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 ER2005 (not verified)
April 22, 2010 9:15 PM

We got some surprised reactions when we named our daughter Eleanor. Several people asked if we were planning to call her Ellie because they thought it was so cute. They were again surprised when we said she would go by her full name.

We are strongly considering Beatrice for our next daughter and have gotten some negative reactions. It sounds fresh to us but others still only picture an old lady. Do you think people will come around after meeting a little Beatrice?

April 22, 2010 9:47 PM

The most hilarious thing about this post is that my father and his sister are actually named Steve and Karen.

By RachelMarieS (not verified)
April 22, 2010 10:09 PM

This post is so true! My mom and I have totally different tastes in names. While I like names like Elijah and Alice, my mom likes names such as Ann, Lauren, Jonathan, and Jacob.
I think parents become more daring in their name choices with each generation. They're more willing to stray from their grandparent's traditional names. Working as a swim instructor, I see many kids each day. Here are a few names i've recently come across:
Carolina and Jolina (twins)
Dima and Elaina (twins)
Barbara and Dori (twins, Dori might stand for Doris?)

By Cathie (not verified)
April 22, 2010 10:23 PM

Our son is George for family reasons and the most negative reactions to his name come from 50-somethings (much older people tend to say things like "oh a little George isn't that cute, my brother/husband is George"). People in their 30s and 40s think it is ho-hum (maybe because they still know too many?) vs. people in their 20s who have actually called his name "cool" (probably because the only ones they know seem really, really old!)

I think I've told this story before, but a few years ago when my daughter was learning to read she deciphered a street sign "Lisa's Closet" but pronounced it Li-za. When I corrected her, she said "Lisa? That's a funny name!" She'd never heard it before! So there is one that will sound fresh one day when someone is baby naming... so hard to believe!

My 93 year old grandma is Esme, so that one's on trend, and our 89 year old neighbor is Julia.

The one thing I don't get is why some names just don't seem doable anymore vs. others that can be revived. Why are Doris and Horace such no-go names when their contemporaries work?

April 22, 2010 10:27 PM

Lisa Paige- I can absolutely relate to being named in the wrong generation, although for me it's the opposite. My name is Audrie and I was born in '86. Growing up, I very rarely heard of or met anyone with the same name. Lately I've begun receiving all kinds of compliments on my name as everyone has a child, neice, grandaughter, or other baby they know that was just named Audrey!

It's strange to think that my name will most likely be associated with this next generation!

By Cathie (not verified)
April 22, 2010 10:28 PM

I have to say my mom is an exception... she must be a closet NE! Her top name suggestion for our daughter was Beatrice and for our son it was Edward (before Twilight). Both are pretty spot-on trend-wise I'd say. In fact she is more name trendy than I am!

By knp
April 22, 2010 10:34 PM

a friends recent blog mentioned this very topic!! (the comment is mine)

By Philippa The First (not verified)
April 22, 2010 10:36 PM

Lindy: Sweet name (I like it as a nickname for Linden), but I totally only hear Lindy Chamberlain when I hear this name. Not a *bad* connotation per se. Just a prominent one. Her real name BTW was Alice Lynne. Lindy was a nickname.

Peggy: I have a high school friend- verrrry trendy- who just named her daughter Peggy last year. I don't know if it's short for Margaret.

Mischa: This one drives me CRAZY!! I was under the impression that this was a Russian version of Michael/nickname for Mikhail. I have known only boys with this name (ok, two in 29 years but whatever) and zero girls aside from Mischa Barton. I love this name, and would consider using it except that for some reason BNW considers it a girl's name. It even shows up in the BNW book in the "Lacy and Lissome" list. As a name that's "unmistakably feminine". What the what?! It's a Soviet dude called Mike! The least feminine character there is! Ok, rant over. Sorry.

By Beth the original (not verified)
April 22, 2010 10:42 PM

What's hilarious(ly painful) to me is how old I am compared to so many posters. The idea of "Lisa" as a mom-name cracks me up, because of course the Lisas and Jennifers and Michelles were those nasty popular girls and I can't imagine them as moms. Whereas the Ashleys and Brittanys and Tiffanys were the kids I babysat as a teenager in the 1980s. And of course my name is, yes, the fossilized 1970s pet name for Elizabeth (but back then, Beth was considered more interesting than Lisa!).

I skipped the generation gap in a funny way. My family has a 10-generation matriarchal naming tradition for first daughters: Elizabeth alternating with Caroline. When I was a kid, my mom's name Caroline sounded awful to me. I couldn't imagine slapping such a prickly name (hard c, n, the long o and i) on a kid. I thought Laura and Emily were the most beautiful names ever. When I found out I had a girl, I thought well, hmm, Caroline isn't so bad, and I hate to buck a 10-generation tradition. I checked in with my partner to see if Caroline was acceptable to her. It was, and so we had a Caroline; I secretly wanted to nickname her but didn't. A year or two later, I was stunned to see that there are so many little Carolines, no nickname, running around! I never checked one name book and found this site after she'd been named. Who knows what I would have decided if I had.

So my Caroline gets to name her first daughter Elizabeth. I bet she picks "Betty" as the cutest, freshest nickname ever -- my grandmother's nickname. My great-grandmother Caroline was a Carrie, which almost sounds new again, except for all the dratted Kerris and Karis I grew up with. The nicknames I wanted to use are Carly (very "now") and Caddie (so "then" it's almost unintelligible.

April 22, 2010 11:17 PM

I would say that I'm actually fairly close stylewise to my mom (in names that is). I mean she chose to name me Laura so her taste must be pretty awesome =) Right? She likes all the names I've picked (one of my daughters is named after her though, so I cheated). Perhaps that's because all my kids names have come from the "timeless" category and mine and my siblings names came from that category as well as BNW2 indicates it's the safest of categories. (The exception being that she thinks a boy name Jude would be teased as a Judy not realizing there are no more Judies).

