Slightly More Usual Names

from flickr.com

I mention not-so-usual names quite a bit – I originally intended on covering a name given to only 20 boys in England&Wales in 2010 today, but put it on hold for another day. Instead, we’re talking about some Top 100 names I’m glad to see popular, and if I’m really honest with myself, I would happily use any of these names in a heartbeat.

Harry

Deep down, I know I’d love to use the name Harry. He does get a bit of a bad rap in some areas – usually by those who pronounce the same the same as the word hairy. Here in the UK, they’re completely different and that’s probably why he’s so much more successful here. You’d think the Harry Potter series would’ve promoted the British pronunciation elsewhere, but it seems to have made little impact. Either way, I find myself rathering Harry to Henry. I’m honestly unsure of why, certainly in the UK, you would use Henry and then use the nickname Harry – except for family/personal reasons. I guess I could understand it in the States where Henry is just so much more popular than Harry.

Of course, some of you will predictably want to only use him as a nickname, so here’s a quick list of potential ideas for full names of Harry:

Harper; Harrier (previously mentioned); Harold; Harvey; Horatio; Harding; Hardy; Amishar; Berhard/Bernard; Charbonnet; Charles; Charleston/Charlton; Harlow; Harrison; Harrod; Hartley; Harvard; Lothar; Harrison; Richard; Sacha; Zachariah/Zachary; Christopher.

Harry was at #3 in England&Wales in 2010 and he means home ruler. That is, if you’re deriving him from Henry.

Archie

I guess my heart did sink a little when I heard Rebecca Woolf proclaim that she doesn’t like the name Archie, and fights against her son Archer becoming one. These days it does seem more likely that parents wanting a long form of Archie would opt for Archer over Archibald. I like the idea of Archer, in that I happen to call the same part of the world home as Robin Hood once did – one of the most famed archers of legend. Back in Medieval times, you’d have been hard pressed to find an English man who could not wield a bow and arrow, as men were trained from the age of 7 by their father. The name Archibald somewhat reflects the characteristics of an archer with his meanings: Genuine; bold; brave.

One could call Archie the British Emma – like Emma with Emily, he has benefitted hugely from the popularity of the name Alfie. I know of plenty of people opting to use Archie over Alfie due to his position as being the lesser popular of the two – although these days the gap is relatively small. In 2010, Archie ranked at #24, whilst Alfie ranked at #4.

Stanley

I think I love him because he is just so hopelessly uncool in the eyes of many. That’s probably why I’m currently reconsidering my position on Percy. Surprisingly popular in this fair isle – slightly more so in Wales (#70) than England (#100) on rankings – there could be a variety of reasons why. The main character in popular sitcom Porridge was called Norman Stanley Fletcher ‘Fletch’, and is widely regarded as a great comic creation. We also have the explorer Sir Henry Morten Stanley – and of course there’s also Stan Shunpike and Stanley Yelnats from the fictional world. Of course, Stanley has also hugely benefited from the sudden interest in ‘old people names’. The name Stanley means stone clearing.

As much as I try to be open to the world of unisex names, the fact that Nameberry list Stanley as a female name unsettles me somewhat, more than the fact he’s listed on their Names No Boy May Be Cool Enough For list.

Jenson/Sonny

If you’re thinking, huh, I didn’t realise Sonny was in the top 100, you’d be half right. Sonny ranks at #100 in Wales alone (#113 in England, and combined at #111). It’s a slight cheat, yes, but if it seems apt to mention him with Jenson. The latter name is popular because of the F1 driver, and part of me is beyond thrilled because I did wonder whether parents would be put off by the ‘Jen‘ part of the name (especially with Jennifer lingering around). I guess the driver is well-known enough for parents to be prepared to use him.

As for Sonny, I’m slightly surprised by the uptake of the name, but know I shouldn’t really be. Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones welcomed their own Sonny way back in 2004. Brother Kit Valentine followed in 2009, and they’ve recently announced that they’re expecting another bundle of joy later on this year.

Maisie

Most of you will know that I’m a fan of Maisie. She’s a nickname for Mairead, the Scottish form of Margaret. Her Scottish origins go some way to explaining her fierce popularity in this part of the world, despite Anglo-Scottish relations never being particularly close – and potentially to grow further apart if Alex Salmond gets his way. It’s also worth noting that whilst Maisie ranks at #14 in 2010 in England&Wales, the #15 spot is taken my sound sister Daisy.

