Sunday, December 15, 2013


Lest you think there are not fashions in names, scan this list of the five most popular girls' names for the past 100 years or so:

1913: Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ruth
1923: Mary, Dorothy, Helen, Betty, Margaret
1933: Mary, Betty, Barbara, Dorothy, Joan
1943: Mary, Barbara, Patricia, Linda, Carol
1953: Mary, Linda, Deborah, Patricia, Susan
1963: Lisa, Mary, Susan, Karen, Linda
1973: Jennifer, Amy, Michelle, Kimberly, Lisa
1983: Jennifer, Jessica, Amanda, Ashley, Sarah
1993: Jessica, Ashley, Sarah, Samantha, Emily
2003: Emily, Emma, Madison, Hannah, Olivia
2012: Sophia, Emma, Isabella, Olivia, Ava

Funny, the current crop sound more old-fashioned than the ones from 1913. We have "Love Story" to thank for Jennifer, the Beatles for Michelle and a children's book mouse for Olivia. Isabella? Ava? Anyone's guess.

As an act of full disclosure, I was named Michelle the same year Paul McCartney was born so cannot blame the Beatles. You would think the years I spent listed as a boy on school rosters would have given pause to naming our son Sasha, but it did not. Despite his (blessedly) brief childhood nickname of Sausage and being told more than once so-and-so had a Russian wolfhound named Sasha, I still insist Sasha is a fine name.

Sasha meets Sasha 1981

I have known people with unusual names. They stand out in part on account of them. The original Sasha was one such man. I've known two females named Gordon, a Durell, a Mirenchu and a Napoleon. The oddball name takes a while to remember but you tend not to forget that person.

Where I have a problem is when parents decide to get all creative with fairly garden variety names. They sound the same but...

The moment a baby's name is recorded for the first time the paper trail begins— birth certificate, social security card, school records, driver's license, passport, employment records, bank accounts, etc. All are opportunities to misspell that name. Depending on the nature of the matter (overdue library book or bad credit rating), serious consequences may ensue.

There has long been a gentle rivalry between one-l and two-l Michelles. Neither is wrong, but those Beatles did spell it with two ls. That would seem to end speculation which is right. Most holders of alternate spellings are good natured. Frances puts up with the masculine Francis, Katie with Katy and Claire with Clare.

If you're calling her Anita but spelling it Ahneetah do not expect than anyone will follow suit. Expect instead that Ahneetah will be very tolerant, grow a thick skin or require years of therapy.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my, the stories I could tell about children's names and dealing with them in the school setting. I urge anyone to consider and reconsider before giving their kid a name with an alternate spelling. But if you insist on doing it, don't get huffy with people if they spell the name incorrectly - or actually correctly!

    Lizzie (not Lizzy)