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Why you're probably not named Tricia
May 5, 2009 8:54 PM   Subscribe

What leads cultural tastes and practices to be abandoned? (.pdf) A new PNAS paper by marketing professor Jonah Berger and organizational psychologist Gael Le Mens argues that the faster a trend rises, the faster it's likely to fall, at least as regards longitudinal data of first names given to American children. (Via the Baby Names Blog.) Berger has written before on the drive to non-conform; a 2007 joint paper with Emily Pronin and Sarah Molouki (.pdf) shows that "people see others as more conforming than themselves.... placing more weight on introspective evidence of conformity (relative to behavioral evidence) when judging their own susceptibility to social influence as opposed to someone else's."
posted by escabeche (42 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Your favorite everything sucks. Also: Twitter.
posted by uaudio at 10:29 PM on May 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


hey macarena!
posted by sexyrobot at 10:41 PM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why are baby names so goofy right now? All my friends are naming their babies crap like: Jayden, Brayden, Grayden, Cade, Colby, Jackson... damn there are stupider ones I can't remember... anyway I wince almost every time someone tells me their new kid's name.
posted by autodidact at 11:11 PM on May 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


autodidact: Those sound kind of like stereotypical mormon names. Where are you from?
posted by delmoi at 11:40 PM on May 5, 2009


Woomp, there it is!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:51 PM on May 5, 2009


Quick adoption leads to that "oh, for fuck's sake, I hope I never see one of those again" reaction. I still have a hard time taking people seriously whose names were trendy some years ago. I know they didn't name themselves, that it was their parents who named their kids like they were buying this year's shoes, but I don't know if I'd ever vote for someone with a spiky name like Dakota.
posted by pracowity at 12:57 AM on May 6, 2009


I'm pretty sure girls are subjected to that oftener than boys, so, fuck you, vote for me, love, Amber (1981).
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:48 AM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting this, even if only for leading me to the Many Eyes site.
posted by sfts2 at 1:57 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Remembered the stupidest one: Skyler. Not Skylar. Skyler.
posted by autodidact at 2:01 AM on May 6, 2009


This brought to mind the Gartner Hype Cycle, which I've usually seen with respect to technology uptake. The buzz tends to fuel itself and there's an inevitable backlash when the technology doesn't live up to the hype which leads to a crash. I wonder if some names actually have lasting utility that leads to a stable plateau in the end.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:29 AM on May 6, 2009


so, fuck you, vote for me, love, Amber (1981).

Thanks for the Amber Alert. What the hell happened to make "Amber" go from 997th place in the 1940s to 12th place in the 1980s? Was it a name in a soap opera?
posted by pracowity at 2:47 AM on May 6, 2009


lol. pnas paper.
posted by mafted jacksie at 2:51 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Name in a soap opera is a good guess, I always thought it had to do with stage names.
As a kid growing up, I remember kids who were actually named "Rusty", "Buster" and Dakota (capitalized DaKota. what class.) Thing is, although I remember all these kids growing up, I don't really have peers with names like that anymore- I'm not sure if it's because they changed their names or what.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:50 AM on May 6, 2009


Here in Baltimore, we still name out boy-childs "Butch".

My own name is so common that in 5th grade, in a class of 20, eight of us had the same name. Eight.

And now, I shall deftly sidestep the issue of the other Baltimore names, like Latrine and LaTrasha.
posted by sidereal at 4:39 AM on May 6, 2009


we still name out boy-childs "Butch".

It's be kinda cool if you had a girl named "Femme" to go along with that though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:49 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that baby names are necessarily indicative of the relationship between adoption and rejection because the nature of how and why people name their newborns something will have a natural ceiling. I.e. you believe your child is unique, you like name x and you go with it. If you know of y number of children in your extended social circle with the same name you call your child something else. Both because you want - and believe - your child to be unique and also because it's kinda awkward to have your friends come round with their pride and joy only to find that he/she is a just a little bit less special because your little one has the same name.

The same isn't true for trends where the social value attached to uniqueness is lower, and therefore where the saturation point is higher.

