Trendy Baby Names.

A dozen years ago I posted about fashions in given names; now I present Daniel Wolfe and Andrew Van Dam’s WaPo storyThe mysterious tyranny of trendy baby names” (archived):

In America, how you spell your name says a lot about when you were born.

Take “Ashley,” for instance. Ashly, Ashley and Ashleigh each mark distinct eras — not just for the Ashleys of the world, but also for the various spellings themselves.

What is it about how we spell a name — specifically, how we choose to spell the end of a name — that makes for a trend? Laura Wattenberg, author of “The Baby Names Wizard” and creator of, a website devoted to the art and science of names, has been examining that question. […]

As Wattenberg has watched names rise and fall in popularity over the past 20 years, she said she’s seen the invisible hand of name endings wield surprising influence — especially as Americans have abandoned the use of ancestral names for new family members. While expectant parents want their child’s name to stand out and be memorable, Wattenberg said, they also typically want it to fit within the boundaries of some unacknowledged — but unmistakable! — social convention. […]

As Wattenberg and I examined the data together, a startling discovery came into focus: Back in the 1970s, singular names grew so popular that they became trends unto themselves. But “it just doesn’t work that way anymore,” Wattenberg said. Nowadays, trends are defined by many different names with similar suffixes.

Consider the awe-inspiring “Jason” curve. […] Jason begat Mason, Jackson, Grayson, Carson and a whole family of other “-son” names that together make up a major 21st-century trend for baby boys. […]

Wattenberg finds “an incredible irony” in this. People think they’re choosing something totally unique, but they do it in a way that winds up moving with the zeitgeist. As a result, names have actually gotten less distinctive over time, with nearly half of all baby names now following identifiable suffix trends — a phenomenon Wattenberg calls “lockstep individualism.”

Visit the link for details and a bunch of graphs. (Via MeFi.)


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    Evidently “Proton” is due for a turn as Most Popular US Boy’s Name.
    (“Meson” is so 2014. “Diapason” may still have some mileage in it, though.)

    For girls, “Ameba” has a nice sound to it. Just saying.

  2. in 1967, “Acid Rain” was #1 for both boys and girls.

  3. cuchuflete says

    In some quarters, ‘Maga’ has been popular for both girls and boys.
    Inspection of birth certificates shows variations including Mega, Magga, Magguh, Maggot and MAGA. Parental signatures are often x or X. A statistical outlier, Maguhreeshee, appeared in various forms in some cities.

  4. P. G. Wodehouse:

    ‘You sit there and tell me you haven’t enough sense to steer clear of a girl who calls herself Gwladys? Listen, Bertie,’ said Aunt Dahlia earnestly, ‘I’m an older woman than you are—well, you know what I mean—and I can tell you a thing or two. And one of them is that no good can come of association with anything labelled Gwladys or Ysobel or Ethyl or Mabelle or Kathryn. But particularly Gwladys.’

    Kathryn survived and is unremarkable anymore. I shudder at Ethyl.

  5. Consider the awe-inspiring “Jason” curve. […] Jason begat Mason, Jackson, Grayson, Carson and a whole family of other “-son” names that together make up a major 21st-century trend for baby boys. […]

    They’re obviously trying to catch up with Brazil, where given names ending in -son such as Anderson, Edison, Jefferson, Nelson, and Wilson modelled on English surnames as well as variations like Adilson, Denilson, and Nadson have been incredibly popular for decades.

  6. Another noteworthy case is the post-1980s “m-plex” in girls’ names. Madison – sometimes now Madisyn – was famously coined (at least as a popular choice) by the 1984 romantic comedy Splash; sometime later, as best I can tell, the biblical-ish name Michaela – influenced by the separate-origin Kayla – started to acquire the cutesy respelling McKayla, which then inspired McKenna and Mackenzie and their truncations Kenna and Kenzie. Every time I hear of the actress Mckenna Grace, my brain wishes her name were the other way round.

    Of course, all of this can be seen within a much older WASP tradition of adapting family names for girls, which yielded Allison, Ashley and Hayley in general use – also joined since around 2000 by Addison.

  7. David Eddyshaw says

    “Alison” is old. It’s from the (Old French) oblique case of “Alice”, historically.

    The Wife of Bath was an Alison, IIRC. And there is at least one more in the Canterbury Tales. (In one of the tales that everyone reads …)

    “Shirley” is another of those family-names-turned-girl’s-names. It used to be a boy’s name in the Good Old Days. (Of “Alexis” I will not speak. The wound is too fresh.)

