Naming Trends and Personal Perception

Does the popularity and public perception of your name change your own perception of it?

For my entire life, I was always extremely embarrassed of my middle name- Alice.  I was named after my grandmother, and the name always felt ancient and strange to me.  During school I would turn red when my middle name was announced!  But recently the name is making a comeback, and an acquaintance (my own age) just told me she's naming her daughter Alice.  For the first time in my life, I said "Alice is my middle name" without feeling embarrassed!  The recent resurgence of the name has made me see that it's actually a lovely name.

But I've had a backwards experience with my first name, Melissa.  My parents picked the name when it was in the top-10.  In school, I was always one of several Melissa's, and the name felt completely normal and average.  But now that I've been "out in the world" for a few years, I've realized how 80's-trendy the name is, and I'm more uncomfortable with it.  I'm very not-trendy, so having a name that is glaringly 80s-trendy feels out of place on me.  It definitely makes me certain I won't use a trendy name for my kids- I don't want people to see their name and automatically know "This person was named in the 2010's!"

How has your own name's popularity and public perception changed over your lifetime?  Does it make you feel differently about your name than you used to?  Will it affect the way you name your own kids?



April 26, 2012 2:21 PM

My name is (and has remained throughout my life) fairly unusual though generally recognizable as a name, so I can't speak to your original question - though I'm curious to hear how others will respond! I like having an unusual but not-too-difficult name, so I'd like to look for that for my future kids, but I'll also have to balance considerations of how their experience may be different from mine (e.g. they will grow up multicultural, biracial and hopefully bilingual, which I did not, and their names will thus intersect with more questions of identity, which I'd rather help clarify than complicate).

As for your own name (hmm, your parents really like the "liss" sound, yes?), I wonder if I can make Melissa a little more special again. I'd known that it meant "honeybee," with "meli-" referring to honey, and had a Greek origin, but I only recently learned - in reading a book called The Hive, by Bee Wilson - that there were many interesting layers of cultural associations with honeybees built into the name. For example, the ancient Greeks personified souls waiting to be born as bees or "melissae." I'd really recommend the book, which was a fascinating read on the cultural history of how people have understood (and, revealingly, misunderstood) honeybees, both scientifically and allegorically in creating stories and metaphors for human behavior in the lives of these fascinating insects. The Wikipedia article on Melissa also goes into quite a bit of interesting mythology on Melissa as goddess, nymph, nurse, teacher, and leader of humans to civilization, as well as the name's usage in poetry to denote a good fairy. Exploring the classical associations, on top of already liking the generic bee reference, shifted my impression of the name from "perfectly nice but girly and not exciting" to "subtle, smart, and elegant as well as pretty."

Alice always makes me think of Alice in Wonderland, so it brings to mind playfulness, creativity, and adventure. You can always think of it as a streamlined version of the popular, well-loved Alison (which is just the French version of Alice with the diminutive -on ending), but it does seem to be staging a comeback in its own right these days.

April 26, 2012 7:48 PM

Wow, thanks kalmia! I knew my name meant honeybee, but had no idea it had such a rich history!  I will definitely add that book to my reading list, especially if it'll help me appreciate my name more.

It sounds like we'll shoot for the same type of names for our kids-  I also prefer unusual but recognized names (names most people have heard of but they have never known anyone with that name).

April 26, 2012 11:19 PM

Melissa-I have a dated (70's) name myself. It was never my favorite name nor one I would've wanted to give a daughter but I never hated it. My mn is special as it is after a relative. The only time I didn't like that was when it was used by my mom when I was in trouble.

My name is one that is also used on boys in a different spelling. When I was young I was always one of those that searched for the keychains and mugs but they never had my name spelled correctly. I remember that about the late 90's my name started to be spelled correctly. That made me happier about my name where now it doesn't bother me as much. I decided to name my children familiar names with conventional spellings. The popularity of the names were important too. I had one other of my name  in elementary school so it was fine, but in college there were six of us in one Elementary Ed class. Weird! Each of my children have only one other with their name in their grade. So yes, I think your perception of your own name has influence on what name you pick for your children sometimes.

