Old Names That Seem New

When discussing baby names, some people arbitrarily throw around terms such as “modern” and “classic”. These terms can be open to interpretation. I no longer wished to classify names based on some vague feeling of how any given name sounded to me on any given day, and instead opted for a systematic approach. However, creating this systematic approach was not without pitfalls.

The Mason and Logan Saga

Unforgotten Years, Logan Pearsall Smith, 1939

Some many names didn’t fit neatly into confined boxes. A case in point are top 20 boy hits Mason and Logan. The names sound very similar, and defy the times. No wonder these names are popular. Names like Mason and Logan are great compromise names for families where one parent likes modern names and the other likes old-fashioned names. Mason and Logan sound more modern than they actually are. While the names weren’t popular until recently, the names were never completely obscure either.

Since the names are so popular, they have personal associations for me. I know boys named Mason and a Logan who are cousins. Mason is my daughter’s age (5). Logan is my son’s age (2). The boys look so much alike.

Their moms are sisters, the kind of sisters who look almost like carbon copies, except one has red hair and the other has brown hair. Taking after their moms, Mason has red hair and Logan has brown hair. The boys not only look like brothers, they are named like brothers. Mason has five-letters, two-syllables, an n-ending. Logan has five-letters, two-syllables, an n-ending.

Mason (#2 last year) and Logan (#20) sound like modern names, because two-syllable, n-ending surname-names follow a modern style. Yet Upswing Baby Name’s classification system relies mostly on past usage trends, which doesn’t paint a clear picture with Mason and Logan. Mason and Logan’s past trends show both names are at their highest rank ever, a prerequisite for modern names. Yet unlike most modern names, neither name has spent much time outside the top 1000.

And while neither name had been very common before, both names had their last peak between 100-130 years ago, followed by a steep dip, then a resurgence, suggesting these names could be revival names. Revival names were fashionable on our great-grandparents, saw a dip in popularity and then came back into fashion. Usually these names become more popular the second time around. Sometimes these names are called “vintage”.

The problem? While Mason and Logan are like typical revival names in that they are more popular the second time around, Mason and Logan never became common enough that they are imaginable on our great-grandparents. Neither name spent much time in the top 300 before the 1980s.

This leads to the question: Are Mason and Logan modern or revival names?

To better illustrate the problem, here are graphs of names that epitomize typical trend patterns found with modern and revival names. Jayden is the typical modern name and Elijah is the typical revival name.

Notice how modern name Jayden was very uncommon, never even in the top 1000, until the 1990s when suddenly the name soared up the ranks. Notice how revival name Elijah had been somewhat common, in the top 200, then dipped dramatically, and then came back stronger than ever.

Now look at the graphs of Mason and Logan:

Readers: Where do Mason and Logan fit? Are they modern names? Are they revival names? Are they hybrid modern-revival names?

Note: The results from this week’s polls will be used as part of a bigger project and therefore, this poll will run for a limited time, about 4 weeks, and then it will be closed. The poll results won’t be visible to everyone until it has closed. Poll participants are always anonymous and results will be reported in total for the bigger project – more news on that later. I value your privacy and appreciate all reader feedback. Contact us if you have any questions.

 

Photo credit / disclaimer: The image of “Unforgotten Years”, by Logan Pearsall Smith comes from Amazon. I have an affiliate relationship with Amazon, which means Upswing Baby Names gets a percentage of sales anytime someone purchases the book through the image’s link to Amazon.  

 

Comments

  1. Lucky us, with our far less ambivalent name data. Mason and Logan are just modern names, full stop.

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  1. […] and climbed to #152 in 1944, the year before the actor’s breakout roles. Like modern hit names Mason and Emma, Gregory was already making a slow climb when the entertainment industry supercharged its […]

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