  8. Kate Bunting says

    Yes, Charlotte Brontë’s eponymous heroine Shirley is an heiress, supposedly given the name chosen for her if she had been a boy – possibly her mother’s maiden name.

    “Hayley” originated with Hayley Mills, named after her mother Mary Hayley Bell (for whom it was not a ‘middle name’ but part of her surname). She was a prominent child star in my youth, but I find it surprising how popular the name has remained long after she ceased to be famous.

  9. DE, speaking about suffixes mentioned in the post, Alexis has -s. Like Gwladys.

  10. J.W. Brewer says

    Allison (or Alison) Gross is the title character of Child Ballad #35, which describes her as “the ugliest witch in the north country.” Allegedly not attested until circa 1783, but it may be older because busybody folklorists were prior to that era not really writing down stuff that never made the technological leap to being printed up as a so-called broadside ballad.

    The actress Mackenzie Phillips was a huge teenage star in the U.S. by the mid-Seventies, and thus preceded (and influenced?) the boom for girls’ names beginning Mac/Mc. It appears that upon her birth in 1959 she was named Laura Mackenzie Phillips, which sounds like a perfectly normal WASPy name. I don’t know when/why she dropped the Laura and for all I know that may only have been for professonal purposes and she may have remained Laura to family members.

  11. PlasticPaddy says

    I am not sure names like Alexis (Otis, Lewis, Francis etc.) are parsed with s as a detachable suffix. The -is is detachable as a whole to make a short name (which can then have -ie added to make an affectionate version), and this is quite different from the ys in Gladys and other Welsh names.

  12. An hendy hap ich habbe ihent
    Ichot from hevene it is me sent
    From alle wimmen my love is lent
    And light on Alisoun.

  13. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I find the -ia chart interesting because you can see the last peak – and for me Cynthia and Patricia are still names from that generation (unlike some of the names from a generation or two before, like Violet or Ada, which have definitely become small child names again).

  14. David Marjanović says

    German cartoonist Perscheid’s take on popular names.

    Could you link directly to the picture instead of to a Farcebork page it’s embedded in?

    I am not sure names like Alexis (Otis, Lewis, Francis etc.) are parsed with s as a detachable suffix.

    It doesn’t need to be interpreted as a suffix – barely even as a rhyme.

    And light on Alisoun.

    Is that “laid”?

  15. No, it’s an obsolete use of “light” = “alight”; OED II.9.a. “intransitive. With adverb or prepositional phrase. To come to or arrive at a place; to come to a particular state or condition, or a point in a process.” A couple of cites:

    c1450 (?a1400) Quare it [sc. the fire] liȝt on his like it lichid him for euire.
    Wars of Alexander (Ashmole MS.) l. 4785

    1653 The Pearch feeds well, if you light where they be.
    T. Barker, Art of Angling 8

  16. Oh, and “ichoot” = I know; “lent” = removed.

  17. OK, I don’t understand this in OED s.v. †lend “To arrive, come”:

    2. To light (up)on. literal and figurative.
    This would seem to be the original meaning and in the common Middle English alliterative phrase love is lent, but the verb may have been subsequently otherwise interpreted as = lean v.¹, to incline; in some contexts it was perhaps associated with next vb.: cf. lend v.² 2a (quot. c1430).


    a1350 From alle wymmen mi loue is lent, ant lyht on Alysoun.
    in G. L. Brook, Harley Lyrics (1968) 33

    How can “lent” possibly mean “light (up)on” there?

    …Well, the entry is from 1902, so maybe it’s just wrong and will be corrected.

  18. Family names turned boy’s names is very 18C British. Family names turned girl’s names is late 20C American. Family names as middle names all bets are off.

    In 1900, Alison was a girl’s name and Allison was a surname and (hence) also a boy’s name. My impression is that double-L for girls is now prevalent in America but not Britain.

    I file Michaela alongside Brianna and Nigella as names that might have been invented by vain men who expected a son they could name after themselves. Not like good old Josephine or Bernarda, invented by pious Catholics with a commendable devotion to the corresponding male saints.

    Judge me if you like, just don’t fact-check me.

  19. How can the entry be from 1902 if the book is from 1968?

  20. David Eddyshaw says


    My (Hispanophone) daughter-in-law Francisca calls herself Francis rather than Frances, but that is because she doesn’t want to be taken for either a Frenchman or for a Catalan François.

  21. J.W. Brewer says

    The Post article is depressingly bad because they can’t even correctly understand their own graphs. E.g. -leigh as an ending may have peaked in 2019, but it was still quite significantly less common in that year than either -ly or -ley options, both of which plateaued for a significant length of time after their earlier peaks.

