This blog has moved! Please join us over at!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Baby Naming Issue: Avoiding the Trends

Tricia writes:
I have recently realized that my husband and I have had a repeating problem with names. We have three children, Aidan (b. 1995), Ava (b. 1996), and Jasper (b. (2004). When Aidan was born, the name was number 461 on the SSA. My son has never met another Aidan in his life, and he has certainly never had to use his last initial in school. But my younger son started kindergarten this past year, and there were three Aidan's in his class. And four Ava's!! Four! (let me mention that when Ava was born, the name was number 2657 on the SSA. Nowhere near the top 1000. But now that I look, it is number 18!!!). Right now, Jasper is still in the 300s, but it has risen over 200 since my son's birth, and I suspect it will continue to rise.

Anyway, the point of all that, is that I am due with my last child (a girl) on July 25th, and I am refusing to let that happen again. I know that my kids don't necessarily have others with the same name in their classes at school, but as a whole, the names now sound very bland and ordinary, and we were going for the opposite when we named them. So I need your expertise in helping us find some alternate names that will not rise ridiculous amounts in popularity. To give you an idea, some names we like are Lucy, Maeve, Lydia, Violet, Juliet, Lila, Lea, and Rowan. Half of these names are already in the 100s on the SSA, and the others are a bit less popular, but not outrageously. What we are worried about is choosing Lea, which right now is number 671, and having it skyrocket so in the next few years, it becomes number 8 or something crazy like that.

We're not sure how to approach this, because this has happened consistently with every name we've picked, so we don't trust ourselves on our own to choose a name that this will not happen with. So we need your expertise, Swistle. Please help us to find a name similar to the kind of names I've listed (we aren't really considering any of those names, too afraid of the popularity thing, but those are the kind of names we like). It frustrates me so much that Aidan and Ava, who's names I used to get compliments on in the 90s, are the names of every other toddler in the US. I was at Barnes & Noble the other day looking at some pregnancy books, and I saw a baby name book called "Beyond Ava & Aiden", for crying out loud! It made me so upset! Their names are now the staple for a common name, and I don't want that to be the case with our newest addition.

Oh, and let me make sure I say, we don't like unusual names… these, along with our kids names, are (were) all so-called "common names", or so the public thinks. But we want the sort of names that are familiar to the ear but no so familiar that every parent will be choosing them. (even in the future)

Please help! I honestly don't know what to do! I don't trust myself with names anymore. (Oh and none of our kids have middle names - a family tradition - so that isn't an issue, thank God.)

Thank you thank you thank you

PS our last name starts with a C and is one syllable and fairly common.

Oh dear! Here is the trouble: you guys are natural trend frontrunners. I don't know if there's any way around this problem. My mom is the same: she liked the names Lucy and Owen back when my reaction to both names could be described as "WHAT??" If she'd used either of those names for a baby, I would have said she was COMPLETELY SAFE in not choosing a trendy name. And yet, look at them now! And now of course I love those names too, just like almost everyone else.

There's no way to completely prevent choosing a name that will get very very popular, but sometimes there are indicators (and sometimes not). I'm looking at the charts and I think I have a different chart: I'm using the Social Security Administration baby names site, which says the name Ava was #739 in 1996, and was #5 in 2009; it had risen 200 places in the ten years before you chose it, which might have made us suspicious if we'd seen it, but there was no way to know it was going to go up SEVEN HUNDRED places in the next 10 years. The name Aidan, on the other hand, was #281 in 1995---but had gone up more than 600 places in the five years before that. So if you'd been looking at that chart, it would have been clear SOMETHING was up with that name. Jasper---probably no way to call that one: you named him a year before Twilight came out.

The main issue here, I think, is that the kind of names that get popular are the kind of names you LIKE. We can't help our tastes in names, and you happen to be on the front edge of the crowd. You like Lea, which was #671 in 2009---but the spelling Leah was #28. And Lila! If you were LOOKING for the next big trendy hit, that's what I would suggest for you. It's gone from not even in the Top 1000 in 1997 to #168 in 2009. If I were going to make a prediction, I'd predict we'll see Lila in the Top Ten within the next 5 years---or certainly within the next 10. And frankly, it's perfect with your other kids' names: Aidan, Ava, Jasper, and Lila is WONDERFUL.

