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.


April 29, 2010 10:22 AM

Thanks for all of the help everyone !

@ Chimu
I completely agree with everyone else’s suggestions of what to. What you could also do, is maybe both of you make a list of say 10 or 20 names that you would never name your kid or consider using. That way, you know what type of style your partner avoids & you can maybe see where you have similarities or differences. The negative side is that one of you may list a name that the other likes & one of you get a little upset. However, it might help you if one partner is into things like Walter & Gertrude & the other likes Lily & Amber,so that you get a middle ground.
Another thing you could do is to look at the birth announcements in your local newspapers and start talking about them with your partner, so that you are both aware of current trends in your area & what’s viewed as acceptable. Also, by paying attention to the names of people in newspapers, you can see what names are associated with different eras & that might help if one of you is against ‘old’ names or ‘very young’ names.

@zoerhenne & lucubratrix
LOL ! I actually have list of names that I’d never use, and Richard & Robert are both on it. I actually have a ‘name-tiff’ with Robert ! They aren’t bad names, but they just don’t resonate with me. Rogan is actually a legitimate Irish name. I can’t remember the meaning, but I discovered a few years ago when I was reading a Nora Roberts book. I think it was Born In Fire. Anyway, for a LONG time Logan had been of my top fav boy names, but I’ve let that one go as a first because it’s a bit too American ( I know it’s Irish originally,)and Rogan seemed strong and dynamic, as well as being a good substitute . I also like Ro as a nickname – which is ironic because I don’t like any Ro- names for girls (don’t get me started on the Rose- names). Plus, I liked the sound of the name, as well as liking ‘r’ names. I have a HUGE love & appreciation for Ireland, so I was always searching for Celtic names- I still do love Ireland.It basically fitted the criteria at the time of being a little bit different & totally Celtic.

I think it’s interesting what you said about Phoebe & Piper not being ‘grown-up’ names .I’ve across that before. What I’ve noticed is that fans of Piper, for instance all have the same view of it ; they imagine a strong, independent woman that doesn’t take rubbish. I completely understand where you’re coming from & have come across this opinion with others. To me, Phoebe in a way fits in with the whole Maisie,Milly thing that vintage lovers like (which isn’t necessarily a good thing as I’m not a fan of the style, but anyway) as well as the character in Charmed was an adult. It’s interesting what you say, because to me, Emily has never really seemed like a ‘grown-up’ name. When I think of Chloe’s & Emily’s, I can picture either someone between 1 and 20 or from 70 +, but it’s that 30 to 70 that I battle with. Between the Katie’s & Julies that full grown adults are wearing, it kind of fits in for me.Plus, the FEE beginning (excellent point that you made) , shares it’s beginning with Fiona. I think it’s the BEE – specifically the –EE ending that makes people find it younger.

I think it’s the extra two syllables of Penelope that make it seem different.Piper & Phoebe are both said quickly, whereas Penelope isn’t said ‘quickly’ as well as being longer. Both of you have really good points and made such sense. It was very interesting what you both said & I do appreciate it

@ Craig
That’s just one of the reasons why this forum is the best forum that’s out there. It’s honest, helpful advice that is never rude. The people here aren’t judgmental or think that they’re better than other’s because they like a certain type of name. This is an open, wonderful forum & the ONLY forum that I’ve ever come across that is like this. So many others are rude & clickey . I’ve found that the people here are truly helpful & polite. It creates a flow of thought that a person never would have thought of & adds to how you view a name. You also learn about names here just by seeing what people have to say & what names they’ve listed as their favorites.

