Here’s a super common, pretty easy piece of content to write: These names used to be everywhere, now you never hear them anymore. And that’s sometimes true. Back in 1883, Bertha, Ida, and Frank were Top Ten names. They’re pretty unusual – maybe even nearly extinct – by 2023 standards.
Still, this Fatherly article struck me as just plain wrong. It suggested that Michael, Matthew, and Christopher, the most common names of an entire generation, are “almost vanished.”
It’s true we don’t hear them as often as we did circa 1983 or 1997 or so. But, but, but …
- MICHAEL ranks #16 as of 2022, and has appeared in the US Top 100 every year since 1880, when data was first collected.
- MATTHEW ranks #39 as of 2022, and has appeared in the US Top 100 every year since 1956; it’s only rarely fallen out of the Top 200.
- CHRISTOPHER ranks #56 as of 2022, and has appeared in the US Top 100 since 1949. Back in 1900, it ranked a relatively chilly #278. It’s possible to argue that Christopher is more of a later twentieth century phenomenon, but it absolutely has history and ongoing use.
While some trendy names do skyrocket, peak high, and then plummet, that’s not what usually happens.
Most of the time, names just shift. Trendy names, yes. But classic ones, too. Michael is still very much in use, just not at the top of the charts. And Christopher then is a little bit like Oliver now. It feels fresh and stylish, but on reflection, we can see that it fits with traditional favorites.
There’s a look at this topic – and a list of boys’ names that I’d classify as new traditionals – in the AM Baby Names Patreon this week. Go here to subscribe.
Oh, and another safe topic? Weird names. Except most of the times the lists AREN’T terribly weird. They’re a mix of truly one-off rarities, along with older names and names from another culture that we’re probably misunderstanding. I hesitate to link to this list, but it’s a good example of what I mean. It’s got everything from mainstream Nevaeh to stylish Birdie to truly unusual Zebra. (That last one came from English genealogy records circa 1875, when zebras were still new and fascinating in England.)
Genuinely curious: who names jewelry? Looking at the current range of Kendra Scott necklaces, they bear names like Elisa, Emilie, Juliette, Ari, Cailin, Amelia, Blair, Grayson, Alexandria, Kassie, Abbie, Genevieve, Michelle, Lillia, Clementine, Gracie, Allison, and Brielle – and that’s just for starters. It’s an effective list, I think – mostly names that reflect the women wearing and buying the jewelry now.
This question is forever relevant. When do you share your new baby’s name? My personal answer? Somewhere in the middle of this list. Because – for us – there was a point where our children simply had names, we weren’t going to change our minds, and attempting to keep it quiet just felt pointless. But there are arguments to keep it to yourself just a little longer … and I sometimes wonder if I’d held off on announcing our son’s middle name if I’d have come up with something I liked better.
If you’re into TikToks … the only surprise here is that I was nodding along thinking, “yeah, I can see that” as this woman picked up random backyard objects and turned them into trendy names. I am fully prepared to meet Cheign and Geight. (Though I checked, and they’re not in the official US Social Security Administration data … yet.)
This Reel is supposed to be just funny, but it points to the biggest challenge of naming now. Yes, classrooms are filled with Ella, Bella, Stella, Isabelle, and Ellie … and that’s why choosing a truly distinctive name is tough. Because even if you choose relatively rare Della, well … it will sound like so many Top 100 favorites. That can be a bonus that makes an unusual name feel like it fits right in, or a frustration, when your not-Top-1ooo name blends in anyhow.