7 Deadly Trends
New parents should be fully aware of current trends in American baby naming.
THE SEVEN DEADLY TRENDS, PART 1: THE MICK CLAN
Most parents who choose a Mc-name today are not donning kilts and bagpipes.
It began with Mackenzie Philips of “One Day at a Time” fame in the 1970s. Her birth name, Laura Mackenzie Philips, became forgotten as this troubled teen rose to become a household name. Then in the 1980s we were exposed to the adorable black-eyed Spuds Mackenzie, spokesdog for Bud. The popularity of MacDonald’s probably has something to do with it too. When “Home Alone” swept the nation in the 1990s with Macauley Culkin as its star, babynamers were doomed. The Scottish Mackenzie and the Italian Michaela became unlikely partners in crime when together the two spawned a whole host of a new kind of name: McKayla, Makayla, McKenna, Maklynnzey. What is it about these kind of names that makes parents gaga? And for that matter, isn’t the letter M getting more than its fair share of attention with Madison, Madesyn, Madeleine, Madalynn, and Madigan? My belief is that the letter M is still very much worthy of consideration, as are genuine Scottish monikers (starred*). I am however, a bit tired of the McCraze. Here are my McSuggestions:
Madeleine, Madeline (French, English)- These two spellings only, please
Margaret (English)- Margaret is eternally classic and boasts some of the best nicknames ever: Daisy, Maggie, Maisie, Meg, Molly, Pearl, Peg, Peggy
Marina (Ancient Roman, Bulgarian, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish)
Michaela (Hebrew) -Still usable in this form
**Incidentally, one of my name heros, J.K. Rowling (who’s ruined some fabulous names due to the popularity of her children’s books), has a daughter name Mackenzie.
THE SEVEN DEADLY TRENDS, PART 2: SURNAME NAMES
This trend came about from a few different converging movements. Primarily, we may credit Southerners, who have been using family surnames for their sons and daughters for generations. This lead to a perception that certain surnames conveyed a moneyed image and would help a child escalate the ladder in life. In the 1990s, parents gave their daughters “unisex” names in droves because they thought that not knowing a person’s gender, a name would scew male and give the girl an edge in the job market. This may have actually backfired, for names like Taylor, Mackenzie, Madison, Avery, and Haley are now almost exclusively female. Many celeb babies are also donning the surname, from Gwen Stefani’s Kingston (think they vacay in Jamaica? It’s a place name to boot), to Nicole Richie’s Harlow (a la Jean), to Brooke Shields’ Greer (female).
According to babynames.com, these are today’s most popular names on that site:
I thought this represented an extraordinary cross-section of naming styles and trends. FIVE of the ten choices are surnames, so clearly this post is prescient! Below is what I culled from the top 200 in the U.S. born last year:
Ryan (16), Logan (17), Tyler (21), Dylan (29), Brandon (31), Jackson (33), Mason (37), Austin (48), Landon (49), Cameron (50), Connor (55), Hunter (57), Cole (84), Blake (88), Carson (90), Brady (93), Cooper (95), Devin (101), Brody (105), Parker (108), Riley (109), Preston (114), Colton (117), Ashton (124), Peyton (125), Nolan (133), Tanner (149), Gage (150), Maxwell (153), Conner (159), Grant (161), Garrett (162), Travis (169), Spencer (174), Trenton (177), Bryson (179), Bradley (194), Wesley (195), Donovan (198).
Madison (5), Addison (11), Ashley (13), Hailey (23), Taylor (24), Allison (46), Avery (48), Riley (52), Mackenzie (65), Aubrey (69), Haley (76), Bailey (83), Jordan (100), Kennedy (110), Peyton (121), Leslie (127), Jordyn (140), Reese (150), Payton (152), Reagan (156), McKenzie (161), Kendall (166), Skylar (171), Makenzie (178), Hayden (195)
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, the girls’ list rounds out at 25 and the boys’ is only slightly larger at 39 count. There are repeats on the ladies’ side and exceptions made for the letter Y so as to be included here. The majority of boy’s names are two syllables and end in N or R, most with Irish or English heritage. Most of the surnames deemed girl’s names are two or three syllables and end in N or the ever feminine “ee” sound. Offshoots of these include many made up names of the Railey/Emersyn/Shyler variety. Our advice: stick to actual surnames with the original spelling, and look to your own family tree for possible candidates before turning to somebody else’s. Lastly, we’d love to see people put a halt to giving their daughters names that incorporate “son.”