    And for the specific example they give, “Ashleigh” was not even a top 1000 name by 2019, having peaked in 1991 and fallen out of the top 1000 after 2009. Indeed, by 2019 “Ashley” (#136, down from being either #1 or #2 continuously from 1985 through 1995) was followed in popularity by “Ashlyn” (#585) and “Ashlynn” (#621) if you search on the string “ashl,” suggesting that maybe suffixation is not the only or even necessarily primary key to the pattern here.

  22. PlasticPaddy says
  23. G. L. Brook (1964 ed.) glosses ‘lent’ as “taken away” [on line 11, and ‘ylent’ as “come” on line 25]; Susanna Grier Fine (2014) as “leapt” [and ‘ylent me on’ as “overtaken me”].

  24. How can the entry be from 1902 if the book is from 1968?

    It’s been “modified” since then. In particular, this citation used to be:

    a1310 in Wright Lyric P. vi. 28 From alle wymmen mi love is lent ant lyht on Alysoun. Ibid., Levedi, al for thine sake longinge is y-lent me on.

    lenden from = withdraw, remove from (see link, sense 2)

    Yes, I know that; why doesn’t the OED?

  25. Jen in Edinburgh says

    It’s more like the 1b example ‘Lete fleischeli knowynge from þee be lent’ – although that does suggest that ‘lent from’ is different from ‘lent on’.

  26. David Eddyshaw says

    Thinking of Francis/Frances, I noticed that “Gwladys” is actually a rather odd form for a female name in Welsh: all things being equal, you’d have expected “Gwlades” (though the rule doesn’t always work: the archetypal telyn “harp” is feminine, for example.) Mind you, gwlades actually means “(female) country-dweller”, so practically “heatheness.” Not great for a saint.

    If occurred to me that “Gwladys” could actually be a misspelling of an original “Gwladus”, and Welsh WP seems to bear this out:

    Gwladus is not an actual word, but judging by the Old Irish cognate flaith “sovereignty/ruler” of gwlad it ought to mean something like “sovereign, powerful”, which seems pleasingly Positive Female Role Model-ish.

  27. J.W. Brewer says

    I recall that in former decades it was common for mythological ladies in old Welsh and Irish stories to be viewed as instances of an archetype sometimes known in the literature as the “hag of sovereignty.” Maybe there’s your positive female role model right there, although now wikipedia is telling me more modern scholars are more skeptical about how well this framing actually fits diverse characters in a diverse range of narratives.

  28. David Eddyshaw says

    Seems to be more of an Irish thing.


    delegated the “ugly” bit to her son. Though she did try to make it up to him (in vain.)
    Better than Arianrhod, who was not what you might call an ideal mother. I mean, we’ve all placed inescapable supernatural curses on our own children, but three of them? Bad parenting, I have to say.

    Talking of whom, in the Fourth Branch, her uncle, King Math, has to keep his feet in the lap of a virgin at all times*, once again revealing the great sexual purity of the Welsh. None of those dubious Irish Indoeuropean horse ritual things.

    * Not when he was at war, obvs. That would be silly.

  29. Behold professional golfer Gwladys Nocera. Born in France, of Portuguese descent, hence the weirdly spelled Welsh name.

  30. David Eddyshaw says

    You’re right. It is weird. Should be “Gwladus.”

    It occurs to me that “Gwladys” is etymologically “Vladette”, more or less. Another good name for the MAGA crowd.

  31. Dmitry Pruss says

    My hunch is that strange-spelled names take off for one additional reason: avoidance of the stigma of immigration. As “regular” American names are taken over by scores of immigrants wishing to fit in, the once-standard names are getting an aura of something ethnic / newcomer-ish, and so all the Davids and Lucys are out

  32. First they came for Sheldon and Vivian, …

  33. J.W. Brewer says

    There has been a modest vogue in the last two decades for naming U.S.-born boys Welshly as “Rhys,” although I think that 20 years or so ago when my oldest child was 3 there was another little girl in our Manhattan building with that name. But the soundalike “Reese” has enjoyed significantly greater recent American favor as a name for girls. This may be because the American actress Reese Witherspoon (apparently named Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon at birth) is better-known to the relevant parents than e.g. the rather masculine New Zealand rugby great (quite possibly of Welsh ancestry) Reese Kenneth Griffiths (1937-2016). The further variant homophonous spelling “Reece” remains more commonly given to boys than girls in the U.S., and I indeed have at present a male work colleague by that name, although I have never asked him what his parents were up to, onomastically.

