The Generational Sweet Spot, Or Why Your Parents Have Such Bad Taste

Apr 22nd 2010

Your taste in baby names is shaped by many factors. If I had to point to just one, though -- one force that drives your opinions, that's impossible to escape -- it would be your generation.

That's obvious on the face of it. We all know that name styles change dramatically over time. When it comes to our own personal taste, though, it's hard to feel the generational influence. Here's how I usually describe it: the names of your own generation sound too ordinary, your parents' too boring, your grandparents' too old. But by the time you make it back to your great-grandparents' names, things start to perk up. You've never known a young Vivian or Julius, so those names sound fresh to you.

That places a style "sweet spot" at naming generations roughly 60-90 years older than you. But it also points to a second sweet spot at names 20-40 years younger than you. Those are the names that you and your friends name your children. Meanwhile you're turned off by names in middle, particularly your own age and 10-20 years older. So if you were born in the 1970s, you probably didn't consider '60s names like Sheila or Kent for your kids.

Now here's the kicker. That same generation of names that marks your style nadir is your parents' sweet spot. And those charming antiques you love? They're your parents' stodgy grandma names. Let's overlay some hypothetical curves:

Call the areas in green "argument zones."

Parents, this explains why your mother-in-law keeps suggesting names like Karen and Steve. Grandparents, this explains how your daughter could possibly consider a name like Julius (or Genesis) for a little baby. And to our youngest readers, prepare for your parents to totally miss the appeal of Conrad and Joyce. They don't have bad taste, honest. They're just products of their generation.


By Keren not signed in (not verified)
April 22, 2010 8:36 AM

So true! My mum was horrified at our choice of Phoebe - she thought it was a frumpy old lady name. She suggested Phyllida or Fiona as alternatives...not my taste at all. But I think 13 years on she's learned to love the name Phoebe.

By Moll (not verified)
April 22, 2010 8:49 AM

Yes, indeed! My grandparents actually refused to acknowledge my brother's name - the very normal N@than - in the early 1980s: they called him Timothy. Seriously. I honestly don't know how my mom dealt with that as their daughter-in-law, but to them, it was a stodgy, great-grandpa farmer name.
Likewise, my dad suggests names like Gregory and Maureen for his grandkids, who actually got names like Ch@rley and H3nry. And some of the names he suggests as "joke" names, like Hazel and Agatha, actually sound pretty current for my generation.
It all WOULD seem silly, but I know someday I'll bristle at having grandkids named Barbara, Sharon, or Glenn.

April 22, 2010 8:51 AM

Laura-I'm clearly an anomaly based on some past comments of regular posters. However, I'm curious to learn what amount of time constitutes a generation. I find the names that were outliers during my childhood years are names I absolutely love. Yes my parents names are boring, and I would rarely consider the names of my grandparents and their cronies. My great-grandparents I do agree are prime for the picking. Whats even more interesting is the names our children think are "cool" or "boring".

By Manda (not verified)
April 22, 2010 8:54 AM

My MIL hated Ada and Willa and suggested names like Debra and Shannon. My dad told me that they were names of teachers he had as a child.

I was thinking the other day of the name Henry. Asked 10 year ago, I would have said that it was an old man's name- like the old guy on Punky Brewster, but today I'd agree that it is a cute baby name.

By Rachel Y (not verified)
April 22, 2010 9:12 AM

Can we get some labeling on the graph? When were Mom and Grandma hypothetically born?

This phenomenon occurred to me when I was looking for baby names for my son. I looked through the SSA top names for 1900 (I was born in 1981). The girls' names were a treasure trove, but the boys names were either very, very standard (William, John, Henry etc.) or things I was reluctant to use (e.g. Clarence).

By Pearl (not verified)
April 22, 2010 9:38 AM

This works for nicknames, too!
A 60-something friend named Betty recently lamented the lack of Elizabeths with that nickname---the occasion of her complaint was learning about the birth of a (30-something) friend's daughter Betsy. Of course for the mom of new Betsy, Lizzie was out of the question---too 70s! I told Betty to be patient and stick around into her 90s, when little Betsy will consider Betty a fresh new name for her own daughter.

