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Elmer and Gertrude? They are likely pretty old.
June 3, 2014 5:38 AM   Subscribe

The median living Brittany is 23 years old. Nate Silver (and Allison McCann) perform some pretty impressive data wrangling and graphical analysis on the age of living Americans with a given name.
posted by Curious Artificer (210 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Huh. With the exception of Bessie and Minnie, all of the female "Deadest Names" are fake names I've given out for myself when I didn't want a stranger to know my real name. This may have had some unintentional but beneficial subconscious benefits for me.
posted by Mizu at 5:47 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I was before my time!
posted by cjorgensen at 5:51 AM on June 3


The age of the average Bill is 61?
posted by hal_c_on at 5:52 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


This is a fun idea, but does ignore the possibility that there is a conspiracy to systematically murder people with particular names. Or, worse, some names just annoy people so much that they are more inclined to not help them, and thus they die.

"Oh Jeeze," said the doctor, as the ambulance crew brought in three different critically injured patients, "we don't have the resources to save all three of these! What are we to do?"

"It's alright doctor!" Cried the nurse, "One of them is called Joseph."

"Oh thank god!" replied the Doctor, "Toss him out the back then. Lets save some people without terrible names, eh?"
posted by Cannon Fodder at 5:55 AM on June 3 [19 favorites]


I was given one of the deadest names in America.
posted by ursus_comiter at 5:55 AM on June 3


I think the Bill statistics would be skewed by the fact that the average guy who goes by Bill is actually named William. Apparently, men who have Bill as their given name are pretty old.

My nephew Leo is named for my grandfather, also Leo. I think his parents would be pretty horrified that people assume he's named after the guy in Titanic!
I was given one of the deadest names in America.
Hi Chester!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:00 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I really liked this article. It turns out that I'm the exact median for my age.
posted by codacorolla at 6:01 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


You can also tell someone's heritage by their name. I don't recall seeing the names Jesus or Mohammad mentioned in the article, but both are exceedingly common and enduring in many places. As many Jesuses (sp?) as I've met in central Texas, I'm surprised it didn't make the list.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:02 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I actually met a Janet younger than me a few months ago. That never happens.
posted by interplanetjanet at 6:02 AM on June 3


Oh please let's hire Nate Silver for our side. I'm sure he can demonstrate how we can't afford not to if need be.
Please, Seriously.
posted by vapidave at 6:03 AM on June 3


*tries not to look miffed that once again I am locked out of the fun with names data*
posted by Kitteh at 6:08 AM on June 3 [5 favorites]


Between 1965 and 1985, everyone named their daughter Jennifer, and now, no one does. So Jennifer was officially a Name Fad. What this means for all the Jennifers of the world is that while they’ve enjoyed spending most of their life so far with a cute, hip, young girl name, they are on their way to having a Your Mom’s Friend’s Name. A Your Mom’s Friend’s Name happens when lots of middle-aged people have a name that no young or old people have.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 6:09 AM on June 3 [7 favorites]


Also, you can often get a rough idea of someone's age by looking at their elbows.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:09 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


As many Jesuses (sp?) as I've met in central Texas, I'm surprised it didn't make the list.

I feel like there are a lot more Latinos and Arab-Americans who want their kids to have "white" names than white Americans who name their kids Jesus or Mohammad.
posted by Etrigan at 6:10 AM on June 3


Here's a geographic breakdown in a similar vein.

I wonder how many of those girls named Brittany know that they're named after a region of France. And I wonder how many of them could find it, or even France, on a mpa.

So what tv character was named Brittany, anyway? Some soap opera vixen?
posted by mareli at 6:11 AM on June 3


And I thought we were so original naming our daughter Violet 5 years ago. Turns out we were literally just being trendy.
posted by swift at 6:14 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Between 1965 and 1985, everyone named their daughter Jennifer, and now, no one does. So Jennifer was officially a Name Fad. What this means for all the Jennifers of the world is that while they’ve enjoyed spending most of their life so far with a cute, hip, young girl name, they are on their way to having a Your Mom’s Friend’s Name. A Your Mom’s Friend’s Name happens when lots of middle-aged people have a name that no young or old people have.

I'm a 1985 Jennifer.

The struggle is real.
posted by phunniemee at 6:18 AM on June 3 [46 favorites]


And I thought we were so original naming our daughter Violet 5 years ago. Turns out we were literally just being trendy. QFT.

I knew of ONE kid named Sarah when we chose that name for our daughter. Seemed like half the kids she went to school with were named Sarah, and the other half were boys.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:19 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


A friend of mine has an infant named Violet as well. Oops.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:23 AM on June 3


Interactive map showing how names spread across U.S. over the last century

Interactive map of the most popular girls' names for the last 60 years (a.k.a. Watch the wave of Jennifers flood the country)
posted by Mchelly at 6:23 AM on June 3


(on preview - my second link was also mareli's first. sorry!)
posted by Mchelly at 6:24 AM on June 3


So what tv character was named Brittany, anyway? Some soap opera vixen?

I would suspect Ms. Spears was the inspiration for a goodly number of alternate-spelling Brittanys running-around today...Probably to their parents' deep regret, considering.

The name I always wondered about were the girls named Madison we kept running into during our daughter's formative years. The only option we could come up with was the parents were big fans of either the movie Splash or of a popular porn actress of that time.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:24 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


~And I thought we were so original naming our daughter Violet 5 years ago.
~A friend of mine has an infant named Violet as well.


Well, The Incredibles *was* a very popular movie...
posted by Thorzdad at 6:26 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


The age of the average Bill is 61?

I'm 29 and every William I've met in my cohort is either "William" or "Will." I've never met a "Bill" my age. I've also never met an Edward who calls himself "Ted" (preferring "Ed") and very few Roberts who go under "Bob" (preferring "Rob").
posted by griphus at 6:26 AM on June 3 [6 favorites]


My mom is a teacher, and for many years when I was little we had an old, yellowed cartoon magneted to the fridge.

It had a bunch of small children standing together class picture style, with something like "Miss Smith - 1st Grade - 1986" and the caption read "Jennifer Jennifer Jennifer Trevor Jennifer Trevor Trevor Trevor Jennifer Trevor Trevor Jennifer Jennifer Trevor Jennifer Trevor."

See also: 27 Jennifers.
posted by phunniemee at 6:26 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


In Ham Radio culture, "elmer" is the term for the older guy* who gets you into the hobby, advises you, gives you gear on 99-year-loan and often administers your first license exam -- in other terms, your "sea daddy" or com-speciific mentor. ("Who was your elmer?" "My elmer was a neighbor down the street named Sam; Friend of my Dad's.")

Given that the average age of a Ham in the US is anecdotally now upwards of 60 and rising -- WP sez it's as high as 80 in some countries -- that would make "Elmer" at least 75 or 80 years old, possibly more.

So it seems that Elmer himself is the deadest guy in the deadest hobby in America.


---------------------------------------------------------
* In the US, I don't believe the hobby ever exceeded 15% female participation.

posted by Herodios at 6:34 AM on June 3 [18 favorites]


Youngest Female Names

#8 Kaylee, #10 Zoe, both peaking just less than 10 years ago. I see you, Firefly nerds.
posted by frogstar42 at 6:35 AM on June 3 [26 favorites]


Yet another Jennifer here. We should take over the thread.
posted by desjardins at 6:35 AM on June 3 [5 favorites]


One year, we had eight kindergarten classes, each with their own Mia. Based on the "Youngest Female Names" chart, next year's kindergarten classes will have an even WORSE problem than we did. At least we had a classroom for each.