And Lucy! Not rising quite as fast, but steadily: high 400s in the mid-'90s, low 200s in the early '00s, and #101 last year. And again, WONDERFUL with your other kids' names: Aidan, Ava, Jasper, and Lucy.

Lydia: gliding upwards gracefully. Juliet: upwards faster, in bigger leaps. Rowan: big leaps after total obscurity. Maeve: same as Rowan. Violet: same as Rowan and Maeve. I say you have a knack, and I say EMBRACE IT.

If you'd rather not embrace, we need to look in a completely different category. The names you like are the ones that sound fresh to the ears, little surprises as we hear names we haven't heard used before---or not for a long time. It's that "Whoa. WHOA." reaction to a name that suddenly sounds....FRESH! Cadence, Braden, Caitlin, Noah, Isabella---these are all names that GRABBED ATTENTION and then LEAPED UP. Some of them were new inventions, some were revivals, but they all had that sudden rise from nearly nowhere. It's because that same freshness hits nearly EVERYONE. All the names you like have that smack of freshness, or at least the lingering remains of it.

What you say you'd like is a common, non-unusual name that isn't going to get wildly popular; in that case, you need to avoid that fresh sound. If you get the "Whoa. WHOA. THAT'S fresh and new!" reaction, STEP AWAY FROM THE NAME. You need a name that has lost that freshness, but without wilting: a great name, but familiar enough to be unlikely to ignite the sudden interest of large crowds. A name that at first seems a little...meh...just because it lacks that element of surprise, but then grows on you until you can't believe you ever thought it was meh. Bethany. Bridget. Clarissa. Holly. Jocelyn. Kara. Laurel. Marissa. Meredith. Sabrina. Tessa. These are all from The Baby Name Wizard's list of "New Classics," which she calls "trend-proof." Or maybe "trend-resistant" would be a better term: it's hard to know when some circumstance (an actor, a novel) will kick a name to the head of the line.

Best of luck, and I don't think you'll go wrong: you have marvelous and consistent taste that everyone loves! Choose what YOU love, and I don't think you'll be unhappy with the name---even if you're unhappy with its popularity.

Name update 07-25-2010! Tricia writes:
Wow! Thank you so much for the advice and all the reader advice too! It gave us a lot of help.
Anyway, our baby girl was born last Saturday, healthy and beautiful, and we're very happy with the name we chose.
Her name is Liza! (L-eye-zah, because I've seen Lee-za) Liza isn't a name that's even on the top 1000 (!!) but it feels simliar in style to names like Lila, don't you think.
So Aidan, Ava, Jasper, and Liza. We really love it. What do you think?

Well, thanks so much!


Lisa said...

This happened with a couple of our kids...Gavin (1999) and Reagan (2002). Not many kids their age with the name, but MANY younger kids with the name. I still love their names, but definately was suprised with the jump in hearing it.

Robby said...

I don't have kids, but I've thought a lot about how to avoid the trend trap when I do have them. The advice provided is fantastic. I would also recommend giving the kid a name that is personally meaningful, so that even if it does become popular, who cares, right? The value is in the meaning and association, not in the freshness.

Jess said...

I agree with the advice, but let's have some names!! :)

((Lydia)) - Just in case you decide you might consider your list, I want to point out that Lydia rhymes with an STD...and given that your last name already starts with a C. Yuck.

((Lorna)) - In the same vein as Lila, Lucy, and Lea. The perk is that it has not been in the top 1000 female names for the last 20 years. (Sorry, I've suggested this before, but my sister is the only Lorna I've ever met.)

((Ilana)) - The popularity is like that for Lorna.

((Astrid)) - This name seems to be holding steady. It was 998 in 1995; 936 in 2005. My concern is that your one child without an A name will feel left out. On the other hand, Pippy Longstockings.

Jess said...

Oh, yeah. One more thing. Is Trisha your full name? Is it perhaps a nickname for Patricia or Beatrice. Beatrice could be a great way to honor you without officially naming your child after you.