Our generations are also spaced out more than most. My maternal grandmother was at least 70 when I was born and my paternal grandmother was 76. So my grandparents were the generation of most of my peers great-grandparents. Their names though aren't "typical" of the early 1900s though: Catherine & Timothy and Linilda & Elias Theodore (he didn't care for Elias and went mostly by E.T. or Ted)

By Eo (not verified)
April 22, 2010 11:28 PM

So much of name commentary focuses on huge, generational trends. But I do like it when individuals tend to "buck" their so-called generation's favorites.

One person on this board who seems to do that consistently is zoerhenne, who is unusual in reaching back to fairly recent decades for some of her favorites...

As to liking or disliking my parents' names-- Katherine and Gordon-- I liked them quite a bit. Katherine is fashionable and Gordon is not, but I like the way they go together, esp. as my mother was called "Kitty" or "Kit".

lisa paige-- "Birdie" IS darling! I've also heard it as a nickname for "Bridget", along with the more usual "Bridie/Bridey"...

April 22, 2010 11:32 PM

One thing that interests me about the nicknames is the ending. In 1900 most girls' nicknames ended in -ie (Bessie, Carrie, etc.) At some point the -ie changed to -y (Betty, Kerry, Molly, etc.). And then the -y changed to -i (Traci, Jenni, etc.)

What's the current trendy ending? Is it -ee like crime victims Jaycee, Natalee, and Caylee? Or have we moved on to -ey or -ye? I'm not up on these things, I guess.

April 22, 2010 11:57 PM

@ smismar
Vivian is lovely. Sylvia was a good choice.

@ Barbara C.
Ruby has well and truly come back! It has risen higher in the U.K. and Australia than America as yet. They're being differentiated by their surnames here [Ruby A., Ruby S.] in schools.

April 22, 2010 11:58 PM

This is so, so true! My great-grandparents had awesome names, in my opinion: Eleanor Faye, Manuel Marshall, Whit, Rose, but they get worse from there... Flonnie and Edna?? :P Not as bad as Fred, Dick, and Mary though; those are my grandparents. Love them, but the names are ughh!!

My parents picked our middle names from their great-grandparents' generation too. My 15 year old sister is named Emma after our mom's great-grandmother (so she got to be slightly ahead of the whole Emma explosion) and I'm Corinne after a great-great-something aunt from that same generation. We lucked out I think...

April 23, 2010 12:14 AM

@ ER2005
Beatrice is my favourite name, and it is coming back - though rest assured it will never get to be top 10 or anything, I don't imagine. The people who gave you negative feedback probably aren't in the know. ;)

Other sister name ideas for Eleanor:


April 23, 2010 12:47 AM

Beth- that is so cool that your family has a ten-generation naming tradition!

lisa paige- I agree that Lisa could totally come back. It is definitely a name that has a more classic vibe than a dated one. I too love Birdie! So cute. I could see it as a nickname for Roberta as well, or maybe Liberty.

ER2005- i love Beatrice! I think it goes really well with Eleanor and the nickname Bea or Bibi is adorable. Another name that fits is Josephine (I actually know sisters Beatrice and Josephine, aka Bea and Josie, so cute!) and even Charlotte.

Eo- I can see Gordon coming back as a hipster name in my area. Gordon reads kind of nerdy professor type to me and so many names like Dexter and Rufus and Barnaby are on the verge of becoming hip for that reason. I could totally see a little Gordy running around my neighborhood.

Also, someone mentioned street sign names. Well, as we live in downtown Manhattan there are a lot of named streets (rather than numbered). Some in our area are Perry, John, Jane, Christopher and Duane. We live on Perry and every time my sons hears that name or any nearby street name on a person they turn to me and get this confused look and ask me why that person is named after a street. I guess there aren't a ton of Johns and Janes and Christophers in my area so the names are unfamiliar to them, but it just cracks me up.

April 23, 2010 3:08 AM

hyz - I'm in the UK. The little girl called Peggy was baptised the same day as a Bonnie. These are definitely the great-grandmother names over here.

Margaret is the name of quite a few of my friends' mums (1950s babies) so I can't see it doing the generational cycle here for a good few years.

It's interesting reading the US folk's comments on here - I don't know a single Brittany/Tiffany (I'm an 1984 baby) and the two Ashleys I know are guys (I don't know if it is a male/female name in the US) - my 80s names were Joanne, Laura, Jennifer, Katherine, Stephen, David, Andrew, Jonathan.

By Tatjana (not verified)
April 23, 2010 5:25 AM

delurking to mention the Germanic name Birte which I've recently seen used with the nickname Birdie/Birdy (in Germany). Birgit might work, too.

By Amy3
April 23, 2010 6:56 AM

@Beth, you and I are probably contemporaries. I'm a late 60s Amy and my classmates were all Jennifers, Lisas, Michelles, Mikes, and Jeffs. Like you, all the Tiffanys, Brittanys, and Ashleys were a good 10 yrs younger. A name it's hard for me to stomach coming back is Tammy. Blech. (Sorry to all the really great Tammys out there!)

Re: Beatrice, this is definitely an up-and-comer so I'd imagine any negativity will melt away once a) your baby is born, and b) people meet more little Beatrices/trixes/Beas. I think it's lovely with Eleanor.

Re: Horace and Doris, I do think Doris will come around sooner than not. It's a little consonanty for some, but once we tire of the -a ending for girls' names, the -s will seem fresh. Horace is fighting the wrong ending now too (plus that beginning may be a tough sell in a world that loves L and J starts), but I bet Becky starts to see some Horaces in her nabe in the next 10 yrs!

As for me, I guess I'm a mix. I like some of the names from my own generation (Jessica -- ending doesn't work with our ln though), from my parents' (Mary -- simple and classic), and my grandparents' (Hazel -- how on-trend, hipstery!). My great-grandparents' generation has some good ones (Gustav -- love, but my husband despises the U sound), but also some that are just ok to me (Ellen -- probably suffers from being my sister's name). The other great-grand names I know of are Anna, Anton, Clara, and Jenna.

Although, as I noted ^^ it seems we made the generation-gap choice when we chose Astrid, just not within US naming! That's particularly funny to me.

By Philippa The First (not verified)
April 23, 2010 7:59 AM

On Lisa: I definitely think that if we are predicting future grandmother/trendy names, this is the one. I even like Lisa and I was born in 1980! Concentrate and it's much more of a sweet, classic, European pet name than an 80s superstar. I love it as a nickname for Elizabeth. Or compounded into Annelise.

