Oldest Old Lady Names: Next Year's Vintage Favorites?
Old lady names like Leila, Violet and Ella are back among celebrities as well as the rest of us. On the other hand, Delma and Bernice are likely to remain unusual. Between the two extremes lie a bunch of once-popular names that haven't been on the charts in decades, but could be again soon. In this final installment of our oldest old lady names series, we offer five picks for vintage names worth reviving. These names, from living US supercentenarians and the recently deceased, haven't yet broken back into the top 1,000 in the US, but have been tapped by celebrities and the namiscenti. Are they vintage favorites of the future?
Among name enthusiasts, Nevaeh gets a bad rap. This name -- Heaven backwards -- first appeared on the charts in 2001, and has since risen to #34, which horrifies traditionalists who prefer names with long roots. But is there perhaps a more traditional name at the heart of the Nevaeh phenomenon?
Neva, a name that peaked in 1893 at 246 and enjoyed a long popularity, is the name of Neva Morris, born in 1895 (pictured here in her 1914 wedding portrait). Until she died at age 114 in April of this year, she was the oldest living person in the United States.
No Neva in our database, but singer Nelly Furtado named her daughter Nevis. There's a great Namipedia entry on Neva. It's a thinky name with a sound that the culture clearly likes, and a "real" name for Nevaeh.
Florence peaked in the 1890s at #7. Like Neva, it's got the first half of the classic half pipe formation of names like Ella and Leila that peaked in the 1890s, fell away, then re-entered the charts and rose fast. Florence is already popular internationally (#2 in Canada, Quebec and rising in Scotland), and nicknames include Flora, Florrie, and Flossie. Toni Collete chose Florence as the middle name for her daughter Sage Florence.
Louisa peaked in the 1880s at #151, and may bring to mind Louisa May Alcott, whose Little Women is still much read and loved. (Not to mention the big-name movie from 1994) Meryl Streep -- and more on her vintage name mojo in a minute -- named her daughter Louisa. Recently Leelee Sobieski chose Louisanna, while Heidi Klum and Seal went with Lou. Sandra Bullock chose the male form, Louis. Where celebs go, will the rest of us follow?
A name that peaked in the 1890s at #39, Agnes has terrific international variations (Inez), and has been seen lately on supermodel Agyness Deyn. Commenters on the Name Lady's column on Agnes (called "My Mom Hates My Baby Name!") were divided between passionate love and passionate hate for the name, but we think it belongs in the so-clunky-it-works category. Actress Elisabeth Shue -- she of The Karate Kid and Adventures in Babysitting -- named her daughter Agnes.
The terrific Meryl Streep has a daughter named Mamie Willa, to go with sister Louisa Jacobson. Their older brother and sister are Grace and Henry -- vintage names that have increased dramatically in popularity since Meryl Streep first used them. Dozens of celebrities children are now named Henry and Grace. If Streep thinks Mamie's worth reviving, we believe her. Just like Ella, Leila, Neva, Florence, Agnes and Louisa, Mamie peaked in the 1890s (at #57). Mamie Eisenhower was born in 1896, by the way.
Rate our choices: which of these vintage names do you think we'll see the most of on birth certificates in the future? Why?