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Girls’ Names in Limbo: When can Kay come out to play?
Girls’ Names in Limbo: When can Kay come out to play?
Apr 19, 2024 6:00 AM

  We’ve all pretty much on board with the Hundred Year Rule that says it usually takes a full century for a name to shake off its musty image and start to sound fresh again. Which is why so many turn-of-the-last-century names have returned, names we don’t associate with any older person we have actually known–those belonging to the great-great or great-great-great grand generation–all those lacy girls’ names like Amelia and Matilda and Clementine that now sound so appealing.

  But what about the girls’ names of the generations that followed those in the first half of the twentieth century? Most of them are much more simple and matter of fact, often two syllables rather than three or four, feminine rather than feminissima.  These would be the names of our grandmothers and great-aunts and mothers-in-law—the older women in our lives.

  Though there are some exceptions, such as the relatively recently revived Sylvias, Audreys, Lillians and Evelyns, and starbabies like Julia Roberts’ Hazel and Sarah Jessica Parker’s Marion—most of these examples that were mega-popular from the twenties to the sixties have been consigned to onomastic limbo.

  Our question today is: Are any of them ready to be sprung?

  Listed here some of the names that were most popular back  in their day—leaving out the classics, the nicknames and the ephemeral trendies.  They’re in reverse chronological order, starting with the names that peaked in the 1920s, showing the time span in which they ranked in the Top 100, followed by the highest number they ever reached.

  And who knows? Maybe we’ll come up with a Half-Hundred Year Rule!

  1920s

  Bernice— 1900-36          #39 in 1921

  Doris— 1902-54                #6   in 1929

  Gloria— 1922-63              #29 in 1925-26

  June— 1915-49                 #39 in 1925

  Lois–1902-1953              #17 in 1929-30

  Lorraine—1918-48        #39 in 1928

  Marian —1912-34           #64 in 1924

  Marjorie—1904-45        # 16 in 1921-23

  Maxine—1915-30           #76  in  1923

  Phyllis–1916-58            #24 in 1929

  Virginia—1893-1959    #6 in 1921

  Wilma—1912-40           #62 in 1925

  1930s

  Arlene 1931-43             #53 in 1934

  Barbara  1913-76          #2  from 1937 to 1944

  Beverly 1926-64           #14 in 1937

  Dolores 1923-44           #13 in 1930

  Elaine 1923-57              #42 in 1938

  Geraldine 1916-46       #38 in 1931

  Janet 1928-70                #17 in 1939

  Jeanette 1936-41          #82 in 1939

  Joan 1924-64                  #5 from 1931 to 1933

  Joanne  1930-60           #45 in 1934-35

  Joyce 1924-89               #11 in 1937-38

  Loretta 1931-44             #62 in 1938

  Marilyn 1925-58           #13 in 1936-37

  Marlene 1931-42           #39 in 1935-36

  Norma 1918-47             #22 in 1931-1932

  Rita 1914-60                    #42 in 1930

  Roberta 1935-53           #64 in 1936

  Shirley 1918-63              #2 in 1935-36

  Wanda 1922-66             #47 in 1934

  Yvonne  1935-37         #77 in 1937

  1940s

  Bonnie 1928-66               #33 in 1941, 46, 50

  Carol 1928-71                 #4 in 1941

  Ellen 1880-1961 (on and off)  #59 in 1942

  Glenda 1941-52               #79 in 1944

  Judith 1934-64              #4 in 1940

  Kathleen 1920-90        #9 in 1949

  Kay 1936-45                      #70 in 1941

  Linda 1936-77               #1 from 1947 to 1952

  Rosemary 1926-49      #75 in 1946

  Sandra 1934-94              #5 in 1947

  Sharon 1935-77             #8 in 1943

  Suzanne 1941-73           #52 in 1946

  1950s

  Cynthia 1945-93            #7 in 1957

  Deborah 1950-76          #2 in 1955

  Denise 1950-81               #23  in 1955-56

  Diane 1937-71                 #14 in 1955

  Donna 1926-76                #5 in 1959-60

  Gail 1937-61                      #36 in 1951

  Janice 1932-67                 #21 in 1951

  Marsha 1946-54              #68 in 1950

  Nancy 1920-78                 #6 in 1950

  Pamela 1943-83              #10 in 1953

  Paula 1943-74                 #38 in 1954

  Susan 1937-85                #2 1957– 1960

  Valerie 1953-87             #60 in 1959

  60s

  Anita 1937-67                 #77 in 1963

  Annette 1957-67           #62 in 1960

  Brenda 1939-77             #11 in 1961

  Karen 1938-85                #2 in 1965

  Lisa                                       #1 1962-69

  Michelle 1954-2007    #2 in 1968-69, 71-72

  Renee 1960-78                #62 in 1967

  Teresa  1938-81 #18 in 1961- 63

  So which if any of these names do you think show some promise of returning?  Would you use any of them yourself—and not just because they’re family names?

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