Thursday, December 13, 2007

Stop killing my names!

Every name I've really loved has gotten popular by some way or another lately. Violet-- thanks, Ben Affleck & Jennifer Garner and Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters for naming your kids that. Now it's probably going to skyrocket in popularity. In fact, it's already started-- it went from #362 to #271 between 2005 and 2006. OK, forget Violet-- it sounds kind of like "Violent" and even though it's my favorite flower, it still leads to the awful nickname of "Vi."

Today I was reading a bunch of movie reviews in Rolling Stone, and every single movie had a character name that's on my Special Reserve Names list: Cecilia, Bryony, and JUNO. Yes, Juno. What's going on? Why has the movie industry tapped into my brain? I mean Juno. It's not like my favorite name on earth is Katelyn or Mary or something. I thought Juno was pretty way out in left-field.

I understand that Victorian names are entering a cycle of popularity, so forget favorites like Ruby and Daisy. I can't say that I thought of Ella and Lola first-- they're just cycling back into favor. Poppy and Phoebe are all the rage in England now, so it won't be long before they hit U.S. shores. But Juno?!? Let's hope people don't see the movie and automatically go out and name their kids that!

Monday, December 03, 2007

More on African American names...

from ABC news

Can a 'Black' Name Affect Job Prospects?

Can a Black-Sounding Name Hurt Your Career Prospects?

So 20/20 asked the six to participate in an experiment.

20/20 put 22 pairs of names to the test — the six skeptics included.

Each person posted two résumés on popular job-search Web sites — one under his or her real name, and the same identical résumé under a made-up, "white-sounding" names like Peter, Melissa and Kathleen.

You'd think the identical résumés would get the same attention. Instead, the résumés with the white-sounding names on them were actually downloaded 17 percent more often by job recruiters looking for candidates.

"You really never know why you don't get called back for that interview. I thought it was because of my job skills, or my résumé wasn't appropriate, but I never thought it was because of my name," Carita said.

She was shocked by the calls from potential employers — not to her, but to her fictitious white counterpart. "I was just blown away that Kathleen got phone calls for three of the four weeks of the study, and I didn't get any. And Kathleen does not exist," she said.

Arsenetta also was envious of her fictitious white alter ego, Kimberly.

"They were calling her morning, noon and night," she said. "I was standing there looking at my phone going, 'God, I want to answer that phone call and tell the man I'm interested in this job!' "

Ebony felt frustrated that companies were quick to stereotype her by name. "Once they get to know me, they say, 'Oh, you know, she is Ebony but she's not that militant one or she's not that rowdy little girl or she's not the ignorant one. She's very smart and very capable of doing this job,' " she said.

What kind of companies were responsible? Our independent research found biased responses from employment agencies, law firms and even large financial corporations.

But capable doesn't always matter. A job recruiter for Fortune 500 companies in northern California revealed an ugly secret.

"There is rampant racism everywhere. And people who deny that are being naïve," said the recruiter, who spoke on the condition her name would not be used.

The recruiter said if she were given two résumés, all else being equal, except one says Shaniqua, and the other says Jennifer, she would call Jennifer first.

It's a choice she says she was trained to make: When representing certain companies, do not send black candidates. And on a résumé, a name may be the only cue of the applicant's race.

"I think that the way that I had been taught and what has helped me to succeed in the industry is unfair," she said.

It's also racist, and, quite possibly, illegal.

That's why author Shelby Steele feels African-Americans must think long and hard before giving their children unusual or "black-sounding" names.

"It's a naïveté on the part of black parents," Steele said, "to name their children names that are so conspicuously different than American mainstream names. … It suggests to people outside that community who hear those names a certain alienation. Certain hostility."

Steele, a researcher specializing in race relations and author of A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America, is essentially telling black folks, don't name your child Deshawn or Loquesha.

"Yes. … I'm saying don't name your son Latrelle. Don't do that. … He's going to live 50, 60 years in the future. Give him a break. You know, call him Edward."

Challenge the Bias, Not the Names

But sociologist Bertice Berry says there are prominent African-Americans who've overcome the stigma of a black-sounding name, including top presidential adviser Condoleezza Rice.