Sarah said...

I'd like to throw in votes for Jessica and Ellen. These are names that are not much used, but unlikely to hit to top of the charts in a big way.

M.Amanda said...

Jocelyn! Love this name and I think it goes well with the other children's names.

Going the other way toward very traditional names that - as Swistle has mentioned before - don't get used very much because they've been around so long that people think they are too common, I also really like Jane. Though my trend predicting skills are quite terrible, I think you can avoid the trend with this one.

Others I like with your other children's names:

M.Amanda said...

Jocelyn! Love this name and I think it goes well with the other children's names.

Going the other way toward very traditional names that - as Swistle has mentioned before - don't get used very much because they've been around so long that people think they are too common, I also really like Jane. Though my trend predicting skills are quite terrible, I think you can avoid the trend with this one.

Others I like with the other children's names:

Swistle said...

The trouble with Jessica is it was ALREADY a big chart-topper, in the '80s and '90s when it was in the Top Three for eighteen years. It's sort of like using Jennifer: it's not a huge hit NOW, but only because it already had its time as a massively trendy name.

Tracy H. said...

I love Lilah but I do think it will end up a chart topper! Here are some I like with your other children's names:
No idea why I picked all names that end in "A"! I think Tessa, Celia & Delia are my faves. Good Luck, can't wait to hear your pick!

StephLove said...

Okay, this is what I did. I thought of kids I know with your kids' names and checked their sisters' names on the SSA site. The only name that wasn't rising in popularity was Carmen. Do you like it? I think it could work in your family and probably won't shoot up the charts, but you never know.

The other names were Clara, Josephine, Ruby and Violet, btw. The name with the slowest rise was Josephine.

Anonymouse said...

I feel the same way about names - I love names that are known, but not used. My daughter's name is Daphne. It has the Scooby Doo & Frasier association, but has been no higher than 465 in rank according to the ssa.

Names I've liked recently, but are already gaining in popularity (based on people I know using them: Nora, Audrey & Charlotte).

We are waiting to adopt again and I'm having the same issues when I think of names for our next baby.

Names I like now for a girl:
Marlo (not in top 1000 in the last 10 years)
Phoebe (fairly static in last 10 years - between 325 & 441, but slightly trending up - I could overlook the Friends reference because her peers would be clueless about it)
Elise (steady in the 200s for the last 10 years)
Gwyneth (I like the sound of this one and it is not at all popular, but I don't like to see it written out)

Can't wait to hear what you come up with!

Tracy H. said...

I remembered a blog post from the end of last year on the Baby Name Wizard Blog where Laura Wattenberg, baby name expert extraordinare, predicted the top ten names for the year 2019. Her picks:
10) Harper
9) Juliet
8) Ruby
7) Piper
6) Amelia
5) Aubrey
4) Violet
3) Lucy
2) Peyton
1) Lila
So, it does look like you are on the way to choosing another chart topper, LOL! These are obviously just predictions, but you might want to stay away from the names on this list.

Rayne of Terror said...

Hilde or Hilda

I know three Jennifers with daughters Cecelia, so I think it might be trending up.

Tracy H. said...

And Rowan is on her list for the top 10 boys names of 2019, just an FYI. Maybe you should be making these predictions! You seem to have a knack for it! But Jasper isn't on her list!

mayberry said...

I have a friend who just named her baby girl Valerie. That's definitely the only baby Valerie I've heard of, and it's so pretty and unexpected.

Snoopyfan said...

What about Jennifer? It has had it's extreme popularity and it is so unusual now to see a little girl named Jenny. I also really like Valerie, my 14 year old neighbor's name. Not a lot of Valerie's running around out there!

Anonymous said...

I know there is no way of knowing whether a name will suddenly jump in popularity because of a actor, book, film, etc., so I would second the advice of going with a personally meaningful name (e.g. a family name, favorite author, name of meaningful place to you, etc.)

