What’s In A Proper Name?

prep boys movie stillIn honor of the publication of True Prep by Lisa Birnbach (a follow-up to The Official Preppy Handbook, which I blogged about last year) this month, the baby naming website  Baby Names Garden has posted a  list of preppy names and nicknames and is taking reader suggestions.

As it so happens, my own copy of True Prep arrived in the mail today and a quick glance through reveals that it does not address preppy names this time around. In many ways, preppy names and nicknames often stay the same. After all, prep is about staying power, the tried and true; not trying to outdo oneself with flash and sass. Case in point, when Gwenyth Paltrow named her daughter Apple -  I’m still of the mind that a simple “Claire” or “Tinsley” would have sufficed.

Preps need to be careful these days when naming their children. There is much name encroachment going on! It’s becoming de rigueur to name one’s baby as if she were born a wrinkled old lady with a cup of tea in her hand and a  Corgi asleep on her lap. Edith. Vivian. Gertrude. Or, alternately, even the dreaded middle class is embracing names like Annabelle and Lindsey. As if!

So the problem then becomes how to stake a name claim that is unique, somewhat of a statement but certainly no Apple (imagine – a 55 year-old woman named Apple!)

I thought I would offer up my list of what I call the “Heavy Prep” names. These are the heavy hitters that let everyone know you’re not messing around, you come from money, you don’t spend your Saturdays at the mall and your child will go to a private school.

First, Girl Names:

Brynne (or Bryn) or, even better, Bronwyn
Catherine (nickname must be Cate, with a “C,”)
Harriet (nickname must be Topsy)
Katerie or Kateri
Kitty (given name)
Lillie or Lillian (please, not Lily)
Mary Louise, Helen Louise, Mary The-Mother’s-Maiden-Name-If-It’s-One-Or-Two-Syllables  (like Mary Grey)
Actually, any name with two names as long as it’s never allowed to be shortened. The girl must, from the very beginning, be the kind of girl one would never dream of calling simply “Mary” or “Helen.”
Margaret (nickname must be Bunny)
Nanette (nickname is Nan and she’s an excellent lacrosse player)
Penelope ( the nickname is Poppy)

Boy Names:

Brant or Brantley (nickname is Bif)
Carlton or Carl-Phillip (and it should never be shortened to “Carl”)
George (you may think this name has been sullied but remember its Old English origins!)
Harry or Harrison (but call him Bunny)
Irving (nickname is Skip)
James Oliver
Louis or Lewis
Peyton or Payton
Roderick (nickname is Roddie, which you say while giving his hair a rough tousle)
Sebastian (nickname is Seb)
Theodore (nickname is Tad)
Trey (a bit Southern prep but what the hey)

7 thoughts on “What’s In A Proper Name?

  1. Girls:

    Thomas (Tommy) Old English
    William (Will) Old English and colonial

  2. Why am I just now finding you? Going with Minnie Tyler for our girl but still struggling with a fabulously pretentious boy name … leaning towards Hayes and loving Henry ….. thoughts?

  3. Hi Brannon,
    Anytime you can use a name that sounds like a last name for a first name – Hayes – you’re in good shape. And I adore the name Henry (actually one of my faves), although I don’t find it pretentious at all. Try pairing it with another name, like Paul-Henri, for a more over-the-top effect. Also on my mind lately for boys: Cecil, Greer, Grayson, Hardy, Cyril and Hugo.

  4. Most excellent. Loving Henry too just afraid it has gotten too popular. Hugo is another love. Happy Wednesday x (pretentious in a prep school, classic way of course 🙂

  5. One must stay within the family for names. Do an ancestral search. You’ll be amazed at what shows up for names.
    My family names:
    Judd-my great aunt Judd, what a character.

    just to name a few. It’s fun to mix and match. Ellsworth Otto Graham, or Ryder Graham and on and on. If it sounds bad, a nicname will pop up for sure. One should never assign a nicname before the baby is even born, that should come up later on, really. It seems forced to call a baby a nicname at birth.

  6. hello – is it just me !! can any one explain why when i type in the firefox browser “www.notshallow.org” i get a different site yet whe i type it in google its ok? could this be a bug in my system or is any one else having same probs ?

  7. I understand that the English have a nickname for Philippa that is also in the “posh” category – “Pippa.”

Comments are closed.