By Coll
April 27, 2012 4:26 PM

This is a great question, Melissa G. I've never cared much for my middle name, the humdrum for the '80s Marie (I'm sure the millions of little girls with Rose as their middle names will one day understand). Which is sad, because it was my godmother's name, so it's not like my parents just picked it out of a hat.

My first named I rather liked as a child, then grew to dislike as a teenager because it sounded too babyish, and now feel an indifferent sort of affection for-- if I were to name myself today I'd probably choose Elinor, but there are things I like about my name. I like that it was not terribly popular when I was a child and isn't dated to my era (if anything, it's dated to several decades before I was born). I like that my first and last names alliterate, I think that makes them more memorable. I like that my name is tied to my ethnic heritage, even if it's in a very American and maybe inauthetic way. When I briefly attended an all-girls Catholic school in 9th and 10th grades there were about three or four girls with my name in each year, a very atypical experience for me! I prefer knowing few women with my name. When I meet one, or see someone with my name in a newspaper or the credits of a movie, there's a strange little moment of disconnect-- I'm not used to seeing my name printed without it referring to me. It's kind of enjoyable in a way I doubt Elizabeths or Kates ever know.

Having an underused but not unusual name possibly steered me toward wanting the same things for my children, but my tastes run more classic and Anglophilic than my parents' did.

April 28, 2012 5:11 PM

That's funny that you're not crazy about your middle name, because I was always jealous of my sister for having the middle name Marie.  It's a family middle name, belonging to my mother, grandmother, and various aunts, etc.  I always wished I'd have gotten it instead of my older sister!  Of course that would have given me the initials MMM... way too much alliteration :)

April 28, 2012 1:48 PM

I go by my middle name, which is on the tail end of an 80's trend, though not the trendiest spelling.  My first name is quite pretty but more suitable for the generation above me, so it's not yet ready to make a comback like Alice.

Without realising that, I decided when I was very young to use my middle name, which looking back was a good decision.  Even though I don't know any children with my name, at least it will always be appropriate for my age and give strangers a realistic idea of how old I am.  In a few years it will have a nice "motherly" feel, and then a "grandmotherly" feel, and then one day it will be bang on trend again!

So I suppose my point is that even if our names aren't timeless classics, and even if we're not personally very trendy (me neither), we can embrace the trendiness and the way they give us a sense of belonging to our generation.

April 29, 2012 8:09 AM

My name (Dana) was not overly popular, but as a child, the reaction i dreaded and often received, was "Oh, I have an UNC LE with that name" or another male figure. knowing my name is truly unisex now, does not bother me a bit, and it is rare that i go into a place, such as Panera Bread, where they call your name, and have to look around to be sure they are calling me. My name is short, easy to spell and pronounce, which i like, except for when someone tries too hard and adds extra n's. as for my middle name, Renae, not sure why mom chose that spelling. when i was very young, surrounded by cousins, i thought the only middle name options in the world were  Marie, Renae and Lynn, lol. that is how prevalent they are in my family. however @ Melissa, i did have one cousin with your name, and almost unbelievably, i have only known 2 Melissas my whole life. i like that it means honey bee, just like Deborah, but i prefer Melissa. also, it has always brought the song to mind "Sweet Melissa" , can't remember if it is Van Morrison or not. Melissa Alice is such a perfectly lovely combination, and I think it's great that you are seeming to become quite comfortable with it now. if i may, the 80's name that i have been surrounded by even up to now, no matter where i have moved, is Jennifer. i know SO many!!

April 30, 2012 10:50 PM

I didn't realize that Dana was such a common male name! I have only known of one man with the name (in his 60's).  It definitely sounds more feminine! 

I agree that Melissa isn't the #1 most common 80's name.  I went to school with several Jennifers, but even more common were the Jessica's and Ashley's - I knew at least 5 or 6 of each at any given time.

May 1, 2012 1:58 AM

I've wanted to comment on this topic since you posted it but I wanted to give it a bit of thought first. There are two main parts that I want to talk about. The first is a comment on your experience and the second is about mine.