"We've learned to say Condoleezza. And you just can't get more ghetto than Condoleezza," Berry said.

Opera diva Leontine Pryce also overcame any stigma attached to her name.

"We hear Leontine and you think opera," Berry said, "… When they're associated with power and wealth we learn them." Berry says what needs to change is society, not black names.

But the bias against those names, it seems, starts very early. University of Pittsburgh Vice Provost Jack Daniel studied 4- and 5-year-old children and found racist perceptions were deeply ingrained at an early age.

White children had a tendency to associate negative traits with black names, according to Daniel. "Your name can hurt you," Daniel said, "but you've got to change the people who hurt you because of your name.'

So, Daniel and his wife, Jeri, rejected white-sounding names for their own children. They chose African names — Omari and Marijata. "We thought that it was really important that the assimilation process not dissolve who we were as a people," Jeri Daniel said.

The Daniels' children carried on the tradition, naming their children Amani, Akili, Deven and Javon. They see the names as a source of pride.

But some of today's black-sounding names are more about conspicuous consumption than tradition. There is a trend to name children after luxury goods, like Moet, Lexus, even Toyota.

Steele said that trend "suggests real cultural deprivation. And it's heartbreaking to hear it."

Berry feels that "There's a responsibility, when anybody names a child, to name them something that means something." But she added, "I don't think we need to tell people, 'Don't name them that, because I don't like the way it sounds.' "

Unhappy with her own name and her experience in the job market, Tiqua Gator named her son Derek to help him get by in white America. "If I was to have any more children, it wouldn't be any Tiquas or it wouldn't be any Tamikas or Aishas. It would be something common," she said. "I wouldn't want my child to go through the same thing that I've went through."

There's Something About a Name...

A new psychological study probed why some names seem to fit certain facial types.

Psychologists Probe Why Some Names Seem to Fit Certain Facial Types

Robin Thomas said she had two young women in a psychology course she taught. One was named Kristen, the other Heather.

"And I had that hardest time remembering which was which," she said. "I mentioned it to them at the end of the term, and they said, 'All our friends have the same problem.'"

Thomas, a psychology professor at Miami University in Ohio, began to wonder. One woman was a tall blonde; the other was a shorter brunette. Perhaps somewhere in her mind, something determined what someone named Kristen or Heather ought to look like -- and these two students broke the mental mold.

A Rose by Any Other Name

So Thomas and three colleagues -- Melissa Lea, Nathan Lamkin and Aaron Bell -- devised a series of experiments to test people's preconceived notions of names.

In one, they gave volunteers a series of common male names (Bob, Bill, Tom, etc.) and asked people to create pictures of what someone with one of those names ought to look like.

In another test, they showed their volunteers pictures of two men -- one with a round face, the other with a thinner, longer face -- and asked them to decide which was "Bob" and which was "Tim."

You can try the quiz HERE.

The results they report were remarkably consistent. A "Bill" had a certain look to people, and it was different from a "Mark."

And Thomas said she found the stereotypes useful. If a guy was named Joe -- and somehow looked the part -- then it was easier to remember him.

"The better the fit," she said, "the faster you were at learning the names."

Thomas and her colleagues have written an academic paper on their findings, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. To rule out factors such as gender and ethnic origins, they restricted their experiments to names common among white males in Ohio, where they recruited the volunteers for the study.

In their paper, the researchers wrote, "Few worry about whether the name will provoke a facial stereotype in the minds of others (hmmm … he doesn't look like a 'Bob'), but, as the present research suggests, this may be yet another potential worry to have when one selects a name for one's progeny."

But why should any of this be? For now, that remains a mystery, but psychologists have several theories.

It may be, for instance, that people make associations between names and the faces of famous people who have those names. If you hear the name "Tom," you may automatically think of Tom Cruise.

But that doesn't hold up when one considers how many different-looking people have names Thomas' team tested. When you hear "George," what face comes to mind first? George Washington? George W. Bush? George Clooney? They don't exactly look alike.

Thomas' favorite theory, one that she hopes to test in future experiments, is that deep inside the brain, certain sounds automatically bring certain visual connotations to mind.

"We suspect that the sound of a name carries over into the visual," she said.