April 22, 2010 9:44 AM

"The generational sweet spot" doesn't hold true for many classic names. In the 1940s to early 1950s my parents named 3 of their 5 children James, John and Rebecca. Those names are still well used, with James and John in the top 20 in the most recent SSA stats. (Won't be long now until 2009 baby name stats are released!)

In our family James and John always seem 'fresh', perhaps because they're being 'worn' by a new little person:
My parents named their first son James in 1945.
We named a son James in 1975.
A daughter named one of her twin sons James in 2003.
(And my mother had an uncle named James, born 1884.)

Same, with John:
My parents named a son John in 1948.
We named our second son John in 1969.
A niece named her son John in 2009.

Many classic names, especially boys' names, never go out of style, while other names cycle in and out of fashion, with some being only a one generation hit.

April 22, 2010 9:53 AM

Pearl, I LOVE Elizabeth-called-Betsy! That's another thing about classic names: so many nicknames to choose from, and those are often generational. Today most Williams are "Will", but for the preceding 2 or so generations, they were called "Billy"/"Bill" and further back you come to "Will" again as the predominant nn. In that respect many classic names have a "generational sweet spot" too. My brother is "Jim"; my son "James" but "Jamie" when he was small; my grandson, just "James". You're right: Betty may make a comeback, especially since the name is tied to the ultimate classic name Elizabeth.

April 22, 2010 10:00 AM

This is SO true. And Vivian was the original name that we'd picked for our daughter. And my IL's hated it - and convinced my husband as well (my parents weren't fans either, but were less obtrusive about it). Grrrr! So, in the end, we landed on Sylvia (and didn't announce until after she was born). Both sets of our parents thought it was a bizarre choice (and FIL still tried to get us to change it after it was on the birth certificate). Among my mother's suggestions were Nicoleen(?), Lynette, Pauline, and Monique. Not terrible, but not what I was looking for, either.

By ClaireP (not verified)
April 22, 2010 10:18 AM

In terms of the huge wave of Emmas, I was an early adopter. I used to joke, if you named your baby daughter Emma, you were over 30 and were over educated. My friends (also over 30 and over educated) thought the name was cute and fresh, but there were lots of others who said, "that's an old lady name!" Well, it's going to be an old lady name again - starting when my daughter gets to be an old lady.

By melanie1 (not verified)
April 22, 2010 10:49 AM

I was recently told by my younger brother, however, that my baby named Henry sounded older than he did. I just told him that because he didn't have kids yet he was still clueless about naming trends because Henry was not unusual anymore. I have a friend whose daughter Emma is 18 so she named her before things really picked up on that name and she remembers all her family telling her what an old lady name she had picked :) I even remember thinking that sounded old when Rachel named her daughter that on Friends. There is something to hearing it on other kids a lot that can change your perception as well.

April 22, 2010 10:58 AM

So Lucky, I'm really curious to know what you think of Azalea. I think it's really beautiful. And since I had been looking up the symbolism of different flowers in search of Marian names for myself, I looked up azalea and thought that it was interesting to learn that in China they symbolize womanhood.

I agree that Lindy is adorable. I've liked Libby for awhile but Lindy might be better. Hubby and I were talking about boy names this morning and the name Louis came up. L names seem to be really appealing to me (and everyone else) lately =)

April 22, 2010 11:07 AM

So true ! EXCELLENT post

It's interesting when I compare myself to my mother, how our tastes collide.She's not into names at all. COMPLETE opposite of me, but it's interesting to see how sometimes she follows a form of thinking that's also trendy, even though she isn't exposed to it. Sometimes she is completely opposite to me & at others we're the same.

Most of the names that my aunts & uncles like are because of their school days. Their connotations of it as well. My brother whose in his 20s, likes Phoebe,Alba, Penelope,Ava & I do know he likes Sage & Skye, but he is HIGHLY unlikely to actually use Sage/Skye

Another thing that I find interesting is interesting is the usage of what is acceptable as names.For instance, it's not my grandparents who are the most conservative, it's some of my uncles!