    I’m not sure about Dmitry’s theory – it may sort of match up with the current data, but one would need a theory about why or how it didn’t manifest itself in previous generations when the desire to distinguish ones children from those of immigrants should have been an equally strong if not stronger motivation. All that happened back then was that a handful of names got “skunked” by being so commonly-chosen by immigrant parents trying to “sound American” that everyone else abandoned them. E.g. one of my great-grandfathers was named Sydney or Sidney (spelling varies in references to him), but he was born at least 20 or 30 years before “Sidney” became a stereotypically Ashkenazic-American name to the extent that it was abandoned by gentile parents.

    My wife wanted to give our youngest child a very Slavic-immigrant-sounding name, but I was able to convince her that although the name was very rare in the U.S. in any version, the least foreign-sounding option was the French version of the name so we should go with that one in preference to any anglicization of the East Slavic version(s).

  34. There has been a modest vogue in the last two decades for naming U.S.-born boys Welshly

    I got to that point and was momentarily sent down entirely the wrong path. “Come to dinner, Welshly — time for your leeks!”

  35. I have a silly English question. Or two.

    1. Wikipedia, “Gladys” describes st Gwladys as “royal queen”. Is this normal in English and if it is, what does it mean? In Russian it becomes tautological: korolevskaya koroleva.

    2. “Gwladys” describes Gwladys as “the beautiful Queen of Saint Gwynllyw Milwr.”. Is this, again, normal English (I mean, that she’s a queen of a man rather than country)?

    @PP, I mean what DM says here, but I think yes, detacheability changes something. And I simply did not think about Francis.

  36. Also I’ll take the occasion of Wodehouse’s aunt Dahlia’s Celtophoby to note that he’s one of very few novelists whose novel I stopped reading in the middle because it was too boring.

    Both quotations in discuss weirdness of Y. The first is the very same opinion from Wodehouse, but this time attributed to Reginald Jeeves.

  37. PlasticPaddy says

    Yes, sorry for misunderstanding what you meant with the s. Re your Q1, maybe you have heard this (Luke Kelly’s version is also on Youtube).

  38. David Marjanović says

    I file Michaela alongside Brianna and Nigella as names that might have been invented by vain men who expected a son they could name after themselves. Not like good old Josephine or Bernarda, invented by pious Catholics with a commendable devotion to the corresponding male saints.

    Or it could be an import. The peculiar absence of a more traditional female version of Michael is not shared by, say, French or German. In fact, I think this absence is due to the difficulty of figuring out how Michaela would be pronounced by English spelling rules, such as they are. In German it’s trivial.

    Any relation between Brianna and Breanna?

  39. PP, definitely I know the tune, but not these words. (weirdly now I’m thinking of “he’s got him a medal he won in the war, it weighs five-hundred pounds and it sleeps on his floor”)

  40. J.W. Brewer says

    When one knows something about etymology one needs to be careful about the risk of overestimating how much is clear v. unclear to ones fellow citizens, yet I still believe that a sizable number of Americans of my generational cohort do understand that “Michelle” (which was consistently a top 10 name for girls born in the U.S. from 1966 through 1980) is a female variant of “Michael,” however Frenchified.

  41. Keith Ivey says

    I know the tune as “Sweet Betsy from Pike”.

  42. David Marjanović says

    Brianna and Breanna

    Also Breonna.


    Also Michele as in Bachmann. Rather than at male Italians, her parents may have been looking at the rarer French spelling Michèle…

  43. J.W. Brewer says

    Looking at the SSA dataset, my year of birth gave America 16,215 Michelles but 8,664 Micheles. Either the foreignness of the name made standardization harder or it was just an instance of the phenomenon (which may be distinctively American for all I know, or may not be) where a sufficient level of popularity itself engenders variant spellings: Brians engender Bryans, for example.

    That same year yielded 7,243 Catherines, 4,706 Katherines, 4,157 Kathryns, 285 Katharines, 188 Kathrines, 168 Cathryns, 114 Cathrines, and 112 Katheryns.

  44. Could you link directly to the picture instead of to a Farcebork page it’s embedded in?
    I don’t know how to do that?
    What is the problem with linking to FB? That group is the easiest way to find Perscheid cartoons if you know the number.

  45. Dmitry Pruss says

    30 years before “Sidney” became a stereotypically Ashkenazic-American name to the extent that it was abandoned by gentile parents.

