May 8, 2009

Your Baby Name's As Unique As Everyone Else's


Looks like someone at Wired just discovered Baby Name Wizard. There are two articles this week featuring sociologists talking about baby naming trends. But none of the explanations and blanket analysis is as persuasive as seeing the raw data. Check out the hundred-year cycles of names beginning with vowels to names beginning with hard consonants, for example, all you parents of Emmas, Ethans, and Olivias. And then take a gander at 20-year heyday for Tricia, which spiked in the US in the mid-1960s.


If there's anything to glean from the articles, it's the double-edged sword of uniqueness. On the one hand, I don't think people doing their shopping in the Social Security Administration's annual top 100--i.e., at the baby name equivalent of the Gap--are all that concerned with uniqueness; they want a nice-sounding name they like.

And on the other, there's the extrapolation fallacy that any one person--a uniqueness-obsessed mom-to-be writing for Wired, for example, who says, "Now that everyone relentlessly Googles baby names, parents have no excuse if they saddle their kids with the most popular names."--is representative of the entire population. Because I don't believe everyone does Google baby names relentlessly, any more than "everyone" scours genealogy records for an ancestor they know nothing about, except that he has a nice-sounding name.

Why Your Baby's Name Will Sound Like Everyone Else's [wired]
Baby Names Quantify the Faddishness of Fads [wired]


Yes, there are definitely perfectly Internet savvy people who don't troll Google. They don't know names like - Daniel - are popular. Daniel. A book in both Jewish and Christian holy books. Daniel.

Nope, didn't see that one coming. True story.

Nothing like having a bun in the oven to open your eyes to "new" trends worthy of ink. Them Ouef cribs don't buy themselves y'know. Mama needs column inches!

...and then there are the internet-obsessed, google-savvy parents like us who named our son "Jacob" anyway, for family and traditional reasons. Next, we gave him a hipster nickname ending in "x", to make sure we'd be criticized by both sides of the name debate. Gotta cover all bases.

Our daughter's name was around 320th most popular (not a bad place to be - rare but not unheard of) when she was born but I see it's jumped up to around 230th right now; that's sort of what I was shooting for anyway as it's kind of like my own name... Cameron was rare in the early 70s but jumped after that.

Not sure what we'll do for the next kid; I'm fresh out of ideas that work in English and Japanese and are also unique. (The problem with running with a similarly mixed culture crowd is that invariably a few families have the same great idea at the same time and you end up with a bunch of identical names in the second-language preschool class)

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