Emma: The Comeback Queen – Video

A couple of years ago, I wrote about Emma, and what makes it different from other top 5 names.

Fast forward to 2014 and my brother and sister-in-law name their daughter Emma.

Now seemed like the perfect time to remake that post into a video presentation and dedicate it to our newest family member: Emma Winifred.

Winifred is our 96-year-old grandmother’s name.

The charts show visually what makes the name different from other top vintage revival names. You can see where Emma ranked when different pop culture events from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s help propel the name back to the top.

Some people might think that I, someone who likes finding uncommon names, wouldn’t be excited about my brother and sister-in-law’s name pick. Those people would be wrong. Emma has been a top 3 names for along time for good reason. Emma is cute and smart. It pairs nicely with longer middle names like my grandmother’s name, Winifred. I would only discourage Emma if it didn’t go well with the baby’s last names, and it goes well with most last names.

Having a niece named Emma has helped me rediscover what’s great about the name.

And as you will learn by watching the video, Emma has so many wonderful namesakes.


Name Spotting: Oceana

OceanaLast week I took Fiona to the hair salon for her back-to-school hair cut. While waiting for Fiona’s turn in the chair, I started looking at the hairstyle books in the waiting area.

In a book of children’s hair styles titled Passion Kids Volume 8, one of the models stuck out. All of the kiddies were adorable, but this girl was striking with dark hair, long dark eyelashes and blue-grey eyes.

And then I was pleasantly surprised to see that she had an equally striking name: Oceana.

No name seemed more fitting for this beautiful child with eyes that could almost be described as aquatic-colored.

Oceana is a feminine form of Oceanus, a name featured in UBN’s Names from the Mayflower. According to Nameberry, the variation Oceane (oh-she-ANN) is very fashionable in France.

Oceana has always been rare. It has never been in the US top 1000. There were only 25 newborn girls named Oceana last year.

The more literal Ocean is slightly more popular, but still uncommon, given to 62 girls and 85 boys last year.

This nautical name might seem whimsical, but when compared to names like Brook and River, it is a real possibility on a modern child.


Revisited Spotlight Name: Martha

In memory of Rob’s grandmother, Martha, who passed away on April 14th at the age of 94, I am re-running the Spotlight I did on her name a couple of years ago. 


Rob’s family photo. His grandmother, known by the French MeMere (pronounced Mem-may) is in the center, back row. This was a French Canadian potato farming family that lived in Maine when the picture was taken.


Martha can be the polished, sophisticated business woman. Martha can be the girl next door. If you’re looking for a cute nickname there’s Marty, but Martha is great on its own.

Martha has much credibility. The biblical name also happens to be the name of the US’s very first, first lady.

Martha’s time for a revival has almost passed. She peaked in the 1880s, around the same time as other modern revival names, like Anna and Emma, that have been popular for almost a decade already. Anna has already begun to decline.

However, parents may not have grown tired of the 1880s yet. For proof, see Alice and Clara’s recent rise: Alice jumped 28 places in 2010, ranking at 172, and Clara has climbed steadily the past decade, ranking slightly ahead of Alice at 167.

Update: Both names continue to rise, though Alice is now slightly ahead of Clara. Most recently (in 2012), Alice ranked at 127 and Clara ranked at 136.

Yet Martha continues to decline, dropping over 300 places the past decade, ranking at 697 in 2010. Update: In 2011 Martha dropped to 763 and then rebounded slightly. In 2012 Martha ranked at 730.  I’m not sure why this is, but I’m not really concerned with why, but rather I want to draw attention to an underused gem.

Like many names that appeal to parents, Martha can have many faces. In addition to the first-First Lady, there’s:

  • Model-turned-stockbroker-turned-entrepreneur, Martha Stewart
  • 80’s MTV personality, Martha Quinn
  • Fox News personality, Martha MacCallum
  • And finally, Martha Plimpton who may not be a household name, but whose face would be recognized from several movies, notably The Goonies and Beautiful Girls. Currently she has a regular role in the hit Fox comedy, Raising Hope (another fantastic name).

My husband’s grandmother is Martha, and there’s a good chance many of today’s parents have a grandmother, great-grandmother or great-aunt Martha. The name stayed close to the top 30 until around World War II.

I had briefly considered Martha as a middle name had our son been a girl. But its hard to say if Martha could have ended up on another birth certificate in our family.

When I first mentioned Martha as a potential middle name to Rob, his response was, “Like in Martha Washington. That’s cool.”