I completely know what you mean ! That’s actually why I was saying ‘’my theoretical daughters”. I mean, I could end up with 6 boys & completely different names than I like now. See, I’m often looking at names & have since I was little because I write stories & poems and often need names. That’s what drives my search of it. Also, my partner might HATE all of the names that I like. I believe naming is a 50/50 thing & both parents have an equal say.So, if my spouse hated half my list I’d take off all those names . I think it’s one of the reasons that it’s good to make lists. I keep record of when I like something & slowly it builds up and you get a variety of styles, so that when I do eventually have the kids, I’ve at least got options & am open to something other than what occupies my top 20 lol

This is possible a bit premature, but looking at my ‘name past’, I haven’t changed in style. And it’s not for a lack of effort or looking for new names. I tend to always come back to the same names . . Most of the names on my list today were on my list when I was 10. It’s like when I find a name that I truly like, that I like it forever. It almost becomes engrained in my psyche. Kind of the same that I’ve always like white, blue & red but never green. So, going on my past, I think it’s most likely that the names that I like when I’m 30,35 or 40 might be the same. This could all be absolutely naïve, but it’s weird, because some of the names on my list I’ve for over a decade. Maybe that’s a bad thing.I tend to have skipped the name developmental gene :( But then again, life , this could completely change & I'm just a late developer .......

By Craig (not verified)
April 29, 2010 10:22 AM

By the way, I love this website.

April 29, 2010 10:30 AM

@ Craig

I never saw your post and was busy writing when you posted yours.

April 29, 2010 10:37 AM

@Philippa and Linnaeus-

I'm interested in the hyperlexia thing too. When I heard the term a few years back I figured it had something to do with the synaesthesia, since the colours and textures help me codify everything from verb endings in other languages to telephone numbers and birthdates. Like you I didn't struggle in reading comprehension, though I do sometimes struggle with graphic information (I never, ever retained anything from "educational" films, and I still have very poor plot recall for movies). I'm also reserved and a wee bit socially awkward :P

April 29, 2010 10:37 AM

oh, hmm. i actually think my name transitions rather easily from childhood to adulthood. all the literary emilys (bronte, dickinson, post) lend it some weight, in my opinion. at any rate, it's always served me rather well.

April 29, 2010 10:53 AM


I hope I didn't offend ! I didn't mean to. I do try and take into account what I say & how it may affect someone, as I don't mean to offend at all.If I did, it was not on purpose.

I think that's just another example of how people differ in opinions.It's the same way that someone finds something like Julie,Amy or Katie as being too youthful - another finds that it ages well as in their experience & knowledge it does.It's all relative to the person. For me, while I do know of those women being a life-long bookworm, in my day to day life or area, my initial connotation is different.

For instance, I've seen people say that they find Julie is too young and isn't professional. When I think of Julie, I think of Trudy & Judy - hello Judge Judy, so it does age well to me.

I am glad that your name has served you well & that you are happy with it

April 29, 2010 10:59 AM

oh, no, no offense. everyone is different, of course.

April 29, 2010 11:06 AM

Oh, that's good !Whew! What a relief. I would have hated it if you did.
You do have very good points, though.
It is amazing how different everyone is.

April 29, 2010 11:34 AM

I see that a lot of people do prefer the Tzipporah with two p's spelling. However, since Ruth was kind of my idea and DH loves Tziporah with one "p" we will probably end up using that spelling. It is also the way his great-aunt, who went by Tzipa, spelled it. Back then of course she was living in an exclusively orthodox community so everyone would have recognized the name as Tzih-pa not Tz-ee-pa. Also, I'm not sure if other parents have noticed this but the only people who ever use my children's middle names are me, Ethan (dh) and sometimes our parents. Therefore, I'm not so concerned with pronunciation. Most everyone receiving a birth announcement will recognize the name, and if they don't they can google it. I will let DH know that the opinion here is otherwise though and see what he says. At this point though I'm willing to let him make the final decision, I guess to me it doesn't really make a huge difference.

April 29, 2010 1:50 PM

Hey everyone, I just wanted to pop in really quickly and ask a question. You all probably have seen that Sandra Bullock has adopted a baby, and she has named him Louis. What I'm wondering is if you think this will have any impact on the popularity on the feminine form of the name, Louisa? It's my favorite girl name and what I'm hoping we'll name this baby if it's a girl (depends on DH), so I don't want it to start shooting up. I knew this was the place to ask!