You say that you feel like your name makes you stand out as a child of the '80s and that makes you self-conscious. But what struck me was that, yes, if I meet a Melissa, she is immediately identified as someone of my generation, and this immediately creates a sense of shared experience, common cultural references, etc. I meet a Melissa, and I think of her as a contemporary. However, beyond that, a Melissa is a generic member of my generation, who can blend in, stand out, or be whatever she wants to be. I can understand not wanting strangers to make assumptions about you based on your generation, but if it's any consolation, within this generation, you are essentially as anonymous as you want to make yourself.

Now, on this blog we frequently talk about name pockets, and it seems that I grew up in the middle of one. It wasn't until I began reading this blog (about, hmm, 6 years ago? Longer? I've completely lost track,) and started noticing comments about Karen being a mom-type name, that the thought ever crossed my mind. I was born in 1981 and in my elementary school class of 63 kids, there were two Karens, a Karyn, and a Keren. There was a Karen in the year below me, and a Caryn in the year above me. A few more were added in other years once I got to high school and there were also uses of Karen and Karin in middle name slots. (Although I must add that Karen was #64 in 1981, so it's not like it was unheard of elsewhere!)

To put this into perspective, there were more Karen/Karyn/Kerens (4) in my high school grade than Jennifers (2), Jessicas (0), Amandas (1), Sarahs (0), and Melissas (1), the top five names from the year that I was born. I know tons of people with those names from other grades and from later schooling, but during my elementary and high school days, it never occurred to me that my name could be considered by others to be out-of-date. I actually found it so strange to meet a middle aged woman with my name, something that didn't happen until I was in my twenties, so only knowing young people with the name also helped keep the name young for me. In fact, I was so grateful that my parents had given me an alternate spelling of the name because that meant that I wasn't just one of the crowd - that my name was still special because it wasn't exactly like all the others.

Now, even though I *know* that many see the name as belonging with a group of names that I find to be woefully unattractive, I just can't see it that way. I've never loved my name, but I've never hated it either. I've been frustrated by people constantly spelling it wrong, but that alternate spelling is the thing that I like best about it. And even though it was annoying to always have all those Karens around, now that I have greater perspective, I'm very grateful to have grown up in a Karen (et al.) pocket because I never had the experience of feeling like I had an unfashionable name, and that would certainly have been much much worse than having to be "Karyn-with-a-Y". (Oh, the "Y" also meant that I never had to be Karen F.; I could just be Karyn and everyone knew who I was.)

How did this affect the way that I will name my children? Well, I know that I'd rather that they not have to be one-of-many with a certain name, because I didn't enjoy that. However, seeing how my name is perceived and knowing how that makes me feel, I also know that I want to give them names that will fit in with their generation. I don't want my kids to feel about their names the way that you did about your middle name, or the way that a 26 year-old Susan I know feels.

While the emotional part of me that hates being trendy wishes to avoid current trends, I am still a product of my generation and the cultural zeitgeist, and tend to like names that fit with today's trends. If I had been *very* advanced for my age and had a son at about 14, I likely would have named him Aidan (for reference, there were more Lorenzos than Aidans born in 1995). In so many facets of life, from names to interior design, I see things that I really like go from rare to trendy, and by the time they get trendy, I'm typically sick of them and have moved on to other things. This worries me a bit because it almost feels inevitable to me that what I like will later take off. But on the other hand, I understand that a later explosion is still preferable to picking a name that's already ubiquitous. And the practical side of me says that staying within the general feeling of today's names means that my children will feel like they belong with their classmates. And if that means that their children will find their parents' name to be dated, well, I guess that's the circle of naming life, right? There is the holy grail of uncommon yet timeless, but if I have to choose between the two, I think I'll err on the side of uncommon and let the timeless chips fall where they may. It's going to be hard enough to find names that *I* like enough to pick, never mind worrying about whether or not my grandchildren will like my selections :)


May 1, 2012 11:13 AM

Wow, you really did grow up in a name pocket! Though I've always been familiar with the name Karen (I think my first association with it is the oldest sibling from The Wonder Years), I don't recall meeting one until recently.  My brother-in-law started dating a Karen who's in her young 20's.  I was  thrown off a little by hearing the name on someone so young, just because it's such an uncommon name for me to hear on anyone, so I assumed it must be mainly for an older generation. 

