I recently found myself thinking about what dates a name. Many of us accept that our children’s names won’t be one-of-one. But we’d prefer to avoid a name that feels like Jennifer or Maureen – names that tie their child to a particular decade.
This is both easier – and harder – than it looks.
First, for a name to feel tied to a specific generation, it has to rise dramatically in use during that decade or two.
Jennifer qualifies. So does Ashley. Everly almost certainly will. But Emma may not. It’s ranked in the US Top 100 since 1993, and may very well remain in the Top 100 for another twenty years. Think about Emily. It feels traditional, and I know lots of 20-something and 30-something Emilys. But also a teen Emily and a tween Emily, too, plus I still see it in birth announcements. It feels traditional. Not at all surprising. But trendy and fleeting? Nope. Tied to a decade? Not especially. About the same number of Emilys were born in 1980 as 2018. After all, Emily Dickinson and Emily Post, anchor the name firmly across the ages.
A mix-and-match sound contributes, too.
Nothing sounds quite like Jennifer. But dated names often belong to an entire class of names that has fallen from favor. Maureen, for example, fell along with Arlene and Darlene. It’s why all of the -aiden and -aylee names will likely feel cemented to the early 2000s, even if the individual name wasn’t wildly popular.
But what really puts a name over the line? Pop culture ties.
A great many names get their start with a television series or celebrity, only to quickly move beyond their original reference. Others, though, feel so tied to a pop culture moment that they’re almost doomed to feel dated. Britney Spears wasn’t the first Brittany/Britney by a long measure. And yet, her superstardom helps pin the name to the year 2000, give or take a decade.
The bottom line? Any name can trend – become more popular – but a relatively small percentage of names will ever be perceived as especially trendy.
So, yes, if your kids are named Sophia, Theodore, and Evelyn, I can probably guess that they’re somewhere under the age of twelve right now. That’s because all of three of those traditional names have trended. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be perceived as trendy or fleeting. And, over time, the names’ classic status is likely to soften others’ ability to guess their age. Harper and Jaxon, on the other hand? I’d guess those will remain fairly era-specific favorites.
What do you think? What makes a name feel dated – or timeless – to you?
If you get the weekly AM newsletter, you’ll know that I’m crushing on Hildegard. Not for me, exactly, but for a super-intelligent friend of mine who’s due in just a few weeks. And now Kate at Sancta Nomina profiled the name – ha!
It’s (almost certainly) not gonna be Hildy, but I’m excited to learn the name Katie Perry and Orlando Bloom choose for their daughter. My interest in celebrity baby names has dimmed a bit in the last year or two. I mean … what could top Beyonce’s three children, or so many Kardashian not-quite-name names? But Orlando named his first born (with ex Miranda Kerr) Flynn Christopher, a name that I just flat-out love. So I have high hopes!
Some gorgeous substitutes for Sophia, courtesy of Bree’s Beauty of Names. I’m so drawn to Carina. (Which again, almost certainly won’t be the name Katie and Orlando pick, because it’s a Pirates franchise name. But still.)
A fascinating look at names ending with i and how they’ve changed over the years. The big take-away? Now that Lori and Terri are grandmas, it’s their grandsons getting the i-ending names.
It’s been a while since I liked to British Baby Names’ birth announcements and they’re as wonderful and distracting as ever. Rory, Rowan, and Mimi Eloise Rose!
That’s all for this week. As always, thank you for reading!
Haley at carrotsformichaelmas.com has a toddler daughter named Hildegard (Hildie). I had never heard the name before her, but now I LOVE it! Her other children have great names too.
A discussion of dated names is very timely for me right now! I’m due this fall and one of the names on my short list is Sarah. Like everyone else, I have lots of great friends by the name. I know it’s a classic but on the other hand I find myself worrying that there were just too many Sarahs born in the 1980s and 1990s. Is it firmly a mom’s name now? My husband’s long time favorite is Lucy which seems both classic and current.
Oh, I prefer Sara over Sarah on paper, and I simply adore Lucie with -ie, because it reminds me of Lucie Manette in A Tale of Two Cities. And yes, I think Sara and Lucie both feel less dated than Sarah and Lucy…… But maybe it’s just because I’m influenced by the people I tend to associate the names with!
I say it’s classic … but I do know LOTS of Sarahs my age, plus or minus 15 years. Lucy does hit more of the classic/current vibe. But while Sarah would probably never share her name with another kid in her class, so that’s something. (Of course, she might share it with her teacher.) My neighbors named their daughter Sarah maybe seven years ago. I almost fell over when they chose, especially since their son’s name was more daring. But it really grew on me … it is just a great name, isn’t it?!
I’m a Sara, who likes her name, so I’m clearly biased;) But while I grew up with some Sara/hs, and have a few adult friends with that name now, for some reason that doesn’t bother me. I think it helped that I was named after someone in my family, and there were MANY that preceded her in my family tree. So it’s meaningful and kind of timeless. I also grew up with a lot of Jennifer/Ashley/Brooke/Jessica names. And those felt more trendy to me, and still do. I also grew up with a TON of people name Katie and Liz, and while the given names are classics, I feel like those particular nicknames have a bit of a time stamp. This is a long winded way of saying, I don’t think you can go wrong with Sara(h)- yes it was really popular for a time, but it was before that time as well, and I truly think it’s the epitome of a timeless classic. I also think nicknames Sally and Sadie are fantastic!
I also LOVE Lucy. And if you end up with two girls…Lucy & Sarah (or Sadie/Sally) sounds like a perfect sister set!
This Sarah would be sisters to Clare and Katharine.
I totally agree that Katie and Liz feel date-stamped even while Katherine and Elizabeth don’t. I’m just mad I got an -i name in the 1980s that is now grandma-chic while I’m still in my 30s. Having a date-stamped name of the wrong age is totally different than being one of the crowd.