5 Names We Love To Hate

Or 5 names we hate to love. These names aren’t bad, really. If anything these names are only guilty of being considered very good names for a very long time. Most of these were top 10 names and all of them were in the top 30 (and some still are).

Society loves to build someone up only to tear someone down once they get too successful. The same is true with baby names. Hating something that does too well seems to be fashionable. Here are some names that have become targets:

Aiden: Back when I was in college, many girls had Legends of the Fall movie posters on their walls. For those of you who don’t remember the movie, it was a post-World War I period piece with Brad Pitt, the one where he and his older brother fight over their dead younger brother’s fiancee. Yeah. I’m not sure what was so wonderful about that chick-flick. Must have been Brad Pitt’s long blond hair.

While most of my female classmates were fawning over Brad Pitt, I was fawning over the guy who played the older brother, Aidan Quinn. Not only was he the better brother (Brad Pitt’s character was a bit of a Jacka$$), he had the better name. I loved both names, Aidan and Quinn. Apparently I wasn’t the only college girl taking notes. Twenty years later both names are fashionable.

The phonetically spelled Aiden, now in the top 10, has surpassed the authentically spelled Aidan (#107). And I’ll confess, I still like Aidan. What I don’t like are all the rhyming spin-offs.

Jennifer: With their numbers in the millions today, many Jennifer’s born back in the 70s, swore they would spare their daughters their fate, a ubiquitous name. The name even has a pop song dedicated to its sheer numbers: 27 Jennifers, by Mike Doughty.

Jennifer is hardly seen as a bold choice today, yet Jennifer was bold back in 1906, when it appeared on the main female character in George Bernard Shaw’s play, The Doctor’s Dilemma.

Based on the statistics, the play had little influence on Jennifer’s popularity. The year before the play (1905) there were fewer than 5 Jennifer’s born. The year the play came out (1906) that number did not change. Nor did that number change the year after the play (1907). Jennifer would not hit the top 1000 until 1938. When the play was first performed onstage, Jennifer was at least three generations ahead of its time.

In 1958 The Doctor’s Dilemma became a movie. The movie also had little impact on Jennifer’s popularity, but the name had begun its ascent by that time. That year Jennifer ranked at #181.

The 1970 movie, Love Story, starring Ali MacGraw as Jennifer Cavalleri, may have helped the name reach #1 that year, but Jennifer had already entered the top 10 three years earlier in 1967. Jennifer’s popularity is simply another example of zeitgeist in action.

Due to its huge popularity, the name is criticized for being generic. But imagine Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Garner, and Jennifer Lopez. All three of these famous Jennifer’s are very different entertainers and give the name a different face.

MacKenzie (and all of its spellings): This Gaelic surname triggered the rise of other Mac/Mc-surnames on girls, such as Mckenna (#238), and Mckinley (#451 and trending upwards). Now a decade past-peak, some consider this the queen of the MacFad names on girls. When I was about 15, I loved this name. My tastes have since changed. But I can still imagine how the crisp K, stylish Z, and three syllables can combine to sound spunky and lively to other people. To those people, I would recommend the Mackenzie spelling.

Michael: This gentle masculine choice held the top spot for nearly half a century (1954 – 1999). The name is still in the top 10. That’s mighty impressive.

But that prolonged stay at the top ignites an inevitable backlash. This name is often criticized for being boring, but like many other names, the long form still holds the original appeal. The assumed nickname is what makes the name seem generic. For my generation, John Doe has retired and been replaced by his son, Mike Doe.

Nevaeh: This modern creation’s popularity is puzzling to a vocal group of critics. Created at the turn of the millennium by Christian rock musician, Sonny Sandoval for his first daughter, this name is simply heaven spelled backwards. Nevaeh looks a bit contrived, and its roots are fairly shallow, but it sounds pretty.

The first (known) Nevaeh is now around 12. Since her birth there have been over 35,000 babies given her name.

Despite all the online controversy surrounding Nevaeh, I had yet to meet a real-life one. And then I went to my daughter’s Kindergarten orientation. And there I saw it, on one of Fiona’s classmate’s desk, printed against those three horizontal lines: Nevaeh. Seeing a Nevaeh in the flesh, made me suspect perhaps this is a name of the newest generation.

These names still have their fans, as clearly evident by their high rankings. If you happen to be one of these fans, feel free to defend these names in the comments. These names just don’t have many fans among the name snobs. But as a name snob, I will say after researching these names, I hate them all a little less, and even like some of them. One such name happens to be Jennifer – gasp!

Readers: Which of these names don’t belong on the “love-to-hate” list? (Multiple answers are allowed, unless “All” is selected.)

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  1. *Amen* to Nevaeh and MacKenzie! Not a big fan of either. Definitely love to hate those two.

    I can’t quite agree on Michael, though. Some might say boring, but I’d say solid, traditional, popular…all good things, in my book.

  2. I was surprised to see Michael on this list. I consider it a solid classic. Aiden, Jennifer, Mackenzie, and Nevaeh aren’t classic at all.

  3. I’ve found that most name snobs don’t hate Aidan so much as all the Aidan spinoffs, or names that rhyme with Aidan.

    The only people I’ve heard say a word against the name Jennifer are women named Jennifer – they’re usually the ones saying they refuse to give their child a Top 10 or Top 100 or even Top 1000 name, because “I was one of 18 Jennifers in my grade bla bla bla”.

    Jennifer is a rare name for a baby now (here anyway), and I think it has a kind of granny-retro name appeal.

    I was also surprised to see Michael on the list, as to me it just seems classic.

    Mackenzie and Nevaeh I agree most name snobs seem to loathe, and maybe even most people.

    • Was Jennifer just as big in Australia? Was it also a big name in the 1970s?

      • Jennifer was very big, and peaked in the 1950s at #2, so it’s technically a Baby Boomer name. It was still Top Ten for the 1970s, although it seemed to me growing up that most Jennifers were older than me. I don’t think of it as a 1970s name so much as Michelle or Kylie were – the #1 and #2 names of the decade.

        I can see Jennifer as an “older mum” name or a “youngish grandma” name; just long enough for it to almost seem retro again.

  4. I bet Sex and the City and Jon and Kate Plus 8 played a role in the popularity of Aiden (and Aaden). Those are so well-loved by so many of my 20-something friends.

    • I didn’t consider Sex and the City’s impact because I didn’t have HBO when it was popular. I have only seen one episode! But that show probably played a role in Aiden’s popularity.

  5. Love to hate names….I would add Madison, Peyton, Aidan-spinoffs, creative spellings, cutesy/matchy names…I’m sure there are more. 🙂

    I couldn’t believe #3 on the top b/g twin names for 2011 was Jayda and Jayden and in the top ten for b/b twins was Jayden/Jaylen and Jayden/Kayden. London and Paris made me cringe, too.

    • I almost included Madison, but I didn’t for about three reasons: 1. I didn’t want too many M names on the list. I didn’t want anyone to think I was picking on M, 2. I wanted to represent boys a little better so I capped the girls names to three, and had to dig deep to find 2 boys names, and 3. I wanted to say something about each name and therefore kept the list short.

      I considered Jayden (and Braeden) too, but didn’t include them because I grouped them into the Aiden rhyming spin-offs.

      I tried to find something redeeming about each “hated” name, and the ones I choose were selected because I found some redeeming qualities about them.


  1. […] Jennifer – is still too dated for me to recommend and I could never bring myself to use it, but for the first time I can understand why my parent’s generation loved this name. This modern variation of Guinevere has subtle ties to Arthurian Legend, and pairs respectably with most surnames. The only thing wrong with Jennifer was that she was used too much. […]

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