An article in The New York Times Magazine titled Name Days on February 28th by Linda Kinstler, made a shocking revelation. Kinstler’s parents were Latvian immigrants and in order to ensure their daughter was easily accepted and assimilated into the American way of life, they decided to give her a thoroughly pronounceable, spellable, and American name—Linda. What is unusual and even shocking about this choice of a first name is that Linda Kinstler is (gasp!) a millennial. I thought that name lost its lustre and died in the fifties after hundreds of thousands of baby boomer girls who were born in the years after 1946 were given that popular name. In fact, according to a 2018 study, Linda is the trendiest name in U.S. history.
I can certainly vouch for the popularity of my first name, although I’ve always fancied myself “special” as my name is spelled with a Y, Lynda. There were always at least two or three other girls in my class at school with the same first name. After the Second World War, there was a popular song on the radio, sung by Buddy Clark with Ray Noble and his orchestra. That song, Linda, was written by Lee Eastman in 1946 in honour of his young daughter, Linda, who later became the wife of Beatle Paul McCartney. The song was reprised in the early sixties in an embarrassing re-do by Jan and Dean.
Baby-names come and go according to the fashion of the day. We’ve had runs on trendy names like Ava, Ashley, Emma, and Madison—all names which I like, but doomed to suffer the fate we Lindas endured so long ago. In recent years, there’s been a swing to older, more traditional names like Grace, Madelaine, Isabella, and Sophia. I’ve always been partial to Alannah but if I’d had a daughter, I think I’d be inclined to opt for a more androgynous name like Taylor, Dylan or Kendall (even though I hate that it’s associated with one of the Jenner/Kardashians), just to be a bit different and confuse resumé readers. I once knew a successful, senior businesswoman whose first name was Kevin and I thought that was sooo cool. Kudos to her parents for their originality.
Selecting a baby name is highly subjective but I’ll never understand how or why Prince Harry and Meghan selected Archie for their little one. But then, I remember when Prince Harry was born and named Harold which was shortened to Harry I thought that was rather odd too. Now we’re used to it. Let’s hope they come up with something better this time ’round.
We tend to grow into our names. I’m rather content with Lynda despite its ubiquitous designation all those years ago. Used in conjunction with my middle name, Marlene, it is reminiscent of the World War II song Lili Marlene. Names are cyclical and subject to current trends. One of my favourite shows on television, Escape to the Chateau is about a British couple, Angel and Dick Strawbridge who bought and are restoring a dilapidated old French chateau which they have repurposed as an event facility. Their young children are called Arthur and Dorothy. Another throwback to old-fashioned names.
Does this mean that all those familiar names we grew up with in the fifties and sixties are going to start reappearing? Will boomers suddenly be welcoming grandchildren and (yikes!) great-grandchildren with names like Gail, Brenda, Carol, or Debbie? Will Karen take on a new positive connotation? Margaret, Kathy, Marilyn, Sandra, or, yes, even Linda could all be reborn as millennials. If your name is Linda/Lynda, you’ll enjoy this priceless sketch that appeared on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Baroness von Sketch a couple of seasons ago. It will remind you of how old we “Linda/Lyndas” really are and give you a good laugh at the same time. Click on the image below (skip the ad). Enjoy and celebrate your name whatever it is.