A reader writes:
So many popular girls' names have followed the same path that it can hardly be coincidence:
place name >
upper-class boy's name >
upper-class girl's name >
middle-class all-the-rage girl's name >
tired old trailer-trash girl's name >
ewww, we wouldn't touch it with a pole!
E.g.: Tracy Stacy Kimberly Hayley Lindsay Ashley Courtney Whitney Kelly Kelsey
and way back:
Shirley Evelyn Vivian Beverly
A fellow Whitney descendent told me she suggested her daughter and son-in-law name their girl Whitney. They objected that it was too common! This is a seldom-heard argument against fad names-- it ruins the name for those few families who have a legitimate reason to use it.
The French baby name site graphs Claude, Marie and George (no "s") for both sexes. The Romans usually gave their girls feminized versions of men's names. This practice appears a lot less common among Teutons and Greeks, and Hebrew names seem to have avoided it altogether. (Though later groups did it with popular Hebrew boys' names, e.g. Jane/Jean/Joan/Jenny for John, and Jacqueline for Jacob/James.)
So why, in our ultrafeminist, gynocratic age, did we first increase the use of feminized male names-- Patricia, Michelle, Nicole, Danielle-- and then go beyond that to outright giving boys' names to girls? ("Hillary" is particularly weird-- St Hilary was into crushing heresies, as was his namesake Hilaire Belloc.)
What's really odd is giving presidential names like Taylor and Madison to girls. Hell, "Madison" literally means "son of Matthew or Maud". "MacKenzie" means "son of Comely". (Shouldn't she be comely herself?)
Reese Witherspoon's name is actually Laura Jean Reese Witherspoon, so unlike copycat fans her name actually honors a relative. (Of course she's truly a blue-blood, with a street in Princeton named for her headmaster forebear.)