Monday, June 17, 2013


Naming a Kardashian in the 1800s

One of my favorite places on the Internet is the Social Security name database, which allows you to track American naming conventions all the way back to 1880—a year in which top names for infants included Alfred and Herman for boys and Fannie, Pearl, Lena (!) and Edith (!!) for girls.

Many of the names that were popular in 1880 have already been revived, or seem ripe for immediate picking. I can easily imagine walking into a day-care center and meeting a band of well-dressed toddlers named Lulu, Blanche, Ora, Otto, Milton and Mack. I'm also quite pleased by the hipster-Puritan feel of names like Dovie, Ambrose and Judge. However, due to current events, there is only one genre of baby name that matters today, and that is the K-name.

K-names become more popular as the decades roll by. The mid-twentieth century brings names like Kaye and Karen for girls and Kermit and Kelvin for boys, and by the 1980s, K-names occupy a significant amount of real estate on the "most popular" list—Kristin's up there, as is Karla, Kristina, Karen, Kendra, Kara and the assorted varietals of Katherine and Kristen. Also present: Kris, Kendall, Kimberly and Khloe.

What to name an 1880's Kardashian, though? Probably not Kathryn or Katie—I see a strong Kanye veto on those two. Kitty, Kittie, Kattie, or Kizzie are all relatively attractive options, but my money stays on King, a nineteenth-century name that's recently become popular again, and is currently #256 on the list of names for boys.

But of course we must look to the future and not to the past. Due to other current events, my actual top pick for Baby Kardashian's name is Magna Carter. Emma's, naturally, is Khoire.

88 Comments / Post A Comment

Citizen Christy

Ohhh, I also love the SSA name database! I love names and name meanings in general. And the database reminds me that Christy, rather than Christina or Christine or some variation thereof, has never been super duper common, which I like. My parents' other pick was Jill. Glad they didn't go with that.

Plant Fire

@Citizen Christy I love finding out what parents almost named people. Like when I found out that, had I been a boy, my father would have named me Jeremiah Johnson.


@Sea Ermine This. Is. Wonderful. You're not secretly my sister-in-law, are you? My father-in-law moved to Montana because he watched that movie. He recently gifted us not only the DVD, but the soundtrack. I can't even tell you how ridiculous the soundtrack is.


@Sea Ermine I was almost Rainbow, and my brother was almost Geronimo. Raised by hippies!

The Lady of Shalott

@anachronistique My dad nearly got to name me Apollonia. Which in his defence, is a family name, but I cannot imagine how many times I'd spell it in my lifetime.

Roxanne Rholes

@Sea Ermine I almost got "Meryl" as in Streep, but then my parents were too worried that she'd have some tragic death or scandal. Too bad!

Heat Signature

@Sea Ermine I came very close to being named either Silver or Crystal with a middle name of Lake. Then my dad's best friend's daughter died, and I was named after her. Silver lining? So to speak.

Plant Fire

@TheBelleWitch Hahaha no one in my family lives in Montana but it's nice to know my dad isn't the only one who loved that movie (this is a man who at 18 had a dream of walking across America with only a dog and a backpack). He also considered naming me Zachariah at one point, which is almost as bad.


@Sea Ermine I would've been Maximus.


My roomate's mother earned $19329 last week. she is making an income on the computer and moved in a $321200 home ======wep6.com=====


Personally, I've got my heart set on little Krampus Kardashian.

dj pomegranate

Magna Karter.


i love this song@n

apples and oranges

Nooo Kermit is a top name for boys?!

Citizen Christy

@kangerine How many people who name their child Brooklyn are actually from Brooklyn? 30%, right?


@kangerine I kind of like the name Kermit for boys, but I guess because I really like Teddy Roosevelt and his son's name was Kermit.

RK Fire

Not Magna Quarter?




@iceberg Kim & Ye's baby is probably doomed to be quite insufferable, but no doubt it will be extremely attractive.


@iceberg I have a little fantasy about the future in which the KimYe baby and Kate Middleton's baby marry and the universe suddenly makes sense.


K'denn's senior yearbook: "Most likely to lead pillaging horde of space barbarians."


@mlle.gateau The universe suddenly makes sense, or spontaneously collapses in on itself with a small whimper.

RK Fire

@mlle.gateau I had that fantasy about Blue Ivy and Kate Middleton's baby for awhile. Maybe it can still happen?


@RK Fire I'm actually weeping a little, that's how badly I want that to happen.