I've got one "dead name", three senior citizen names, and a eight-year-old-median name in our kid mix (that eight year old median name is a middle name).

Of course having Senior Citizen names means we don't get much in the way of souvenir mugs with their names emblazoned upon them.
posted by tilde at 6:36 AM on June 3


Jesuses (sp?)

Jesi
posted by iotic at 6:36 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


The age of the average Bill is 61?

One of my bosses goes by Bill, and he's either 61 or 62!

My name isn't on any of these lists. It must mean I'm due to be immortal. AWESOME.
posted by Atreides at 6:36 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


It must mean I'm due to be immortal. AWESOME.

Awesome? Depends on how much you like annelids...
posted by selfnoise at 6:38 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I'm apparently very young for a Ken, a fact for which I'm grateful since I'll continue to at least be the youngest something in the room for the foreseeable future.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:38 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I kinda think old people names are charming for kids, and I'm planning on using them for all of mine.
posted by empath at 6:39 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


There was an interesting article I read here a year or so ago about how old fashioned names (like the majority dead names in the 538 piece) tend to cycle back into use as being fashionable after a certain amount of time. I couldn't find it after a few minutes of searching, but I think they also did some basic statistical analysis to determine how long the cycle was.
posted by codacorolla at 6:39 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I know this has been talked about many times before, but it's very hard to avoid the zeitgeist while choosing names, especially within your own socioeconomic class, unless you are willing to entirely make up a name (and even then...). It turns out that almost everybody in the same group has similar criteria for a good name and that drives them towards the same names even when, ironically, one of those criteria is distinctiveness.

When we chose the name Freya for our oldest daughter, it was practically unknown in North America. It's still not common, but I've met several other Freyas about her age in the last few years.

My parents did a pretty good job though. I think the median age for Duff as a given name in Canada is probably pretty close to 34. You know, since I'm 34.
posted by 256 at 6:40 AM on June 3 [7 favorites]


it's very hard to avoid the zeitgeist while choosing names

I don't think so, really. You just have to reach outside of pop-culture for influences. All those Jennifers were because of Love Story, for example.
posted by empath at 6:42 AM on June 3


Men of a certain age, especially Canadians, could tell you about the many various Daves they know.
posted by Shepherd at 6:46 AM on June 3 [16 favorites]


There was an interesting article I read here a year or so ago about how old fashioned names (like the majority dead names in the 538 piece) tend to cycle back into use as being fashionable after a certain amount of time.

This has been talked about for sure on the Baby Name Wizard blog. Here's the first one I found on a cursory googling.

Basically, that name styles tend to skip two generations. The names of our parents sound like parents' names, the names of our grandparents sound like old people, but the names of our great grandparents have antique charm. They're just far enough out of reach for the current generation for them to feel sweet and new again.

Which is why when you go to name your baby Opal you think it's the cutest thing ever but your mom curls up her nose remembering her crusty great aunt Opal.
posted by phunniemee at 6:47 AM on June 3 [6 favorites]


24 years ago, we named our daughter Dorothy. Even though, according to the charts, it's in the top-25, its median age is 74. We've never run into another Dorothy who wasn't also collecting Social Security.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:48 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


It's going to be so strange when our grandkids are named Gertrude, Bertha, Myrtle, & Bessie.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:49 AM on June 3 [7 favorites]


Girls’ names typically cycle in and out of fashion more quickly than boys’ names, which means that they have narrower interquartile ranges. For instance, almost half of living Lisas are now in their 40s, meaning that they were born at some point between 1964 and 1973.

Inneresting.

'Cause boys are more likely to get saddled with the names of dead or important ancestors (at least first borns), which slows down the pace of change, while the girls get whatever the folks think is cool or pretty?

No children here, but the plan was a boy would get named after a favorite grandpa from each side (so "Rafael Leopold" (kid lucked out he wasn't)), and the girl would have been Vivian Estella ("Vivian" sounds cool or pretty -- "Estella" was her mother's mother's name (she departed early in our courtship). So the theory checks, sorta.

Anyway. Awesome number-crunchering!
posted by notyou at 6:49 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


it's very hard to avoid the zeitgeist while choosing names

Not really, all my totally forever nonexistent children will be named with proper Edwardian and or Romanesque names. Augusta. Scipio. Octavian. Etc.

(oh course I would see them as I would be off having Gin Adventures in my prop plane.)
posted by The Whelk at 6:50 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


> In Ham Radio culture, "elmer" is the term for the older guy* who gets you into the hobby

Similarly, in cycling, the phred is the old school steel-is-real guy who continues to advocate on behalf of Italian quill stems and Campagnolo Record freewheels.
posted by ardgedee at 6:52 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


Congratulations, The Whelk, your children are the capitalist bad guys in the Hunger Games.
posted by phunniemee at 6:53 AM on June 3 [18 favorites]


it's very hard to avoid the zeitgeist while choosing names

I don't think so, really. You just have to reach outside of pop-culture for influences.


The problem is that reaching outside of pop culture is way harder than it used to be, when you had fewer movies, three TV networks, niche cable (if that) and no Internet. There used to be a pop culture. Now there are dozens that are comparatively huge, and the turnover in all of them is much, much faster.
posted by Etrigan at 6:55 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Augusta. Scipio. Octavian. Etc.

True fact: one of my wife's coworkers had a boy three years ago and her husband very seriously campaigned to name him Romulus.

(They did not name him Romulus.)
posted by uncleozzy at 6:57 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Is there a pop culture source for the recent upswing in Violets?
posted by my favorite orange at 6:58 AM on June 3


the incredibles prolly?
posted by elizardbits at 6:59 AM on June 3


ooohh, right.
posted by my favorite orange at 6:59 AM on June 3


Similarly, in cycling, the phred is the old school steel-is-real guy who continues to advocate on behalf of Italian quill stems and Campagnolo Record freewheels.

Derail: Everyone I've known who has felt this way has been under 40.
posted by 256 at 6:59 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Is there a pop culture source for the recent upswing in Violets?

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
(remake) came out 9 years ago. Perhaps that helped kick it off?
posted by Atreides at 7:00 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Not really, all my totally forever nonexistent children will be named with proper Edwardian and or Romanesque names. Augusta. Scipio. Octavian. Etc.

My wife has relative named Livy. Of course this is the kind of WASPy family where all the men are NAME NAME NAME III, and all the women are named Mary.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:01 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]




A paramedic friend introduced me to the term Gomer that they used for "frequent flyers" on the ambulance, though as a different acronym from the one in the Wikipedia article: "Grand Old Man of the E.R."
posted by XMLicious at 7:03 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I've been pleasantly surprised at the resurgence of Genevieve, #5 on the Names with the Widest Age Spreads graph. It was my great-aunt's name, and the name of Catherine Deneuve's character in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and I've seen it pop up among a number of college-aged young women lately.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:06 AM on June 3


> Everyone I've known who has felt this way has been under 40.

Or over 60. It's a bimodal distribution similar to the decline and revival of Violet as a woman's name.

The phreds under 40 are advocating bikes whose advantages they only understand through other people's nostalgia; the phreds over 60 are advocating bikes they lusted after when they were teenagers.
posted by ardgedee at 7:08 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Elementary school teachers better brace for the oncoming tide of Elsa in the not so distant future.

Bella is bad enough.
posted by vuron at 7:08 AM on June 3 [13 favorites]


Congratulations, The Whelk, your children are the capitalist bad guys in the Hunger Games.

