What is your opinion on using names that may be on their way out? I tend to like fairly "normal" names in the top 100, if not the top 50. There has been a name I have liked since the mid-80s, when a friend of a friend had it. The name is Mackenzie. Back then it was really uncommon, barely in the top 500. It slowly saw a rise in popularity and peaked in 2001, and is now slowly becoming less popular (but still safely in the top 100). I still love this name and it is one of my top baby names for a girl.
I don't care all that much about how trendy a name is, I just care if I like it. But for some reason it bothers me that I would be using this name 10+ years after it was "in." Like naming a baby girl "Jennifer" even though she was born in 1995. I also think part of the problem is that Mackenzie seems more popular than it is or ever was...maybe because of the upswing of Kinley/Kenzie/McNames?
What do you think? It's one of the only girl names my fiance and I agree on...and even though I love LOVE it, I have a slight bit of hesitation due to it seeming like it's past its prime.
As a name hobbyist, I definitely notice myself reacting in the way you describe: I'll hear of a baby born in 2011 named, say, Madison and I DO catch myself BRIEFLY having a reaction that could be transcribed as "Really??" Which is an obnoxious reaction for me to have, for two reasons:
1. Because the name Madison is still in the Top Ten, so I should not be/act surprised that I would still be encountering them regularly---especially considering my DEEPLY-FELT baby-naming philosophy that The Top 10 is Not the Kiss of Death. I PUSH people not to rule out names just because of popularity; I feel STRONGLY that it's an issue that should be considered but shouldn't be some sort of arbitrary deal-breaker ("It's our favorite name in the whole world AND it's my beloved grandmother's name AND my grandmother passed away on the day the baby was born---but we can't use it because we're not using any name in the Top 100 and it's #96!").
2. Because that reaction is totally obnoxious in EVERY situation where a person who is a hobbyist acts all disdainful of other people's choices. I HATE when someone who likes fashion is all, "NOBODY is wearing that style anymore" or "MOM JEANS." I HATE when a celebrity magazine mocks a celebrity for re-wearing an outfit. I HATE when someone makes a scoffy sound because someone has the point-three version of an electronic device instead of the point-four version. I hate when ANYONE acts as if only the NEWEST COOLEST FRESHEST has any merit at all---and it only counts as "newest/coolest/freshest" if no one else has discovered it yet. I remember seeing some program on how colors are chosen for each new season of clothes/make-up, and one of the nasty design people said something like, "By the time you know it's in style, it's NOT anymore" and I thought, "Oh yes? Well then, screw that game." And normally I am much more of a lady with my language.
I think the newest/coolest/freshest is particularly damaging in the world of baby names, where, unlike a pair of shoes you can donate and replace, a child's name is permanent. We get so many emails here saying things like "Our first child's name was UNHEARD OF when WE used it, but now it's EVERYWHERE"---with the implication that other people ruined the name by using it, and so now the parents are unhappy with it, even though they used to love it.
No. No no no. Names should not be chosen with the "By the time you know it's in style, it's NOT anymore" method. Names can be chosen in many ways and for many reasons, but that one is sheer folly---not only because a child's name is not this season's fashion accessory nor a way to make the users seem cooler than other people, but also because it WILL NOT WORK. If a name is going to elicit a positive/admiring reaction from hearers, it will also be USED BY OTHERS. Soon it will be last-season's purse, and there is nothing that can be done to prevent that. I seem to have drifted far from your question, but I'm coming back to it now: even if you switch to something more cutting-edge than Mackenzie so that the Name Freshness Police will not react to it negatively, THAT NAME TOO will drift from usage and will elicit the "Huh. Another _____" response. There is no winning the freshness game, which is why it's such a high-profit industry.
If, however, the freshness-date thing continues to bother you, there are a few things worth trying. This is one of the reasons I like The Baby Name Wizard so much: by sorting names into categories, she gives us an easy way to find names that are similar to the names we like---but with changes such as "but more common" or "but starting with a vowel" or whatever it is we're shooting for. Looking up Mackenzie, I see she has it in the Last Names First, Androgynous, and Celtic categories, so that gives a starting place for looking for names you might find you like just as well. Kerensa? Madigan? Fiona? Catriona? Tierney? Finola? Delaney? Ellery? Emerson? Mckinley? Padgett? Kimberlin? Waverly? Berkeley? Kennedy? Hillary? Evanie? Paisley? Brinley?
But I think it's more likely that you would look at names in the same style categories and think, "Well, I DO like some of those---but not as MUCH." In which case, it boils down to deciding how important the issue is for you. Some names fall (for all sorts of different reasons) on the "I'm heartbroken I can't use it!" side of the line, and those names can make good middle names: you still get to use it, but you don't have to worry about other people's reactions to it. Other names fall on the "I'm disappointed about this aspect of the name, but my love of the name trumps it" side of the line. Most names have SOME downside (duplicating an initial, too common/uncommon, it's the other parent's second choice instead of first choice, it's similar to a pet's name, it's the name of a disliked former classmate, it's biblical/non-biblical and we wanted non-biblical/biblical, a friend just used a similar name for her daughter, it's a bit of a style mismatch with another child's name, the rhythm isn't great with our surname, it makes initials that spell something innocuous but we'd rather the initials not spell anything---the list goes on forever) and yet we use the name anyway because even with its flaw it's better than all the other names.
To me, the name Mackenzie seems like a good candidate for ignoring a flaw. It started climbing up the ranks back in the 1980s, continued to climb in the 1990s---but then instead of taking either the "all the way to the Top Ten" fork or the "dropping back down rapidly" fork, it seems to be hovering pleasantly in the 40s-70s: nicely common, but not EVERYWHERE. And names such as Kenzie and Kinsley and Ainsley and Max keep the sounds sounding current. It reminds me of names such as Mikayla and Brianna and Bailey and Morgan: they've lost that smack of NEW! FRESH! DIFFERENT!---but they've taken off their coats and hats and seem to have settled in for a nice long visit. And if your tastes are like mine, you may be hoping to AVOID that new/fresh/different sound ANYWAY---knowing as we do how unlikely it is to be an enduring feature of the name.
On the other hand, one of my children has a name that had a path similar to Mackenzie's: when we used it, it had been quite popular for two decades and was finally drifting down in the ranks. But then instead of continuing to hover there, it has taken several LARGE steps down---and we've gotten the occasional reaction to the name that tells us we used it past its freshness date. It DOES bother me a little. Not a lot, but a little. It's not that I want to change his name (as with most names, it now seems to us it's The Only Name He Could Possibly Be), but I do wish it didn't have that one flaw. On the other hand, I feel like we were prepared for that when we used it, which makes a huge difference: I think it's only the people who go into such a thing unaware who are severely disappointed. You DO know about it, so if you choose to go ahead with it anyway, I'd predict that you'd have similar feelings to mine: still occasionally feeling a little disappointed that the name was past its peak when we used it, but loving the name anyway and not feeling like the issue is a HUGE issue.