She points us back to the Bob-vs.-Tim experiment in which people overwhelmingly decided that someone named "Bob" had to have a round face.

"Listen to yourself as you make the sounds, and the way you shape your mouth," she said. "Perhaps 'Bob' is a round-sounding name and 'Tim' is a thin-sounding name."

It may well be that certain names really do have a connection to certain types of faces; after all, some names do carry in families. But Thomas said she doesn't explain the stereotyping we automatically make.

"I'd be really spooked if all the Bobs in the world really were round-faced."

Is this decision 4Real?

From ABC News:

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow named her baby after a fruit, Apple. Comedian Penn Jillette chose Moxie Crimefighter for his spunky daughter.

And while unusual names may be a Hollywood staple, some believe it may cross the line in the real world.

One New Zealand judge even blocked one family from using the name it chose. The judge said the name was unfair to the child.

"Initially, the reaction is, 'Are you for real?'" said Pat Wheaton, the New Zealand father who was blocked from naming his son 4Real.

Wheaton said the idea for the name came when the couple saw the first scan of the child.

"We started thinking 'Jeez, he is for real?'" Wheaton said.

The couple's idea came naturally, but many parents are feeling the pressure to be different.

Baby naming is big business today. Some parents are turning to professional consultants, computer programs, polls and even numerologists to achieve the perfect moniker for their bundle of joy.

"Parents think that if they give their child a unique and special name, the child will become unique and special," said Bruce Lansky, author of "100,000 Baby Names."

Nevaeh, which heaven spelled backwards, has become one of the world's most popular names. But others don't always pass the societal test.

Two boys, one in Michigan and the other in Texas, bear the name ESPN. They were named after the sports network.

In some countries, names are illegal -- like Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden in Germany.

And French parents must choose from an approved list. The laws are designed to prevent teasing.

In America, almost anything goes.

"You can't use a four letter word that I wouldn't use in this interview anyway, and other than that you're free to do what you want," said New York University Sociology Department Chairman Dalton Conley. "That's part of the first amendment right to free speech here in America."

Only as the children grow up will people learn if these interesting names will be the source of ridicule.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Alas, no baby "@" for Chinese couple!

From Yahoo News:

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese couple tried to name their baby "@", claiming the character used in e-mail addresses echoed their love for the child, an official trying to whip the national language into line said on Thursday.

The unusual name stands out especially in Chinese, which has no alphabet and instead uses tens of thousands of multi-stroke characters to represent words.

"The whole world uses it to write e-mail, and translated into Chinese it means 'love him'," the father explained, according to the deputy chief of the State Language Commission Li Yuming.

While the "@" simple is familiar to Chinese e-mail users, they often use the English word "at" to sound it out -- which with a drawn out "T" sounds something like "ai ta", or "love him", to Mandarin speakers.

Li told a news conference on the state of the language that the name was an extreme example of people's increasingly adventurous approach to Chinese, as commercialisation and the Internet break down conventions.

Another couple tried to give their child a name that rendered into English sounds like "King Osrina."

Li did not say if officials accepted the "@" name. But earlier this year the government announced a ban on names using Arabic numerals, foreign languages and symbols that do not belong to Chinese minority languages.

Sixty million Chinese faced the problem that their names use ancient characters so obscure that computers cannot recognise them and even fluent speakers were left scratching their heads, said Li, according to a transcript of the briefing on the government Web site (

One of them was the former Premier Zhu Rongji, whose name had a rare "rong" character that gave newspaper editors headaches.

Friday, August 03, 2007

17 kids whose names start with J...

And only on #17 did they use Jennifer. That's what impresses me the most!

Arkansas couple welcomes 17th child

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - It's a girl — again — for the Duggars. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar welcomed their 17th child, and seventh daughter, into the world Thursday.

Jennifer Danielle was born at 10:01 a.m. at Saint Mary's Hospital in Rogers, Ark., the Duggars said in an interview. Jennifer weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces and arrived five days after Michelle's due date.

Less than 30 minutes after giving birth, the Duggars already were talking of having more.

"We'd love to have more," Michelle said, adding that the girls are outnumbered seven to 10 in the family. "We love the ruffles and lace."

