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But can you find it on a souvenir bicycle license plate?
June 3, 2013 7:09 AM   Subscribe

“Amory” was too F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Enzo” too Europhilic. “Selby” was too Brooklyn, “Roman” too Polanski. And those are just the boy names.

"Baby naming has become an industry — with paid consultants, books, Web sites brimming with trend data, and academic studies exploring correlations between baby names and future success." Freakonomics devoted a chapter to the study of baby-naming practices. The Social Security Administration lists the popularity of baby names by year, with Major and Arya showing the biggest jumps in popularity from 2011 to 2012.
posted by Tanizaki (191 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Major

Hopefully none of these parents have the surname Major.

Or have a family tradition of military service.

Or have read Catch-22.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:12 AM on June 3, 2013 [15 favorites]


I love baby name data! I always download all the raw data every year, to take a closer look at the trends. One thing I think is interesting is how much the numbers drop off after the top 10. There were 22,158 baby girls born in the US named Sophia (#1) in 2012; by the time you're down to #20 (Zoey), it's only 7,411 baby girls. Do your best to avoid the top 25 or so* and the chances your kid will be known by her First Name, Last Initial at school drop dramatically.

*While also keeping in mind that name distribution isn't random; it's concentrated among social groups, so you might want to avoid any names 5 of your friends named their baby last year.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:19 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm with the wag in the comments who wants to see more kids named "Yossarian." (Wouldn't make such a bad middle name, to be honest.)
posted by fifthrider at 7:20 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


and academic studies exploring correlations between baby names and future success.

My wife and I went on the premise that you can't help your kid by choosing a given name, you can only fuck them up.
posted by three blind mice at 7:23 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was at a regional gymnastics meet a few months back and thought about yelling out "Madison! Mackenzie! Makayla!" just to see how many girls turned around.
posted by jquinby at 7:24 AM on June 3, 2013 [26 favorites]


Not that we’re having kids anytime soon, but I’m happy that neither of our “would name a kid” names are in the top 1000, but both are easy to spell and understand.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:24 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Do your best to avoid the top 25 or so* and the chances your kid will be known by her First Name, Last Initial at school drop dramatically

I remember hearing that very thing some years ago on NPR. Some sociologist who tracked baby name trends said that a lot of the top 20 names were driven by parents' desire to give their child a "unique" name, but they usually wound up all settling on the same "unique" names at the same time.


He said if you want to give your kid a unique name that people can still spell and that won't veer off in weirdness, go down the SSA list to the 30s and 40s and pick something from there.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:24 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why does someone name their child 'Major'? It seems neither faux-old-school like a hipster name nor especially 'unique' nor very grandiose. (I mean, why not name your kid "General" if the goal is some kind of military status thing?) And the social circles I associate with the Madison/Jayson kind of name are mostly people who have some experience with the military somewhere in the family, so I would not expect them to use a military title as a name.
posted by Frowner at 7:29 AM on June 3, 2013


He said if you want to give your kid a unique name that people can still spell and that won't veer off in weirdness, go down the SSA list to the 30s and 40s and pick something from there.

My first name (which most people don't call me, but anyway) is making its way steadily upwards (now in the 60s, up from like 550 when I was born). It's the name of a saint, sounds precisely like it's spelled and... people don't know how to spell it. Maybe there's been a raft of people aiming for 'unique' names and inventing 'creative' spellings.
posted by hoyland at 7:32 AM on June 3, 2013


He said if you want to give your kid a unique name that people can still spell and that won't veer off in weirdness, go down the SSA list to the 30s and 40s and pick something from there.

Yes! I've toyed with the idea of naming my future first daughter Mary simply because no one names their daughters Mary anymore.
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:32 AM on June 3, 2013


"No, my son is also named Bort."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:33 AM on June 3, 2013 [23 favorites]


I love baby name data! I always download all the raw data every year, to take a closer look at the trends.

You're welcome.

The hilarious thing is how everyone jumps on the trends thinking they are striking out for new territory. "I know what, we'll name her Emma. A good classic name that nobody's using!"

If there was one thing I could add to those packets that new parents bring home it is: Don't name your child based on the statistics of your classroom when you were a child. Look at current trends.
posted by DU at 7:33 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or rather, hardly as many as they used to.
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:33 AM on June 3, 2013


The title of this FPP makes me want to have a son just so I can name him Bort.

On preview: Curse you, TheWhiteSkull! (Not really.)
posted by bakerina at 7:34 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm with the wag in the comments who wants to see more kids named "Yossarian." (Wouldn't make such a bad middle name, to be honest.)

I pushed "Yossarian" as a middle name for all our kids. Wife over-ruled me.
posted by etc. at 7:34 AM on June 3, 2013


Interesting stuff. Thanks.

I wonder if my name, Robert, is typical of trends. It was top-5 when I was born, top-10 for 27 years and steadily gone down to its current point: 61.
posted by ambient2 at 7:36 AM on June 3, 2013


I work in a pediatric specialty clinic, so I've seen them all. Just had a new patient whose name is spelled "Emaleigh."

Sometimes I just want to take these parents and shake them, yelling "NAMING YOUR CHILD SOMETHING UNIQUE DOES NOT MAKE IT UNIQUE."

I will say that Major is actually NOT a new one to me, although the family did spell it "Majur."

*sigh*
posted by kuanes at 7:37 AM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Another fun thing about the raw data- you get to see all the strange stuff, anything that's been used at least 5 times. Betzayda! Cricket! Honestii! Oluwajomiloju! Shade! And then there's usually stuff that's only been used 5 times that I would think would be more popular- this year, it's Trishelle. One year, it was Chantilly- why aren't the hipsters all over that one? It's not even on the list this year.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:37 AM on June 3, 2013


I've thought about attempting a baby name FPP myself (having chosen two of them in the last two years). Here are some of the sites I would link to:

Baby Name Voyager: lots of graphs and data on name popularity through time

The associated blog is good too

Parents Connect Baby Names: fun because of the survey data on how people feel about their own names, and the ways people made fun of them as kids

Nameberry: has lots of lists, "romantic girls' names" "tough boys names" "Irish names" etc. Plus I like the message boards

Nymber: Suggests baby names using an "if you like this, then you might like that" algorithim

Behind the name: histories and etymologies and "family trees" linking related names. Also includes popularity data, comments, etc.

BTW, my kids names are Elena Christine ("Ellie") and Katerina Ann ("Kat" or "Katya"). Because we liked Elizabeth and Katherine, but know too many Elizabeths and Katherines...
posted by OnceUponATime at 7:38 AM on June 3, 2013 [15 favorites]


I forgot: we just also saw a kid who is named after the first officer of the ship on Star Trek: Voyager.

Chakotay.

*double sigh*
posted by kuanes at 7:39 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hopefully none of these parents have the surname Major.

Or have a family tradition of military service.

Or have read Catch-22.


Or watch Fawlty Towers.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:44 AM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


For the record, our kids are all named pretty traditionally, though a theme emerged early on of using authors and poets for their first or middle names.
posted by jquinby at 7:45 AM on June 3, 2013


TFA: I muddled our thinking with intriguing impossibilities like “Caerwyn,” “Cosmo” and “Daxton.

Caerwyn is perfectly normal round by here. Traditional Welsh names are making a big comeback, not just with Welsh-speakers, but amongst more recent incomers too. Check out these winners in last week's Urdd Eisteddfod.
posted by ceiriog at 7:46 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


He said if you want to give your kid a unique name that people can still spell and that won't veer off in weirdness, go down the SSA list to the 30s and 40s and pick something from there.

If you do that, you'll find that every other parent in your generation has done the same thing

Do a search on that name voyager site for "Max" or "Grace" for particularly clear examples of the 100-year popularity cycle for names.
posted by OnceUponATime at 7:46 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


> ... people don't know how to spell it.

My name is mildly uncommon, has one syllable and has been misspelled by others at least half a dozen different ways over the years, most entertainingly as "Bough."
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:47 AM on June 3, 2013


Here's a thing: I used to sigh and get all upset over nonstandard names. "Madyson!!! Emalay!!! Those are barbarous, non-standard spellings!! And why the fuck would you name a child Galadriel?"

And then I started spending time in social circles where many people have either weird given names, weird chosen names or names that are ordinary in various non-English-speaking countries - meaning that I always had to pay attention to people's names, could not always distinguish goofy USian names from foreign names that were new-to-me and thus could not really take the risk of making jokes and ultimately just realized that it doesn't matter very much. When you know someone, you stop thinking "Bromley, who names their kid Bromley?" or "why on earth would you name a girl Jocasta, that's really ill-omened" and those names just take on the shape, if you will, of the person they name.