April 29, 2010 1:55 PM

My prediction is that Louisa will become a modest hit (maybe spiking in the 300s) but not for five years yet. For some reason it is still unusual even among hipsters. Go for it!

By Guest (not verified)
April 29, 2010 2:04 PM

Bubblebee, if you don't really like Mischa, tell your husband that Mischa is a Russian boy's name (nickname). For example, Mikhail Baryshnikov was known as "Mischa" to his friends. Men would generally prefer to name their girls more "girly" names than traditionally male or unisex names.

April 29, 2010 2:22 PM

Ok Craig, glad the situation was fixed. But it also seemed from your tone that you were angry that "fathers" didn't get mentioned very often in general not just Laura's thread. I think we were all just trying to make you aware that this board is very accepting of the differences in people's situations. We often acknowledge that DH's + DP's are very helpful in the naming process. However, I think the concensus among Americans is that they don't. Not a great stereotype, but none of them are.

April 29, 2010 2:40 PM

Ok totally missed page 7 when I printed the above.
Craig-Glad you find this board pleasing. I hope you stay!

Empathy-I think Louisa will enjoy a modest gain from a few different levels. 1)It is an L name 2)it is an "old-lady" name 3)it has great namesakes However, there is something it either does or doesn't have that I can't quite detail. It is not like the others in the "old-lady" category. It also doesn't have great nn's (Lou, Weezy). Maybe it's the W sound in the middle. Are there other top 50 names with W's in them currently?

April 29, 2010 3:59 PM

I'd like to know how Sandra Bullock is pronouncing Louis. Being originally from the UK, I'm assuming LOU-ee, but I know lots of people in the US pronounce it like the name Lewis. I prefer the former, although I also like the name Lewis, when spelled as such.

April 29, 2010 4:17 PM

re Louisa: I think eventually this name will get more use, but at the moment I agree with zoerhenne that it's lack of a cute, reinventing nickname will cause people to shy away. Think about the old lady names that people already love: Evelyn nn Evie, Eleanor nn Ellie, Adeline nn Addy. Louisa only offers up Lou and Weezy/ Ouisa (like in Six Degrees of Separation). I know a youngish Louise (preteen age now). She goes by Lulu at home but to everyone else she's just Louise.

The only other name in the top 1000 with a "w" sound is Julia which has the "ew/oo" sound, but not the hard "wee" like in Louisa, so I guess it has more of a U sound that W. I think this is also true about the "ur" sound, like in Ursula and Muriel, or the "eu" sound in Eudora and Beulah. Something about the letters w and u that people just can't seem to deal with...

April 29, 2010 4:27 PM

I guess I can kind of see where people would shy away from Louisa b/c of nn's. I did that at first myself, and then I started finding Lulu really cute and Lula, too. I've even read at a few places that Lucy can be a nn for Louisa, but I'm not sure. A bit of a stretch???

April 29, 2010 4:30 PM

i was actually kind of thinking that the /u/ sound was making a comeback. as in julian, juliana, lucy, ruby, juniper, etc. however, i don't anticipate eudora and beulah joining the throng.

By hyz
April 29, 2010 4:30 PM

I agree about the "wheeze" putting people off Louise--at least, that's true for me. I like Louisa much better, though--somehow the "wheeze" is less prominent in it for me. Lulu is a great nn for a little Louisa! I also don't tend to like "eww" sounds, either in Beulah, etc. or Matthew.

And, Becky, that's interesting--do you pronounce Muriel with the same "ur" as in Ursula? I've known several people named Muriel, and they all said it as "myur-ee-el", like mural with an extra syllable in the middle.

By hyz
April 29, 2010 4:32 PM

emilyrae, I agree, and I think that u pronounced "ooo" is definitely much more appealing these days than the "eww" options.

April 29, 2010 4:53 PM

Sandra Bullock is indeed pronouncing her son's name LOU-ee, like Louis Armstrong, whose "What a wonderful world" apparently influenced her choice of name.

