This series is dedicated to names that had the potential to become huge for a certain decade. They represented a certain era well, but for whatever reason never made it to the top 100. Perhaps for these names, their time is yet to come.
Most parents consider Juniper new! Exciting! fresh! The response to Juniper a couple of years ago was, “Wow! Why aren’t more people using this name?”
Now, more people are using this name, clear by its appearance in the top 1000 for this first time in 2011. It debuted at #968, not an extremely high debut. There have been hit names that debuted higher. For example, Isla in 2008 hit the top 1000 for the first time in decades. Isla’s debut rank was an impressive #622, and Isla continued to soar to #268 last year. But Juniper doesn’t seem like one of those top 1000 newcomers that will fizzle. I expect it to rise, and rise big, similar to Isla.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Juniper hit the top 300 in 5 years and that is a conservative estimate. Juniper hits people the same way super-hit Harper hits people. (Harper hit the top 1000 in 2004 at #887 and just hit the top 100 at an impressive #54 last year.) People just love Juniper, the way people just loved Harper 5 years ago. Both names seem youthful! Modern! Refreshing!
But to me, Juniper doesn’t sound new and exciting. The sound, in fact, is very 1970s. I don’t know anyone born in the 1970s named Juniper (or anyone else for that matter). Nevertheless, the name sounded vaguely familiar. There is The Bath & Body Works fragrance, Juniper Breeze, of course, but that is a product name, not a person’s name. There was another association, a person.
And then I remembered, Juniper was the full name of “Joon” in the 1993 movie, Benny and Joon. The fictional “Joon”, played by Mary Stewart Masterson, would have been born in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The actress was born in 1966. And while the name may have seemed a bit eccentric on a 20-something woman in 1993, it didn’t seem unimaginable and certainly didn’t seem unappealing.
Possibly, the public simply didn’t see Juniper as a name 40 years ago. Or perhaps the “Joon” beginning of the name made Juniper sound too old-fashioned to most people, similar to June, which has come back big-time, but back in the 1970s would have seemed dated.
The old-fashioned sound of “Joon”, may have overshadowed very obvious similarities to two 1970s hit names. Juniper is a botanical name, a family of trees, just like 70s super star Heather, which peaked at #3 in 1975, and shares the -er ending. And speaking of -er endings, Juniper has an eerily similar sound to, wait for it…
Do I even have to say it? You know what name I’m talking about.
For the uninitiated, I’m talking about Jennifer. Jennifer. The name that spawned thousands of name-nerds when it was given to nearly 600,000 baby girls in the 1970s, who grew-up vowing to give their daughters a different name. Jennifer gets a lot of flak for being overused, but how many names have had such an effect? Jennifer is rather special, but that discussion is for another day.
If you happen to be a Jennifer name-nerd looking for that different name for your daughter, a part of me is tempted to steer you clear of Juniper. But predictions are both exciting and risky.
Remember when I said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Juniper hits the top 300 in five years? I also wouldn’t be surprised if Juniper hits a plateau in a couple of years because name trends are more volatile than ever before.
Juniper is a great name. If you are considering this name for your baby, but are concerned it could become too popular, ask yourself how you would feel if you picked another name only to learn a few years later that Juniper never became as popular as the pundits (yes, me) predicted. Would you feel regret? In that case, I would urge you to name your baby Juniper.
But if you want something surprising, in a couple of decades, when the youngest generation comes of age, Heather could seem refreshing again. And that segues into the next Unfairly Dated name.
Readers: What do you think of Juniper?