Name Change

I recently wrote a short story about two girls named Emily and Dakota, names which fitted them both perfectly The problem? This story takes place somewhere in the early 20th century, not, as the names might suggest, the 21st.

I'm actually not concerned about Dakota's name. There's a backstory for it which is very important to her character, and which I think fits well with the time period. The problem lies in the name Emily: while it was common at that time, it's even more common now, and when combined with Dakota, it totally obscures the period feel, and makes Emily's brother Arthur nn Art the odd name out.

I ended up changing her name to Evelyn nn Evvy before turning it in (it was written for a writing program I attended this summer), but I don't really feel like it fits her. Emily is just so right for her. But it just really doesn't work with the story...

A brief character description:

Emily is 16 years old, and from Boston, where she's grown up as a proper young lady, and that's the life she loves. However, she has recently gone to visit her brother Art and his daughter Dakota, who are living, at the moment, in the desert near Santa Fe, where Art is doing geological work. She is rather frail, and completely unused to this sort of life, and the story centers primarily on an incident where she gets lost and passes out from the heat. At the same time, she wants to be like Dakota, and to be able to stand this way of life. She's intrigued by her new experiences, and struggles to fit them into the very different worldview she's grown up with. She's also very loving and gentle, and her biggest reason for wanting to stay where she is is just to spend time with her family.

Any and all name suggestions are greatly appreciated. I generally prefer light and airy names for her (Evelyn isn't quite light and airy enough, which is the primary reason I don't quite like it for her. Emily is near the border, but fits), especially ones that begin and end with vowels, but that also make the time period very clear.

Thank you so much!


July 14, 2015 10:53 PM

Edna, Ethel, Agnes, and Opal fit in terms of numbers: they were popular (top 100) in the 1890s-1910s, but aren't even on the chart today.

I think the problem is that the early 20th century is currently prime antique revival territory: the popular names of that era that aren't popular again today are the clunky ones that don't fit today's liquid or breezy styles.

Some ideas (dunno if any of them qualify as light and airy): Anne, Catherine, Irene, Lucille.

July 15, 2015 8:30 AM

You're definitely right there. I chose Evelyn out of a long list of names from that period (Ruth, Frances, Alice, etc.), as the most airy out of all of them. And it's also currently the most popular...

Irene and Lucille might work, or variants. (Irina, Lucilla, Luciana, etc.) The name Elinora hit me last night in bed, and it's a little longer than I wanted, but it's starting to grow on me...

July 15, 2015 7:39 AM

Could you change the spelling to Emilie? I believe that spelling was more common at the time.

July 15, 2015 8:33 AM

Emilie is certainly better, since it peaked in the 1880s, whereas Emily's peak is in the 1990s. (I was shocked at how different their charts are... Normally names like that go hand in hand.) I don't know if it would quite get rid of the problem, but I'll have to think about it...

July 15, 2015 10:55 AM

How about Edie, short for Edith or Edna, or Effie? Effie can stand-alone, or be a nickname for Euphemia--there's a name you don't hear today! I'd also suggest Eppie, except that I think most people today would associate it with shots or hair removal ;-).

Another name I ran across recently that I associate with that time period is Abra. However, the reason for the association is primarily the character in East of Eden, which is set then, rather than actual usage, so it may not suit.