Poppy

Thinking about it, I hardly ever see this name discussed along the likes of Rose, Clementine and Lily and that could be because she’s nowhere to be seen in the States. I checked, too, and she hasn’t been in the Top 1000 at all in the past 100 years, although she was given to 118 girls in 2010. I’m also quite surprised I’ve never really looked in depth at Poppy, because she is a personal favourite of mine – alongside plenty of other P- names including, but not exclusive to fellow floral names Primrose and Peony.

As a possibly source of her success, I’ve had plenty of friends and acquaintances tell me that should they have a daughter in November, they’d name her Poppy, as a reference to the annual Poppy Appeal which runs from October-time to Remembrance day; It’s run by The Royal British Legion. My local bus service has started adorning their fleet with poppies in the last year or two. I know last year that there was a stand-off between Fifa and the England squad when their plan to wear a new-design shirt featuring the poppy in their match against Spain was met with a ban from Fifa. In the end a compromise of an armband featuring a poppy was reached. It did, however, cause widespread outrage which just shows how highly the imagery of the poppy is held.

Imogen

I first came across this name about 6 years ago on a six year old, and it was said aloud before I heard it said. My first thought was wow, her parents named her imagine, that’s really sweet. It’s a simple mistake, and her creation came from one: Shakespeare intended on calling his character in Cymbeline, Innogen, not Imogen until a mistake in the printing occured – altering her name to Imogen and as thus she remained unchanged back to her intended form. It’s likely that the name means maiden and she ranked at #26 in England&Wales in 2010.

Isla

I do like how this name sounds, although some are troubled by her usual spelling – wanting to sound the s when she should remain silent. One can only hope that the high profile of actress Isla Fisher will lead to increased awareness of how to saw her name, not that this worked with Harry Potter. The name Isla derives from the name of a Scottish island – Islay, which is pronounced the same as Isla. An interesting tidbit is that Behind the Name considers Islay a male name. That makes Isla, in theory, part of a growing band of place names you never realised you were using. She therefore joins the ranks of Sofia and Stanley. Isla also happens to be the Spanish word for island and she ranked at #22 in England&Wales in 2010.

Eliza

I’m not a particular fan of Beth – despite having two lovely workmates with the name; both are just Beth. It therefore figures that I should have a slight preference for Eliza over Elizabeth, but I find myself non-the-bothered. Going back to the previous name, I recently over heard a lady considering the idea of naming her soon-to-be-born daughter Elizabeth – but then using the nickname Isla. Looking at the letters of Elizabeth, it definitely works and thus the pool of Elizabeth diminutives grows. Speaking of them, there’s a great little Name Challenge over at Upswing Baby Names this week concerning offshoots of Elizabeth. The name Elizabeth means my God is an oath and Eliza ranked at #93 in England&Wales in 2010 (Elizabeth at #49).

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Categories: Popular Names, Popularity | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Slightly More Usual Names

  1. Most of these are very popular here too, and I do find them very appealing. We’ve already had two Archies just in January (both from Victoria).

    Jensen and Jenson are definitely on the up – I think parents seem to be going for Jensen rather than Jenson. The fact that Jennifer is now uncommon probably does help.

    Stanley isn’t yet big here, but I saw a baby Stanley born on Australia Day and thought of you. He was from Victoria too.

    I also hoped once Americans heard Harry said in the HP films, they’d automatically go, “Oh that sounds much better! We’ll change our pronunciation at once!”. I wonder if it still SOUNDS like the word “hairy” to their ears????

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  2. I wish Poppy got more recognition in the U.S. The name is a great floral alternative. Some names seem too much like nicknames to many Americans and I suspect Poppy is one of them. But Lily doesn’t seem to have that problem so I could be wrong. I suspect Poppy may be gaining as another nickname for Penelope, which has been climbing the U.S. charts for a few years.

    I prefer Archibald or Archie as a given name or Archer. I can see why many parents would love Archer, but its just too modern for my tastes.

    Admittedly, I am an American who pronounces Harry as “hairy” but I still like the name. I don’t associate Harry with “being hairy” at all. I have heard some Americans claim they have no problems pronouncing Harry the other way so there is hope, but my ear doesn’t even pick up the difference.

    BTW – you were very close guessing the missing links between Geena and Elizabeth. In fact, your answer might be an alternative correct answer, even if it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

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  3. I have a friend who purposely went for the pronunciation Is-la, as in the Spanish word for island, to honour her Puerto Rican heritage. I’ve never been partial, but boy is her kid adorable!

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