Well, this goes without saying.
posted by The Whelk at 7:08 AM on June 3 [5 favorites]


I still want to punch Mackenzies in the face though.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:13 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


My parents gave me my great-grandfather's middle name as my first name and there it is on the list of the oldest names. My middle name is even more obscure and combine that with my anglo last name, I sound like sitcom millionaire.
posted by octothorpe at 7:14 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


that would make "Elmer" at least 75 or 80 years old, possibly more

My 93-year-old grandfather Elmer is pulling that number up a bit.

We also call the station wagon we bought from him "Elmer," a trend I expect to spread like wildfire among owners of elderly Subaru Outbacks. Kids, we're taking the Elmer today.
posted by theredpen at 7:16 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I know this has been talked about many times before, but it's very hard to avoid the zeitgeist while choosing names, especially within your own socioeconomic class, unless you are willing to entirely make up a name (and even then...).

My parents inadvertently solved this for my brother by being indecisive, and ultimately they picked his name by opening up a random page in the phone book and picking the first name they landed on. I assume they would've tried again if they'd hit a girl's name, but they hit a fairly unpopular boy's name on the first try, and that's what they went with. His name does have a pop culture reference, but not one that you'd generally name your kid after.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:17 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Bulgaroktonos, my sister is called Livy, but it's because my other sister couldn't pronounce Elizabeth - it came out "Livabep", which eventually shortened to Livy. That may be the case with your wife's relative, too.
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:17 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I sound like sitcom millionaire.

My boyfriend has a similar naming structure and I've told him he sounds like a teen movie villain. Your description is WAY NICER, I'm adopting it immediately.
posted by troika at 7:18 AM on June 3


I sound like sitcom millionaire.

Ah, Earnst T. Guilerhands!
posted by The Whelk at 7:20 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Whenever I think about baby names I have to consider my long, cumbersome last name. My (likely to remain) hypothetical top contenders are Marco and Serena, since they have enough syllables and end with a vowel to sort of soften and lead in to the long, cumbersome last name.
posted by codacorolla at 7:20 AM on June 3


I think the Bill statistics would be skewed by the fact that the average guy who goes by Bill is actually named William.

And I am a William called Will, but not a Wil.

Yeah, the conflation of different names -- and also the question of grouping alternate spellings, which I didn't see mentioned -- makes this data tricky.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:21 AM on June 3


( my middle name is my father's first name which has the virtues of being a verb, using a less popular spelling, and gayer than brunch. Thank god Jon Lennon got shot otherwise I was going to be DONALD, after a dead grandfather, and no . I am not a Don. Sheesh.)
posted by The Whelk at 7:21 AM on June 3


DiscourseMarker: His name does have a pop culture reference, but not one that you'd generally name your kid after.

"Dirty Sanchez Marker"?

National Geographic blog: Why Have Female Hurricanes Killed More People Than Male Ones?
posted by XMLicious at 7:21 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I was named after a female character in a play my parents saw when mom was pregnant. Of course, this was in China, where names aren't usually very gender specific. (Though oddly enough from Googling/Facebooking my first name it seems almost all of them are women.) It also means I can never find my name on a novelty souvenir license plate. Boo.
posted by kmz at 7:23 AM on June 3


> Augusta. Scipio. Octavian. Etc.

I went to school with three sisters named Octavia, Flavia, and Augusta.
posted by needled at 7:23 AM on June 3 [8 favorites]


Our oldest daughter had a friend who gave her daughter the unfortunate name Pandora. The kid would be about 12 now. I haven't seen her on the TV news yet, but I sometimes wonder what kind of problems she's gotten into. It's like naming your kid Jinx, but more classical and obscure.
posted by Daddy-O at 7:24 AM on June 3


If you know a Brittany, she is probably of college age or just a bit older.

But she didn't get into Yale.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 7:24 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Bulgaroktonos: My wife has relative named Livy.

Curious Artificer: Bulgaroktonos, my sister is called Livy, but it's because my other sister couldn't pronounce Elizabeth

It's also a common nickname for Olivia.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:25 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I went to school with three sisters named Octavia, Flavia, and Augusta

Are they Death Eaters now?
posted by The Whelk at 7:25 AM on June 3 [11 favorites]


ultimately they picked his name by opening up a random page in the phone book and picking the first name they landed on

There's a book I read as a kid called 10 Kids No Pets. In it, the parents name their kids by going through a baby name book and picking the 1st A name, 2nd B name and so on down the line.

Abigail, Bainbridge, Calandra, Dagwood, Eberhard, Faustine, Gardenia, Hannah, Ira, and Janthina.

The kids eventually do get a pet, and they name the pet by opening the same baby name book and picking the last Z name. Zsa-Zsa.

My seven year old self found this highly amusing.

Eberhard lol.
posted by phunniemee at 7:26 AM on June 3 [11 favorites]


I actually met a Janet younger than me a few months ago. That never happens.

No one has dared to name their child Janet since 1975.
posted by JanetLand at 7:27 AM on June 3 [8 favorites]


My wife has a great story about her college friend from Miami, who's first generation Chinese immigrant parents wanted to give him an American name. So they opened the Miami phonebook, and picked out Jesus. Jesus Wong, as American as it gets.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:30 AM on June 3 [14 favorites]


I have one group of female friends in which a majority of the women are paired with a man named Chris. It's such a running joke that when talking about Alex, Meaghan's inappropriately named husband, we sometimes refer to him as Meaghan's Chris. When people are planning events and wondering whether they should be a girl's night thing or more family oriented, the questions is "Do we invite the Chrises?"

Not surprisingly, we're in in our 30s, which is pretty much prime-era Chris-time according to this data.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:34 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


My wife has a great story about her college friend from Miami, who's first generation Chinese immigrant parents wanted to give him an American name. So they opened the Miami phonebook, and picked out Jesus. Jesus Wong, as American as it gets.

One of my friends has as her English name something her Chinese mother can't even pronounce. Apparently the mother left it to the OBGYN to pick the name, and the doctor picked it out of a book.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:37 AM on June 3


Augusta. Scipio. Octavian. Etc.
True fact: one of my wife's coworkers had a boy three years ago and her husband very seriously campaigned to name him Romulus.
I intend to go with Tiberius as a middle name. Boys, girls, whatever. They're all Tiberius.

Well... maybe not really. But I do wonder what the rate of Tiberius is as a middle name, as compared to it as a first name.
posted by Flunkie at 7:38 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I know a Donkey named Tiberius. He is not brave.
posted by The Whelk at 7:39 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Is there a pop culture source for the recent upswing in Violets?

As well as The Incredibles, the Violet character in A Series of Unfortunate Events is also the sort of character I for one would totally name a kid after.
posted by lwb at 7:40 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Life reverts to the mean.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:40 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


There have gotta be Trekkies out there who have used Tiberius as a middle name. You can't be the first to think of it, surely.
posted by JanetLand at 7:40 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


The Deadest Names read like a 1950's situation comedy...
posted by jim in austin at 7:41 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


His name does have a pop culture reference, but not one that you'd generally name your kid after.


Voldemort?
posted by spinturtle at 7:42 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


> Our oldest daughter had a friend who gave her daughter the unfortunate name Pandora. The kid would be about 12 now. I haven't seen her on the TV news yet, but I sometimes wonder what kind of problems she's gotten into.

She's not the only one. A while ago, I dated a Pandora. Her apartment was overrun with all the artistic storage boxes she'd received as gifts from people who thought they were being clever. She also warned me early on that she'd already heard all the jokes.
posted by penguinicity at 7:51 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


Also, you can often get a rough idea of someone's age by looking at their elbows.

