Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Let's Bring Back These Boy Names from the 1900s!

This is the third article in this series that takes a look at faded names, one decade at a time. Today, we'll look at the names that ranked within a combined Top 200 from 1900-1909. This information is according to the Social Security Administration. The list that I used can be found here.

First, I tossed out all of the names from that list that currently rank in 2015's Top 1000. While those are all great names too, we want to find the more obscure ones. The names on the list below are not often heard on modern boys, but that could change if any of these catch on again with parents.

But it isn't always that easy. If a name is not fashionable or trendy enough, (or a family name), it may not stand much of a chance until those definitions of style change. Old names come back around all the time, so these could be favored again in the future, if not now. What do you think of them?

1. Elmer (#41 overall from 1900-1909):
Elmer isn't actually as fuddy as you'd think. It comes from the cool Old English name Æðelmær whose elements mean "noble" and "famous" from the German Adelmar with the same great meaning. Just Elmer, though, isn't quite as popular as it was back in 1918. In fact, once the 1940s ended, the name started going downhill. It hung around until dropping off the Top 1000 chart in 2008. Now in 2015, there were 148 boys with the name for a rank of #1223.

2. Clifford (#63):
This name is as straightforward as they come. Clifford refers to a "ford by a cliff". It is that place name that later became a surname, then a given name; all in Old English. It has always been on record in the US since 1880 and was used most between 1915 and 1964. It started declining in the 1990s and dropped out of the Top 1000 in 2006. It ranks down at #1241 in 2015 with only 145 births for the year. Could it rise again or is it too "big red dog" for modern boys?

3. Milton (#89): This is another straightforward surname derived from a place name. Milton means "mill town" in Old English. It has been used in the US since records began in 1880. Right around 1912, this name gained popularity until it peaked in 1920 with 2,592 births for the year. It remained well-used through the 1960s but gradually declined until it left the Top 1000 in 2009. Now it ranks at #1205 in 2015, which accounts for 152 births. Does Milton feel a bit too dated to be fashionable right now? If so, do you see it coming back in the future?

4. Willard (#119): Willard is an English surname that comes from the Germanic name Willihard and the Old English Wilheard.  Willihard is taken from the elements wil meaning "will, desire" and hard meaning "brave, hardy". In the US, the name has been around since 1880 on record. It had a particularly impressive peak of popularity in 1915 when it rapidly climbed to #58 with 2,889. It continued to rank well through the 1950s, but slowly lost popularity. It left the Top 1000 in 1990 and has only continued to fall since then. Only 44 boys were named Willard in 2015. With William ranking so high, why doesn't Willard get more love?

5. Roosevelt (#121): Roosevelt comes from a Dutch surname that means "rose field". This was the surname of two American presidents. As depicted in our photograph above, Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), and Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945). It may be a Dutch name, but it feels strongly American. The name was at its peak in 1933 and remained in the Top 1000 until 1994. Only 50 boys received the name Roosevelt in 2015.

6. Rufus (#140): This Latin name means "red-haired" and belonged to several saints. It was occasionally used as a nickname on redheads, including a king of England named William II. It has always ranked in the US since 1880, doing fairly well, especially through the 1920s. It remained in the Top 1000 until 1989. Only 43 boys were named Rufus in 2015. Could it work on a modern boy?

7. Arnold (#141): Arnold is a German name derived from arn meaning "eagle" and wald meaning "power".  It replaced the Old English name Earnweald after being introduced to England by the Normans. It lost usage after the Middle Ages until the 19th century. It has been used in the US since 1880 on record, even landing in the Top 100 between 1912 and 1931. By 2005, it left the Top 1000, and had only 95 births in 2015. Could it be more common in the future?

8. Orville (#149): It's possible that this name was meant to mean "golden city". It appears to have been invented by an 18th century writer named Fanny Burney. It was made familiar by airplane-inventor Orville Wright. The name has been around since 1880 when records started. It saw its highest level of popularity from 1914 through the 1920s. It left the Top 1000 in the mid 1970s. Now it is down to 12 births a year in 2015. Will it ever be common?

9. Alton (#177): This Old English name comes from a surname that was based on a place name meaning "town at the source of a river". Alton has ranked rather well since 1880, with its best year being 1928. It very gradually lost steam and dropped out of the Top 1000 in 1999. Could it be in line with modern trends again in the near future?

10. Roscoe (#199): Roscoe comes from an English surname that derived from an Old Norse place name meaning "doe wood". Roscoe was most popular in 1920, but it ranked within the Top 1000 from 1880 to 1975. After that, it declined in usage and currently earned 71 births for the year 2015. Is Roscoe potentially stylish enough to come back in the future?

Now that you've browsed through the ten names here, which do you like the most? Which do you think stands the best chance of revival? Which will never see the Top 1000 any time soon?

By Pach Brothers - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3a53299.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.العربية | čeština | Deutsch | English | español | فارسی | suomi | français | magyar | italiano | македонски | മലയാളം | Nederlands | polski | português | русский | slovenčina | slovenščina | Türkçe | українська | 中文 | 中文(简体)‎ | 中文(繁體)‎ | +/−, Public Domain,

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