One of the most popular Google search term for baby names these days is “rare baby names”. According to the popular Keyword search tool, “Wordtracker”, over 3000 people are searching the Internet for “rare baby names” every day! Dependent upon your definition of “rare”, this may actually be a very logical progression in the evolution of baby name choices over the past half-century.
50 years ago people desired “traditional” and “popular” names. 20 years ago these name styles started to make way for more “unusual” and “uncommon” choices. Then, more recently “exotic” and “unique” names became all the rage. But what of this new direction towards “rare” names? Well, if we consider that parents view “rare” names as being uncommon and unusual, but with that certain extra exceptional quality—like a “rare jewel” or “rare find”—then it seems that this is just another step in a continuing trend towards names that are more selective and significant.
The differences in baby naming from my parent and grandparent’s era are very obvious. They were looking for traditional names that were time-honored and widely liked or appreciated. My grandparents obviously didn’t feel the need to linger over name choices. My father was Bill, brother to Dave and Tom. Not even a middle name to confuse the issue. Nor were my mother’s parents obliged to spend hours pouring over a baby-naming book. They chose Margaret, Mary, and Ralph for their children’s names. So I guess it’s no surprise that my parents doled out similarly traditional and popular names for their children. My brothers are Bob, John, and Tom to my somewhat unimaginative, Kathy.
So why is it that my parents were content to follow in their parent’s footsteps while I felt the irresistible need to break free of their conservative mindset and find something a bit more unusual for my two daughters? I’m sure it’s as simple as the population explosion of the Baby Boom. As a Boomer I went through school being called either Kathy G. or Kathy 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. Although my parents probably had another Bill or Margaret in their school, the population simply didn’t allow for 5 or 6 of them in every class. After 12 years of sharing my name with the other 4 Kathy/Cathys in my class, I was determined to endow my girls with something that would give them a little more individuality.
My oldest daughter is named Bryn, a Welsh name meaning, “hill”, that belonged to a couple other girls in her elementary school. My youngest daughter is Lea, an Old English name that seemed very fitting because it means, “meadow”. There are a few Leahs in her school, but it’s not over-run with them. I followed the same path that was typical of many of my peers. I picked names that were not usual, common, or ordinary; but nothing that would make people’s jaws drop or eyebrows rise.
Now my nephew and his wife are expecting a baby and I was very interested to see what names they would come up with. Given their choices, it seems reasonable to assume that they were drawn to some of the hottest name style choices these days: the unusual and unique. But without really thinking about it, this couple took it just a little bit further and managed to find unusual names that have something extra. That additional, interesting quality. This is the definition of a “rare” name in my mind. It’s a bit illusive when you try to distinguish it from simply an unusual or uncommon name—but much different non the less. A rare name is not simply one that few others have; it’s a cut above.
So, what are my nephew and niece-in-law’s choices? My nephew has a Mexican heritage so they looked at Spanish names for boys and came up with Gustavo. Like my nephew’s own name, this one has a formal, exotic flair to it, but can be shortened to a very Canadian sounding “Gus”. This gives this name that special something—a common rhythm with his father’s—that makes it a more than just an unusual choice but also a rare choice.
If they have a girl baby (and the ultrasound seems to hint at this), they have chosen the name Evangeline, and will call her Eva for short. Again, this name has a formal version plus a beautiful short-form. it’s a very unusual name that means “bringer of good news”, which conveys a wonderful feeling of bright hope and expectation. Added to this, is the fact that a Great Grandmother’s name was Eva. In my mind this is another “rare” baby name choice.
So is it worthwhile to follow this newest trend and take the time to find a really “rare” name for your baby girl or baby boy? Absolutely. If you want a name that’s just a little off the beaten track, why not go that extra distance and come up with something truly selective and significant. Your child will carry his or her name for life and will definitely appreciate the story about why their name was such a rare find and therefore just right for them.