I always write 'I am 36' on my elbows after my morning shower to throw people off the scent of my debilitating fortythreeitude.
posted by biffa at 7:55 AM on June 3 [21 favorites]


I know of only one Myron younger than me, and my 40 years pulls the average down a fair bit too.

It's not a bad name, really.
posted by themanwho at 7:55 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I kinda think old people names are charming for kids, and I'm planning on using them for all of mine.

My late mother-in-law's name, which I plan to use if we ever have a girl, is Rosemary. Definitely an old person name but not one that has come back in droves. Don't steal it, please.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:57 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Re: Violet. I would never have thought to trace it to pop culture. I would think it's a part of the flower/gemstone resurgence. I know four or five little Lily/Lilly/Lillie kids, and a handful named Rose, Violet, Daisy, Pearl, Opal, Ruby etc. I think it's that "names skip two generations" thing (and I think all these names are adorable).
posted by arcticwoman at 8:03 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


Good point, arcticwoman - written other ways I've got two flowers and two trees in my kids' names.
posted by tilde at 8:06 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


My grandmother was born in the early 1900s and given the name Etta. When she grew up, she decided she didn't like it and changed it to Ethel. No one ever understood this. Who wants to be an Ethel?
posted by danabanana at 8:07 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


I think the Bill statistics would be skewed by the fact that the average guy who goes by Bill is actually named William. Apparently, men who have Bill as their given name are pretty old.

My mother and one of her brothers both have nicknames-as-given-names, and it used to piss off their grade school teachers.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:08 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


danabanana, Ethel has always been on my short list, but my partner and I are musical theater nerds.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:10 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


His name does have a pop culture reference, but not one that you'd generally name your kid after.

Squiggy?
posted by notyou at 8:11 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


I grew up in the era of Heathers, Amys, and Jennifers with an old lady name. There's something so surreal about having a name that is both unusual and common. Jane is so common it is almost never used. I could never find my name on mugs or license plates in novelty shops. No one else in my school or work is ever named Jane. But at the same time, it's so much a part of our American cultural awareness that it's not surprising.

The number of jokes I get about my name being an alias were pretty steady until I marred a man named John. Now they never stop.

I joke that we'll change our last names to Smith or Doe just to get the jokes out of the way.

On the bright side, I'm nearly impossible to Google because of all the Ancestry.com entries and geneaological records on the internet. Thanks dead Janes for giving me cover on the internet.
posted by teleri025 at 8:12 AM on June 3 [10 favorites]


I don't think people necessarily always name their kids after celebrities so much as it is that people who are going to have a baby soon are always trolling for names, and they are likely to hear famous people's names.

My brother's name was inspired by a voice actor in a popular children's cartoon at the time, but he wasn't named in tribute to that guy or anything. And fortunately for him, he was only a minor, pretty boring celebrity, so nobody ever makes the connection.

My mom acknowledges that this was risky.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:13 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Well, The Incredibles *was* a very popular movie...

Violet could also be tracked to the 2 generation gap.

I would think it's a part of the flower/gemstone resurgence

I think that the dynamics are a little more complex than the notion that pop-culture-makers pull character names out of thin air, and then people start naming kids after them.

There's probably a very specific kind attention given to what to name a character in a work of art: the associations and namefeel are carefully aligned with the character's persona so that the name 'fits' --- but of course all the associations of the name are influenced by things like the 2 generation gap, other pop references, etc. Also, the more distinct names probably get a jump start from a writer who wants to be original with their character's name. From there, it spreads to parents and typical baby blog naming culture.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 8:14 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


My name, Bethany, was very unusual for the seventies, but it's been slowly gaining in popularity. I've met just three Bethanys in my life and they were all 15-26 years younger than me. I'm going to be followed through life by a horde of Bethanys twenty or more years younger than me, but I guess my name will at least sound younger than I am, which is something I suppose.
posted by orange swan at 8:16 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Between 1965 and 1985, everyone named their daughter Jennifer, and now, no one does.

I was remarking on this not long ago. Throughout my school years, every class I was in had at least one Jennifer, not infrequently two, and sometimes more. It was a glorious time. Jennifers were everywhere. You could pick them up off the ground. We lived like there would never be an end to Jennifers. Then, unexpectedly, at some point, we hit Peak Jennifer, and now I can barely remember the last time I encountered a Jennifer under the age of 30.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:19 AM on June 3 [8 favorites]


When she grew up, she decided she didn't like it and changed it to Ethel. No one ever understood this. Who wants to be an Ethel?

because in the early 1900s, etta was the jennifer of the day. she probably knew 2 dozen ettas.
posted by elizardbits at 8:22 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I know this has been talked about many times before, but it's very hard to avoid the zeitgeist while choosing names, especially within your own socioeconomic class, unless you are willing to entirely make up a name (and even then...). It turns out that almost everybody in the same group has similar criteria for a good name and that drives them towards the same names even when, ironically, one of those criteria is distinctiveness.

It's only difficult if you're aiming for distinctiveness. You can avoid trendy names just fine if you are willing to go with something boring: John, Robert, James, Matthew. It's only when you try to be unusual that you get into trouble.
posted by enn at 8:23 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Beautiful charts and graphs!

No confuscating statistical add-ons (p<.05, etc.).

Easy to get the gist with a glance.

Edward Tufte would be proud.

Props.
posted by CrowGoat at 8:25 AM on June 3


My 5-year-old announced the other day that he would name his son "Fixer", or possibly "Guancho[sp?]".

That would be a way to get out of the trend, I guess
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:26 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


I like that some of them bounce back. A contemporary of mine (and thus, mid-to-late forties) is named Xavier and he grew up with one of the strangest deadest names around. Then a few years back when he became a father, he started hearing his name being shouted in schoolyards and playgrounds. I see now that the median Xavier is about eight, slightly older than his own son.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:28 AM on June 3


Awaiting our second child's arrival now. I have been gravitating towards traditional names for our kids and I think it's because our last name is so distinctive that a "creative" first name would make it too much of a mouthful. Plus we have a foreign (French) sounding last name, but aren't really "French" in any meaningful way, so naming a kid Claude would give the wrong idea to people. Which is too bad, because Claude is an awesome name. So... all kinds of complicated stuff goes into the name equation. I'd love to see the equation that results in someone naming their kid "Maverick" or "Load" (I am not making these up).

This article did remind me that I like the name Viola. Hmm...
posted by selfnoise at 8:28 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


My 5-year-old announced the other day that he would name his son "Fixer", or possibly "Guancho[sp?]".

Fixer Guancho might be in the top ten of all time relief pitcher names.
posted by selfnoise at 8:29 AM on June 3 [22 favorites]


Many of these fictional characters, named in the 1960s, are still active today. With no further context, I think many of you will recognize them immediately:

Reid
Benjamin
Susan
John
Peter
Bruce
Donald
Anthony
Henry
Janet
Steven (1940s)
Clinton
Wanda**
Pietro**
T'Challa**
Jacques** (apparently)
Hercules**
The**
Charles
Scott
Jean
Warren
Robert
Henry

Two "Henrys"? Two "Bruces", if you include 'the other team'. The women are named Susan, Janet, Jean, and Wanda.

As a group, these do not sound like people born in the 1980s.

--------------------------------------------
* Apparently over at DC, the secret identities of Flash, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Aquaman, and Green Lantern are all different people than they were in their first appearances. However, Black Canary (Dinah), and of course Wondrous Woman (Diana), Bats (Bruce), and Supes (Clark) are the same people they were in 1930s or 1940s.

** Not US born.

 
posted by Herodios at 8:31 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


My parents named my sister "Tegan", after one of the Dr. Who companions.

