Positively Perfect and Phantastic “P” Names

Parker Posey, Peppermint Patty and Pablo Picasso Our history and pop culture have produced some notable “P” names. A perfect “P” name makes you stop and take notice.

I do not have anyone in my family whose name starts with a “P,” but the other day I had “P” names on my mind. There are a few classic girls’ “P” names – Paula and Patricia come to mind – but for the most part, “P” names are a more elusive bunch than names beginning with an “A” or “B.” I decided to set out to round up the best of the “P” names, including those looking for a comeback and others that have never broken the top name ranks. This blog will focus on the most promising “P” names for girls.

I began my analysis with a review of the Social Security Administration’s (“SSA”, for short) most recent list of popular baby names. I had to scroll down the list to #56, where I found Penelope, the most popular “P” name for girls in 2013. Penelope’s ascent up the baby name ladder didn’t surprise me, as both celebrity parents and regular folks have embraced this name.

Cute as a button Paisley trailed behind the “P” leader at number 80, though this trendy name is more popular than she appears at first glance. Alternative spelling Paislee came in at a respectable #628, and other variations (Paisleigh, Paizley, Paizlee and Payzlee) were bestowed upon multiple babies that year. So if one combined all of the Paisley variations, this name might actually be used more than Penelope. I would recommend using the original Paisley spelling to maintain the integrity of this intricate pattern.

Other popular “P” names include celebrity favorite Piper, Payton (with variation Paityn) and Paige. Place name Paris, unisex Parker and famous surname Presley also made the top 1000 cut. Princess came in at #982, but I would caution a parent against using this name as anything other than a casual nickname. Of these popular names, I would recommend Parker, as this gender-neutral name sounds fresh used on a girl, Presley for its musical roots and Paige for its refreshing simplicity.

Some promising top 1000 names that don’t seem at risk of overexposure are feminine Priscilla (#485) and exotic sounding Perla (#668). Paola (#671) and Paloma (#755) both share understated pizzazz. Vintage Pearl ranked #677 and could be on track to match the success of old-fashioned gems like Ruby and Cora.

If you are looking for a “P” name that hasn’t broken the top 1000 yet, there are some ripe possibilities. Promising choices include Pia, a simple name with international flavor, and Palmer, similar to Parker but less used. Glam Petra, socialite Pippa and sophisticated Portia showcase the best of the flying-below-the-radar “P” names. Spunky Pepper (given to only 152 girls in 2013) could provide a winning alternative to the trendy Piper. Pacey (with only 15 newborn girls bearing this name in 2013) adds some P-attitude and could be used in lieu of out of favor Tracy or Stacey.

There are a plethora of “P” names that espouse desirable virtues in a little girl. Patience is the most popular, ranking #891, followed in popularity by Promise, Precious and Prudence. None of these names are my cup of tea, but of the four, I agree with the masses that Patience is the most usable. Please do not name your daughter Precious – her 40-year-old self will not appreciate it.

Like a colorful bouquet of pansies, the “P” names present a colorful arrangement of floral-inspired names. My favorite option is Poppy, a choice of several celebrities for their offspring as well as our neighbors on the other side of the pond. In 2013, Poppy was bestowed upon only 179 girls in the United States, so this name is a fresh and modern choice. Other floral options include spunky Petunia, cool Petal, hip girl name Posey (or Posy) and the unexpected Primrose (given to 34 girls in 2013).

If you really like the look of a “P” name, but aren’t so keen on the “pee” sound, then a “Ph” name might be for you. Phoebe (#301) leads the soft sounding “Ph” names in popularity, followed by Phoenix (#486). “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Phaedra Parks provides another unique option. Her first name was given to a mere 33 baby girls in 2013. And finally, regal Philippa, the formal name of Pippa Middleton, has a rich heritage and is underused in our country.

If you haven’t seen a “P” name yet that captures your imagination, the next group of names have been taken down from the attic and dusted off, in hopes that you might use one of them. These are the names that you are more likely to hear on a modern day grandmother or great-grandmother than a little girl.