On the Gartner Hype cycle there are different factors at play: many (probably most) analysts are insecure about the validity of their forecasts, especially where it relates to disruptive services or technologies. Even if you're correct to poo-poo Twitter and it will die a horrible death in 2 years' time, you're asking your clients to bet on your judgment (most won't and can't afford to) and while your Gartner-ish competitors feed the hype. It's immensely tough to stay out of the party and a lot easier to write about the topic, even if you qualify your enthusiasm for it. Once the substance behind the hype begins to evaporate there's much less pressure to talk about it and normal service is resumed.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:00 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was looking at the top names of 2008 last night seeking insight into the bizzare prominence of Aiden (#1) / Jayden (#2) / Cayden (#5) / Brayden (#13), and I came across this ominous embedded message from the future:
Rank   Girls     Boys
#20    Sarah     Connor

posted by ulotrichous at 6:04 AM on May 6, 2009 [17 favorites]


^^ Wow, I did not RTFA but aparently I am right on the money! I forgot about "Aiden" as well.
posted by autodidact at 6:33 AM on May 6, 2009


I am 100% convinced that the reason that "Madison" has been a top 5 name for the past decade is that all of the Madisons' mommies grew up watching and loving Splash.
posted by shiu mai baby at 6:59 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always had the idea that I wanted my kids' names to have a kind of depth and meaning that went beyond whether it sounded good, or flowed well. I never really liked my own name, Kirk, and it didn't really mean anything to my parents--it was a compromise choice between Keith and Chris. As I got older, I thought a lot about names, about what I would have liked to have been named, and about what I wanted a name to represent.

I distinctly recall the autumn morning in my senior year of college when I was taking Biblical Greek and my professor introduced the word "Aletheia." It was a beautiful sounding word, and I loved the meaning--truth. Something kind of clicked for me, and I thought "If I ever have a daughter, I'd like to name her that." Eight years later, I got married, and five years after that our first child was born: a girl, Aletheia. My wife had studied Greek, too.

We started talking about boy's names, and looked at first for sort of a "matching" name that also came from Greek or Hebrew, but wasn't a traditional name, and nothing came to mind. But in one of my doctoral classes, I was taking a closer look at the history of Celtic Christianity, and one person really caught my eye. He was in the next generation after St. Patrick evangelized Ireland, and he moved from Ireland to Northumbria, the northern coast of England, to establish a mission in the early 600's. He was a man of gentleness and grace, and was admired by Popes Honorius I and Felix I, even though the Celtic-style indigenous churches he was establishing didn't adhere to the standard Roman Catholic pattern that the Popes wanted to make standard. Most of all, I loved his simple life and his concern for the poor. There's a story that one of the local kings gave him a horse so that he wouldn't have to keep walking everywhere, and this missionary had it for a day or two before giving it to a beggar. To top things off, his name was mentioned in a song by one of my favorite singers, Rich Mullins, who was also a wonderful model of simple living in his own right--giving away almost all the money from his record sales and living in a mobile home on a Navajo reservation, teaching music to the kids there. When I mentioned the name to my wife, she loved it right away.

It seemed to we that I had found a name for a future son. I didn't know anyone who had that name, although it wasn't as obscure as "Aletheia." It would represent our interest in social justice, and would subtly connect our kid to some of the best parts of the Christian tradition. I figured if anyone ever asked him "where did your weird name come from?" he could just say: I'm named for some obscure saint from the 1400 years ago. My dad's kind of a church history geek."

No one's going to ask him that, ever. The moral exemplar we named our son after? St. Aidan of Lindisfarne. Sometimes you just can't win.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:15 AM on May 6, 2009 [13 favorites]


I recall several years back that Tyler was in the top ten list of boys' names, and Taylor was in the top ten for girls. It frightened me, the notion that in another dozen years, we're going to be hearing a lot of:
"Do you Tyler, take Taylor to be your lawfully wedded...."
posted by The Giant Squid at 7:21 AM on May 6, 2009


Pater: You could have chosen Columba (that was who I thought of before I got to the end of your comment - I forgot he went to Iona, not Lindisfarne as well).
posted by jb at 7:30 AM on May 6, 2009


I recall several years back that Tyler was in the top ten list of boys' names, and Taylor was in the top ten for girls.

At some point recently, the most popular name in Germany for boys was Leo, and for girls was Leonie.
posted by escabeche at 7:33 AM on May 6, 2009


And now, I shall deftly sidestep the issue of the other Baltimore names, like Latrine and LaTrasha.

Let's not forget Aquaneta and Jaundice.

seriously, what's up with our city?
posted by HumanComplex at 8:03 AM on May 6, 2009


my professor introduced the word "Aletheia." It was a beautiful sounding word, and I loved the meaning--truth.

And in not too many years, you can look forward to young men yearning to know the truth.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:28 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I plan on Mildred making a comeback.
posted by mjohns1999 at 8:37 AM on May 6, 2009


I once had to help sign in about 600 kids for an event in Southern Ontario back in '83 and every second boy was named Sean, Shawn or Shaun.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:40 AM on May 6, 2009


Woot! Popularizing bicycling as a legitimate means for transportation is taking a while, but it'll stick around, too.
posted by aniola at 9:14 AM on May 6, 2009


Well, FML. We picked out a (great) and unique, but not too unique name for our child.