When he started nixing every girl name on my list, I thought despite my dislike of alliteration with our M last name, perhaps Rob would agree to Martha as a first name.

When I mentioned Martha again, his response was, “Martha? Isn’t that sort of old?”

And that is the most likely reason Martha is still on the decline; she is still seen as “old” to many modern parents. Why some great-grandmother names are seen as charmingly vintage while others are seen as dusty relics is sometimes a mystery.

Consider this though: Martha has more history and stability than early 20th century flash-in-the pan Gladys. While Gladys still ranked lower than Martha in 2010, I had met a little Gladys at my daughter’s library playgroup. The other parent’s reaction to Gladys on a little one was positive.

Update: Despite the positive reactions Gladys got in my daughter’s library playgroup a few years ago, the numbers don’t suggest Gladys is about to turn around anytime soon. Gladys has been outside the top 1000 since 2000, and its birth numbers have continued to drop. Martha appears to be the name more likely to come back, which (in my opinion, anyway) is a bit of a relief. 

Personally, I would much rather see a little Martha, a name that has the same classic charm as Anna and Emma. Adding even more potential, those stylish Brits appreciate Martha, ranking her at 85 in 2010. As mentioned in my post on nickname names, the UK trends are sometimes a precursor to US trends.

Update: In the UK, Martha has since risen to 77 in 2012. 

For those looking for something a little more exotic and spunky there’s Marta with origins in several European countries, including Spain, Portugal, Poland, Norway, and Italy. Marta was also one of the children in The Sound of Music.

Before I began to consider Martha, I had turned to Marta three or four years ago. Martha still seemed a bit dusty to me at the time. However, after realizing the appeal of Martha, I like that name even more than Marta now.

From what I learned from Rob’s relatives at his grandmother’s funeral this past Monday, Martha was an incredibly hard worker; she was a farmer, a seamstress and cooked everything from scratch. She was in good health. She didn’t have an easy life, but she had a good life. I like Martha even more today than I did when I wrote this a couple of years ago. 

Readers: Perhaps at some point I will run a new poll on Martha later, but for now the original poll on Martha can be found on the original Spotlight on Martha.

Spotlight On: Euphemia


Before discovering Euphemia, I assumed if Effie had a long form, somehow it wouldn’t do the short form justice.

Effie’s appeal lies in its ability to be sweet and smart, homey and exotic, old-fashioned and modern, like a cross between Millie and Ione.

And when a nickname has that many selling points, I can understand why some people skip over the formal version and make the diminutive the baby’s official name.

But I’m one of those people who isn’t satisfied with just a good nickname. I don’t think I’m alone in wanting a good nickname to have an equally good formal version.

As it happens, Effie can have a few formal versions.

Of Effie’s many possible long-forms, Josephine, Fiona, and even Elizabeth, the most natural is Euphemia, a name sounding almost like the words “ephemeral” or “euphemism” .

The name means something like “well-spoken”. Other possible meanings are: “to speak well” or “fair speech.” The eu prefix is Greek for good, new or well.

And this eu prefix may be the name’s modern downfall.

Eu-name such as Eugene, were fashionable at one point, but have been out of fashion for a while.

Euphemia even visited the bottom of the top 1000 over a century ago. It peaked at #770 in 1881. Its last year in the top 1000 was 1903.

Eu-names are hard to find on babies born in 2014. And yet the FEE sound, also found in top girl name Sophia and fashionable Fiona (#209 and rising) could make the name a slight possibility.

There’s also the Greek origins, found in just outside the top 10 Chloe and fashionable Daphne (only at #420 but rising) and Phoebe (#303).

The similar Seraphina may not be in the top 1000 yet, but as a celebrity baby name (thanks to Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck who used the Serafina spelling for their second daughter) the name has loads of potential.

And these Greek names all have a fashionable digraph, the ph, also found in top girl name Sophia.

Euphemia has much in common with another Spotlight name, Phaedra.

Euphemia may not be appreciated by the mainstream yet, but it deserves a place on UBN.

In fact, Euphemia could revive other eu-names, such as these:

Eula (or Eulah)

There is also the Eufemia variation.

Perhaps a parent has to be pretty bold to name their daughter Euphemia (or Eufemia) in 2014. Neither spelling can be found in the US Social Security data, meaning there were fewer than 5 born in the entire US in 2012.

But if you like Euphemia, I feel the name is a managed risk, and I would use it.