Fresher Sounding & Culled from the Phonebook- Genders Subjective:
Adair, Adler, Auden, Barnett, Beck, Beckett, Bellamy, Byrd, Clancy, Clark, Connolly, Cormac, Dempsey, Dietrich, Duncan, Ellery, Finnegan, Flannery, Gardner, Garner, Garrison, Gauthier, Giles, Harper, Haydn (“Hi-den”), Hollis, Holloway, Jensen, Keane, Keats, Langston, Larson, Lowry, Messina, Monroe, Quincy, Redmond, Reid, Roarke, Rosen, Rowley, Royston, Smythe, Sullivan, Vaughn, Wallis, Whitman, Wylie
THE SEVEN DEADLY TRENDS, PART 3: ADVENT OF AIDAN
About five years ago, many of the young women I knew in a small hippy town began having babies. I noted three Aidans born within months of each other. There would have been more, had one of the town’s prominent musicians not been named Aidan (“we love it, but it would be weird” explained one friend). I recall this because it’s fascinating to note Aidan’s widespread appeal: From agricultural hippy parents to suburban neocons to jetsetting urbanites, everyone seems to just LOVE Aidan. What’s not to love: he’s kind, stalwart, and capable, much like his designer carpenter character on “Sex and the City.” It’s not the name Aidan itself that we find troubling, though it has had its day. It is his myriad rhyming brothers who are taking over. This is part of a broader trend of two-syllable boy’s names that end in N, which I will address in a subsequent post.
Here is an A-Z list of names parents are considering today. I did not make these up. Someone else did. WARNING: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.
Aidan- Gaelic, means “fiery.” The original.
Brayden- Similar to Brandon, yet reminiscent of a donkey’s bray
Caden- Not quite Cade, not quite Aidan. Hmm.
Eden- A new Biblical favorite for girls
Fenton- I suppose you could do Faden, but I actually know a boy with this name.
Graydon- Mr. Carter, Editor-in-Chief of “Vanity Fair.”
Hayden- Surname getting a lot of love on the girl’s side
Ioden- OK, I’m streching here.
Jaden- Thanks to Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, this was one of the first. I actually like it for their family.
Khaden- A city in Iran. Alternate place name?
Leighton- Leighton Pierce is a highly regarded experimental filmmaker
Maiden Hee Hee
Nathan- Hebrew for “giver”
Odin- Old Norse meaning “rage, frenzy”
Quadon- For the gaming crew
Rayden- I saw someone contemplating this one for her child
Shayden- Another woman was considering this on the same day
Theoden- From Lord of the Rings, for the die hard fan
Upton- OK, this one doesn’t really rhyme. What was I suppose to do- Udon, like the noodles?
Vaden- Suggested to a new mother (Thanks, MJ)
Wheaton- like the college. Pronounced “Wheet-un”
Xaden- Put an X in it and it feels sci-fi
Yarden- Y was hard.
Zaden- For the Z sibset.
You get the point. Here I can’t resist borrowing Laura Wattenberg’s gorgeous wave charting Aidan’s meteoric rise from her blog, www.babynamewizard.com. According to Wattenberg and her analysis of the social security administration data, of boys born in 2007, 1 in 25 has a name that rhymes with Aidan.