    I suspect that the difference between the original “escape from the names claimed by Ashkenazi Jews” 100 years ago and the more recent potential escape from the names used by the Asian immigrants is that the Ashkenazim had very few popular Yiddish names and thus claimed only a few Anglo names, with a clear onomatopoeic reason behind each. While the more recent immigration claimed a wider variety of names for a whole slew of complicated reasons. So unlike then, now it just becomes a runaway evolution away from anything traditional… not just from a few specific names.
    And of course in between, from the 1920s to the 1960s, there was the great immigrants crackdown…

    BTW we did give our American born kid a French variation of a Slavic name, but she didn’t like the faux French thing & reclaimed the original name when she grew up..

  46. @JWB, I never thought about this, that Michelle /mi.ʃɛl/ has something to do with Михаил /mʲɪxɐˈiɫ/ 🙁
    It is so French and has ch….

    I think now I’ll think “Misha” about every Michelle

  47. America 16,215 Michelles but 8,664 Micheles.

    I worked with a ‘Michele’ here in NZ. She readily admitted her parents couldn’t spell. (I see my spell-check isn’t objecting.)

  48. I understand girls named Michelle are rare in France these past few generations; less so in Quebec. I surmise this is just a random variation signifying nothing. Unless it connects to les Beatles.

  49. Michelle Mabel!

  50. In the US, all the Mishas I know of are female, not Mikhails.

  51. Mabel

    Wow. (though I’m afraid I associate ma belle with the saying “нравится – не нравится, спи моя красавица (“whether you like it or not, sleep my beauty”)

    PS. Y, wow-2.

    I didn’t know. (honestly, I only remember Sasha Grey, the pornstar for whose popularity must be responsible her impressive… eyes*, and Sacha Baron Cohen… speaking of Welsh jokes.)

    If it is because -a, it makes sense.

    * Googled for her and those don’t look as impressive on modern photographs. Presumably I should google for her porn filmed more than a decade ago and in different make up, but I won’t.

  52. PS. in Russian –sha is just a syllable used in short forms of names.
    Mikhaíl – Mísha (also a way to refer to a bear, medved’. The diminutive “míshka” is now understood as a diminutive synonym of medved’).
    Maríya – Másha.

    -úsha in turn is diminutive (Iván > short Ványa > dim. Vanyúsha). It is very convenient that in North Africa -oucha means the same.

    I suppose I can then form Lyósha for Alexis, just as I form it for male Alexéy. (O, because /e/ changed to /o/ in some syllables in Russian, E preserved in Alexéy because Slavonic spelling. But I write it in English as “Lesha” anyway, mimicking Russian ë.)

  53. A few US Sashas are Alexandras, but mostly their recorded given name is Sasha.

    Back in Eurasia, I can imagine that La Femme Nikita sounded really wrong to Russians.

  54. avoidance of the stigma of immigration

    i think this is also pretty evident in the vogue for names that are very markedly from the formerly pictish archipelago (as opposed to the less-marked core american english namestock), or look like they are or should be (aislin [“ashley”], paxon, etc). it’s about a particular assertion of 100% Americanness as imagined Anglo-Saxonity (in practice drawing on a farrago of celtic, volks-english, and imperial british names, plus some scandinavian ones). the pull factor here, as well as the push factor that Dmitry pointed to, are both part of the normalization of white nationalist ideology over the past 20 years.

    interestingly, that seems to have enabled the creativity associated with african-american naming practices to finally be absorbed into white u.s. culture – to my ear, the precedent for names like trig paxon van palin (son of the former veep) is names like latasha n. nevada diggs (a great poet/musician and long-ago coworker of mine).

  55. my samples are wildly skewed by being in yidishland, and being in brooklyn, but i know sashas of various genders (some with alex- names behind them, some not), but mostly mishas who’re men (some mikhails, some not (one of the latter with a full name that sounds almost exactly like the yiddish word for madness, despite (?) being from a goyish family – i think i was the one who broke the news to him)).

  56. Now I think about it, at least one Misha I know of was née Michelle.

  57. Dmitry Pruss says

    And in Bulgaria, Vanya is a feminine name

  58. When I first heard meshuggene (in pre-school age) I thought it is the surname Mishugin (whose etymology I don’t know exept that it is mishuga with possesive suffix -in – would be funny if eventually it turned out to be a Jewish surname)

  59. In Germany, Sascha and (a less frequent name) Mischa tend to be male. They, like female Tania, Sonja, Lara, Lisa usually are official given names, not hypocoristic forms of longer names, except if their bearers have Slavic family connections.