It's great that you were able to have positive experiences with it growing up, and feel completely normal with it!  It's such a lovely name, and the sounds in it are actually spot-on with current trends -- the K sound and N-ending, very close to the surging Kaylen and Katelynn groups.  So who knows, it may make a comeback soon!

I know what you mean about being ahead of the trends!  I'm so glad I didn't have a kid when I was a young teen (obviously for many reasons) because I'd have chosen names like McKenzie, Madison, Makayla, etc., and those are some of the popular names now that I strongly dislike. 

I agree that I'd like to pick names that "fit in" with today's names so my kids don't feel uncomfortable, without being trendy.  The great thing is that I think we have it a lot easier than any other generation has in the past because the list of acceptable names has broadened exponentially in recent years.  We have hundreds of names to choose from that will still "fit," and our children have less of a likelihood than ever before to have 4 other kids with the same name in their class.  It seems to me that our kids' generation will be much more accepting of many "uncommon" names than previous generations, because most of them will have uncommon names themselves!

May 1, 2012 6:20 PM

Brava!  well said Karyn!

By Guest (not verified)
May 1, 2012 1:00 PM

According to this site, my first name (Helen) hit it's all-time popularity in the 1940s.  You can see that on the newly released 1940 census - every other household has a "Helen" in it.  And when I was growing up in the 60s no one was using it any more.  I thought only old ladies where named Helen.  Now that I'm growing old myself, I seemed to have grown into it - oddly enough!

May 1, 2012 3:06 PM

Alice is so much better than my middle name.  I've always hated my middle name - Antoinette.  What a silly mouthful.  We have no French in my family at all.  It was my grandmother's name which is nice and of course why I got stuck with it.  After I was born my grandmother's response to my mom trying to honor her was to tell my mom that she should have gone with Anne.  I wish now I'd have changed it to Anne or something similar when I got married.  The only thought that I gave it then was to use my maiden name as a middle name but my maiden name is a common noun and so I think it makes a rather miserable middle name.  But human nature being what it is, I'm sure if Antoinette got trendy, popular then I would probably like it better.


It has made me more hesitant with middle names than some people because while most everyone acts like Marie and Anne were such boring middle names growing up I thought they were so much nicer than mine.

By mk
May 1, 2012 3:44 PM

I would have loved the middle name Alice as a child (Alice in Wonderland!). Most of my classmates had Anne or Marie as a middle name, and I liked that I didn't. My first name was a top 10 name when I was born, but I didn't meet someone with my name until college, and I've still met very few. My middle name is a family name. I'd probably do the same with kids: first name a name we like, second name a family name.



May 1, 2012 6:38 PM

I remember fibbing about my middle name (I said it was Elizabeth, and initials EEE was preferable to EYE when I was 7) because I didn't like having a Chinese middle name in a mostly white class.  And when I transfered elementary schools and had more Chinese classmates, I was embarassed because I didn't want to be lumped in with the immigrant children.  I have learned to embrace my name, quirks and all.  My initials were EYE, which is horrible.

My name is unusual for a young girl-- when I had more Jewish friends they would tell me that was their grandmother's name.  My friend's parents would expect a Jewish girl if they were told I would be visiting (some were less subtle than others when I actually showed up).  My parents gave me the name Esther because they're Christians and we all have Bible names, although as the middle child I feel like they got progressively worse.  I am in between older brother D@niel and younger sister Dorc@s (who had a much rougher time with her name).  My father never lost his accent so names were harder for my parents (Ruth and Rachel were out, for example).

Growing up, I would have much prefered being a Melissa than an Esther, but perhaps not one of six Karens.  For future naming, I think every name carries a cultural and generational implication.  Either our kids will feel like his name will fit in with his classmates or with another generation.  Name trends come attached with a generation, so while Melissa is so 80's, Olivia is going to be so 2010's when she grows up.  I know girls my age named Adeleine, Olivia, Alice, and Susannah and their names also pointed to an older generation (although they are all Chinese and immigrant name trends I've noticed are not the same as mainstream culture).  All the other Esthers I know are the daughters of Asian Christians as well, or self-named immigrants.

If my name picks up popularity and suddenly Esthers were popping up in kindergarten classes I don't know if it would make me feel like my name was more stylish. 