By SarahC (not verified)
April 23, 2010 8:42 AM

Hi there,

I have posted my same naming dilemma a couple of times recently and have appreciated all the feedback, so I thought I'd try again (not that I have much new to add!) as I'm 39 weeks today and eek, no name! We do not know if this baby is a boy or a girl. We have a 3-year old son, William John. Our last name is 3-syllable Irish.

Any thoughts on the below? thanks!

Caroline (this is probably our #1 contender, just having a hard time with nn - Callie/Carrie I suppose could work)


Gretchen/Greta (husband says no on these, but I'm sure I could talk him round!)

Evelyn (sigh, it won't be used due to my prediction of future popularity but I still like it)







James (Jamie)

Charles (Charlie)

Edward/Edmund (no nickname really, maybe Ted)


Alfred (Alfie). I've already been told no on this one but I like it!



As you can see, I tend to sway more classic/old person name. My fear with old person name is it being trendy to do that these days.


April 23, 2010 8:53 AM

Very interesting post. I actually found that, although my mother and I have very different taste in names, it goes more along the lines of her liking more mainstream names than I do, at least when it comes to girls' names. When my oldest was born, my mom was pushing really hard for Emily, Isabella or Olivia which I found too trendy (I mean, really, they're like, top ten!). For boys' names we fit the profile a bit better; she was horrified at the name Henry at first. "Old man!" she said. When I asked for her suggestions all she could come up with was Adam (her "name not taken" for my brother who ended up Eric) or Joseph (my brother's mn). In the end she's come around. I'm not sure how she'd handle my current favorites though: I love George or Frederic for a boy and Camilla or (inexplicably) Lorraine for a girl.

I shudder at grandchildren named Jean or Barbara or Linda, Wayne, Lloyd or Donald. I wouldn't mind Craig, Brian, Steve, Diane, Lisa or Beverly. When Barbara and Don grow up and name their daughters Kristy and Amanda and Danielle I think I'll be expecting it.

SarahC: My daughter is Caroline (age 6) and she really likes her name. We either call her Caroline, Caro (rarely) or Lina (pron. Line-uh, not Leen-uh). She especially likes Lina and it's distinctive without being weird. One mother remarked to me that it's like Linus for a girl which I hadn't thought of before but I suppose it does have the same sound. So in my very biased opinion, Caroline is a great name. :)

By RebeccaE (not verified)
April 23, 2010 8:54 AM

I was born in 82, so I also have the cringing associations with Tiffany and Brittany. On the bright side, they could go the way of Edna and Humphrey - names that despite being in that "sweet spot" great grandparent zone, still have a musty smell to them.

I have a sister named Deborah who is 2 years younger than I am, and she's always complained that most people she meets with her name are at least 20 years older than she is. She's also expressed a love for the name "Ruth," which also falls into the generational sweet spot.

And I must admit that before I came to this blog, I thought I was the only one who wanted to name a daughter Eleanor! I still love the name, but I've been waffling between the traditional spelling and "Elinor" (like Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility). My husband thinks spelling it with an I would be pretentious, though, and I consider myself lucky that he likes the name at all (my original favorite, Helen, he vetoed as sounding too old).

By Eo (not verified)
April 23, 2010 8:58 AM

Interesting you should mention the "-lise" ending, Philippa the First.

Although I'm not a fan of Annelise, there was a journalist here in New York state named something like "Lise Bang-Olfsen" or something like that.

I was taken with "Lise", which I suppose is specifically a Danish or other Scandinavian version. Therefore, over here in North America, it has a more timeless feeling than the equally lovely "Lisa", which at one point here got over-used.

Lise just has a simplicity and purity that I find rather striking.

And, apropos of this, Amy3's comment is prescient-- the names ending in "-s", regardless of origin, are a sound that will possibly become increasingly attractive. Yay, Glynis and Dilys, Brooks and Piers!

And I say this as one who, especially when feeling exuberant and unheedful, has a tiny bit of a "lithp"!

By Eo (not verified)
April 23, 2010 9:07 AM

Oh-- it was "Lise Bang-Jensen", not to be confused with the Bang Olafsen (sp? That spelling doesn't look right.) electronics people!

April 23, 2010 9:23 AM

Eo: Are you predicting a come back for Doris? My Grandma Doris will be pleased!

By sdh
April 23, 2010 9:38 AM

My mom's name is Donna and I just can't see that coming back as popular, but I suppose it will.
I am a mid-70s Sarah. I do know one baby Sarah, it is a name that seems to stay popular across generations.
My dad kept suggesting the name Deana for a girl before we found out we were having a boy, which just made me cringe (no offense).

--SarahC, I guess it depends on where you live, but around here in new england Caroline is extremely popular. I know a ton of little Carolines. So if you're worried about Evelyn becoming popular, I would worry about Caroline too. I do also know a few little Evelyns, but far more Carolines. That said, I do like both names. They both go well with William.

April 23, 2010 10:36 AM

Sarah C, what a fine list of names. Of your girls' names, I especially like:

Caroline - I don't think the name needs a nn, but "Caro" could be a sometimes shortening. I think Caro may be the usual shortening of the name, if any, in the UK.

Jane - is a real 'find', a lovely classic that's way down the SSA list (390 in 2008). The newest member of my family is called Jane (now 2.5 months old). Her parents chose the name because they both love it and because her mother wanted a name that isn't trendy. I love the name too.

For a boy I especially like:

James - can be "Jamie" when he's a young boy and James later, if he chooses. (That's the way my youngest son 'wore' the name. My grandson (7) is just James.)

Edward/Edmund - love Teddy for a little boy and Ted for an adult. Or you could just call him the full name. (But if your William is called "Will", an Edward or Edmund might end up being "Ed".)



I like your other boys' name choices too, except I don't think Ryan coordinates as well as the others with William.

By mersey (not verified)
April 23, 2010 10:49 AM

Agree with the previous poster on Tammy. Pat, Kim, Lee, Terry, Edna, Sandra, and Joann also inspire dread as potential comeback names.