Jennifer joins the fast-growing Duggar brood, who live in Tontitown in a 7,000-square-foot home. All the children — whose names start with the letter J — are home-schooled.

The oldest is 19 and the youngest, before Jennifer, is almost 2 years old.

"We are just so grateful to God for another gift from him," said Jim Bob Duggar, 42, a former state representative. "We are just so thankful to him that everything went just very well."

Jennifer joins siblings Joshua, 19; John David, 17; Janna, 17; Jill, 16; Jessa, 14; Jinger, 13; Joseph, 12; Josiah, 11; Joy-Anna, 9; Jedidiah, 8; Jeremiah, 8; Jason 7; James 6; Justin, 4; Jackson, 3; Johannah, almost 2.

The family includes two sets of twins.

Michelle Duggar said that Joshua, Janna, Jill and Jessa were at the hospital, but that the rest of the family planned to visit their new sister later Thursday.

Michelle Duggar said she started feeling contractions Wednesday night and went to the hospital at about 5 a.m. Thursday.

"It actually went fast," she said. "I guess once I started progressing, it went within 30 minutes."

Jennifer was born via a VBAC — or vaginal birth after Caesarean, Jim Bob Duggar said.

The Duggars have been featured on several programs on cable's Discovery Health Network. The next special, the Duggar Family Album, is scheduled to air next month, Jim Bob Duggar said.

Among the "fun facts" listed on Discovery Health's Web page devoted to the Duggars: A baby has been born in every month except June; the Duggars have gone through an estimated 90,000 diapers, and Michelle, 40, has been pregnant for 126 months — or 10.5 years — of her life.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Italian Surnames

Some Italian surnames can mean strange and/or funny things. Check it out:

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Who's a good boy? DAVE! Yes you are!

Here's an article about the correlation between the most popular dog names and baby names in NYC and Britain.

While we're on the subject, why *do* some names just work well for dogs, and others don't? I remember when my sister was pregnant with her first kid, she wanted to name him "Zeke," but everyone said that was a "dog name."

Then I met a dude with a large, smelly bulldog named Sarah. That was just weird. I mean, Sarah. I know about 50,000 girls named Sarah. Would you name a dog Dave? Maybe a cat. My stepfather had 12 cats and 5 dogs when my mom met him--he had named them all after his (now ex-) in-laws. Thus I would let Emily, Judy, and... i can't remember the rest of the dogs' names out at night when I house-sat, and made sure that Dave and Tim didn't scratch the couch, while Bob and Nancy sat on my lap... We actually inherited Bob and Dave. I couldn't call them Bob and Dave; they weren't Cat-like enough for me. I tried Robert, Roberto, and finally Robert pronounced the French way. Dave was Monsieur David... I don't know why French names seem better on cats to me... Anyway, I find it really strange to call animals by the same names as people that I know.

What was the point of all this? Oh yeah, pets and people names. Maybe we should start naming children Fluffy, Whiskers and Patches to even the score. Or, since most babies aren't fluffy and don't have whiskers, Baldy, Ears and Screamer?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Aiden is #1!

I just re-did the SSA's top baby names by spelling. This year Aiden (the most common spelling) supplants Jacob (although it means "the supplanter")! Aiden has 9 different spellings, which, taken separately, didn't even crack the SSA's Top 20 Names for 2006. Jacob has been in the top spot since 1999, so de-throning this name was no easy task!

