These are strange times for Carol and Glenn. As hot baby names of the 1940s and ’50s, they’ve fallen into a black hole of fashion. They’re not yet antiques, and they’re not aggressively contrarian in style like Mildred or Floyd. They’re just invisible, a stylistic blind spot that parents don’t even notice enough to bother rejecting.
That will all change in a future generation, once Carol, Glenn and friends start sounding fresh again to young parents. But what about now? Do any ’40s-’50s names have what it takes to leap ahead of the pack and start an early revival?
I collected all of the names whose peak decades were the ’40s or ’50s and looked for signs of life. Collectively, they’re all still in the doldrums. The names’ combined popularity has continued to fall year by year—an impressive feat, given that many of them already disappeared from national statistics years ago. But a few names have beaten the odds. These nine vintage favorites are quietly on the rise.
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The group is heavy on nicknames, which reflects the style of the ’40s and ’50s. The defining names of the era included Judy and Jimmy, Terry and Jerry, and Vickie and Ricky. Most of the nicknames that are rising, though, aren’t Judy-style simple trimmings of longer names. Ronnie and Dottie come closest, but I suspect it may take you a moment to think of the formal girls’ names they come from. (Spoiler: Veronica and Dorothy.) Rocky, meanwhile, is usually chosen as a symbol of toughness rather than as a pet form of Rocco. Mac mostly came from surnames, Robin has long since separated from Robert, and Bonnie is not really a nickname but a word name, from the Scottish term meaning “pretty.”
All of this points to the tentative way American style is embracing nicknames today. A simple diminutive is not enough: we want a hook. For girls, that can mean a boyish name like Charlie and Billie, or a quirky antique like Birdie or Hattie. For boys, a tough edge is the biggest draw. That means Jack, not Johnny; Bo, not Buddy.
The most unexpected and intriguing comeback candidate is Rosalind. Rosalind is bona fide medieval name; a name of impeccable literary heritage; a glamorous Golden Age Hollywood name; a neglected classic. It’s also a consonant-stuffed Germanic name, which is usually the toughest possible sell in our vowel-first style era. As Rosalind knocks at the door of the top-1000 name list for the first time in decades, there’s a new ray of hope for a whole generation of names.