The common denominator in these names? They're all 50-something managers/supervisors I had in my late teens, early twenties! So, older than my mother (whose name, N@ncy, I might incorporate as a MN), but younger than my grandmothers (W@nda and B3rn1ce... I suppose my daughter will find these appealing? I hope not!) Women I associate with trite, mundane anecdotes about gardening, spoiled kids, dieting, etc. Whiny, uninspiring authority figures whom I dutifully tried to please.

To be fair, I loved both my first sup and her name = J0celyn. A friend of mine just named her dau "M0lly A$hl3y J3nn1fer" and it felt dated from the get-go. So maybe it's not entirely an age thing. I also think multicultural influences will strongly influence name diversity in my region within the next generation, so maybe these will age gracefully after all.

April 23, 2010 11:06 AM

Just some thoughts on Bertha:

I think Bertha's problem is very much sound-related. There's the "Berth" in the name, for one, but there's the whole "BUR" sound that just feels so... yeah.

Yet the name comes from German, where it's pronounced "Bair-ta" and loses a lot of the baggage in the name's feel.

Bertha comes from Bert, meaning "bright." There are similar names in other cultures: the aforementioned Birta, for example. "Bert" also appears in Germanic names as "Brecht" so other Bertha-names are Breda and Britta (Bridget and its Germanic forms of Birgit, Brigitta, Berit are from the Celtic, meaning exalted).

Although I don't think Bertha deserves its reputation, there are similar enough choices today that it's probably not worth worrying about its loss too much.

April 23, 2010 11:11 AM

sdh - funny, my dad really likes the name Donna.

By Guest B (not verified)
April 23, 2010 11:14 AM

Let's see... grandkids that would make me cringe the most would be along the lines of Dawn, Shelley, Crystal, Steven, Brian, or Jeffrey.

I could get a sweet hipster sibset out of my grandparents' names though: Morris & Elfie!

Bubblebee - I like Mischa, sort of in the same way I like Sascha. If it I weren't for Mischa Barton might consider it male.. so I guess it's a good association.

Re: Eben - My association is the Sublime song.. specifically the stand-out line with rising intonation.. "my friend Ebin IS A NA-ZI!"

Re: Beatrice - Maybe I shouldn't comment but I get a strong 'beastly' feel off the name, like a Beatrice should be an arrogant yet insecure, butterface type. I know it's harsh, but the name comes up so often.. is it just me?


I love Caro as a nn for Caroline. In fact I don't think I'd like Caroline without Caro. It's classic yet "spunky" as the saying goes around here. William and Juliet would go nicely. I like Jules as a nn. I actually think a Leah would stand out among other less traditional names with the same sounds.

Elsa sounds like an old German woman to me, and I'm not a Gretchen fan, due to the 'Grrrrr' and the 'retch.' Greta is better, but with a European voice like Grete.. I feel like North Americans give it a real "gr" and "uh."

Your boys names all work with William. I thought Alfie was considered a bit chav? I'm not English, so excuse me for being probably wrong.

By Daffy Castilian (not verified)
April 23, 2010 11:19 AM

It's interesting to think about how the graph would change with other maternal and grand-maternal age differentials. This earlier post, one of my favorites, makes the point that older moms tend to have older moms themselves and vice-versa:
It also observes that older moms prefer timeless classics while younger moms gravitate toward newer names.
As the distance between generations changes, the lines converge differently. I wonder how those dynamics affect the choices that we make.

My own mother-in-law gave birth to my wife when in the early '70s at the age of 31. We didn't have our first child until last year. The lack of naming common ground was flabbergasting and our ultimate choice gave the MIL fits. So, I can understand why others in our boat would gravitate toward timeless classics, and I wonder if that doesn't shed more light on the conservative choices that predominate in blue states.

By SarahC (not verified)
April 23, 2010 11:44 AM

sdh - I'm a mid-70's Sarah too! As far as where we live (now), it's Ann Arbor, Michigan. I don't really see any Carolines around here (nor Evelyns). I tend to see Caroline as a more 'classic' name (regardless of popularity, like William) than I see Evelyn (which strikes me as the category of revitalized old-person name).

Guest B - ha, had to laugh at the 'chav' comment on Alfie. I am not in the UK anymore (not since I was a child) but yes, I'm sure it has the east-end lower-class connotation. I am 99% sure we would not use this name, but I still thought it was 'cute'.

April 23, 2010 11:49 AM

Elizabeth T: It’s interesting that you bring up the –ie ending that was common in the early 1900’s. I’ve been noticing that trend recently too. My GGGGrandma (emigrated from Wales to the States right at the turn of the century) was Jane, NN Jennie. I’ve never been fond of Jennifer (grew up with 2 in my tiny school of 100 kids K-12), but Jennie has really been growing on me. I’ve been searching for ways to get that NN without having to go the Jennifer route. I do like Jane, NN Jennie, but I’m looking for other options, too. Maybe Genevieve, NN Jennie?

Lisa Paige & Audrie: I am also in the ‘wrong generation’. I am an early ‘80s baby named Carol. My name peaked at #5 in the 1940’s so most Carols are 35-55 years older than me—and are grandparents. When I was younger, I liked having a name that no one else had. Then I realized that people DO have my name—just not any young people. That changed things for me somewhat. Also, for a while I longed to have a ‘frilly’ name like Ashley or Kaylie. Of course, in light of today’s Isabellas, Arabellas and Olivias those names no longer strike me as frilly at all...though I feel like ANYTHING is frillier than Carol.

April 23, 2010 11:51 AM

I had a great-great grandmother with the name Ersie. I'd always assumed that it was a relatively common name alongside Elsie, but when I checked the NameVoyager, Namipedia, and a quick search of Google, I didn't find anything that supported that idea.

Is anyone else familiar with this generational name? My NE tendencies have piqued my curiosity as to where this name came from. I've put out some inquiries within my family in hopes that someone may know a family story on this.

By hyz
April 23, 2010 12:02 PM

SarahC, I think you have a lot of nice name choices, but you're definitely coming down to the wire! Hope you and your DH are able to agree on some winners soon! Here are my thoughts:

Caroline--Great name, and I like it with no nn at all but if you must, I think Caro or lina (I prefer the Lee-na pronunciation) are both fine.

