An All-Time Great Sibling Name Set

May 12th 2012

It seems the Social Security Administration has decided to make its Mother's Day names announcement the day after Mother's Day. Go figure. But lucky for us, the world of names never sleeps! Just in from Washington:

Today, the National Zoo  introduces  a new family of elevn otters to the public. According to, Whole Foods sponsored the otters' voyage from California to DC, so the grocery chain was given the honor of naming mom and dad otter and 8 of their 9 children. The ninth pup was named by the public via a Facebook poll. That unconventional naming process gave us otter parents Chowder and Clementine, and this sibling set:

Pork Chop, Pickles, Saffron, Olive, Peaches, Turnip, Radish, Rutabaga and Kevin.

An instant classic. (Though to nitpick, I'd never include a cut of meat in an otherwise vegetarian-and-kevin sibset.)


Thanks go to reader Kenny for alerting me to this naming news. No thanks go to the Social Security Administration, for messing up my Mother's Day weekend.

It's Name Week, 2012!

May 9th 2012

Later this week, the Social Security Administration will release the official figures on America's baby name choices for last year. No matter how closely we watch name trends all year long, there are always amazing surprises and insights that come out of the actual data. (Did you guess that a pregnant teenager would be the country's stylemaker for 2010?)

I'll have the data here the minute it's available, and will crunch numbers all day to find the real stories within. I hope you'll join me!

And while we wait, I'd like to take a moment to focus on a very different baby issue. and are joining with RBaby to raise awareness about pediatric care in hospital emergency rooms. Infants require specialized medical care, which too many emergency rooms today are not equipped to provide. Please visit RBaby to learn more about this issue, and sign the petition to create standards for pediatric emergency care.

Goodbye, Marylou: The New Generation of Combo Names

May 4th 2012

Sometimes, a little bit o' name just feels so right. Back in the 1920s and '30s, morsels like Lou, Mae and Bell were so pitch-perfect that parents tried to work them in wherever they could, combining them with other familiar elements. They peppered the country with girls named Idabell, Bettylou, Maebelle, Luberta and Idamae.

By the 1950s Luberta and friends were forgotten, as parents swooned over namelets like Jo, Ann and Beth. Together, MaryJo, Bethann, Joellen, Suanne, and JoBeth summon up a generation.

Then combo names settled into a bit of a lull. The hot sounds of the '60-'80s leaned more toward French imports (Michelle, Denise, Danielle), K's (Kimberly, Kristen, Kelly), and -i endings (Lori, Kerri, Jodi).

But today combos are back, in a big way. A new collection of pairing-friendly names has met a generation of parents eager to innovate. The result is an explosion of new name mashups that Bettylou and Joellen could never have imagined. Meet the major players:

A hit name on its own, Bella is also paired with other name roots, new and classic, to create a traditionally feminine sound. (Belle combos are rising too, but parents seem wary about anything too reminiscent of the Idabell era.)

Examples: Avabella, Carabella, Elizabella, Miabella, Rosabella, Sarabella
The extreme that proves the rule: Adorabella

Past generations made good use of Lyn/Lynn as well, as a modernization of traditional names. In the 1910s Madeline turned into Madelyn, in the '40s, Rosalind became Rosalyn, and in the '60s Jacqueline produced Jaclyn. But starting in the '90s, parents started to see Lynn more as a separate element, revealing two-part combos hidden in plain site. Caitlin = Kate + Lynn. Brooklyn = Brooke + Lynn! Even Madeline isn't just Madelyn, but also Maddylynne. With that shift, Lyn declared its independence and began combining freely with all sorts of one and two-syllable names.

Examples: Amberlynn, Angelyn, Avalyn, Brycelyn, Gracelyn, Jazlyn, Jessalyn, Skylynn, Starlyn
The extreme that proves the rule: Dazzlyn

A popular full name in the 1970s, Leigh is now turning subservient -ly endings into equal partners with root names.

Examples: Adaleigh, Amberleigh, Blakeleigh, Brynleigh, Karaleigh, Lynleigh, Maeleigh, Starleigh
The extreme that proves the rule: Paisleigh

Brianna was one of the hottest names of the 1990s and 2000s. Just as it began to slow down, parents started taking more notice of the elegant old male name Aubrey for girls. Add in the hits Gabrielle/Gabriella and a smattering of girls with the given name Bree, and you have a recipe for recombination.

Examples: Bria, Brielyn, Brianne, Briella, Brielle, Brienne
The extreme that proves the rule: Brie (perhaps the only name I'll ever call "cheesy")