Saturday, August 4, 2012

Is Nancy the new Emma?

As most name enthusiasts know, Emma is currently (and has for at least the past decade) been one of the hottest names for girls in the US, hovering near the top in that time-frame. The name is also a perfect example of an "antique revival"; it was very popular in the late 19th century, fell off for much of the 20th, and is now back in full force. What some American NEs may not immediately be aware of is the name was revived on the other side of the pond a generation earlier - while the 1970s marked Emma's low point on the US charts that decade marked the revival of the name in England; thus the name is also an example of a British-to-American transition in name fashion (an example of a revival that went the other way between today's parents' and children's generations is Amy, which was the #2 name in the States during the '70s and is now in "mom name" territory there but higher on the UK charts).

Now I'm going to discuss a name that I'm predicting may follow a trajectory similar to Emma's but about 50 years or so later: Nancy. In the US Nancy is currently a typical "grandma name" for today's children and falls into the fashion nadir of being a name from their parents' generation for many contemporary namers. On the other hand the most enterprising of name enthusiasts (me included) are seeing Nancy's retro charm and have put it on the list for consideration (right now from when I've seen this name being discussed it tends to be one of those that is either really liked or really disliked). Contemporary children may start to like it even more thanks to the Fancy Nancy series. The UK is a different story for Nancy though, as there are signs of it climbing back up the charts over there (maybe the fashion of nicknames as official names is also helping, as some consider Nancy a nickname). Since the name is already in style again on the other side of the Atlantic, as with Emma a few decades earlier that likely means a brightening future for Nancy over here as well (and although unfashionable for many parents if you bestow it on a girl in the present times it will likely lead to having a fashionable name for babies when she's a mom, rather than feeling dated like a name from the preceding generation would).

What do you think? Thumbs up or down for Nancy?


  1. I see the appeal of Nancy, but I wouldn't use it. However, a good friend of mine (who is not having kids anytime soon) has Nancy on her short list for a future daughter. Same goes for Susan, and I'm curious if it could be the Isabella to Nancy's Emma, but I can't find UK data on it since it's not in the top 100 there.

  2. Two thumbs up for Nancy, which I think is such a spunky retro-hip name.

    I do think it's on a slow comeback, but at the moment here it's still a bit up and down - used a few times one year, then not the next.

    (Nancy and Susan as sisters makes me smile - it's the names of two of the girls from the "Swallows and Amazons" series; could you get any more 1930s British????)

  3. You and I are on the same wavelength. I too see potential for Nancy within the next 20-30 years. I also noted Nancy will hit great-grandma status by then, and noted the possible contribution of the Fancy Nancy books. The children reading Fancy Nancy now will be parents in 20-30 years. These books can help Nancy in the same way the Madeline books helped that name.

    However, I totally missed Nancy's upward trend in England and the similar trajectory as Emma 50 years before.

  4. Oh, and speaking of zeitgeist, check Upswing Baby Names in about 30 minutes. I have something I scheduled for today that I swear is only a coincidence.

  5. As an American children's librarian, I do see a lot of Fancy Nancy fans, so it is possible that the next generation here will follow the British trend - but as for picking my kids' names, it is definitely out. To my ears it definitely sounds much too 70s, plus I had an unfortunate coworker experience (a personal knock against it, I know...)

  6. I can't quite see it becoming popular while other variants of Anne are still so common (e.g. Anna). To me, Nancy is to Annie/Anna what is a bit like Cathy is to Kate/Kat.