April 22, 2010 11:10 AM

I'm fascinated to see what names in the next 5 to 10 years will be used by those who are currently teenagers or aged to 20, and who will be around 25 to 30 years old will use in the future

By Auspicious 4 (not verified)
April 22, 2010 11:11 AM

Yup, we got an entirely positive reaction to our first daughter's name, Cora, but everyone from about age 60-80 seems to have a much harder time with our second daughter's, Hazel. To me they're both old-fashioned names ready for revival, but I see that Hazel was still in the top 100 in the 1910s, '20s, and '30s, while Cora had fallen below 100 by then. Maybe quite a big difference to the social security set.

By Amy3
April 22, 2010 11:20 AM

My daughter's name, Astrid, was never very popular in the US, however my husband used to work with a guy from Sweden who pegged it currently as a name of old women or little tiny babies there (maybe Anna S can confirm or refute?). :)

April 22, 2010 11:26 AM

Regarding the Henry thing, I never thought it was an 'old man' name, as where I live it has quite a lot of use. The Henry/Heindrich names make it seem too popular for me to use & too distinct in terms of culture. It's odd how opinions differ. For instance, to me Conrad is a name that's very much a name of a guy who was born in the 80s. When I think of an Emma/Emily, I generally think of young children.

I generally only think of names as being 'dated' when I start to think more of people who are currently in their 60s,70s and older.I used to find it funny when people said Jennifer was dated.To me it's era-specific, as opposed to dated.

By Birgitte (not verified)
April 22, 2010 11:47 AM

Growing up in Norway I had a friend called Astrid, but she was named after her mother, now in her 60s. It is still very much an old lady name in Norway. I also know an Astrid in her 70s. So Astrid is too "young" to be revived in Norway yet, but Sweden is usually a bit ahead of Norway in the naming trends so maybe it is ripe for revival there.

There is also a treasure trove of names to be found in the online church registration books for Genealogists in Norway, although the Berthas abound. :)

By Barbara C. (not verified)
April 22, 2010 12:01 PM

I can really see some of what you're saying. Two friends of mine who don't know each other were both looking to grandmothers and great-grandmothers for naming inspiration. One kept "Cova" on her list for another girl for years; the other named her daughter "Tova". (Perhaps both names unconsciously reflect the popularity trend of the letter "v" as well.)

I have "old" parents compared to most of my peers. My mom has absolutely forbidden me to name any child after her upon pain of death, even though her first name of Ruby may be coming back. My paternal grandmother's name (Matilda) is also on the rise.

I am just waiting for the other family names to pick up: Golden Eloise (maternal grandmother), Eugenia (my mother's middle name), and Petronella (my paternal great-grandmother). I have no plans of ever using any of them, though, even though I'm expecting another girl in June.

April 22, 2010 1:09 PM

Barbara C. I love Petronella. What names are you actually thinking of using?

By Lara Jane (not verified)
April 22, 2010 1:28 PM

So true!

My parents are David and Sandra, but of course they're called Dave & Sandy.

Their parents are Robert & Laura, and William Gloria. My mom's maternal grandparents (Felix and Josefa) clearly come from a line of NEs, so I guess my grandma dropped the ball and broke that cycle! LOL

It goes without saying that they all hated my choice when Henry was born 10 years ago. But I think my great-grandparents would've been proud that I took up the mantle. ;)

By Lara Jane (not verified)
April 22, 2010 1:28 PM

That should've been William AND Gloria. Sorry.

By namedaftermygrandmother (not verified)
April 22, 2010 1:46 PM

As a historian, I'm wondering how far back in time these cycles go...that is, is "name freshness," a Modern concept, linked to individuality, unheard of before 1800 or even 1870? Is it an American invention, based on the American revulsion to inherited titles; or connected to the decrease of identical names with suffixes "junior" "III" or even "IV"? Or is it immigration and globalization, which increased the name pool to thousands? Probably a combination....I'm doubting that Elizabethan England, with all its Johns, Williams and Marys, talked much about the freshness or a name, or argued between generations...there just weren't that many names to choose from.