On the one hand, it's kind of awful and pretentious to name your kid "Moxie Crimefighter"; on the other hand, if you actually met someone named "Moxie" it would quickly become as neutral a name in daily use as "Sarah" or "Elena".

"Personal branding" on the other hand is a ghastly, barbarous nightmare of a concept that makes me less sad about global warming and inevitable pandemic flu.
posted by Frowner at 7:48 AM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I wanted to pick a boy's name that is spelled the same in English and Polish, that is an actual name with some history and not some recently made up silliness, and that wasn't too trendy but wasn't too weird (I had to grow up with a weird name and I wanted to save him from teasing), so that narrowed things a bit.
posted by pracowity at 7:50 AM on June 3, 2013


My other requirement for names is to not have to walk around saying your name is "name with a e" or anything like that. My brother is Marc with a c.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:51 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


My name was nicely uncommon but well-known when I was born (though mine was a family name, and there wasn't much choice in the matter, given the family). I didn't even meet another kid with my name until high school. During high school, though, my name exploded into the big time, and suddenly parents where calling my name (for their kids) everywhere. I had absolutely no experience with that before, so it was totally confusing.

Now I'm just the oldest one with my name, which is becoming unpopular again. Thank goodness.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:52 AM on June 3, 2013


I love "Major" but that's just because as a cyclist I think of the amazing Major Taylor.

Funny, my wife did exactly what is described upthread. When she had her first son she named him Jason as she liked the sound and didn't know of anyone else named Jason. It turned out, much to her surprise, to be one of the most popular names that year.

I always think there is some great unknown hive mind/pheromone thing invisibly directing these decisions.
posted by cccorlew at 7:52 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love this Simpsons clip of Cletus calling all his kids: Tiffany, Heather, Cody, Dylan, Dermitt, Jordan, Taylor, Brittney, Wesley, Rumer, Scout, Cassidy, Zoe, Chloe, Max, Hunter, Kendal, Kaitlin, Noah, Sasha, Morgan, Keira, Ian, Lauren, Hubert, Phil.
posted by resurrexit at 7:53 AM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Is it time to toss in the classic story of the girl named La—A?
(I hope the typography translates to metafilter...)
It's pronounces Ladasha
posted by cccorlew at 7:54 AM on June 3, 2013


I wanted to pick a boy's name that is spelled the same in English and Polish, that is an actual name with some history and not some recently made up silliness, and that wasn't too trendy...

Have you considered "Ug" of caveman fame?
posted by DU at 7:55 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing is, if you name your child something like "Emily," but you spell it "Emmieleagh," you have STILL named your child "Emily," you've just revealed that you can't spell. Or that you don't care about spelling, which is even worse because it makes you a barbarian.

Or as the SNL skit went, "My name is Blarfengar Blarfengar. Spelled L E E S M I T H."
posted by 1adam12 at 7:55 AM on June 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Bethany Rillygonna and Stig Collerthat would like to announce the arrival of their daughter, Arya.
posted by scruss at 7:57 AM on June 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


I live next door to "Strider". Apparently his mom put her foot down when Aragorn was proposed.

He's a sweet kid.
posted by sauril at 7:57 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heh. I've been the recipient of three months on unsolicited naming advice, ever since I told my in-laws what names we were considering. So please forgive me for putting on my pregnant-lady-rant for a moment.

Who cares what people name their kids? If you want to name a kid so badly, go make one of your own.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:59 AM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is it time to toss in the classic story of the girl named La—A?
(I hope the typography translates to metafilter...)
It's pronounces Ladasha


Could we not do this?
posted by leotrotsky at 7:59 AM on June 3, 2013 [19 favorites]


Is it time to toss in the classic story of the girl named La—A?

That's actually a super racist story of dubious provenance, so let's maybe not go there.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:01 AM on June 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


I read somewhere - and I think it may have been here in days of yore - that people are attracted to names from their grandparents' generation. Their parents names seem old fashioned and clunky and out of touch, but their grandparents names seem different and fresh. Thus, names rise and fall on an every other generation basis. I named my daughter Audrey and my parents were all, um, that's a creepy old name but my great aunt was delighted; it turned out her best school friends' name in the 30s was Audrey. A friend of mine just named her new baby Morris. I was kind of taken aback, because, well, Morris? That's an old man's name! But then I thought, no, it's just coming back into play.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:05 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


We accidentally named my first son the most popular baby name for the year he was born. Luckily, my misunderstanding that Liam was a nickname and insisting that we give him the full name "William" and just CALL him Liam put his real name down to #27 popularity instead.

Then we gave my second son the hippiest name ever, fraught with cultural appropriation, and both names suit them perfectly.

(My first name was unheard of in 1979, then rose to the #3 most popular baby girl name when I was in high school. I still occasionally hear parents hollering my name in a crowd, but it doesn't give me the paranoid jolt it used to).
posted by annathea at 8:05 AM on June 3, 2013


But can you find it on a souvenir bicycle license plate?

Both my ex-wife and step-son have relatively uncommon names (for the USA, anyhow), so they were always out of luck when it came to the novelty license plates. Then I discovered that you could order custom ones from the company that makes them and was able to make my loved ones both very happy. :)

posted by Celsius1414 at 8:05 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand why more people don't name their kids after the great Biblical king, Nimrod.
posted by Fnarf at 8:12 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love this Simpsons clip of Cletus calling all his kids

For some reason, I always thought one of the kids was named "Q-bert" instead of Hubert. Of course, with Cletus, it would still make perfect sense.


Some folk'll never eat a skunk, but then again some folk'll...
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:13 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I knew a Nimrod once. His sister was a Dorcas.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 8:13 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fnarf: I don't understand why more people don't name their kids after the great Biblical king, Nimrod.

Home of the Nimrods
posted by Rock Steady at 8:14 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why more people don't name their kids after the great Biblical king, Nimrod.

It's not entirely uncommon in Israel. A friend of mine once dated a colonel in the IDF named that. It's pronounced slightly differently in Hebrew.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:16 AM on June 3, 2013


I hated being named John growing up. In addition to being a euphemism for toilet, there were always at least 3 Johns in any class.

My two boys have Sanskrit names, the words for sun and moon (they are half Indian and the boys names in their mother's tongue are unpronounceable to whiteys so we compromised). In all of my boys' schools, classes, play groups, doctor's offices, play grounds, I have never once heard anyone refer to a kid named "John" yet have heard a handful of "Ravi"s.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:16 AM on June 3, 2013


I see Quato has yet to make a dent in either the boys' or girls' names charts.
posted by baniak at 8:17 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Nimrod" is entirely Bugs Bunny's fault. Nimrod was a mighty hunter, and his name was used as such for millennia. Then, sometime in the thirties, Bugs Bunny called Elmer Fudd a "poor little Nimrod" and it was all downhill from there.
posted by darksasami at 8:20 AM on June 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Do your best to avoid the top 25 or so* and the chances your kid will be known by her First Name, Last Initial at school drop dramatically

My name was around number 350 in the year when I was born and I was still always First Name, Last Initial, Second Letter of Last Name because not only was there another kid with the same name in my tiny class of like 15 people but we also had the same last initial.

I have to say, though, I've never understood why this is considered a terrible fate to be avoided at all costs. Really, who gives a fuck if you run into half a dozen people with your name every time you leave the house? What does it matter?
posted by enn at 8:21 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


What does it matter?

It's annoying as a kid to hear the teacher call on "Jennifer" or "Kaitlyn" and not know if you're supposed to answer.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:23 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


with . . . Arya showing the biggest jump[] in popularity from 2011.

Not today.
posted by The Bellman at 8:24 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


My language has less than 100 names, total. So they're all pretty much gender neutral, and it's not uncommon to run into someone with my first and last names. I've never had an issue with it. As an added bonus, it makes hiding my online presence really easy.
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:26 AM on June 3, 2013


I have a cousin named Enzo.
posted by jonmc at 8:32 AM on June 3, 2013


I recently had a conversation with Niece Renault (age 5, accidentally super-fashionable name). She was explaining how she had a playdate with a friend from school, who was, oh, let's say "Emma S." at school, but was just "Emma" when she was at home on the playdate. She had to be "Emma S." at school, because there was more than one Emma.

