I have to admit, of all the baby name trends out there, this is the one that gets my goat the most. Call me an old fuddy-duddy or a name-snob if you like, but the former grade school teacher in me wants to scream, "there is such a thing called 'rules of phonics,' people!" You cannot simply substitute the letter "y" willy-nilly or swap out vowels and expect that the name should be pronounced the same. But, like it or not, using a different spelling of names seems to be a trend that has become deeply rooted in our culture today, particularly so for girls' names.
Ok, I know, it's your baby and how you choose a name is completely up to you. I'll calm down now and get back to the unbiased history lesson. Or at least I'll try to rein in my opinions to a minimum. Note I said, try.
How the 60s and 70s May Have Advanced the Trend of Different Spelling of Names
It is interesting to note that the trend to create-your-own spelling has really taken root in the past 30 to 40 years. Before then, standard spellings were fairly consistent. However, if I had to pinpoint the names that seemed to start the ball rolling on spelling deviations, I would head to the late 60s and early 70s. Can you guess the names that may have started it all? I'll give you a hint, it would seem that originally varitions began on the long e sound at the end of some names.
Tracy, Stacy, Kimberly. I blame you. These three names were hugely popular at that time, and parents began adjusting the spelling of the ending syllable. Traci. Tracey. Tracie. Tracee. What began 40 years ago has now turned into a huge trend in varying (sometimes mutilating, if you ask me) spellings in order to have a name that appears to be different, but sounds the exact same. The different spelling of names trend has gone to an entirely new level.
Looking at Popular Names By Pronunciation
Take a look at these popular baby names listed by assumed pronunciation. There are names which have as many as 10 variant spellings. Some of those names, such as "Kaitlyn", seem to be less popular on the Social Security charts, but, when grouped together by similar pronunciation, they appear within the top 50 names for the year. Names are listed in descending order of popular spelling. Here are just a few examples of altered spellings.
- Sophia, Sofia
- Isabella, Izabella, Isabela
- Emily, Emely, Emilee, Emilie, Emmalee
- Madison, Maddison, Madisyn, Madyson
- Abigail, Abbigail, Abigale, Abagail
- Hailey, Haley, Haylee, Hayley, Hailee, Halle, Hallie, Haleigh, Haylie, Hayleigh
- Kaitlyn, Katelyn, Caitlyn, Katelynn, Caitlin, Kaitlin, Kaitlynn
- Makayla, Mikayla, Michaela, Mikaela, Mckayla, Micaela
- Madelyn, Madilyn, Madeliene, Madalyn, Madelynn, Madilynn, Madalynn
- Aaliyah, Aliyah, Aleah, Aliya, Alia, Aleigha
- Liliana, Lilliana, Lilyana, Lilianna, Lillianna, Lilyanna
Arguments Supporting Changing Spelling of Names
When I hear parents favoring an alternate spelling of names, they generally support it with two arguments. One, they are looking for a "more unique" name, feeling that a different spelling distances their child's name from the standard spelling (despite intending the name to sound the same). Two, they feel that, in some cases, a changed spelling "looks more feminine." This may be particularly the case for boy names used as girl names.
And while I certainly could write a whole essay countering those two arguments, I will simply leave it at that. Certainly not my cup of tea and not a trend that is very popular with me, but I must admit it is certainly popular today. I can only hope that using different spellings for names is a trend that will shrink back in popularity as most other name trends have a tendency to do - only to be recycled by future generations.