The name Florence is climbing the charts in the UK. According to a UK trend report, supplied via Strollerderby, the top girls names so far in 2010 are: Florence, Lucie, Lacey, Esme, Elena, Lucia, Beatrice, Violet, India, Frankie. Ollie, Jensen and Eli top the boy’s list. Florence. Really? Amazing.
I happened to see a screening of the upcoming Freakanomics documentary— it comes out August 1st–one of their topics, also covered in the bestselling book, is how posh names are appropriated over a generation or so, until they have basically become, well, “stripper names.” Bobbi, for example, and other names ending in i. They look at how a name like Ashley travels from upper income households to lower. First it’s a striver name, then all the strivers leap on at once and it becomes a common name.
Was Florence a posh name? I don’t recall any Lady Di-generation Flos or more recent fab Florences. But what do I know? I asked my mother who lived in England for a long time and knows a lot about these kinds of things. Echoing the findings of the freakeconomists, she explained that once posh names in England, “which used to be Sarah, Jane, Annabel, Caroline” became common, “the uppers quickly switched to more unheard of, though still old-fashioned names like Harry, Freddie, Imogen.”
As for the latest trend: “Florence, Beatrice, Lucia and Violet all fit with the fairly long-standing English (and American) pattern of choosing names from the Victorian era. It’s very like the way tastes in furniture, houses, clothes etc come back in after a certain time of being really out.”
Oh yeah, the New Victorians, of course!
I should have guessed, I’m one of them with kids named Alfred and Sylvia!
“India became fashionable amongst the upper classes when Lord Louis Mountbatten’s daughter Pamela named her daughter India in 1967” my mother further informs, “Lord Mountbatten was Prince Philip’s uncle and was the last Viceroy of India before its independence.”
According to the Baby Name Wizard, Florence is still firmly locked into the 1890s in America. I still have some not-so-posh associations from the 70s: Henderson and Mel’s Diner specifically. But when I hear Florence Nightingale the New Victorian in me gets all excited.
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