  60. PlasticPaddy says

    фамилии Мишуков послужило церковное имя Михаил. Фамилия Мишуков восходит к крестильному мужскому имени Михаил, которое в переводе с древнееврейского значит «благонравный».

    Фамилия Мищуков образована от прозвища Мищук, которое восходит к украинскому «мищух», что в переводе на русский язык значит «мещанин, горожанин».
    There is also Міщук– I would say these might be all from the Ukrainian.

  61. “которое в переводе с древнееврейского значит «благонравный».”
    (lit.: which in translation from ancientJewish means …)

    After attempts to derive it from משוגע this sounds ironical:)

  62. > invented by vain men who expected a son they could name after themselves.

    Some are so vain they don’t need the excuse of having no son. Illinois briefly had a US Senator, this century, whose kids were Roland Jr. and Rolanda.

  63. Several generations of Ninas were namind their daughters “Nina” and now you’re telling me that if my freind were a boy, she would be Nin?

    (actually, same with my another close female friend, Natalia. Except that Natalia’s (Tata’s) daughter is Natalia (“Natasha”) and Nina’s daughter is Katya)

  64. PlasticPaddy says

    See also Mikhaev, they give many derived names.

  65. “…, she would be Nin?”

    Though, wait. When and Arab girl Rim names her son Rami, it is the same, right? (apart of that little detail that Rim is gazelle and Rami is archer)

    Vanitas vanitatum! But I like it.

  66. As “regular” American names are taken over by scores of immigrants wishing to fit in, the once-standard names are getting an aura of something ethnic / newcomer-ish, and so all the Davids and Lucys are out

    This doesn’t seem very likely to me. Are there scores of immigrants named “David” or “Lucy”? Anecdotally I haven’t met any in my extended recent stays in the US and Boston and New York are both fairly immigrant friendly as US cities go. David, like Michael, was so ridiculously popular in my Gen X cohort that it is not surprising we and our Millenial siblings were unwilling to pass it on. There is a lot of pressure in the US to be “original”. I suspect the association with Peanuts killed “Lucy”. Lucille Ball playing a loveable ditz on “I love Lucy” probably didn’t help either.

  67. J.W. Brewer says

    “Lucy” was the 40th most popular name for newborn girls in the United States in 2023, its highest placing in any year back to 1900. It has had a big comeback since bottoming out in the mid-late Seventies just outside the top 500. If Peanuts was responsible for that Seventies trough, the effect has worn off! Even the more archaic-vibe “Lucille” is having a comeback – it reentered the top 1000 in 2003 after almost three decades of absence and was up to #285 in 2023. “Lucia” is up to #109 in 2023.

    On the boys’ side of the ledger, “Lucian” was up to #487 in 2023, having reentered the top 1000 in 2005 after over a half-century of absence, and “Lucien” reappeared in the top 1000 in 2023 (at #923) after last appearing in 1954. Whether those boys’ names are benefitting from the boom in “Lucas,” which entered the top 100 in 1993 and has been in the top 10 since 2018, is unclear to me.

  68. Another data point: British actress Mischa Barton. That is her birth name.

  69. David Marjanović says

    What is the problem with linking to FB?

    Firefox puts the tab into its “Facebook container”, meaning it erases the entire history of that tab, and then Fb wants me to allow cookies. Never mind, Perscheid can be found elsewhere, I’ll look for the cartoon there – maybe even today if I wake up enough. (It’s not just Biden who’s ill currently.)


    Tanja is fairly widespread among people my age – geographically much more so than the northern German Manja and Svenja.

  70. Mabel

    Kennen Sie schon das Fräulein Mabel?
    Würden Sie sie sehen, würd’s Ihnen äibel.
    Beine hat se krumm, so wie ein Säibel,
    meine süße kleine Freundin Fräulein Mabel.


    … Maga …

    What? I mean, your comment is a joke, right?

  71. FB’s cookies will stay in the Facebook container. That’s the idea.
    Anyway, the cartoon goes: young boy addresses his mother in the living room; father is in armchair reading the paper. Boy says to his surprised mother: „Die anderen Jungs in meiner Klasse heissen auch alle Finn!” Father comments from the side: „Wir hätten ihn doch Schwed oder Norweg nennen sollen!”

  72. Hello Mabel

  73. @drasvi: I know a couple of Lebanese siblings who are named Ramy and Rima.

  74. David Eddyshaw says

    Hello, Mabel

    Beatles, nothing.

  75. @DM, I wonder if -ja in Manja/Svenja is independent of Slavic forms.

    de.WP “Manja” says: “Der Name kommt primär aus dem Dänischen und ist dort abgeleitet vom lateinischen Magna, „die Große“.[1] Manja ist zudem eine russische Koseform des Namens Maria.