Then a celebrity chef that happens to live in our neighborhood STOLE it.
Then it became US Weekly's best baby name of the month.

FML.

My kid will always be #1 though.
posted by k8t at 10:16 AM on May 6, 2009


"it was a compromise choice between Keith and Chris"

You coulda been Chrith.
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 AM on May 6, 2009


my professor introduced the word "Aletheia." It was a beautiful sounding word, and I loved the meaning--truth.

And in not too many years, you can look forward to young men yearning to know the truth.


And she'll dismiss them with a gentle, "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!"
posted by Kabanos at 10:34 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


k8t, I was thinking about that name, and others, recently.

So, when baby naming gets creative, a couple trends spring up: boys named for great men or great figures of toughness or masculinity, girls for pretty and precious things or notions. (See also the corrolary that biblical names for girls are to some extent thought of as dowdy, whereas men's names from the bible are stable and unimpeachable).

The recent trend of naming children after traditional surnames is interesting, then. They evoke nothing overdetermined about character or specifically referential, they don't pin weird aspirations on the kid. Jackson, Ashton, they just say where you're from, and they're not even likely true. So it's referentiality that doesn't bog down as it alludes.

Tanner, Thatcher, Fletcher, some trade-oriented examples I've all heard of, those are kinda easygoing too, with perhaps a certain workaday charm, and if the only dumb jokes or weird complexes those kids would get is about actually developing those skills, well BFD.

The only good thing about "Amber," since it's a stripper name and a fucking junky sub-semiprecious PETRIFIED SAP WITH DEAD BUGS IN IT, or a color which frankly reminds me of tobacco residue on galley windowpanes, and sounds spoken like someone on life support asking for a hamburger, is that it refers to a small object I can put around my neck when meeting people so I don't have to be called Amanda Angela Andrea Amber ever ever again.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:53 AM on May 6, 2009


"FML."

Fuck my literacy?
posted by klangklangston at 11:56 AM on May 6, 2009


The recent trend of naming children after traditional surnames is interesting, then. They evoke nothing overdetermined about character or specifically referential, they don't pin weird aspirations on the kid. Jackson, Ashton, they just say where you're from, and they're not even likely true. So it's referentiality that doesn't bog down as it alludes.

You are aware that Jackson is possibly the world's most obvious patronymic, right?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:30 PM on May 6, 2009


As in, you are from that guy. Yeah.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:46 PM on May 6, 2009


As in, you are from that guy. Yeah.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:46 PM on May 6


I don't know, AV, that's pretty weaksauce. I don't refer to my parents as "where I'm from."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:36 PM on May 6, 2009


Going along with the theory that once something reaches a certain height of popularity, people veer away from it because it's "too" popular: Yeah, there are plenty of names on the top 100 baby name list that I truly love that have now been stricken from the list of "Things I Would Name My Progeny" specifically because I don't want my kid to be "Sarah #59."

The most interesting thing on that list: Evelyn is #100 for girls. Wow. I don't think I've ever met anyone born after 1935 named Evelyn. mjohns1999 might just get his comeback for Mildred.

(My grandmother's name is Mildred. No way am I ever saddling a child with that burden.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:11 PM on May 6, 2009


Are you seriously picking a fight with me over my overbroad use of "where" in a casual riff on different types of originary surnames for first names as a specific approach to referentiality? Go get in your hugbox.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:16 PM on May 6, 2009


nah AV we postin broz 4 life <>( '_')/\('_' )>
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:22 PM on May 6, 2009


An English-department colleague of my father's named his daughter Arwen. Yes, like the elf. I always wondered if she'd find it awkward as she got older, particularly after the movies came out (she was born years before there was any indication there'd be films, let along hugely popular ones).

Last I heard, though, she'd grown into quite a beautiful long-blonde-haired elf lady, so perhaps she's rocking it out and making it her own.
posted by rifflesby at 9:39 PM on May 6, 2009


My son is named after a famous inventor and a greek saint (it also means love). His name is nice and short and close enough to a Phil that I think it's pretty original, but without being too far out there. It's highest point of popularity was in 1881 (when it was in the high 900s). I wanted him to have an unpopular name, mainly because every class I've ever had contained at least two Mikes or Michaels.

Unfortunately, now I have to explain his name every time we meet someone new (I've learned to leave out the part about the inventor).

If my wife would let me (and we didn't already have a cat with the name/if the original wasn't such a douche to Tesla), I'd name my next boy Edison.
posted by drezdn at 3:14 PM on May 8, 2009


Amber, I thought that Thatcher could determine his own destiny (Dexter and Fletcher were also in the finals) - could be a badass or could be a poet. Or could be a badass poet.

KK - you don't know about fml? Oh, it is fun.
posted by k8t at 5:27 PM on May 8, 2009


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