In Memoriam: The Departed Names of 2009

Jun 4th 2010

Each year, we pause to remember the familiar names that slipped out of America's top 1000 list for the first time after generations of steady use. This year of rapid fashion change left us with a record 16 departed names to honor. I'll take them in stylistic groups:

The Gentle Gentlemen

Bernard, Clarence, Gordon, Leroy, Milton, Sheldon
Did you even notice them leaving? These mild-mannered gents, with their abundance of soft consonants, don't even enter parents' awareness today. They slipped off the charts calmly, with a minimum of fuss.

The Mid-Century Standards

Glenn, Kathy
There's a purity about these names, the very essence of our imagined suburban America. They are disappearing in our national flight from the "ordinary."

The Swinging Sixties
Gina

I'm actually a little surprised Gina lasted this long. Most of the sudden hits of the '60s have already had their swan songs. Gina now joins Tina and Dina -- and Brad, Jodi, and friends -- in hibernation.

The Individualist
Laurel
Can a name fall out of fashion if it was never in fashion to begin with? Laurel may sound a lot like Laura and Lauren, but it didn't follow either name's fashion curve. It was never too high or (until now) too low, and its botanical roots still shine through. Laurel is the least date-stamped name on the departed list, and still very usable.

The Ancients

Cornelius, Thaddeus
This pair surprises me a bit, since classical -s names for boys have some momentum. Perhaps the nickname Con could lure back parents who find Cornelius a little too corny?

The Too Close for Comfort

Justine, Krista, Kristin, Monique
Each of these names peaked in the 1980s, with 3 of the 4 making the top 100. Now they're gone. Feeling old yet?

Comments

1
By Elisabeth@youcantcallitit (not verified)
June 4, 2010 9:19 AM

See, I would have thought that Bernard, Clarence, Cornelius, Gordon, Thaddeus, and Justine would be getting MORE fashionable-- not less. I still think so!

I always suggest Laurel to parents with Lauren at the top of their list.

2
By moink (not verified)
June 4, 2010 9:56 AM

I'm surprised at Gordon. I know a few Gordons (none babies) and I had envisioned it as a solid and reliable, though not my style, and maybe poised to make a comeback along with the Oscars and Olivers and such.

I don't associate Leroy with that crowd. Leroy (and especially it's alternate spelling Leeroy) has take on a life of its own in the online gaming community, and no one in that group will ever use it for a child.

3
June 4, 2010 10:15 AM

This makes sense for the US, but it's funny as I actually know/know of a couple of people with these names

Sheldon --- is around 25
Bernard -- I've come across one and I can't think of where
Glenn --- is in his 60s
Kathy --- most of them are in their late 30s to 40s
Cornelius -- is in his late 30s to mid 40s
Thaddeus -- I've across one and I can't think of where
Justine & Monique are between 16 and 22

I came across a 23 yr old Reinhardt & a Sherwin in his 20s this week, so Sheldon def fits in with them

Thanks zoerhenne from the previous post :)

edit
I came across a Bernard in my newspaper the other day

4
By Jillc (not verified)
June 4, 2010 10:33 AM

Funny, my 6yo just told me he needs another brother and another sister, named Leroy and Hannah.

Laurel and Thaddeus (nn Tad) I would totally use. OK, maybe Thaddeus is a little too much for me personally, but I would be very excited to meet one.

I'm actually surprised by Laurel, since it seems to be exactly what parents are looking for these days -- a name that is only one letter off from a more popular name. Perhaps parents who like Lauren or Laura aren't as into the sound of the name as parents who like Jayden/Brayden/Hayden. Or maybe this trend only applies to the beginning of names (Jayden, Brayden, Zayden, but not Jayden, Jayder, Jaydo)? Or only to vowel-ly endings for girls (Kailey, Kayla)? Is it just that Laurel doesn't have the right sound to begin with?

5
June 4, 2010 10:36 AM

Larksong-I think you've proven the point that Laura was trying to make. These names have totally fallen out of fashion here and are not being given to babies anymore.
Thaddeus and Laurel surprise me a tiny bit but I'm guessing the lack of nn's is the reason the names like Gordon, Sheldon have fallen in favor of things like Oliver and Oscar.

6
June 4, 2010 10:43 AM

@zoerhenne

I agree :)

This post was making me think of Ashley/Ashleigh and the people I've known/known of with it

4 males . 3 of which are in their mid 30s to mid-40s. 1 who is around 22

3 females. 1 who is 18, one is early to mid 30s & the other more in the 40 ish range

7
June 4, 2010 11:13 AM

hmm, thaddeus and cornelius surprise me a bit too. strange.

larksong,

i'm not entirely sure what you mean, but i'd say for me, a lot of vowel sounds gets slurred into the "uh" sound, particularly when i'm being lazy. lila and eva definitely end in "uh" for me. i would say a lot of people say the /i/ in my name as "uh." there is a difference between uh and ah to me: uh is at the end of emma and clara, ah is at the beginning of august, oliver, and amelie.

