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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Name to Consider: Blythe

L. writes:
The name Blythe has that spunky feel that I love, and I love the happy, joyous meaning. It seems classy and sophisticated. But, in practice, it's difficult to say and sounds a bit like "blight" to me. Curious to see what others think of this name.

I too am curious to know what people think of the name Blythe! I've seen it on a few name lists recently, which makes me think it may be coming into style. My own opinion is affected by how difficult I find the name to say aloud: for a name with only one syllable, it has so many sounds.

I looked it up on the Social Security Administration's web site, and I see it hasn't been in the Top 1000 for the entire online portion of the data (1880-2011). I looked in the individual year files for each decade, to get a sample of how many Blythes were born in various years):

1880: (none in data base)
1890: (none in data base)
1900: (none in data base)
1910: (none in data base)
1920: (none in data base)
1930: 7
1940: 8
1950: 22
1960: 22
1970: 50
1980: 47
1990: 73
2000: 60
2010: 85

And in 2011, there were 105.

The Oxford Dictionary of First Names says it's a modern coinage, most likely based on the word blithe. To me it sounds French and elegant and wealthy (gold cigarette case, fur cape, lovely long neck with hair in a French twist)---but quite elderly, like Blanche: the hair I'm picturing is white. That's the sort of impression that turns on a dime when the next batch of babies start receiving the name: I remember when the names Eloise and Ruby seemed elderly to me, and now not at all!

Let's have a poll over to the right to see what everyone else thinks! [Poll closed; see results below.]

(Also see our follow-up post: How Do You Pronounce the Name Blythe?)


Poll results for "What do you think of the name Blythe?" (605 votes total):

I love it! I'd want to use it! - 67 votes (11%)
I like it! I'd want to consider it! - 126 votes (21%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 242 votes (40%)
No particular opinion - 26 votes (4%)
Slight dislike - 93 votes (15%)
Strong dislike - 51 votes (8%)

32 comments:

Megan said...

I really like Blythe in theory. It looks cheerful and light and happy - but I can never seem to pronounce it without thinking about it first. And even then, it just doesn't sound as pretty as it does on paper or in my head, if that makes any sense.

Laura said...

The name reminds me of Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables.

Brittany said...

I came here to comment on the beautiful association with Gilbert Blythe from the Anne series as well! To me, that certainly increases my affection for the name. I also like the meaning and it looks pretty, but does feel difficult coming out of my mouth. In addition, no immediate nicknames come to mind. I think this is the sort of name I would like much more as soon as it was associated with a sweet child.

sarah said...

I went to college with a Blythe, born in the mid-70's. She was indeed wealthy, from Manhattan, very worldly, art history major, spoke Italian, etc. I believe she may live in Italy now. So to me it seems very jet-setter, wealthy, Gossip-Girl-ish, etc.

Babbling Brooke said...

Adademically/Theoretically I really like Blythe. When i consider it, it seems light, fresh, cheerful, maybe a bit bubbly and bright.
However, when I see it suggested for a baby name, my initial reaction is that of shock/suprise before the reasonable thoughts kick in.
I recently worked with a guy whose last name was Blythe, so that has conditioned my ear to it more that most (it seems).
Hopefully we will all become more accepting of this name in the next few years.

Jenny said...

I love the feel of Blythe. Funny that it is today's "Name to Consider" because just days ago I suggested it to my SO as a potential baby name. He nixed the idea because he dislikes alliteration (the baby's last name would also start with B).

JEREMYandCHELSEA said...

My middle name is Blythe (first name Chelsea). My mom really wanted to name me Blythe, but my dad wouldn't have it, so they settled on it for a middle name. Honestly, growing up I hated it because 1. it was "weird" and 2. like said above no one can pronounce it. I got a lot of "Blyfe?" As I've gotten older, I've grown much more fond of it though. And while I wouldn't give it as a first name, I intend to give it as a middle name to one of my daughters if I have any.

azterya said...

It makes me think of both Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables and also Blythe Danner (actress and Gwyneth Paltrow's mother).

It's not a name I'd use but I wouldn't think it odd to find a kid with it.

Myra said...

I went to college with not one, but TWO Blythes born in the mid-70s. I had never heard the name before that. These two Blythes were about as different as two young women at the same college could be.

StephLove said...

