Reader Q&A: Middle Names For Ann

I’ve recently become a proponent of promoting Ann from middle to first name status.

One reader, Shannon, is planning to do just that!

The problem, however, is that she is struggling to find a good middle name for Ann.

Oh the irony.

But once you start to dig, you will find that Ann has more middle name possibilities than ever imagined.

Watch and listen to Shannon’s plight and my suggestions.

So many of us are used to putting Ann in the middle that when we try to use it as a first name, we may find the search for a middle name challenging at first.

But once you get past the old habit of relegating Ann to the middle and let Ann shine, you will see that you actually have so many wonderful middle name options.

And I feel Ann is about ready to come out from the shadows, shed its boring reputation and become appreciated again for its elegant, understated style.

Good Luck Shannon!

Readers: What middle names can you come up with for Ann?

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Could Anne Be A Name To Watch?

Anne-of-Green-Gables“Really, Anne? Are you serious?” you might be thinking.

For years Anne was dismissed as nothing more than a boring middle name. Now that one syllable names are becoming stylish, this seemingly classic choice could experience a revival.

Passed over in recent years for its frillier counterpart, Anna, the sparse Anne had languished. Until recently that is.

Anne came up twice in our series exploring whether Pottery Barn predicts the next popular baby names.

While the results of our research suggest that Pottery Barn more likely follows the trends then sets them, there were a few names to watch that appeared in the Pottery Barn catalogs.

One of those names was Blythe and another one was Anne.

Now is a good time to admit I was inconsistent in my judgement in the Pottery Barn Series. In part 3 which focused on 2012, I categorized Anne as “up-and-coming,” (meaning it was ahead of trends) and in part 4 (2013), I categorized Anne as “down-market” (meaning it was past-peak).

The inconsistency resulted from an inner conflict between what my gut told me and what the numbers told me. When I examined the 2012 catalog my gut said Anne had reached bottom and was destined to turned around.

A couple of days later when I examined the 2013 catalog, I was in a “by the numbers” frame of mind, and would only classify a name as “up-and-coming” if I saw a steep incline on the trend graph indicating the name was rising sharply.

Beyond the numbers, my instincts tell me that Anne is about to turn around for a couple of reasons.

While Anna has gently declined the past decade from its most recent* peak at #19 in 2001 to #35 in 2012, Annie and Anne have slowly climbed the chart.

  • Annie climbed to #377 in 2012 from its most recent low of #420 in 2007 (it has never left the top 450).
  • Anne climbed to #561 from its lowest rank ever at #606 in 2010.

*Anna’s highest rank ever was #2 from 1880 – 1899.

Anna is still a lot more popular than both of its sisters, but as the naming landscape changes, Anna will naturally retreat from the top ranks. Fashion-forward parents who like the idea of Anna could rediscover less frilly alternatives. The prime alternatives are Annie and Anne.

I predict the swinging popularity of Anne vs. Anna to mimic the swinging popularity of Alice vs. Allison.

For years Alice was the favorite and then parents got tired of Alice. It was seen as too “old-fashioned”. Allison became the fresh! modern! exciting! alternative and began to surpass Alice.

Then suddenly, while Allison was still respected as a new classic, Allison started to go through a natural decline and many parents rediscovered the vintage Alice, which is once again on the upswing.

This analogy is not perfect because, while Alice was once more popular than Allison, Anna has been consistently more popular than Anne. But I use the Alice vs. Allison comparison to show how a small change can make a big impact and that the mainstream preference can switch on a dime. I can see this on-the-dime switch happening with Anne and Anna.

Perhaps spawned by the growing nickname-as-given-name trend Annie is more popular than Anne at the moment, but for parents who like Annie but want a formal version, Anne is the natural choice.

And for those who worry that Annie may seem too childish and unprofessional as a child reaches adulthood, Anne is undeniably professional, perhaps one of the most professional names around.

I also foresee a growing trend with “smoosh” names that could propel Anne to a higher rank.

Anne works well in many smoosh names such as Anne-Marie, Lee-Anne, and Lou-Anne. Some parents may like the idea of Anne-Marie or Anne-Sophie, and end up omitting the hyphen while keeping the space between the two names on the Social Security card application and birth certificate.