I explained that in my class, there were four Daves -- Dave V., Dave T., and two Dave Ds.

She had never heard the name 'Dave'. Our generation had a whole song about the Daves we know, and she had never once heard the name.

Bizarre how it can just vanish from the landscape like that.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:35 AM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


What does it matter?

Names matter a lot when you're a kid. I think a good name for a kid is rare enough that you are almost always the only one in the classroom but common enough that kids don't laugh and teachers don't fuck it up every time.

Names also matter when you go to get a job.
posted by pracowity at 8:36 AM on June 3, 2013


Capt. Renault, David was #19 this year, and was #12 in 2007, when I presume your niece was born (#14 in 2008). That's just a nickname issue, or a hyper local one.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:37 AM on June 3, 2013


jonmc: I have a cousin named Enzo.

I have a 2-year-old nephew named Enzo. It might be trending.

Capt. Renault: She had never heard the name 'Dave'. Our generation had a whole song about the Daves we know, and she had never once heard the name.

My Elementary School best friend and I were both named David. We were pretty indivisible, so teachers just called us "The Davids". I'm told it was the #1 name in 1976, when we were born.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:39 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps the Dave thing is local. All I know is that I had a five year old girl staring at me like I had three heads.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:40 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have a 2-year-old nephew named Enzo. It might be trending.

Is he Italian? My cousin is.
posted by jonmc at 8:43 AM on June 3, 2013


Relevant New Yorker cartoon (from 1980, obviously, or else the kids would be Emma/Aidan or similar)

All of my carefully chosen names are being taken by people I know. I can live with my friend naming her daughter Rowan, but when my ex named his daughter Amelia and my husband's ex named her daughter Natalie... oh, hell.
posted by Madamina at 8:43 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Capt. Renault: Perhaps the Dave thing is local. All I know is that I had a five year old girl staring at me like I had three heads.

No worries, that is just the normal appearance of a five year old girl.

jonmc: Is he Italian? My cousin is.

On the Dad's side, but only in that casual Boston Italian way.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:47 AM on June 3, 2013


I can't hear Enzo without thinking "If there is trouble, I stay here to help you. For your father. For your father."
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:47 AM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


On the Dad's side, but only in that casual Boston Italian way

My cousin actually is from and lives in Italy, but I digress. I assume the kid has a Italian last name, though. Otherwise it would just sound weird. Enzo Williams, just dosen't roll of the tounge right.
posted by jonmc at 8:50 AM on June 3, 2013


Actually, the best present one could probably give a kid is giving them a name so incredibly common that they can't be googled nor facebooked.

Working for me!
posted by Conspire at 8:52 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Interviewer: I'm sorry - Raymond Luxury Yach-t.

Raymond: No, no, no - it's spelt Raymond Luxury Yach-t, but it's pronounced 'Throatwobbler Mangrove'.
posted by Gungho at 8:52 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


"It's pronounced Os-weep-ay."
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:54 AM on June 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


Their parents names seem old fashioned and clunky and out of touch, but their grandparents names seem different and fresh.

My father and grandfather have the same name.
posted by jonmc at 8:57 AM on June 3, 2013


All I ask is that everyone stop naming boys Nicholas. Please.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:57 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Conspire: Actually, the best present one could probably give a kid is giving them a name so incredibly common that they can't be googled nor facebooked.

Heh. My other good friend from childhood was actually named John Smith. No, I have not been able to get back in touch with him, why do you ask?
posted by Rock Steady at 8:57 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


it's not uncommon to run into someone with my first and last names

This. My wife has the Japanese equivalent of "Jane Brown". Some years ago, we were checking in for a flight and she has to give her name so the clerk could look up her JAL frequent flyer number. There were about ten people with the exact same name. I think at least one even had the same characters for the given name.

Tanizaki Jr. and Miss Tanizaki both have names that work equally well in Japanese and English i.e. they do not sound foreign or uncommon in either language. This is to the extent that Miss Tanizaki is a "Jane B." in her preschool class.

There does not seem to be a trend of weird names in Japan although there are trends such as names with certain suffixes being on the rise. Sometimes people get cute with having names that have kanji with rare or unconventional readings.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:58 AM on June 3, 2013


I've been surprised how accurately the popular dog names at the Upper West Side dog runs seem to reflect the popular baby names 5 years later. Lots of Hudsons and Dakotas, the came a lot of Daisys and Luci's... 5 years from now, look for Pepper and Cleo and Harvey to come back around.
posted by Mchelly at 8:58 AM on June 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Out of curiosity, I download the full list for 2012 and checked it against the list of potential names my lady and I made. All of her names are super trendy — almost all top 25, with several top 10. My choices are all below 50 per year, with some not on the list at all. This might be a source of conflict. Of course, I'm biased since my name has made it above 5 usages just once on any of the SSA lists (strangely very recently), and I like having a unique name.

On the other hand, it might not be such a bad thing to have a common name since the Internet has a very long memory.
posted by stopgap at 8:59 AM on June 3, 2013


Mchelly, our UWS neighbor's dog is Maggie.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:59 AM on June 3, 2013


My daughter tells people she was named after [glamorous & classy movie star from previous generation], but she's actually named after [teenage daughter character in lowbrow 80s comedy]. She knows this, but maintains the fiction.

What can I say, it's a movie I watched a lot when I was younger and the name stuck in my brain as the default value for $daughter_name, and it was one of the only ones her mother and I could both agree on. But I didn't explain how I chose it until the ink on the birth certificate was dry.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:13 AM on June 3, 2013


FYI, for any parents in this thread who've chosen an unexpectedly popular name, I was almost always a First name Last initial, and it never bothered me once.
posted by that's how you get ants at 9:13 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Enzo is an abbreviation of Vincenzo, i.e., Vincent.
posted by acb at 9:15 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


And here I am thinking that 'Selby' was too F Scott Fitzgerald.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:16 AM on June 3, 2013


I have thought on several occasions that children should choose their own adult names; there should be a coming-of-age ceremony (many cultures have one, why not the modern world?), in which the young man or woman ceases to be known by the name their parents gave them and becomes known by the name they have deliberated over for the past few months. The name they will put on their CVs, enter into contracts under, and if elected to public office, serve under.
posted by acb at 9:19 AM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


She had never heard the name 'Dave'.

So you're saying Dave's not here, then?
posted by yoink at 9:21 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


FYI, for any parents in this thread who've chosen an unexpectedly popular name, I was almost always a First name Last initial, and it never bothered me once.

On the one hand, I sort of agree with this. On the other hand, as one of zillions who was given THE trendy baby girl name the year I was conceived (most famous recipient currently residing at the White House) (and thank you very much, Paul McCartney), which then immediately stopped being a popular name because it was so popular, there is something sort of annoying about sharing a name for the reason that "parents are sheep."
posted by Mchelly at 9:23 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have thought on several occasions that children should choose their own adult names

Just steer them toward the right career. Like being a rapper, for example. Or the Pope.
posted by stopgap at 9:25 AM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


On the subject of Nimrod, when my wife and I were considering baby names I got to wondering about how many perfectly good names have been ruined, or at least diminished by pop culture. Names like Elmer, Barney, Walter, Homer and Archie have been done in and likely will never come back.
posted by walter lark at 9:27 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Names like Elmer, Barney, Walter, Homer and Archie have been done in and likely will never come back.

I hear ya. Walter (the name of my great-grandfather) was a potential son's name for me until Breaking Bad came along.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:29 AM on June 3, 2013


Walter's actually slightly on the upswing!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:29 AM on June 3, 2013


Li'l Walter: I am the one that knocks! (on the bassinet)
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:31 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to say, though, I've never understood why this is considered a terrible fate to be avoided at all costs. Really, who gives a fuck if you run into half a dozen people with your name every time you leave the house? What does it matter?

Freshman year, sharing my dorm room with another Kate B. Oh my God, the missed phone calls, the mail, the drama.

I know a couple who named their first son Felix, and their second son Oscar. And never looked up either name online. Because Felix and Oscar totally aren't known at all.
posted by Katemonkey at 9:31 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


In about 6 years my daughter will probably get a card in the mail that says "It's Tyrion's 8th birthday! Come play laser tag!"
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:33 AM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Niece Renault (age 5, accidentally super-fashionable name)

I seriously thought that "Renault" WAS her name until I got down to your username, Capt. Thought, "oh, that's pretty, although it is kind of hipster."

I totally do not get "Arya." How is that pronounced? How can anyone look at it and not think "Aryan?" (And THAT just gets you a whole heap of trouble.)

