Number 10
Number 10 by Fif' via Flickr

On Friday night, a 6 year old boy of my acquaintance told me that I don’t look like an Abby.

He’s right.

In his experience, Abby is a name for a girl his age, not a mom.  In the year I was born, Abigail was as common as Irma and Doris.  The boy’s mom is called Krista – a Top 200 name, and rolling in Kristen and Christa and Christina, a very ordinary name for a 30-something woman nowadays.

And yet here’s the funny thing – even though my own given name is something I concocted, Abby actually was on myparents’ original short list.  (Not Abigail, just Abby.)  My parents swear that they didn’t know that the name they eventually put on my birth certificate – Amy – was so mightily popular.  (It was #2, just behind Jennifer.)

So here’s my thought for today – just as we instinctively recognize names as appropriate to our age group – or not, could it be that some similar force pushes parents towards the most popular names?  We claim we want to avoid a Top Ten name, but then we gravitate towards Mason and Ava anyhow.

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. I have a 32-year-old sister named Abby (not Abigail, just Abby). It’s always seemed to fit her absolutely perfectly. Funny enough, the name my parents intended to use for her was Megan, a very popular name at the time. She just didn’t look like a Megan to them, so Abby it was.

  2. In Australia at least, Mietta is taken as the Italian form of French Miette. We just seem to call the car the MX-5, not very namey!

    The name is given in honour of Mietta O’Donnell, an elegant chef and food critic who transformed the Australian gourmet food scene, and was killed in a road accident about a decade ago. I believe she’s almost worshipped in Melbourne. She was of Italian heritage.

  3. Yep. I’m right on trend for my year of birth. My parents told me they had no idea Lauren was so popular, but then their whole story about how they came up with my name changes every time I ask. My FH, named Chris (or John Christopher to be honest) loves his common name and sees no need to saddle our potential kids with “interesting” (his word!) names.

  4. I intentionally gave my son a generationally “wrong” name for two reasons: 1. It is a family name and 2. I really wanted something different yet familiar.

    While most of us want our kids to have different names, we like the contemporary name style and that’s how names that aren’t even that popular but have a stylish sound become popular eventually.

    I have a generationally “correct” or maybe the better term is generationally assumed name and have never had problems with it. In fact the only complaint I have about my name is that it is so common for my generation.

    My parents weren’t name-nerds. My Mom never fantasized about her future children’s names. She just found her self pregnant and realized, “my gosh we need a name.” Had I been a boy they were going to name me Alan, my Dad’s middle name. They didn’t use my Mom’s middle name Dawn because my Dad’s cousin used it on his daughter right before I was born. Dawn did become my middle name. Alana, the feminine form of Alan, and what I wished they had used, was a contender, but they decided to save Alan in case they had a boy later. In case they never had a boy, they decided to at least stick with the A. I don’t completely understand this reasoning.

    Surprisingly they knew Amy was popular and that’s why they didn’t consider it, but had no idea the name they picked, Angela, was really almost as popular as Amy. My Mom didn’t like Amanda; they nixed it. My Mom briefly considered Ashley from a character on a soap opera, but being at least 10 years before the Ashley boom, the name seemed risky to them at the time. Not being name-nerds they weren’t aware of any other A names so Angela I became.

  5. On the subject of generational name mix-ups, I’ll reiterate a couple I mentioned over at this past week: From a (non-name-related) forum I frequent there’s a Jen(ny) who is a baby boomer (although it’s short for Jane and not Jennifer) and her daughter is Linda; she’s said that it really confuses a lot of people (I think I might have mentioned this one before somewhere on here). There’s also a father/son duo I’ve heard of online whose names are Nathan and Paul, but the opposite of what you’d expect (Paul is the junior one).

    Also, don’t forget to check out the name series I’ve got going this summer at my blog (if Abby hasn’t seen my e-mail I mentioned to her that one of her children’s names will be featured later on).

    1. Out of curiousity, do you know the general ages of the Nathan/Paul combo you mentioned? I ask because, in my own age group (late 20s) I know quite a few Nathans. Similarly, at least two of my friends have babies named Paul. All of the above mentioned live in generally the same area. . .

      1. I don’t know for sure (this was from an online posting I randomly encountered), but from the context Paul is probably still a child at this time. Unlike the Jen/Linda example I gave where you have two names strongly associated with a particular generation used opposite of what you’d expect, in the Nathan/Paul case the dad’s name is not that off-target, but since the son was given a name that is more associated with a living generation before dad’s name, it makes some people think that Paul is the older one (on the other hand maybe Paul was named after grandpa or some other relative?).

  6. My daughter are somewhat generationally reversed, at least in my area which is a little behind the curve. People often slip and call me Phoebe, and her Haley.

