On this side of the pond, the revelation of Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor as the name of Prince Harry and Meghan’s newborn son immediately sparked questions about his “real” first name — Is it Archibald? Could he be Archer?
Nope. Last week’s royal announcement revealed this kid is simply Archie, an apparent statement by his parents that they hope to give him as normal a life as possible.
The name is “a quintessentially English choice,” declares Boston naming expert Laura Wattenberg, but it notably bucks convention in North America, where many parents eschew such cutesy, short monikers.
“Archie is a Top 20 given name in England and it’s not alone. Charlie and Alfie and Freddie and Reggie are all big hit names in England. It’s one of the biggest differences as you cross the Atlantic in baby name style,” says Wattenberg, author of “The Baby Name Wizard.”
“Cute just plays differently in England versus here, and particularly for boys and girls. We’re much more willing to give diminutives to girls…. You wouldn’t be surprised to meet a Gracie or an Emmy but you would be surprised to meet even a Billy.”
In general, handles ending in “-ie” and “-y” have largely faded over the last century in Canada and the United States, agrees L.A.-based Linda Rosenkrantz of the website nameberry.com
It’s one of the biggest differences in naming trends between the two continents. Archie’s dad, notably goes by the nickname Harry, instead of his given name Henry.
If anything, many North American parents are more likely to bestow an invented name that’s so new it can’t be truncated into something casual, say the experts.
“What I hear today is not, ‘Well, of course we’ll name Billy ‘William.’ I hear, ‘How do I keep people from calling William, “Bill”?’” says Wattenberg.
Consider the myriad short names that have been lengthened to seem formal, like Trenton and Jackson.
“The parents look for ways to add something formal, even when a name was a perfectly full name to begin with,” says Wattenberg. “It’s purely a parent’s sense of the name not feeling like it’s enough.”
Professor Cleveland Evans, an onomastics expert at Bellevue University in Bellevue, Neb., says preferred boys’ names tend to be two or three syllables in length, which can be cut to one syllable in everyday conversation.
“By far, the most popular sound pattern in the U.S. and I would guess probably Canada, too, for boys’ names, especially newly popular boys’ names, is two syllables ending in ‘n’ — so you have Jackson and Jayden and all the things that rhyme with Aiden and Mason,” says Evans, author of “The Great Big Book of Baby Names.”
Some parents do choose Ben and Mike for birth certificates instead of Benjamin and Michael, but most still favour a formal name for official identification, no matter the social class, he adds.
“The image American parents have is any child can grow up to be anything and so no matter what their own circumstances are, they want to give their child a name that will fit into the executive suite,” says Evans.
“Meanwhile, I think a lot of working class people in Britain are proud to be working class and are not thinking in that way.”
Gender plays a role, too, with “-ie” nicknames growing in popularity among girls, even if they started out as primarily boys’ names — think Frankie, Billie, Charlie and Teddie.
That trend has pushed some boys’ parents to look for masculine alternatives, says Wattenberg, who studied names that were made out of words and found “boys are being given new names that literally mean weapons and violence.”
“Riot. Rage. Cannon. I think that’s why I think it will take a lot for the cute British nicknames to catch on,” she says.
“Even as gender roles have changed, what hasn’t changed is that parents want boys to be strong above all.”
Top baby names registered with U.S. Social Security in 2018 were Emma and Liam, the agency revealed Friday.
They did not include Riot, Rage or Cannon, but Ruger — also known as a brand of firearms — was used 134 times.
There were only 207 Archies, barely enough to crack the Top 1,000 at 992.
Archie’s middle name Harrison is far more popular in Canada, says Toronto kindergarten teacher Melissa King-Ferman, who says the name was especially popular in her class about five years ago.
In contrast, she’s only met one child named Archie.
“I know more people that have an Archie dog than an Archie kid,” says King-Ferman, a self-proclaimed royalist.
Wattenberg says parents who give a long formal name thinking that they can keep nicknames away are kidding themselves.
“At some point in childhood there’s a change in ownership and the name no longer belongs to the parents, it belongs to the child,” she says.
“I’ve talked to so many parents who thought that they’ve successfully called their son only Christopher, until he was 14 and they suddenly learned he’d been going by Chris at school for years.”
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press