Weird--for some reason I'd never rank "Walter" in the same class as the others in your list, walter lark (coincidence?). I immediately thought of the other references and said, oh yeah, but Walter mystified me. I'm actually a big Breaking Bad fan but wouldn't automatically count that one out just because of the association with Walter White. (Maybe Walter Jr. cancels that out?)
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:35 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Names like Elmer, Barney, Walter, Homer and Archie have been done in and likely will never come back.

Is Barney a name in itself, or just an abbreviation of Bernard?

And how far does a name have to be from its non-diminutive parent form to be autonomous without raising eyebrows? Can you be a Molly-but-not-Mary? A Kate-but-never-anything-matching-/[KC]athe?r[yi]ne?/? A Jim-but-not-James? A Jimmy-but-not-Jim?
posted by acb at 9:35 AM on June 3, 2013


I know a couple who named their first son Felix, and their second son Oscar.

Gillian Anderson did that, although I figured it was on purpose.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:36 AM on June 3, 2013


I believe Arya is an alternate spelling of Aria.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:36 AM on June 3, 2013


I hated being named John growing up. In addition to being a euphemism for toilet, there were always at least 3 Johns in any class.

My poor brother was born 4 hours after John Lennon was shot. I think he still hasn't forgiven my parents...

Names like Elmer, Barney, Walter, Homer and Archie have been done in and likely will never come back.

Anne Heche has a son named Homer.
posted by gjc at 9:38 AM on June 3, 2013


I love the name Walter; would totally consider it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:41 AM on June 3, 2013


Can you be a Molly-but-not-Mary? A Kate-but-never-anything-matching-/[KC]athe?r[yi]ne?/? A Jim-but-not-James? A Jimmy-but-not-Jim?

Molly, definitely. I don't know any Mollys who actually are Mary at this point, and I think many people don't even realize that origin, so I'd consider it a stand-alone name.

(I do know someone whose daughter is called Molly but is actually named Margaret. Margaret in itself is a weird case in point--I don't think anyone's naming their kids "Peggy" anymore, although maybe Mad Men changed that, but I never knew how "Peggy" sprang from Margaret in the first place. I've also heard that "Daisy" was often a common nickname for Margaret, because "Marguerite" in French means "daisy." I think most Daisys I know now--and that one has had a resurgence along with Rose and Lily and Violet--are Daisys on their own.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:42 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Daughter: Shelby Cobra *lastname*
Son: Grumman Wildcat *lastname*
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:45 AM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


One of my odder customer calls derailed into a discussion of my name and its origins. It turns out the caller was trying to come up with baby names. I always wondered if they picked it, would they tell the kid she was named after an IT phone rep? (Mine was in the top 100 in the 30's and is now in the 500's.)
posted by Karmakaze at 9:45 AM on June 3, 2013


I've always thought that the more parents try to be unique with their fodder-naming, the greater the chances they are narcissists are. And then the trend swings back around when you have people who name all their kids George, or Roland and Rolanda.
posted by gjc at 9:45 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and is anyone named James even called Jim or Jimmy anymore (let alone those being stand-alone names)? As far as I know, James is still a pretty popular name, and all the Jameses I know of my generation and onward are called either James, Jamie or Jay.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:47 AM on June 3, 2013


I know at least two Jims and one Jim/Jimmy, although one of the Jims started going by James in college.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:51 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mchelly: 5 years from now, look for Pepper and Cleo and Harvey to come back around.

People should totally start naming their kids Harvey (or Stan or something) again. Enough of this fucking "Aiden/Hayden/Jayden" shit (every single time I go to the store, I always hear some obnoxious woman yelling one of those names every fifteen seconds because her dickhead kid is poking his finger into the goddamn ground beef or something). I've heard that Harvey is making a come-back in the U.K., but I don't expect it to gain much traction in the U.S. because it seems people either associate it with old Jewish men, an invisible rabbit, or guys that shoot presidents.

I like Darby. You'd just have to make sure he doesn't join a band and get totally fucked up on heroin.

Also, can people stop naming their kids "Dylan"?
posted by Redfield at 10:01 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Great. Our first daughter's name got claimed by Beyonce and Jay-Z. Now our second one is trending hugely because of Game of Thrones? (And we even ruled out any in the top 100!)
posted by gottabefunky at 10:01 AM on June 3, 2013


Elementary Penguin: All I ask is that everyone stop naming boys Nicholas. Please.
WALTER (GIB) GIBSON: Elliot? You're gonna name the kid Elliot? No, you can't name the kid Elliot. Elliot is a fat kid with glasses who eats paste. You're not gonna name the kid Elliot. You gotta give him a real name. Give him a name. Like Nick.

ALISON BRADBURY: Nick?

WALTER (GIB) GIBSON: Yeah, Nick. Nick's a real name. Nick's your buddy. Nick's the kind of guy you can trust, the kind of guy you can drink a beer with, the kind of guy who doesn't mind if you puke in his car, Nick! [Alison looks disgusted] [to Lady in Car] Oh, vomit. I'm sorry. Vomit.
The Sure Thing, 1985.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:09 AM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Do your best to avoid the top 25 or so* and the chances your kid will be known by her First Name, Last Initial at school drop dramatically.

We played around with the by-state data while waiting for labor to kick in to high gear.*

My child's name is reliably unpopular for most of the century with the exception of one state where it is inexplicably popular.
So, I guess as long as we never move, we're ok.

*And the patented Whiteboard Baby Naming System
posted by madajb at 10:14 AM on June 3, 2013


I totally do not get "Arya." How is that pronounced? How can anyone look at it and not think "Aryan?" (And THAT just gets you a whole heap of trouble.)

I believe Arya is an alternate spelling of Aria.


The name is from a series of fantasy novels by one George R. R. Martin, which have been adapted into a drama series broadcast on Home Box Office titled "Game of Thrones".
posted by Tanizaki at 10:14 AM on June 3, 2013


In our zeal to have a sane conversation about baby-naming, I think we've missed the real crux of the Times piece. Here it is:
Before she gave birth to a daughter a year ago, friends were constantly weighing in with half-welcome advice: “Charlotte” and “Chloe,” for example, were beautiful, but a bit played out. She shuddered when friends passed around birth announcement e-mails from mutual acquaintances amended with catty comments like “worst name ever.”
Here we have yet more evidence for my hypothesis that there is some sort of strange secret urban colony populated exclusively by people who supply anecdotes for NY Times trend pieces. Whenever the Times comes up with a new trend-piece theme ("America's all agog over eggnog!"), they simply call someone at random from their exclusive list of the colony's residents.

It goes without saying, I hope, that this colony is the worst place on earth.
posted by gompa at 10:16 AM on June 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have an old-fashioned, bad-ass Biblical name, which I used to hate and now I love. I have only ever met two other peers with it; most of the others have been women four and five decades my senior. One saving grace is that it's the name of a minor politician who clouds all the Google results. One con was living in Italy, where two letters used don't exist, leading to some amusing receipts.

I work a lot with kids and college students and the main problem with the elongated unique spellings of names is that I always misspell/mispronounce them and the kids get sad. Since they are never the same kids, I get to just feel like a jerk all the time. Sorry guys :(
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:20 AM on June 3, 2013


the patented Whiteboard Baby Naming System

I see that and raise the Baby Naming Matrix: a 40 column by 25 row spread sheet of First Name - Middle Name combinations we read out loud and checked the initials of, before ultimately rejecting all of them.

"How about Anna Sophia?"
"Her initials would be ASS."
"Okay, how about Anna Lee?"
"Anally?"
"Okay, I'm going to scratch Anna off the list then."

Dorcas is a pretty looking name. It's a shame.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:24 AM on June 3, 2013


Some sociologist who tracked baby name trends said that a lot of the top 20 names were driven by parents' desire to give their child a "unique" name, but they usually wound up all settling on the same "unique" names at the same time.

That’s been my experience with friends. And the conversation always went;

"We want to give them a unique name"
"Why?"
Silence. Mumble, mumble, something...

I don’t care what people name their kids, but I found it odd that it was always the same thinking and never an answer. I do reserve the right to laugh at the names though.

I would think it would be a gigantic pain in the ass to have to explain, repeat, and spell your name every time you talked to someone.
posted by bongo_x at 10:32 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't understand why more people don't name their kids after the great Biblical king, Nimrod.

