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I've touched on this subject before so I won't say much more, but one tip I'd like to reiterate is if you're a parent-to-be with a name that is more common for kids than your own generation then you might want to think twice about bestowing a name that was popular when you were growing up on a child of the same sex (or either sex if the name in question is unisex). In other words, if you're an expectant mom named Sophia you might want to avoid Stephanie for your daugher, just like if you already have a boy named Sasha you might want to avoid naming a girl Sawyer if you want people to be straight on who's who. (Although many NEs like the idea of having an ahead-of-the-curve name, this is one of the disadvantages with having such a name.) Of course this isn't an absolute reason not to use a name you like, but just something that you might want to know the ramifications of doing.
On the other hand, if you're the other way around with your name's generational placement (the one that many NEs aren't a fan of - having a name more common for your parents' generation than yours; since I'm going with an "S" theme I'll use Susan as the example) you have somewhat of an advantage when it comes to choosing a name that makes a "natural" sounding family. If you go with (for example) Stephanie it may make your household sound a bit retro, or if you go with the other example of Sophia it may sound like a generation was skipped, but either way wouldn't spin people's minds like a mom-Sophia/daughter-Stephanie duo would.
On the other hand there are cases where the opposite (a man presumed to be a woman) can be advantageous as well, such as cases where a "gender quota" is sought. Either way, it's easy to remedy the possibility of being assumed to be the opposite gender on a résumé if desired - include your middle name (if it clarifies your gender) or include a Mr. or Ms. in front of your name (while someone who doesn't have a unisex name or nickname can't really go the other way unless they change their name).
The debate on whether men or women benefit more from a unisex name on résumés is like the debate whether having an "older" or "younger" name than what is typical for your generation is better. If you're seeking a tech-based job and you're a Baby Boomer named Lauren that may help ward off age discrimination that is rampant against older workers in that industry, while if you're a Millennial named Linda that may give you an advantage with getting a position where maturity is a plus (such as a professional/leadership role).
The main names I caution against using if you want it to look good for getting a job are misspelled/kre8ive ones (which do tend to score a less desirable first impression).
I agree - since Amy is perfectly respectable as a full name I'd just use it as such. Now if you liked another name to begin with and thought of nicknaming her Amy as short for that name then I'd say do that - but since it's Amy that you mainly like and are trying to unnecessarily think of a longer name then I think it's better to go ahead and put Amy on the birth certificate.
I'm not saying that putting a nickname down to appear on your SS card was common - but given the different typical procedures at getting a SSN was different in the past (didn't happen until you were older, less strict about checking that everything matches) there would be at least a sizable number of cases where the birth certificate would have the full name but the SSN would be registered under a shorter version (enough to skew the stats as compared to the contemporary lists a bit).
I second this - I wouldn't have a problem with using Harper for a boy.
@Cossette729 - I can think of numerous names that would have the opposite effect (the "nickname trap" makes the name seem less popular than the stats for the full name would suggest). A lot of the classic/once-popular names that have multiple nicknames would have this effect; here's some I can think of:
For girls Elizabeth is easily the queen of nickname-diverse names. Catherine/Katherine/etc. aren't far behind (in that case the spelling variations end up "splitting" the stats as well), and Margaret is another classic with several common nicknames. Probably the leader among currently in-style names for nickname-ability is Isabella, and from the now-dated bunch Dorothy and Patricia.
On the boy's side a lot of the "older" classics (e.g. Charles, Richard, Robert) are often shortened in different ways, and there are also some more "current" ones like Alexander that could easily go numerous ways.
(If you can think of any more such names you're welcome to add to the ones I mentioned.)
One thing you need to be aware with changing your given names in conjunction with a marriage - many places won't let you change your first name with just a marriage license. In other words, assuming that's the rules where you are, you'd have to go through court just like someone making a change at any other time.
I wouldn't go with Bony given the other connotations, but Bonnie is acceptable but a bit dated (not that would be a bad thing - I think it'd have a "retro" feel on someone your age).
Yony/Rony are a bit too eccentric IMO if you're looking for something normal.
Admittedly I do see the appeal of Ryan on a female, and as long as you don't mind that there would be a lot of guys around your age (and a bit older and younger as well) with the name and how some people might see your name and assume your gender wrong before meeting you, I'd give it a pass for you.
Br(e/i)e, Briann(a/e), Briar, and Bryn are nice but not really my style.
My personal picks would be Bonnie if your tastes lean more vintagey and homespun, and Ryan if you'd prefer a more edgy and modern name. Good luck!
Actually it is still technically referred to as an amendment, but in the "attachment" case they indicate the changes on a second page rather than cross out or erase the old/incorrect information on the original document - although anyone seeing the certificate will see the changes it has the same validity. (Another technicality with all these cases in contrast to a purely marriage-related name change is that in most cases it changes your maiden/birth name for purposes of how it would appear on your children's birth certificates. I posted more detail about this situation under a comment at the link below - the blogger's comment highlighting her situation and then my comment on the child's BC situation are highlighted in blue.) http://appellationmountain.net/name-of-the-day-abigail/
Re: Your birth certificate - actually in most states, if you legally change your name for a non-marriage-related reason you can have it amended (or at least get an attachment added) reflecting your new name. (In sharalyn's case she wouldn't have been able to since all she did was make her maiden name into a middle name - which is still considered only due to marriage.) If you're interested you can contact Vital Statistics in the state where you were born - or I have a link below that was designed for people changing their gender as well, but may be of use to anyone with a first or non-marriage last name change. http://www.drbecky.com/birthcert.html
Also, beware that in many places you're not allowed to drop a first name even if you're changing to your husband's last name just by using your marriage license - changes involving your first name will likely have to be dealt with through court in the same way as if you weren't getting married at all.