Pamela is a feminine sounding name with an accessible nickname, Pam. Pamela enjoyed massive popularity from the early 1940s, hitting the top 10 in 1953, and remaining in the top 100 until 1984. Pamela finally fell out of the top 1000 in 2011. This attractive name may be primed for a comeback.

Polly enjoyed a steady presence on the SSA Top 1000 for most of the 20th century, falling out of favor in 1978. Polly has a sweet, girl-next door vibe. Jennifer Aniston brought the name to life as a quirky character in the 2004 comedy Along Came Polly.

Related to Polly but a little more sugarcoated, Pollyanna was given to only nine baby girls in 2013. Pollyanna calls to mind the best-selling children’s classic novel of the same name, as well as the film adaptation with Hayley Mills as Pollyanna. The name entered into the English language as both a positive and a negative connotation of someone who is excessively optimistic.

Paulette remained in the top 1000 from the mid-1930s through 1980, peaking in 1946. Paulette is a name one doesn’t hear too often these days. It has a little more flair than the more serious sounding Pauline. I expect Paulette to remain a relic of the past. A more modern version of the feminine Paul- names, Paulina came into favor in the late 1980s and still claims a spot on the SSA Top 1000 as of 2013 (at #825). Former supermodel Paulina Porizkova probably lent this name more style and cachet than its more pedestrian cousins. The girl-next-door sounding Paula peaked in the 1950s and is still clinging onto the top 1000.

The more formal Patricia ranked a respectable #680 on the most recent SSA list of popular baby names. Patricia enjoyed massive popularity from the Great Depression through the Vietnam War. Not surprisingly, many modern day grandmothers and great-grandmothers bear this enduring name. Patricia conveys a classic and refined image and lends itself to the cute but older sounding P- nicknames, Patty or Patsy. Whether the new generation of mothers will glom on to Patricia and propel it to its past glory days remains to be seen.

Most popular in the 1960s, Penny reemerged in the Top 1000 at #993 after a more than two-decade hiatus. Penny has a friendly retro vibe. Penny also makes for a sweet nickname for the popular Penelope.

Whether your taste skews toward trendy, upwardly mobile, artsy or archaic, there is a perfect “P” name waiting for every little girl. Do you have a favorite “P” name? Did I leave any promising “P” names off the list? Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on polished “P” names for boys.

Baby Name Resolutions for 2015

It’s a New Year and time for new baby name trends to emerge, some names to fade into the dust, and others to take center stage. During the past decade, we have seen many baby name trends come and go, and names like Aiden, Emma, Ava, Brooklyn and Jayden take center stage. As we enter 2015, can we make some baby name resolutions for the New Year?

1) Let’s resolve to avoid the obvious and over-played choices. 

Emma Grace, Ava Grace – these are both beautiful names, and I personally have always liked the names Emma and Ava. However, I would steer clear of these combinations in that one in ten parents in the South have used them, and your daughter will most likely have a girl in her classroom with the same first and middle name.

If you can’t live without Emma or Ava for your little girl, but want a simple middle name, why not break ranks with a name like Emma Gray or Emma Bay? For Ava, what about Ava Louise? Ava Renee? These middle names aren’t groundbreaking, but they sound downright fresh compared to the ubiquitous Grace.

Also, for boys, please avoid the following names: Aiden, Jayden, Kayden, ad nauseam. Every time I hear that a new mom has named her son Aiden, I secretly cringe. These names are not unique, they are overused, and using one will date your son to the present time period. Your grandmother may think these names sound fresh and cool, but I promise you they are stale and mainstream. I would much prefer a simple Robert or John to an Aiden and its brethren. Aidan from Sex and the City was modern and artistic; Aiden on a young child today is one in a sea of thousands.

Exceptions: A family name combination you have to use, or a family or surname that just happens to be popular. Or you have been in love with the name for 20 years and can’t bear to use a different moniker. Just ignore me when I roll my eyes upon first hearing the name of choice.