April 29, 2010 5:12 PM

I think the "oo" sound is definitely making a comeback. I was more saying the the "ew" sound of U was not as appealing in most names. I've heard Muriel both ways. I know a woman who has it as her middle name and she says "murry-al", though I know the more common way to say it is "myur-ee-all". Either way, to me it has the "err" sound in it that I was referring to. I guess to my ear the "yur" in "myur-ee-all" and the "ur" in Ursula are very close, aside from the "yuh" sound. It's hard to describe, but my ear for pronunciation is very strange from being around so many languages in my life. I pronounce a lot of things the wrong way :]

April 29, 2010 5:19 PM

EVie: Cool! I am a huge research dork...

By hyz
April 29, 2010 5:26 PM

Becky, I agree the "yur" and "ur" sounds are both less widely appealing than other vowels, at least when they're stressed. They're prefectly accepted at the end of names, like Sawyer or Hunter, but at the beginning--Ursula, Erwin, Irving, Irma, Urkel (lol)...--I think they sound more dated/unhip to most modern ears. (That said, Ursula has definitely been growing on me, and I *might* be able to warm to Irving a bit, too.)

April 29, 2010 6:51 PM

Philippa and Blythe:

I'd consider myself similar. I know about how hyperlexia is described as a condition combining educational challenges along with precocious literacy, but it's probably mainly because if kids just learned to read quickly, no one would consider it a problem or give it a term.

For me, spatial reasoning is part of the package. I was (and still am) fascinated with maps and the relation by distance of different areas to each other. I have a pretty thorough sense of geography (for me, it's more like a sense than knowledge). Many times, a situation, conversation, task, whatever, starts to take on a particular physical and/or textual shape (yes, textual, not textural). The insight gained from how close or far certain parts of the shape are from other parts of the shape manifests itself as me occasionally making non-sequiturs that--for me, anyway--define the situation. Filed, understood, connected to the whole, next item please.

An odd thing happens when you learn to speak at the same time as you learn to read. Nothing is native. Yes, English is my native language and my language skills have faded to the point that it will remain so, but the written word "cat," the sound of the word "cat," and an actual cat are associated but fully independent. It's like what happens when you learn a new language: Okay, so the cat is a "Katze," pronounced in this way. There's still that level of separation between the word, its sound, and its representation.

Furthermore, since I learned to read and speak at the same time, spoken words don't necessarily hold my attention better than written words. That whole management line about how face time is the most valuable and email the least? Not for me. That's one thing I had to learn about differently.

That's a major crux of the "social awkwardness" of hyperlexia. I might look for words when others might look for a face or listen for a voice. The sign will grab my attention before the person. Have you ever had to ask a person for directions, just to be shown the sign nearby? I've searched signs just to realize that the person I'm looking for is right there.

Also, it makes me seem to pay less attention and have less emotional response to people, even when I am paying attention. It's more like ADHD than autism. Not only do the words matter, but because of the separation of words and sounds from meaning, the position of each object within a scene is of importance.

Also, Noam Chomsky drives me up the wall. The way he describes language is nothing like my experiences with it.

April 29, 2010 7:44 PM

Well the internet gremlins stole my previous post re the Louisa thing and Sandra Bullock. Basically, I agree with the "ew" thing and Lula being a cute nn. Lucubratrix found the Sandra Bullock article.

Linnaeus-your post was fascinating to read. I love reading and find that some social situations are difficult because I don't know what to say or how to act exactly unless I read about them or are told what to expect. It's kind of funny because I do tend to talk alot on subjects I'm passionate about. Mom used to say I was "vaccinated with a phonograph needle" LOL! Anyway, I find I sometimes have to look away from people when listening to a speech in order to comprehend the volume of information sometimes. It's like I'm creating a book in my head to read from instead of just listening. I've also always been a very good speller and LOVE word games.

April 29, 2010 9:14 PM

Linneaus, thanks for explaining what it is like for you to be hyperlexic. One of my cousins learned to read as he was learning to speak as well and I remember being intensely jealous because he was reading all the soup cans in the kitchen and I couldn't (he was two; I was four). He is definitely socially awkward, but I always attributed that to his DNA--we come from a weird family! :), He's also extremely musical. Do these traits often come together?

