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Is My Baby's Name Doomed to Sound Dated?

I was reading my son a "Berenstain Bears" book when I came across one of Sister Bear's friends named Marsha, which instantly dated the book. All of a sudden I could tell you exactly when it was written, just by having a girl named Marsha. I am pregnant with my second (a girl) and I want to make sure to avoid our generation's "Marsha." The problem is, of course, it's so hard to know what will sound dated in the future. I'd love your prediction of what names/sounds we should try and avoid to have a timeless (and yet unique) baby name.
- Not Marsha's Mom

You've done a great job of illustrating why baby naming can be such a huge challenge. The perfect name has to hit a lot of targets, and often those targets point in opposite directions.

You're looking for a name that's unique, that doesn't sound dated, and that sounds timeless and will never be tied to a single generation. That's a reasonable wish list, one I'm sure many parents will relate to. But "timeless" and "unique" are contradictory impulses. After all, generations of steady use is what makes a name timeless. And how can a name sound current without being tied to this moment?

In other words, something's gotta give. Fortunately, there are some small concessions you can make that should go a long way toward ensuring a timeless name:

Avoid the brand-new. Newly invented names are more likely to end up sounding date stamped. Some of them will vanish after this generation, and it's hard to predict which. Avoiding them may rein in your creativity a bit, but it will deliver a name with more proven appeal.

Watch out for hot sounds. Trendy names tend to travel in packs. When a fashionable sound spreads across multiple names, like Kristen, Krista and Crystal, it ties all of the names together into a generational trend. Today's hot sounds include -den, ax and -son for boys and -lyn, ell and -ylee for girls. The fewer rhymes and sound-alikes a name has, the slower it ages.

Choose a name with personal meaning. If you give yourself over wholly to your fashion sense, you're more likely to get swept up in the trends of the moment. Naming after someone you love or admire can help break you out of that stream and suggest more individual choices.

Look for a timeless history. Nothing ensures a timeless future better than a timeless past. A truly timeless name may not be unique, but it doesn't have to be boring, either. For ideas, check out the Baby Name Wizard list of "timeless baby names you've overlooked."

Comments

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December 29, 2015 1:24 PM
By Marsha (not verified)

Yup, my name is dated, but not in the way you think. I'm about 25 years younger than peak Marsha-ness, because my parents named us for names they knew from their friends, not from waht was trendy in their era. (My sister also has an out-of-generation name.) My whole life, people have said to me, "Oh, I have an Aunt/Grandma Marsha!"

Fact is, it hasn't hurt me any. It's made my name unusual in my age group (I've never once had to use my last initial in a school/camp/work setting, unlike all the Jennifers I know), and while I've never liked it much, it's served me pretty well.

Frankly, if you want to avoid the "Marshas" of your generation, you're better off looking to pop culture and seeing what TV quotes will be thrown at her when she's a teenager that aren't even on your radar screen right now! "Marsha Marsha Marsha" much worse than my name being date-stamped!

December 29, 2015 2:41 PM
By Christi with an i (not verified)

I think the current trend (for about the last fifteen years) towards uniqueness has put classical names in perfect position for what you want. I have a Richard nn Ricky and he tends to be the only one in his age group. I know several Richards and Rick's that are older guys but Ricky is always the only one in his class or church group or club. People are familiar with the name and it's not one that feels dated but it also isn't uber trendy. He has a cousin that is about the same age named Kaden and there is almost always at least one other little boy with some version of that name in any group. I think the same could be said of any classical name.

December 30, 2015 1:13 AM
By Aziza (not verified)

V is also a hot letter lately: Violet, Evelyn, Olivia, Ava...
Less so for boys it seems for them it is the X.
Vowels, like -ee, -ay and -eye sounds are also trendy.
So are surnames as a first and girls names for boys.

For middles for girls: Rose and Grace are the new Marie.

Boys names are much harder to come up with, but I'd say Henry is pretty well liked now and old classics, like Walter, are slowly coming back.

December 30, 2015 5:06 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Marsha in the first comment is so right. One of my US friends is Jennifer Ann and always complains that her parents might have given her a name she never had to spell but she did have to think of a nickname. Another here in the UK is Sharon Louise - as were four of her classmates. My German friend Claudia was one of seven with that name in her yeargroup. Both Sharon and Claudia have daughters of a similar age called Jessica.

There are ways to give an out of generation name without making it sound old. That said, here in the UK Olivia Grace has peaked. As has Lily May. If you named your daughter either of those in the US, you might not find they're so popular, however. I would struggle to think of anyone in the UK called Marsha these days. So looking to other countries' trends for your daughter's name might be an option, perhaps.

Good luck with whatever name you choose.

December 31, 2015 2:11 PM
By Sabby (not verified)

What generation is Marsha? I've never heard it before, other than Marcia Brady. Of course that's not the same spelling.

January 6, 2016 11:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Marsha Mason, anyone? Born in 1942...

A so-called dated name tends to work well because it's a unique and bold choice in the present. The 1940s and 1950s names are gradually starting to come back precisely because they are new again on little ones, but not so old that they're trendy. Very few will share their name in school.

It's just funny how things change. When I was a child, the name of the Osmond Family matriarch, Olive, was considered simply hideous by many. Back then, it was hard to imagine anyone naming their child that. And now look at the popularity it is gaining...

January 12, 2016 9:21 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

There is a list on nameberry of names that have been consistently in the top 1000 since 1880. Constant popularity probably ensures the name itself won't be dated but keep in mind the nickname might be (eg Bill is about 60, Will is 15 and Liam is 5).

My name instantly dates me and was #1 in my country for about a decade. I actually don't see this as a problem. There are many, many clues to my age without having to worry about my name.

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