My son's middle name is a Biblical king, although the name's traditional not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. He was born around Three Kings' Day and named after his great-grandfather who was born on Three Kings' Day. His first name is more common, but trending down, to 4,000 per million. He's got at least 6 relatives that share his name, but so far we haven't met anyone in his age group.

My daughter also has a Biblical name, although not one of the "good guys" (although I maintain the "good guy" in that story was an asshole), her name's trending up to 400 per million. I don't think I've ever met anyone with her name, but it sure is pretty. Her middle name also comes from a great-grand parent.

Coincidentally, both his middle name and her first name show up in the list of early members of the obscure and tiny group of Pennsylvanian Dutch that my wife's descended from. The largest of the groups of them that fled from Europe was under 200, and there are currently a couple thousand of them in the area around Philadelphia.

All of which is to say, sure we gave our kids kind of weird names, but it wasn't to be unique. At least on my end, I'm not sure what my wife's rational was.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:35 AM on June 3, 2013


I would think it would be a gigantic pain in the ass to have to explain, repeat, and spell your name every time you talked to someone.

On the contrary, all the repetition means everyone remembers your name! But it doesn't help with remembering other people's names, unfortunately.
posted by stopgap at 10:35 AM on June 3, 2013


I see that and raise the Baby Naming Matrix: a 40 column by 25 row spread sheet of First Name - Middle Name combinations we read out loud and checked the initials of, before ultimately rejecting all of them.

We used the patient information whiteboard in the delivery room.
One column for boys, one for girls.

I proclaimed random names from the baby name book that met three criteria - Can't be easily shortened into a nickname, don't need to spell it over the phone, not mis-pronounceable.*
If they then passed through my wife's "altered" state, they went up on the board.

We then got every person who came into the room, passed down the hall, etc to read it.

If the response was anything like "Hey, my cousin just named their kid that" or "That's the name of $celebrity's child" or "That's ... interesting.", then it was off.

So it was basically a crowd-sourced baby naming.

*None of which the final name meets, but let's not go there...
posted by madajb at 10:43 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would think it would be a gigantic pain in the ass to have to explain, repeat, and spell your name every time you talked to someone.

My last name rhymes with a certain curse-word.
It was amazing how fast my wife acquired the habit of "saying then spelling" when asked her name after it changed.

It just becomes part of your name, like the apocryphal child who, when asked her name, replies "Madysin Alexa Cooper Stop That Right Now"
posted by madajb at 10:48 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


My daughter also has a Biblical name, although not one of the "good guys" (although I maintain the "good guy" in that story was an asshole)

You named your daughter Goliath?
posted by darksasami at 10:55 AM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I have a 4 letter last name and almost everyone in the family pronounces it "Abcd, A - B - C - D" Because names under 5 letters make people uncomfortable and they start adding letters and syllables. I don't know what goes through their heads.

"My name is John Smith"
"Jon Smithe? Jonny Smithson? John Smyyythe?"

It's like the same mind-virus that forces people to pluralize the names of grocery stores.
posted by gjc at 10:57 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Everyone who writes a paragraph about their/their kid's interesting name and then doesn't tell me that name is just being a tease. You know everyone is trying to figure it out now, just include it in the comment.
posted by DynamiteToast at 10:58 AM on June 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


I know I've said this before but you need to pick something that looks good as a neck tattoo. For a girl I'm going with Tastee and for a boy I'm going with C Murda.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:12 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


And here I am thinking that 'Selby' was too F Scott Fitzgerald.
I, on the other hand, thought that "Selby" was rather O'Brien, which can't possibly be a bad thing.
posted by faustdick at 11:14 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can you be a Molly-but-not-Mary? A Kate-but-never-anything-matching-/[KC]athe?r[yi]ne?/? A Jim-but-not-James? A Jimmy-but-not-Jim?

I have at least one friend whose birth name is "Jenny" and she will bore holes in you with her eyes if you call her "Jennifer."

Me, I'm totally sticking with "Fluffy" if it's a boy and "Bishop" if it's a girl.
posted by psoas at 11:17 AM on June 3, 2013


I have at least one friend whose birth name is "Jenny" and she will bore holes in you with her eyes if you call her "Jennifer."

People who get het up when you don't just magically know that their name is out of the ordinary (spelling, not a nickname) need to get over it.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:19 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


The article in the main link really suffers from cultural myopia.
To get more obscure than those, you basically have to draw Scrabble tiles randomly, which is perhaps how parents come up with neologisms like “Cree,” “Izan” and “Emi” (for boys) and “Safi,” “Nanou” and “Esosa” (for girls), all of which cropped up for the first time last year among the 450,000 births to registered users of BabyCenter.
Those are all actually names, not neologisms. It's kind of offensive to refer to them as random collections of letters.
posted by stopgap at 11:20 AM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


I know several Andreas and they are all very particular about whether to pronounce it an-DRAY-a or AN-dree-uh and I'm sorry Andreas but sometimes I get confused about which type of Andrea you are.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:22 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


My daughter also has a Biblical name, although not one of the "good guys" (although I maintain the "good guy" in that story was an asshole)

You named your daughter Goliath?



Don't be silly- I'm pretty sure he means Salome.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:29 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


My mom's parents were both Norwegian immigrants, so she has a rather uncommon name that isn't quite pronounced the way it's spelled. This has led to all sorts of annoyances, but on the plus side whenever anyone called and asked for her we could tell immediately if the caller actually knew her or was just reading from a list.

Growing up, there was a kid across the street from me with the same name. One time I stopped by a mutual friend's house and asked if he could come out and play. He was having a nap, and his parents said they would deliver the message. Unfortunately, they weren't specific enough on who dropped by so an hour or so later I saw them both across the street playing without me. For one class in high school there were 4 people with my same name, but by that point nobody called me by my first name anymore.

I figure there's got to be some sort of sweet spot between all too common and hard to spell, which I will try my hardest to hit if I am ever in a position to name children.

Then there's my dad, whose first initials are D.R. which has led to all sorts of misunderstandings about his level of education.
posted by ckape at 11:31 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Elementary Penguin: ""How about Anna Sophia?"
"Her initials would be ASS."
"

My wife's initials (maiden name) were ASS, and oddly, her best friend in grade school ALSO had the same initials. So it's kinda funny, but not the end of the world. Although she didn't hesitate to change her initials after we got married...

Our son's name was chosen based on several criteria:
  1. Had to be easy to spell/pronounce, with a good nickname
  2. Could not have been used in either family previously (my cousin is George V, for pete's sake - tired of having to specify WHICH person I am talking about when naming a relative!)
  3. Irish or German origin (main ethnic background for our respective families)
  4. Not in the top 1000 names for the last hundred years (she's an Amy, I'm a Joshua... we really wanted something less popular!)
...which is how we ended up with Finian Evert.

My sister on the other hand, she named her son Öklyf Ísbjørn*. The kid will spend the rest of his life explaining to people how his name is spelled if they hear it, and how to pronounce it if they see it written. I tried to explain this to her - I have a friend who named her daughter Máire, and while she loves the name my friend REALLY wishes she had not gone with the Gaelic spelling, because no one who sees it understands that it is pronounced "Moira". But my sister is stubborn. So, I have a nephew named "Oakleaf Ice Bear". He will either love the name, or hate it. We'll see.

*No one in the family has any known Nordic heritage. I really can't say why she liked the name so much, but there it is.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:37 AM on June 3, 2013


Don't be silly- I'm pretty sure he means Salome.

The only Salome named in the Bible is one of the Myrrh-Bearing Women. They get a whole Sunday on our church calendar. Definitely a good guy.

(I am aware of the step-daughter of Herod Antipas but she is not named in the Bible but from other sources, and I do not think that "asshole" is an accurate descriptor for the only good guy in that story)
posted by Tanizaki at 11:38 AM on June 3, 2013


I haven't read this whole thread, but have you people seen the map of the US with the states labelled with the most common baby name? It's Emma Nation vs. Sophia Nation, with Vermont just being weird.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:38 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I heard Mike Doughty went to school with, like, 27 Jennifers.
posted by ckape at 11:43 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


my cousin is George V, for pete's sake

Sheesh, name-drop much?   </HAMBURGER>
posted by stopgap at 11:44 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


My sister on the other hand, she named her son Öklyf Ísbjørn*. The kid will spend the rest of his life explaining to people how his name is spelled if they hear it, and how to pronounce it if they see it written.