Here's what the SSA got vs. what I got for dudes, spellings grouped separately:
Rank SSA top 25 my top 25
1 Jacob (24418) Aiden (11430), Aidan (9888), Ayden (3551), Aden (1382), Adan (1087), Aydan (424), , Aydin (288), Aedan (272), Aidyn (206)
2 Michael (22220) Jacob (24418), Jakob (1143)
3 Joshua (21875) Michael (22220), Micheal (674), Mikel (184)
4 Ethan (20254) Joshua (21875)
5 Matthew (19991) Matthew (19991), Mathew (1001)
6 Daniel (19652) Ethan (20254), Ethen (192)
7 Christopher (19439) Christopher (19439), Cristopher (511), Cristofer (249)
8 Andrew (19425) Nicholas (15414), Nicolas (2888), Nickolas (918), Nikolas (772)
9 Anthony (19101) Daniel (19652)
10 William (18645) Andrew (19425)
11 Joseph (18037) Anthony (19101), Antony (245)
12 Alexander (17940) William (18645)
13 David (17248) Alexander (17940), Alexzander (380)
14 Ryan (16219) Jayden (9469), Jaden (4863), Jaiden (1711), Jadon (744), Jaydon (680), Jaeden (336), Jadyn (274), Jaydin (187)
15 Noah (16088) Joseph (18037)
16 James (15945) Jonathan (14110), Johnathan (2262), Jonathon (786), Johnathon (460)
17 Nicholas (15414) David (17248)
18 Tyler (15285) Christian (14210), Cristian (2989)
19 Logan (14974) Ryan (16219), Rayan (182)
20 John (14924) Noah (16088)
21 Christian (14210) James (15945)
22 Jonathan (14110) Caden (4708), Kaden (4681),Cayden (1738), Kayden (1546), Kaiden (1391),Caiden (1021), Kadin (361), Kaeden (280), Kadyn (202)
23 Nathan (14031) Tyler (15285)
24 Benjamin (13524) Logan (14974)
25 Samuel (13372) John (14924)

Without the help of the variant spellings, notice that the -aden brothers (Aidan, Jayden and Caden) don't make the top 25 at all!

Here's the comparison for chix:

rank SSA top 25 NameNerds Top 25

Emily (21118) Emily (21118), Emilee (850), Emilie (622), Emmalee (406), Emely (1052)
2 Emma (18838) Madison (18395), Maddison (782), Madisyn (760), Madyson (769)
3 Madison (18395) Isabella (17954), Isabela (664), Izabella (1112)
4 Isabella (17954) Emma (18838)
5 Ava (16741) Sophia (13313), Sofia (5008)
6 Abigail (15429) Hailey (8330), Haley (4230), Haylee (1362), Hailee (683), Haleigh (479), Hailie (356), Halie (275)
7 Olivia (15244) Caitlyn (1738), Caitlin (1636), Kaitlyn (5991), Kaitlin (940), Kaitlynn (566), Katelyn (4830) Katelynn (1201 ), Katlyn (343)
8 Hannah (14294) Abigail (15429), Abbigail (623), Abigayle (348), Abigale (295), Abagail (293)
9 Sophia (13313) Ava (16741)
10 Samantha (12316) Olivia (15244), Alivia (1304)
11 Elizabeth (12193) Hannah (14294), Hanna (1202), Hana (390)
12 Ashley (12172) Brianna (9224), Briana (2750), Breanna (2724), Breana (314), Bryanna (733)
13 Mia (11851) Sarah (10910), Sara (4314)
14 Alexis (11078) Ashley (12172), Ashlee (958), Ashleigh (405), Ashly (346)
15 Sarah (10910) Jasmine (7391), Jasmin (1915), Jasmyn (280), Jazmin (2204), Jazmine (1507), Jazmyn (462)
16 Natalie (10791) Natalie (10791), Natalee (601), Nataly (795), Nathalie (546), Nathaly (346)
17 Grace (10780) Mia (11851), Miah (352), Miya (266)
18 Chloe (10249) Kaylee (5924), Kailey (1264), Kayleigh (1214), Kaylie (1,181), Kaleigh (628), Kali (537), Kailee (494), Kaley (420), Kayley (379), Kayli (296)
19 Alyssa (10039) Samantha (12316)
20 Brianna (9224) Elizabeth (12193)
21 Ella (9080) Alyssa (10039), Alissa (844), Alisa (295), Elisa (536)
22 Taylor (8480) Alexis (11078), Alexus (533)
23 Anna (8442) Katherine (6197), Katharine (288), Kathryn (2364), Catherine (2749)
24 Lauren (8387) Anna (8442), Ana (2377)
25 Hailey (8330) Madeline (4426), Madelyn (2916), Madelynn (527), Madeleine (962), Madalyn (906), Madalynn (339) Madilyn (719 )

Katherine has long been divided between the C and K spellings. When you count them all, it makes the top 25, along with Caitlin et. al. Basically, there will be a lot more little Katies out there than you would think! Also, Madeline, Jasmine and Kayley break into the top 25 when you list all spellings.