By Pip
April 29, 2010 10:48 PM

For me, my "hyperlexia" manifested itself in extremely early self-taught reading and writing as a young child. As I grew, I was definitely a reader, a good speller, and very interested in word games. I never had any diagnosed learning disabilities because I always tested extremely well, but I have realized as I have gotten older that I am *much* better with the written word, both in terms of my comprehension and in terms of expressing myself. I'm not particularly good at verbal expression because I get bogged down in the particulars of the scenario in which I'm speaking (who is in my audience, the emotional "climate" of the room, others' facial expressions and body language, etc). When giving a presentation, I basically have to write out *everything* I want to say, which allows me to organize my thoughts and commit it to memory. Without that, my thoughts are a jumbled mess and I panic at the idea of having to formulate coherent thoughts on the fly. I'm not talking outlines, either. I literally write out verbatim what I want to say.

I'm also awful with names, unless I meet people wearing name tags. Then I commit the name to memory easily and actually "see" the name tag when I meet the person again in a new context. When I realized this about myself, I actually started imagining name tags with peoples' names on them when I'd meet them, so I could have that visual to fall back on in future encounters.

I don't have any of the spatial reasoning skills that Linnaeus mentioned. In fact, I'm hopeless with spatial reasoning tasks, I constantly mix up my lefts and rights, and I'm pretty much constantly getting lost. :) I am quite good at math and, at least when I practiced as a younger child, I pick up music very easily. I'm good with foreign languages, but only if I learn the spoken language concurrently with seeing it written. Because, again, seeing it allows me to fully commit it to memory.

I'm left-handed, if that matters. I wonder if there's a term for people like me. :)

April 29, 2010 11:22 PM

oh, so interesting...our perception of sounds within a name. i must admit to a personal predudice. i have loved the name matthew since i was a child of about 10 and first met a young matthew, and was smitten with both he and his name. i knew, even then, that i would some day have to name a child matthew...and 20 or so years later i did...and to this day, love the name. i don't hear the "eww" sound that you do...i hear matthew as "math-u", not "math-eww", and 37 years after choosing this name for my son,have never once found a boy's name i love as much. our second child was a girl. her name is k@th@rine...another name i've loved forever and never tired of...had she been a boy, she'd have been named for my father, mich@el, another classic male name i really love...but matthew will always be my favorite.
i've often wondered why names become so special to us as individuals. why certain sounds are more pleasing to us than others. so, a question for all of you. do the names of family members "sound" better than random names to you? or are you more drawn to names that are unique and unfamiliar within your family? are you more likely to feel an affinity for unusual name, or are you more comfortable with more common names? what makes a name appealing to you: sound, spelling, familiarity, meaning?
how do you choose your children's names? where do you begin?

April 30, 2010 12:07 AM

i'm not sure i understand the difference between "oo" and "ew" for you. to me they are the same (or at least approximately the same). unless by "ew" you mean "yew" as in "buford." is that what you mean?

April 30, 2010 12:09 AM

Philippa-I would call you wonderfully unique :) but that's just my term for almost everyone! I too LOVE math and was very good at it in school. I was able to teach myself how to read music around age 8 or so. I took Spanish for 4 yrs in HS but I wouldn't say that I was "good" at that. I got mostly average grades and that is the only language I studied. I have retained a few words of it thanks to Dora and Diego!

conana-I too LOVE Matthew! It is my son's mn. (that was part of my post that got stolen). I think in general I like names with softer sounds. Jessica, Samantha, Brian, Steven these have been favorites from early on and not even close to things in my family. The names of my children though don't match as much with my favorites however due to DH's veto power. But I always knew that I would never have JR's. There is just too much reoccurence of the names in my tree. I've said before that I find them boring. It may be that I've taken the sounds from my own name and searched for similar sounds though.

When we began choosing names for DS, we purchased a baby name book and went through the names almost one by one. I suggested to DH and he would give feedback. When we got down to the end we made a short list and vetoed each other. It ended up that our son's name was the only one we didn't both hate. Our DD was different in that we made a list and had about 6 choices on it at the hospital. It took days to decide "what she looked like". I am happy with each of the names we ultimately chose.

