Justin is a modern staple, slowly transitioning from boy-band cutie to grown-up regular Joe. Now how about the feminine form?
Thanks to Virginia for suggesting her daughter’s middle name. Justine is our Baby Name of the Day.
Back in 1982, Justine Bateman first caught our attention as Alex P. Keaton’s sister Mallory, a role she’d play through 1989. Mallory wasn’t the brightest or the most motivated, but she was terribly stylish. (Even today, there’s an entire Tumblr devoted to her wardrobe.) And their show, Family Ties was a smash hit, a cultural phenomenon that remains a perennial re-run favorite.
The show’s heyday would prove to be Justine’s heyday, too. While Justine had ranked in the US Top 1000 every year since the 1890s, she stood at a chilly #582 in 1982, but had climbed to #175 in 1987. After 1987, and as the show left the air and Bateman’s career floundered, Justine fell hard, leaving the US Top 1000 entirely after 2008.
Justin – as in Timberlake and Bieber – followed a similar trajectory, but made it all the way into the US Top Ten by 1987. He’d stay there through 1990, and still ranked #50 in 2010.
The names come from Latin word iustus – just. Saints, emperors, and other figures have worn various forms of the name over the centuries, including Justus, Justinian, and Justina.
There’s a fourth century martyr and saint named Justine, but the first Justine that comes to mind for many is the Marquis de Sade’s ill-fated character in Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue. Justine retells her life story as her death sentence approaches. Despite striving to be above reproach, young Justine constantly falls victim. Unlike many a classic tale of the good girl who suffers, but ends well, no such happy ending awaits Justine.
Instead it is Justine’s sister, the amoral – or even villainous – Juliette who prospers, mostly in the sequel Juliette, or Vice Amply Rewarded.
Other famous Justines include:
- Glamorous Justine Johnstone graduated from the Ziegfield Follies girl to Broadway to a brief silent film career. Johnstone left it all behind to study science at Columbia University. If you’ve ever had an I.V., you owe something to Ms. Johnstone’s work.
- Another literary Justine is part of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria quartet. First published in 1957, the novels are set in 1930s and 40s Egypt.
- In 1969, The Archies – comprised entirely of cartoon characters borrowed from the Archie comics and Saturday morning cartoon – recorded a song called “Justine.” Linda Rondstadt recorded a single titled “Justine” in 1980. Neither song was a hit, but doubtless both inspired some parents.
- In 1977 bestseller The Thorn Birds, Meggie’s daughter is named Justine.
In France, Justine peaked in the early 1990s, and is now on the wane.
The question, of course, is whether Justine feels dated in the US. Other late 80s favorites like Christine, Danielle, Jacqueline, and Michelle fall squarely in mom name territory. But Justine never reached such great heights.
So if Genevieve, Giselle, and Evangeline are your style, but you’re eager to find something your child will never share with a classmate, Justine is a safe bet. She fits with smart, stylish names circa 2012, but still manages to be just off the radar off most parents – not a bad combination if you’re looking for that elusive normal-but-seldom-heard name.