BOSTON — SO friends of yours are having a baby. Soon little Dylan and Caitlan will have a brother or sister. You can't wait to hear what hip name of the '90s they'll come up with for this child.
Then it's announced: Felix for a boy and Frances for a girl. Unbelievable! What has happened to your cutting-edge friends?
The fact is, they're still way ahead. Gone are the 1980s, and their upwardly-mobile, ``yuppie'' names like Lindsay and Morgan, says Pamela Satran, co-author of ``Beyond Jennifer & Jason,'' an ``enlightened'' guide to naming babies in the 1990s. Parents are searching their family trees, looking for names with history and depth, she says. In other words, names that are traditional or classic are now fashionable. ``In the '90s, there's more of a feeling of looking for meaning,'' says Ms. Satran, who has three young children of her own. ``There is a less pretentious take on life.''
Some of the hottest names today are what Satran calls the ``Volvo'' names - solid, dependable, trend resistant, ``chic of the reverse kind.'' The most popular of these are Caroline, Charlotte, and Claire for girls; Henry, Jack, and Thomas for boys.
``What makes a name stylish is what makes anything stylish,'' Satran says. ``It has to do with commonality of value.'' Style can be taken too far, however. Satran's book includes a chapter on names that are So Far In They're Out. Parents should beware of trendiness in choosing these names.
On the other side of the coin are names that are so far out, they're in. Satran calls these the ``Edna'' names. ``I think these Edna names are most likely to come back in,'' she says. ``It seems strange, but at the turn of the 20th century, a lot of these names were at the height of fashion.'' They include Flora, Hazel, Leonora, Harriet, Calvin, Dexter, Gilbert, and Hugo.
The number of names in general use has stayed relatively stable, says Leslie Dunkling, author of ``The Guinness Book of Names'' and founder of the British-based Names Society. About 100 boys' names and 125 girls' names account for approximately 90 percent of all the names given in one year among the white population, he says.
At Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, the most popular names for 1993 were Michael for a boy and Ashley for a girl, says spokeswoman Susan Berg.
Popular culture, too, always influences parents' choice of names. ``Novels, movies, and celebrities put names into the public arena and into the consciousness of parents,'' Mr. Dunkling says. Celebrities ``mirror society, and then society mirrors them back,'' Satran adds.
One of the most popular new trends is naming a child after a place that is significant to the parents. Nurseries may soon be filled with Africas, Chelseas, Indias, and Savannahs.
``We thought about what we would name the baby every day I was pregnant,'' says Michele Waldie, who lives in Washington with her son John (Jake) Killian and a newborn daughter named Mary Katherine. ``We weren't concerned about what would be stylish in the future - we just wanted something that sounded strong. We chose two simple, old-fashioned names.
Religion played a major role when Nancy and Peter Gould were thinking about a name for their son, Samuel Louis, who is just over a year old. ``In the Jewish religion, you name babies after someone who has died to carry on the memory,'' says Mrs. Gould, who lives with her family in Wilmington, Mass. The couple used the first initials of two of their grandfathers.
Although she never considered naming Sam after a place, she says she has friends who did. Their last name is Park, and when their son Solomon was born, they came close to giving him a middle name that holds a lot of meaning for them - Fenway. In the end, they couldn't do it. But they still went the fashionable route: They chose an old, religious family name.