By Bue
April 30, 2010 8:45 AM

@Chimu, once he gets into the naming process, your husband might be more interested than you suspect. My partner's not an NE at all but he actually enjoys the odd naming discussion. Imagine my shock yesterday when he offered an actual suggestion for the first time ever! He teaches at a girls' school and he announced that he had a pupil with a name he would consider using one day. Unfortunately it was Luca, which to me is only a boys' name, so I had to shoot it down. Poor guy ;)

The suggestions about NameMapper etc. are good - my (male) cousin is about to have a baby and his wife says he was all over the statistics and lists when they were choosing the name.

@Craig, more male views are always welcome here - I'm sure many women here would be delighted to have a partner as interested in naming as you.

On Louisa - I also think the 'wheeze' sound might put people off. I don't think it's the nn's - Lou and Lulu are both solid ones. (Empathy, I think Lucy might be a bit of a stretch). Anyway, long may this aversion to Louisa continue. I don't want it getting popular!

April 30, 2010 9:17 AM

i actually don't think lucy is at all a stretch for louisa. lucy resembles louisa a lot more than peggy resembles margaret or chuck resembles charles.

April 30, 2010 9:32 AM

I sorta see it as a stretch because Lucy is an established name in it's own right so using it as a nickname for a separate name seems surprising. I once saw Leo listed as a potential nn for Lawrence and while I can follow the logic (the Italian/Spanish Lorenzo providing the "o" I guess) I still see it as a stretch. And I'd love to believe it b/c I think Lawrence is a handsome name that would benefit from a snappy nickname. I also like Leo on it's own or as a shorter form of Leon, Leonard, etc.

April 30, 2010 9:39 AM

Off topic, but I had to share. Just got a birth announcement from an old coworker - a boy named Grady Dax. I think that's cute for a baby, but just can't see it on a teenager or adult. If that isn't an older generation name, I don't know what is!

April 30, 2010 9:46 AM


I also think it's cute. Grady actually makes me think of Graeme/Grahame which I've only ever come across on adults & Gray/Grayson is gaining recognition as a first name, so I actually think it wears quite well. It actually strikes me as a more trendyish name. It fits in with the likes of Brody/Brady for me.I do like Grady , though. Hey, if Dax Shephard can get away with it as a first, I'm sure it can work as a middle. Dax also reminds me of Dex/Dexter.Thank you for posting this. It's a very interesting combination to see. So, thanks :)

By Eo (not verified)
April 30, 2010 9:46 AM

Ditto emilyrae's thumbs up to "Lucy" as nickname for "Louisa". Makes perfect sense!

I don't isolate the sound "weez" from the full name Louise/Louisa, so the concern about a resemblance to "wheeze" (and the "h" gives it more of a whoosh sound anyway than plain weez) doesn't bother me at all.

I rarely isolate sounds from names to react to negatively. You could go insane, thinking that "Bella" sounds too close to "belly", "Louis" contains the "loo" sound, "April" contains the "ape" sound, and on and on.

I'm lucky and/or unimaginative! Most names (with only a few obvious exceptions) stand alone for me and are judged on their merits.

An arcane nickname for Louisa is "Ouida". Wasn't there a French novelist (eighteenth or nineteenth century?) whose pen name was Ouida?
I think because her baby brother couldn't pronounce her given name Louisa. It's charming, and so is Ouisa-- very patrician, old world...

By Eo (not verified)
April 30, 2010 9:57 AM

I just had to check my "facts" on Ouida! Turns out she was an English novelist, Mary Louise Rame, but with a French father. "Ouida" did come about because of her inability to pronounce her given name as a young child.

I have heard others use Ouida for Louisa as well. It must be a lot easier for the infant tongue to get a handle on!

