Duana Names: Old and Awesome

Duana Posted by Duana at November 19, 2014 16:14:44 November 19, 2014 16:14:44

Hi Duana,

I love your name nerd column! I am looking for advice in my second pregnancy. I have always loved classic, old fashioned names - blame it on all the classic children's literature I read growing up. For our first daughter, we decided on Louisa pretty early on. I love the name and I love her nickname - Lou. I also like that it isn't a very common name but doesn't throw people off.  We've just found out we are having another girl and we are struggling! All of the names I loved growing up are so overdone and popular now (think Emily, Charlotte, Evelyn, Violet, etc.). The names we are currently liking are Enid and Margot but I would love some input. Anything else you can think of that has an old-fashioned feel but isn't crazy overdone? Having a cool nickname is an added bonus. Oh yes, although I like weirder old names (like Maeve, Maude and Effie), my husband isn't convinced, so maybe nothing too wild.

Thank you!


First of all, thank you for highlighting something I’ve always thought – that the literature available to young girls in the 80s is what formed a generation of name nerds. I feel like, before the YA explosion, there were a lot more tween girls reading Norma Fox Mazer right alongside Louisa May Alcott, so we have Libby and Josephine equally vaunted in our minds. I started to wander through all the books in the Young Adult section back then via Amazon but I could easily lose my whole week that way so let’s see what we can come up with.

The style of names you’re talking about is defined by having been kind of out of style and then back in again, and as such my first choice isn’t a perfect example, but I feel compelled to suggest Margaret. Margaret can be anything. It hasn’t gone away to the same extent that, say, Enid has, but it’s an amazing name, and Maggie and Peg and even Margot can all come out of it depending how you and your daughter feel.  However, some people (including one Sarah of Laineygossip.com) believe that this is going to be the new baby royal’s name, so if that’s a thing for you, be warned.

But you’re not penned in – there are so many names like this. Hilary has an Association now, but it’s still a gorgeous name and underused. Plus, its pedigree is real, since, like Beverly and Evelyn, it used to be assigned to men. Not that you have to have that for a good name – I just mean this is not just some 1960s construction.    

Speaking of – Beverly may still belong to your mom, but I think it’s lovely and if you can conceive of it making a comeback, look into it. If you can’t, though, how about Phillippa? Isabeau? Cordelia, which I should stop pushing because I’d like to use it myself, in theory? Harriet, which I similarly cringe at while typing because it feels like giving away a theoretical firstborn? 

There was a miniboom about 10 years ago of Mabels, perhaps inspired by the Mabel born on Mad About You a number of years before that. Does she suit you? How about Helen? Helen and Louisa are different, but of a time – and they speak to one another. So do Louisa and Dorothea – Thea or Dot being very much of the moment names right now.   

Are these all a bit too out there and you’re worried you’re going to default to Alice? (Nothing wrong with Alice, I love it, but it’s a choice that many less adventurous than you are making.) Then what about Augusta or Anastasia or even Winifred?  

Lastly, because you liked shorter names, I should remind you that Vera is short, gorgeous, and will fit right in with the Vivis and Lilys and Evas who are currently being named around her. Let me know!

**Oh hey. Remember when I answered a name question for the second time the other day? Whoops – clearly I need a more sophisticated tabbing and labeling system in my inbox. Thanks for noticing, and for keeping my inbox full enough that this mix up was even able to happen. Oh and to Pearce’s parents – you got a double dose of my unfiltered opinion and only signed up for one, so uh…I definitely hope I gave you something to think about!

Tags: Name Nerd
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