Another example of the parent's and child's names appearing to be reversed: On the show Up All Night from 2011-12, the mom was Reagan and the baby daughter was Amy (on top of that one of Reagan's friends was Ava). Then there are the examples I've mentioned before of mom Jen(ny) (albeit short for Jane) with daughter Linda, and dad Nathan with son Paul. Then there is one case I recall mentioned on here several years ago that would've seemed more real in the past than now - mom Rose with daughter Sharon.
@Camilla - Like you, from the faces in the second group, Kayden is the only one that is egregiously "off" to me (since the name is a very modern one the chances of someone his age having the name from birth are extremely low). The others, while maybe a bit unexpected for the person's generation/race/ethnicity/religion, don't sound totally out-of-place with those faces.
I thought I'd bring up how howmanyofme.com's data is quite outdated as far as first names are concerned - the last census to release such data was the 1990 one (last names are based on 2000 data). That means names which have become more popular since then (e.g. Charlotte, and even Hannah which had its heyday in the 1990s/2000s) will be underrepresented while older names which haven't made a come back will be overrepresented.
Something you might be interested in is this list from the SSA, showing the Top 100 names for all years of birth combined over the last 100 years. Some of the names which peaked in the early years of that window (where the majority of members have already died) are still probably overrepresented, but it does take into account recently popular names. You can see how Elizabeth being so continually popular pushes its ranking up. You can also see how the higher birthrate during the baby boom years has pushed a lot of those names up as well. Since Jennifer (another one of the top names) was more popular during a time when the birthrate was lower (mid-late Generation-X era), that shows just how much the name towered in popularity!
Viola is a bit "offbeat" but still perfectly usable and not tease-worthy IMO. Since you like Viola and he likes Rachel, how about either Rachel Viola or Viola Rachel for the combo? Although Rachel has slid in popularity (making it dated to some) I think it's still a nice name that won't be as common in her generation.
I agree with your comment - although Amy feels like a dated '70s name to many of us it has a lot more history than that. I think it'd sound a bit unexpected in a nice way on a modern girl (like my reaction to a baby Amy on a TV show a couple of years or so ago) while at the same time being a familiar name. I also agree that it'd be best to stick with the most common spelling of Amy; that's another thing I like about the name - the "simple beauty" of an easy to spell and pronounce name (I'd maybe pair it with a more elaborate/current middle name were I to use the name myself in case she disliked having a too plain or older name).
@JnHsmom - The reason those names seem like they peaked later than the year looked at (1957) is those are among the fastest rising (not the most popular) names of the year, so it would make sense that their peak would be a few years later.
The easiest ways are: If the name was in the Top 1,000 for the year in question look up the Top 1,000 names on the SSA site for a particular year, and indicate you want to include the number of births. Or, for any name given to at least five babies for the gender in question that year, you can also download the file with the extended lists. Either way, once you have the data up, use the search feature in your browser (for the first method) or in your text editor such as Notepad (for the second one) to find the name and you'll see the number of births (if the name was used for both genders make sure you have the right one highlighed - which is important for even obviously non-unisex names since errors can make a name show up on the other side too, especially on the pre-circa-1990 lists and with the extended one). Also remember that you may get results with the string you entered anywhere in the name, so for example if you searched for "Ryan" that it isn't "Bryan" or "Bryant" that is highlighted.
In most places I don't think there are any "official" rules on which initial you have to use to sign non-government-related legal documents. In fact, if you do a search for "common law name change" you'll find that in many states you can technically assume another name as long as you aren't doing anything illegal or fraudulent by doing so (otherwise anyone who uses a stage, pen, etc. name would be breaking the law! - at most you'd have to "register" pseudonyms like those). Now of course there are rules on how your name appears on your driver's license, passport, etc. (typically your full name as shown on your birth certificate, other legal papers, or another ID you used to obtain it). However, when it comes to how you identify yourself for other purposes, unless they give a specific way you must do so (like when flying your ticket has to match what it says in your passport or on whatever ID you're using) - there is not usually a "set in stone" way you have to do it (particularly in this case of multiple middle names). The main concern is that it clearly identifies you as you, and you're being consistent on how you do it. For example, there are people who use their middle name, initials, or even a nickname when obtaining a line of credit - there's nothing illegal about that, but if you change how you identify yourself between credit entries then each "version" of your name will be recorded as an alias/AKA on your credit history; the same thing would happen if you did a full court-ordered name change with credit history under the prior name, a name change from marriage - which is usually just a universally accepted form of name change by usage (as opposed to other cases where it may not be enough to change IDs) - or even the presence or absence of a middle name or initials.
In most cases where a mismatch could result in errors (such as your example of standardized testing) I think the convention is it's your first initial that you should put in - but when that's not an issue I don't think there are any (official) rules unless otherwise directed.
An interesting pattern I saw is how in the past the South had a lot of names that were outmoded for the time still fairly popular - for example Emma in 1950 and Dorothy/Ruby in 1960 (as the maps showed). From when I played around with NameMapper myself I noticed the same with Charles and Henry (for example) on the boy's side in the 1960s. Today this pattern is probably masked by the fact that it's now many high-immigrant areas that are most prone to stick with names that are considered dated, although you'll still see now that Mary is quite a bit more popular in many Southern states than elsewhere. My hypothesis is that the South is big on honoring people and naming after family members, so names like these continue to be recycled there (strangely enough that may also explain how many "gone girl elsewhere" names continue to be semi-popular for boys there).
@Sharalyns - August is already climbing on the boy's side, and fits the "antique revival" pattern. Mae (that spelling) has also recently re-appeard on the Top 1,000 for girls. I think those two and June will continue climbing over the next few years, while April will show the pattern typical of "parent generation" names - a gradual but not steep decline.