  7. I was thinking about ‘generationally “wrong”’ names as well when I was looking that the programme from my cousins’ dance recital yesterday, as I was surprised by many names I saw:

    Abi, Abigail [x2], Addison, Ainslee, Aislin, Aislyn, Alanna, Alexandra, Alexzandria, Allie, Allison [x2], Amber, Amelia, Amina, Amy, Analiese, Angela, Angelina, Anika, Anna [x2], Anna Kate, Annalise, Annie, Ashleigh, Ashley, Ashlynne, Aubrey, Aurora, Autum, Avery [x3], Bailey, Brianna [my 2nd cousin], Britlynne, Britton, Caleigh, Camdyn, Camila, Camille, Carly, Caroline, Catie, Chanel, Charlotte, Chelsea, Chloe, Claire [x2], Clara, Clarice, Daria, Diadra, Elena, Elisha, Elizabeth, Emily [x6], Emma [x2], Gabriella, Gina, Grace [4], Guliana, Gwendolyn, Hailey, Hannah [x2], Holly, Ikuri [m], Ileana, Isabelle, Jaden, Jaiden, Jenna, Jessica, Jordan [1 m, 1 f], Jordyn, Kadence, Kaelyn, Kaitlin, Kaitlyn [x2], Kala [my 1st cousin], Kamryn, Kara, Kariana, Karigan, Katherine, Katrina, Kaya, Kayla [x2], Kelsea, Kennadi, Kennedy, Keri, Kinsey, Krista, Kristin, Kurumi, Kylie, Kyra, Lana, Laura, Lauren [x2], Lauryn, Lexi, Libee, Lili, Lily, Lindley, Lydia, Lynae, Lyndsey, Madeleine, Madeline, Madelyn [x2], Madelynn, Madison, Maegen, Maggie, Mahala, Makaila, MaKenna, Malea, Maria [x2], Marah, Maya [x2], Megan [x2], Mekah, Melissa, Mia [x2], Molly [x2], Morgan, Nakala, Naomi, Natalia, Natalie [x2], Natsumi, Nicole, Olivia [x2], Parker, Parnasi, Penelope, Peyton [x2], Raygan, Rebecca, Reegan, Rilee, Riley, Rylee, Samantha [x2], Sami, Sarah [x3], Savannah, Shaylee, Shelby, Skyla, Skylar, Sofia, Sophie, Stephanie, Sydney [x4], Tara, Taylor, Teddy [m], Tessa [x2], Valerie, Victoria, Zana

    Clarice, Kyra
    Elizabeth, Madelyn
    Madison, Sydney
    Kamryn, Nakala
    Holly, Shelby, Teddy [m]
    Abi, Alexandra
    Allison, Lauren, Samantha
    Jordyn, Karigan
    Autum, Reegan
    Alexzandria, Britton
    Avery, Kaelyn
    Gabriella, Lili, Naomi
    Daria, Kelsea
    Chelsea, Hannah
    Maya, Rebecca
    Anika, Mekah
    Anna Kate, Caroline
    Ikuri [m], Kurumi, Natsumi
    Krista, Nicole
    Camille, Kaitlyn
    Lily, Valerie
    Emma, Kylie
    Lana, Mia
    Jaiden, Jordan
    Abigail, Anna

    [Note: Ages range from 3-17; all sic; there’s at least one other boy on this list, but I don’t know who it is!]

  8. Your comment on Abby not looking right for a woman of your age is something I can relate to. My own daugher, Roseanna, and I have what I consider generationally reversed names. While Rosanna never reached the height of popularity that Charlotte’s currently receiving, it was certainly more commonly encountered on infants of the 70’s and 80’s than it is today. I was named Charlotte by my parents because they wanted a name that was traditional and yet, at the time at least, not common (Charlotte was at its lowest ebb in 100 years when I got the name). As a bonus, Charlotte was also a family name. My Roseanna received her generationally “wrong” name because that was the name of her deceased grandmother and my husband didn’t like any of the variants I suggested. Humorously enough, it turns out that Roseanna *is* a variant of her grandmother’s name — Mark had forgotten that his mother’s official name was actually RoseAnna.

    I agree with The Name Lady’s summation of Brighton. When I hear the word I think first of all of Brighton Rock, the Graeme Greene novel and movie adaptation featuring a very young Richard Attenborough. Both versions of the tale feature one of the most horrific characters I’ve ever come across in fiction, so the associations aren’t necessarily positive. When I mentioned wanting to visit Brighton to my friend who lived in the UK her first comment included something about, “LGBT territory”. I don’t think either of us would ever consider the word as a name, although I can understand why some parents might choose to do so.