Ten bucks the kid starts going by Oliver by the time he hits first grade.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:45 AM on June 3, 2013


(I am aware of the step-daughter of Herod Antipas but she is not named in the Bible but from other sources, and I do not think that "asshole" is an accurate descriptor for the only good guy in that story)


Yes. Joke.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:45 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't be silly- I'm pretty sure he means Salome.

Lot's Wife actually. Well, legally it's Lot S Wife, but that's only because the scantron you have to submit to Colorado to get register the kid's name doesn't have a bubble for apostrophes.
posted by Gygesringtone at 11:48 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I live next door to "Strider"
Friends had a black Labrador dog named Strider. He died and they got a yellow Labrador dog named Abby after Abby Sciuto, the scientist on NCIS.
posted by Cranberry at 11:50 AM on June 3, 2013


Also, in honor of this generation's greatest actor, I shall be naming my firstborn either Beauregard Cumbersome or Banacek Crankenstein.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:57 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


My criteria: Gender neutral, not super-common, goes well with a Vietnamese middle name, hasn't been used in our families before

My husband's criteria: Starts with "R," easy to say and spell

A year after our kid was born, I finally persuaded him to watch Firefly. Halfway through, he hit pause and incredulously asked me if I'd really named our daughter after a possibly psychotic killer on a SciFi show. I explained that since my Vietnamese name is Tam, I actually named her after myself.

He says he gets to name the next one.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:00 PM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I see that and raise the Baby Naming Matrix: a 40 column by 25 row spread sheet of First Name - Middle Name combinations we read out loud and checked the initials of, before ultimately rejecting all of them.

The wife and I built a 30x30 matrix before deciding on our son's first name/middle name. Why yes, we are engineers... (and though it was discarded in the matrix of names for our son, we named one of the cats 'Erasmus', it's just too good to give up on).

My first name is unique for the US, but a common Irish name. I usually give my last name at restaurants, etc. when I know someone will call out my name, to avoid the painful confusion and garbling of the name that results. Amazingly, a non-trivial number of people mangle my last name as well ('Sullivan') - that just hurts. Growing up, my brother (who also has a distinctive name) and I found that our 'odd' names helped more than hurt us - by far more classmates in grade school liked our names than made fun of them.

My wife was worried that 'Aoife' (our daughter) would be too popular given that it was the most popular girl's name (or in the top ten) of Ireland at the time - I pointed out that we're from and live in the US - where it doesn't even break the top 1000. Finn (our son), on the other hand, makes it into the top 1000. The most common comment: 'Is Finn short for anything?' No. No it is not (Possibly the most ridiculous and improbable myth/folktale involving a fish - and full of excessively similar-sounding names).
posted by combinatorial explosion at 12:07 PM on June 3, 2013


I've been surprised how accurately the popular dog names at the Upper West Side dog runs seem to reflect the popular baby names 5 years later. Lots of Hudsons and Dakotas, the came a lot of Daisys and Luci's... 5 years from now, look for Pepper and Cleo and Harvey to come back around.

Back in 2001 Mr. Architeuthis named his new kittens "Oliver" and "Annabelle," which have since gotten exponentially more popular. This has been the occasion of more than one awkward moment with new friends with young children and has reinforced my longstanding prejudice that pets shouldn't get people names.

The working title for Toddler Architeuthis was "Temperance Jehosophat," which we figured would make any name we actually chose seem appealing. We ended up choosing a name towards the bottom of the Top 100 that is genteelly declining in popularity. Gestating Architeuthis's current nom de utero is "Ezekiel Terpsichore" for the same reasons, although Mr. Architeuthis seems to be getting alarmingly fond of "Zeke".
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:11 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Conspire:Actually, the best present one could probably give a kid is giving them a name so incredibly common that they can't be googled nor facebooked.


There is definitely some comfort in a name like this. My name is quite common, I share it with a photographer, a television host, and a whole bunch of other people who are quite obviously not me.
posted by inertia at 12:14 PM on June 3, 2013


Gestating Architeuthis's current nom de utero is "Ezekiel Terpsichore" for the same reasons, although Mr. Architeuthis seems to be getting alarmingly fond of "Zeke".

I may change my 12-year-old's name to "Gestating Architeuthis" whether she likes it or not.
posted by briank at 12:18 PM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I also like it when people say their trying to pick a name that can’t be made into a nickname. Good one! Let me know what time you’re making the sun rise tomorrow.
posted by bongo_x at 12:21 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the bad thing about names without obvious nicknames is that it encourages those people who are hellbent on bestowing nicknames on their friends and acquaintances to go freeform.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:27 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


To give a different perspective, I wish my parents would have cared a little bit about what nicknames could be made from a child's name. My name is Adam Moran and I was called 'A Dumb Moron' until 4th grade when that morphed into 'A Damn Moron'.

I wish my parents had had a friend point this out to them while they were pregnant, so I make sure to look for mean nicknames in any potential names friends are looking at while pregnant.

My only consolation is my initials spell JAM which is kinda cool.
posted by DynamiteToast at 12:37 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


DynamiteToast, if your first name begins with J, why did you go by Adam?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:40 PM on June 3, 2013


Wait, why didn't you go by your first name — the J name in JAM?
posted by stopgap at 12:41 PM on June 3, 2013


I know I have drifted out of my generation because I have the #1 name from the year I was born, and in an office of about 100 people, it is unique. Quite refreshing.
posted by bastionofsanity at 12:44 PM on June 3, 2013


My father's first name is also my first name (Jeff). I grew up in East Texas and they didn't want me to be 'Jeffy' or 'Little Jeff' so they called me Adam. It never occurred to me until long after I cared anymore that I could have gone by Jeff I guess.

I didn't get picked on more than any other little kid, so it's not like it was traumatizing. Just clear they didn't think about it much at all.
posted by DynamiteToast at 12:44 PM on June 3, 2013


DynamiteToast: I wish my parents would have cared a little bit about what nicknames could be made from a child's name. My name is Adam Moran and I was called 'A Dumb Moron' until 4th grade when that morphed into 'A Damn Moron'.

I get that, but teasers gonna tease. My last name is "Provost" and one would-be bully insisted on calling me "Provolone" for several years until it became clear that it didn't bother me in the slightest.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:44 PM on June 3, 2013


My father's first name is also my first name (Jeff). I grew up in East Texas and they didn't want me to be 'Jeffy' or 'Little Jeff' so they called me Adam. It never occurred to me until long after I cared anymore that I could have gone by Jeff I guess.

My grandmother wanted to name my uncle Jeff "Leonard", but my grandfather didn't want any kid of his being a "Lenny" or "Leo". He lost the battle, but won the war because from the instant he was born, he only called him Jeff.
posted by gjc at 1:03 PM on June 3, 2013


I always wanted names for my kids that were uncommon but not pretentious. I was leaning toward Beulah for my daughter, but my wife wasn't having it. So we settled on using my name, which was fairly common, peaked in the 60s with males, but is almost completely unknown for females at any time, afaik. So there's one 18 year old female named "Timothy", going pretty much by "Timmie". The closest and only other example I can think of is Timi Yuro, and sadly, most folks have no idea who she was.

Same desires for my son, uncommon but not pretentious. The wife was reluctant with my choice, but saw the light. It turns out, usage of the name "Otis" peaked about 100 years ago and is virtually unknown for new baby names these days. Uncommon, and certainly not pretentious. He once told me he'd rather have been named "Jayden". I replied that he'd soon enough be thankful I'd never even considered it.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:09 PM on June 3, 2013


I'm a mid-70s Jocelyn and met a total of two others by the time I was 18. It was in the 400s when I was named, and got as high as 50 in the mid-noughties, which I was slightly annoyed to have happen. It gets pronounced and spelled wrong (multiple ways) all the time, but I'd rather deal with that than find myself among a plethora of Jocelyns like the flood tide of Jennifers I knew as a kid.

el_lupino's name is Michael, and he laments that his childhood experience of his name is well-represented by being in the toy store, hearing a mom call out sharply, "MICHAEL!" and hearing three other kids also drop something.
posted by jocelmeow at 1:10 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hated being named John growing up. In addition to being a euphemism for toilet, there were always at least 3 Johns in any class.

My son is a John, born in 2001. He's named after his paternal grandfather, which was very important to my husband. I had no ideas for a boy's name, so I said "sure, that's fine". (If he'd been a girl, he'd have been Madeleine Irene, her initials would be MIF and we'd've called her "Miffy". Although now I'm glad that didn't happen because there seem to be a lot of Madeleine-sounding names out there.) I believe there's one other boy named John in his entire 6th grade (of about 150 students).