Juliet--also lovely, but I think I prefer Caroline

Gretchen/Greta--I have some love for German names, so I like both of these, but esp. Gretchen. My main association with Gretchen is a very accomplished, tall, lean, strong, and buisness-like horsewoman who I grew up around--someone who would be quite accurately described as "a handsome woman" and who was so dignified and correct she seemed beyond reproach. Anyway, I like it.

Evelyn--fine name, agree its popularity is rising, although Caroline and Juliet are both more popular around here.

Leah--not a big fan, personally.

Elsa--another favorite of mine, being the German name-o-phile that I am. It makes me think of a sweet young blonde girl, though, not an old woman.

Clare--lovely, classic, but also very popular. If that doesn't bother you, you can't go wrong with Clare.

Louise--This has grown on me a lot over the last couple years, although I still shy a bit from the "wheeze" sound, and prefer Louisa, if that does anything for you.

Jane--another classic, can't go wrong choice.

Ryan--not a huge fan--see Laura's hockey post awhile ago. This seems like a huge name of the 80s to me.

James (Jamie)--a smooth yet strong classic. I like it, although prefer it with no nn.

Charles (Charlie)--great name, another classic, I'm a big fan.

Edward/Edmund (no nickname really, maybe Ted)--fine, although I prefer both James and Charles.

George--not a big fan. I think it sounds a little stumbly, and it also makes me think pretty immediately of our previous president, which is not an association I care for.

Alfred (Alfie)--not a fan of this one, either--still sounds very stuffy to me.

Matthew--fine, but too '80s for me, and not a fan of the "ewww" sound.

Thomas--another great name, can't go wrong.

Ok, so my top picks for you would be Elsa, followed by Caroline, Gretchen, Clare, or Jane, and for boys, James, Charles, or Thomas, with no clear winner there (FWIW, James, Charles, and Thomas are the names of my dad and 2 of his brothers. My dad's other brothers are Joseph (Joe), Paul, and Richard (Dick), if those do anything for you).

April 23, 2010 12:01 PM

This post made me think of my cousin. She has two preschool-aged kids named Christine and Stephanie, which make them sound like they were born during their mother's era (early '70s) rather than the 2000s. The girls' middle names sound very '70s as well.

Honestly, based on names alone, I would find a little girl named Nancy or Barbara more interesting than one named Isabella or Kaylee.

April 23, 2010 12:18 PM

I seem to be against the trend in terms of 80s babies who would be horrified to see those names come back. Sure there are some that I personally just don't like, such as Brittany and Chelsea, but in 60-70 years (or however long it takes before I have grandkids/great grandkids) I can totally see names like that starting to be viewed as fresh and perhaps even classic. Plus by then there will be the family connection and new parents may want to name their babies after great grandma Amber, because they had such great memories of her.

@ER2005 - I think that people will come around to Beatrice once there's an actual baby to wear the name. I believe that was the name of Ramona's older sister in the Beverly Cleary book, so I don't even see the name as an 'old lady' one. (plus, as others have mentioned on previous posts, those old ladies were once children and their names clearly fit them then)

@SarahC - here's my thoughts on your names.
I really like the name Caroline, especially with William and a three syllable Irish ln. And I second the idea of Caro as a nickname. Jane would probably be my second choice for a girl from your list. It’s a name with a history, like William, and I feel like the single syllable would balance nicely with a longer last name. And Jane will probably remain less popular for the time being than others on your list (Evelyn, Elsa, even Caroline)
For boys, I think that James (Jamie) goes really well with William (and the hypothetical ln I’m mentally using for you). I like the others on your list, but do agree some will probably become more popular. I think that especially applies to Edward, which will be rising up the chart in the next few years because of the Twilight effect. On the other hand, I don’t see Ryan as becoming more popular anytime soon, since in my mind it’s more of an 70s/80s name and hit its peak in popularity then. I also don’t think George will become too trendy any time soon; many people probably still associate that name with the former president and I think it will be awhile yet before that association wears off. Matthew and Thomas don’t strike me as trendy names, they are more in the classical, timeless category, so either of those would avoid the trendy label.

By Lilllie (not verified)
April 23, 2010 12:25 PM

My parents must have been ahead of their time. They named me Lillie at its nadir on the popularity charts -- 1982. Of course, because my name was destined for an eventual comeback, people my own age have always told me they loved it! Probably because it's a rarity among their own ranks.

Meanwhile, my grandparents tried to persuade my mom and dad to name me Catherine -- which would be much more normal for a 27-year-old woman in 2010. It's funny that they weren't pushing for a stodgier-sounding (to me) name.

April 23, 2010 12:47 PM

SarahC-You have really nice names picked out. I have a 6 year old daughter named Clare! At this point I'd suggest looking to how they pair with your ln to help identify the favorite. I know one baby name book suggest that the repitition of sounds between first and last names - particularly the prominent vowel sound - makes for a pleasing choice.

April 23, 2010 1:07 PM

I'm glad you all think my name could come back one day. I think it's interesting too look at the gap when it comes to naming amongst older mothers. I'm from New York and in my area most of my friend's parents were at least 30-35 when they had them, if not older. In my grade of 50 girls (small private school) I had three Carolines, three Julias, two Katherines but no Stephanies, Ashleys, Jessicas or Amandas (all top 10 names in 1991). I'm not sure if it's the urban effect or the fact that older parents are maybe less prone to trendiness, but it always shocked me. As soon as I came to college I met tons of Stephs and Brittanys and was quite surprised. Interestingly, in my group of peers there were many "old" names that are only now coming back into fashion. These girls were probably given the names either for family reasons or because their parents found them vintage before the rest of the world did. Some examples are Charlotte, Celia, Constance and Sofia. None of those names were particularly popular in my year of birth, however I knew multiple girls with these names in my area.

Becky- I'm from the city as well! Growing up my Elementary school was located on Madison Avenue. When I was in Kindergarten we had a class bear that was named Madison, because that was the street our classroom looked out onto. I'm sad that the name is so popular now, because it still reminds me of that sweet bear and the wonderful Avenue in Manhattan.

