Name Forecast 2005: Up-and-comers

Dec 28th 2004

A look ahead, part two. 10 names poised for a breakthrough or revival in 2005, with honorable mention candidates.

GIRLS

Ainsley -- An heir apparent to both Kaitlyn and Ashley, Ainsley is a Celtic import with a girlish sound yet a whiff of androgyny. (Runner up: Emlyn)

Annalise: A revival of something that never was -- Annalise sounds old-fashioned, but was never actually common. Thus nobody has images of a frumpy Great-Aunt Annalise to get past. (Runner up: Arabella)

Willow: A meaning name that sounds creative and contemporary, but not forced. (Runners up: Piper, Sienna)

Susannah: A comfortable biblical classic, soft and lyrical, yet extremely rare. Parents are finally noticing. (Runner up: Camilla)

Estella: Starting to catch on again with women, but men aren't yet convinced. They'll come around soon. (Runner up: Josephine, Violet)

BOYS

Asher: A biblical classic, but it sounds like a modern blend of Ashton and Tyler. (Runner up: Jude)

Declan: With Aidan and Liam now American standards, the more Irish the better. (Runner up: Seamus)

Emmett: Old-fashioned but not heavy, a rarity for boys. (Runners up: Jasper, Everett)

Hudson: The hunt is on for surnames that won't turn androgynous! Hard to picture a little girl called Hud, but time will tell. (Runner up: Maddox)

Otto: The biggest stretch on the list. Otto will never be a top-10 hit, but this year I heard several stylish parents considering the name then shying away. In 2005, they start to pull the trigger. (Runner up: Reuben)

Name Forecast 2005: Endangered Species

Dec 18th 2004

A look ahead at the coming year in names. First stop: endangered species.

2005 should see some old standbys drop off the style horizon altogether. The names on the brink today are the familiar favorites of the '30s and '40s -- your parents and grandparents, friends and neighbors. These names that are so simple, so well known, that it's hard to think of them as rare birds. Yet that very familiarity has already pushed names like Joan and Betty into fashion oblivion. Parents want names that sound creative, not comfortable.

Heading out:

GIRLS
Ann
Carol
Janet
Joyce
Nancy

BOYS
Donald
Gene
Gerald
Glenn
Ray

For contrarian parents, here's a selection of endangered standards showing comeback potential:

GIRLS
Alice
Jane
June
Marian
Ruth

BOYS
Carl
Frederick
Lawrence
Hugh
Stuart

Julia Roberts gets the Gwyneth treatment

Dec 9th 2004

A few months back, I wrote about the flood of criticism that was aimed at Gwyneth Paltrow for naming her daughter Apple. Well now Gwyneth can rest easy, the pressure's off. All those bad vibes have been redirected toward Julia Roberts and her new twins, Hazel Patricia and Phinneaus Walter.

Newspaper columnists around the country have written snickering pieces on these "weird" names, dragging out examples like 30-somethings Moon and Dweezil Zappa as further proof that the rich and famous have no common sense. But hold on a minute...Hazel is no Dweezil. Let's take a look at the names have set off all this eye-rolling.

Hazel is a botanical name that was extremely popular from the 1870s through the 1920s, outpacing such familiar flower names as Lily and Daisy. It also showcases the red-hot letter Z. Phinneaus is a biblical classic, extremely unusual today but a natural up-and-comer -- other Grecian biblical names like Elias and Silas are rising hits, as are sound-alikes Finn and Finley. Do these names really deserve to be labelled "whacko" by the Boston Herald?

Partly, this is simple schadenfreude. There's an undeniable delight in watching the missteps of the privileged. But I believe there's also an element of culture clash at work. If you're shocked and horrified by a name like Hazel, chances are that you don't travel in the same circles as Julia Roberts. (Not that she comes to my birthday parties, either.)

For the record, here's what the upcoming Baby Name Wizard book has to say about Hazel:

In most places, the idea of naming a little girl Hazel is still unthinkable. But this name is ultra-fashionable in certain circles and it could get hotter. The handful of parents who love Hazel today are the same cutting-edge tastemakers who led names like Ruby and Lillian back from the desert in the '90s.
Yes, for the past several years, Hazel has been a stylish favorite in the elite urban neighborhoods where artistic sensibilities and high incomes meet. Ironically, Hazel's new celebrity status may well turn off those trendsetters, even as it introduces the name to a new audience.

And a final note to the Herald writer, who ended her column with this observation:

Well, at least Julia won't have to worry about her children's middle names becoming hackneyed. If there's one good thing about Walter and Patricia, it's this: They're safe.
Ah, not so fast. Walter and Patricia are endangered species, less common than names like Jaxon and Heaven and fading fast. In a few more years, Hazel and Phin may prove to be "safer" than Patty and Wally.