As I recall it's a Welsh name meaning "beautiful". My sister is in her mid 20s and, oddly, the majority of Tegans we have met (also of similar age, over here in the US) tend to be male not female.

The rest of us siblings (all boys) have sturdy old Bible names like "James", "Phillip", and "Samuel".
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:33 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Elementary school teachers better brace for the oncoming tide of Elsa in the not so distant future.

I was all set to name my kid Elsa if she was a girl - it was such a good name, and fit in with the Emma/Olivia/Sophia trend without being actually trendy, and we could say we named her after the lion! - and then Frozen happened and I was like fuuuuuuurrrrgh.

Instead, it's a boy and I have exactly zero boy names, to the point where Elmer's starting to look not so bad.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:35 AM on June 3



When she grew up, she decided she didn't like it and changed it to Ethel. No one ever understood this. Who wants to be an Ethel?

Ethel has always been on my short list


There's always been Ethel --



"Jacob, wake up, you've got to tidy your room now"
posted by Herodios at 8:40 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


We were just saying over in MetaChat that Bertrand needs to make a comeback.
posted by JanetLand at 8:41 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Instead, it's a boy and I have exactly zero boy names

SQUIRTLE BULBASAUR
posted by elizardbits at 8:42 AM on June 3 [11 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: My wife has relative named Livy.

Curious Artificer: Bulgaroktonos, my sister is called Livy, but it's because my other sister couldn't pronounce Elizabeth

It's also a common nickname for Olivia.


Nope! It may have originated that way but he's Livy Middlename Lastname IV. I am indeed the only woman in my family including both grandmothers and all aunts and cousins not named Mary (in some form -- technically one Maria but the rest are straight up Mary) and my brother and father have such an outlandish family name that I actually am not going to say it because if you google the name you are virtually guaranteed to find a member of my family (seriously, not trying to be a tease, just disappointed that I can't share my family's wacko WASP naming traditions with you all).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:51 AM on June 3


One of my (male, white, middle class) friends in kindergarten was named Rhemle. I have never met or heard of anyone else with that name.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 8:52 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


My 5-year-old announced the other day that he would name his son "Fixer", or possibly "Guancho[sp?]".

When my daughter's best friend was three, she insisted that her incipient sibling would be named "Fairy Papaya." My husband asked her "But what if it's a girl?" which caused mass confusion.
posted by KathrynT at 8:55 AM on June 3 [6 favorites]


Clyde should make a comeback. Solid and reliable. If you ever need a man you can count on, you call Clyde. He can hang drywall, fix the washing machine, stanch the bleeding, and can recite Milton in an emergency.
posted by honestcoyote at 8:55 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


SQUIRTLE BULBASAUR

SLAGATHOR

UNIMOG

GLORIOUS-FIVE-YEAR-PLAN
posted by KathrynT at 8:56 AM on June 3 [5 favorites]


Squirtle's totally a girl's name, though, and there are like four Bulbasaurs in the neighborhood preschool.

Electabuzz is possibly in the running.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:58 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Mrs. Pterodactyl: share my family's wacko WASP naming traditions

Oh, I've got a good one. My grandmother and her two sisters were all named Maria. This isn't that strange in an Italian-American family. They were known by their middle names. What is strange is that when the youngest daughter died in a tragic accident in the home, the middle daughter had her name changed to that of her dead sister. Gives me the willies.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:58 AM on June 3


I was three when my parents were expecting another child, and I demanded he or she be named Pom or Flora.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:00 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite math professor's name was Dr. King Jameson, III. Thus sparked my undying desire to have multiple children and name them all titles like Senator, Doctor, President. Picture the second grade class of the future:

Teacher: Brittany Adams?
Kid: Here!
Teacher: Makayla Benson?
Kid: Here!
Teacher: Tommy Cagle?
Kid: Here!
Teacher: President? Davis???
Kid: I hate my mom.
posted by teleri025 at 9:02 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


NO WAIT

DUDESKULL
posted by elizardbits at 9:05 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


I wanted to name our daughter Cuddle Sprinklebot, but evidently my wife should have been named Buzz Killington.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:13 AM on June 3 [11 favorites]


I have my fingers crossed for Fred to make a comeback. My dad would always use Fred as his hypothetical animal name. As in, "Aww, look at that duck that has his feathers sticking out funny. All the other ducks probably make fun of him. 'Hey Fred, what happened to you? You're not going to get any bread looking like that!'"

So when I get to be an old woman in some nursing home with all the other Jennifers, I would really love for some of my caretakers to automatically conjure goofy animals in my mind, just by virtue of their being named Fred.
posted by gueneverey at 9:17 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


My dad would always use Fred as his hypothetical animal name.

I use Freddie!
posted by JanetLand at 9:19 AM on June 3


A girl I went to high school with named her son D'Artagnan. Poor kid. That would be an awesome name for a cat maybe, but not a kid. Sure it's unique, there's a reason he's the only one. It's a good reason.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:21 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Very interesting!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:22 AM on June 3


My actual name will never place, but my nickname is a common actual name for my cohort.

...so I'm practically on the board.
posted by RainyJay at 9:24 AM on June 3


I would suspect Ms. Spears was the inspiration for a goodly number of alternate-spelling Brittanys running-around today...Probably to their parents' deep regret, considering.

Britney is like Whitney, and is spelled the way the name Brittany is usually pronounced. I prefer it, frankly.

It's never been as popular as Brittany, but it's been there all along. There were about 1/20-1/10 as many Britneys as Brittanys throughout the eighties and nineties, but as much as 1/2 as many Britneys as Brittanys in 2000, because Britney Spears. Compare: Brittany, Britney. Also compare Whitney's massive spike in the mid-eighties, likely caused by Whitney Houston.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:27 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


it's very hard to avoid the zeitgeist while choosing names

empath: I don't think so, really. You just have to reach outside of pop-culture for influences.

SYSTAP is right that pop culture names don't materialize out of thin air. Those characters are named by writers and producers, who tend to name characters in similar ways to how they name their kids. As a creative professional in my 30s (the same age and basic social class as the writers of many popular TV shows, movies, and books), it's hardly surprising to me that the names I loved as a teenager, before they were pop culture references at all are now both common kid names and pop culture references.

And, The Whelk, I know that I'm about your age, in more or less the same line of work, and have a similar social background to you... and both Augustus and Octavian were on our short list if our first had been a boy. There really is no escaping it.
posted by 256 at 9:28 AM on June 3


my undying desire to have multiple children and name them all titles like Senator, Doctor, President.

Y'mean like:

King Vidor
Prince Rogers Nelson
Duke Kahanamoku
Gouverneur Morris
Senator Thorvaldson
General Johnson
Major Lance
Sargent Shriver
Marshall Mathers . . .
posted by Herodios at 9:32 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen and elizardbits: thanks for the Ethel insight!
posted by danabanana at 9:34 AM on June 3


And, The Whelk, I know that I'm about your age, in more or less the same line of work, and have a similar social background to you... and both Augustus and Octavian were on our short list if our first had been a boy. There really is no escaping it.

FINE my Hypothetical kids are all named after Early European Kings, get ready Clovis, Ethelred and Knut! It's your time to SHINE.
posted by The Whelk at 9:37 AM on June 3 [9 favorites]


FINE my Hypothetical kids are all named after Early European Kings, get ready Clovis, Ethelred and Knut! It's your time to SHINE.

Pity the poor teachers who have to pronounce young Ælfweard's name every day.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:43 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


I'm old for a Jonathan. It was rare when I was in elementary and high school but it got much more popular later.