April 22, 2010 1:53 PM

Continuing from the last post-
I'm so happy Azalea had such a warm reception! When I was little (late '80s to early '90s), there was a bright pink lipstick from Avon called Azalea Splash. As an artist and NE, I've always been in love with cosmetics colors and their names (so poetic!), and that name has always stuck with me.

This post is making me cringe, because all I can think about is that one day names like Brittany, Amber, and Ashley (these names made up about 1/5 of the girls I went to school with- absolutely sick of them!) are going to be fresh/nostalgic, and maybe even used in used on a future great-granddaughter.

Question- what name would you hate to see revived in future generations?

April 22, 2010 2:01 PM

I completely agree with this for the most part. I love 2 of my great granparents names...the other not so much I find them to be kind of boring Robert William " Bob" and Elsie...I guess Elise isn't that common just not my style.

I personally would not like to see names like, my own ( Amanda ) Chelsea,Britney, Amber..all the names so over used while I was in school that all throughout you went to school with at least 3 or 4 of them at a time. Nothing wrong with those names just so over done in my era that I am tired of them.

I have another question for you all...I am still working on my girl name list ( its not going that well). My husband really likes the name Mischa..I am unsure of it. What are your thoughts on this name?

April 22, 2010 2:02 PM

i think we're approximately the same age (i was born in '85), and i assure you i would be equally horrified if i had grandchildren or great-grandchildren named brittany, amber, and ashley. add to that list lindsey, tiffany, and stephanie. they're not bad names, so no offense intended to those who bear them, but as the post says, they're from my generation, and all i can think of when i hear them are the nasty popular girls i knew in high school.

April 22, 2010 2:20 PM

A repost from the last thread...

Amy3, Eben is pronounced Ee - ben (accent on the ee). I have a dear family friend with this name--he's in his 80s and is the nicest man I've ever known. His wife's middle name was Florence, so their license plate read "Eb & Flo".

By jenjen (not verified)
April 22, 2010 2:23 PM

Great post, Laura! And doesn't that totally explain the generational naming gap. I think the exception to this rule is when you give family names, which a family name, and then the named child may be out of sync with its peers (Excellent comments on the choice of nicknames - I'd argue that "Beth" is the Elizabeth pet form rooted in the 70s!)

Our daughter is Lydia - my husband's grandmother's name. We are the babes of the family, and my eldest brother-in-law wanted to name his firstborn Lydia back in 1980. Grandma forbid it - she said her name was awful. And, upon reading this post, I remembered that she was named after her aunt. So, Aha - that's why she missed the appeal (Meanwhile, we hit the sweet spot - plus, Lydia isn't ubiquitous. . .yet).

April 22, 2010 2:25 PM

emilyrae -

I'm an '87-er and I know exactly what you're talking about! I would add Alexandra to that list - I knew several "nasty popular girls" by that name in hs.

As far as the generational differences are concerned, I have a story. My great-grandmother's surname was Marks, and she was telling my grandmother about how she'd recently heard of people naming children Mark, and how she thought it was very strange. Coincidentally, my grandmother had just named my father Mark. Something similar happened when my parents named my brother - that same grandmother told my parents about a strange name she'd heard recently - Taylor. Which is just what my parents named my first brother!

I don't know about all of you, but I go through name phases. When I was 12 (1999), I was all about Katrina, Monica, and Danielle. When I was 15 (2002), my favorites were Madison, Riley, Bailey, and Avery. My taste has again since changed. I intend to check the statistics to see how I compared to the top names of those years.

My grandparents (in their 80's) are G3orge, Cl@ire, Jos3ph, and M@ry Ann. I would definitely call them "old" names. My aunts and uncles (40's-60's) names don't strike my fancy, either, but I'm not sure why - Sus@n, C1ndy, Lorra1ne, J@cqueline, Jonath@n, John, Ke1th, Eug3ne, Don@ld, Rose, Stev3n, and M1chele. These days I prefer classic boys names (i.e. William, Charles, Benjamin) and slightly non-traditional names for girls (i.e. Indiana, Cassiopeia, Kennedy).

