Popular or Offbeat?

What’s your inclination? Or: Where’s your comfort level?   I have always been more comfortable with a less popular name and tend to dislike the more popular ones. Not because I hate them, it’s more like over-familiarity breeds contempt. I do the same with music, preferring stuff I don’t hear a hundred times an hour on the radio.  Then again, the music I generally listen to is older than I am, by a few decades so I only have that problem when I listen to the pop tunes in the car!

 When I named Leo & Simon, I named after family and didn’t bother looking at any lists, charts or anything. Then again, was there anything like SSA now back in 1986?  With Josephine, again, I named after family But I was also looking for something that 1> sounded good with our surname, 2> Complimented her brothers names but didn’t follow exactly after them and then finally 3> wanted something not too popular.  Her name was 258 in 2003 and 242 in 2004. Which was about right for me then. Less than 2000 Josephines then. Perfect.

But now I’m looking for something just a bit more off the beaten track, yet still family oriented. Which is where most of the oddballs you see on my lists come from. Or they’re variants (Cecilia-Cecily, Francesca -Frances, Lilian – Lily).  I just dug a bit further back this time.

How about you, dear reader? What sort of names draw you in? those popular, “I hear it all the time and isn’t it pretty” sorts? Or the unappreciated gems from yonder history?  Or somewhere in between? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kim
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 10:05:35

    This is a great post, Lola. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately myself. While my tastes aren’t as offbeat as yours (don’t get me wrong – I love so many of your names!!), I do find myself recoiling from today’s trendy, “sugary-sweet” names for girls – even names that I objectively recognize as beautiful – Olivia, Sophia, Emma, Ava, etc. And don’t even get me started on Madison, Madelyn, Kayleigh, etc.

    My current list include:
    Louisa Catherine
    Rose Caroline
    Clara Eleanor

    Not too popular (although I am worried about a few!!) but familiar at least.

    Perhaps not surprisingly, my boys’ names tend to be much more conservative:


    Anyway, I always appreciate your posts – you’ve helped me see some great names in new lights!


  2. Lola
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 11:44:22

    Glad to be of any help at all! 🙂 There are quite a few on your lists that I wish I could use (my other half is the more flamoboyant of us and where more of those awesome oddballs you see come from)! Louisa, Caroline, Frances, Florence (is on my lists!), Susanna (not a fan of that H), Tabitha, Agnes & Margaret (I have Margery on my lists). From the boys, William, James, Oliver (I did use Simon) & Lewis (although I prefer Louis). I don’t think you could go wring with any name on your lists, they’re all lovely!


  3. Kim
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 13:38:14

    Thanks, Lola! This naming business is fun but definitely not easy. Louisa Frances might be my top combination but it’s a little too hissy for me at the moment. Alas, I waver on that one.


    • Lola
      Jan 06, 2009 @ 14:30:19

      It is a bit hissy, but I’m rather partial to that, Cecily is my #1, after all!
      I adore Rose Caroline, that’s the sort of simple thing I’d use if I were naming alone. Classic, simple, absolutley femine and just perfect! My Mother was a Frances (well, Francesca but she changed it as a teen) Francesca Jane Maria. She ended up simply Frances Jane which I think is prefectly lovely too.


  4. JNE
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 15:17:48

    I like names that are unique but not “out there” – I’m not a big fan of the concocted name and I really don’t want my kid to be one of several in a school – it’s plain confusing when there are 3 or 4 kids with the same name. (Aside: my grandmother was Alma, but there were several in her school – her teacher changed her name to Walma and the others similarly to tell them apart, and the name stuck… she was Walma for the rest of her life.) That’s not why I feel that way, but it is a demonstration of the issue.

    I prefer names that people can easily spell and say… Not confusing or unfamiliar ones. The name we gave Imogen is more confusing than I’d expected having spent several years in England, where the name is a Top 50 name. I pretty much try to avoid the top 10, since I think a name there would likely lead to multiples at school. Still, I LIKE a lot of the top names now. I can’t fault them and familiarity doesn’t even breed contempt for me. I do find the concocted, smashed-two-syllables together names a little much in general. But I’d be hard pressed to say “Yuck” to them…

    I’m probably quite a bit more conservative than your other half, Lola… but I do like some of the oddballs – especially the oldie-but-goodie ones… and especially in the middle spot.