December 15, 2012 1:57 PM

This is very interesting—your last comment especially resonates for me. I was born in the late 70's and my name was extremely uncommon (Grace). Growing up, I never ever knew another child named Grace. (And I always loved my name.) When it started picking up popularity about 10 years ago, I started feeling more ambivalent about it, especially when one friend asked me, "How does it feel to have the most popular name?" My feelings about my first name have been further complicated by the fact that it's also my mother-in-law's first name (though she's 40 years older than me, ha!) We don't get along, so it's been kind of awkward at times. My sister, who was born in 1981, has had a similar experience with her name—Sophia. Growing up, it was a name we never, ever heard. Neither old people nor young people had it. Now her name is suddenly in the #1 or #2 spot. I don't think any of could've predicted that (the upswing in the popularity of Grace seemed less surprising, perhaps because it had previously been more popular). I think this feels kind of disappointing to both my sister and our mom. What was once so unusual is now becoming so banal, almost. So I'd agree with you that the sudden popularity of a previously uncommon name has not changed our impressions of our names for the better. 

May 3, 2012 1:17 PM

As someone with a "made up" name all growing up, I was highly appreciative of my middle name Marie making me seem more "normal". It helped that it was a family name on both sides, so it wasn't just a generic Marie, but one with meaning.

I went by my nickname most of my growing up years (Sh@ri) as it was quicker to spell, I didn't have to repeat myself (most of the time), and it went with my last name (J@ckson). When I got married, I've definitely grown into my full name as I decided to go with my full first name instead of a nickname to break up the alliteration (Sh@ffer). It's kind of fun too, because I can always tell when I met people based on what they call me. :-) If it's Sh@ralyn, then I met them post marriage or in 6th grade (the one year I went by my full name). :-)

May 8, 2012 7:01 PM

It's interesting to read your experience, Melissa--it's similar to mine. I was born right on the leading edge of the Kaitlyn/Katelyn/Caitlin/etc. epidemic. As a young child, I quite liked my name, but as I got a little older I noticed that more and more I was one of 4 or 5 Kaitlins (or Katelyns, or whatever). And so began our love-hate relationship. I wished for a long time I could be called Katherine, or go by my middle name, or pick something totally unrelated, none of which would fly with my family.

Oh, the spelling issues. My nickname, by which all my family and friends called me, was another awesome bit of trendiness come to life, so I was Kaitlin-with-a-K-no-Y or Kati-with-an-I-no-E, both of which are apparently horribly confusing. And as I got older, I hated that when people saw it, they instantly pegged me as young (and by extension, lacking experience/incompetent). In my job, there are a lot of people I'm in contact with that I never meet face-to-face. I'm just a name on a computer screen, so that name is doing a pretty big job, representing me without the aid of my body, my voice, my mannerisms, etc. When people start off thinking you're young and stupid, you've really got to fight to prove their first assumption wrong. And people hate to be wrong!

So, nowadays I go by Kate. It's easy to spell, and, in my mind, anyway, it's timeless--when people see it, they don't instantly make a judgement about who you are. You could be anybody. Kate feels like "me," and I'm a lot more comfortable with it than I ever was with Kati or Kaitlin. But, at this stage in my life I feel like I've made peace with that part of my name too. My parents chose it for me because they loved it, after all. I wouldn't change it to Katherine now, and I don't mind people knowing my full name--I just don't necessarily want it to be the first impression they get of me.

In naming my own children, I think my name makes me hypersensitive to any accusations of trendiness by anybody on the internet about any name I think I might like. Hah! It's definitely made me think about names in a different way. My ideals are names that are timeless and easy to spell and pronounce as much as possible.

Though I just heard someone pronounce Penelope pen-uh-lope instead of pen-eh-loh-pee and that would never have even occurred to me so...I'm not sure how good a job I'll do. :)

May 11, 2012 10:37 AM

Eluria-LOL! I am one of those people that used to mispronounce Penelope and Persephone. I joke about them now, my imaginary twins: Pen-uh-lope and Purse-uh-phone. I'm sure they've changed their names legally by now poor kids!

