Hi Duana!

I love your input on baby names and it's rather timely that you've started offering advice more often as I need one for my first born in the next few months. I could offer details on why I am considering these names, but much like Kary or Caledonia's mom, I realize they can't give the story when they give their name, so I'll just lay them out.  Eleanor Ruby if we have a girl or Jackson William Joseph (I'd drop the William, but I am not interested in people calling my kid JJ). Last initial will be 'W'. Please share your thoughts, I'm very interested good or bad as this is a secret to friends and family so it's hard to get input!

Thanks for your help,


Hey J,

I am so glad for your letter, because I couldn’t have given a better example of a weird phenomenon going on, for a while, but now, because of the internet, more than ever. 

I know of a woman who named her son in the 1970s. She was a stay-at-home mom who was a little proud and a little nervous about the unusual name she’d given her son.

Then he went to school. His name was Jason.

My point isn’t that she was so out of touch or clueless. She wasn’t, and isn’t. And Jason is an extreme phenomenon – but this phenomenon is still happening. It’s just that now, because of the glorious internet, we know more about it. 

The names you’ve chosen for your child(ren) are very nice names. But today, in 2013, they are common*.  Almost literally the Karen and Kevin of their time. I know you think I’m nuts, but I’m telling you this is true. The trends are different, yes, but the phenomenon is the same. EVERYONE  thinks going back to their grandparents’ names and pulling up Eleanor Ruby and Jackson William will distinguish them from the crowd. So many people think that they’re ahead of the curve by going “old” with names, but it’s not a new thing. Everyone else is right there with you – either coming by it “honestly” or because they love the names. Everyone’s in the same boat, trying to stay ahead of the next “old person” trend, looking at names they wouldn’t have considered two years ago. Mildred still sounds unbelievably silly for a baby but Millie sounds kind of sweet and fresh, no?

I know there are many people who think name nerds are ridiculous but those are the people who are surprised at just how many Liams there are in a classroom. If it’s not personal – if you didn’t choose your Great-Aunt’s name or your Grandfather’s namesake - chances are you heard the name somewhere, on a TV show or in a popular book, and it started rattling around in your subconscious,  along with many other peoples’.  It can be hard to avoid. “Jennifer” didn’t happen because a whole bunch of people were so out of it or unoriginal, it happened because an underused name up to that point fit the trend of that time (ultrafeminine, three-syllables, like Vanessa, Kimberly, Stephanie) so perfectly that it hit epidemic status in the space of like five years. I’m not suggesting this is the case with Eleanor Ruby, but it’s very close – by this I mean that she’ll certainly have another few Eleanors in her school, if not in her class. Jackson and William, meanwhile, are both in the way, way popular category.

The key to avoiding this is, sorry, read up on what names are popular at Nameberry or Baby Name Voyager. Ask your friends about their nieces and nephews to keep track of what kids are called one or three or six neighbourhoods over from yours.   When you love a name…go ahead and google it to see how many other people feel the same way.  Go ahead and be a creeper by asking to see the class lists of your friends’ daycares.

Of course, you may not need. If you love the names, then you love them. And like so many names, they are empirically lovely. I just don’t want you – or anyone reading this – to think you’ve gotten to the names very first.  

Eleanor – #150 most popular in 2011 (data for 2012 not yet compiled)
Ruby – #109  most popular in 2011 
Jackson – #23     most popular in 2011 
William – #3     most popular in 2011
Joseph – #22     most popular in 2011