Sunday Summary 5.27.18Happy Sunday!

A friend passed along this article about how 500 college students perceive a wide range of given names. It’s fascinating, and I found myself nodding with many of the findings. And yet, I always feel cautious about such studies. They imply that certain names are good – in this case, seen as both “highly competent” and “warm” versus “low competence” and “low warmth.” Reading this, you might imagine that Emma or Susan, names from the first list, would make a superior choice to Dana or Whitney, names on the latter list.


These are college students, in their late teens and early 20s. If we find the same 500 subjects and test them again in ten years? Twenty years? Forty? I’m quite certain those lists would look very different. And if we ran the same test with a group of 500 people in their 70s? Again, we would almost certainly see different results.

I mean, we once loved harvest gold kitchen appliances. Farrah Fawcett hair. Insert your favorite outdated fashion trend here.

If there’s any take-away, I think it’s this: names that have been broadly popular over several decades fare best. Mary, Susan, John, and Nicholas make the warm/competent list. So do Emma and Noah. That might be one more reason to embrace popular names.

But, of course, that’s the opposite of what we often look for as parents today, when we often do our best to avoid the most common choices. And that might influence name perceptions on future college campuses – and the wider world.


  • Speaking of uncommon, Katy Mixon named her new daughter Elektra Saint! Wow, that’s a bold name. But one that I really like. Katy and husband Breaux Greer are also parents to son Kingston Saint. Isn’t it interesting how both kids share the same middle? Here’s hoping Katy does an interview and talks about that choice. It feels like there must be a story!
  • Related: is ‘ii’ the new creative go-to ending? Laura Wattenberg cites the rise of spellings like Averii and Zoii. My first thought? The late musician Avicii, who borrowed his professional name from a Buddhist term for hell. (But he also doubled the ‘i’ – it’s typically spelled with just one.) Also, I couldn’t find any babies named Avicii. Which is, I think, probably for the best. Though I can imagine the sound appealing …
  • I think this approach to choosing surnames for their children is so smart! Would you ever consider giving daughters their mother’s surname, while sons receive their dad’s surname instead?
  • This list of Georgia O’Keeffe’s siblings’ names is quite lovely.
  • Need another reason to love the name Alice? How ’bout this amazing midwife? It caught my eye because the article suggests over 1,000 babies have been named for her over the years, including boys named Alex or Ellis. I love what she says about her name: “Alice people are active people, they are caring people, they are loving people. A, the first letter in the alphabet. A, for action.”
  • I’d heard that a reboot of Charmed was in the works, but it’s really happening – and soon! But this time, the Charmed Ones will all share the initial M instead of P. And I’m not sure if the names will prove as influential: Mel, Maggie, and Macy feel more mainstream than Piper, Phoebe, and Pru did back in the day. Still, the sisters’ surname – Vera – might just get a boost, and there’s a female Nico in the series, too – I keep expecting that one to catch on for girls, but it remains solidly Team Blue.
  • We all know people with place names, but Glen Eden seems like a particularly special circumstance.
  • An Italian court orders a family to change their daughter’s name, Blu, or the court will do it for them. The article mentions that there are a handful of other girls with the name Blue already – yes, in Italy! That’s what often strikes me about such stories: it sometimes feels like the problem isn’t the child’s name. It’s just dumb luck that the child’s name catches the attention of an official who finds it problematic – so much so that the official decides to act. And those officials? Don’t always recognize what’s really happening with naming. Remember all those stories about the Tennessee judge who decided to forcibly change baby Messiah’s name? I mean – Messiah might not be for you, but it was hovering around the Top 300 when the child was born. And it’s risen into the Top 200 since, so here’s guessing that such waves of attention mostly serve to boost unusual names.

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

Girl Names 5.27.18

Boy Names 5.27.18

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. In the Finnish language, the double i – ii, makes the ‘ee’ sound. Everyone in my family with this phonetic sound have the ii spelling. For example, Liisa, Kristiina…

  2. Since I read this post yesterday, I’ve come across the -ii ending twice – once in the name of a stunt scooter for kids (the Vokul Trii S1 Freestyle scooter to be exact!) and in the name of a Canadian banking app that’s in the news due to a security breach, called ‘Simplii.’ I guess purposeful misspellings have been part of marketing for decades but I didn’t really pay attention to trends in that regard until maybe five or ten years ago.

  3. I think a letter that has multiple sounds would have been better for Charmed – The Halliwell sisters had Phoebe, and never had all three hard P’s at any one time. And Maggie and Macy just sound a lot more same-same than any of Pru(dence) Piper, Phoebe, or Paige, which vary more end sounds and syllables.

    C, G, S, or even J could have given more options.

  4. On the subject of whose last name the child gets, I read about a case where surprisingly the dad asked that their children should get mom’s last name. You want to know why? Dad is Latino while mom has a common Scandinavian last name (she’s from Minnesota), and the dad felt that their children would be discriminated against less with her last name.

  5. I dislike the idea of using the child’s gender to determine which last name they get, because it’s been calculated that if this practice becomes common enough that over time various surnames will eventually become more associated with one gender over the other. While there’s the (often one-gender-sided) debate over unisex first names, I don’t like the idea of introducing it to last names as well.

    Using a random or alternating-birth-order method to determine last names is fine with me though.