April 30, 2010 10:18 AM


It's actually odd, because I come from a VERY close family, but I don't actually like the names of most of them.Obviously when I think of them, I think of them in terms of their character/personality & not the names, but if I actually think about their names, most of them aren't appealing to me. Also,because of the generation gaps, the taste of the family members is very different. For instance, what I like & my aunts/uncles go for is very different. So, I suppose you could say that I'm the outlier within my family & I go for names that are unfamiliar to my family & contrary to the style used/liked by most of the other members.

The first thing that attracts me to a name is the sound & the vibe I feel when I hear it/think about it/say it/ read it. Meaning isn't really important to me at all, as long as it isn't something absolutely contradictory to what I belive in, like 'Satan's little helper". What affects me is more what the name 'professes'. So, Harper can be a person who 'harps' on problems as opposed to a harpist. Mona might be a 'moaner'. We've actually known a Mona and she was a moaner.Tyler a tiler etc. So, while I don't have any problem with carpenters, I grew up with a consrtuction/building type family & I'm a bit sick of the building, so Sawyer hits a bit too close for me to actually use, though I REALLY would love to.

The spelling is relative. A LOT of the names where I live people outside of the country wouldn't be able to spell, and when you take into how some common names have various ways to spell them, it's not a huge issue. If I really liked the name,I'd use it even if it was a bit hectic i.e. Saorise or Aisling.

Unusual names. Unusual is relative as well. I've seen people say that their names are unusual & to me it's like Jane - even though it's not popular with me. I've got a mixture of the achingly common & names that aren't common at all. Put it this way, my male top 3 is Dylan, Asher & West

Overall, I go for sound & the vibe that the name makes.What it'd be like to bear the name & if it's a fair name to bestow on the person.

I hope that answered your question :)

April 30, 2010 10:29 AM

Oh, I'm not Irish, I just used Irish examples

April 30, 2010 11:13 AM

I think Louis may increase in popularity because Sandra Bullock chose the name, but I wonder if the French pronunciation she's reportedly using - LOO-ee or loo-EE -- will also catch on. Apparently Sandra Bullock named her baby after Louis Armstrong, also born in New Orleans.

Looking at the most recent (2008) SSA stats for the name, Louis ranked 351, Lewis, 640. Louise and Louisa didn't make the Top 1000.

But in England and Wales where Lewis and Louis are Top 100 names, Louise and Louisa are also in frequent use. Most recent (2008) rankings: Lewis 14, Louis 59; Louise 191, Louisa 239.

The Normans brought the name to England, where it was usually spelled Lewis, but the spelling Louis has been more common in America. Either way, the name is most usually pronounced as "Lewis" in English-speaking countries.

I love the name Louisa, but agree that finding a nickname for it would be a challenge. However, I don't think every name needs a nickname and Louisa, as is, is lovely.

According to a Wikipedia article, Louisa May Alcott's nicknames were "Weed" and "Louy", while Louisa May Nieriker, her niece who was named for her and whom she raised after her sister May died in 1879, was called "Lulu".

I also found a reference to the Ouida mentioned by Eo: Used by the English author Ouida (1839-1908), born Marie Louise Ramé to a French father. Ouida was a pseudonym that arose from her own childhood pronunciation of her middle name LOUISE.

The name Louis interests me because that was the name of one of my grandfathers. He was the 9th generation of men named Louis in his family, going back to his several times great-grandfather who was born about 1614 in France. By the 19th century the Louis were being given middle names, Louis Napoleon and Louis Lafayette among them. The pronunciation of their names was eventually anglicized to "lewis" after the family migrated from Quebec to Vermont and New York in the early 19th century.

April 30, 2010 11:15 AM

Eo, I see you found a reference for the author Ouida too while I was writing my post about Louis/Louisa. Interesting reference to the name Louisa; I'm not familiar with this writer.

I think if I had a Louisa in my family, I might call her "Ouida" or "Ouisa" some of the time -- kind of cute spelled like that.

By Amy3
April 30, 2010 11:12 AM

@Larksong, I'm dying to know where you're from. You've referenced it several times without coming out and saying the country name, although you've gone so far as to say southern hemisphere. If you'd rather not share, I understand, but my curiosity has been piqued!

