In 20th century America, men were called Bob. And Jim, Dan, Dave and Bill; Joe, Lou, Ed and Mike. For several decades, odds were strong that the guy coaching Little League, filing your taxes and running the local pharmacy was Ron or Tom or Frank.
There were exceptions, of course. Charles might be Chuck, but he could also be Charlie. Tony was always common, and in the 40s and 50s he was joined by Gary, Larry and Roger.
And then many of these same single-syllable men grew up and called their sons by two-syllable appellations: Kevin and Eric, Jason and Ryan, Brian and Brandon.
The trend changed slowly, but sure enough, by the 90s, for every Josh and Jake, there was a Tyler, Kyle, Jordan, Christian, Dylan, Nathan, Adam, Alex, Ethan and Connor.
And while two-syllable, ends-in-en choices for boys have had a lock on our sons’ names ever since, we suspect that the tide is changing. Could it be that we’re about to see A Softer Side of Boys?
For many years, girls’ names ended in the letter a, be they chart-topping choices like Jessica and Amanda, or Biblical classics like Sarah and Rebecca. Christina, Melissa, Hannah, Kayla, Brianna, Alyssa all spring to mind as typically feminine names impossible to even think of bestowing on a boy.
Of course, parents have been stealing traditionally masculine names for their daughters for as long as girls have been borrowing sweaters from their boyfriends. One generation’s Shirley called her daughters Courtney and Ashley; her granddaughters are Jordan, Avery and Quinn.
Little wonder that parents searching for something new have cautiously considered ends in -ah choices for their sons. Joshua, of course, opened the door. But Josh’s terminal a was easily ignored. Scan the Top 50 from 1990 and he was alone; the same is true in 1995.
But in the year 2000, he was joined by two more ends in -a/-ah names in the Top 50:
- Joshua, #4
- Noah, #27
- Isaiah, #47
Fast forward to 2007, the Top 50 included:
- Joshua, #4
- Noah, #14
- Elijah, #30
- Isaiah, #43
Lurking just a bit higher on the list, we find Jeremiah (#67), Josiah (#106), Micah (#126) and Jonah(#165).
True, not every Biblical, ends in -a/-ah name is likely to be revived. Obadiah, for one, is best left to the distant past.
But there are a few other choices that fit the pattern, and might be worth considering for a son. The ranking after each is from the 2007 Top 1000 list.
- Ezra, #342
- Hezekiah, #919
- Jebediah, unranked
- Jediah, unranked
- Judah, #425
- Nehemiah, #363
- Zachariah, #444
- Zechariah, #670
- Zevidiah, unranked
We’ll admit that their overtly religious nature is tough to ignore. The only non-Biblical contender of note has been Dakota, a Native American choice that peaked at #56 in the 90s and today is falling out of favor. (It stood at #203 in 2007.)
Many of these lengthy monikers, however, offer easy nicknames. Just like Elijah becomes Eli, Jebediah goes by Jeb and Zachariah, Zach. Even Hezekiah could be Zeke. (Though he’ll share it with the more popular Ezekiel, #248 in 2007.) While no easy diminutive comes to mind for Nehemiah, the name has leapt nearly 500 spaces (from 828 in 1998 to 363 today) in less than a decade.
It’s clear that the rules for boys’ names are changing. And for those of us tired of hearing Aiden, Jayden, Kaiden and Braydon on every playground in America, it’s a welcome shift.