8
June 4, 2010 11:40 AM

Boy, the list of the Gentle Gentlemen names reads like the character list from "The Big Bang Theory," doesn't it?

9
June 4, 2010 11:45 AM

elizabeth t,
hehe. i think the only one that actually is a character name is sheldon. however, i see the point! :]

10
By Rayne of terror (not verified)
June 4, 2010 12:19 PM

I know a 9 y/o Glenn and I always thought it was a great name, easy to spell and unusual, but I didn't know it was that unusual!

11
June 4, 2010 12:29 PM

@Elizabeth T.

Maybe that's why Penelope has been rising ! People want to use Penny

@emilyrae

I think it depends on the name/word for me. E.g., most names that end in 'a' are 'uh' for me. lye-luh.ee-vuh,eye-luh. But, I've also seen people make the phonetic into lye-lah, ee-vah,-eye-lah You got what I meant , though :)

Out of your list, it's :
August is aw-gist
Emma is em-uh
clar-uh
for me

12
By joye (not verified)
June 4, 2010 12:31 PM

Gordon remains fairly steady in Canada, perhaps due to several famous hockey players with the name.

Canada doesn't appear to do the same kind of country-wide top 1000 that other countries do, but in our province, British Columbia, there were 12 baby Gordons in 2007, 7 in 2008, and 19 in 2009. That may sound low, but if you look at the stats of other names, you'll see that it's hovering at the same level of many other names, some supposedly hip and trendy.

http://www.vs.gov.bc.ca/babynames/index.html is the link.

13
June 4, 2010 12:36 PM

larksong,
true. i have seen names like miranda phonetically written like mir-an-dah (and maybe i've even done it myself), but i would bet money that those people actually mean "uh" and not "ah." i say all of those names the way you do.

edit: actually, we maybe don't say clara the same. for me, it's claire-uh, claire rhyming with care, not car. maybe that's what you meant?

14
By joye (not verified)
June 4, 2010 12:35 PM

As a followup to my comment, none of the other names for boys you have on this list appear on the British Columbia list at ALL. So I think this supports what I'm saying about Gordon having a totally different cachet than the rest of them in Canada.

15
By Penny in Australia (not verified)
June 4, 2010 12:37 PM

My sister's baby was born today! Hooray! They've named him:

Angus James

Not very common here in Australia, but rising, and definitely 'on-trend' with all the Lachlan's and Hamish's around.

Love it.

16
June 4, 2010 12:38 PM

joye,
i think you're right. in bnw2, laura mentions that laura is falling out of style in the u.s., but also mentions that the name is more of a steady classic in canada.

penny in australia,
yay! great name! love it. :]

17
By joye (not verified)
June 4, 2010 12:39 PM

Last comment, I promise!

In Canada, the common nickname for Gordon is Gordie, as in Gordie Howe, foremost of the hockey players to have the name.

I'd be curious to know what the status of Gordon is in other commonwealth countries.

18
June 4, 2010 12:57 PM

@joye e

Congratulations !

@emilyrae

No, you got what I meant the first time around regarding uh/ah. :)

Clara is just an accent differentiation for us. I don't think I've ever heard a Saffa say names like Clara/Lara with anything but a long ''a''.Most words are a long 'a' like 'are' or they are 'a' like in cat, rat. But, in terms of names, it's generally a long 'a'
I say a fair amount of names differently to Americans.

19
By Laura M. (not verified)
June 4, 2010 12:54 PM

My grandfather's name is Gordon, but as someone who came of age in the late 90's-early 2000's, the most youthful association I have with that name was a character on the Disney show Lizzie McGuire--his name was Gordon, but everyone called him Gordo. Which is cute, I guess.

20
June 4, 2010 1:10 PM

larksong,
so it's clara like star-uh? huh, that's interesting. i can see that. i'm used to the claire-uh pronunciation (which i think is the standard here in the states), but as i knew a lara in high school, i can see clara as clar-uh, too.

21
June 4, 2010 1:12 PM

Random Gordon anecdote: I hired an older guy at my job recently who while doing paperwork explained to me that though his real name is Henry, he hates it and only goes by Gordon. It took me back at first, as I think Henry is such a nice name and I'm not really a fan of Gordon.

