03 margaret picRemember bell-bottom pants from the 1970s? How about shag haircuts and midriff-baring outfits and skinny suits for men? They are all back in some form, generally with new monikers like “flares,” “bedhead” and “hipster.” At the end of the day, though, these blasts from the past are comebacks of ideas that worked before and are working again.

The same is true for the names we bestow on what is most precious to us in life, our children.

The Social Security Administration has kept track of what we name our children since the 1880s, and it turns out that vintage names are making a comeback, especially for baby girls. A century ago, the 10 most popular names for girls were Mary, Dorothy, Helen, Margaret (yay!), Ruth, Mildred, Virginia, Elizabeth, Frances and Anna. I know babies and little girls today with some of those names, even though none of them are in the current top 10. Still, the SSA says traditional names are popping up on birth certificates, including Violet, Hazel, Faye, June, Millie, Eloise, Vera, Elsa, Stella, Rosalie, Olive and Josie. I know a few of those as well.

As for boys, the 1920 top 10 names were John, William, Robert, James, Charles, George, Joseph, Edward, Frank and Richard. William and James are still among the top 10 in 2020, which indicates that parents may be more willing to take a flier on girls’ names than with those for boys. Like the girls, boys are also experiencing a return of vintage names, including Clyde, Warren, Silas, Everett, Otto, Hugh, Jasper, Leon, Amos, Otis, Dean and Archie. Our family has a new double-traditional, George Claude.

North Carolina parents seem right on trend in our baby-naming. In 2018, the latest year available, we named our little girls Ava, Emma, Olivia, Charlotte, Harper, Isabella, Amelia, Abigail, Sophia and Elizabeth, a nice mixture of tradition and a bit of modern. Tar Heel boy-naming continues to lean on tradition, with William and James still in the top 10 in second and fourth place, along with Noah, Liam, Elijah, Mason, Jackson, Carter, Lucas and Benjamin.

Make no mistake, though. American parents are perfectly willing to be creative on names when the mood strikes, according to Huff Post, which seems to be every bit as interested in baby naming as I am. For example, Maverick is more popular for boys than the first man’s name, Adam. Brooklyn, originally a New York borough, is more popular for girls than the traditional Anna. Oaklynn, a word that does not register on spellcheck, is one of the fastest rising names for girls. Axel was recently bestowed on more little boys than ever-popular Edward, and Genesis is both more popular than Lauren for girls and the fastest-rising name for boys between 2017-2018. Jason was a biggie several decades ago, but it has now been passed by Angel, and Roman now tops Justin. For girls, Serenity has edged out the traditional Julia, and Brittany, once in the top five, has declined to only a few hundred in 2018. Dior is one of the fastest risers, with more than 1,000 baby girls receiving it in 2018. Kairo, another made-up word, is zooming up the name chart for boys, while Cairo, the actual spelling of the word, has never hit the 1,000 mark.

The real question for parents with a new and precious bundle of joy is whether his or her name has already stood the test of time or whether someone will say 20 years later, “Oh, you must have been born in 2020!”
 
 

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