Then there are the ones many people vaguely remember playing for the blue team, but few can imagine on boys anymore.
Ashley is a prime example. My niece is named Ashley. Most people only know female Ashley’s today, but also remember Ashley was once a boy’s name. Except for my Mother-in-law, who must have never seen Gone With The Wind.
OK. So I’ve never seen it either. All I know is the leading male character was named Ashley.
Ashley doesn’t seem all that masculine to me, but I did know a boy named Ashley when I was a kid in the 80s. The idea of a male Ashley isn’t completely foreign to me, but perhaps could be foreign to those under 30.
Many people remember Ashley as a boy’s name because the crossover was somewhat recent, happening within the past 30 years. Yet the crossover hasn’t been so recent that if you named a boy Ashley in 2013 you wouldn’t get funny looks.
But I was floored when I read a Babble post about the surprise reactions Samantha Kemp-Jackson gets from having a son named Aubrey. Aubrey’s crossover happened more recently than Ashley’s. Aubrey was bound to end up on some girls, due to the similarity to Audrey.
Apparently people have already forgotten that Aubrey was once a male name, and it was in the boy’s top 1000 as recently as 2002. Yes, people have short memories. But maybe something else is at play.
The one thing most gender crossovers have in common is that they were only mildly successful (at best) on boys but became mega-hits on girls. For example:
- Peaked on boys at #282 in 1980 when it was given to 746 boys.
- Peaked on girls at #1 in 1991 when it was given to 43,482 girls.
- The same year Ashley peaked on girls, there were only 180 boys named Ashley.
- This means for every boy named Ashley in 1991, there were nearly 242 girls.
- Peaked on boys at #224 in 1912 when it was given to 236 boys.
- Peaked on girls at #20 in 2011 (the latest year data is available) when it was given to 7,135 girls.
- That same year Audrey peaked on girls, there were only 142 boys named Aubrey.
- This means for every boy named Aubrey in 2011, there were nearly 50 girls.
Another recent crossover is Addison.
- Peaked on boys at #382 in 1883 when it was given to 20 boys.
- Peaked on girls at #11 in 2007 when it was given to 11,940 girls.
- That same year Addison peaked on girls, there were only 341 boys.
- This means for every boy named Addison in 2007, there were about 30 girls.
* And-Addison had been in the top 1000 for boys as recently as 2009!
And then there’s another recent A-crossover, Avery, whose recent success on boys could be atypical:
- Peaked on boys at #201 in 2011 (the most recent year data is available) when it was given to 1,776 boys.
- Peaked on girls at #18 in 2011 when it was given to 7,303 girls.
- For every boy named Avery in 2011, there were about 4 girls.
Avery is still clearly more popular on girls, but peaked on both genders in 2011 and has been trending upwards for both genders. Look at that. Perhaps Avery belongs in the same camp as Jordan and Morgan. It’s not out-of-the-ordinary on boys.
Avery’s success on boys could be temporary. There are cases of gender-crossovers that have trended upwards on both genders only to drop off for boys once the name heads into girl’s top 100. Dana, for example, had gone up in popularity on both genders in the 1950s, reaching the top 200 for both boys and girls. And then in the 1960s, Dana continued to climb for girls, but dropped off for boys.
Will Avery follow Dana’s path nearly 50 years later? Or could Avery dispel the belief that once a name goes pink… ? You know the rest. I was trying to come up with a clever rhyme, but the best I could do was “Once a name goes pink… people never re-think.” Somehow that doesn’t seem catchy.
Avery could be an exception to the rule. What makes Avery unique is that it is steadily climbing for boys, despite Avery’s top 20 status on girls. Despite the name’s popularity on girls, for the moment, a few parents aren’t giving up on Avery for their sons.
With Aubrey and Addison, however, this doesn’t seem true. Those names’ crossover to team pink has been fairly recent. Yet the crossover has been so complete in so many people’s minds already, that there are people who don’t realize these names are traditionally male.
But then there are other crossovers that seem completely feminine, even to me. One such name, like Ashley, has connections with Gone With The Wind. The name of the actress who played Scarlett O’Hara was Vivien Leigh. Her name is the French form of Vivian. Both Vivian and Vivien have history of use on boys. Vivien is still more common on boys in France.
This was an incredible discovery even to me as a name fanatic. Vivian doesn’t seem the least bit masculine to me. Here are some other gender-crossovers (along with Vivian) that seem to have completely lost their masculinity:
Jocelyn – has never been in the U.S. top 1000 for boys, but has history on boys and is still strictly a male name in France.
Madison – explains the recent crossover for Addison.
One common complaint is that gender-crossovers almost always go from boy-to-girl, not the reverse.
That may change soon. The U.S. Military allows women in combat, more men are choosing to be stay-at-home dads, and we may see more traditionally girl names go blue. Here are some traditionally girl names that might work on boys:
Hazel – probably because I knew a guy with the last name Hazel. It was in the top 1000 for boys from 1886 to 1940, but never got nearly as popular as it did on girls.
Jan – I initially thought of this because it’s only one vowel removed from Jon. Then I learned Jan is masculine in some European countries (where it could be pronounced YAHN) and was in the U.S. boy’s top 1000 as recently as 2008.
Tatum – this surname became familiar as a first name due to actress Tatum O’Neal. This is a modern name that is traditionally used on girls, but has seen more use on boys lately. It entered the boy’s top 1000 in 2010 at a respectable #752, and rose almost 30 places to #723 in 2011. It has a way to go to catch up to the girls, where it ranked at #344 in 2011.
Perhaps the line between boy’s name and girl’s name is truly blurred in some cases. As for me, I’m a fan of girly names on girls and all-boy names on boys, but I’m intrigued by gender-crossovers. They are considered stylish now by many name bloggers, but like surnames, they have never really gone out of style.
Readers: Are there any girl names you feel could work on boys? Which of these names do you like best for boys?