Well, suffice it to say that we don't actually need to reach the end of 2015 before we know the name of the year is Caitlyn. I thought that the name of the year would be Charlotte (Elizabeth Diana) but boy was I wrong! So the spotlight in celebrity names is now on Caitlyn Jenner and below I present facts about this name's origins and associations with the Jenner family.
According to the much celebrated and cutting edge cover story regarding Caitlyn Jenner in the July issue of Vanity Fair, Caitlyn chose her name over two other top contenders: Heather and Cathy. Caitlyn, meaning pure, is an Irish name. It has been posited that Caitlyn wanted a name that means pure to reflect her new start as a woman. This may especially be true given that one of the other names in top consideration was Cathy, which also means pure. (Heather means from the heather plant.)
Both Caitlyn and Cathy are related to the English name Catherine. Heather is a name with English origins. The fact that these names are connected to the British Isles may be one of the reasons she chose it: Caitlyn's mother, Esther McGuire, has a surname traditionally considered of Irish descent. Although Canadian in birth for generations, the Jenner side of the family has names that are also traditionally from the British Isles. Caitlyn's father was William Hugh Jenner (d. 2000), whose parents were named Hugh Burton Jenner and Bertha Cunningham.
Nay-sayers (I not among them) have said that the name Caitlyn is outdated. Indeed, the Social Security Administration reported that Caitlyn was most popular in 1998 and waned in popularity in the 2000s. However, it is important to note that Caitlyn stayed in the top 200 from 1990 to 2005. Interestingly, of the top three names considered by Caitlyn, one reached its peak in the 1950s (Cathy), one reached its peak in the 1980s (Heather) and one reached its peak in the 1990s (Caitlyn). Therefore, Caitlyn picked the most modern name of the three.
Although Caitlyn is #463 in U.S. popularity according to the Social Security Administration's top baby girl names in 2014, it is #24 among BabyNames.com users. This shows the name remains a top consideration among new and expecting mothers. Also we must look at its modern usage: variation Catelyn was a character on today's hottest t.v. show -- no, not Keeping up with the Kardashians, but Game of Thrones (Catelyn Stark).
The media has speculated that Caitlyn chose to name herself with a C instead of the more popular K because she wants to separate herself from her famous family. I, on the other hand, believe she has chosen a name that starts with a C as an homage to her family. After all, if you say Caitlyn, Kendall and Kylie, there is no difference to the starting consonant sound. However, by using a C, Caitlyn seems to be saying, "I am allied with my family but don't feel I am one of the children." I find this a very healthy outlook on the boundaries between adults and children.
There are many reasons why a person may want to rename him or herself. One is certainly to align with the gender with which one associates. I have also seen other reasons, such as separation from one's nuclear family or identification with something someone treasures. (One such example is someone who named herself Catlin because she liked cats. Fortunately, she did not like ocelots). Regardless of the reason, we have reached generation e(quality), in which our teens and 20-somethings are focused on the equality of their friends and family and even strangers. I, for one, am proud of this generation who instead of a being focused on themselves, are focused on social justice and humanity's basic rights.
So, Caitlyn Jenner, thank you. Thank you for bringing transgender issues to the forefront of public opinion. Thank you for your beauty of your name. And thank you for just being you; we like you, we really do.
Dr. Mallory Moss is a board-certified nurse practitioner in psychiatry and a founding partner of BabyNames.com. Since its launch in 1996, BabyNames.com has been heralded as one of the top parenting sites on the internet. Dr. Moss' passions lay in community-based mental health and destigmatizing mental health diagnoses. Dr. Moss was also the editor of the popular online parenting advice column, "Ask Grandma Maggie."
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