The other night, I introduced my son to the Johnny Cash song "A Boy Named Sue" (written, by the way, by the late great children's poet Shel Silverstein), and we had a good laugh over the story of a man who vowed revenge on the dad who gave him an ultra-girly name. But though we'll probably never see Sue climbing up the boys'-name lists, there are some baby names that deserve to become unisex, though they are typically associated with one gender.
If you think that standards of masculinity and femininity are unchangeable, consider this: Just a century ago, pink was actually considered a boy's color, according to Smithsonian magazine. It was thought to be a stronger, bolder shade, while "delicate and dainty" blue was reserved for girls. The article also pointed out that back then, American boys traditionally wore dresses and long hair until they reached school age.
Name associations change with the times, too. Sidney and Marion were among the most popular names for boys in the 1910s, according to the Social Security Administration. Today, you'd be more likely to find them on a girl's birth certificate (though the spelling might be changed to Sydney and Marianne).
So with gender-neutral names so trendy today, it's time to expand the baby name pool by letting go of some of our preconceived ideas about which monikers are strictly for girls or boys. Okay, maybe it's a little much to expect that parents will choose Madeline for a boy or Arthur for a girl, but here are some suggestions for parents looking for options for either their pink, blue, or neutral-colored nursery.
You'd think that we'd have seen more girls with this name (Scottish for "narrow valley," according to Nameberry) since Glenn Close came on the scene. Alas, Glenn doesn't even crack the SSA list of the top 200 girls' names of this decade. It's time to change that, and bestow this strong-sounding name on our future female movers and shakers.
More popular as a girl's name than a boy's, according to BabyCenter, this Hebrew name meaning "paradise" suits both. For a boy, it sounds close enough to Aiden to be a less-common substitute.
If you're a Gone With the Wind fan (like me!), you'll always think of Ashley as the handsome, idealistic, and very much married object of Scarlett O'Hara's affections. We need more male Ashleys to bring back the nobility of the name. Besides, Ash is an awesome nickname.
Friends made this a unisex option 20 years ago (on "The One Hundredth" episode), when Phoebe gave birth to her brother's triplets and discovered that the baby she'd meant to name for BF Chandler Bing was actually a girl. Either way, could it be a better name for any child?
This British name, meaning "son of the bailiff," is an impressive #34 on Nameberry's boy-name rankings. But why not give it some equal time for girls? Its first syllable sounds identical to Grace, and as for that boyish "son" ending, that doesn't seem to matter to all those female Madisons out there.
With a slightly different spelling, Johnnie actually enjoyed a period of popularity as a girl's name back in the '20s, according to the SSA. Its friendly, trustworthy sound makes it a fine choice for boys and girls alike.
Since it's derived from the Norse war god Thor, per BabyCenter, this name has been pretty much reserved for boys. But with the softness of the beginning "s," it's not too out-there as a girl's name, and if you're a Comic-Con-goer, you'll appreciate this for either gender.
Meaning — what else? — a running brook, according to NameMeanings.com, it's become more associated with girls, especially when you stick an E on the end. But it's not too frilly for a boy, and deserves to be put back into circulation as a unisex name.
Traditionally given to boys, this British name meaning "burnt meadow" is another one for nature-lovers looking for something less common for girls (Brook and Brinley would be a great pair of twins!). Nameberry pointed out that the "ley" at the end gives it a feminine sound.
Practically unheard of in girls (it was all the way down to #18,947 last year, per BabyCenter), this name that means "champion" is a contender for a little winner, boy or girl.
Even though you'll hear it more often in boys, this is totally adorable for girls, too. It can either stand alone as a name in its own right or as a nickname for Frederick or Fredrika. Plus, it means "peace ruler," said BabyNames.com, so this would resonate with parents who love meaningful names.
For a name that means "fighter," according to Babynology, it's surprising that Tracy ever came to be thought of as more of a girl's name. Still, actor Tracy Morgan is proof that it works for the guys, and Trace is a fun variation for both genders.