Off-the-Beaten-Path Boys’ Names (Part I)

There is nothing more interesting to a baby-name enthusiast than digging through the massive pile of names given to baby boys in the U.S. that did not reach the popularity of the top 1000 names. I always thought the girls had bragging rights when it came to having the best choices in names; boy, was I wrong. There are so many great boy names below the Social Security Administration’s latest popular baby names list that I cannot compile them into one blog post. Instead, I am going to create different posts grouped thematically to present numerous options for parents looking for a “unique” name for their little boy.

So this post is quite specific: I will present ten options for off-the-grid choices for baby boys that are 1) surname names (i.e., a traditional last name used as a first name), 2) monosyllabic and 3) ending in an –s. So for the five moms looking for this type of name for your blue bundle of joy, this blog post is for you!

1) Lars – I cannot hear this name without thinking of Ryan Gosling as the eccentric yet handsome lead character in the indie film, Lars and the Real Girl. Lars also has a cool Scandinavian vibe. Your Lars will likely be the only one with that name at his preschool, as a mere 94 boys were given this moniker in 2013. Another plus to Lars is that the name is easy to spell and pronounce.

2) Ames – Okay, I might be a tad partial to this name because it was a lovely college nickname of mine. I also rooted for the competitor by the same name on The Bachelorette franchise, as he was attractive and Ivy League educated. Ames just sounds like he should be making the Benjamins on Wall Street. Another plus is the accessibility of the name – Ames projects kindness because of the shared sound with words like “amiable.” All in all, this nice and ambitious name could suit your investment banker son.

3) Townes – I adore the name Townes. Folks from Texas and those into talented singer-songwriters know a great one by the name of Townes Van Zandt. I seriously considered this name for either of my sons but ultimately shied away from it due to Townes’s tragic path in life. If I had birthed a third son, would Townes have still made the top of the list? Pancho and Lefty say yes.

4) Rhodes – Rhodes is one of my favorite one-syllable, surname names ending in –s. Whew! Rhodes calls to mind a Renaissance man, a refined gentleman with impeccable manners and a solid upbringing. Rhodes probably had a liberal arts education at a very expensive private school. Idyllic Rhodes College brings to mind this image. Rhodes would make for a philosophical attorney who thinks outside of the box or a track star who majors in drama. The possibilities are endless with this name!

5) Jones – Unlike Rhodes, Jones is almost too cool for school. He is hip, he is understated and he has turned a boring surname into a chic and original first name. You may hear thousands of last names to the ring of Jones, but only 87 boys were given this first name in 2013. An added bonus – it’s super easy to say and spell. Just don’t do a Jones Jones and the name should work fine.

6) Briggs – Of these ten suggested names, Briggs is the only one that cracked the top 1000 last year, coming in at number 910 and just breaking the top 1000 the previous year. Briggs sounds interesting and a little complex, kind of like the Meyers-Briggs personality test. He’s the witty guy surrounded by well-groomed ladies sporting their LBDs at a hipsters’ cocktail party. Briggs could be the second Most Interesting Man in the World.

7) Niles – Some mothers of my vintage remember Niles from Kelsey Grammer’s sitcom, Frasier. In full disclosure, I probably saw a handful of episodes, but my research reveals Niles to be a well-educated elitist who is poor at sports with a litany of random phobias. I also knew a Nile (sans –s) who was tall, dark and handsome with an Irish accent. So while the T.V. character hasn’t completely ruined this name for me, opinions will probably vary.

8) Wells – Wells Fargo . . . oil wells . . . what do these things have in common? Oh yeah, money. For whatever reason, many of the names on this list sound like moneyed names. For the trivia buffs, Wells is also the third-oldest town in Maine, according to Wikipedia. A lot of millionaires live in Maine. Therefore, it logically follows that any boy named Wells is destined for good fortune. Only 60 American boys were given the name Wells last year, so anyone bearing this name will be in a select group.

9) Banks – Banks is Wells’s obnoxious nouveau riche cousin. It’s not enough that his parents have some money in savings; they had to name their pride and joy after a financial institution. There are some classic Banks’s families in the movies – “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” the classic “Father of the Bride,” and “Mary Poppins,” all different examples of wealthy families. Banks as a first name depends on the context. Banks from the trailer park will not play as well as Banks from the Upper East Side. Banks could grow up to be a Harvard M.B.A., or a prolific bank robber. Time will tell.

10) Parks – Parks is on par with Banks but with less concrete and more green space. He is the son of the wealthy vegans driving the Subaru next door. They dress like hobos, and they don’t have real jobs so you know they probably inherited all of their money. Parks is a modern and peppier version of Parker. Only 36 boys received this name in 2013, but this green name could have a moment in the future.

Okay, so this blog post devolved into a post about names and their association with money or lack thereof, but many names bring with them socioeconomic connotations. Townes, Ames and Rhodes are my favorite picks overall, but obviously baby names are in the ear of the listener.

What are your favorite single syllable, surname boys’ names that end in an –s? Did I leave any good ones off the list? What do you think names indicate, if anything, about social status and upbringing? Should people be judged by their names?

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