2) Let’s resolve to spell our children’s names correctly.

As parents, we bear many great responsibilities toward our children. One of the greatest tasks is the name we bestow upon our child. In recent years, there is an emerging trend of “kreatiflee”[or “creatively,” for my literate readers] spelled names, that is, names that are intentionally misspelled and would make Hemingway roll over in his grave.

When you give your child a butchered name, you are basically indulging your own selfish desire to be unique in some bizarre way. This is what a kreatiflee spelled name indicates about the parents and family of the poor child – they are uneducated. Nobody named Jesyka is going to be appointed a Supreme Court justice or chosen to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. And Matecyn sounds like an unfortunate strain of bacteria. Please use a commonly accepted spelling for your child’s name.

As a parent, you need to put your need to be different aside and spell your child’s name in an acceptable fashion. You do have flexibility, as there are commonly accepted variations of many name choices, e.g., Steven vs. Stephen, or Madeline vs. the French Madeleine. Both variants are easily recognized, pronounced and spelled. Don’t choose a name that requires your child to face years of “Huh?,” “Umm, can you spell that for me?,” and “Wait . . . what?!” If you have to use a kreatiflee spelled name, save it for the family dog. The vet won’t care.

Exception: I never thought the name Agnes was cool until I saw it spelled Agyness on an edgy supermodel who chose the moniker herself.

3) Resolve to think about your name choice on an adult.

A family member was heading out for a massage one day and relayed to me that the masseuse’s name was Cinnamon. (And no, this wasn’t an “exotic” massage.) Expecting someone akin to a porn star, I was surprised when she reported back that Cinnamon was entirely nice and normal. Poor Cinnamon, I thought, given a name that limits her career options to stripper or Vegas show girl. I would have immediately changed my name to Cindy – a pedestrian choice, but mainstream and respectable.

Which brings me to my point – choose a name for your child that can comfortably transition from babyhood to adulthood. Traditional names like Robert and Charles have the extra benefit of providing a cute nickname (Bobby, Charlie/Chuck) in childhood and then transitioning into a very grown up name if preferred.

Names like Kaylie, Braylee and Ashlynn may be sticky sweet but they don’t inspire much confidence in the business world. Look for a name that your child can grow into, or a name that allows for a kid-friendly nickname and the option for a mature adult name. One of my childhood friends went by Mary Anne, using her first and middle name. Now she is just Mary. This is a great example of a “convertible” name that will take your child from the crib to the boardroom.

There is also a group of names that evokes certain ideals, religious beliefs or a state of mind: Serenity, Patience, Temperance, Karma, Heavenleigh (Heavens no!), Princess, and Chastity. While these names may sound lofty, don’t set a child up for failure by giving her a name she can’t live up to or doesn’t embrace. I wouldn’t feel comfortable as a 35-year-old named Princess, unless I worked at Disney World.

4) Resolve to stand out by choosing a perfectly “normal” name.

The baby names that stand out to me are the ones that are perfectly normal, spelled according to normal English usages practices and not used on one in four children. Examples of names that make my ears perk up on the girls’ side are Sloane, Lydia, Daphne, Astrid, Esme, Bridget, Gretchen, Eliza, Delaney and Muriel. All of these names graced the Social Security Administration’s most recent top 1000 baby names, yet none of them have hit the mainstream name jackpot yet.

For boys I like Lyle, Vance, Rory, Tate, Vincent, Beau, Pierce, Lane and Nash. These aren’t outlandish names by any stretch of the imagination, yet they aren’t necessarily considered “classic” names like Henry and William. And none of these names are uber-popular like Noah, Liam, Olivia and Sophia. If you look for a name flying below the radar, and spell it correctly, your child will stand out from 90% of his or her peers.

If you can resolve to accept even one of these resolutions for the New Year, then the future Starbucks baristas and pharmacists will much appreciate the easier spelling.

What names do you think should exit stage left with 2014? What names do you think will be hot in 2015? What baby name resolution would you propose for 2015?