By adriennej (not verified)
April 22, 2010 2:54 PM

Would the distance change any if the generations are farther apart than average?

Our family has 30+ year generations, so would that add an additional decade or two to our favorite names?

April 22, 2010 2:56 PM

emilyrae - I too was born in '85!

I also want to add Jessica, Alison, Sarah, Amy, and Jennifer. While I like them in theory, their overuse growing up ruins them for me. Maybe by the time I'm old enough to have grandchildren and great-grandchildren I'll have come around to loving them.

About name phases- during puberty/early adolescence I loved kr8tiv names (I'm all about old-fashioned names, now - guess I'm right on point with this article). I made up Chasenne as a feminine play on Chase/Jason. Funny thing is, Chasenne doesn't seem at all out of place in today's trendy name climate.

April 22, 2010 2:57 PM

Very interesting post! I've noticed that in my area great-grandparent names are definitely on the upswing. With all the little Alice and Evies running around, soon there might be lots of little Henriettas, Geraldines (Deanie would be a cute nn) and Agathas. A very lucky friend of mine was listing some wonderful names on her family tree. Her great-grandmother was one of nine (!) children, their names: Sylvia, Simon, Rose, Toby (f), Helen, Joseph, Albert, Frances and Harold. I'm recently loving Harold, It could be the next Harrison, I think.

April 22, 2010 3:15 PM

Laura, I love waiting for your newest post and graph, and then turn to my husband to tell him, "Ooh, Laura has a new graph, it's really interesting" - think he struggles with the level of analysis I put into names!

This is an interesting one. I think my mum's favourite names can all be put down to her time in her twenties in the early 80s - Stephen, Joanne, Colin, Dawn, Nicola, Katherine.

My generation (mid-late twenties) are definitely looking back to the early 1900s for names, but interestingly I think are more likely to pick the nickname over the actual name. My gran was Mary, but everyone called her Molly/Polly, and my great aunt was Margaret, known as Peggy. I know two baby girls born in the last year called Molly and one called Peggy. I can't see many Margarets appearing on birth certificates, but the name derivatives are.

April 22, 2010 3:23 PM

I was a child of the 80's too, and agree with the previous posters who are horrified at the thought of grandchildren named Brittany, Tiffany and Amber. All I can hope is that by then, high school will be such a distant memory that we won't mind so much! :)

By Amy3
April 22, 2010 4:18 PM

@Elizabeth T, thanks for the info about Eben. So, if I understand the way your friend pronounces it, it roughly rhymes with Steven. Is that right?

I've seen both the ee-ben and the eh-ben pronunciation listed at various name sites (Namipedia offers no pronunciation help), but most people talking about it online seem to go with the eh-ben pronunciation, which I do think could be confused with Evan. Still don't know which one my niece will be using.

April 22, 2010 4:10 PM

I'm surprised that Heather hasn't appeared on the forbidden list, yet. Then again, it's almost too stereotypically the mean girls name to count anymore. (Of course, as a guy, my mean-girl experience pretty much ended in third grade.)

Azalea's a lovely name and I wholly support its use. A perfect way to subvert some popular sounds into a name that's traditional but not.

As for naming trends in Elizabethan England, just before that, when Henry VIII ruled, the big name was Thomas. It's like everyone was named Thomas, and then, nope, that's boring now, John and William are fresh.

Regarding Mischa: I'm sure your husband is thinking of Mischa Barton, but when I hear Mischa, I hear it as the nickname to Mikhail--it sounds Russian and male to me. But that's probably just me. You could suggest similar names. On trend would be Mia and Mira. Milla is another possibility. Felicia rhymes.

