Sunday SummaryIf you follow all things baby names, you probably heard that investment bank Goldman Sachs has weighed in on baby naming trends, circa 2015.

I haven’t managed to get my mitts on the original report. From what I’ve gleaned, the bank takes the position that names are a stand-in for brands. Millennial parents’ tendency to choose less common names indicates their interest in smaller brands. (Corporate America, proceed accordingly.)

There’s a tendency to twist this kind of information into a criticism of parents today. We think our kids are soooo special. No, an ordinary name like Mary won’t do, she has be to Starr Flower. No every Joe name like John for my future rocket scientist/pro athlete/corporate titan.

But that’s a dark and ugly read on the data. I prefer to see it this way: we are fortunate in our freedom, and the encouragement to be creative and true to ourselves. With tremendous access to information, why would we limit ourselves to the possibilities of an earlier age?

In short, there’s no such thing as a normal name, and there are lots of good reasons why the pool of possible names is deepening.

Now, on to the name news:

  • How great are the names of these Zoya nail polish colorsBrenna, Tomoko, Laney, Juanita, Godiva PixieDust.
  • Shonda Rhimes, known for creating great television and naming great characters, has a new series coming up starring Mireille Enos as Alice. It’s called The Catch. Other character names according to IMDbKieran, Maria, and Dhalia. Wonder if that’s a typo and it’s really meant to be Dahlia? Hmmm …
  • I tend to agree with Dear Ellie on this baby name dilemma. (It’s the second Q in the column.) WinefrideIt’s really frustrating to have a name that you love, and to have your brother and sister-in-law decide to use exactly that name when you’ve asked them not to do so. But I have a hard time with the concept of reserving names. And, of course, I really want to know which name they’re quarreling about!
  • Random name-related picture, courtesy of a gathering at our neighbors’ house: Lovely Saint Winefride, better known as Winifred. The saint has a grisly story, dating to the seventh century. When she told her suitor she was taking religious vows, he decapitated her. So much for true love! But Winifred lived, and served as abbess of her order. Which reminds me: I’m intrigued by Kate’s question about name stories, especially as regards saints’ names. Is a name’s story ever so gruesome that you can’t use it?
  • A frequent criticism in baby name circles: tinkering with the spelling of a popular name doesn’t make it “different.” But is that what happens? Or are parents attracted to an alternate spelling without being aware of the dominant spelling? This story, of choosing the name Averie for a daughter, suggests that it’s the latter – at least some of the time.
  • They’ve named boy #13! He’s Francisco Matthew.
  • Share a CokeOh my goodness, it’s back! LOVE the Share-a-Coke bottles that come out in the summer.
  • Did you see the What Would Your Name Be Today? app at Time? It’s a pretty simple trick. If you were born in 1973 and named Jennifer, the app tells you the #1 name for other decades: Emma, Mary, Jessica, Emily. Abby generates more interesting results. My 1920s name is Maida, and my 1910s name is Borghild!
  • Speaking of What Would Your Name Be Today, I love stories like this one at Modern Mrs. Darcy. She’s Anne, and her 1910 name would’ve been Adele – a name close to one on her family tree, that they considered for their daughters.
  • Namespotting: Millicent, in an upscale New Jersey ‘burb of NYC.
  • More unusual names, this time in Washington State via Names for RealChancellor, Haze, Delphia, Maycrystal, Silver, Benz.
  • Thomasina and Clemency? Ooh, I love the birth announcements at British Baby Names.
  • This isn’t new, but it’s new to me: Bohemian-Hippie-Indie-Artsy-Surfer baby names.

That’s all for this week. As always, thank you for reading – and have a great week!

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. Since I thought that I made up the name Dannika back in the day [as a combination of Danka and Annika], it would probably be seen by others as a respelling of Danika/Danica. I could definitely see that happening in other cases with less well-known names, or names that people have only heard, not seen written down.