THE SEVEN DEADLY TRENDS, PART 4: HELLA ELLA
Yes, you’ll find a hella lot of Ellas leapfrogging and hopscotching with Bella, Hayden, and Peyton. Do kids even hopscotch anymore? Maybe they’re texting. Anyway, as an alternative to Emma, Ella is one of the top “fresh-sounding” choices for new moms these days, as its sound is simple, lithe, and feminine. In fact, Ella is SO feminine, it actually means “her” in Spanish and is pronounced “A-ya.” Her French counterpart is Elle (“her”/”she” as well), also very popular amongst the under 5 set. Ella and Elle’s Italian cousin could be said to be Bella, which literally means “beautiful.” You won’t be finding any Ellas in Barcelona or Bellas in Bologna, but there are enough of them being born right here in the United States to go around.
How is that possible? You’ve checked the stats, and while Ella is on the rise at 21, it’s still not top 10? Bella is all the way down at 159, and Elle and Belle don’t even make an appearance on the top 1000 list. Please don’t refuse to believe me when I tell you all “ell” names are running a muck. How many Isabellas do you know? Isabelles? Any of them go by Bella or Belle? I bet almost all of them. There’s also Annabelle, which is on the rise at 196, and that’s not even counting Annabel, Anabel, Anabelle, and Annabella. Stella is bringing up the rear at 244, which is not insignificant. Ella, Ellie and Elle may conveniently be derived from any name containing “el”– Elizabeth, Eliza, Eleanor, Ellen, Elena, Ellery, Elliot, Ellison, Gabrielle, Gabriela, Danielle… which gives credence to my claim that it’s better to name your daughters Elizabeth than Elle (bias aside, of course).
Among trends, Elle is the most appealling. Other than meaning “her”, her only offense is to bombard the ear with oversaturation. If you’re in love with Ella and Bella but would like something a bit more distinctive for you daughter, the choices below come highly recommended:
Mirabel, Mirabella, Mirabelle
Aaah, those are beautiful options, if I do say so myself!
THE SEVEN DEADLY TRENDS, PART 5: K KRAZE
Forgive me for spelling “Kraze” with a K.
Remember Kwik Mart and Circle K? Of course there’s still Kmart kicking around. Just today, I kid you not, I passed by a store called “Bubble K” (??!?@#*&??). The letter K appears so rarely in the English language (fewer than 1% of English words contain the letter K), that it was used as a marketing tool to grab attention. So too it is in names, although people are more likely to glaze over and ignore K-anything than take notice at its originality.
As a testament to its rarity, English scrabble contains only one K and that garners you 5 whopping points. The only letters that rank higher are J (8), X (8), Q (10) and Z (10). Ks are used frequently in Greek, Dutch, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Polish, Russian, and Malaysian. Yet the K does not originate in any Romance language (i.e. French, Spanish, Italian…), it simply does not exist save for imported words.
In the 50s and 60s, K denoted strength and masculinity. Kyle, Keith, Jack, Mike, Chuck, Clark Kent, Captain Kirk. I propose that K has done an about face, and now connotes quite the contrary: femininity (or femaleness). From just plain Kay, to Karen and Kelly, to Kayla and Kaitlyn and Kendall and Kamryn, Ks are no longer distinct. The letter K is being inserted where a C should be, and being smashed together with other familiar syllables and called a name.