Author’s note: Like all of you baby naming enthusiasts, there are baby names and trends that I love and those that don’t appeal to me as much. I do not hate any child’s name, and I think every given baby name is special in its own right. These resolutions are simply my no-holds-barred opinions with a humorous undertone, and many of you will passionately disagree. I believe our differences of opinion are what keep the topic of baby names interesting and ever evolving.

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?

Great Girls’ Names Beyond the Top 1000

Every year baby name enthusiasts and interested parents eagerly await the release of the Social Security Administration’s popular baby names list, which provides data on the top 1000 baby names for boys and girls. In addition to the most used names, the agency also provides statistics on names that did not rank in the top 1000 for the year.

I decided to check out the names that flew below the radar this past year to discover naming possibilities for parents seeking a unique name that is not too far out there. I began my analysis with the girls’ names. A foray into the name data can be comical at times and involves wading through misspelled names (Deisy, Serinity), made-up monikers (Lakelyn, Naveah), and “kreatif-lee” spelled baby names (Avarie, Kynnedi), in addition to luxury goods (Chanel, Lexus, anyone?). Beyond these types of choices, many names in the lower rankings are brimming with possibility.

Place names

Instead of the ubiquitous London or Paris, how about charming Brighton, exotic Capri, peaceful Geneva, cultured Holland or fair Vienna for a name with European flair? For those looking for a stateside choice, Austin or Raleigh provides a fresh pick for a girl in lieu of Brooklyn or Savannah.

Supermodel names

Surname name Brinkley, statuesque Giselle, powerful Iman and resilient Petra would befit a future catwalker.

Star-powered baby names

For baby names with star power, Blythe, Calista, Drew, Liza, Marlo, Nicolette, and Selma are strong contenders. Greer, a personal favorite, lends an aura of old Hollywood glamour. For the more musically inclined, consider Billie, Etta, Florence or Emmylou for some Southern attitude.

Multicultural names

From our friends across the pond, think the lovely Georgina, in the spotlight Pippa or blue-blooded Poppy for British flavor. Magdalena (with nickname Maggie) or Ines make sophisticated Spanish picks. For the Francophiles, consider Cosette or Mirabelle. Other exotic sounding choices include Adina, Dalia, Evangelina, Rana, Tallulah and the Biblical Yael.

Literary names

Accomplished Agatha, feminist Louisa and talented Zora would work well for the literati.

Vintage names

Beyond the top 1000 names live some hidden gems buried for years. Bonnie, Clementine and Susannah each come with their own theme song and would suit an amiable child. Agnes and Millicent lend themselves to endearing nicknames (Aggie and Millie, respectively), or go straight to a “nickname name” like Frankie, Lindy, Nellie or Winnie. Adelle, Coral and Cordelia are striking choices.

Gender-neutral names

If you eschew girly names in favor of ones at home in either camp, some promising options include Afton, Arden and Palmer. Names more popular on the boys’ side lend themselves to unique sounding girls’ names; think Bryce, Ellis or Spencer.

Water- and nautical-inspired names

French for “sailor” and Latin for “of the sea,” Marin is a classic sounding watery name, or cut to the chase and name your baby girl Sailor. Other peaceful choices include Bay, Lake (both good middle name options) and Harbor.

Artsy and creative names

For those hoping to raise the next Broadway star or Georgia O’Keeffe, the names hovering below the top 1000 provide plenty of inspiration to indulge your creative side. Indigo, Monet, Odette and Zinnia are painters in the making, while Britton, December, Hollis, Jules and Lark are full of creative flair.

Mainstream names

If you desire a name that is not wildly popular but want to avoid a crazy name, these names are for you: Darcy, Justine, Laine/Lane and Maura make for perfectly respectable and “normal” sounding baby names who will grow up into responsible adults. For a name with a little more oomph, try Gretchen, Jessa/Jesse, Maribel or Vivianne.

Whatever your taste, there are plenty of baby name gems awaiting discovery beyond the Top 1000 most popular picks.