By SarahC (not verified)
April 23, 2010 1:26 PM

Thank you all for your helpful analysis of my name choices! Ok, I'll go ahead and tell you my last name (Cav@naugh). I think I am tending to agree with your comments too, so I am hoping we can 'get there'. A couple of other tidbits that might be good to know:

William John (our son) was named after his 2 grandfathers.
Grandmothers' names are 'Carol' and 'Jean' (so we thought Caroline Jean would be a good one!).

My maiden name is Thomas (is it a bit lame to name a child this way, even though it's a classic?).

Edward came about because I like it, but it's also my father in law's middle name.

I wanted to find a way to honor my late grandfather too, but his name was Roy and I'm not sure that would fit in anywhere.

I have a feeling if it's a girl, Caroline Jean will do just fine (she can run a mint julep stand one day, ha). Boy....maybe James Edward or James Thomas (ok, am I naming the kid after Thomas the Tank engine now?!). Everyone seems to think it's a girl so we'll see.

Thanks again!

April 23, 2010 2:02 PM

SarahC- You've gottne lots of comments about your names, and I think from your last post above, you've mostly made up your mind. However, fwiw I will offer my htoughts:
Caroline: love this with William. Not sure about the alliteration with your LN though. I also thought for nn options you could do CJ for either Caroline Jean or Juliet. I've always thought the nn CJ had spunk and cuteness at the same time. Equally, you could do Juliet Jean and have nn be JJ or Juliet Caroline and nn of JC(Jaycee might not be the best association in US though).

Gretchen/Greta: Fine but not my fav
Evelyn: good but popular
Leah: nice and unexpected
Elsa: not for me
Clare: great choice and could do same as Caroline nn's above
Louise: I like Louise as a mn
Jane: also nice as mn

Ryan: okay
James: too expected
Charles: not my fav
Edward/Edmund:good mn
George: not my fav either
Alfred: maybe mn
Matthew: Love this name personally but doesn't seem to fit right for you.
Thomas: good

By Lucky (not verified)
April 23, 2010 2:05 PM

Thought I’d catch up from the beginning now that I am no longer in total panic over realizing Sequoia might not be the name I was looking for! Thank you for all your help. Have I told you how much I love this blog? It is so wonderful to feel like my name choices are not offensive!

I am looking forward to the results of the risers and fallers. It is like when they announce the Emmy nominations or first round draft picks for me. : ) I think I’ll try to take more notes this year, so I feel more confident in my picks.

Now on to the next blog: names from my generation, I wouldn’t mind seeing on my grandchildren: Carolyn (Carrie), Nathan, Adam, Stacy/Tracy, Erin, Megan, David, and Scott. I guess these are all still around, but I haven’t heard them on young kids in a long time. I might wince at Jennifer, Brittany, Tiffany, Stefanie, Shannon, Diana and Michael. Mainly due to negative junior high associations than the names themselves. I know a little boy named Lev and I love the name, but his grandparents were horrified to hear this “old man” name on a baby. I think they’ve come around. I should ask my parents what names they like, but since they named their kids John and Mary (with a completely generic last name like Smith), I don’t give them a lot of credit! My FIL named all three of his kids after they were born – apparently from looking at the other names in the nursery while MIL was in labor. I can’t imagine that! I have a great-aunt Olive (in her 90s), so it is funny to hear Olive at the playground now. Her sister was Josephine (nn Jo), also common around her. Maybe her parents are where I got my NE ways from. Her dad was Ge0rge Finley B0vard, so I may have named my son after my ancesterial NE. What a nice thing to think about today! My grandfather’s name is Lowell. And I can’t see that making a come back any time soon! I once told my grandmother Florence that I liked the name Hannah, and she told me that was a “slave name.” What are you gonna do with that?!

My dad’s name is B0vard (nn Bo). I like it, but my brother used it as a middle name for both his sons, so I think I should spread the name tribute around a bit!

Was it an earlier blog on here that nicknames seem to rise as given names when the economy is bad? (Betsy instead of Elizabeth, Molly for Mary, Jake for Jacob, Jack for John) I wonder if we’ll be able to see that again looking back on the last few years.

Elizabeth T.: I think some of the endings may be regional as well as generational.

Hyz: LOL at your predictions of future baby names. Can’t imagine having grandchildren Barbara and Gary!

Ausp4: I love both Cora and Hazel. Great sib set too. It is interesting to have the push back on Hazel but not Cora.

Barbara C: I think you have some real treasure trove of names in your family tree. Lucky you! I know a woman who goes by Goldie. I wonder if her full name is Golden.

ER2005: I think of Eleanor and Beatrice as normal baby names, and I think they go well together. Congrats on your impending arrival of DD#2!

Lisa Paige: I was named Mary in the mid-70s. People usually assume I am 10 or more years older before they meet me. When I moved to a less diverse area – suburb of Seattle, I met other Marys my age, but growing up in Los Angeles, I was the only one! ** My dd’s full name is Bird, but she is named after two great aunts – Elizabeth and Roberta – both nn’d Birdie. I think there are many ways to get to Birdie if you want to. And I love the name – can’t imagine her as anything else.

Philippa The First: I think I’d go with Alexander if that is the name you love. It doesn’t matter if there is another Alexander down the block – esp since you don’t think you’ll both be in the neighborhood long term. I think naming a cousin the same name is much more contentious – esp if they’ll share a last name too. That is bizarre. Have you spoken with them since Rose was born? I think the middle name isn’t as big of a deal unless his parents plan to call him William/Will/Biill. Are you close enough to them to ask what there plans are for calling the baby? And/or explain that William is still at the top of your list b/c it is such a wonderful name and would they be ok with that? What does your DH think about William and/or Alexander now? I also don’t think you should apologize for debating between classic names like Alexander and William. They are different names and will be a major part of your child’s life. I like them both. I would probably go with the nn Xander and Will if it were up to me. My B/SIL planned to name their baby William and call him Liam, but switched to Evan when he was born. *** I have two students who are bff (seniors/12th grade) named Aubrey and Morgan – also both boys. They don’t get teased for having “girl’s names” either. I think kids may be more accepting of gender name flexibility than we were! I have two students named Madison – both girls.

