Sunday Summary 5.16.21Now that the new baby name popularity data is out, I’m guessing some of us are experiencing one of two feelings:

My favorite name is rising – everyone stop using it! If everyone else is using it, I can’t possibly use it for a child of my own.

Oh, wow, my favorite name is falling. If no one else is using, maybe it’s going to be out by the time I have a child … and can’t possibly use it for my kid.

Talk about a lose-lose scenario!

But I definitely hear from parents who get stuck in one – or both – of these traps.

There’s one possible way to sidestep all of this angst. But it’s a route we’re often reluctant to take.

Contrarian baby names.

They’re names that aren’t catching anyone’s attention. They’re just sort of … there. Some of them feel like mom names. Others might scream great-uncle to you. But they’re definitely not the recent hits that you’ll hear in every high school graduating class, nor are they the chart-toppers of this moment.

Nancy’s list includes Wendy and Marianne, Willis and Lowell. But there’s no need to stick to her list. We know a school-aged Gloria, a gently fading name that still fits right in with Olivia and Amelia, but fits the contrarian mold, too. Corinne, Jillian, Cynthia for girls; Wallace, Curtis, Heath for boys. There are always options that fit right in, but still stand out.

It’s a little tough to pin down exactly what makes a contrarian name, but that’s part of the category’s charm. It’s broad and deep, and allows you to have your pick of a long list of possibilities while everyone else is frustrated that their college roommate just named her daughter Aurora, too.


Laura Wattenberg picks up on some interesting trends in the new data. I’m especially curious about her ‘ii’ observation. After all, if you’re naming a baby today, it’s almost certain that you recognize Wii and read it “whee.” So maybe Harmonii isn’t a crazy bananas spelling.

I loved Sophie’s look at celebrity influence in the 2020 data. It’s worth noting that “celebrity” doesn’t necessarily mean Natalie Portman or Gal Gadot. A sweet YouTube family launched Avaya and a reality television star gave us Denisse.

These stories from LifeKit on how listeners chose their children’s names are great! Maybe my favorite part is the last one, where they had a long list of rules … and definitely broke some! It’s just real life, right?

And here’s the original LifeKit episode. Packed with good advice + very much worth a listen.

Love these names in the news from Nancy. Especially Ariana Valley.

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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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