(And he's John, not Johnny or Jack.)
posted by Lucinda at 1:22 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


DynamiteToast, if it helps any, kids can make an insulting nickname out of ANY name. It's what they do. I always thought Elizabeth was one of those names that was 100% bully-proof... until I heard a girl get called Lizard Breath. Jerks gonna jerk.
posted by Mchelly at 1:42 PM on June 3, 2013


People who get het up when you don't just magically know that their name is out of the ordinary (spelling, not a nickname) need to get over it.

My first name is a very common name with the usual spelling, but there are about fifty fabillion nicknames, diminutives, and other bedazzling you can do with it (Bob, Rob, Robb, Bobby, Robby, Robbie, Rabbie, etc. etc.).

My last name is a very common Irish name, but with a relatively unusual spelling. There are also about fifty fabillion versions of Daly running around, some prefixed with O' and with various combinations of a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y.

It used to bug the crap out of me when I was younger, but eventually I got over it. Nowadays I don't even bother mentioning it unless it's actually important. I figure it's just all my other selves in the alternate universes bleeding over.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:47 PM on June 3, 2013


My mother was (stop me if you've heard this one) incredibly close to naming me Amelia Barnswallow, but she was afraid that people would refer to me as "Mealy Mouth."

I have never, ever, ever heard anyone referred to as Mealy Mouth.

Instead, she stuck me with an old-fashioned, hard-to-spell name with a very particular cultural connotation, and refused to let me give myself a nickname.

Imaginary Future Baby Madaminette/Madamito will probably have a name that is the equivalent of literary mashed potatoes.
posted by Madamina at 1:51 PM on June 3, 2013


My name has an "ull" in the center of it and I've had teachers and people at restaurants mispronounce it my whole life as "ool", like "coolie". If my name were "pulley" people would call me "pooley". It makes no sense to me where people are getting that pronunciation from but it's caused me embarrassment for my whole life.

I don't know what I'll name my kids if I even have any.
posted by gucci mane at 1:52 PM on June 3, 2013


My Starbucks name is Amanda. My restaurant reservation name is my husband's name. Because my easy to spell, easy to say name rhymes with Sara. And Tara and Clara. And so I'm also confused for a Claire and a Kiara. It's exhausting.

So my daughter's name is long. It's not hard to spell, but I do have to spell it to everyone because some people have come up with different spellings for this name. It's easy to say, has a built-in nickname although we call her something different, and it's classic without seeming outdated. We're happy with it, but now I'm worried because it sounds a little too much like the name that we really liked for our son.
posted by Night_owl at 2:07 PM on June 3, 2013


Amelia Barnswallow

I would have called you "Amelia Cantswallow" and nobody would have gotten it and I'd have looked dumb and gone off to try to hide my shame swinging on the monkey bars.
posted by darksasami at 2:29 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


My name has an "ull" in the center of it and I've had teachers and people at restaurants mispronounce it my whole life as "ool", like "coolie". If my name were "pulley" people would call me "pooley". It makes no sense to me where people are getting that pronunciation from but it's caused me embarrassment for my whole life.

Some accents just do that. They also drive their cor and pool into a porking spawt.

And, more confusingly, some people want their name pronounced in their accent, and some people don't. I've known a number of Shawnas who all pronounce their name "Shanna", but some would get pissed if I called them "Shanna". And other Shawnas would get angry if I don't call then "Shanna".
posted by gjc at 2:30 PM on June 3, 2013


> "I have thought on several occasions that children should choose their own adult names ..."

I basically just went ahead and did this in my early twenties. I didn't like my name, so I picked a different one. People got used to it after a while.

> "'We want to give them a unique name' 'Why?' Silence. Mumble, mumble, something ..."

... Why not?

> "People who get het up when you don't just magically know that their name is out of the ordinary (spelling, not a nickname) need to get over it."

People who make the assumption that when someone tells them "my name is [X]" it means they should call that person anything other than "[X]" need to listen better.
posted by kyrademon at 2:31 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have thought on several occasions that children should choose their own adult names ...

In my experience with immigrants who do exactly that, the results can be... mixed. Consider the case of one of my professors, who named herself "Ada" after the computer scientist. Only problem? Her last name was "Dong."
posted by snickerdoodle at 2:49 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks to this discussion, I now realize that my older daughter's name is too obscure and hard to spell, and my son's name is too common and unimaginative. I still feel okay about the baby, so I'd better stop reading before the guilt overwhelms me.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:52 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It turns out, usage of the name "Otis" peaked about 100 years ago and is virtually unknown for new baby names these days.

Also, he may be known as The Elevator, which would be pretty sweet.
posted by mr. digits at 3:08 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


(I do know someone whose daughter is called Molly but is actually named Margaret. Margaret in itself is a weird case in point--I don't think anyone's naming their kids "Peggy" anymore, although maybe Mad Men changed that, but I never knew how "Peggy" sprang from Margaret in the first place. I've also heard that "Daisy" was often a common nickname for Margaret, because "Marguerite" in French means "daisy." I think most Daisys I know now--and that one has had a resurgence along with Rose and Lily and Violet--are Daisys on their own.)

Margaret is my given name. Margaret Susanne, actually, and the family tells me that my short self was hung with this long moniker because the nuns at the hospital would not allow my father to put Peggy Sue on the birth certificate. (I am so fucking grateful to those women, let me tell you. I hate Buddy Holly and that fucking song.)

As far as how Peggy came from Margaret, everything I've ever read points to someone mis-speaking. A Medieval variant was Meggie, and Peggie sprang up around the same time.

I've been called many variants of the name, depending on who I'm with. My German friends often called me Gretchen or Gretl. My French exchange students have called me Daisy, and have felt pretty clever for doing so. My family calls me Maggie, some friends call me Missy. I've been called Rita and even Margarita, and I don't mind those, either. Calling me by my given first name or that dog-awful mess my father wanted to put on my birth certificate, though, and you're likely to get bitten.

As for naming my own kids, the Maus and I didn't have any elaborate plan. Our firstborn was going to be Alex, no matter what. Elder Monster is Alexander Martin. Our secondborn was to be named after a family member we dearly loved. Younger Monster is Ernest Edward, after the Maus' Dad. (The choice for a girl was Hildah Elisabeth, after my Great Grandmother, who totally lived up to her Valkyrie namesake. One did not fuck with Great Gram.)
posted by MissySedai at 3:26 PM on June 3, 2013


Rock Steady: Heh. My other good friend from childhood was actually named John Smith. No, I have not been able to get back in touch with him, why do you ask?

It's okay because I'm a computer scientist and I judge people who can't use search functions properly so the people who can't find me on Facebook are the type of people I don't wanna be friends with anyway.

Oh the joys of being an asshole twenty year old.
posted by Conspire at 3:41 PM on June 3, 2013


My wife has the Japanese equivalent of "Jane Brown".

My name in Japan was...rather uncommon. I was thinking about registering my hanko at the town hall, and was asking friends for some advice on picking characters that sounded somewhat like my name. They came up with something they told me translated roughly to "Fatty FloorTaste." NOPE.
posted by Hoopo at 3:46 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


And, more confusingly, some people want their name pronounced in their accent, and some people don't. I've known a number of Shawnas who all pronounce their name "Shanna", but some would get pissed if I called them "Shanna". And other Shawnas would get angry if I don't call then "Shanna".

My good friend Tarah insists I pronounce her name wrong, that I should be pronouncing it to rhyme with "Sarah." Of course, I do pronounce those names in the same way ("Tair-ah" and "Sair-ah")--but not the way she does, which is Terra and Serra.

This is why people from New York and Boston can never be friends.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:51 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also my name was not even ranked when I was born but thanks to some stupid TV shows, by the time I was 15 everyone's dog was named Phoebe and now every crunchy 8 year old I know has three or four friends with the name. It makes me perhaps inexplicably grumpy. I never even met another Phoebe until I was 20 and in college (and then it was my 50-something professor).

At least people can mostly spell it now, though.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:56 PM on June 3, 2013


Thanks to this discussion, I now realize that my older daughter's name is too obscure and hard to spell, and my son's name is too common and unimaginative. I still feel okay about the baby, so I'd better stop reading before the guilt overwhelms me.

