Sunday Summary: June 11, 2017If my mom had named me Allison, this blog might not exist.

My fascination with names stems from an awareness that my given name was powerfully popular. Epidemic, even. And that I could have – might have – had a different name. When I pulled the baby name dictionary off my parents’ bookshelf and discovered dozens upon hundreds upon dozens of names that no one in my class had? Oh, that was a revelation.

Over the years, I wanted many different names. I lamented that my first and middle togethers were both brief, nickname-proof choices that offered no opportunity for reinvention. So I legally changed it – I wasn’t born Abby.

But I think, if I’d been named Allison, everything might have been different.

In the year I was born, Allison ranked just outside of the Top 100 and was rising steadily. But it wasn’t outside of the kinds of names my parents might have considered. No way would they have dreamed of choosing Lorna or Fawn, but Allison? Allison qualifies as a sweet spot name – familiar, ordinary even, without being too popular.

I think Allisons – at least from my generation – might go through life quietly content with their stands-out/fits-in names.

And that, I suppose, would be a shame.

Because much as I (still) sometimes find it awkward to have shed the name of my first 28 years in favor of something other, I do appreciate this path. And it’s such a gift to connect with so many of you who value names for your own, very personal reasons, too.

Elsewhere online:

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. My interest in names wasn’t so much because mine was way too popular. Most people only knew one or two Karas (or Caras included) so I felt unique enough, I just didn’t LIKE my name all that much, still don’t. So I suppose my journey, and why I made The Art of Naming, was because I wanted to find a new name for myself and the best names for my kids. 🙂 Thanks for the link, Abby!

  2. Hello! Allison here! I was born in the mid-eighties and my mom thought she had selected a more rare name than it actually was. I was the only Allison in my elementary school and one of two in my junior high grade. There were a couple more in the other grades. In my high school of 1700 students there were still only about 5 of us. All of this to say, I always felt left out of “the Ashleys!”

    I appreciate my name so much more as an adult than I ever did before.

    Unrelated but interesting to me nonetheless: Acquaintances often mis-remember my name as “Melissa.” I wonder if the shared sounds and the relative common/uncommonness connects them in peoples’ minds?

  3. Thanks for the link! I agree, if I had been named something other than Emily (#7 the year I was born), I might be less interested in names. Perhaps that’s not uncommon in this sphere?

    1. I’m into names for the opposite reason…I’m a Gwendolen with two brothers with much less common names (only one of which can even be found on Nameberry).

    2. Maybe … now that you mention it, I’ve often reflected that people who dislike their names often express frustration that they’re too common. Even though we tend to imagine that people will dislike having a really unusual name …

      1. I have a very common name (number one the year I was born – it isn’t Maree). There were so many of us, 6 in my home room of 25 girls.

        As a child I used to change the spelling to a less common form but I don’t remember trying to change my name.

        I like my name. I never have to repeat it or spell it, people rarely forget it. If you google me you won’t find me – I like that!

        My hubby has the opposite, very unusual name and I have never heard of another one. People can’t spell it, ask him to repeat it every time and almost always continue to get it wrong even after they have met him several times. His name causes him a lot of grief. When he meets someone new I see him take a breath before he introduces himself and I know he is getting ready for the inevitable comment.

        Our kids have very standard, top 100 names that have all been top 100 for the entire social security set. They won’t be memorable for their names and we did that deliberately.

        I just wanted to give my perspective on why our family willingly chose popular names – it wasn’t out of ignorance or laziness which some fellow name nerds assume.