Here’s a smattering of bonafide babes born in 2006 and 2007:
Kadence, Kaely, Kailei, Kaileigh, Kailey, Kaitlin, Kaleigh, Kaley, Kali, Kaliyah, Kamora, Kamryn, Kara, Karla, Karlee, Karlie, Kasey, Katelyn, Katelynn, Katlyn, Katy, Kayden, Kayla, Kaylah, Kaylea, Kaylee, Kaylen, Kaylie, Kaylin, Kaylyn, Kaylynn, Kealy, Keegan, Keely, Keeton, Keira, Kelsea, Kelsey, Kendall, Kendalyn, Kenia, Kenna, Kenzie, Kerrigan, Keyla, Khloe, Kiana, Kiara, Kiera, Kileen, Kiley, Kimberly, Kinley, Kinsey, Korina, Kyla, Kylah, Kylan, Kylee, Kyleigh, Kylie, Kyra, Kyton
& BOYS: Kade, Kaden, Kaeden, Kai, Kaiden, Kale, Kaleb, Kalton, Kamden, Kameron, Kamron, Kane, Karter, Kasen, Kasey, Kason, Keegan, Kelan, Kelton, Keenan, Kellen, Kendall, Kenny, Kenyon, Keshawn, Keven, Kody, Kolby, Kole, Kolton, Konner, Konnor, Korbin, Kyler
What’s the unifying element here? Kutesiness. K, L, and Y in random combination also appear to be alive and well. Yes, once worn on a person, a bunch of letters do become their name. Yet there are so many delightfully intriguing historical names both that begin with K and that contain K, that I cannot help but want to steer people in that direction. I propose not to abandon K, but to return to K’s exoticism, the way she was intended to be. Why not draw from Estonia and India?
Here are my suggestions for genuine K names:
Kadri- Estonian, “pure” (Katherine’s cognate); Turkish, “value”
Kalani- Hawaiian, “the heavens”
Kalina- Bulgarian, “rowan tree”
Kallista- Greek, “most beautiful”
Kalliope- Greek, “beautiful voice”; Goddess of epic poetry, one of the nine muses
Kamala- Sanskrit, “lotus”
Kamaria- Swahili, “moonlight”
Kaori- Japanese, “fragrant perfume”
Karolina- Polish, “warrior”
Katarina- German, Swedish, Hungarian, Croatian, Serbian, Slovene, Lithuanian, “pure”
Katelijne- Dutch, “pure” (cognate of Katherine)
Kassandra- Greek, “shining”, mythological soothsayer
Kasumi- Japanese, “clear flower”
Kazuko- Japanese, “harmonious child”
Kelila- Hebrew, “laurel crown”
Kerensa- Cornish, “love”
Keturah- Hebrew, “incense”, Abraham’s second wife
Keziah- Hebrew, “cassia tree”, one of Job’s daughter’s
Khalida- Arabic, “immortal”
Klara- Scandinavian, German, Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, Polish, Slovene, Latvian, “clear, bright”
Kleio- Greek, “glory”, one of the nine muses, goddess of history and heroic poetry
Klementyna- Polish, “merciful, gentle”
Kristjana- Icelandic, “Christian”
Ksenia- Polish, “hospitality”
Kumiko- Japanese, “beautiful child”
Kyriaki- Greek, “of the Lord”
Suggestions for the Little Man in Your Life:
Kai- Hawaiian “sea”; Japanese “forgiveness”; Scandinavian “Earth”, Welsh “keeper of the keys”
Kalidas- Sanskrit, “servant of Kali”
Kasimir- German, “peace” or “destroyer of peace”, depending on the source; I’ll keep looking into this
Kaspar- German, “treasurer”
Keane- English variant of Celtic Cian meaning “ancient”
Kemen- Basque, “courage, vigour”
Kemp- Old English, “champion”
Kermit- Celtic, “free man”
Khalil- Arabic, “friend”
Kichiro- Japanese, “good luck son”
Kieran- Celtic, “little dark one”
Kiyoshi- Japanese, “pure”
Knut- Old Norse, “knot” (silent K, pronounced Noot)
Konrad- German, Scandinavian, Polish “bold counsel”
Konstantin- German, Hungarian, Serbian, Russian, Bulgarian- from the ancient Roman Constantinus, “constant, steadfast”
Kwasi- West African, “born on Sunday”
Tucking K away as a surprise later on: Agnieszka, Aleksandra, Annika, Anouk, Ekaterina, Elke, Franciszka, Marika, Naoki, Oksana, Rebekah, Saskia, Ulrika, Valeska, Vibeke, Viveka, Yuki
Boy K: Akio, Barak, Daisuke, Farouk, Enok, Haakon, Henrik, Iskender, Joakim, Luka, Oskar, Yanick, Whitaker
THE SEVEN DEADLY TRENDS, PART 6: SUBSTYTUTES