By hyz
April 30, 2010 11:23 AM

emilyrae, yes, I was using "eww" to describe the same sound in "yew", or the letter U, or "you", etc. I wrote "eww" (as in when kids say, "eww, gross!") to emphasize why I think the sound is less popular/appealing in names than U pronounced as "oo" (as in Julian, Ruby, or whatever). That said, I don't think Matthew suffers from the syllable nearly as much as Beulah or Eunice, etc., because the "eww" is unstressed and at the end (similar to the difference I mentioned between, e.g., Erwin and Hunter).

And Eo, I agree you CAN drive yourself crazy with hearing unappealing syllables in names. April is a name I would love EXCEPT for the "ape" sound, and Bella isn't my style, but I could see the "belly" thing being a problem, esp. if one thought their kids might tend to be overweight. I also really like Lavender, but I know some of our British members have said they couldn't use it because of the "lav" syllable (something which clearly isn't much of an issue in the US).

conana, I think you ask an interesting question, and I don't have a clear answer. I find some of the names in my family very attractive--some are more attractive because I associate them with wonderful family, and some are attractive *despite* their association with non-wonderful family members. I didn't really look to them much for choosing names for my daughter, though. When I was young I liked very hippie-ish names (if you asked me at age 13 or so, my daughters would've been Meadow and Willow and maybe Autumn or Winter, and sons were harder, but I definitely had Rowan and August on the list, as well as things like River and Stone). I've slowly reined that in a bit as I've gotten older, and decided that I was ideally looking for names that would reflect my values, but would also be a bit more timeless, and would not be so overpowering that my kids would feel overtly labeled/pigeonholed as they grew up. And like many, many people, I prefer names that seem to "stand out while fitting in", so the popular classics aren't generally right for me, even though I may think some of them are absolutely lovely. The same goes for popular names of my generation or my kids' generation--some of them may be fine names, but too much familiarity makes them boring to me. I think it's neat if a name I like has a family connection, but I wouldn't want to feel constrained to only use family names, at least not as FNs.

April 30, 2010 11:38 AM


LOL. I didn't mean to pique you ! I'm actually from South Africa.

The reason that I tried not to mention it or be vague before is that a lot of the time people have the wrong perception of where I'm from & very quickly, especially on the net, assumptions are made about a person because of it.Especially because I'm a white South African. Plus, with the recent events of why SA has been in the news, I try to kind of keep a low profile because of it. Kind of trying to protect myself, to be honest. So, you can blame it on politics lol

I pretty much just referenced where I'm from because of the trends & 'name culture' is utterly different.To be honest, if I met a Caden or Jayden I'd probably be excited because it's different from the trends here .


By Amy3
April 30, 2010 11:57 AM

@conana, we looked to family names for mns (although only of deceased family members), but we weren't considering any of them as firsts. My husband and I both have family names as mns so we liked the idea of continuing that tradition and linking our kid (or kids) to his/her greater extended family.

ETA: My husband has as his mn a family name that has come down through generations and been given to multiple people within generations. We were actually *not* going to use this name had we had a boy, and he was a little stressed about how his dad would react. Instead we would have used his maternal grandfather's name. I'm still not sure his dad knows we weren't considering using the "old standard."

As for what I look for in a name, first is the sound and look of it, then meaning. My husband *is* synesthetic so that added a layer, but it manifested itself more in terms of him vetoing a name rather than saying the name looked unpleasant to him. Since my husband and I both have names that were common in our age group, we did seek less common names, but we still wanted ones that were established as opposed to creative.

By Amy3
April 30, 2010 11:40 AM

Ah, I *thought* it might be South Africa! Thanks for ending the suspense. :)

April 30, 2010 11:49 AM


Yeah, I used to have another username & I started over . If you have any SA name questions just feel free to ask lol

April 30, 2010 11:53 AM

I love it that this community has members from all over the world! So fascinating...

April 30, 2010 12:22 PM

On the topic of "eww" names lets not forget Hugh/Hugo and Stu.