Old-Fashioned Names: Fern

by mc


Vintage photograph of a woman named "Fern."

Fern Steinbock, 1920s

Old photos often have the name of the subject(s) jotted down on the back or, sometimes – as here – the front, and those names can be just great. I have one somewhere (I’d have to find it or I would have posted it along with this shot) of four people posing, all identified on the rear and all bearing absolutely classic old-fashioned names. Not a single “David” or “Susan” or “Michael” or anything remotely like that among the lot.

“Fern” is definitely one of those names that has a classic ring to it. One site ranking the popularity of baby names says that its last year in the top 1000 names was 1961, but that it peaked in 1916, when it was number 152. I did come across a current Fern, however, and her account was kind of worth passing on, I thought. I like her spirit.

“Hey, my name is Fern, and at 16 years of age, I’ve only met one other Fern in my lifetime, and she was an 80 year old friend of my grandmothers. I’ve actually grown to like the name, but personally, if I was a mother, I’d go with something a little more conventional. Fern automatically singled me out from other kids, and there were some less-than-sweet children who made their opinions of my name known in elementary and middle school. I’ve actually found it easier to go by my middle name…

As you get older though, the teasing seems to die down.
Ugh, Charlotte’s Web comments were among the most resented! I can’t say how many clever boys and girls asked me ‘Hey, Fern, where’s Wilbur?’
But, in all the name has become almost a positive thing.”