Sunday SummaryLately I’ve been thinking about boys’ names that feel traditional, but stuck in style limbo. Randall. Marshall. Alan and Allen. Curtis. Wayne. Eugene. Clayton. Philip. Gerald. Vincent. Bradley.

Some of them strike me as rather handsome. Names that we’re overlooking for no good reason. Others do seem all wrong for a baby boy in 2015.

But that’s only partly based on usage and trends. Some of that’s just my opinion about what’s wearable, and it’s personal – and subject to change.

Because when a name comes back, it can come back quickly. Alfred had plummeted, falling nearing every year since the 1950s. And then? Alfred was up 161 places in 2014. Clyde left the Top 1000 in the 1990s, but returned in 2013 – and jumped 191 places last year. Other big gainers included Harvey (up 122 places), Clark (up 75 places), and Lionel (up 73 places).

Girls’ names are subject to trends, too, of course. But could it be that we’re more timid about bringing back boys’ names?

I’m not sure, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Elsewhere online:

  • While we’re talking about creativity, boldness, and names for boys, how great is this list of Whimsical Names for Baby Boys? I’m all about Fielding, Tolliver, Dempsey, Tennyson, Wiley, Caldwell, Gable, and Rafe. But I’m not sure I’d call them whimsical. Or maybe I’m just drawn to the more conservative possibilities on the list, because some of the others – Atreyu, Feivel, Seven, Quill, Timber – do seem like fanciful, creative, not-mainstream names.
  • Let’s keep walking on the wild side! Bree has shared her guilty pleasure names. I’m tempted to list my favorites, but where to begin? There are just so many!
  • Thanks to Katie Baker for the shout-out on Grantland! Does Beauregard work as a baby name? I think Beau is fabulous, so I’d give Beauregard a definite maybe.
  • Katie’s post led me to this list of ice hockey player names. The players are 13-14, and from the Western US, as well as Canada. Hello, Paycen, Calen, Jett, Kaid, Brevin, and lots of boys called Cole and Chase. Which, of course, reminds me that in another five decades, Chase and Cole and all of the rest will be grandpa names.
  • Proof that crazy, out-there names are nothing new: Elea’s finds from 1868, including Krensenz, Secret, Asia, and Capriella.
  • Mysteries like this are so much fun! Kate discovered that at least some Italian families used to translate Assunta – as in the Feast of the Assumption – as Susan. There’s no linguistic connection between Susan and Assumption, but the sounds have some overlap. There are meanings that can be explained by etymology, and then there are those that evolve in totally unexpected ways.
  • Apparently, lots of parents fret that their favorite name is just too out-there, and decide to choose something a little safer. Of course, if Viking is your frontrunner, then I can understand some hesitation. When I asked about this on Facebook, many replied that they’re much more likely to reject a name because it’s too mainstream. The difference between Appellation Mountain readers and the general population, perhaps?
  • This is SUCH a tough situation! What if you’ve married into a family that considers brutal honesty the best policy? Even when it leads them to share critical and even downright hurtful opinions about your baby names? And it doesn’t stop with the birth announcement, but continues throughout your children’s lives? It sounds really rather awful, but I think that Anna gives very sensible – and kind – advice.
  • Speaking of advice, I think Duana has some great ideas for a middle name for Annabelle.
  • Ending where we began, with old school names. Is Suits the reason Harvey is back? Somehow, I never made the connection – but it must be, right?

That’s all for this week! As always, have a fabulous week – and thank you so much for reading!

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 parents were absolutely horrible about my daughter’s name. They would introduce her to people and say, “This is Harriet, who is lovely despite her name.” After two years I figured my daughter was old enough to start picking up on these types of constant, disparaging comments and I told my parents they were absolutely not allowed to say anything about her name ever again. For the most part, they haven’t. I wished I’d been firmer about name boundaries earlier. With my latest daughter, Clover, they made one “it’s a cow’s name” comment and I gave them the evil eye and haven’t heard anything since. Sometimes family is difficult, but we still love them.

  2. Vincent is a very common names for boys here in Quebec, pronounced the French way, and I know a young English-speaking Vincent in another part of Canada – he is named for his Italian-Canadian grandfather and goes by Vinnie. I also know a baby Philip in the US – it’s not my cup of tea but perfectly harmless.

    I know an Assunta who goes exclusively by Sue – she’s around my age (early 40s). I also know two Salvatores in roughly the same age bracket who always go by Sam. Although I think it was more common in previous generations for people to adopt an “English” nickname if their name was perceived as too exotic by the English-speaking majority, the practice hasn’t died out. Italian names tend to be quite long and fanciful and not always easily pronounceable by non-Italians so it’s quite common for someone named Pasqualino to go by Lino or someone named Giuseppe to go by Joe.