Lastly, Anne has classic children’s literature credibility. The single syllable and appearance in Pottery Barn catalogs isn’t the only things Anne has in common with Blythe. Both are character names in Anne of Green Gables.

There seems to be an interest in names from literature, even among parents who aren’t that literary. To Kill a Mockingbird has been credited for the rise of Atticus (a character name) and Harper (the author’s name). The Madeline and Eloise book series have also been credited with popularizing those names.

What’s amazing about Anne is that it feels like a former top 10 name but it never made the top 10. Most likely this is due to the combined popularity of the two common spellings: Anne and Ann.

Anne peaked in 1915 at #52 and Ann peaked in 1936 at #28.

Anne is one of those names that, until recently, I dismissed as boring. Lately I find myself appreciating Anne more and more, and I suspect more people will soon share my sentiments.

Readers: Which name is your favorite?

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Does Pottery Barn Predict The Next Names? Part 4 – Conclusion


This is the last part of our series examining whether the names on the personalized items in the Pottery Barn catalogs are really fashion-forward names, as the theory suggests.

Each part of the series focuses on names sampled from past years, going back to 2010.

Past installments of this series were:

  • Part 1 which focused on 2010 (Names were examined from the Autumn 2010 catalog)
  • Part 2 which focused on 2011 (Names were examined from the Fall 2011 catalog)
  • Part 3 which focused on 2012 (Names were examined from the Fall 2012 catalog)

And this is part 4, which focuses on 2013.

These guidelines might seem repetitive to those of you who have followed the series, but for the benefit of those who missed parts 1-3, here are some guidelines we used to color code and classify the names.

Names used for girls are coded pink, boys are coded blue, and if the gender is undetermined (or cannot be assumed) the name is coded green.

For example, Chloe is always assumed to be a girl’s name, even if the decor in the catalog is unisex or even traditionally masculine. For a traditionally unisex name like Taylor, the gender is determined based on the decor in the catalog; depending on whether the decor is traditionally male, female or unisex, the name will be color coded accordingly.

Based on when each name peaked, each name is categorized as:

  • Current (on trend for the catalog year)
  • Traditional (never out of style)
  • Down-market (dated)
  • Up-and-coming (ahead of trends)
  • Original (unknown or invented)

Notes about 2013 names:

  1. Since the Social Security Administration has not released the popular baby name data for 2013, the names in the 2013 catalog will be categorized as Current, Traditional, Down-market, Up-and-coming or Original based on their rankings leading up to 2012.
  2. For parts 1-3 (2010 – 2012) of this series, the samples were taken from the fall catalogs, but for part 4 (2013) the samples are taken from the summer catalog because the fall catalog was not out when the sample was taken. There was a Fall Gear Guide but it was a little smaller than a seasonal catalog and didn’t have as many names.

I’m really excited about the summer 2013 catalog because it has more names than the fall catalogs from 2010 – 2012. There were a couple of names I had to omit because I could not read them online due to either poor image resolution, the letter color blending into the background pattern, or both.

Names from the Summer 2013 “The Best of Summer” online issue:

Current Names

These names from the Summer 2013 catalog are at their peak based on 2012 Social Security data:


Traditional Names

Name from the Summer 2013 catalog that have been fashionable for at least a couple of generations:


Down-market Names

Names from the Summer 2013 catalog that statistically were on the decline in 2012:


*Anne might be considered traditional, but I had a hard time putting it in that group because it has been in steep decline these past couple of decades. Twenty years ago, Anne left the top 200 and about five years ago it left the top 500. Anne looks like it might be turning around (it has risen to #561 from its lowest rank ever of #606 in 2010). But it’s a little early to classify Anne as up-and-coming.

Now we are getting to the exciting part. The following lists of names are either up-and-coming or original and ahead of their time. If Pottery Barn predicts name trends, these lists should be the longest.

