The cross-gender namesake challenge

Jul 4th 2008

Ah, you want to name your new daughter after Grandpa Chuck (Charles).  No problem, options abound!  The French versions Charlotte and Caroline are the current favorites, but you can suit almost any taste with variations like Carla, Carly, Carol, Carolina, Carolyn, Carrie, Charla, Charlene, Charlize and Charlie.

Don't get too comfortable, though -- that one was just a warmup.  Suppose Grandpa is named Tom? Or Jim? Or Fred, or Ben, get the picture.  Not every classic male name is blessed with a smorgasbord of feminine equivalents.  Once upon a time, though, the answer for all those namesake challenges would have been easy: just take a diminutive form of the male name and you're good to go.  In the early decades of the 20th Century, girls' names like Tommie, Jimmie, Freddie and Bennie abounded.

Today, though, parents are less eager for their little girls to sound like little boys.  (Today's androgynous girls' names sound more like grown men.)  So the typical response to cross-gender namesake troubles is to trim the honoree's name down to an initial.  Grandpa Tom gives rise to little Tatum, and we say "close enough."  But what if you want to get even closer?  Here's my starter list of creative choices for tough cross-gender namesake challenges.  All derive from the same name root as the original.  Can you think of more?

David: Davina (Scottish derivative of David, familiar throughout the U.K.)
Gregory: Greer (Surname derived from Gregor, the Scottish form of Gregory)
Matthew: Matea/Mattea (Occasional Spanish/Italian feminine form)
Philip: Pippa (English nickname for Philippa)
Thomas: Tamsin (An old nickname for Thomasina that's been revived in the U.K. in the past 20 years)

...and one the other way:

Jennifer: Wynn (Form of the Welsh root Gwyn, as in Guinevere.  Jennifer is the Cornish form of Guinevere.)




"Off with their heads" revisited

Jun 26th 2008

Last February I talked about the emerging style of updating trendy names by lopping off their initial consonants.  Madison-->Addison is the queen of the genre, and this past year has brought Addison a new little sister.  Twin sisters, really.  Meet Adalyn and Adelyn, both of whom debuted in the top-1000 list in 2007.

You could argue that Adelyn is a variant of Adeline, but I don't think that name has reached spinoff-level popularity.  I see Adelyn as a headless remix of Madalyn, Madeline, Madelyn and the five other spellings of that name in the top 1000 -- with a splash of inspiration from Addison.

Another name in the original "Off with their heads" post also deserves an update.  I mentioned Aylin as a fast-rising girl's name modeled on the likes of Kaylin and pronounced with a long A, "AY-lin."  Dr. Cleveland Kent Evans wrote in with an alternate interpretation of the name:

I don't think that most of the babies now being named Aylin are being pronounced to rhyme with Kaylin. Instead I believe the great majority of them are Hispanic and the name is just a Hispanic respelling of Eileen.

And reader Leila chimed in with yet a third version:

Aylin is a Turkish name that is relatively popular in Turkey. It's pronounced Eye-lin.

One spelling, three suggested pronunciations and ethnic identities.  And they're all right.

Aylin (EYE-lin) is a familiar woman's name in Turkey.  Turkish name statistics are hard to come by, but there seem to be Aylins of all ages with a slight peak at ages 25-40.

Aylin (eye-LEEN) is a Latina name that was rare in the U.S. until about 1995, when actress Aylín Mujica first appeared in telenovelas.  That wave of Latina Aylins peaked around 1997-98 and has leveled off since.

And Aylin (AY-lin) is a contemporary American creation.  It's a slimmed-down Kaitlyn, a feminized Aidan, and a rhyming sensation.  16 names rhyming with AY-lin made the girls' top 1000 last year, with 8 more on the boys' list.

Today, Aylin has surpassed its original '90s U.S. popularity peak.  A modest, steady base of Latina Aylins (and a handful of Turkish Aylins) has been joined by an exploding population of Anglo Aylins.  So if you have to guess at a pronunciation, you could try basing  it on age: call a toddler AY-lin, a 10-year-old eye-LEEN, and a 30-year-old EYE-lin?  Nah, it's safest just to ask.

2007 Baby Name Pool: Meet the Winner

Jun 20th 2008

A followup to the recent Baby Name Pool results:

This year's champion, the only entrant to tab both the #1 and #2 hottest rising names of the year (Miley and Kingston), is Eric E.of San Diego, California.  He's the father of 18-month-old Paige Sofia, but his Pool choices were based more on pop culture than the baby names he sees around him.  Eric and his wife were having a friendly competition trying to come up with names to enter, and when he suggested Kingston, they both thought it sounded like a winner:

"I thought Kingston was one of those names people would gravitate toward. It's not too far out there (think Moses or Apple), but is still unique. Plus Gwen's [Stefani] got the cool, hip, mom thing people seem to love these days."

Congratulations again to Eric.  And on a personal note, wish this Baby Name Wizard luck that pregnant stylemaker Gwen Stefani has her second child before my book manuscript is due!