The letter Y is inciting the modern American baby naming imagination like no other. Y is currently enjoying a disproportionate renaissance, and is being inserted at random to make a name one’s own. From Alyvia to Zoey, Alyxandra to Zsophya, people are taking perfectly beautiful classics like Olivia, Zoe, Alexandra, and Sophia, and creating invented forms by using Y as a vowel (A, E, I, O, U, and now Y more than ever). Revisiting my list of common K names, let’s try trading the K for other popular letter combinations (see www.youcantcallitit.com/2008/05/26/the-seven-deadly-trends-part-5-k-kraze). We arrive at Shayley, Jayla, Braylin, Rylie, and Myleah. Sound familiar? The letter Y replaces Is and Es, and is being made to rhyme with I and E as well. Confusion arises. Not only are spellings no longer intuitive, but pronunciations aren’t either. Let this be clear: misspelling a name, be it with a Y or otherwise, in no way makes a name unique. It will make your child part of a greater trend in which Americans are distancing themselves from the English language, from “ur” instead of you’re/your, to “gr8″ in lieu of great. Remember that a child’s name belongs on a diploma, not just in an instant message.
Y is for the most part, but not exclusively, being relegated to girls. According to Roy Feinson in The Secret Universe of Names, girls are thirty times as likely to have a name beginning with a Y than boys. Whether it begins, ends, or is within the name, Y bestows a youthful feel, which can sometimes border on the infantile. If the Greek i itself is what you’re after, the Greeks and the Welsh have a plethora of more sophisticated traditional Y names to choose from.*
Here’s a List of Possible Alternatives:
Ayla- Turkish, “moonlight, halo”
Betrys- Welsh form of Beatrice, “blessed voyager, bringer of joy”
Bronwyn- Welsh (traditionally this name is spelled Bronwen, but this version has entered common usage), from bron ”breast” and gwen ”white, fair, blessed”
Bryony- BRIE-uh-nee. English, a type of flowering vine.
Carys- Modern Welsh, “loved”
Delyth- Modern Welsh, “pretty”
Euphrosyne- Greek, “myrth, merriment”, one of the three graces
Gwyneth- Welsh, “fair, blessed”
Hyacinth- English, from the flower; also derived from Greek mythology
Lydia- Greek, biblical place name
Maëlys- Breton, “chief”
Mireya- Spanish, “miraculous one”
Myrtle, Myrtille- English and French, respectively; from the plant
Nerys- Modern Welsh, related to “lord”
Olympia- Greek, from Mount Olympus
Sylvia-Ancient Roman (Silvia), “wood, forest”
Yasmin- Persian, “jasmine”
Yayoi- Japanese, “spring”
Yelenys- Hispanic rare form of Helen, “light”
Yseult-French form of Isolde, meaning “beautiful”
If It’s the Buoyant “ee” Ending is What You Want, Why Not Try:
Amelie- French, from the German Amalia, meaning “hard work”
Aurelie- French, from Ancient Roman Aurelia, “golden”
Bryony (see above)
Calanthe- Greek, “beautiful flower”; a type of orchid
Calliope- Greek, “beautiful voice”
Cecily- English, from Ancient Roman Caecilia, meaning “blind, hidden meaning”
Coralie- French, “coral”
Elodie- French, from Alodia meaning “foreign riches”
Emily- English, from the Latin, “industrious”
Eulalie- French, from the Greek “eloquent”
Eugenie- French, from the Greek, “of noble birth”
Hermione- Greek, “messenger”
Hiromi- Japanese “beauty”
Ianthe, Iolanthe-Greek “violet flower”
Leilani- Hawaiian, “heavenly flowers”
Lucy- English “light”
Marjani- Swahili, “coral”
Mary- English, ultimately deriving from the Hebrew, Miryam. Disputed meaning, “sea of bitterness” or “wished for child”
Naoki- Japanese “honest tree, joy”
Naomi- Hebrew “pleasantness”; Japanese “honest beauty”
Noemi- French, Italian, and Czech form of the Hebrew Naomi
Ottilie- German variant of Odilia, meaning “wealth, fortune”
Penelope- Greek, “weaver, webbed eye”
Phoebe- Greek, “bright”
Ruby- English, from the red gemstone
Silvie- French form of Sylvia (see above)
Thisbe- Greek, from the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe
Yuki- Japanese, “happiness”
This list does not take into account darling nicknames like Maisie and Millie, as I limited the list to full names recommended for the birth certificate. A fun nickname thread will be forthcoming!