Up-and-coming Names

These names are on the rise and seem fashion-forward:


Original Names

And here are that names that are completely original in 2013–so uncommon they aren’t on many people’s radar:


*As a nickname for the traditional Michael, Mikey may not come across as original, but as a given name it is rare. If statistics on nicknames (which are very difficult to track) were available, Mikey would probably be considered down-market (Mike seems like the more common nickname), but I can’t prove that and I had to count nicknames as if they were given names.

Insights from Pottery Barn Kids from 2010 to 2013

Here’s how the Pottery Barn catalog names compare from each year to the next based on my samples:

2010 2011 2012 2013
Current 30% 25% 23% 27%
Traditional 16% 9% 6% 2%
Down-market 33% 42% 31% 35%
Up-and-coming 12% 22% 31% 11%
Original 9% 2% 9% 4%


  1. The one consistent finding is the decline of traditional names each year.
  2. For 2011 and 2012 the up-and-coming names group grew and then shrunk back down in 2013.
  3. Every year, the original names were always the smallest group, never exceeding 9% of names in the sample catalogs.
  4. Every year, the size of the “original” group could be artificially inflated by nickname-names. These names are rare as given names but could be common nicknames. Since data on nicknames is not available, these names had to be classified as if they were given names.
  5. Almost every year, the down-market names were among the largest group, except for 2012 when down-market and up-and-coming names were tied as the largest group.
  6. These names appeared in the catalog every year: Blake and Riley
  7. Alex appeared every year except 2011 which had Alexa
  8. Patrick appeared every year except 2011
  9. One of the most original names, Penn (given to 46 newborn boys in 2012), appeared in both 2012 and 2013

Based on these findings, Pottery Barn more likely follows the trends than sets them. While there was an increase in up-and-coming names, the increase was not sustained in 2013 (based on the sample) and the number of truly off-the-grid, completely original names remained small each year, especially when nickname-names are excluded.

I speculate that Pottery Barn tries to represent the mix of names found among the general population, which represents their customers. For marketing purposes this might be a smart strategy.

One thing to keep in mind is that Pottery Barn Kids doesn’t offer products limited to babies and toddlers, but also offers products for older kids, probably between the ages of 5-12. (PB Teen is marketed to kids over 12.)

Older kids were most likely given names that were current or up-and-coming when they were born 5-12 years ago, but might be down-market at the moment. This probably explains the large number down-market names.

Imagine you are a typical Mom of a 10-year-old. You are looking at the Pottery Barn Kids catalog. What kind of names would you expect to see?

I would expect to see mostly names of my child’s peers. Even some of the names that seem very dated now, could be more popular on a 10-year-old than you might expect.

For example, Jennifer appeared in the 2010 and 2012 catalogs. At first I wondered if Pottery Barn’s marketing people were being renegades, purposely picking a dated name like Jennifer to be ironic.

And then I checked Jennifer’s popularity back in 2002, over 10 years ago. Jennifer was still in the top 30 back then, ranking at #28! There were 8,537 newborn girls named Jennifer in 2002. This is similar to the number of newborn girls named Avery in 2012. There were 8,272 newborn Avery’s and it ranked #13.

This means there is a good chance some Pottery Barn Kids customers have 10-year-old girls named Jennifer.

Recurring names such as Alex, Blake, Patrick and Riley made me wonder why Pottery Barn reused these names. I began to wonder if Pottery Barn used names of real people for their catalogs.

Some people think the names come from the most popular names requested by customers for personalized items.

My opinion is the names are most likely a mix of Pottery Barn employees’ kids’ or grand-kids’ names (which would explain an unusual name like Penn appearing in more than one catalog), and names most requested by customers.

The next question is: How did Pottery Barn get this (inaccurate) reputation as a baby name trend setter? The answer could be complex and that is a topic for another day.

Readers: Where do you think Pottery Barn gets the names they use for the personalized items in their catalogs? (multiple selections are allowed)

Image Credit: Pottery Barn Summer 2013 Best of Summer

Timeless Yet Trendy Baby Names

Vintage Portrait of two Babies in an Old Fashioned Antique Baby Carriage Buggy
Fashionable yet personal. Appealing yet unique. These are the golden means for baby names. What about timeless yet trendy?