April 22, 2010 4:34 PM

Speaking of names of the past, I have a friend named Lisa who named her daughter Anna Lisa (first and middle but goes by both). I feel like Lisa has the potential to come back one day, more so than Brittany and Tiffany which seem so stuck in their time (but maybe that's because they are more recent than Lisa...). It was popular for a good chunk of time, but as a nickname for Elizabeth/Elisabeth I could see it getting revived a generation or two down the road. I guess it's really perception that makes the difference. When we were considering Shoshanna my sister told me that it's "such an old-lady name in Israel" (which it is, but who cares?). I guess the generational sweet spot is international as well!

By moll
April 22, 2010 4:47 PM

@NJ: That's an interesting observation, and I wonder if maybe the nickname over formal name preference is cyclical, too. If you look at the SS rankings for 1880 - 1900, quite a few of the popular names are nicknames: Bessie, Lottie, Carrie. And you're right, it looks like we might be in it again - think Maggie, Jack, Max.
Of course, there's some counter-evidence for that, since a lot of today's parents were born in a nickname-name era: the 1970s, with its Lauries and Tammys.

@ the '80s babies: 1986 here! I think it's funny that our grandparents' generation used to say how ridiculous it was that someday there would be a Grandma Brittany or Nana Tiffany, and now what we're worried about is seeing babies with our generations' names! Luckily, these shouldn't come into style til we're great- or great-great grandparents, so we have a while to think about it.

This whole conversation illustrates why so many people choose "classic names", like John, William, Elizabeth, and Katherine: no generational friction!

Azalea is really very pretty.

By Saskia M (not verified)
April 22, 2010 4:55 PM

I'm sixteen and I think Conrad and Joyce are hideous. (Conrad starts with "con", for example, and "rad" means bicycle in German -- bad combination! And Joyce -- wouldn't Joy be better?)

I'm much more partial to Julius myself. I think it's more likely that the current naming trends will stick for a little while, at least until my generation has grown up and had kids...

By hyz
April 22, 2010 5:10 PM

According to the pattern, I don't think we have to worry too much about grandkids named Amber, Tiffany, Crystal, etc.--I think those would be our great grandkids or later, since our kids will see those as the old/middle aged names of their parents and not want to use them. I think what we really have to fear are a lot of grandkids named Nancy, Barbara, Linda, Pamela, Brenda, Janet, Sheila, etc. and Steven, Gary, Ronald, Keith, Larry, Jeffrey, and Wayne, etc.--i.e., our parents' names (not that my parents have any of those names, but a lot of my older coworkers and aunts do. These are the names that really give me the chills.

NJ, I'm surprised to see Peggy on your list of new babies, and I'm really suprised to hear you think that would be a more popular choice than Margaret these days. I'm assuming you're not in the US? Peggy sounds totally middle aged and frumpy to me (like the King of the Hill character, to a T), while Margaret is classic and strong and has so many prettier nn possibilities (from my point of view). Is Peggy a very old-fashioned name where you live?

Oh, and I also really like the Azalea-->Sal suggestion as an awesome alternative to Sequoia/Sawyer-->Sal.

April 22, 2010 5:34 PM

Becky - I actually like Lisa. Not sure if it's just part of my recent "L" fixation but I'll add it to my ever growing L list. BNW2 does say it is more timeless than the other super popular girl names of the 1960s.

April 22, 2010 5:50 PM

I do love thinking about the generational cycle of names. I hate most of my parents generation of names but my grandparents names aren't seeming so bad to me. Then again I'm in my 30s and my grandparents are in their 80s so that might be the difference!

For those who love Petronella I have a friend named Petronella who is also in her early 30s. Her nicknames are Petti or Petra. It is a lovely name and quite unusual.

April 22, 2010 6:42 PM

I love the name Peggy, but I would chalk that up to Mad Men. Never really cared for it before, but she's one of my favorite characters on the show, making me really come around to it.

I've noticed a really strong parallel to popular names now to those of L.M. Montgomery characters, namely the Canadian show 'Road to Avonlea' that aired on the Disney Channel about 15-20 years ago. Here's a sampling of names I've cherished for years (could the people who watched this as kids have this same thing in mind?) that are getting lots of play lately, or else will be soon-
Henrietta (Hettie)
Augustus (Gus)
And that's just the tv show. Her books are veritable goldmines for classic names.