May 11, 2012 11:07 AM

Not forgetting poor Her-mee-one!

By Guest (not verified)
May 11, 2012 2:17 PM

Don't feel bad, ZR - I read The Odyssey before I had much idea how to pronounce Greek names and the whole time Achilles was "Uh-CHILL-eez" in my head. I only learned I was wrong when I tried to make a joke about him being cold (chilly). I think I got Penelope more or less right, but that was probably mostly luck. (In my defense, this was 8th grade - and yes, I did get more out of The Odyssey when I re-read it when I was older.) Really though, how often do these names come up in conversation where we would have learned how they're supposed to be said? I guess Penelope is getting more popular, and there's also Penelope Cruz now to help us get that one straight. Purse-uh-phone though - that's only logical when we hear about telephones, xylophones and even souzaphones more often than Persephone. :-)

- kalmia (not logged in)

May 21, 2012 4:39 PM

Oh, I feel your issue with Kaitlin seeming young.

I remember recently having a Caitlin join a business team of mostly mid-to-late Boomers. It was the oddest thing introducing her to the others, because they had trouble grasping the name. After she had left, everyone asked what her name was again. I said, "Her name is Caitlin," "Huh?" "Caitlin." "I'm sorry, could you repeat that?"

I eventually just pointed out the elephant in the room and said, "You're just not used to meeting an adult named Caitlin." They stopped and immediately realized that they all completely knew the name. "Oh, Caitlin. Uh... yeah."

I didn't add, "What were you thinking when you were naming your kids 'Caitlin'? They were going to grow up eventually, you know. Or were you just planning to have them all shipped off to parts unknown when they turned 20?"

It's not that Caitlin's a bad name; it's not a bad name at all. But there's a whole cohort of people who simultaneously name their kids Caitlin and then assume they'll always be children. But who am I to speak? My generation's doing it with Zoe right now.

May 15, 2012 3:12 PM

The earliest that I can remember consciously thinking about my name is in about grade 5. I remember already hating it then, and I haven't grown much fonder with time. I was at the beginning of the Brittany pocket in my area, and the name always seemed so childish (presumably because I saw it on so many younger kids, but never ANY older ones). It didn't help that television characters sharing my name were always dumb cheerleaders (and continue to be, thank you Glee). I spent all of the 2000's hearing "like Britney Spears" comments, a real pain as my highschool job was as a cashier at a grocery store (and therefore hearing these comments at least twice daily). I never suffered the dissapearing-in-the-crowd phenomenon as a result of it's popularity, it wasn't until high school that I ever shared a classroom with another Brittany.

As an adult, I have felt that my name has proven to be an obstacle. As with Eluria, my name implies that I am young, and thus inexperienced. I have yet to deal with another Brittany in a professional setting, and to this day I have never met an older Brittany.

The one thing that I can appreciate about my name is that it is spelled "correctly". Unfortunately, this isn't much consolation, as it doesn't seem to be the default spelling for many people. This never used to bother me, but as I grow more and more aware of the terribly creative spellings out there, I just want to yell "LIKE THE PLACE" when people ask for the spelling.

It also bothers me that the name was not chosen for any specific reason (it just sounded good), which means that I have no special connection to my name with which to battle the feeling that it was just a fad.

I was also jealous of my siblings, with familiar but uncommon names, and straightforward spellings! I have always felt a yearning to just use my middle name, how I long to be a Sarah. A timeless name, and a family heirloom to boot.

By Guest (not verified)
May 17, 2012 11:01 PM

I have a classic name, Elizabeth, and an extremely dated nickname, Beth.  I never loved my nickname, and should have just dumped it when I went to college or grad school, but just didn't bother.  Now it is so strange to be walking around with a name that screams "70s camp counselor."  Or mom, I guess, which I am.

Melissa seems more timeless to me.  I knew Melissas born in the 50s through the 90s, and it is a pretty, semi-classic name.

But I go for classic, timeless, and no nickname.  Of course my kid chose her own weird nickname, which we have grown to adore, but originally she had a classic name, Caroline, and middle name, Jane -- both family names -- and no nickname.  I had a wee bit of a hankering to call her Carly and now I am glad I didn't.