  5. Emma
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 15:48:15

    I kind of sway towards names that appeal to me, but shortlist the more offbeat ones for the sake of hypothetical balance. I love so many hundreds of names that this sort of arbitration is necessary. Jessica will never make my shortlist, despite how very very much I love her.

    A while ago I would have said that my “shortlist” would be easy to recognize and spell while being totally recognizable and historically stable. But I just buzzed through my female shortlist – Minerva, Cordelia, Lucretia, Griselda, Gertrude, Ermengarde, Ottoline, et al – and most of them are historically obscure enough that I don’t know if I could justify the historical part.

    Hmm. I am going to think about this quite a bit more. Thanks!


  6. Lola
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 16:38:42

    JNE, I figured that was your style! I have no problem telling Imogen & Imogene apart and they’re 2 seperate names to me. Your taste and mine aren’t nearly as far apart as you think, if I was naming alone, I think Maud (and her combo) would be about as far out as I could get. Josephine would have been Lily Caroline ___ if I’d had my way (I just found one of the many notebooks from that time and confirmed the last choices before she was born). I’m definitely a bit more adventurous these days, with this last one butit’s taken a lot of exposure to “Tiberius!, NO Ptolemy!, Wait, Horatio! sort of stuff. Lucretia made the list because she’s uncommon enough for him, but give me the Lucy I love. So it’s a tightrope of compormise we walk but it’s rather fun walk anymore!

    Emma, Ottoline’s on your shortlist too?! Wow, Awesome! There’s one oddball I truly love and I really think she’s going to move back into first place because she’s the one I think I’d regret not using the most!


  7. Paige
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 20:26:46

    I’m a middle-of-the-fencer.
    At times I’m CERTAIN I want to name my [future] kids Persephone and Pyramus, and at others I’m stuck on Grace and Daniel, current chart-toppers. My long list reflects this conflict, as does my short list. A clue: I have Rose and Lillian on there as well as October and Clementine, and Dashiell and Leander as well as Thomas and James.

    And per JNE: I’m loving your shortlist! It has so many bold names on it that not that many appreciate, like Cordelia.


  8. Lola
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 21:02:22

    I was there at one point in time, myself, Paige. I’m a fair bit older than most of the namers I see around. But when it comes to naming actual kids, I’ve been a bit more consistent. Reigning him in makes me so! Persephone! 😀 I love Persephone and really thought about naming Josephine so at one time. Only after seeing her did I realise that Persephone was probably a bit much. I’ve found the best of both worlds, Mix them up! Hence some of my combos on the Girls & Boys pages!


  9. Kate
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 19:01:00

    I’m quite like Paige. I go through daring phases with my names and at other times crave something simple and unburdened (if that makes sense?). Mostly though, I just like what I like!

    Off the top of my head, a few of my favourites include:


    The boys are considerably more conservative and as such, a much shorter list:



  10. Lola
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 19:14:27

    Makes perfect sense, Kate! I’m drooling over your most lovely list now. The *only* name I’m not loving is Amelia. I hate her sound: ah-MEAL-ya. yeah, mushy -meal-.


  11. Kate
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 12:42:57

    I know what you mean about Amelia and I almost didn’t include her but there’s just something about her (not the current popularity I hasten to add) that appeals!


  12. Kate
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 12:44:38

    I used to prefer Shakespeare’s Emilia but have gone off her lately. With Amelia being top 10 in the UK i’m afraid that Emilia loooks like you’re trying too hard to be different and (wince) possibly even a bit Kreative (even though she’s not)…


  13. Lola
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 13:11:03

    Oh, I know that sentiment! It’s the reason I’ll never use Madeleine. A lot of people don’t recognise it as legit and think it’s kreative. Can’t have it all, I suppose. 🙂
    I have a three year old second cousin named Amelia. Her folks call her Mia. Her little brother is Lex, for Alexander.

    Too bad about Emilia, maybe she’d work somewhere in the middle?


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