  3. Harvey was trending upwards before “Suits” … it had been in the Top 100 in the UK since the mid 1990s though (It’s just getting to the Top 100 here now).

    I’ve noticed that my own favourite characters in books etc tend to have names that are just ever so slightly ahead of the curve – perhaps around the #120 mark for the era they were born. Completely believable, yet not too obviously of their generation. I think there should be a couple of really wacko names every once in a while (just like real life), but you can’t overdo it.

  4. My guilty pleasure name: Dorcas. I get all Pre-Raphealite with that. I actually do know one, an older librarian who wears it very well. But yeah, totally unusable.
    Seems to me that after a year or two , it’s time to sit your parents down and tell them their “honesty” is no longer appreciated.
    And I think character names do get noticed, and used, and I’m not sure I believe in the “age-appropriate” rule. You want a name that stands out a bit, that people remember. Like Phoebe, or Xander, or Lorelei and Rory. All of those are instantly recognizable (and dated, but I don’t watch tv that much anymore.) Having said that, I think Harvey isn’t so much from this one show as an extension of the “old man” names. Henry isn’t fresh anymore, but Harvey is.
    Beauregard seems perfectly acceptable to me,if you’re into formal Southern-sounding names.

  5. I went to college in New Jersey, so I know a lot of Vincents (who all go by Vin or Vinny). So I associate that name with Italian Americans.

    1. Ha, me too! There’s a lot of Italian-Australians aged around 40-50 called Vince.

  6. One thing I’ve noticed about boys’ names versus girls’ names is that when a boy name comes “back” its use tends to spur other parents along, whereas in the case of a girl name, parents will more often avoid a name if it’s trending up. I’m not sure why, but it seems to be pretty consistently the case that parents are encouraged or ambivalent to their boy name entering the top 100, but totally dismayed if their girl name does the same.

    1. That’s a really interesting observation, Hettie. I’ll have to think about that one … but my sense is that you’re on to something!

  7. Beauregard seems overly fancy to me, but how about Beaudry? Beaudry was my maiden name, and while I’ve never before considered it as a given name, with the increased interest in “Beau” as a nickname, I think Beaudry might have some appeal. Beaudry is pronounced “BO dree”, reminding me of Henry.

    Just now I checked “Beyond the top 1000” to see what “Beau-” names were used for boys in 2014. Beaudry didn’t make the list, but very close in sound Beauden was given to 17 boys. The top “Beau” name was Beau (1622), with a few boys named Beaux (70) and Beauregard (26).

  8. I know a 2 year old Marshall and he’s awesome. I’m curious about the effect of TV characters on names. People often attribute the rise of Laura in the 70s to a soap character, and you mention Harvey from Suits, but it’s odd what captures the public’s eye. Are drama characters more likely to pass on namesakes? I see a lot more Alexanders called Xander (as opposed to Alex) now that the Buffy generation are having their own kids. (Not to mention Rileys and Willows!) But it doesn’t seem to happen with sitcoms. The Friends characters didn’t jumpstart their own names (of course, Monica came at a bad time), but what they named THEIR kids went nuclear (Emma!) Marshall was the name of a very popular sitcom character, as well as a character on a premium cable show. Other names from How I Met Your Mother (Ted and Lily) were already trending up and are huge hits, while I don’t see anything happening with Barney (though his character might not be one parents want to honor a kid with).

    1. Diana, that’s an interesting observation. I often find names that *should* catch on, but don’t – and I sometimes think it’s the absence of an appealing fictional character/song/young actor, etc. that prevents the name from gaining more notice. At the same time, I think parents are sometimes reluctant to admit that they’ve found their names on television shows. (“What a lovely name. Like on Pretty Little Liars?” “Oh, everyone says that, but I’ve loved Aria for years.”) Or my friend Tabitha, who insists she was NOT named after Bewitched. (And she’s kind of young to be named after Bewitched. Except no one was naming their children Tabitha before Bewitched, so …)

      1. My mother says I was named after a character on a TV show about a woman doctor on the frontier in Canada…? I have no idea what the show might be and I haven’t had any luck tracking it down either, but I’d love to know.

        Sara – born in 1983.

        1. That’s interesting, Sara. Was it an American or Canadian TV series? Is Sara your actual name — the name you are looking for? It would seem that you could find the name of the TV show somewhere on the internet. Sara/Sarah was a very popular name at that time. We have a Sarah born in 1984 in our family.