, I pointed out a national love affair with "high value" letters, as measured by a timeless board game:
"The hot letters today sound quirky and exotic, the kind of letters that beg for individual attention. But how do parents know which letters are most exotic? No problem. That question was answered generations ago by an unemployed architect named Alfred Butts, who invented the game of Scrabble. Butts chose point values for letters based on popular usage of the time, with the workhorse letters (vowels, l, n, r, s, t) worth one point, and the rare birds far more."
Ten years later, the Scrabble value baby name fever has broken...mostly. Today's average name scores an average of 10.56 points, closer to the baby boom era than the '90s highs.
Scrabble values are falling victim to shrinking name lengths and a smooth, vowel-dominated naming age. Styles like "liquid names" and "raindrop names" score high for fashion, but low on a Scrabble board. This year we saw a ceremonial changing of the guard as long-time #1 name Jacob (Scrabble value: 16) yielded the title to Noah (Scrabble value: 7).
Yet parents do still love the quirky letters that help make a name look more interesting. Among the very few consonants rising in this age of vowels: the three rarest name letters, Q, X and Z.
Bonus Scrabble Name Facts:
Highest Scrabble Value Among Top-1000 Names: Jacqueline (28)
Lowest Scrabble Value Today Among Top-1000 Names: 3 (a 14-way tie, with 9 boys' names and 5 girls: Eli, Ian, Leo, Ali, Ari, Asa, Noe, Lee, Ean; Ana, Lia, Nia, Lea, Ann.)
Highest Scrabble Value Today in Extended Data: Jazzmyne (38)
And the All-Time Champ: Zzyzx (42). This five-letter wonder is based on a California place name, which itself was invented 70 years ago with the intention of being the last word in any dictionary.