22
June 4, 2010 1:38 PM

@emilyrae

Put it this way, when I told a friend of mine that Americans mainly say it as 'ahr' or 'aire' instead of 'are', he was like 'Oh '. Kara in American Idol is CAR-ah in my family .It's why I normally try to say those types of names every way that I know how, when commenting on forums Saying them any other way is pretty much a dead give away that you're a foreigner over here lol
That and saying 'barbecue ' hhehe

23
By Stef (not verified)
June 4, 2010 2:21 PM

Aw, we used to have a dog named Sheldon. I miss him.

24
By adrienne from Baby Toolkit (not verified)
June 4, 2010 2:41 PM

Laurel always fails our junior high/high school rhyme test. Drop the L and you find a moniker that no parent wants their daughter assigned

25
June 4, 2010 2:55 PM

adrienne,
hmm. i confess that i think that'd not likely be a big deal at all. i've heard more obvious rhymes go unnoticed (e.g. i knew two guys named brock in high school. that rhymes with things, but they didn't get teased).

26
June 4, 2010 3:07 PM

Elizabeth T-I love The Big Bang Theory and I can see what you meant as well. Sheldon fits the character totally!

adrienne-I'm not sure I'm following exactly waht you mean but if it doesn't work with today's jr high/high students then that's a good reason why it's falling out of fashion I guess. What names DO they think are cool/hip?

Glenn, Gordon and the others have a very 60-70ish vibe for me. Many of my elementary school teachers had names like these. Also I remember Gordon on Sesame Street. As far as Laurel, I looked up the end in -el names on Namefinder and found that many of the popular ones like Annabelle, Isabelle, etc. can have an additional -le tacked on to give them a more princessy look/feel. The ones that are not in favor cannot as easily such as Hazel, Muriel, etc. It also isn't a "bell" name. I don't think Zelle or Relle works as a nn as much as Belle.

27
June 4, 2010 3:34 PM

hyz,
not to overwhelm you with comments (i know i rambled on at the end of the last thread), but i wanted to say that i had good news and bad news about tristan. good news: though i have heard it on a couple girls, it isn't even in the top 1000 for girls, so androgyny doesn't seem to be a real problem. bad news: there are 5 different spellings for boys in the top 1000. : / not sure if that bothers you, but it might bother me, i think.

edit: just checked, and if you added up the spellings of tristan for girls, it would crack the top 1000. not sure if that makes a difference to you. the top spelling, tristan, had 142, and the next, tristyn, had 109.

zoerhenne,
i could have been misunderstanding, but i think adrienne was saying that laurel rhymes with oral, and thus, she wouldn't choose it.

28
June 4, 2010 3:50 PM

also, 18 philippas born last year. i'm going to say that i think that it's safe to assume this is one freakonomics prediction that doesn't have a chance.

29
By Anna S (not verified)
June 4, 2010 3:52 PM

About Laurel, Laura and Lauren (because I just had to check, you know...):

Even though only Laurel dropped out of the top 1000, the use of the other two names also decreased in comparable, relative amounts:

From 2008 to 2009:
Laura -12.4%
Lauren -20.0%
Laurel -12.9%

From 2000 to 2009:
Laura -62.8%
Lauren -63.7%
Laurel -48.9%

It's also quite interesting to compare the popularity of these names in Name Voyager. Laurel peaked in 1956 (#240), Laura in 1968-1969 (#9-10) and Lauren in 1989 (#8) but both Laurel and Laura had mini-revivals in the 1980'es coinciding with Lauren's peak.

30
By J&H's mom (not verified)
June 4, 2010 4:22 PM

I've always loved the name Laurel.

My guess is it's chief "problem," is that too many people know middle-aged women with the name.

Has anyone looked up Lorelei/Loralei?

31
June 4, 2010 4:26 PM

j&h's mom,

lorelei is ranked 601.
lorelai is ranked 780.

32
By Melly C (not verified)
June 4, 2010 4:28 PM

We don`t have a top 1000 list in Canada.. but Today`s Parent puts together a top 100 list every year for all of Canada.. and then a top 25 list for each of the provinces.

Here`s the link if any one is interested:
http://www.todaysparent.com/pregnancy/becomingparent/article.jsp?content=20090114_141035_40420&page=1

33
By Anna S (not verified)
June 4, 2010 4:29 PM

@Larksong, about -ah and -uh

Many people use /-uh/ to describe an unstressed /-a/ sound at the end of a name. Sometimes it's also used for an unstressed /i/ like emilyrae described (em-uh-lee) which I think technically is a schwa.

