By Pamela Redmond Satran, Nameberry.com
When the 2013 US Popular Baby Names list came out in May, we ran
Kelli Brady's, aka The Name Freak, wonderful Playground Analysis blog,
with her count of the real top 50 baby names. Brady tallies all spelling
variations of the top names in calculating their rank, which puts Aiden
et al instead of Noah at No. 1 for boys, for instance, and bumps
Jackson (and Jaxen, Jaxon, and Jaxson) up to No 2.
Our focus is usually on which names are more popular than you'd think
when you add in all their spelling variations. The idea is that parents
want to be forewarned that they're likely to hear their favorite baby
names far more often than they thought based on the official rankings.
Zoe and Aubrey, counting all spellings, are actually in the top 10 for
girls, for example, while Kayden and his many near-identical twins rank
not at No. 93 but at No. 9.
But what about those baby names that are less popular than they seem
judging by the official statistics? Parents may veer away from some
names, both classic and modern, that are actually somewhat more
distinctive than they appear. I'm not talking about names that are a
couple of rungs further down the ladder, based on Brady's analysis, but
those that are significantly softer by our own subjective measure.
The point is: If you're shying away from the baby names listed here
because you believe they're too popular, maybe you owe them a second
look. They are:
Elizabeth - Interestingly, the girls' top names are more likely than
the boys' to be more popular than suspected, because they're more likely
to embrace lots of spelling variations. The first notable exception to
this rule is the ultimate classic girls' baby name Elizabeth, No. 10 on
the official list (where it has ranked more or less, forever) but way
down at No. 20 in the Playground Analysis. What's more, Elizabeth
carries a range of nicknames, from the more fashionable Lizzie or Libby
to the unusual Zibby or Bets, which can make it more distinctive.
Charlotte - Charlotte has long ranked at or near the top of
Nameberry's own popularity list, and Charlotte's many admirers may be
dismayed to see her approaching the top 10 in the official count. And
definitely, Charlotte has the potential to be the Sophia of the future.
But for now, Charlotte's real ranking is at No. 22, not No. 11, and so
you can breathe a bit more easily about naming your daughter Charlotte,
especially if you don't call her Charlie, No. 240 and heading sharply
Ella - Ella is short, simple, and complete unto itself, a cooler
alternative to Emma or Bella. But ranks at No. 15 on the US list after a
very steep climb, which may give you pause. On the Playground Analysis,
though, it's significantly more unusual at No. 29. If you'd like to
keep Ella as distinctive as possible, don't shorten (or, er, lengthen)
her to Ellie, a nickname that's more popular than you'd think.
Harper - Harper may be one of the fashion hits of the decade,
propelled from outside the top 1,000 to an official No. 16 in just a
decade. Credit "To Kill A Mockingbird" author, Harper Lee, Disney's
"Wizards of Waverly Place" character, and its choice by Victoria and
David Beckham for their daughter. While undeniably trendy, Harper is not
quite as popular as it seems, way down at No. 32 in the Playground
Grace - Classic Grace slips from No. 22 all the way down to No. 40,
making it a much more distinctive first name choice than you'd think.
But beware of using it as a middle name, where along with Rose, it's
quickly become overused.
Victoria - How often do you hear the regal classic Victoria in the
playground? Much less often than its US No. 25 ranking would suggest:
It's No. 42 on the actual ranking.
Noah - By any measure, there are a lot of little boys named Noah
around these days. But not quite as many as Noah's new No. 1 ranking
would suggest. In the Playground Analysis, it's only No. 5, and when you
consider that Aiden, Jayden, and Kayden are all in the top 10, Noah is
going to feel far more unusual than all those rhyming variations.
Liam and William - Liam and William both still rank in the top 10 in
the Playground Analysis, but at Nos. 7 and 8 versus the official 2 and
5. Maybe not hugely significant, but for lovers of one of these two
related classics, that might be just significant enough. Other
high-ranking classics such as Michael, Alexander, Daniel, James,
Benjamin, David, and Joseph are all similarly down a few notches from
their official rankings.
Samuel and Isaac - The biblical Samuel and Isaac are both fashionable
classics somewhat less common than they seem by the official count, with
Samuel at No. 32 and not 25, and Isaac at 35 versus 29.
Nathan - Nathan, another longtime fashionable classic boys' name from
the Bible, stands at No. 40 in the real statistics versus No. 31 on the
official US list.
Luke - The biblical Luke is No. 42, a significant slide down from its
official No. 34, but the related Lucas (and Lukas) is more popular than
Henry - Nameberry favorite Henry may have risen to No. 37 on the
official US list, but it's down at No. 46 in the Playground Analysis,
good news for all the Henry lovers on Nameberry. An advantage that will
keep Henry less popular than it seems: No common spelling variations or
Owen - I admit I was personally relieved to see Owen, my own younger
son's name, at No. 47 on the Playground Analysis list, down
significantly from the official No. 38. While Owen may continue to rise
in the official standings, it's kept from being overly popular ala Aiden
and Jayden et al by the fact that there's only one common spelling of
Owen -- the Irish Eoin or Eoghan homonyms being out of the question for
Nameberry is a baby-naming site produced by Pamela Redmond Satran and
Linda Rosenkrantz, co-authors of 10 bestselling baby name guides,
including the newest, "Beyond Ava and Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to
Naming Your Baby." See more at Nameberry.com.