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It's A Family Name

Updated on November 5, 2012

What's in a Name?

We tend to use family names in the South for our children's monikers. One reason may be it prevents marrying between cousins! At the very least, it alerts you to family connections. When I was growing up, I hated my weird-sounding middle name, which was March. My friends agreed it was a horrid name. All of my friends had variations of great 70's names like Amanda, Jessica or Jennifer. Initially, my mother was going to call me March as my first name but she decided to give me the first name Cynthia. Cynthia March Smith. Oh, why couldn't I just be named Jennifer Leigh Smith? Finally, I even chose Cindy over Cynthia as my nickname. I decided I would pick my own name. I chuckle now at some of the names I loved; one such favored name was Chastity. Like others of my generation, I watched Sonny & Cher. I've always been interested in the differences of names that are popular over the decades.

Which Name is Your Favorite?

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Top Girl Names Through the Decade

  • 2011- Sophia, Emma, Ava
  • 1980- Jennifer, Melissa, Heather
  • 1950- Barbara, Linda, Nancy
  • 1920- Mary, Ruth, Virginia
  • 1890- Mary, Emma, Florence

Mary + Family Name

It's also common to name girls a combination name of Mary first and then the family name. Perhaps the Mary makes it sound softer. "March was a fine name," Mother said. "Besides, be glad you aren't Mary March." Mary March was her name and she told many stories about all the cruel ways her classmates arranged "Mary March" in a sentence. "Mary March!" they would shout. You can also combine it with non-family names such as Mary Elizabeth or Mary Margaret. I believe we have three Mary Margaret's in my family. Ugh, I thought, so old-fashioned! Margaret lends well also to name combining.

Mine Those Crazy Last Names

After a while, March wasn't so bad but I didn't really think that until college. For one thing, there were a lot of Cindys in my classes. In fact, I flirted with just going with March instead of Cindy. Soon, my own children came into the world and I began mining the family tree for some good names. I looked back as far as the 1700's where there were fine, upstanding-sounding names such as Elizabeth or Caroline. In the 1900's, it got dicey! Names such as Fonda, Omer, Vontrell or Lula necessitated names of ancestors I never knew. Like my mother, I compromised by finding a popular name and combining it with the stuffy family name. After all, Rutherford Foxworth might be an illustrious ancestor, but it's a big mouthful too! If your family name is Smooter or Smelley, you might want to use names that were originally someone else's family name, like Kennedy or Madison. The key is to use something that isn't popular so I would choose Kennedy over Madison.

Uniquely Theirs

The great thing about choosing a family name is there is not the danger of your child have 3 children in their class with the same name. Once in third grade, there were three Jennifers and the teacher had them each decide what version of Jennifer they would use. One was Jen, one was Jenny, and one chose Jennifer. How many Rutherfords would there be in a class or even a grade? Not a single one, I tell you. It also lends a certain dignity. One day you want your child to have a name that goes well with Wells Fargo Bank Vice-President. Which sounds better: Rutherford Smith or Jenny Smith? Rutherford sounds like she knows what to do with my money. Barack is a terrible name for a baby; there are plenty of ethnic names that sound better than that. Mitt is a good example of a nickname for a longer name, such as Mittrel, but you don't want to use that as one of THE names. It's just too short, even if it is an actual last name from your family.

Now I have come full circle; I really appreciate my mother choosing at least one family name for me. Please, call me March!

Disclaimer: March is not my real name but a similar type. I'd like to maintain some anonymity.


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