Tuesday, June 23, 2009

'New' Names

What is a 'new' name? A general definition would be a name that has been newly adopted by parents, that was not previously used as a first name - the likes of Cooper, Nevaeh and Addison. These names may have history as surnames (Cooper, Addison), occupations (Cooper, Mason - often also surnames), place names (Brooklyn, Savannah, Sydney) or words (Chase, Destiny, Savannah - and I suppose, Nevaeh). One way of identifying a 'new' name is to look at its popularity over time - when it first emerged. One of my favourite posts from Laura Wattenberg on the Baby Name Wizard was looking at the false antiqueness of Olivia and Ava (also this post) - though they are seen as 'vintage revivals', they were never that popular to begin with.

Another way of looking at this problem, and one I intend to address in this post, is to look at the appearance of names in 'baby name books' and 'name dictionaries'. I have used a selection of name books over time, plotting the appearance of names from the US Top 100 (yes, it pains me not to use the UK top 100, but US has a lot of 'new' names in it) in the book, as well as noting whether they are being used for the right gender (Alexis, Avery and Sydney, for example, swap gender). The appearance of a name in the book assumes that the name is being used enough for the author or compiler to have sufficient information to write about it.

The books I used are:
William Camden's Remains Concerning Britain - this is available on snippet view on Google, which means some names may have been missed. It was compiled in 1605 and published in 1623 and is considered to be one of the first attempts to list names with etymological comments, saying that he chose the names 'most usual to the English Nation' (for more info see the introduction to Dunkling and Gosling's New American Dictionary of Baby Names).

Charlotte M Yonge's History of Christian Names - available on limited view on Google, though the search seemed fairly accurate. This was published in 1863 and revised in 1884. It comprises two volumes, is fairly wide-ranging, and has interesting discussion on current international name trends.

Sophy Moody's What is Your Name? - available on full view on Google, also published in 1863. Less extensive than Yonge, but still indicative of the time.

EG Withycombe's Oxford Dictionary of Christian Names, published 1945 and revised in 1950 and 1977, is less extensive than Yonge or Moody's works, but includes interesting research on the medieval origins of certain names. Its concern with such medieval origins, as well as aristocratic names does lead me to suspect that there is less interest in more contemporary and up-and-coming names in the 70s. However, inclusion of a name in this work does suggest it was fairly well cemented as a 'name'.

Ernest Weekley's Jack and Jill: A Study in Our Christian Names is available on limited view on Google. This was published in 1974. It is more of a discussion book than a name dictionary, grouping names into their respective styles and categories rather than alphabetically.

Leslie Dunkling and William Gosling's New American Dictionary of Baby Names was published in 1983. In the introduction, the authors announce that they compiled their dictionary based on statistical evidence, rather than whether their predecessors included the name.

Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges' Oxford Dictionary of First Names from the Oxford Names Companion, published in 1990. This is included in a volume that has a Place Names and Surnames section, so it may have been

Julia Cresswell's Babies' Names, published in 2004 as a Collins Gem. This is a small volume, so less extensive and less coverage of names - really has to be cemented as a 'first name' to be included.

David Pickering's Penguin Dictionary of First Names, published in 2004. More extensive than Cresswell.

Laura Wattenberg's Baby Name Wizard published in 2005. Though this contains an alphabetical listing, it is not a traditional dictionary. Wattenberg has more interest in trend and styles, so includes more names of marginal popularity. Also more US focussed than the other books.

Patrick Hanks, Flavia Hodges and Kate Hardcastle's Oxford Dictionary of First Names published in 2006, second edition of the previous Oxford Dictionary. The most modern, but in the dictionary style nonetheless, also quite UK focussed.

The Names that Appear in All the Books (by US popularity):
Emma* Sophia Elizabeth Sarah Anna Audrey Rachel Mary

Jacob Michael Joshua Daniel Alexander Anthony William Christopher Matthew Andrew Joseph David James John Gabriel Benjamin Jonathan Samuel Nicholas Caleb Isaac Evan Luke Robert Aaron Thomas Adrian Owen Jason* Julian Charles Adam Nathaniel Henry Brian*

Emma, Jason and Brian probably appear in Camden

A remark often made is that the top males names are less changeable than the girls, this list also shows that they are more traditional: names that have been in name books since the 17th century are much more frequent on the male list.

Names Not Appearing Until 2000s:
Madison Addison Taylor Kaylee Savannah Nevaeh Makayla Brooklyn Destiny Kaitlyn Mackenzie Trinity Aaliyah Katelyn Camila Payton Genesis

Jayden Landon Brayden Wyatt Brody Jaden Ayden Caden Colton Kaden
Is it a surprise that the girls' list is longer than the male list? Male names are not only traditional, there is also less variety in their 'new' names - 6 of the 10 are 'ayden' names, and only two do not end with 'n'. The girls list is a mix of surnames (Madison, Addison, Taylor), places (Savannah, Brooklyn) and words (Trinity, Destiny, Genesis) as well as respellings/foreign spellings (Makayla, Kaylee, Kaitlyn/Katelyn, Camila and Aaliyah). There isn't a dominant common theme.

A few names with appearances in books that surprised me:

Ava - doesn't appear until Dunkling in 1983, though Gardner was active in the movies until the 1940s.
Olivia - appears in all books except Camden, 'Twelfth Night' was written in 1599. Too new for Camden? Jessica is the same, 'Merchant of Venice' was 1596-8
Alexis - appears as a male name until Dunkling, and a female name thereafter.
Ashley - appears for neither gender until Dunkling, where it is a unisex name.
Lauren - not until Dunkling, though Lauren Bacall in films from 1940s.
Avery - first appears in Dunkling as a m name, as a female name from Baby Name Wizard (BNW) Riley has a similar pattern
Aubrey - a male name until 1990 Oxford
Morgan - a male name until Dunkling
Evelyn - a male name in Yonge, but female in Moody
Ariana - appears in Moody as a Persian name, but not again until BNW in 2005

Ethan - doesn't appear until Withycombe, 1945 but is a Biblical name
Aiden - appears in Dunkling, and then not til BNW
Dylan - not until Dunkling
Angel - in Yonge, not Camden or Moody. 'Previously male' in Oxford 1990 - Angel Clare as in 'Tess of D'Urbervilles' rather than Spanish origin.
Kevin, Connor- in Yonge and Withycombe, but not Camden, Moody or Weekley
Hayden - not until Dunkling, and then under Haydn in Penguin and Oxford 2006

Natalie, Leah, Claire, Jennifer, Sara, Gavin, Isaiah, Justin, Lucas, Jordan, Aidan, Tristan, Alex, Dominic - in Yonge, but not Camden or Moody

Isabella, Abigail, Hannah, Amelia, Grace, Victoria, Julia, Angelina, Ella, Zoe, Alexandra, Vanessa, Charlotte, Faith, Caroline, Isabel, Noah, Nathan, Elijah, Christian, Austin, Jeremiah, Carlos, Sebastian, Ian, Eric, Josiah, Eli -
all except Camden

Data here