One might think timeless and trendy are opposites that can never co-exist, but often the term “trendy” is used interchangeably with “faddish”. There is a subtle difference between trendy and faddish.

Many parents will insist they don’t want a trendy name, but most people are influenced by the trends. And that’s not always a bad thing. A trendy name isn’t necessarily a bad name. When parents say they don’t want a trendy name, what they really mean is they don’t want a fad name.

Semantics aside, I could think of a few timeless-trendy names off the top of my head. I made it my mission to find more timeless-trendy names. These names are more plentiful than one might realize.

Names that are timeless yet trendy fit current trends, such as popular vowels, letter-endings and themes, but were used occasionally before they followed a popular trend. Some are on the rise and others are on the decline. Either way, timeless-trendy names were familiar long before they followed the trends.

When deciding how familiar names were at any given time, I check the Social Security top 1000 baby names from 1880 (the earliest year data is available) to 2012. Timeless names don’t see a lot of dramatic peaks and troughs in popularity; their rankings remain relatively steady. Most timeless names have never left top 500 since 1880, but ideally the name should have never dipped below the top 300. (This is the same criteria I used to decide what I consider an underused classic name.) Fad names, however, come and go. Fad names were obscure, most likely outside the top 1000, and then suddenly skyrocket in popularity or go through dramatic changes in popularity.

None of the timeless-trendy names on this list have had any dramatic popularity spikes since 1880, (but some may have had some gentle peaks and troughs, as most names do). Girls are coded pink, boys are coded blue, and unisex names are coded green.

Name Trend(s) Highest Rank Lowest Rank 2012 Rank
Adrian Ends in N #56 in 2011 #663 in 1884 #60
Alexander Letter X #4 in 2009 #233 in 1959 #9
Antonio Ends in O #71 in 1976 #976 in 1894 #118
Calvin Letters L & V / Ends in N #44 in 1924 #231 in 2009 #189
Carmen Ends in N #141 in 1968 (on girls*) #752 in 1882 (on girls) #331 (on girls)
Evelyn Letters L & V / Ends in N #10 in 1915 #289 in 1977 #27
Faith Word Name #48 in 2002 Below #1000 in 1883 & 1887 #75
Felix Letter X / Vintage #137 in 1884 #394 in 2002 #316
Hope Word Name #144 in 1999 Below #1000 in 1888 #220
Ivan Letter V / Ends in N #113 in 2012 #404 in 1881 #113
Julia Long U #26 in 1880 #142 in 1977 #65
Julian Ends in N / Long U #50 in 2011 #367 in 1962 #53
Laura Letter L / Vintage #10 in 1969 #280 in 2012 #280
Leo Letter L / Ends in O #38 in 1903 #486 in 1995 #134
Lillian Letter L / Ends in N #10 in 1889-91 #486 in 1978 #25
Lorenzo Letter L / Ends in O #240 in 1880 #459 in 1919 #307
Lucia Letter L / Long U #240 in 2011 #729 in 1974 #248
Lucy Letter L / Long U / Vintage #44 in 1880-81 #588 in 1978 #66
Martin Ends in N / Vintage #45 in 1818 #265 in 2012 #265
Max Letter X #96 in 2011 #419 in 1969 #105
Molly Nickname Names #74 in 1991 #499 in 1898 #90
Naomi Vowel Dominant #81 in 2012 #421 in 1969 #81
Nathan Ends in N #20 in 2004-05 #273 in 1947 #29
Olivia Letters O, L & V / 4 syllables #3 in 2009 #543 in 1971 #4
Owen Letter O, Ends in N #38 in 2012 #520 in 1970 #38
Simon Ends in N / Vintage #142 in 1886 & 1888 #556 in 1965 #255
Veronica Letter V / 4 syllables #68 in 1983 #465 in 1880 #316
Victoria Letter V / 4 syllables #16 in 1998-99 #269 in 1936 #28

* Carmen has historically been a lot less popular on boys than girls. Carmen on boys has spent the past few decades outside the top 1000. It peaked on boys at #308 in 1928.

