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Forgive Me, Eleanor

July 30, 2019 laurawattenberg 5 Comments

Forgive Me, Eleanor

July 30, 2019 LauraWattenberg 5 Comments
Images of two famous Eleanors and a facepalm emoji
Eleanor of Aquitaine; Eleanor Roosevelt; Shamefaced Author

I have a confession to make. It has been weighing on me, a dreadful little tingle of guilt every time I look at the new 4th edition of the Baby Name Wizard book. Now it’s time to come clean and try to make amends.

Readers, I left out Eleanor.

It’s terrible but true. If you browse through the book’s “name snaphots” for girls, you’ll leap straight from Eileen to Elena. The entry for Eleanor, a staple of all past editions, has simply vanished.

Those of you who have noticed have been extremely kind. You’ve bent over backwards to give me the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps I was reacting to a sharp decline in the popularity of the name? Perhaps I treated it as a variant of another name? Alas, no. It’s just plain gone, and for the most unplanned, unromantic of reasons.

I write the Baby Name Wizard books in a database rather than a word processor. Given the many types of information I track and compile for each name snapshot, it would be impossible any other way. One piece of data that’s linked to each name record in the 4th edition database is a simple checkbox: “In the book, or not?” For want of a click, the name was lost.

It could have happened to any name. A simple click in the wrong field on an entry form is all it would take. That the victim was Eleanor particularly rankles, because Eleanor is not just any name. First off, it’s both classic and popular, currently ranked #32 among all girls’ names in the U.S. That kind of name always earns a full snapshot entry. What’s worse, Eleanor is a name lover’s name. It’s a favorite of the kind of parents who dive into name research, looking at names from every direction…in short, the exact kind of people who reach for the Baby Name Wizard.

My heartfelt apologies to all Eleanors and the people who love them. Here’s the new, revised entry that was supposed to fill that shameful void between Eileen and Elena.

Full Baby Name Wizard book entry for Eleanor

Namerology founder and "Baby Name Wizard" author Laura Wattenberg is a globally recognized name expert, known for her scientific approach to understanding name trends and culture.

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  • Elizabeth July 30, 2019 at 10:29 pm

    Look on the bright side: if Eleanor suffers a sharp decline in 2020, you can pat yourself on the back; your influence is vital!

  • Nicwoo July 30, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    I was wondering if you were a real person and human and stuff. Forgiven. It’s a great entry!

  • MarchF
    MarchF August 5, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    Oh no! Poor Eleanor.

    When I was pregnant with my daughter, I suggested the name Eleanor (a family name) to my husband. He liked other names better, so it didn’t initially make our short list. A few weeks later, he came across the name Nell when he was browsing through the list of nicknames in the “Name Styles” section of the third edition of the Baby Name Wizard book. He really liked Nell and hadn’t known it was a traditional nickname for Eleanor. Long story short, we now have a beautiful five-year-old who uses both names regularly. I feel like I got a twofer, getting to use two names I really like. Nell would probably have a different name today if my husband hadn’t found Eleanor/Nell paired up in the third edition and brought it back up again. The good news is, for us at least, it wasn’t the main entry for Eleanor that sold us on the name. Hopefully that empty checkbox didn’t remove Eleanor from the Name Styles section too!

    It is interesting to see how the Eleanor’s entry has changed. If I recall correctly, I think the 3rd edition focused mainly on how perceptions of the name tended to fall along gender lines. I like this entry a lot better. It captures many of the reasons I fell in love with the name Eleanor – from its history to its contemporary sound and large nickname potential.

  • Kelly
    Kelly December 3, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    I hope Laura sees this, but I’ve always wondered is there any significance to the order the sibling names are listed in each entry or not?

    • LauraWattenberg
      LauraWattenberg December 6, 2019 at 2:02 am

      Wow Kelly, in all these years nobody has ever asked me that!! I just try to arrange the names in each sibling list so as to make the overall impression best represent the “target” name, if that makes sense. The closest stylistic matches are typically the first two and the last one, since those are the highest-impact list positions.

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