Miranda: I love Sylvia Pilar. I think they sound beautiful and sophisticated together. Plus Sylie is one of my fave nns. How much contact do you have with your ex? Is he your ex-husband or boyfriend or somewhere in the middle? He may not even remember that he was fond of Pilar or assume that you are “taking” it from him. Does DH know where you became aquainted with the name? That would be my concern. That DH would think I was naming a baby a name of a baby that I’d imagined having with someone else. Does that make sense. I wish I didn’t have the Sea-witch connotation because I do think Ursala is a beautiful name too. How about as a middle name? For a nn Lula feels a little too close to Layla, Leila, Lucia which are all super popular in my neck of the woods.I like Eo’s suggestions of Suley for a nn. Or how about Sula? Or even Sal? Wow! I just solved both our nn dilemmas! ** just saw you were debating between Camille and Pilar. I have to give my vote to Camille.

Eo: I can’t imagine a baby names Craig. There is nothing wrong with it. It just feels so dated. Think they’ll name his brother Gary or his sister Jodi? Whenever I hear a name like that, I wonder if it is after someone.

Jane, Mother of Five: Congrats on your new boy! That’s wonderful! Is there a book where the child is called “Charles Wallace”? Maybe “A Wrinkle in Time.” It sounds so familiar. I love it. Sorry you lost Graeme. That is always in my top five – even though my brother used it as a middle name for his daughter. I think Cormac (nn Mac maybe), Edmond, Miles and Peter go best with your other children’s names. Are any tugging on your heart? What about Joshua as a mn? I don’t think Cormac is any more Irish than Patrick. I think the 70s explosion or Irish baby names – Ryan and Erin – should allow there use without an assumption of heritage. I like that Isaac means laughing, but it does seem a little off from the set. Ike is a cute nn though. I think Peter is an awesome and underused name. Pete is good nn too. How do you feel about the alliteration with your last name? I like NJ’s suggestion of Harry. It’s a nn for Henry too, right? Like ElizabethYCCII’s suggestion of nn Teddy for Edmond. Def. a happy name! ** I’d hesitate on Nicholas if you don’t like Nick. It is just so there for so many people. I do know a Nicholas called Nico, but he is only a toddler. I don’t know how much control his parents will have over his nn as he gets older. ** I like Reid too.

Ladybird: I think Galen would be hard on a kid. What about Gabriel?

Amy3: I love Gustav with the nn Gus. You have a lot of good names in your family too!

SarahC: I vote for Caroline, Greta, Leah and Jane for girls. I think these fit will with William and aren’t too trendy. All your picks are lovely though. For boys, I like James, Matthew and Thomas. These seem more in line with William than Alfred and George. Hope you aren’t too uncomfortable in this last week (or so)!

Becky: I love your son’s fishes’ Hebrew names. That is so delightful! I love Ruth too. Classic and unusual. ** Don’t you think the Madison name trend started from “Splash” when the mermaid named herself after a Manhattan city street. The name Macy makes me think of the store and Manhattan too.

Mara & Named AMG: I think I picked Violet as a riser too! I love it and Ben Affleck’s daughter is a cutie who I thought might inspire parents.

Julie: Congrats! And welcome Linnea! Hope you are all doing well.

Zoerhenne: Where are you in the world? I’ve never seen most of the names in your March list. I Corday for a girl though.

SoonToBeMama: I like hyz’s suggestions of Patricia and Patrice for Trixi. I also thinking starting a name with Tri- could get you to Trixi. Maybe Trinity or even Teresa. (Saw I am agreeing with lucubratrix and emilyrae here!) I think it is super cute nn, but think I’d want a full name to fall back on.

Chimu: Congrats on your pregnancy! I missed your initial post – but I LOVE Clementine. DP isn’t so into it, so I probably won’t get to use it. I’d love to see it in real life. I like Astrid too. Bird would have been Theodore (nn Teddy) if she were a boy. Apparently, we are on the same name wavelength. : ) ** I love Soleil – but then I’d want to call her Sol, which I also like, but we are trying to stick with Sal to honor our sisters (Sandy, Amy and Linda).

Another Laura: I think the more first name-y your lo’s first name is the better. Of course, this would be easier with a girl. I think Tyson is a common enough last name that it won’t be too confusing if you go with something that could also be a last name. I have friends with the last name Frank, and they really struggled to make their ds’s name not sound like two fns. ** thanks for the additional info. on Azalea.

BubbleBee: I love the Norwegian name Tone (pronounced Tuna), if I didn’t live in the US, I’d def use it. I also like Linn and even though it is Swedish – Svea is a beautiful name. Taking Lula would probably feel like salt in the wounds of your aunt. I like Greta too. ** I like Mischa. I think of Mischa Burton, but I don’t know if any non-Gossip Girl fans would. ** What about Berret (sp?)? I think that is a lovely name.

Katharineeleven: I think Lily works for Angelina. I like Lina or Nina more though. Lily is super popular in my neck of the woods. I don’t think Angelina seems low class. I wonder where that’s coming from. . . . ** I do think Katharina is too close to Katherine. Maybe as a middle name? Or if you usually go by Kathy or Kate it would work.

ANON: Totally missed the Harrison P@lmer masturbation angle – was just thinking it was too close to Harry Potter. And I’m a heath teacher!

Emilyrae: You are right in remembering our kids have symbols. And Selena would get us the moon. As would Sala . . . .

Qwen: Thanks for looking up the male/female Sequoia ratio. I think in Northern California, people are much more likely to think tree. Of course, she may someday live in Oklahoma/Texas and have more people make the Cherokee association, so it is good to know it isn’t 100% boy in an area with more Native Americans.

Jenny also: Sienna and Sierra, while both lovely, feel too popular to me. I know I live in a nature name pocket!

Also ZR: We had a dog named Sadie – actually she was mainly called Psycho Sadie. So that is out even though it is super cute.

Becky: Love Lindy – know an adult (45ish) whose full name is Lindy.