  2. This is awesome! I’m named Jane after my grandmother. My kids are named after the Gilmore Girls, A friend of mine and one of the Hanson kids Haha!
    Thanks for linking my blog, Salt + Sea [Gypsy Heart]!

  3. I have a bee in my bonnet about -leigh names. I’m never sure if they’re pronounced “lee” or “lay,” and I can never be sure if going by context… Is “Emmaleigh” a smoosh name of “Emma” and “Leigh” or a respelling of “Emily?” Is Leighton “Leeton” or “Layton?” I don’t mind respellings as long as the pronunciation is intuitive.

    1. Leighton *does* puzzle me. I know it is normally Layton, but I pause every time.

  4. I couldn’t get the app to work, but decided to check myself. I would have been Julia in both 1920 and 2010 – weird.

  5. The What Would Your Name Be is such a great idea. Unfortunately, my results were incorrect. It said my name was ranked 609 the year I was born when really it was 845. Still a fun idea and fun to see the name results.

  6. I’m not a big fan or reserving names, either, but jeez. They’re tossing a ton of names around, you ask them not to use yours, and not only do they choose it, they’re obnoxious about it? I’m not saying they shouldn’t use it, but it does sound as if they could be a lot nicer about it.
    I’m not so curious about that name, but the Goldman Saks article with the two names embedded in it? That I would like to know, but not enough to read it any more closely than I already have.
    My “today” name would be Penelope. My beloved great-aunt loved that name, and it is family legend how hard she tried to get my mom to use it for me. I’m a redhead, and I grew up hearing, “Oh, Penny would have been so perfect for her!” So thanks for the smile. You were ahead of your time, Aunt Fay!

    1. Kim, YES! Those embedded names – I spent way too long trying to guess them, and then googling the author to see if she’d revealed them elsewhere.

      I think without knowing the name in Ellie’s column, it’s tough to know if it was a reasonable request. Was it something really common, like James or William? Or super popular, like Mason or Jasper? It’s possible that it was a family name, or a name likely to have personal significance to both siblings. I think if you’re the sibling whose name is being taken, it feels unfair at the least. And possibly – especially if you’re single when you’d rather not be, or hoping to start a family and struggling to do so – it could feel really cruel. But on the flip side, there’s just no way to know if that sibling will EVER have a son of her own. (What if she marries and has four daughters?) Or if she’ll have a son, but her partner will have a really good reason for refusing to use that name? I also think Ellie is right that it’s fine to repeat the name on cousins, though that’s no longer the dominant opinion today …

      1. I think “Prior”, “Reign”, “Spike” and “Ginger” are the likeliest words in that article to be kid’s name. Did I miss anything promising?

        1. Ginger is the one that leapt out at me! Prior and Reign are possibilities, too. I don’t think there are others …

  7. I’ve had Millicent pegged for a while now as the next name for hipsters to fall in love with. I have yet to meet one but I won’t be surprised if they start appearing here and there. Millie is an appealing nickname that fits in perfectly with the Ellies, Daisys and Maisies.

    I think plenty of parents choose a name without being aware of the dominant spelling, or perhaps not realizing that one spelling is much more dominant than others. I also think in some circles the idea that there is one ‘correct’ spelling of a name is somewhat foreign. To me the range of names out there reveals a lot about how wide the range is in terms of how much thought parents put into the name (e.g. whether or not they concern themselves with how the name will sound on an adult rather than a baby or toddler, whether others will find it easy to spell etc.) and in terms of taste. You really have everything from people who way overthink their choice and make themselves crazy over it, to people who give almost no thought to the name before arriving at the hospital, ask the doctor nurse who attends the birth of their baby what her name is and give that name to their child. The funny thing is that the name that was chosen with almost no forethought is often just as nice and serviceable as the one that was chosen after years of contemplation.

  8. My 1890 name would be Alvina. That’s my great grandmother’s name. I wear her ring as my wedding ring. I knew her in my lifetime and I love the special connection.