If that doesn't appeal to you, another way to go might be to look at the popularity of a name on the SSA site over the last 100 years and pick one that has been falling, falling, falling. When I thought about it a bit, I came up with Renee, which has been on a steady decline since 1983. I also think Renee sounds wonderful with a one-syllable last name. In addition, it doesn't quite have that "whoa!" factor that Swistle describes (which is good!), yet it still seems like a sort of artsy-cool name to me. Also, I think it sounds nice with your other children's names: Ava, Aidan, Jasper, and Renee.

The other way to go may be to find a name that has never been incredibly popular (nor incredibly unpopular) and seems to resist its moments in the spotlight. This may be a bit riskier and hence I sort of hesitate to mention this next one, but I'm going to anyway because I really like it :-) : how about Iris? I think it fits incredibly well with your other children's names and seems to be much the same style/feel as a lot of the names you like (Lila, Lucy, Lea, Violet). I'm bringing it up because it has been fairly stable in the 300s for the last 10 years, low 400s in the late 90s, low 500s in the mid-90s, and high 400s in the early 90s. This is DESPITE the huge popularity of the song "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls (1998) and the less popular but critically acclaimed movie "Iris" in 2001 with Kate Winslet (based on a book by the same name). Iris is also a figure in Greek mythology, which has always been plundered for names. My name-popularity radar may be off with this one, but it seems to me like a name that hasn't ever been really popular (peaked at 196 in 1929) and has resisted becoming popular even when placed somewhat in the limelight.

Ok, there's my $0.02. :-) Good luck!

Anna said...

Ava, Aidan, Jasper &

Cleo (missing since 1959 as a male name)
Cassia (not in last 100 years)
Freya (same as above)
Kezia (as above)
Keisha (missing since 1998, highest was #233 in 1976)
Lucinda (missing since 1987, highest 260 in 1953)
Mattea (not entered last 100 years)
Nerys (same as above)
Orla (same as above)
Opal (missing since 1960)
Petra (missing since 1973, highest #498 in 1927)
Romilly (not entered in last 100 years)
Rhea (2004 was 911, highest 432 in 1911)
Simona (not entered)
Thea (missing since 1965 at 938, highest was at 837 in 1955)
Winona (missing since 1957, lowest 407 in 1924 & 1931)

Sandy said...

Perhaps Janaya? nn Naya?

Lani said...

What about...

Gia, Kaya, Keira, Elodie, Liesl, Sloane, June, Faye, Rebecca, Lark, Nelle, Greta, Diana...

Anonymous said...

3 cheers for Iris! (my Iris would have been a Jasper if she had been a boy back in 2004. I love Jasper). There are 2 other little Iris's around in my town but its a decent sized place (50,000 people), and somewhat full of hipster types (for whome Iris is too tame).

Carolyn said...

The Baby Name Wizard also had a blog post of names that had held steady for 50-60 years, which might appeal to you. I only remember Ross was one of the boy's names, and Johanna and Claudia were two of the girls' names. All familiar, yet none of them ever really peaked.

I personally love Johanna (pronounced Jo-hah-na or Ja hah na) as I had met a girl in college with this name and pronunciation and it made a lightbulb go off for me. Familiar! Unique! Plus, there's an option for a nn that is trendy (Josie), because no matter what the parents preference, often kids just want to fit in with their friends.

Chris said...

I absolutely LOVE both Holly and Laurel with your sibling names. Can't wait to see what you pick!

Laura said...

I love Johanna too & would have used it if I were having a girl. Cecelia was another I liked. Good luck!

Carmen said...

My vote is Calla. Fresh, but I haven't seen any indications it's on the rise. Although I must admit that I haven't been specifically looking, since my husband vetoed it when my daughter was born - we ended up naming her Alexa (Lexi). I would have loved to have used Calla.

Annika said...

Oh! I just saw the update and I LOVE Liza! It goes perfectly with the rest.

Alison aka Baby B said...

Liza is a great choice! It goes well with the other names. I especially love Ava and Liza. Adorable sister pair!

Katie said...

Love Liza! What a great choice.
Congratulations on the birth of your daughter.

Anonymous said...

I named my baby Lila over three and a half years ago and actually had to tell people how to pronounce and spell it! I can't believe that it's supposed to be the #1 name in 9 years :(

Anonymous said...

I think you would like Celia!