Beth the O: I really like Caroline. It was my mom’s first choice for me, but my dad was somehow able to persuade her to choose Mary. I like Carrie as a nickname too, or Caro. Caddie makes me think of Lindsay Lohan, but that is only b/c I have watch “Mean Girls” way too many times. I doubt other people would have the association. In the movie people are constantly calling her Katie, and that seems like a very real possibility.

Ilikemints: Thanks for the Azalea suggestion. I’ve never heard of the show or book “Road to Avonlea,” and I am about 10 years older than you, but I like most of the names on that list. I’ve always thought the rise of Hannah had to do with Jamie Lee Curtis on some tv show in the late 80s/early 90s. And Taylor for a girl to the movie Parenthood.

AFM and our naming debate: I love the flower Azalea and like the name, but I have a hard time getting Sal from it. I pronounce the “zal” in azalea like sail, and I pronounce Sal like the man’s name Hal. Do others pronounce it differently? It certainly would work with our other kids’ names.
DP thinks we should name her Sal if we want people to call her Sal. I see this point, but not really liking my own name – I would like to give her more options if I could. Though the potential nns from Llewellyn are vast.
I think Sawyer is off the list. I was feeling ok with the Twain issue, but coupling that with the gender question (I thought it was fairly in the middle, but I guess not!) + throwing Finley’s gender into question – gave it too many strikes.

It is funny to read the gender responses as we are toying with all these names that are not clearly in one camp or the other. Our Llewellyn would be the most recent in a long line of Llewellyns – all male. The Llewellyn of our generation – even though it is a middle name – hates it and always says people think it is a girl’s name. NEs know better! I agree Cypress could go either way, but Cy is such a boy in my head it would be hard to use it for a girl. I can’t imagine Sequoia for a boy. The a ending, plus knowing two female Sequoias and my strong association with the tree over the Cherokee Chief, make it clearly a boy name.

I love the sound of Salome, but the dominant association is just too strong. I’m not sure who suggested it, but when I google imaged Salome – it was clear that it was too much to saddle a child with. DP doesn’t like Salina or Salma.

I like Sailor too – but DP thinks other people would think we were naming her after some celebrity’s baby (Kristy Brinkley?). She sees it as the equivalent as using the name Suri. I disagree, but veto power is strong around here! I also liked Wilhelmina’s suggetstions of Sabine and Savanna. DP veto’d those too. : ( Grrrrr!

So is Sala too close to salad? Or does it sound made up. I admire the former congresswoman Sala Burton, but I don’t think many people outside the SF Bay Area or outside the public health field would remember her. There is also a Sala tree, I believe. Would it be silly to name a child Sala and then call her Sal since it is only one letter shorter?

As far as liking a name out of generation: I really like Nancy (nn Nan). Dp has deemed it too middle aged. And our last name has a N ending so Nan –son doesn’t sound good to my ear.

Thanks for the compliments on Annaflorence. I love it still.

OMG! I just refreshed the page and there are 10 more posts. I'll never catch up. So here's my best for now. Again, thanks for your help on baby #3. I'll keep you posted!

By SarahC (not verified)
April 23, 2010 2:19 PM

Oops, forgot one more late arrival suggestion:

Clive Edward


I sort of feel I'm walking a fine line between 'classic' and 'boring'. Something like Clive and Elsa seem a little different without being too out there. But Caroline and James seem more safe and classic. ho hum.

By SarahC (not verified)
April 23, 2010 2:37 PM

zoerhenne - thanks for your FWIW - it may sound like I've made up my mind, but I keep changing it, so comments are still welcome!

I feel like the hard 'C' for some of my first names, paired with the hard 'C' of my last name makes something like Caroline sound a bit jumbled, so it's holding me back a little. I do like something like Evelyn Jane, but not sure I could pull the trigger (plus the whole 'honoring parents' by choosing their names is kinda nice too, with Caroline Jean).

Lucky - thanks also for your comments!

So yeah, not decided. Just obsessing :)

April 23, 2010 2:47 PM

you win a prize for longest post ever (in a good way!). :]

regarding azalea,
i don't want to speak for everyone, but i think most people (definitely me) also pronounce the "zal" in azalea as "zail" and pronounce "sal" to rhyme with "hal." i think the idea was just that going from "zail" to "sal" isn't such a big stretch when you consider some other traditional nicknames like peggy from margaret or buffy from elizabeth. compared to some nicknames, a-"zail"-ea to "sal," makes a lot of sense.

i understand your husband's idea of "we should name her what we want people to call her," but i tend to feel that it's nice to have something longer or fuller or more formal to fall back on. for example, i'm very glad my parents didn't name me em or emmy. however, obviously you both should do what feels right to you.

April 23, 2010 2:47 PM

I wonder if one of the reasons Bertha is doomed is the phrase "Big Bertha". I have no idea where that came from, but it came to mind.

Sarah C: I think using your maiden name as your son's name is a really nice idea and not at all lame. Why NOT have your name carry on in that way? I think that Caroline is such a classic (and classy) name that Caroline Jean doesn't have the on-the-farm Southern feel that some other names with Jean might. You will have alliteration with your last name, but I think a double "C" is one of the ones that can be pulled off without sounding humorous, personally. If you really do want to honor your late grandfather, Thomas Roy isn't bad at all, even though Roy might not be your style.

This is maybe a stretch, but when I looked up Roy on, it said that it's a Gaelic name meaning "red". I just assumed that it was related to the French "roi" for royal. You could use a name like Roan (which is also red). I'm not sure you're REALLY honoring your grandfather, then, though (I think we've had that discussion before here).

I do really like Thomas Edward C. and Tom C. is a really good, classic, but not overused name.

You could also maybe use a derivation or different spelling of Jean: Jeannette, Jeanne.

It seems like David comes up really infrequently, at least on this board. I'm not a fan of Dave, but I've always really liked David (my crush in 1st grade was named David, so maybe that's partly why). Is that name time stamped (in that Matt, Nick, Dan, Dave way)?

April 23, 2010 2:57 PM

sarah c,

i like all of your choices except for ryan. actually, i don't DISlike ryan, it just strikes me as very odd and out of place with william.