I know this because, about the time I was in college, whenever I would go into a grocery store I'd always hear one or two moms saying "Jonathan, put that down" or "No, Jonathan, you can't have that candy".
posted by benito.strauss at 9:45 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I thought the name I gave my daughter - Mia - was a rarer name, until just now. Fie. Seriously, how does this happen? I don't even know of a tv/movie/book character with that name. Just Mia Farrow.

Wait - are all these girls 'Maya's? Pronounced 'My-ah'? People always pronounce it that way which annoys the hell out of me.
posted by kitcat at 9:47 AM on June 3


It's interesting that the more classic names still go through huge waves of being less or more popular.
posted by ropeladder at 9:49 AM on June 3


I thought the name I gave my daughter - Mia - was a rarer name, until just now. Fie. Seriously, how does this happen? I don't even know of a tv/movie/book character with that name. Just Mia Farrow.

Riot Grrrls
became Riot Moms?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:50 AM on June 3


I know this has been talked about many times before, but it's very hard to avoid the zeitgeist while choosing names, especially within your own socioeconomic class

When naming my child, we weren't fixed on any particular name.
While spending hours in the hospital, we started starting writing names that appealed to us from the baby name book on the whiteboard in the room.

Whenever nurses/doctors/visitors would come in, they would inevitable say, "Hey, Jennifer is my aunt's name" or "My granddaughter's name is Madisyn".
We then took those names out of consideration.

So, we ended up with a name that, while certainly not unique, is different enough that we haven't met another one yet.
posted by madajb at 9:56 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


it's very hard to avoid the zeitgeist while choosing names . . .

reaching outside of pop culture is way harder than it used to be . . .

Augusta Scipio Octavian Romulus Livy Octavia Flavia Augusta Pandora Tiberius
Livy Middlename Lastname IV .. .


I know a toddler named "Ovid". His immigrant grandmother runs our favourite Chinese restaurant.

Facebook contains at least two other "Ovid"'s who also share his Chinese family name.

What can you do?
posted by Herodios at 9:56 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


I like the "Glorious-Five-Year-Plan" suggestion*, and it reminds me of Nicholas If-Jesus-Christ-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebon.

*: But "Glorious-Five-Year-Plan Tiberius" would be better
posted by Flunkie at 10:01 AM on June 3


One of my favorite math professor's name was Dr. King Jameson, III. Thus sparked my undying desire to have multiple children and name them all titles like Senator, Doctor, President.

"May I suggest, Mr. District Attorney, that this is the wrong line of work for a man like you. After all, just because your name is Mr. District Attorney does not mean this is the only job you can hold!" (youtube)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:07 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


I went to school with a kid named Themistocles. My daughter went to preschool with a kid named Iluvatar. My son goes to school with a kid named Johnathon which pains me deeply on a level I didn't know I had.
posted by KathrynT at 10:08 AM on June 3 [5 favorites]


I pretty much knew I had aged out of restaurant work when I became the Only Jenn, as opposed to Jenn Y or "the other Jenn". Also, always knew who the other Catholics were, since they were Jennifer Ann, as opposed to Jennifer Lynn.
posted by jacy at 10:16 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


My daughter went to preschool with a kid named Iluvatar.

Theophoric names have a long and distinguished history, but that doesn't make that not fucking weird.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:17 AM on June 3 [5 favorites]


I grew up with a name no one else had---Leah---but now I gather it's getting trendy. At least I still have the fact that no one can pronounce it the way I pronounce it. Even if I've just said it to them.

"Hi, I'm Leah [lay-uh]".

"Oh, Leah [Lee-uh], nice to meet you".

Seriously. Super-annoying.

My 5-year-old is Matilda. Given all the Sophias and Emilys and Fionas, I expect in 5 years we'll be drowning in Matildas.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:22 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I wish they had a web front-end, my name isn't popular enough to make the top 20!
posted by madajb at 10:24 AM on June 3


When people are planning events and wondering whether they should be a girl's night thing or more family oriented, the questions is "Do we invite the Chrises?"

In my early twenties, so many of my group of friends were named Dave/David that we had to assign all of us nicknames to avoid confusion. I was "Mr. Dave," because although I wasn't quite the oldest, I was by far the most curmudgeonly. One guy whose first name was David but who went by his middle name became "the un-Dave."
posted by solotoro at 10:25 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


My son goes to school with a kid named Johnathon ....

Yup, folk's'll do that. The only tricks they missed were 1) capitalizing the first 'n', because I-have-no-idea, and 2) dropping the 'h' in the 'th', to get more Hebraic. By the time you've turned it into 'JohNaton' I think it should be considered a different name, like a salad that's had cheese, bacon, and grilled beef added is not really a salad anymore, but a hamburger in a bowl.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:26 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


It's nice to see my name get a mention, even if it is relegated to "Oldest Male Names".
posted by Redfield at 10:27 AM on June 3


All my children will be named Methusela.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:28 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Article: the median Dorothy is 74

Two generations, and here it comes again. The most recent baby to appear on my Facebook feed is a Dorothy born 11 days ago.
posted by Night_owl at 10:35 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


solotoro: I was "Mr. Dave," because although I wasn't quite the oldest, I was by far the most curmudgeonly.

In High School I was "Uncle Dave" for basically the same reason.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:37 AM on June 3


I'd name my kid Elessar before I'd name him Iluvatar.

Though at that point, why not go for it and name the poor kid Muad'dib?
(His name is a killing word.)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:39 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


How strange is it to imagine making goo-goo noises at an infant named Elmer? Tickling tiny Bertha? Little baby Willard? Just doesn't compute.

Our big fear naming our two girls wasn't following a trend--nothing in the top 100 list, thank you--but inadvertently getting at the beginning of one. Especially when you have to be a little creative since you have the dullest last name in the English language.

Then Beyonce and Jay-Z named their girl Blue IVY, and apparently there's a character on some show people like named Arya, which might as well be ARIA, and we said screw it.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:43 AM on June 3


My parents were quite trendsetting, naming me Mirthe in 1979. Shame though that it's now getting a bit more popular, which means my twitter mentions are mostly teens mistaking me for a younger Mirthe.
posted by mirthe at 10:44 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


mirthe, even though the link you dropped is for the Netherlands, I thought I'd try 'Jonathan'. It shows the exact same phenomenon as happened in the U.S.. I was born in the 60s, and in the 80s there's that same up-tick.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:51 AM on June 3


My son has a dutch name that if any English speaker has heard it before it is because they have a Dutch great-uncle with the same name (go on, try and guess it). Since he was about three years old people have been commenting that he speaks like a 19th century gentleman. So who knows - maybe names really do embody an age, or something*.

Though now I am thinking we should have named him Willard.

* only joking.
posted by Megami at 10:51 AM on June 3




> Instead, it's a boy and I have exactly zero boy names, to the point where Elmer's starting to look not so bad.

Pick any two out of
Lars
Magnus
Erik / Eric

Lo many years ago, I was flipping through a phonebook in Sweden and it seemed everybody was some permutation of those three names, with '-son' attached to the end of whichever happened to be the last name (e.g. Lars Magnus Ericsson, Magnus Larsson, Lars Magnusson, etc. - almost forgot about Per, as in Per Persson. There seemed to be a lot of Torsten's, too.).
posted by needled at 10:54 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite math professor's name was Dr. King Jameson, III. Thus sparked my undying desire to have multiple children and name them all titles like Senator, Doctor, President.

My office's in-house attorney is named Judge Lastname III. I inquired as to whether I and II sat on the bench at any point, but apparently neither was even a lawyer.