I had a student named Blythe (college freshman) around twelve years ago, so I guess she'd be 30 now. I never found her name hard to say and I would have said it many times a class because she was smart and talkative and I would have been calling on her often. I liked her name and thought it suited her. She was a spunky, cheerful young woman.

Je$$ica Tur@n said...

I am shocked - SHOCKED I SAY - that it is so uncommon! I think it's because I expect names that surely everyone has heard of - everyone's heard of Blythe, right? - to be more popular.

You know what's way more popular? Juniper! Ok and lots of other stuff.

Swistle, you will remember our conversation about the voiced -th- (ð) and how this and Feather/Merriweather/Heather are the only names we could find that have it. So unique! And for me, yes, I think that with the Bl cluster makes it too much of a mouthful.

However, I also think it's that rare B name for a girl that isn't dreadful (Bertha, Brunhilda, etc). I would love it on someone else's baby.

Auntie G said...

Love it! Makes me think of Blythe Danner, whom I also love!

My only hesitations for using it MYSELF would be that my last name also ends in TH, and I have tried (but not always succeeded) to avoid the sound in the first name as well...and the fact that it could have some pronunciation issues. From people not familiar with the wonder of Blythe Danner. :)

beccaloo said...

I am also surprised how uncommon it is! My younger brother had a friend Blythe growing up (born 1984 or 1985)- artist parents, awesome arty house that I was obsessed with- never thought her name was odd. Her brother has a great name too- Duncan.

Helena said...

I'm shocked at how rare it is! I've loved the name since I was in 1st grade and my "buddy" (school-assigned reading partner, a 6th grader) was named Blythe. She was THE COOLEST in my eyes and one of the sweetest people ever. I have great associations with the name because of her. She would have been born in 1976 or 1977.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the name Blythe, but I'm biased because one of my best friends is a Blythe (born in '83). It has never sounded weird to me since I've known her singe the age of I think 6. I wouldn't hesitate to name a daughter Blythe.

Anonymous said...

I would have given this name to our second daughter, born just 4 months ago, but my husband vetoed it.

Victoria said...

I came to say that it reminds me of Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables, but many people had the same thought!

I had such a huge crush on Gilbert when I read the book, so I really like the name Blythe. I am sure some people would mispronounce it, but I still think I would be tempted to use it for a future daughter.

Heidi J said...

Like others have said, I like on paper, but when I say it aloud, I find it awkward to say and it just seems to sound odd. I really want to like it though.

BakingBliss said...

I love it! I grew up with a girl in the 90's with that name.

LiciaLee said...

I LOVE Blythe and tried to get DH to consider it for daughter number two, but sadly it was a no go. :(. But people should use it! Since I can't. :(

Johanna at The Baker Twins said...

I like the name Blythe - my husband has a high school friend named Blythe and so do I, (we were both born in 1978) so I assumed it was more common than the research suggests.

Another association with it - the girl from the Littlest Pet Shop (both the toys and the TV series) is named Blythe.

Lashley said...

I've encountered 2 women named Blythe in my lifetime. One with whom I went to high school, probably born in 1981 and one, a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding, probably born in 83 or 84. The Blythe from high school was intelligent and artistic, known for her serious acting.

When I see the name on paper, I think that I'll get confused as to how to pronounce the -th- : like the middle sound in Heather as mentioned above vs the sound at the end of wreath, BUT when I add a last name (such as the one syllable flower last name of the girl I knew in HS), it resolves itself to the breathier -th- like at the end of 'wreath.' And I like it that way.

I think the sound that deters me from wanting to use it for a hypothetical kiddo is the Y, not the BL or the TH. I dislike it for some of the same reasons I dislike Riley.

Jenny Grace said...

There's a blogger person named Blythe, which makes me think of it more as a 'real' name. I love it on paper but in practice find it difficult to say.

Anonymous said...

I immediately jump to Gilbert Blythe from Anne of GG as well! That definitely gives me affection for the name.

Anonymous said...

I think of Gilbert Blythe as well, but it's a lovely name. It has the same feminine but not frilly feel as Gwen to me. Too bad it sounds terrible with my last name, Smythe, otherwise I'd consider it in a heartbeat.

Deb said...

No one has mentioned Blythe dolls! That was my first thought. It's a positive association though perhaps not one that everyone will have heard of. They are dress-up dolls for grown up girls. So to me, Blythe is an arty, fashion loving girly girl.

