Another Banner Year!

It’s my favorite time of year.  The Social Security administration in the US has released its annual list of baby names and we get a glimpse into the psyche of people who are filling the world with the future generations.  And this year things are crazier than ever!

You would think that people would be more careful because a lot of research has gone into the impact of a kid’s name on his or her future development. For example, a while ago a researcher at Northwestern University warned parents there were certain combinations of letters that shouldn’t be used in baby names.

Apparently, high school dropouts choose certain combinations of letters in baby names that more educated people do not normally use.  And those letter combinations make teachers and potential employers treat the kids like second class citizens for the rest of their lives. Who knew?

Before you start thinking that there is something esoteric about this research, you should consider the example that was given in the article I saw.  It said that the combination of the letters “kz” is “almost never seen in middle class families.”  It then went on to explain that when “kz” appeared in names such as “Alekzandra” the child is doomed.

I don’t know about you, but if I saw the name “Alekzandra,” I would think that either (1) the person was from another country where they spell “Alexandra” like that, or (2) the parents wanted to make their child unique by spelling their name uniquely, or (3) the parents wanted to name their kid “Alexandra” but spelled it wrong (which may support the Northwestern research) or (4) the parents are gangstas (which may also support the Northwestern research).

Nevertheless, the professor tells us that teachers will have it in for kids with “linguistically low status names.” 

Maybe I’m not blessed with an ear for these things because other than “Bubba,” I really can’t think of a name that conjures up any sort of status image.  Sure, ‘Elizabeth’ sounds more sophisticated than ‘Dakota,’ but if the name tells us anything, it speaks to the mindset of the parents rather than the kid’s abilities.

And speaking of the mindsets of contemporary parents, let’s have a squiz at this year’s names and pretend you are a teacher or prospective employer.

First of all, the most popular names for boys in 2011 were Jacob and Mason. Mason?

Girls? Sophia and Isabella.

By the way, this information varies around the world. In England the most popular boys name last year was Oliver and for girls it was Lily.  In Australia it’s Ava and Lucas and in New Zealand, there are lots of little girls named Ruby and boys named Liam.

Not only does the popularity of names vary by country, but looking at trends shows that parents are rather fickle.  For example, In NZ, ‘Jack’ was the number one boy’s name every year from 2005 to 2009. In 2010 Liam knocked it out of first and now it is languishing in tenth place.

I have no idea what makes people decide that they want to call their infant ‘Mason’ in sufficient numbers to make it the most popular boy baby name.  But I’m pretty sure that the more unusual names are purely and simply the result of ever increasing efforts of parents to make their children unique. Just like everyone else. And it looks like some parents are willing to push the envelope in order to guarantee uniqueness.

In no particular order, here are some of the names people gave their kids last year.

Six baby girls were named Dearria. Seven were named Eh. Six boys were named Corleone and seven boys and five girls were named Moo.

If there is any truth in the Northwestern research that suggests a nexus between a person’s name and their career, one wonders whether there is a future in the porn industry for the thirteen boys named either Bronco or Cougar. Imagine if one of them turns out to be bookish and becomes a professor of linguistics or an actuary. How does ‘Professor Bronco von Smithers’ grab you?

Apparently you can make your kid unique if you spell a traditional name in a non-traditional way.  Consider Benjerman and Aunisty. (I had to say that one a few times before I got it).  There are also a number of variations on ‘Promise,’ as in Promiss, Promize, Promyse and Promyss.

Sometimes you just really have to ask yourself what people are thinking. For example, five baby girls were named Princessa. Other entries in the blue blood wannabe crowd include Kingdom, Kingsolomon, Princemichael, Princewilliam, Royalty, Sircharles and Supreme.

And then there are the people who try for a name like the celebrities would use.  Imagine someone with one of these names running for president:  Beautiful, Rejoice, Brilliant, Comfort, Courage, Famous, Marvellous, Mystery and Treasure. Five little girls were named Prosperity, so maybe they would have the edge in a race for the Oval Office!

But maybe that’s not as bad as Abeer, Chardonnay and Tequila.

I don’t know how babies officially get their names but if parents have to fill out a form, there ought to be two questions on the form that ask, (1) How would you feel if your parents gave you this name, and (2) How do you think the kid is going to feel about this name when they are thirty years old?

12 responses to “Another Banner Year!

  1. Well, sometimes I feel bad that I named my two sons the most common (read boring) names in the world: Michael and Stephen. But, maybe it’s a good thing.

    My goddaughter’s name is Alexandra, and her parents (both bad spellers) gave her the nickname Alley. I felt bad being the one to inadvertently inform the little girl that it was a dark place between two buildings. She doesn’t have the best grades in school. Ruh Roh!

  2. I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but in my general geographic neighborhood there seems to be a huge fashion for girls’ names prefixed with “La-” this and that, or at least there was a generation back. Extra points if there is a superfluous W stuck in there somewhere. And I can almost bank on the women with these names being both ignorant and stuck-up — the secretaries who think they’re too good to actually do their jobs or the medical receptionists that treat you like dirt. It’s as if some dimwit parent thought that La prefix made their kid sound posh and proceeded to raise an ignorant kid who considered herself too posh to work or be polite. When I see it on a name plate I run like hell.

    Yuppie parents, perhaps more educated but pretentious in another way, plump for Caitlins and Megans and all other manner of ethereally Celtic Twilit names. It does less damage but still makes me want to yell Come Off It.

  3. I was gonna name my son R2 D2, but the wife objected. Wouldn’t go for Billy-Bob either.

  4. 33 years in the classroom – I’ve seen it all. As bizarre as these names above maybe they are at least words with correct spelling. I think parents decide how many letters they want and pick tiles from the scrabble bag and that is the name. I think it is an effort to express a racial or ethnic identity but people in the ancestral countries are not so ridiculous.

  5. If I ever have a kid, I’ll name him or her Accident.

  6. I went to grade school with a boy named Christopher Columbus. True story.

  7. I want to know little Chardonnay’s mother’s name.

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