RK Fire

@LilRedCorvette Blue Ivy and Baby Kardashian-West need to be BFF though, no matter how things go down with Kate Middleton's baby.


I was totally going to name my kid Pearl if it was a girl, because I was pregnant & unmarried and F U PATRIARCHY (?)

Alas, it was a boy, so he got the crotchetiest old man name I could think of.

Judith Slutler

@hallelujah ooo what name? If you're comfortable saying.


@hallelujah I looooooooooooooooooove the name Pearl!! (Also Ruby. Not so much Sapphire or Diamond, though. Hm.)


@par_parenthese Jewel names are great but there is somehow a fine line between "adorably old-fashioned" and "not out of place in porno credits"


@Judith Slutler My Pin anonymity is probably shot to shit already, so why not: Lou.

@par_parenthese Me too! Ruby was totally on my short list, but didn't have that sex-outside-of-wedlock connotation I was really looking for.


@hallelujah Lou! ahh I am imaginging a tiny curmudgeon in a henley & sweater-vest.

polka dots vs stripes

@hallelujah Aw I would have been a Lou if I was a boy (I can't give my real name because it would out me like whoa, even this is pushing it), I don't think it's crotchety but I also don't know a crotchety Lou, my Lou is easygoing!


@hallelujah (I could not possibly love this idea more. If I ever adopt as a single lady, Pearl is totes on the name list, just for the lulz.)


@iceberg That's him! Lots of cardigans, also. I fucking loooove baby cardigans.

@par_parenthese :D


@par_parenthese Anecdote! One of my older relatives was named Ruby, and when asked how she liked the name, she announced, "I wouldn't name my DOG Ruby!"

...and that is how the name Ruby came to be ruined for me.


@mlle.gateau Oh man, that's terrible!! I know one Ruby, the prettiest little girl you ever did see who is destined to be smart and confident and delightful.


@par_parenthese It is terrible! It's a lovely name. I'm sure that Ruby is an absolute treasure.


Also, I could totally see Ye picking Kizzy as a nod to ROOTS. That kind of shit is right up his alley.

Beatrix Kiddo

I thought I was the only one who loved the Social Security name database! My name was almost nonexistent until the late seventies, but it peaked quickly in the eighties. I think anyone who's about to have a baby should check it out to make sure their "unique" name hasn't already started trending.

polka dots vs stripes

@Beatrix Kiddo I love it too, because I get to say things like "My name was a top ten!.....in 1924." I also loved older names in general, so I like to peruse potential baby names even though babies are very far away right now.

Beatrix Kiddo

@polka dots vs stripes I don't ever want to have a baby, but I still love seeing how name popularity changes!


@Beatrix Kiddo Mine has never been in the top 1000. I feel equally proud and ashamed.


My money is on Khaleesi. Khaleesi Kardashian-West.

Judith Slutler

@halloliebchen This seems INCREDIBLY plausible.


@Judith Slutler Come to think of it, I should probably put some money on this ...


@halloliebchen Actual money. Not just "money".

Beatrix Kiddo

@halloliebchen That is PERFECT.


K'learned Kand. She can be a judge when she grows up

up cubed

@LacunaKale: Khandra Kay O'Konner?


@upupandaway Kuth Kader Kinsburg, all the way

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@upupandaway Khandra actually seems plausible.

But the reference would be lost on Kim, probably?


There are some olde-tyme names I really like (Vivian! Freddie!), but man, some of them just seem so... precious, I guess? Also I just looked at the 1913 list and the only girl-baby names my friends haven't used are Mildred, Gladys, Frances, Ethel, and Edna. The rest of them are actual names of actual children in my circle of acquaintance.


@par_parenthese I was almost a Frances! Instead I got a different old lady name. My parents were so far ahead of the curve they ended up behind it.


@par_parenthese My grandmother was Mildred, and she hated it and made me promise not to name my kid after her. (I didn't.)

As an Agatha Christie superfan, I will always think of Gladys and Ethel as awkward, adenoidal village maids.


@Bittersweet I always thought Hercule would be a good name...


@Amphora Or Achille, Poirot's twin brother...


@cuminafterall Frances is not an old lady name. It is a fine and courageous badger name.


I spend so much time looking at lists of names as part of my job (coming up with psuedonyms for people in our research). Another great site to check out is this one. They also list last names - not so useful for daydreaming about naming babies, but still neat.


