Staying power

What makes a name a modern classic?  It seems like many of the topics on this board are asking for old-fashioned but not too popular names.  However when I was looking at the top 100 baby names, one name stuck out to me: Alyssa.  What makes this name stick around?  She hasn't really dropped (baby names are getting more diverse so while her graph might look like it's dropped significantly, she was #14 at her peak in 2003 and is holding strong at #16 in 2011.)

What are your theories?  To me Alyssa sounds like a baby name of my generation (born in the mid-80's) yet she is currently enjoying worldwide popularity, making the top 100 in Canada, Australia, the US and Belgium and sits at #134 in Scotland. 



April 19, 2012 8:12 PM

Alyssa plays her cards right. She has specific components that have matched all the trends she has gone through. If you dissect her you will see-beginning vowel/schwa sound, contains an L sound, ends in -sa so thoroughly girl. It fit in the 80's because it was short i intensive and S heavy names that prevailed (Linda, Lydia, Cindy, Mindy, Nicole, Tiffany and Ashley, Stephanie, Stacey, Susan, Marissa, etc.) It fits now because of the beginning vowel sound and L intensive names (Ellen, Evelyn, Ellie/Ella/Bella, Lilllian and all her variants,  Ayla, Olivia, etc.) 

By Guest (not verified)
April 20, 2012 1:02 AM

So, the trick of the "lasting name" is to identify a modern trend, predict a future trend, and find a name that overlaps.  The goal of so many parents!

April 21, 2012 7:35 PM

I read an interesting bit, article, chapter in a book, or a paper (can't remember where now, sorry!) that talked about how naming trends "trickle down" through from upper-class to lower-class (speaking in both financial and social terms).  It may even have been in Freakonomics, actually.


They used Alyssa as a specific example actually - looking at the demographics behind who is using the name over time.  If that's the case, I would think that as a name gets adopted by the broader band of middle class people it may become more noticeable (there are more middle class people than upper class people) and feel more accessible (it's more reasonable to think of naming a child after a kid whose mom is in your sunday school class than a name you hear on a celebrity or political figure's child) and so it gets progressively picked up by a larger and larger pool of people.


What's really funny to think about (especially to me, because I have fairly biased opinions towards poor Alyssa) is that if that's true, in a few decades, Alyssa could very easily be in the same category of "almost classic" as a name like Samantha or Hazel.  Freaky, isn't it?


April 21, 2012 9:32 PM

November-I agree with that last part and find it interesting. I would put Alyssa in an "almost" category now. I can easily see her as the sister to many names from Shannon (very 80's) to Caroline (classic).

By Guest (not verified)
April 24, 2012 10:53 AM

November, your comment that Alyssa could become a "classic" made me laugh a bit.  I'm an Alyssa born in the early 70's.   Growing up, nobody had heard my name, nobody could remember it, say it right, spell it, etc.  It was such a pain always correcting people over & over.  I didn't meet my first IRL Alyssa until I was about 35- and she was a 3 year old in my son's preschool class.  It's interesting that the name could go from obscure-even "weird" to an "almost classic" in just 40 years.  

April 24, 2012 7:25 PM

Thanks for sharing your experience with your name.  I would think that with a celebrity name (Alyssa Milano) you wouldn't have had as much trouble as you did. 

In contrast, Shannon peaked in the 1970's at #21, so Alyssa's star is considerably higher.  I think Alyssa might be unique in her graph.  Maybe Lauren Wattenberg will see this and shed some light on her staying power and some other names that had similar popularity.  I think I found one, actually-- Lauren.  Lauren feels more like a "new classic" to me than Alyssa does, but that might be a geography thing.  I knew many Laurens growing up but no Alyssas.

I would love to discover the secret behind staying power-- and avoid them for naming my future kids. 

By Guest (not verified)
April 25, 2012 10:34 AM

Who's the Boss first aired the year I turned 12.  When I tried to use Alyssa Milano as a reference point for my name I usually just got blank stares-people knew "Samantha" from the show, but most weren't familiar with the actress's name.  I'd say it was late high school/early college before she was well known enough to be of any help to me.  :)