    Where link [1] leads to a site that says “Nordic spelling of Маня (Manya), a Russian pet form of Marija [1] [2] [3]

  76. David Marjanović says

    Oh, interesting.

  77. Kate Bunting says

    Ant C wrote:

    I worked with a ‘Michele’ here in NZ. She readily admitted her parents couldn’t spell. (I see my spell-check isn’t objecting.)

    It’s my understanding that the correct French form is Michèle – the double-l version was coined to make the pronunciation more intuitive in English.

  78. Kate Bunting says

    drasvi –

    1. Yes, ‘royal queen’ is somewhat tautological.

    2. A king’s consort can be referred to as his queen.

  79. Stu Clayton says

    ‘royal queen’ is somewhat tautological

    But “queeny royal” is not ! There may not have been one of those for a long time, but that is irrelevant to tautosness. I know very little about the English Royals through the Eons.

  80. 13 LGBTQ+ British Royals in History. (They include the Queen Mother because “some of her most endearing friendships were with well-known gay men” and Princess Di because she “was another known ally to the community,” which is cheating.)

  81. David Eddyshaw says

    I suspect they mean “enduring” friendships. I don’t thing having gay friends is “endearing”, unless you feel that it’s some sort of amiable weakness, like taking an interest in stamp-collecting or descriptive linguistics.

  82. Stu Clayton says

    Thanks, my analysis got me no farther than that “endearing” makes no sense here – which I already knew at the outset. Anyway, the QM was a lush (is it not), and famous and female and aging. This type, and the well-known-gay-man type, have traditionally been tight as pot and kettle.

    I wonder whether that was the origin of “fag hag”. In the licentious 60s it was applied indiscriminately to women of all ages. Even then I thought it was was a bit unfair, but one did always appreciate a little rhyming spitefulness.

    humani nihil a me alienum, puto! as Lorca remarked.

  83. PlasticPaddy says

    Who are you calling a puto, Stu?

  84. Stu Clayton says

    It was Lorca being cute.

  85. Stu: earliest mention in Green’s is from 1963, “fag hag with a sag”. I hope you are satisfied.

    DE: I will use “amiable weakness” from now on to describe my linguistic endeavors. It’s even better than “harmless drudgery”.

  86. Stu Clayton says

    I hope you are satisfied

    As long as you don’t demand satisfaction, I’m good. Hope pines eternal in the depths of Pandora’s handbag.

  87. J.W. Brewer says

    Wiktionary merely dates “fag hag” to the 1965 mention in that important lexicographic document _The Guild Dictionary of Homosexual Terms_, which Green’s cites after its 1963 “sag” usage. More interestingly and/or amusingly, however, Green’s has a different and earlier-attested sense of “fag hag,” meaning a “woman who smokes excessively.” Said to be Canadian but the earliest cite (1943) is from the Chicago Tribune.

  88. ktschwarz says

    Mary Hayley Bell (for whom it was not a ‘middle name’ but part of her surname)

    Sources vary on that, and on her father’s surname as well. Wikipedia has a footnote that “the surname is Bell”, with no reference, and it didn’t stop the article from referring to her as “Hayley Bell” three times to “Bell” once! It links to obituaries in the Guardian and Telegraph, which both call her “Bell” consistently — presumably her legal surname after marriage was Mills, but Mary Hayley Bell was the name on her plays and books. In the British Library catalog, she’s “Bell, Mary Hayley” as an author. *shrug*

  89. The Advocate listicle mentions “George Villiers, the early and later duke of Buckingham”. Possibly an AI incorrection?

  90. Stu Clayton says

    A mistake in any case, whether by NI or AI. The distinction doesn’t make much sense. No intelligence was applied in proofreading, that is clear. Whether any was at work during composition is of little importance.

    I expect that Americans are to blame. They may well imagine that Earl Grey was the original name of Duke Ellington.

  91. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I don’t know how common Gwladys is today in Wales; Gladys is not common in England, but not so uncommon that one surprised to come across someone called Gladys (if you’re not Welsh Gwladys will come over as pretentious). More surprisingly, it is a common name in Chile, where Gladys Marín was Secretary General of the Communist Party, and a friend of ours is another Gladys. Apparently it is also a popular name elsewhere in South America, in Colombia for example.

  92. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I’ve never come across anyone called Ethyl, and I wonder how it would be pronounced. In chemistry ethyl is pronounced like Ethel in the USA, but quite differently in the UK: /ɪjθɑɪ̯l/, and I can’t imagine anyone using that as a name. (My own name has the same meaning (noble) as Ethel, but it’s short for Athelstan.)