Many of these names rank in the top 50 now, which might be too popular for those seeking something different. Three of these names appear on the upswing and peaked just last year: Ivan, Naomi, and Owen.

But what these names lack in uniqueness, they make up for in staying power. These names have other selling points besides following a trend. The names on the list that are popular now, are more likely to endure over time long after the trend has run its course.

Not all names on this list are common. Some are even on the way down, such as Veronica and Victoria, despite their current trend appeal. There are two names from this list that hit their lowest rank in 2012: Laura and Martin.

Regardless of where these names fall on a numbered list, they all suit a person through every stage of life and as a bonus happen to be very current.

Readers: Which timeless yet trendy name is your favorite? Are there any other names you would add to this list?

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Mary: The Ultimate Name

Mary-lambThere’s something about Mary (to quote the 90s movie title). Mary had been the steady favorite for generations, making Mary the greatest cross-generational name.

Now at an all time popularity low, Mary is often dismissed as “too boring” or “too common” in an age where commonality has become almost like a disease with some parents.

And for a while Mary did signify a lack of originality. How could it not? Mary held the number one spot longer than any other girl name, from 1880 (the earliest year data is available) to 1946, and then returned to number one from 1953 to 1961.

But more telling than a prolonged number one rank are the percentages of babies that were named Mary each year, which averaged a little over 5% during most of Mary’s (recorded) height. The percentages were even higher in the late 19th century when around 7% of baby girls each year were named Mary.

Compare this to the approximately 3% of baby girls per year named Jennifer during the 70s or the less than 1% given the most recent number one girl name, Sophia, in 2011. (2011 is the most recent year name data is available.)

Perhaps in light of these numbers, Mary deserves a rest. Mary has been in decline since the late 60s. In 2009 Mary left the top 100 and ranked at #112 in 2011. There’s no sign that Mary’s decline will soon reverse or level-out.

Yet I theorize most people would be pleasantly surprised to meet a baby Mary in 2013. In 2011 Mary was surpassed by fashion favorites Ruby (#109) and Piper (#110) both of which are trending upwards, and in the case of Piper—dramatically. Somehow Mary seems a lot less popular than those names.

Mary is so notorious that even the name that finally knocked Mary off the top spot earned a distinction. Yet the name that earned that distinction, Linda, is a young grandmother name now, while Mary remains ageless.

And I believe when Piper becomes a grandmother name (and it will) Mary will still be ageless. By the time Piper is a grandmother (around 2075) Mary could finally rebound. I can’t picture Mary returning to the top spot, but I can’t picture Mary dipping below #450 either. Like Emma Mary could become a “comeback queen” that returns to the top 10 after a few decades on the down low.

If you like Mary, the next couple of decades are a great time to use it. The name is more underused than ever. But people who like Mary may not be overly concerned with uniqueness. The appeal with Mary might lie in its religious significance. Mary is used several times in the New Testament.

Like many names, Mary has an uncertain meaning. Mary’s roots go back to Maria and Miriam. This family of names is large and complex and includes Marie, Malia, Mia, and Mariah.

Modern classic Molly originated as a derivative of Mary and so did quirky homespun Polly, a medieval variant of Molly. The Mary/Molly/Polly transition is historical, but the exact reasons for the M-to-P switch are a mystery.

And then there are masculine variations on Mary. Marion can be unisex and Marius is the masculine form of Maria, and has a fashion-forward suffix: us.

A few years ago I, like many other people, dismissed Mary as dull and overused. But then I realized just about every name in the Mary family has an endearing quality. In time, I grew to appreciate Mary.

Considering that many expectant parents try so very hard to find that different name, possibly turning to Ada as a substitute for Ava or Sylvia for Sophia, Mary seems almost like an ironically rebellious choice. (One of Mary’s possible meanings is “rebelliousness”).

My great-grandmother was named Mary, but I didn’t consider her name for our great-grandparent series because Mary doesn’t seem like a great-grandmother name. But perhaps Mary is the ultimate great-grandmother name. I estimate about 25% of my readers have a great-grandmother named Mary. That’s today’s poll question: Do you have a great-grandmother named Mary?

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