My name has consistently been in the top 25-50 for about a century, but rarely climbs much higher than that. Plus I go by an unusual nickname, and according to most people, I'm the only person by this name that they know. No novelty keychains for me though. :(

If names skip two generations, my peers are likely about to start sending a little crop of Florences and Marys into the world.
posted by none of these will bring disaster at 11:00 AM on June 3


Holy crap my name has its OWN GRAPH!!!

First time I've ever seen Anna singled out for anything.

(srsly, y'know those tacky gifts with first names on them? good luck ever finding "Anna"...)
posted by fraula at 11:02 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Anna may be right up there with Elsa in a few years.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:05 AM on June 3


Men of a certain age, especially Canadians, could tell you about the many various Daves they know.

Not just Canadians. When I was in college, a slangy term for a bunch of dudebros was "The HeyDaves" because with any given group of guys you could call out "Hey, Dave!" and at least one of them would look up.

My name was always super-unusual growing up, then I went to live in Caracas in high school and there were four other girls in my school with my name. So disorienting to hear someone call your name and not be for you. I don't know how the Lisas and Jennifers managed it.
posted by ambrosia at 11:12 AM on June 3


Lo many years ago, I was flipping through a phonebook in Sweden and it seemed everybody was some permutation of those three names, with '-son' attached to the end of whichever happened to be the last name (e.g. Lars Magnus Ericsson, Magnus Larsson, Lars Magnusson, etc. - almost forgot about Per, as in Per Persson. There seemed to be a lot of Torsten's, too.).

I know why! I just read an Astrid Lindgren biography (aimed at 8-12 year olds)! Last names are pretty new, you're SoandSoSon. Lindgren was I tink the area her husband was from/his family was from - she was born Ericsson. At the time the book was written there were 37 Astrid Lindgrens in the Stockholm phone book and none of them were her (she had an unlisted phone number).

Also why Agent Phil Coulson is addressed by Thor as Phil, Son of Coul.
posted by tilde at 11:17 AM on June 3


(They did not name him Romulus.)

WHY.
posted by inertia at 11:20 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Craig was the 50th most common boy's name the year I was born (in 1955) which baffles me to this day, since in all my years of school I do not remember more than 3 classmates with the same name. Also surprising is how much its popularity has dropped, to the 600s, and over 200 places since the online popularity of Craigslist. Not even Late Late Craig Ferguson has reversed the downward trend (I suspect partly because of how he calls himself 'Craigy', a version I HATED as a kid).

My old nick Wendell was part of an Family Inside Joke (that got out when I was in my teens) that just before I was born, my father got drunk and decided he wanted me to have a first name that's alliterative with our "W" family name (vetoed by my mother). But today it's still ranked lower than Craig.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:21 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


What was with the trend of naming girls with boy's names?

Was it all names that were presumably unisex and flipped? I'm thinking Ashley, Leigh, Carol, Meredith. I remember a book from the 60s with a little girl named Katie John as one example, but then I have a neighbors down the street named Craig and Harold ... yet Craig has never struck me as a girls name. Never asked her before they moved on. We've also got a Myron and Dani, but Dani is her preferred shortening of her given name, Danielle.
posted by tilde at 11:25 AM on June 3


How strange is it to imagine making goo-goo noises at an infant named Elmer?

Glue-glue noises?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:28 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I can't find anything on The Google, but wasn't it very trendy in the 1920s/30s for girls to have versions of boy's names, at least as nicknames? I'm thinking Bobbi, Freddie, that kind of thing?

Nancy Drew also had her sidekick, a female George.
posted by inertia at 11:32 AM on June 3


tilde: Ryan and Tyler are apparently girls names now too (or at least unisex). I was taken aback the first time I met girls with those names but since the first I've met many others.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:34 AM on June 3


I'm very sad to hear that Matilda is trending. That's on our top-3 list if arcticbaby 2.0 is a girl.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:35 AM on June 3


Article: the median Dorothy is 74

Two generations, and here it comes again. The most recent baby to appear on my Facebook feed is a Dorothy born 11 days ago.


When I was in Catholic school (late 90s), the oldest teacher was an elderly nun who was largely retired except for a small section of eighth-grade math. She was just under five feet tall and about as wide. She walked with a cane and instructed the class from the head of a seminar table, which she was would pound on when we were insufficiently mathematically successful. She was once so horrified by our ineptitude that she said, "You deserve to be pitied, not censured!" Punctuated with a bang on the table. The end result of each year's crop of entirely hopeless students was always impeccable, though; she had been teaching that course for some large double digit number of years and not only had every student passed the state exam at the end of the year, they had all passed with a 90 or better. She was formidable, man.

So at one point during religious ed, one of our younger teachers was telling us about the changes in the teaching order she was a member of in the couple decades after Vat II, and the two big changes she mentioned were the (apparently quite awkward- there was some sort of secular-habit hybrid that she remembered as particularly awful) transition from habits to secular clothes, and the switch from professed names to given names. My teacher and most of her generation of sisters had gone back to their given names and the older sisters had mostly kept the professed names, so we had two groups of sisters in school, with names like Sister Augustine in one group and Sister Susan in the other. Sister Susan said off-handedly, "Yeah, Sister Euphemia's given name was Dorothy! Her family called her Dot!"

I think the five of us who were in her class actually GASPED before we started laughing hysterically. I can not think of a name- hell, I can't think of another FACT about ANYTHING that any adult could have told 13 year old me- that would have been more amazing to me than DOROTHY was at that moment. It was so amazing. DOROTHY!

Sometimes after that when she was yelling at us, I would have this, like, fourth wall moment where I looked at her and thought, "Dot."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:39 AM on June 3 [7 favorites]


What was with the trend of naming girls with boy's names?

The theory I've heard on this (I think mostly from Freakonomics so grain of salt etc) is that traditional boy's names can become girl's names, but the stream does not flow in the opposite direction, and once a sufficient critical mass of girls has a name (Ashley, Jessie) it's almost completely abandoned as a boy's name. Supposedly a boy's name on a girl is fresh, strong and iconoclastic, but a girl's name on a boy is just, you know, girly, and girls can give a boy name cooties.

I much prefer the southern tradition of Mary + family surname myself, which leads to delightfully WASPy-sounding but butch combinations like Mary Talbot or Mary Ash.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:55 AM on June 3


Random anecdotes: My maternal grandmother's given names were Valeria Elizabeth. The family gave up and called her Polly.

The newspaper occasionally quotes an expert source whose surname is McNguyen. The guy in the cubicle next to me remarked, "Sort of like O'Wang."
posted by key_of_z at 12:04 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


once a sufficient critical mass of girls has a name . . . it's almost completely abandoned as a boy's name.

This is US - specific. The UK still has its male Beverleys, Vivians, Evelyns*, Tracys, Leslies, Marions, Kimberleys and so on.


----------------------------------
*Evelyn Waugh's wife was also named Evelyn.

posted by Herodios at 12:14 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


By the way, the Social Security Administration site that keeps track of American baby names also allows you to download a zip file containing more complete lists than are on the website (a text file for every year going back to 1880 (!), listing all names that appeared at least 5 times a year or more). That's how I discovered that my very rare first name was actually given to 26 babies last year! 26 babies I will someday have to defeat in combat in order to retain my supremacy.
posted by brookedel at 12:16 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


Alexia is a language-processing disorder.

"So, these are my kids, Aphasia, Alexia and Broca's Area." - No one ever.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 12:20 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


The UK still has its male Beverleys, Vivians, Evelyns*, Tracys, Leslies, Marions, Kimberleys and so on.