May 19, 2012 12:52 PM

Honestly, I don't see Beth as being that dated. Yes, I'd be surprised to hear of a baby named just Beth now, but not shocked to encounter it as a nickname, since Elizabeth is a classic and not everyone is going to want to use the current trend, Ellie. The must still be *some* Beths out there. Furthermore, I wonder how many younger people have been influenced by the inclusion of a baby named Beth in Glee... When they first chose the name, I was surprised at how untrendy the choice was, but I have completely gotten used to it, and I'll bet that it has made a whole lot of teenagers view the name as contemporary.

May 19, 2012 2:41 PM

I have just encountered a darling little 3-year-old Beth (for Elizabeth).

By hyz
May 19, 2012 6:03 PM

I actually love Beth as a nn for Elizabeth, and I feel like I really don't hear it that often.  When I met a 30 something Beth a few years ago, I remember remarking on how much I liked it as opposed to Liz, which was the typical choice of my peers.  Beth has a real softness and sweetness to it, I think, much like Bess.  I also love Betty and Betsy, which almost never seem to appear on anyone under 65 these days.

May 19, 2012 11:03 PM

I'm reminded of the nursery rhyme/riddle:

Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy, and Bess,
They all went together to seek a bird's nest;
They found a bird's nest with five eggs in,
They all took one, and left four in.

Elspeth is so thoroughly out of fashion in the U.S. (ten babies got it last year) that the contributors to Namipedia (including some who bear the name) don't all seem to realize that it's a form of or nickname for Elizabeth.

By EVie
May 21, 2012 3:01 PM

This last comment reminded me of an Elizabeth I know who is called Liesel by a certain circle of friends, who gave her the nickname on a trip to Germany or Switzerland back in the 1960s or 70s. She had been answering to Liesel for forty years before I mentioned to her that of course, Liesel is a German diminutive of Elizabeth... and she didn't know. She thought they had just picked a random German name as a joke. As an NE, that kind of blew my mind.

May 25, 2012 2:47 PM

Late response, but I have had the same experience with my middle name, Dorothy.  It peaked in the 20s (later than Alice) and hasn't seen the same resurgence yet, but it looks like Dorothy just rejoined the top-1000 in 2011, so perhaps it is just a few years behind.  I personally know two Alices between the ages of 1 and 4.  I kinda can't wait to meet Dorothy.

I, too, was embarrassed of my middle name growing up.  I hated* the Wizard of Oz connection people made.  It looks like Elmo started talking to his pet fish Dorothy in 1998 and Dora the Explorer hit tv in 2000.  I was out of touch with kids characters in those years, but in 2003 I started noticing Dorothy Gale costumes for sale everywhere and even bought one.  I was ready to embrace it.   

I have always loved both the timelessness and malleability of my first name, Katherine, so my kids have traditional English, popular-as-formal-version first names: William and Elizabeth.  They go by "Jack" (which I sometimes regret) and "Evie" (for her initials, mn is Violet.) I am comforted by their seemingly endless selection of self-chosen nicknames, so they can fit in as much or as little as they choose, like Kaitlyn-turned-Kate above.


*In searching for an appropriate word here, I learned about a new class of verbs I hadn't previously known about: defective verbs, which have incomplete conjugation or can't be used in the same ways as other verbs.  The perfect word would have been the past tense of "beware" but that does not exist.  "Feared" isn't quite right, but I avoided people making the connection out of fear of embarassment.  

By Guest (not verified)
May 25, 2012 7:10 PM

The only Dorothy I know is 80+ so I was surprised to see it re-enter the top 1000. I am interested to see how far it rises and which demographics of parents are choosing it.  I love your kids' names! I always thought Elizabeth would be the perfect name for me- classic but with endless variations/nicknames.  My husband and I have it on our list if we have a girl.

And thanks for the info about the verbs! I am a huge grammar nut and I didn't know there was a word for those kinds of verbs!

