As the 21st Century marches ahead, the names of the early decades of the 20th Century have renewed appeal as "antiques." 1920s favorites in particular are finding a new life: names like Vivian, Iris and Max have come charging back into style. What '20s names might yet be waiting in the wings, undiscovered?
Here's an attempt to answer to that question as thoroughly as possible. I've combed through the historical name stats and tried to identify every popular name of the Roaring '20s that hasn't yet come back but maybe, possibly could.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
To qualify for my list a name had to be:
• At or near its popularity peak in the 1920s
• Much less popular in the second half of the 20th Century, so that it now sounds suitably old-fashioned
• Not among today's top 500 names for boys or girls
• A feasible fashion choice based on contemporary tastes
The last item is the tricky one. Taste is subjective, but I followed current style by ruling out names that are particularly dense with consonants, like Bernice and Durward. Next to go were names that are so unfamiliar today that they sound merely surprising rather than antique, like Hulon and Trula, and names that have crossed the gender divide since the '20s, like Meredith for boys. Other factors were less cut-and-dried but could tip the balance against a borderline name, like the "yoo" sound in Buford and Eunice.
The end product is a list of well over 100 uncommon throwback names worth thinking about. Not every one hits the fashion bullseye. Chances are that most will still sound outmoded to you. But if you're drawn to old-fashioned names, I'm guessing that a few on this list will strike you as pleasant and intriguing surprises. I certainly have my favorites, and I'm curious to hear yours.
|1920s Names with Comeback Potential|
Heard any stylish names lately? I'll bet you have, whether you're looking for a name for your own baby or just talking to friends, going to the movies, reading the news or even playing a video game. Names are part of every corner of our culture, and we can't help but pick up on trends. We're all experts on the names in our own spheres of life.
Now you have a chance to put that knowledge to use. Our annual Baby Name Pool challenges you to pick three baby names that you think rose in popularity last year, and three that fell. It's that simple. When the U.S. government releases its official 2016 name stats in May, I'll tally the results and crown the year's baby-naming champions, complete with 12 months of unparalleled bragging rights.
If you haven't played before, you can read more details and check out the previous year's top names as a starting point. Then convince your friends and coworkers to enter and compete against you. This is an equal-opportunity contest, by the way -- we've had male and female winners.
All entries must be received by April 30, 2017.
Ready to go? Fill out your ballot now!
We have Shakespeare to thanks for all sorts of popular names today - from Jessica to Juliet, the Elizabethan author’s influence extends far and wide. But some of his most beautiful names fell into disuse without hope of resurrection - until recently!
These elegant choices have been approved by the Bard, and are starting to gain fans for their unique and beautiful sounds. Check out the following twelve names to inspire visions of literary heroines and turn-of-the-century stars.
Mignon Nevada as Ophelia in "Hamlet," 1910, via Wikipedia
Ophelia. This beautiful name jumped back into the top 1000 in 2015 - perhaps it’s time to revive Ophelia! Though it has long been associated with the tragic heroine, parents today love the sound of this elegant and unique name. Why not reclaim the name for a passionate and strong daughter?
Patience. Virtue names ending in Y rank among current favorites - Serenity, Trinity, Destiny - but returning to Puritan roots can offer more vintage choices. Pretty Patience appeared in Henry VIII, and more recently it’s been reclaimed by geek-chic trendsetter and Hollywood director Joss Whedon for his films and series.
Rosalind. Prominent in Elizabethan poetry, classic Rosalind gained fans in the 1940’s thanks to the lovely and witty actress Rosalind Russell. Parents today may like the -lind ending to differentiate from trendy -lynn, with the adorable nickname Rosie as an option too.
Cordelia. With so many positive traits, it’s a wonder that Cordelia hasn’t become as ubiquitous as Elizabeth or Victoria! There’s the kindly character in King Lear, the endorsement from Anne in Anne of Green Gables, and the plethora of namesakes, from artists to activists, just to begin.
Beatrice. From the Latin for “she who brings happiness,” Beatrice is a literary and cultural powerhouse. Already ranking at #565, Beatrice has roots in Shakespeare and Dante, support from celebrity parents (including Paul McCartney), and a retro, friendly sound without parallel. Nicknames Bea or Trixie stand out, but the long form is absolutely gorgeous.
Viola. While Violet and Olivia rank in the top 100, Viola has yet to catch up in popularity. But this stunning, resolute choice shares sound qualities with both fashionable picks, while maintaining its own attractive personality. Modern actress Viola Davis is another great connection as well.
Phoebe. Many current fans will connect the name to the quirky character in Friends, but Phoebe’s roots go much deeper: from Greek mythology to the New Testament to As You Like It, Phoebe has cemented its style and substance in history. Beyond that, the name is simply appealing and amicable in form.
Helena. Quite popular at the end of the nineteenth century, Helena deserves another look. Graceful and refined, Helena has adorned royalty, athletes, and musicians; though its aura is vintage and feminine, it can work for all kinds of tastes and personalities.
Lavinia. Though it nearly disappeared from birth certificates in the 1990’s, Lavinia’s sophisticated sound and scholarly connections have kept it from obscurity. Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus includes the iconic line “She is Lavinia, therefore must be lov’d” - and indeed, luminous Lavinia has been loved by Shaw, Dickens, Thackeray, Eliot, and Lovecraft.
Imogen. Despite its origins - Imogen was the result of a printer’s misspelling of Innogen - Imogen has become a classic in the United Kingdom, already in the top 50 in England. Americans took to similar Imogene for awhile, but the (semi-) original has more function and flair in today’s world.
Gertrude. For many, Gertrude has been deemed “permanently out,” but its history has helped it stay in the game; even in 2015, twenty-six girls were named Gertrude. Namesakes from all sorts of realms - religious, literary, and political - have given this name an uncommon kind of gravitas and appeal. Perhaps nicknames Gertie or Gigi could keep it viable for the contemporary era?
Paulina. A feminine diminutive of Paul, Paulina is an attractive option that’s never gotten too popular. It’s not far from the melody of Alina or the sounds of Penelope, and could also work as an honor name for a familial Paul or Paula. In The Winter’s Tale, Paulina appears as a virtuous and courageous friend - not a bad connection at that!
For names with a similar style, check out Laura Wattenberg’s Girls Names with Throwback Elegance from January!