(If you are interested, you can type Blythe into google images and there are so many more pictures of big-eyed dolls than even Blythe Danner.)

Tonni said...

I am THRILLED to see this conversation, as my 8 month old daughter is named Blythe. And, she is the sweetest little thing :)
However, we have run into some pronunciation clunkiness- family members who are first generation Canadians, and who gave me a blank look when I said, "Like Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables!"... we settled on saying it's a mix of breathe and blind for pronunciation, but it still gets garbled. (This is also funny to me, b/c my DH has a third cousin named Blithe... but somehow his immediate family didn't know about her... the wonders of very large extended families...)

Anyway, we've had great response to her name, particularly from fellow name nerds. It does feel funny rolling off my tongue, but I'm confident that she and the name will grow into eachother- I had trouble thinking of my son by his name (Felix) until he was a year old, b/c it was such a strong name for such a little guy, but now that he talks, and talks mostly in the third person, he is Felix through and through ;)

Anonymous said...

Blythe is a beautiful name and one I hadn't considered. I love it for someone else's baby. I just don't think I see if for my child. I agree with another commenter that the long Y sound is what stops me. For the same reason, I have taken the name Diana off of my list. of course, that is just a personal preference, for me it has to do with how the long Y sounds with our last name.

I think of Blythe Danner, which to me is a positive association. I liked reading about the commenter who has the 8 month old named Blythe. it made the name seem so adorable to picture it fitting a little baby. cute choice! and i find it funny that everyone who knows a blythe has a great positive association with it!

Bonnie said...

True story...I teach in an all girls high school and last year had two Blythes in the same class. They had to go by Blythe S. and Blythe R. It really taught me a lesson about unusual names... pick the name you love and don't worry about "popularity" because you might pick the most unusual name and still end up as "first name last initial".

As far as the name itself goes...those two students left a lovely impression of the name for me!

Angie said...

I never met a Blythe, but I don't have a problem saying it. Now I'm wondering if I was mispronouncing it, with all of these people claiming to have trouble saying it.

As for the "blight" connection, that is something I never noticed.

It's not my style, but I like it for someone else's baby.

Blythe said...

My name is Blythe! And I have many thoughts about this. Please forgive the epic comment that follows, but I feel like this is my NAME MOMENT!

I was born in 1971. My mother chose the name because she wanted something unusual and she was born in Blythe, California. We pronounce it with a soft th like bath, but I answer to the harder sound like bathe too.

I've always enjoyed having an unusual name - there are many upsides, and I like the association with Blythe Danner, Anne of Green Gables and Blythe dolls. (The original dolls cost an arm and a leg on EBay, too bad they won't send me one for free!) People do associate it with happiness and an artistic, classic feeling, which is nice. It is often a surprise when I tell people I grew up in a small cattle ranching community in Montana - based on my name, they often assume I am from a large city. I sort of enjoy the surprise.

The downside is mainly pronunciation. I spend a lot of time spelling my name for people. I love nametags, because if people see it spelled and hear me say it, they can usually get it. When they just hear it for the first time, they often think I've said my name is "Life." When they read it, they often say "blith." Starbucks baristas hate me. Sometimes I just tell them my name is Elizabeth. But honestly it's not a big deal. Probably about the same level of annoyance as having a common name and the confusion that sometimes occurs there.

When we chose my son's name, I wanted something a bit unusual because I like having an unusual name, but I also wanted it to be pronounceable and easily understood when spoken. His name is Theodore, and he goes by Theo.

Siobhan said...

Blythe, I so relate to everything you said. My name is Siobhan Blythe. I always joke that my parents thought one hard to pronounce name just wasn't enough. Siobhan was from the character on Ryan's Hope and Blythe was from Blythe Danner. Did you know Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter is named Apple Blythe after her mom? Anyway, compared to to my first name, Blythe always seemed easy to pronounce for me. I guess I never considered it that odd, The only time I don't like my name is like you mentioned, at Starbucks, or over the phone when I have to spell it out multiple times. Half the time they still spell it wrong. But like you said, now that I'm grown I like having an original name. I gave all three of my kids names that aren't very common. All easier to pronounce than my name but different enough that they won't be one of several in their class. The only one that occasionally is mispronounced is my youngest, Callum. I personally prefer names that are a little different rather than a common name spelled in a "unique" way. I really like Blythe as a first name and going by the numbers mentioned it does look like it would be fairly unusual.