*For more musings on the letter, please check this out: http://www.4geeks.net/blog/2007/10/10/the-plight-of-endangered-letters/
THE SEVEN DEADLY TRENDS, PART 7: GEOGRAPHY 101
There was much debate as to what the Seventh Deadly Trend should be. First, I had it slotted for misspelled names, but those were largely covered in Parts 5 and 6 with the K Kraze and Substytutes. It was suggested to me by several of you to tackle boys’ names on girls. While I may write about this in the future, I think for me it’s not qualifying as a Deadly Trend for three reasons. The first of which is that primarily, most of the boyish names chosen for girls these days are either originally surnames, like Madison and Cameron (or Kamryn), and so qualify in Part 4, the Surname Names post, or they are names like Charlie and Sam (not your finest stroke, Tiger), and so fall into the Nickname Names category addressed in Why John and Katherine Are Better on the Birth Certificate. Lastly, I understand the philosophy behind wanting to give a daughter a truly gender-neutral name. Those same parents might not want to dress their daughter in pink or give a little boy Transformers to play with.
So, after much soul-searching and deliberation, I bring to you the Seventh Deadly Trend, geographical baby names. Like Aidan and Ella, it’s not so much the individual names themselves that gore me, but that society is turning to these names en masse.
When David and Victoria Beckham named their first child Brooklyn, I was appalled. For one, I associate this name with a particular place, and while it has sentimental value for me as well, it is not a particularly glamourous or savory namesake. More galling still was the fact that this name was chosen in commemoration of the baby’s CONCEPTION. Not only that, but the whole world will think about poor Brooklyn Beckham’s conception each time they think about his name, which is just kind of sad to me, not to mention, gross for a kid. This spawned a host of female Brooklyns across the nation, often spelling it as a contraction of Brooke and Lynn, such as Brooklynn. While I can see how people might view this name as pretty, I cannot endorse it as anything other than a place to call home.
Many “place name” names were, in fact, originally given names. The state of Georgia honors King George; Charlotte and Carolina, King Charles. Equally irritating as names that draw solely from a particular place, are accusations that names used historically as given names are only after a particular place. Orlando comes to mind. Sure, we all think of Disney World, but is noone familiar with Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf?
Asia, China, and India all have a long, established history on little Caucasian and African-American girls. India and China arose out of a love affair with the Far East during the British Empire. Asia is often seen on African-Americans, perhaps because it both has a lovely sound and has an exotic flair. Still, does it strike anyone else as strange?
Among young children, I have heard of or come across Abilene, Alabama, America, Aspen, Chelsea, Holland, Hudson (after the river), India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kingston (in addition to Master Rossdale), London, Milan, Montana, Roma, Savannah, Seoul, Trenton, Utah. There is also a rising trend embracing Biblical place names, among them Eden, Zion, and the infamous Nevaeh, or heaven spelled backwards. :-[
If honoring a heritage is important to you, please consider given names used in the country in question. If you do choose to home in on a place itself, there are certainly many lovely cities, counties, countries, and topographical possibilities. I completely respect and understand wanting to remember where you and your spouse met or honeymooned. Just please don’t commemorate a child’s conception. They will forever have to live with that image emblazoned on their impressionable little mind. If you do, just don’t tell anyone that’s why you chose the name.