I love the name Sheila!

April 22, 2010 5:57 PM

I sound so impressionable listing all these television shows...

April 22, 2010 6:33 PM

I've pondered on:
and Eaden

By knp
April 22, 2010 6:59 PM

MynameIStalia: are you a Criminal minds fan??? I recognize some names in there.... :)

April 22, 2010 6:59 PM

After posting about how much I loved Lindy, I remembered Lynndie England. Maybe not the best association. Visually though, they are quite different.

Barbara C: Your grandmother was named Golden? Or did I misread that? If she was, I think that is awesome. Is there a story behind it?

namedaftermygrandmother: Ooh, I love your point that this generational thing may be a relatively recent phenomenon...

ilikemints: i'm totally into colors and their names too. i love paint chips! i wouldn't call myself an artist... i never thought about this being connected to my interest in naming before. hrm...

Bubblebee: I think Mischa is cute, but I associate it with Mischa Barton (pretty strongly) and I think I would expect that a Mischa be Russian. Although I guess that would be Misha? Well, in any case...

re:Eben: Sublime has a song called Ebin. They pronounce it eh-ben. fyi

adriennej: Interesting question about families with longer generations. I would guess that it is more about the way names are perceived in the general population (e.g. as "grandma names," "mom names," etc) than what any given person's actual grandma's (or mom's, etc.) names are.

April 22, 2010 8:03 PM

Moll: Some of those "nicknames as full names" on past SSA popularity lists may be an artifact. Remember that until the IRS started requiring Social Security numbers for claiming dependents (in the 1980s) most people did not get a number until they started working (and nobody had one until the SSA was established in the 1930s). Some people when applying for their SSN as a teenager or adult may have put down the name they are often called (i.e. in some cases a nickname) instead of their full name. Nowadays with SSNs usually attained shortly after birth it is more likely that the card will have the same name as what's on the birth certificate, and thus fewer nicknames on the list (in most cases the "nickname names" on the recent lists probably reflect a nickname-type name on the birth certificate).

April 22, 2010 8:01 PM

Chimu-I have the name Petronella on my family tree. It got shortened to Nellie upon transition to the states.

All this talk about forbidden names of the past makes me sort of laugh. I went to school with many Lisa's, Joan's, Jeffrey's and Steven's. Yet I find these names melodic and classic in a way. I do not care for Mary or John. I find those boring. Names like Cassandra, Alexandra, Victoria, etc. sound 70's but exotic. I would think about naming my children these names. Brittany, Tiffany, and Heather are still too 80's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" or Valley-girl for me. However, I shy away equally from Violet, Gertrude, and Ruth who are on my family tree in the "grandparent" generation. I could almost see the babies of today being named things of my parents generation Robert, James, Carol, and Jean. I guess maybe its just that I'm a bit older than some on this board and also maybe because I started late with the marriagae and kids thing. Or maybe its just simply personal style.

Speaking of names of the generations, my DS went to a club meeting today. Here are the names I remember of the 8-10yo:
Ryan x2(b)
Ryan (g)

April 22, 2010 8:08 PM

I normally just read/lurk here but decided to chime in on this post, especially because my name was just mentioned upthread (a rare occurrence). I know very few Lisa's my age but so many of my friend's moms are named Lisa. It's weird because since I'm mature for my age (19) and my name was popular one generation ahead of me people always think I'm older than I am. Interestingly, when I was little I wanted to change my name to Michelle (a la Full House) because I thought it was less of a "mom name". I guess my parents are the exception to this rule, since they named my sister and I names right from their own generation- Lisa and Robin. I love old names so I find this post very relevant to my own name taste. My grandparents are Iris, Jordan, Sandy and Stanley. I'd use Iris and maybe Stanley of that set. My great-grandparents were Sylvia, Isaac, Bertha (nn Birdie), Adler, Mina, Robert, Helen and Paul. I'd use basically all of those except Bertha, though I love the nn Birdie. I once mentioned to my grandmother that I love the names Harriet and Fredrick and she was somewhat appalled. Oh, the generation gap :)