* I know most people would pronounce Alyssa and Elisa differently, however, I know an Alisa who is pronounced like /a LISS a/ and an Alyssa who is pronounced like "Lisa" with an "a" on the front, so that's why I group them together.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Name Popularity

This article from the Chicago Tribune:

Sorry, Gert, not your year again

Will Vivian go va-va-voom? Is Olivia over? Had enough Jacobs? Parents-to-be look to 'namerologists' for the next hot monikers

By Bonnie Miller Rubin
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 19, 2007

When the Social Security Administration announces its ranking of the top 1,000 names for baby boys and girls just before Mother's Day, Laura Wattenberg rolls up her sleeves and goes to work.

A mother of two from suburban Boston, Wattenberg is a self-confessed name geek who wants to know more than just whether Emily and Jacob are No. 1 for the umpteenth time.

Will Olivia go the way of Tiffany, which sank without a bubble after a brief period of glory in the mid-'80s? Has the Aiden/Kaden/Jaden cycle peaked, destined to be the naming equivalent of shag carpeting?

Are old-sounding names like Isabella, Ava and Sophia -- all in this year's top 10 -- running out of steam, poised to be replaced by "new" old names, such as Ethel, Lois and Blanche?

"It's an exercise in fashion, values and fortune-telling," said Wattenberg, 37, who spends weeks entering the new name information into her master database. "Eighty years from now, the names we choose will be the sound of a generation, the stamp of an era."

The annual list was the brainchild of a Social Security actuary who hoped to bring more citizens to the agency's Web site. It has fueled a mini-industry that some dub "namerology," though the academic term is onomatology or onomastics.

Like analysts studying the market in search of the next sizzling stock, "namies" scrutinize the rankings and thrive on the thrill of discovering the next big thing or stumbling upon an amusing oddity. (This year, No. 152 for girls is Lucy; for boys, it's Ricardo.)

The interest goes far beyond expectant parents. The "Today" show even arranged for a live unveiling of this year's list by the Social Security commissioner, a first since the list debuted in 1997.

What particularly intrigues people like Wattenberg is what causes some names to heat up and then just as inexplicably to cool off. Why should a relic like Grace, all the rage in the early 1900s, suddenly be dusted off for the 21st Century?

Generation gap

Cleveland Evans, a psychology professor at Bellevue University, said girls' names often go through a 100-year cycle. (Boys' names, while also subject to fads, tend to be more stable over time.) Parents tend to avoid the names from the generation of their grandparents or great-grandparents because they bring "gray hair and wrinkles" to mind, Evans said.

But when that generation is no longer around, suddenly the names sound dewy fresh to parents -- sometimes puzzling their older relatives who find the names more suited to a nursing home. The cycling may explain the current fondness for Sophia and Emma, which last had a heyday in the 19th Century. It also may be why Sadie (now at 157) and Vivian (223) may be ready for stardom.

It's still too soon for a chestnut like Betty, however. The name, which crested in the 1930s, still conjures up an apron-wearing, cookie-baking image. But in another 20 years, pre-schools could be filled with a whole new batch of Bettys -- and the Debbies, Barbaras and Nancys will be right behind them.

Many of today's parents find that as hard as they try to choose a unique name, they fail.

Jennifer Thanos of Roselle was born smack in the middle of a Jennifer explosion in 1973, which included two of her close friends. "We just called each other by our last names -- and still do, even though we're all married," said Thanos, a hospital development director.

Her stepmother, now in her mid-50s, endured the same problem. With five Lindas in her 5th-grade class, circa 1961, the teacher arbitrarily chose one girl to retain her Linda-ness and forced the others to go by their middle names. For an entire year, she glumly answered to Patti.

Thanos was determined it would be different with her daughter. Torn between Ava and Mia, she obsessively checked Web sites to make sure the names weren't overexposed. When a maternity nurse said she had witnessed a recent Mia mania, that sealed the deal.

Now Ava is 2 years old -- and her name is No. 5 on the popularity list.

"Ava has had this meteoric rise, which really makes me cringe," Thanos lamented.

