Solid Citizens: The next frontier in revivals?

Just a few years ago many of the names in the "Solid Citizens" chapter of The Baby Name Wizard were considered the nadir of name fashion (if you haven't seen it feel free to take a look at it; what it mainly consists of are names whose heyday was sometime between the 1910s-1940s or so). Now it seems that more people are warming back up to some of those names (at least in the NE community where some are looking for "beyond hipster" names). It's probably a combination of factors:

With Victorian-era favorites like Amelia and Henry now well into the mainstream it's the next step in names due for a revival.

With the ongoing tough economic times maybe some are looking for more "simple" names (not necessarily a sign of a return to more conformity in naming, but rather more people liking those names with a "comfort food" feeling). (This is also why I predicted that over the course of this decade America's phobia of nicknamey-names would diminish like it did during the last major depression.)

On the same note, although I try to avoid discussing issues of a political nature here, now that the generation that these names are/were associated with's image has gone from the obstacle of unbridled capitalism (which is how many Boomers and older Xers saw things) to that of a reminder of better and more equal economic times of the past (which is how many of today's new parents are seeing it), may be helping how the names are perceived.

Lastly, this may be a sign of the Mad Men effect; four of the main characters' names (Betty, Donald, Joan, and Roger) are on the "Solid Citizens" list (and are generationally appropriate for the respective characters).

What do you think? Any names from the list that you like? (I'll share my favorites after a bit.)


June 23, 2012 7:20 PM

I just lent my copy to my pregnant (!!!!) sister, so while I can't remember exactly what names are on the list, I do have a huge sweet spot for this era of naming, especially for boys. I'm a big fan of both the full names and the nicknames - Harold (Hal), Francis (Frank), Walter (Walt), Arthur (Art), Roy, Louis (Lou), Bruce, Roger... I could go on and on.

There are a few reasons why I'm so drawn to them, one of which is the return-to-a-simpler-time aspect. It's not that I'm fond of the racism/sexism/xenophobia, but I like the idea of working hard with your own two hands, something that's also being reflected in the larger culture (think vegetable gardens, knitting, typewriters, artisanal/handmade/locally sourced everything). There's a stolid, capable, dependable vibe to these names that I think parents want to instill in their kids. My generation (born mid-eighties) largely grew up not really knowing how to fix things, or having any skills that are of a practical use outside the first world. I think there's kind of a renaissance of relearning forgotten, useful abilities, and the names of our grandparents' generation reflect those ideals.

There's also simply the matter of sound. For me, it's the male names that grab me the most, mainly because at this point, every 2 syl. name ending in -n sounds the same, no matter how old or new the names in question actually are, they just don't do anything for me at all. Add that to the ever-shrinking pool of boy names, these sound fresh, singular, clearly masculine, and underused, all of which are the holy grail in terms of naming.

I just really hope I'm not too indicative of the zeitgeist, because I won't be a parent for a few years yet, and I don't want these names to have lost their sparkle by then.

June 28, 2012 12:09 PM

I think it will be a bit before those names come raging back.  They are still all largely names that we associate with our own parents and until they become names that namers associate with their GRANDparents I think they will stay on the shelf (if I'm thinking of the right list).  That said, a close friend of mine is expecting and she's planning on naming the girl Ellen, which is on the list, and she is getting universally good reviews for it. We went over the boys list together though, and we agreed that the names are uniformly bad with only a couple of exceptions.  So yeah, I think we've got a few years.

By Guest (not verified)
June 29, 2012 5:11 AM

I think the name Linda is gorgeous, but it still carries the mother/grandmother connotation, and not in a necessarily favorable way. Otherwise, I'd use it. 

July 2, 2012 9:57 PM

My copy of the BNW is in the baby's room, and he's asleep, so I can't check, but my favorite of the really oldster names is Chester. I just love it, but don't see it coming back anytime soon.

By hyz
July 3, 2012 10:22 PM

I do think that'll be the next set to come around--I've already seen some stylish namers using them--and of course it makes sense based on the time frame, since the 1910s-40s is largely the current namers' grandparents' or great-grandparents' generation.  If great-grandparents' names are the style sweet-spot, these should be back in style relatively soon.  I pulled out my BNW, and some that I like on the latest list are:

Ann, Bernadette, Betty, Beverly, Carol, Constance, Dorothy, Frances, Gloria, Helen, Jane, June (love), Lois, Lorna, Margot, Rosalie, Rosalind (love), Rosemary, Ruth, and of course Sylvia (love) for the girls, and

Charles, Clark, Dale, Ellis, Francis, Harris, Lionel, Paul, Russell, Stanton, and Wendell for the boys. 


I could be very happy naming my next 5 (hypothetical) kids

Sylvia Ruth, June Frances, Rosalind Bernadette, Charles Wendell, and Paul Clark.