You know, I think this whole baby naming angst might just be another example of something I've noticed. There's defiantly a message out there that if you don't agonize over every bit of your kid's life, you're doing it wrong. Even if you raise a happy and healthy kid.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:13 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was thinking about registering my hanko at the town hall, and was asking friends for some advice on picking characters that sounded somewhat like my name. They came up with something they told me translated roughly to "Fatty FloorTaste." NOPE.

Every Japanese student at some point decides to pick kanji for their name, so you are in good company. Most go for phonetic ateji transcriptions, such as David Aldwinkle's silly 有道出人 when he naturalized. As an example of another method, Ken Lunde uses ateji for his given name and a translation for his surname with 小林剣, which actually looks like a Japanese name and people can actually read it. One of my hobbies is reading people's kanji and hanzi tattoos to them, which I can indulge frequently thanks to western obsession with Chinese characters.

At least as far as an inkan goes, the city hall will not let you register a inkan with kanji unless your legal name is written with kanji/hanzi/hanja on your state-issued ID from your home country. Otherwise, you get to use katakana or Roman letters. My registered inkan for legal documents was my surname in katakana.
posted by Tanizaki at 4:16 PM on June 3, 2013


Mr. Squirrel and I met at a Stevie Ray Vaughan concert. So we were going to name our daughter Stephanie Ray Our_One_Syllable_Last_Name_That_Kinda_Rhymes_With_Vaughan. Then he suddenly remembered some kid from grade school named Stephanie that he didn't like, and we had to go to a Plan B. We used another three-syllable S name - Samantha, and she was one of FIVE Samanthas in her kindergarten class. ::sigh:: Two different Samanthas have also been her best friend at various times in her 17 years. I went from never ever knowing anybody with that name (except on TV) to knowing 6 of them at one time.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:36 PM on June 3, 2013


I think "Seven" is fashionable again.
posted by Renoroc at 5:00 PM on June 3, 2013


Growing up I never found license plates with my name on and it was always such a bummer. I didn't hate my name, but it's uncommon enough to give the license plate thing enough subtext to say "You are different than the others!"

"I think "Seven" is fashionable again."

Aw, that was my dog's name (short for Seven Day Notice). At the time, I also had a very good friend named Severn. They were really cute together.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:17 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


One funny thing is that the naming trend of Jayden/Aiden/Kayden totally shows up among transmen. I couldn't speak to the naming trends of transwomen, but among transmen it's practically a joke that the basic default name is one of those -en names, regardless of one's age or ethnic background. Clearly there's some kind of naming meme that goes through a culture. I kind of wonder if that's a generational thing, and if transmen of the 80's called themselves Dave?

I won't be there, but I cannot freakin' wait for this discussion to occur in 100 years when Jayden/Kayden/Aiden has been unfashionable for as old-man-names long enough that they loop back around into fashionable-for-babies!
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:37 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since our family name was tough, I got David and sis got Susan. Whenever I see people I know its always David-Lastname, so it worked out.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:39 PM on June 3, 2013


Is it time to toss in the classic story of the girl named La—A?
That's actually a super racist story of dubious provenance, so let's maybe not go there.

I did not catch on to that until I read the link; I thought the catch was in knowing the difference between a hyphen and em-dash. Yikes.
posted by variella at 5:40 PM on June 3, 2013


The wife and I built a 30x30 matrix before deciding on our son's first name/middle name. Why yes, we are engineers... (and though it was discarded in the matrix of names for our son, we named one of the cats 'Erasmus', it's just too good to give up on).
posted by combinatorial explosion at 20:07 on June 3 [+] [!]


Eponysterical.
posted by acb at 6:14 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Old but vital reading material, the collection formerly known as "Baby's named a bad, bad thing".
posted by ubernostrum at 12:21 AM on June 4, 2013


That's actually a super racist story of dubious provenance, so let's maybe not go there.

On another forum, someone swore up and down that a Spanish couple in their hospital named their baby after a word they kept hearing during birth and thought was pretty - Vagina. Which seems unlikely even if you don't know the Spanish word for 'vagina' is...vagina.
posted by mippy at 4:02 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


My Starbucks name is Amanda.

I have a name which is not super uncommon in the UK, but not common enough that it's shared with celebrities or available on personalised mugs etc. It's also near impossible to pronounce if English isn't your first language, as people instinctively pronounce the double-L or the G in the way that feels most comfortable for them, and it ends up sounding nothing like my name. If I call a shop and ask them to hold something for me (I live in London where a lot of service and shop workers are serving you in their second language) the name, if it isn't the male version of my name, bears no resemblance.

I let my boyfriend order if we go to Starbucks.
posted by mippy at 4:14 AM on June 4, 2013


Renoroc: "I think "Seven" is fashionable again."

And I'm certain that "Velocity" is going to be a popular girls' name sometime soon. It's bit like Felicity, a bit like Veronica, has a nice cadence, feels like it should be a pretty name in English, and also means she can choose to write her name simply as v if she wants.
posted by barnacles at 7:01 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


A few years back, local access TV ran a salute to a local high school's graduating class, with each member smiling for a few seconds and their name flashed below. Most memorable: Fajita and Chardonnay.
posted by VicNebulous at 7:09 AM on June 4, 2013


But let's not forget middle names. Penn Jillette gets a nod in that department for naming his daughter Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette. Who wouldn't want CrimeFighter as a middle name?
posted by VicNebulous at 7:11 AM on June 4, 2013


I think the best middle name is one that can be used either in place of your first name or in place of your surname. I can't remember who it was, but some prominent actor (was it a Redgrave or something?) made sure to give all of his children middle names that could be used in place of their surname if they wanted. Honestly, though, "Redgrave" has to be one of the coolest surnames. Almost as cool as "Blackthorn". That's probably the route I'd go if I had any desire to have kids. I don't know where I got "Harlock" from, but that would definitely be in the running (for a middle name, and assuming whoever is birthing the kid is for it).

I can't think of too many first names for males that I like. Is Remy a male name? Oh! Lemmy Caution would be a cool name. Benton. You don't fuck around with a guy named "Benton" because his bro Race will tear your face off. Would Durant be an acceptable first name?

I think females have a far better selection of first names. I have no trouble thinking up names for girls, but for boys, it's like, "Uh, how about Stan?".
posted by Redfield at 8:10 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


While it totally makes sense, It blows my mind that I'm old enough to witness no less than THREE up and coming college ball players named "Shaquille"
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:19 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


some prominent actor (was it a Redgrave or something?) made sure to give all of his children middle names that could be used in place of their surname if they wanted

That would be Jon Voight, for his children Angelina Jolie Voight and James Haven Voight.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:11 AM on June 4, 2013


That would be Jon Voight, for his children Angelina Jolie Voight and James Haven Voight.

That makes more sense since I pretty frequently have to check Wikipedia to make sure I'm not mixing up John Voight with John Lithgow (which I do all of the time). I'm always pretty disappointed when I expect Lithgow and get Voight.

"That isn't John Voight. This is bullshit!".
posted by Redfield at 9:15 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have thought on several occasions that children should choose their own adult names

That concept was done in Marge Piercy's book Woman on the Edge of Time. Kids were given a name at birth which was understood to be their childhood name, and around age 14 or so they went out to do a vision quest of sorts, and one of the things they were supposed to come back with was their "true name." I remember in the book a girl named Dawn went on her quest and came back as Hawk, and a very vital male character named Jackrabbit had originally been named Peony. (This was a very anti-sexist society so men were just as likely to be named Peony as women were.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:27 AM on June 4, 2013


Also, in honor of this generation's greatest actor, I shall be naming my firstborn either Beauregard Cumbersome or Banacek Crankenstein

Not Bandersnatch Cummerbund?
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:35 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bun Bun Cumberfun!
posted by Madamina at 10:10 PM on June 4, 2013


I have to plug my own baby name project (Nametrix), since it's so relevant to the Freakonomics type of analysis mentioned in the FPP (enough that Stephen Dubner posted it to the Freakonomics blog), and I'm sad that it wasn't mentioned as one of the most-cool baby name apps above.

Here's the MetaFilter projects link

It'll tell you things like what professions people with each name tend toward, what political parties they lean toward, where in the US they were popular in any given year (interactive heat map), what the top names are for each profession or party... Pretty interesting stuff.

Examples from the app:

Aaron
Top profession: Rabbi (Aarons tend more toward this than any other, all else being equal/normalized)
Top party: Libertarian
Popularity peak: 1981
Most popular in the Midwest in 1981

Top drummer names:
#1 Mickey
#2 Joey
#3 Pete
posted by hodgebodge at 10:07 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


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