  93. For girl and boy twins, you could go with Ethyl and Ethane. Opens a whole new range of possibilities. I suppose the first borns would have to be Methyl and Methane.

  94. Stu Clayton says

    What are the elective affinities of Esters ?

  95. Poly, obvs.

  96. /ɪjθɑɪ̯l/?? I had no idea!

    Longman’s Pronouncing Dictionary has /ˈeθᵊl/ as the main pronunciation (same as of Ethel), with /ˈeθɪl/ and /ˈiːθaɪᵊl/ as alternatives.

    Ethyl and Ysobel and Kathryn look like affected uses of a Ye Olde y for i, pronounced the same.

    I used to read old editions of the Trouser Press Record Guide for fun. One band, Pyrymyd, earned a review which read, in its entirety, “Y’s guys.”

    (Naturally, I deplore any misuse of this noblest of letters.)

  97. Ethan and Esther Keaton. Very nice.

  98. Jen in Edinburgh says

    There was a highland tradition of calling a posthumous daughter after the dead father, which would account for some of the Angusinas and so on – and then I suppose once the name is in the family it becomes a family name to be passed down the generations like any other.

  99. I’ve never come across anyone called Ethyl

    there is the great ethyl eichelberger, but she chose the spelling.

    for a time, the Bread & Puppet Theater’s dancing bears were called ethyl, methyl, and butane (at another point, they were ella, stella, and salmonella).


    i think the phenomenon is less about the Most Popular names, and more about which less popular ones are picked up more extensively by who. for instance, i’ve only ever known people named “eunice” who fall into two demographic groups: white women born before WWII and, in larger numbers, korean-american women born in the 1970s and 1980s. to me, and i expect to many people younger than me, it’s a quite ethnically marked name in a way that is isn’t to many people older than me. “grace” is another example, with an asian-american (primarily chinese and korean, i think) association that’s explored in The Grace Lee Project (by, of course, grace lee). an assortment of names like these have similar strong recent associations that can take them out of consideration by parents committed to their kids’ 100% Americanness (and whiteness) being visible from their names.

  100. Owlmirror says

    “lent” = removed.

    Could “lent” in this sense have arisen from the fast of Lent? Just as those who observe Lent remove flesh from their diet, so too are more abstract things like love removed in a more general sense?

    Wikt+WikiP on “Lent” offer an etymology relating to lengthening days of spring.

  101. Bathrobe says

    I once gave a Chinese girl the name “Isopel”. She hated me for it but she still uses it. It’s certainly unique 🙂

  102. David Marjanović says


    Shortened form of Lenten, from Old English lencten, from Proto-West Germanic *langatīn (“spring”), as in a season into which days lengthen as it progresses. Related to German Lenz and Dutch lente (“springtime”).

  103. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Ester and Aldehyde

    I’m reminded of Francis Dolarhyde in Thomas Harris’s novel Red Dragon.

  104. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    My great^5 grandfather James Cornish had nine sons and one daughter, called James, William Floyer, John Floyer, Charles, Anthony, Philip, Gould Floyer, Hubert, George, and Charlotte.

    Nothing very special about that, except that his eldest son James made things as confusing as possible for family historians by having six sons and one daughter, named James, William Floyer, John Floyer, Charles, Philip Gould, Hubert and Charlotte. With regard to brother-sister names, as discussed above, notice that in both families we have both Charles and Charlotte.

  105. Dmitry Pruss says

    Propyl would make a much better Russian name than Ethyl

  106. Stu Clayton says

    I find this passage from Villette rather strange:

    ‘Miss Snowe’, said she in a whisper, ‘this is a wonderful book [a picture-book which lay open on her lap]. Candace’ (the doll, christened by Graham; for, indeed, its begrimed complexion gave it much of an Ethiopian aspect) – ‘Candace is asleep now’

    Candice Bergen is not swarthy.

  107. J.W. Brewer says

    @Stu: Not Candice but Candace, as mentioned in Acts 8:27 (“And he [i.e., St. Philip] arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship …”). Viewing the distinctive physical appearance of Ethiopian royal ladies as akin to “begrimed” is of course neither accurate nor respectful.

  108. Candace started as a title for the king’s eldest sister in the Meroitic Kingdom of Kush. (It is claimed that the heir to the throne and the next kandake were supposed to be her children, not his.) However, it was misunderstood as a name based on Acts 8:27,

    And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship…

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