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Monday, April 27, 2009

Being On Trend with Syllable Names

Or let's put the data I have for decades to good use and find out when certain one syllable names (which seems to be bringing all the hits to the blog) were most popular. Hooray!


Let's start in 1550, you're a trendy Tudor namer searching for the perfect name for your little girl (who you are rather obviously disappointed is not a son and heir). As she's not that important in terms of succession, you want to call her something easy, forgettable and preferably, one syllable. What do you choose?

Joan - yes, this name catches your eye. As there aren't any statistics to inform you that Joan is actually the 2nd most popular name in England according to baptisms, you happily inform the vicar that that is your chosen name. You could have gone with Anne (#7) or Jane (#8) but that would make you a bit ahead of your time. 

Dashing on through time to the 17th century, and your descendant has decided that as the perfect choice for her little girl. Anne. Too bad that it was the #3 name from 1600 to at least 1700. Well, she's a girl, and you've already used up Mary and Elizabeth on the other fortune-drainers.

The fourth daughter comes along in 1650, and your husband decides that Jane is a good choice. Honours that ancestor Joan, born 100 years ago. Unfortunately, the 1650s were the years that Jane peaked at #4, having remained a solid #5 for the rest of the 15th century. You could have called her Margaret, the previous #4 but that is beginning to sound a little old-fashioned.

1690, and as you look forward to the 1700s, you reckon you have a great, fashion forward name: Grace. And you are totally on trend, as Grace has risen to #10 that year - indeed, it may have risen even higher in the 1700s!

We skip forward now to the Victorian age, and the family name has become Smith, through a series of social marriages. Mother Smith's 1845 search for the best one syllable name has led her to Jane, yes, again! Jane has falls in popularity throughout the Victorian age, and so Mother Smith has chosen the name at the last available 'trendy' moment!

Many years pass, and Jane Smith gives birth to twins in 1875. After much contemplation, she names them Ann and Kate, Ann being a good, solid traditional name and Kate being a sweet, short nickname. Both have risen and subsequently fall right in the middle of the Victorian era.

In 1880, Ruth is born, while 1885 brings Maud - a name unheard of at the beginning of the Victorian era! Nell and Rose come in 1895, Nell - a name, like Maud, having no Smith births until 1855, while Rose a pretty floral. May in 1900 and Olive and Grace again in 1905 complete the Victorian (and Edwardian) age. 

We move on to 1944, year of the D-Day landings. In this time of struggle, no wonder that the one syllable names have returned to popular traditionals: Joan and Ann both peak in this year, along with new entries: June and Jean.

1954 is a return to peace and Joy is popular. Parents show their love of 'e's by adding them to popular favourites Anne and Lynne, while Lynn is also popular. 

1964 is really the decade of the one syllable names - Ruth and Jane return to popularity, while Dawn, Kim, Kay, Gail and Jill all reach their own heights of popularity.

1974 is the year of Claire, and Clair, and Clare.

The 1980s aren't a good decade for one syllable names, only Kate peaks in popularity in 1984, while the rest begin to slide off the charts.

1994 brings lots of new one syllable names: Beth, Paige, Sian and Jade. 

And 2007? Well, it was all about Grace, returning with its highest popularity yet to #1. Meanwhile, Skye, Brooke, Eve, Niamh, Faith and Rose were all in the UK top 100.

The future? Well, Anne and Ann both increased in popularity by about 46% between 2006 and 7 in UK, so they may be in the way back up. For new names - Belle increased 80% between 2006 and 7, and may increase even more due to all the exposure Bella is getting due to the 'Twilight' series. Elle has been rising in USA, but it seems to already be falling here in UK. Looking atthe campaign of Obama, Hope may be the next best thing - but it's been falling in US for a while, and barely moved in UK in 2007. Joy meanwhile, rose quite a bit so may be experiencing a revival. Jane rose 28%, so may join Anne as a revival of vintage 1 syllable names. 

Luz is gaining ground in US, but the lack of large Hispanic community in the UK makes me doubt that it will catch on. The Polish population is growing the UK, but a quick scan of Polish names shows that they are many syllabled, and I can't find an obvious one syllable Polish name. 

Fascination with Irish names in USA means Maeve is on the up, but that doesn't seem to be reflected in the UK yet. Olive may return due to the popularity of Olivia - it made a comeback to the top 1000 in the US in 2007, and increased 37% in UK. Quinn is used on girls in the US, but not in substantial numbers in the UK yet. Rose has stagnated as a middle name, but is rising as a first name - especially in cutesy combinations such as Ellie-Rose and Lily-Rose. 

Looking outside the English speaking world - Noor, Jade, Fleur, Kaat, Fien, Laure, Lien, Roos, Britt, Lou, Tess, Floor and Lise all grace the top 100 of Belgium. Tess, Maud and Fleur are all also in the Dutch top 20. Merle and Kim (and possibly Jule and Jette if they are 1 syllable) are in the German top 100. Linn and Liv are both near the bottom of the Swedish top 100. Nur and Malk were in the top 10 for Muslim and Druze girls in Israel in 2006. 


2 comments:

Evanthe said...

A very interesting read! One note though: both Merle and Laure are two syllable names though Laure can be pronounced like a one syllable name as well.

Saffy said...

Ah, I wasn't sure about that second 'e' in Merle in German, whether it would change the pronunciation. Merle can definitely be one syllable in English, wasn't sure how that translated to German!