January 20, 2013 6:26 PM

Here's a late response to your late response. :-) I am a Dorothy from the generation of Jessicas, Jennifers, Katies, and and Melissas. I was named after my grandmother, who was born before the Wizard of Oz movie came out, but that was ALL. I. GOT. for years. I still get it, sometimes, but man, "Where's Toto?" gets really old, really fast. Growing up, I hated the name for that reason. I even tried to go by my middle name (another more uncommon name - Regina - but without the strong association to a specific thing), but got teased BY MY FAMILY out of doing it. Oh, and of course, the, "Hey, that's my grandma's name!" Googling my name gets obituaries. :-P

Now, I really appreciate having a name that is less commonly heard. Chances are, if my name is being called, it's me (though recently I was in the doctor's office and the only other woman waiting looked to be college-age. The nurse called for Dorothy and we both stood up. That was a bizarre experience. That has literally never, ever happened to me before and likely won't happen again). However, people hear my name and don't hear it correctly because they don't associate that name with my generation. The number one mishearing? Courtney. They also misspell it like crazy. When it happens, I usually get Dorthy (ugh), but I've gotten Dorthea, Dorthie, Dorathy, Dorathie, etc. Yikes.

So, being a mother of one and one on the way, I've been trying to give names that are uncommon enough to be unique, but common enough that you don't get the butchering that I've gotten over the years AND without a super strong pop reference (though, like my grandmother's generation, that may change). Our daughter is Theresa Rose, but goes by Rosie (Rose Theresa sounded funny to us), and our son on the way will most likely end up being a Frederick (Fred, Freddy, etc). We love the name Marian for a future daughter, and we think that unless a super awesome Robin Hood or Music Man reboot movie comes out, she won't have to deal with "Maid Marian" or "Marian the Librarian" every time she turns around. Guess I just have to cross my fingers that no movie execs read this forum. :-)


*I love the side note! Defective verbs...amazing!

By Guest (not verified)
May 28, 2012 7:26 PM

My older daughter just graduated from medical school about a week ago.  There was a "Caitlyn" in the graduating class with her, and it made me feel VERY old!  I remember hearing the name Caitlyn/Katelyn, etc. for the first time in the 80s, and it seems like yesterday to me.

By Guest (not verified)
June 22, 2012 12:24 AM

I like your first and middle names very much!  I'm an herbalist, so "Melissa" to me means Lemon Balm (also known as Melissa); and I instantly think of sunny garden hours with my pretty and refreshing herbs when I hear that.  "Alice" means Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to me as to so many others; a favorite childhood heroine as well as a name that sounds pretty when spoken.


I wanted to share the story of my father's and brother's middle name, "King", since it's unusual.  On my paternal side, the family has a long-standing rule that at least one of the boys in each generation must bear the name "King" somewhere in his name (typically it's been the middle name).  This was because we were supposed to be of royal extraction and it was to mark this through the future generations.  


The truth is, a huge number of people are of royal extraction; and since many royals played around a lot, there are people who'd never be able to verify it who technically are too!  :)  But I always liked this middle name, and the story that goes with it.

June 22, 2012 1:34 PM

My name, Angela, was about #30 or so in my birthyear. I have actually only met three or so other Angelas in my life though. I guess it was more popular in the 70's (#7) but I don't feel like people assume I'm 10 years older than I am because of my name.


I went through a phase where I didn't like the hard "g" sound in my name and wished I was an Emily or a Claire or something, but now I really like my name. Though I HATE the nickname Angie and have always quickly corrected people who try to call me that. It bugs me when people are determined to shorten names that are only two or three syllables long. The name is short enough! You don't need a nickname! But that's probably because I like my full name better personally.


By Guest (not verified)
July 24, 2012 9:35 PM

I'm another 80's Caitlin/Katelin/etc. I loved my name until the late 90's when I started encountering small children with it. I don't think I've ever met another one my age, they all seem to be twenty years younger than me. I think because there are so many ways of spelling it that I'm really particular about it being spelled right. Still, I always have to correct people because they automatically want to start with a K and throw a Y in there somewhere. Like others have mentioned I am sort of resentful that it screams young even though I'm almost 30. I still like my name but I really wish my parents had given me a name with some meaning instead of one that sounded nice. We have so many wonderful family names that I would have loved but I guess they didn't like old Norwegian names (my vote would have been for Cecelia). Oh well, if I ever have children my experiences have certainly molded my tastes for classic, yet unique monikers.