Am I the only one who wants to know the least-popular names of the 1880s? If everyone's children were Alice and Ida and Edna, who were the outliers? Are they completely outmoded names, or were there Jaydens and Kaydens running around back then, too, and people just had the good sense not to name most of their children that?


@kellyography Boom. Now I know what I'll be doing with the next hour of my day.


@kellyography @VerityStandingStill Durward is one of them. DURWARD. I feel like that's just a perjorative waiting to happen.


@VerityStandingStill oooh I like Finley.

ETA Oh yes lots of dumb spellings: Alys, Rubye, Billye


WOW. Malvina is absolutely one of Cinderella's evil step-sisters. As for Fleming and Gaylord, well, enough said.


@enic You have to wonder if the dumb spellings were due to illiteracy, family tradition, or the same kind of wanting to be "different" that people do it for today.

ETA: Also, not sure as to the actual historical/statistical accuracy of the names. They seem to be in alphabetical groups (e.g., Euna, Eulalie, Eulah, Ester, Emaline for 1880). But whatevs, it's still fun.


@harebell Aww, my great-grandmother was Malvina. We've also got a Hulda and Bertha in the direct line, though, so... strong names like that keep you working through the Minnesota winter.


@kellyography I've got a Durwood in the family tree. I actually kinda like it.


My vote was for Kairo or Kenya (probably too similar to Kanye, but I actually hope in an epic feat of narcissism, they name their child KimYe). Or maybe Key (Key West, but also like the abbreviated version of Beyoncé).

You KNOW Kanye thinks this baby came super early just to hear his album drop tomorrow.

Citizen Christy

@Beaker Is this really early? She looked so close to nine months at the Met Gala, but I wasn't sure.


@Citizen Christy She was supposed to be in July and I think made a big deal about it being the same date as Kate Middleton. Also the baby was only 5 pounds, which would be pretty tiny for being on time.

Why can I never remember my passwords to things yet I can remember how much a baby I will never meet weighs? What is wrong with my brain?


@Beaker hahahah KENYA WEST

Betsy Murgatroyd

My father really wanted to name me Otto. Because my last name is. . .
wait for it. . .

Horn. He was, according to my mother, not joking. My name is still unusual and hard for most people to pronounce but it is not a pun.
Otherwise, I like the name Otto. And puns.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Betsy Murgatroyd Oh my god I'm laughing so hard. At first it didn't quite register and I was just picturing some procession of stuffy Austro-Hungarian historical figures from Habsburg flunkies to Communist bureaucrats and trying to remember which one with the dour face and black-rimmed glasses was Otto Horn, and then it hit me.


@Betsy Murgatroyd OK, I've been thinking about this for a day now, and I feel stupid asking, but... what does Otto Horn mean? I don't get it!


@questingbeast Otto = Auto :)

Miss Maszkerádi

@questingbeast car horn, basically. Honk. :-D

paper bag princess

My sister just had a baby for which they want to use the nickname "Weezy." I tried to explain about the potential confusion with Yeezy (Kanye) but she didn't seem to care.


@paper bag princess Also, that Weezy?

Betsy Murgatroyd

@paper bag princess My immediate thought was Louise Jefferson.


They're obviously going to name her Kanye.



Little Kanye, Jr. They can call her Connie like in King of the Hill!

Heat Signature

Kleopatra Kardashian?

RK Fire

@Heat Signature This is also another likely candidate for so, so many reasons.



one cow.

@MollyculeTheory I just loooool'd after saying "Knorth West!!!!" out loud to no one in my apartment. The best!


Oh wow, the tags! KRAFTWERK KARDASHIAN!!


Being a writer, that database has always been a godsend for me. My only real problem with it is 1) I wish every country had something like that, because tracing naming fads in other countries is difficult without it and 2) you end up feeling kind of beholden to give your characters who were born in a certain time period names that were popular then otherwise someone will call you out for it. But then I figured "Hey for every eight hundred Katherine/Katharine/Catherine/Caitlin/Kaitlyn/Caitrin you meet there is at least one Ruby and you happened to be writing about that one Ruby." (also I just have trouble writing with popular '80s names in general because then I get flashbacks of all the people I went to school with that had said name and how they'd sue me if I used it).


@pollypeachum Here's one for France (it only goes back to 1948, though). Usually, you can find something suitable by googling something along the lines of "names" + "popularity" + name of country. Obviously, the search terms would have to be in the country's language.



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