Stanley Lieberson, a Harvard University sociologist and author of "A Matter of Taste: How Names, Fashions and Culture Change," said the recycling of names is accelerating. Reasons include the migration from rural areas to cities, because a feeling of anonymity can drive a desire for uniqueness.

Ethnic influence

The increasingly diverse American society plays a role also, as race and ethnicity strongly affect naming patterns. (The top 100 boys' names include Diego, Juan, Angel, Jesus, Miguel and Alejandro.)

Although names are often influenced by pop culture, Stephanie Thompson insists the Maddox bandwagon currently rolling through her Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn has nothing to do with Angela Jolie's little boy. (The name has surged by 1,000 percent in the last three years).

"Most people I know just like the way it sounds," said the marketing writer. "You hear it -- and then it just lodges in your brain and stays there."

When her own son was born in 2004, she chose Oscar, a name that has risen to No. 118. While friends immediately embraced it, her parents laughed. One of her mother's friends even asked: "How could you do that to a small child?"

Thompson, 36, knew Oscar was old-fashioned, but because the playgrounds weren't teeming with them, she came to the name with no perceptions, positive or negative. "It just seemed new."

Of course, just because a name is antique doesn't mean it will stage a comeback. Gertrude, for example, is old but has remained on the shelf.

"Too many consonants packed together," Evans said, noting today's preferences for the lilting final "ah" sound found in seven of the top 10 girls' names.

Because of a confluence of trends, Wattenberg thinks Vivian is on a fast track. There's no clash of consonants, and it ends with the hugely popular "N." (Hayden, Ethan, Morgan.)

But what really gives it an edge? "The 'V' -- which is soaring" along with all the other exotic, end-of-the-alphabet letters, she said.

The Social Security list ( isn't perfect.

It ranks different spellings such as Hailey, Haley and Hayley separately, diluting a name's true strength.

More names, business

Even allowing for multiple versions, parents are choosing from more names than ever. In the 1980s, a typical book might be "5,000 Names for Baby"; now, titles tout 100,000 names.

Wattenberg has parlayed her hobby into a business, writing a book titled "The Baby Name Wizard" and developing an addictive Internet tool showing how names rise and fall in popularity (

With all the options, making a choice is creating unprecedented anxiety for parents, who want to be original but not overly so. ("The trick is to choose a name that is unusual -- but not to the point of ridicule," said Thanos, citing Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter Apple.)

"The most remarkable thing is what they're not choosing," Wattenberg said. "The classic English name stock that has stood for centuries is suddenly disappearing. Nevaeh [heaven spelled backward] is now more common than Mary.

"Doesn't that say it all?"

- - -

Name influences, from TV to Old Testament

Some observations, gleaned from experts.

Addison is at an all-time high (No. 27) as a girl's name, which some attribute to the popularity of the TV show "Grey's Anatomy." But nobody was giving babies that name when the fictional physician, age 39, would have been born.

Jack is big in blue states; Jackson in red.

There is no correlation between biblical names and the parents' level of religious observance. Old Testament names abound for boys, but feminine options are rare. So when a girl's name gets a foot in the door, it zooms to prominence. First it was Ruth, then Deborah and now Hannah. Sarah has remained in the top 100 for most of the last century.

Of all boys born in England between 1550 and about 1800, about half were given one of three names: William, John and Thomas. Half the girls were Elizabeth, Mary or Anne.

In their book "Freakonomics," Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner noted that 40 percent of African-American girls born in California in the 1990s received a name that not 1 in 1,000 white girls received. They also noted that the parents of a Tennyson tended to have more education (15.6 years) than parents of a Chastity (10.6).

The only two names experts say are officially dead: Bertha (it has come to symbolize size) and Adolph (for obvious reasons).

-- Bonnie Miller Rubin


And, while we're at it, the Social Security Administration has unveiled its top baby names for 2006.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Need a bellydancing name?

Here's a guide to choosing the right name for your bellydancing persona.

There's also a link to another article about dancer names: Names for Dancers and Other Graceful Souls.

This site also has lists of names suitable for Bellydancers (mostly Arabic names and words).

