|Poet dudes, lookin' fine. Byron with his fancy helmet and Longfellow, sans beard|
So. Let's delve a little deeper into the naming crystal ball, shall we? We're talking deep, deep stuff here, slowly-unraveling mysteries of centuries-old influence. What really makes a name pop out of the aether and into the zeigeist? I recently made a post of the names I'll be watching when the SSA releases its list of 2011 statistics (any day now!) but they're names I'm tracking because there's already motion behind them. Any namer worth her salt could tell you to keep your eyes on Flynn and Willa — that doesn't mean they're not intriguing, it just means they're up and comers, names expectant parents around the country are mulling over. If I'd been talking about them 15 years ago, now that would be the forefront. (Hey, I do have a teenage cousin named Flynn.)
I was on the hunt for the next name to feature here, scanning my list. Didn't get very far before hitting Allegra, a name that I loved enough at age 14 to bestow it upon my short-lived pet hermit crab.
Allegra's a funny one. Though it has a cheerful meaning (literally, it means "cheerful," or "lively") it's got sort of tragic associations. Poetic tragic associations, no crabs involved. Clara Allegra Byron was the illegitimate daughter of George Gordon, Lord Byron (her mother was the teenaged stepsister of Mary Shelley) — she died when she was only 5 years old. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow bestowed it upon his legit (ever stop to think how nice it is to be living in a world where DNA testing is, like, a real thing that exists?) daughter Anne Allegra, who did not die after a lifetime of being passed around and neglected but instead was immortalized in his poem "The Children's Hour," as "laughing Allegra." He had two other daughters with lovely names, too — Alice and Edith — and two well-named sons, Charles and Ernest. Score one for Longfellow. Donatella Versace and Buckminster Fuller also have daughters named Allegra, rounding out its artsy-adjacent vibe.
The thing I found interesting about Allegra, though, is that it's on the rise. A super slow rise, an almost-nothing rise, but a rise nonetheless. Despite being linked to an allergy drug, which I usually see listed as a potential drawback when the name's discussed, it's being used more and more frequently. In 2005 there were 48 babies named Allegra born in the US. In 2006, there were 63. In 2007, 84; in 2008, 91; in 2009, 101 and in 2010, there were 114. It may not look like much, but that's a steady riser. Though it's never been a top 1,000 presence, it's doing something, either because of or despite the main pop culture reference being a medication. (Genius move, by the way, whoever pitched that one.)
I still love Allegra like I loved it when I named that poor little crab. It's got a great, musical meaning and a strong, feminine sound. It's recognizable, sounds a little bit exotic, has lots of nickname possibilities and could work on just about any type of girl. It's hard to track for a "comeback" (compared to names like Gloria and Ethel, once-popular choices that were thought of as "too old" until they come back 'round again) because it's never been popular. But it's obviously a hit with artists, and that can sometimes be enough of a boost to get a name going — I wonder where it will stand, 20 years from now.