Men with those names are still around, but none of those seven is currently in the top 100 for male babies.
posted by Etrigan at 12:21 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, I wonder if Benedict will finally crawl back from Name Purgatory. People may be thinking less Benedict Arnold than Benedict Cumberbatch.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:24 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Well, that's as good a way as any to know who worships the Reptilians, I guess.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:31 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I'm a circa-70's Jennifer... thanks to the novel and Ali McGraw in "Love Story". I generally think of the 70's Jennifers as the core. Also, spelling counts! No Genniphers need apply.
posted by Pocahontas at 12:34 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Also good names which should be employed with frequency upon future generations:

OBERON
ANAXIMANDER
NIMROD
ATTICUS
BENJI
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:34 PM on June 3


I like Benji. Short for Benjamin, obviously. Now everyone's called Ben, because apparently rats are better than dogs?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:26 PM on June 3


I wanted to name our son Rowan. My husband put his foot down and refused. "I'd rather name him Ralph," he said. (his father and grandfather are both named ralph and he has been grateful his whole life that his mother refused to continue the tradition.) I still don't know what sparked the vehemence, but I recognize a statement too strong to be argued with when I see one.
posted by KathrynT at 2:31 PM on June 3


Men with those names are still around, but none of those seven is currently in the top 100 for male babies.

It's funny how many diminutives and shortenings are on that list:
1. Harry
3. Jack
4. Charlie
7. Alfie
18. Max
20. Leo
23. Archie
33. Jake
44. Theo
57. Bobby
64. Jamie*
65. Alex*
66. Frankie
73. Ollie*
79. Louie

*outranked by the "real" name

Contrast that UK list with the US one, where the only boy's name that could be construed as a diminutive is Jack at #40.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:41 PM on June 3


undying desire to have multiple children and name them all titles like Senator, Doctor, President. Picture the second grade class of the future:

I once worked with a guy whose mother named him, quite literally, after the hospital he was born in.

His full name was St. Anthony [lastname].

He went by Tony.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 3:44 PM on June 3


We're expecting twins. If they're girls one of them will be named Anna, because it's always been my favorite name, except -- I think we'd have a hard time getting our children not to call her AH-na. As in Frozen.

They have been aggressively campaigning for Elsa and Anna for months.
posted by gerstle at 5:52 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


My gf's parents wanted to name her Madonna in 1957, thank goodness their outraged priest stopped them, considering the pop culture burden the name has carried since "Like A Virgin".
posted by koebelin at 6:51 PM on June 3


People may be thinking less Benedict Arnold than Benedict Cumberbatch.

More likely they'll think of the Pope.
posted by empath at 7:20 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Ha, I'm in the list of names with the widest age spread. Interesting that most of the folks with my name are younger than me.
posted by emelenjr at 8:23 PM on June 3


My husband and I both have names that were in the top ten for more than a decade. (Two decades for my name, 3 1/2 for his.) We rarely answer to those names in any kind of crowd. I usually just yell his last name instead, if I need to get his attention.

I was also once in a class with another girl who had not only my name, but the same last initial. This may have been where I learned to ignore anyone saying my name.

My daughter was named only after checking the names we like against the most recent data from the Social Security website and crossing off anything in the top hundred.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:36 PM on June 3


Yeeeeeeah my Catholic school graduating class of fourteen had two Sean Murphys and two Katie Marie Kellys. None of them cousins.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:40 PM on June 3


My parents gave me the same first name as my mom, two middle names from my grandmothers, and so I have got one hell of an old lady name. The whole thing has got more syllables than anyone I have ever compared it to, and that includes the girl whose parents gave her like six hippie names including moon-flower-lark or some shit like that.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:11 PM on June 3


256 - Freya was on our short list of names for our daughter, but she had other plans (we said each name to her after she was born to see if she reacted to any of them). Just today she was complaining about the difficulty of the cursive "f", and how she was glad that she didn't have any fs in her name.

My grandmother hated her name, yet still complained to my mother when it turned out that none of her grandchildren would be named after (thank you Mom for not saddling me with Grandma's name!).
posted by mogget at 9:15 PM on June 3


Someone mentioned "Zeitgeist" further up. That would be a great name for a child.
Also, Ragnarok.
But I would probably go with Ardbeg and Laphroaig if I had twins.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:23 PM on June 3


My girlfriend is fond of the name Ceridwen, but I'm not sold on it yet, mostly because no one will be able to spell it.
posted by empath at 11:40 PM on June 3


> Freya was on our short list of names for our daughter

Aw, you could've had a Girl Friday!

A friend of mine, whose last name starts with Z (thereby dooming all of his kids from the start to the bottom of the alphabet) was considering numerous archaic names for his new son, now a 5 months, but rejected Zebulon with regret because my friend, a teacher, already had a Zebulon in one of his classes. I had also pitched Zargon, the Mesopotamian king, but that one was shot down as well.

The boy's initial is now B, and he'll never know what an awesome set of initials he missed out on.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:52 PM on June 3


My girlfriend is fond of the name Ceridwen, but I'm not sold on it yet, mostly because no one will be able to spell it.

Ceridwen is surprisingly popular on at least one of the baby name forums I'm familiar with.

Anyway, people will misspell anything (with Ceridwen, I think your problem would be people not knowing how to pronounce it). I'm a Rebecca, and almost no one spells it right on the first go. And I don't mean people spelling it Rebekah, which is fine, but I get stuff like

Rebbeca (this is the most common, people know there's a double letter but they don't know where)
Rebeca (at least that's more efficient I guess)
Rebeccca (know when to stop!)
Rabecca/Rabeca/Ribeca (I'm a person, not a pharmaceutical product)
posted by lwb at 12:27 AM on June 4


My husband and I both have names that were in the top ten for more than a decade. (Two decades for my name, 3 1/2 for his.) We rarely answer to those names in any kind of crowd. I usually just yell his last name instead, if I need to get his attention.

That's funny; we did that thing where you scramble the letters around. So to call the attention of Roberto Williams, you'd hear Otero, Mailer, Tribble, Malter ... Something you'd not normally hear and would sound like nonsense to most other people. Got lucky in a changeable name like that.
posted by tilde at 7:01 AM on June 4


I'm 29, Bill (from William), and just named our firstborn Violet. The shame!
posted by selfish at 7:24 AM on June 4


On short names for long names - one of my co worker's parents had a rule that each kid had to have a single syllable name that was impossible to nickname, or shorten more ... I forget. Ann, Sal, Bob, Tom, Dave, Jill, Lee, Rob, Don, Mike, Will, et cetera.
posted by tilde at 7:46 AM on June 4


one of my co worker's parents had a rule that each kid had to have a single syllable name that was impossible to nickname

One of my friends growing up had a father with this rule! He regretted naming his first daughter with "too long a name" (because there are so many nicknames for a five-letter, two syllable name like "Laura" -- I mean, yes, "Laurie", but you can also call Ann "Annie" or Sal "Sally" so I don't get this objection). Their other kids got one syllable only.
posted by pie ninja at 7:58 AM on June 4


brookedel: "That's how I discovered that my very rare first name was actually given to 26 babies last year! 26 babies I will someday have to defeat in combat in order to retain my supremacy."

Take their quickening and live forever. There can be only one!
posted by I am the Walrus at 9:44 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]


Daddy-O: "Our oldest daughter had a friend who gave her daughter the unfortunate name Pandora"

I think this is sweet. They fought all the evils of the world, and then she brought them Hope.
posted by I am the Walrus at 9:45 AM on June 4


I know people who named their daughters Arwyn and Padme.
posted by phunniemee at 9:46 AM on June 4


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