I can never really bring myself to use these /uh/s when I write the phonetics of a name because in my head there is a big difference between e.g. Emily and Emmalee. There is probably a psycholinguistic term for this - I "read out loud" when I speak, and when I store a name in my brain it's 90% the spelling, 10% the sound. I remember names much better when I've seen the spelling. If I know an Emily, Emmalee and Emeleigh they are different in my head, I don't remember them as 3 times /em-uh-lee/.

@emilyrae
"ah is at the beginning of august, oliver, and amelie"
Wow, I say all three differently - and this time it's not just in my head ;-)

34
By Anna S (not verified)
June 4, 2010 4:53 PM

Woa - these numbers are really, really close! Take a look at the fall of Kristin and close friends from 2000 to 2009:

Kristen -76.3%, Kristin -75.7%, Kristyn -65.9%

Krista -63.7%, Christa -58.7%

Christina -67.1%, Kristina -59.9%, Cristina -55.7%, Christine -66.8%, Kristine -55.8%

On the boys' side Christian has only decreased by 10% while Christopher and Chris are on the rise (20% and 30%).

35
By Krieistieien (not verified)
June 4, 2010 4:54 PM

OH!! I don't feel old! Maybe cause I'm 12........I don't know..... Well, my name isin't "Kristin" or "Kristen".....It's Krieistieien, but I usually write it Kristin. And I have a long last name, too

36
June 4, 2010 4:54 PM

@ Anna S

That's a really good point and an angle that I hadn't thought of . I really enjoyed reading what you said

That's what I've wondered about when I've seen Emmalee. Is it supposed to be a creative version of Emily, or Emma & Lee? I say Emily as em-IH-lee ; though the accent differentiation of 'uh' & 'ih' can be really close for some.

I also don't say Oliver with an 'ah', but I can't quite work out how I to make the phonetic ...

I find that I generally stick to the spelling that that I saw the first time I came across the name.

I'm just giggling at the time it says when the posts are posted ... it's 22:54 pm by me right now

@melly c
Thanks for the link !

37
June 4, 2010 5:16 PM

@Krieistieien

You have a very interesting name!

38
By Jillc (not verified)
June 4, 2010 5:40 PM

re: Laurel/oral -- I actually know a woman (late 40s?) named Aurel. She's married to a dentist. If she's survived that name, I wouldn't have any qualms about using Laurel.

39
June 4, 2010 5:53 PM

anna s,
hmm. i'd ask you how you say the starting sound of august, oliver, and amelie, but i suspect it would be hard to articulate in print. plus, we'd probably all get into one of those involved discussions about pronunciation. i may say them all slightly differently, i don't really know, but they are close enough to sound the same to the casual ear, i think. it's an aw/ah sound.

40
June 4, 2010 5:59 PM

Anna S-Again your stats are great thanks! The Kristin one is especially interesting.

Speaking of 70/80's names, I was just thinking about Heather today. Why has that not been a more popular nature name?

Laurel/oral doesn't really bother me. Thanks for helping me out with the connection emilyrae.

41
June 4, 2010 6:02 PM

emilyrae-I agree that we don't need another long pronunciation discussion but I do say August/Oliver/Amelie even Amelia all slighty different. Aw; o as in hot; Ah as in car without the r; and a bit of an Uh sound.

42
June 4, 2010 6:53 PM

zoerhenne,
oh, i definitely say amelia way different than any of them. i think in my accent aw, ah, and o as in hot are just very, very similar--maybe identical. but yes, amelia is very different. it's a bit of an uh sound for me too.

and yeah, i don't think laurel/oral would be a problem. i understand adrienne's concern though, as we all want to avoid unfortunate puns in our children's names, but i tend to think it's a bit of a long shot.

43
By Anna S (not verified)
June 4, 2010 7:22 PM

@emilyrae - I'll keep it short :-) August: longish /aw/. Oliver: short /uh/ like Holly minus H. Amelie: short /a/ like in cat (but I'm probably a bit wrong here because my pronunciation is influenced by the French Amélie).

Heather: Did you mean why it's not very popular nowadays? I think it has the wrong sound for the 2000's - too little /ay/. Plus its past popularity (ca. top 10 1971-1987) is probably weighing it down. If you were inclined to use a nature name today, maybe you'd look around for something new?

@Larksong - my guess would be that Emmalee is supposed to be some sort of a spinoff of Emily. Emily and Emma were #1 and #2, respectively, a couple of years ago.

The spelling thing and my brain: Knowing the spelling is less of an issue with common names, e.g. Katherine/Catherine, because when I hear it I automatically assign the most common spelling to it. But if I hear an unfamiliar name (e.g. Tara, Terra, Tera...?) I'll be unsure of what I actually heard until I see the spelling.