For those not quite ready to take the risk and use it as a first name, Euphemia has the same four-syllable stress on the second syllable pattern as Elizabeth, making it a great middle name.

But note the first African-American woman mathematician, born Martha Euphemia Lofton, rarely used Martha. Other notable Euphemia’s include a Christian saint, and an anime character, Euphemia li Britannia.

Euphemia’s credentials can give it some familiarity and manage its risk-factor.

Being a baby name pioneer means appreciating eu-names when the rest of the country is still in love with el-names, but US parents will rave about eu-names eventually. I can feel it.

And Euphemia could lead the way.

Readers: What do you think of Euphemia?

Photo Credit: G.OZCAN via Compfight cc

Name To Watch: Katniss


Jennifer Lawrence who portrays Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games’

Recently I celebrated my last birthday in my 30s. And I was reminded of somethings I read in an article about 40 Effed Up Things About Turning 40. In my case these two things are sadly true*:

20. Other than the Kardashians, I don’t recognize anyone in the tabloids. Who are these people and why are they famous?


36. I say things like, “What’s the name of that actor, you know, he was in that thing?”

And that’s what I was thinking when I suddenly started hearing about this actress who is supposedly this wonderful role model, Jennifer Lawrence.

First I heard about her on a local radio station, and then I heard about her in this Babble article.

And I asked myself, “Who’s she? Why is she famous?”

And then I remembered, she played Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

Katniss stood out as #13 on Nameberry’s Most Popular Girl’s Names of 2013 list.

This top 100 list is very different from the official top 100 baby names from the U.S. Social Security Administration. Nameberry is a popular baby name blog known for their extensive database of about 50,000 baby names. Their readers are way ahead of the baby name fashion curve. Nameberry readers appreciate names a couple of years before the mainstream. Nameberry’s list is made of the top 100 most viewed names on their site.

Katniss is in the top 15 on Nameberry (or at least as of October 2013), but doesn’t even make the top 1000 on the Social Security list.

Considering that Katniss is a unique name from pop culture, that was previously unknown, don’t be surprised to see it make the top 1000 on the Social Security list within the next year or two.
This places Katniss with Blythe and Clover, other names on the UBN Watch List report. All three names are outside the top 1000, but due to pop culture could easily rise in ranks to make the top 1000 for 2013.

However, Katniss’ birth numbers don’t look all that promising yet. In the table below are the number of babies named Katniss in the U.S. each year. Please note, for privacy reasons, the Social Security Administration doesn’t count a name in its database if it is given to fewer than five babies in any given year.

Year # Newborn Girls
2002 fewer than 5 if any
2003 fewer than 5 if any
2004 fewer than 5 if any
2005 fewer than 5 if any
2006 fewer than 5 if any
2007 fewer than 5 if any
2008 fewer than 5 if any
2009 fewer than 5 if any
2010 fewer than 5 if any
2011 fewer than 5 if any
2012 12


I wasn’t surprised that there were fewer than 5 Katniss’ born in the entire U.S. before 2008, the year The Hunger Games novel was published. But I expected to see the name creep into the data in 2008 or 2009.

Katniss did make it’s first appearance in the data in 2012, however, and might just start to climb quickly.

To get some more insight, I checked out how Katniss ranks on BabyCenter, a popular parenting website that has their own ranking system for baby names. I have found that often a name’s popularity on BabyCenter  is different from its popularity on the U.S. Social Security list.

BabyCenter doesn’t show a ranking for Katniss, but shows that Katniss has gone up sharply between 2012 and 2013.

The name has also been mentioned by other baby name experts dating back to 2010:

That settles it! Katniss is going on our next Watch List Report, a list of names that I am watching. I add to the list every year and continually track each names’ birth numbers every year.
To get the latest copy of the Watch List Report, and other email updates from UBN, enter your email address below.

Katniss is not on the latest Watch List Report, but will be on the next Watch List Report which will come out after the newest U.S. Social Security list is released to the public sometime in May.
If you sign up for the current Watch List Report, you will automatically get the next Watch List Report, as long as you don’t unsubscribe before May.

Katniss might be a long shot for 2013, but is still going on the list as a long-term prospect, just like Wallis from the 2011-2012 Watch List report.

Readers: Do you feel Katniss has mainstream potential?

Photo credit 

* The other things mentioned in the article about turning 40, like Bengay on the nightstand and an aching back, are definitely not true for me. I swear the author talks like she is turning 60, not 40.
Call me in denial, but I don’t feel that much differently than I did at 29.