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Metallica! Time for dinner!!!

from the Associated Press:

Couple Fights to Name Baby 'Metallica'

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) - Metallica may be a cool name for a heavy metal band, but a Swedish couple is struggling to convince officials it is also suitable for a baby girl.

Michael and Karolina Tomaro are locked in a court battle with Swedish authorities, which rejected their application to name their six-month-old child after the legendary rock band.

``It suits her,'' Karolina Tomaro, 27, said Tuesday of the name. ``She's decisive and she knows what she wants.''

Although little Metallica has already been baptized, the Swedish National Tax Board refused to register the name, saying it was associated with both the rock group and the word ``metal.''

Tomaro said the official handling the case also called the name ``ugly.''

The couple was backed by the County Administrative Court in Goteborg, which ruled on March 13 that there was no reason to block the name. It also noted that there already is a woman in Sweden with Metallica as a middle name.

The tax agency appealed to a higher court, frustrating the family's foreign travel plans.

``We've had to cancel trips and can't get anywhere because we can't get her a passport without an approved name,'' Tomaro said.

They should have moved to the USA, where names like Tesla (probably after the band and not after the inventor?), Jamiroquai, Rush and Slade (To name a few) have been found on birth certificates.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Author Pen names

Lately I've been into authors' pen names. Here are a couple of sites where you can find lists of them:

Author Pen Names


and finally, How To Choose a Pen Name.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dear uh... Mr. or Mrs. Balasubramanian...

If you're not familiar with Hindu names, this is a cool toy-- it tells the gender of names. I used to work in a university, and professors were always emailing me asking if the student they were meeting with was male or female. I should have directed them here!

Hindu Name Guesser

I think it works by analyzing the last letter or so of a name, and then using naming conventions to guess the gender. Of course, the first name I entered was "Aditya," which is the name of a dude I know. I always thought it would be beautiful on a girl... and the name guesser told me it was a female name. Were Aditya's parents hoping he was a girl, or is this the exception to the rule? Just for kicks, I typed in "Susan" and it told me it was a male name. I guess most Sanskrit-based names ending in N are for guys (like Narayan, Naveen etc.)

If you're not into Hindu names, check out the Baby Name Guesser. This tool searches the web and delivers results based on the findings. This site also has sone fun toys, like the Alter Ego Finder, which gives you a name of an "alter ego" by finding names with similar popularity and gender. The one it came up with for me was Cecilia Hillman, which is super creepy, because I was once engaged to a dude with the last name Hillman, and I always planned on naming my first daughter Cecilia. Cecilia Hillman was the name of our fictional kid.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Name of the Year

The Name Of the Year blog collects interesting, unusual names. you can even vote for their Name Of the Year!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Brief overview of Chinese naming practices

Here's a short article on how Chinese parents can come up with their children's names.

Chinese Baby Names

Ritzy Urban moms: definitely using creative names

Here's an article about the naming choices of the well-to-do in Manhattan:
Baby Names Get Weird... Milo, Shiloh... Thijs?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Jerry Seinfeld would have been right at home in ancient Rome.

Wasn't Seinfeld the one who thought Seven was the perfect name for a kid? Maybe I'm getting the joke wrong; I think I've seen that show maybe twice. However, everyone I know is constantly quoting it at me, so I know there's something about naming a kid Seven. Incidentally, there is a little boy named Seven in Ithaca (his brother's name is Tenor).

Anyway, here is a list of Numerical Names from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Finally, a decent baby name site!

Check it! These guys strive to have accurate information and not just gimmicky pink and blue name charts!

Baby Name Addicts

While your at it, take the baby name survey at this site-- apparently the survey owner wants to write a baby name book based on this research!

Friday, January 05, 2007

History of African-American names

Continuing my fascination with African-American naming trends, I found this site about a brief history of African American names:

Finding Our History: African American Names.

Creating new names out of old names has been a long-standing tradition in African American culture. Long before there were LaTanyas, Donnelles and Andraes, there were Samanthas (Sam + -antha bet you didn't know this was a 200-year-old African American creation!), Authorine (the first African American student at a white university in Alabama), Araminta (Harriet Tubman's first name at birth), & Cabell (Cab Calloway's birth name).

Another site about the importance of names in both African American and African culture:

Slavery in America: African American Names