44
By Anne with an E, nli (not verified)
June 4, 2010 7:38 PM

When I hear the name Gordon, all I can think of is Sesame Street! :)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Robinson_family_(Sesame_Street)

45
June 4, 2010 7:58 PM

anna s.,
i'm curious, since in your descriptions of sounds include length descriptors such "longish" and "short"--in swedish (i *think* you're in sweden, right?), does the length of vowel sounds make a difference in meaning? that isn't the case in english, but it is, for example, in japanese. suteki is a totally different word than sute(hold out the te just a bit)ki. is that the case for you? i'm just curious because length isn't a factor i consider when comparing vowel sounds. i might generally drag out an "aw" more than i do an "o" (as in hot), but their lengths don't make them different sounds to me. does that make sense? so...what's it like in swedish? i love languages. :]

oh, and i'm the same as you, i think. i need to see a name spelled out usually, to cement it in my brain.

46
June 4, 2010 9:22 PM

Local update for May: Surprises
Adrielys (g)
Allison (g)
Bridget
Courter (b)
Dior (g)
Eian (b)
Leyanna (g)
Valerie
Vanessa
Geremi (b) way too cre8tiv
4 Jayden's for the month
Mavek
Tavery
Thelonious

Top 5 names
Aiden 7
Jayden 7
Carter 6
Austin 5
Brayden 5

Emma 6
Olivia 5
Sophia 4
Addison 4
Alexis 4
Alyssa 4
Isabella 4
Lillian 4

Btw, there were 117 girls who had a name repeated atleast once (with the same spelling)by someone else. The boys number was 184.

47
By EVie
June 4, 2010 9:49 PM

August and Oliver start with very similar sounds for me too, but not Amelie. The first two have a more closed, rounded "au" (same sound in the words claw, maudlin, bra, crocodile). Amelie is different for me (sort of halfway between the vowels in "car" and "class") - but that probably has to do with the fact that I grew up bilingual with French and automatically revert to the French pronunciation of certain words and names. Amelie is one of those names that I think is beautiful but could never use because I find the English pronunciation grating.

Re: Clara - I think this is one of those merry/marry/Mary cases. I say it like "marry" (or apple, or class). So I guess there are *three* different ways of saying it - that's a lot for such a short name!

Also, re: the Alistair discussion on the previous post: I've never met a real Alistair, but based on my observations during the time I lived in Scotland, I would tentatively suggest that neither pronunciation is truly "correct" - they are both approximations of the original sound, just in different directions. From what I can remember (and I say this very hesitantly, because it's been several years since I've spoken to a Scot), the Scottish pronunciation of the word "stair" would be very different from the American. For one thing, the -r ending isn't like an American R - it's more flipped, like an Italian R. Secondly, the vowel sits much higher in the mouth - when I try and imitate the sound, I feel it right up behind my front teeth and against my hard palate. Given that this precise sound doesn't really exist in American English, and that the emphasis is the name is not on that syllable, it doesn't surprise me that the vowel sound has gotten fudged in different ways.

(Caveat: there are a lot of different Scottish accents, so this may not be universally true - I was living near Edinburgh/Fife).

48
By Sol's_mom (not verified)
June 4, 2010 9:50 PM

@zoerhenne Can you explain where these names are from? Babies born in your area in May?
Adrielys? I have no idea how to begin to pronounce that one! A-dree-EL-is?

49
June 4, 2010 10:13 PM

Reposted from the last thread:

Qwen - the last few days I've been thinking about you and wondering when Marcail was arriving and it turns out she is here! I'm glad you are going well :)

Re Alistair/Alister - while I'm not British I find that a lot of the Aussie pronunciations mirror the British ones and I've definitely heard both the 'tayr' and 'ter' endings. Alister is always 'ter' though.

Names of interest from my local announcements. Last week I saw a Lucinda Wren which I thought was gorgeous! This week my favourite was Adeline Sophia. Also lots of shortened version of names going on the birth certificates. A Rosie, Gracie, Jake and Billy. There is also a William to be known as Billy. We were just talking on here the other day about Billy maybe being the new go to nn for William, now 2 in one week! Also a boy Ashley (not that uncommon here).

50
June 4, 2010 10:31 PM

I have a soft spot for Cornelius, Clarence, Thaddeus, Bernard and Laurel. I actually really like Laurel and can see that coming back soon.

@ Penny in Australia - I love Angus James and you are right that Angus is rising here. I know of 4 little Angus'.

Clara - is definitely Clar-uh for me. Like Car with an l and the uh at the end.