Style Spotlight: Andro-Girly Names

Sep 27th 2012

Picture the color orange-purple. Or a sound that's whisper-loud. "Androgynous-girly" baby names may seem like another entry in that list of contradictions, yet the style is emerging as one of the top trends of this decade. The recipe is to start with an androgynous name -- typically a surname -- and play with the spelling until it looks as brightly girlish as a Justice clothing store. Popular examples include:


The historical graph of those names is a portrait of "right now":

This isn't the first wave of girls' names built off riffs on the opposite sex. Think of the old song in which "Frankie and Johnnie were lovers" but "he done her wrong." The Frankie, Johnnie, Eddie, Jimmie, Bobbie, Freddie, Billie, Bennie, Robbie, Tommie girl gang peaked in the 1920s:

That generation of names, though, had a different and more straightforward style profile than the andro-girlies. They were simply boyish. In fact, if you look at same the 10 "Frankie & Johnnie" names for boys, the popularity profile is similar:

The andro-girly names, in contrast, aren't even graphable for boys -- not one of them has ever cracked the top 1000 as a male name. Yet the underlying androgyny of the names shapes their style. Their impact comes from pulling hard in two opposite directions at once, in multiple dimensions; a youthful/feminine vector and an adult/masculine vector. Picture a pinstripe suit covered in hearts and flowers.

Like any strong flavor, andro-girly is not for everyone. The name style is rare in some parts of the country, but wildly fashionable in the region shown on this map:

You might recognize the Eastern contour of that map from the 2008 electoral map. This ultra-modern, areligious style that blurs gender boundaries is most popular in conservative-voting states. As usual, political/social ideology runs counter to baby name style.


September 27, 2012 9:04 PM

I'm surprised that Utah and Alaska aren't on that map! How interesting.

My daughter had a boy named Jaidyn in her class last year. The spelling was very counterintuitive to me.

September 28, 2012 4:28 PM

I love the "recipe" start with an androgynous (sur)name and then play with the spelling, etc, lol! Probably funniest since I just set foot in a Justice store for the first time yesterday shopping for my niece! I do love this too since my husband and I like the root Bryn due to personal meaning so we've liked Brynlee for years now, if we're ever to have a girl. With 2 boys now we're keeping Brynlee on the table, but have recently discussed Brynner if we were to wind up with a third boy:)


September 29, 2012 3:12 PM

(I posted this on the forum but I just realized that it its this weeks's blog entry perfectly!)

Yesterday, I met a 14 month-old girl named Annast0n, whose name was inspired by Jennifer Aniston's last name, but whose parents opted to change the spelling to include the girly "Anna".

September 30, 2012 10:49 PM

I'm so sorry to have to get out the in-flight motion sickness sanitary storage unit for these kinds of names.  I know we are supposed to be all non-judgy and I appreciate Laura's restraint.   But these names scream lack of courage; as if people who use them want to be trendy and kicky but are terrified that anyone might ever mistake their princess for a boy.

October 2, 2012 1:04 PM

I think there is a more interesting trend that involves only the first part of the recipe ("start with an androgynous name -- typically a surname"), i.e. girls named Avery, Parker, Leslie, Ridley, Stacy, Scottie, Ashley, etc., which are traditionally male names (especially on the other side of the Atlantic) but sound "girly" to American ears without having to play with the spelling.

By hyz
October 2, 2012 1:21 PM

Well, I see my state is not included in this trend, which helps explain why I can't remember seeing any of these kids in real life (--oh wait, except once, on an Elliette), although we do have the traditionally spelled surnames for girls trend a bit here.  The Frankie and Johnnie comment also made me want to mention that I recently met young sisters here named Bobbie and Charlie--not sure if those are full names (likely) or nicknames (I hope), but it does have kind of a retro appeal.  Of course, I thought they were boys when I read their names on the roster, but once I met them and realized they were girls, it was still passably cute--much better, I think, than Ryliegh and the like, in any event.

October 3, 2012 7:44 AM

I'm actually reassured by the map that this trend isn't nationwide.  I live in one of the pink states and I see a ton of them.

September 10, 2014 5:31 PM


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By raza
September 21, 2014 7:51 AM

 baby names may seem like another entry in that list of contradictions, yet the style is emerging as one of the top trends of this decade.


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