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In the 1880s, American babies were eight times as likely to be given a first name beginning with the letter F than they were a century later:

This is fascinating. Or maybe to get with the times, I should say it’s xascinating. In the inclusive spirit of our age, the three most expendable consonants in the English language–Q, X, and Z–all shot up in popularity during the latter half of the 20th century and into the first decades of the 21st:



What happened in the middle of the 20th century that caused a turning away from names beginning in vowels? Remarkable:




The only vowel that doesn’t crisply follow the pattern is U. That could be an artifact of the entries for “Unknown” spiking in the 40s and 50s, which I assume has something to do with orphaned urchins rather than nutcases actually naming their babies Unknown. In any case, U names are a rounding error among those starting with a vowel. Today, 1 in 10 names begin with an A, while just 1 in 2,000 names start with a U. As random as American forenames may seem to be at first blush, for every one baby who has a name beginning in U, there are 200 babies with a name that starts with an A.

Though A is the most common first letter for baby names today, the letter’s strong position isn’t the most dominant one any letter has enjoyed over the last 150 years. That honor goes to the humble J, the letter that started the names of a staggering 1 in 7 babies in the 1970s:

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water, Jack fell down and broke his crown and Alex came tumbling after!

*Boo, Hiss* Okay, I’ll end the post here. Tough crowd.

My thanks to Haruto Rat for sending me down this rabbit hole.

 
• Category: Arts/Letters, Culture/Society • Tags: Namingways 
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  1. Jack and Jill went up the hill each with a buck and a quarter. Jill came down with 2.50. OHHH

  2. Unique made the list! I love it—that’s been one of my favorite black names since I read “A Roshanda by Any Other Name” in Slate back in 2005:

    Today, more than 40 percent of the black girls born in California in a given year receive a name that not one of the roughly 100,000 baby white girls received that year. Even more remarkably, nearly 30 percent of the black girls are given a name that is unique among every baby, white and black, born that year in California. (There were also 228 babies named Unique during the 1990s alone, and one each of Uneek, Uneque, and Uneqqee; virtually all of them were black.)

    https://slate.com/business/2005/04/a-roshanda-by-any-other-name.html

    • Thanks: songbird
  3. Do not curse your children with Semitic names.

  4. Ahaa, I knew the J’s had a big peak, as I would hear those names all the time for kids in the early 1990s and young adults in the late 90’s and 00’s! They aren’t all labelled on your “J” graph, but Jeremy . (not Jerry, though), Jason, and Josh were ubiquitous.

    I see that the “O” graph includes Oliver. I have seen a toddler named Oliver just recently. I like that name. I know the Mom, but she never says he asks for more porridge, so, things are different now …

    The big trend that does not show up directly in your graphs is the naming of kids, mostly boys, but plenty of girls too, with LAST NAMES for first names. This started with Tyler and Tanner* but has gone on to Benson, Carlin, Hays, Smith, just ANYTHING that should remain a last name. If I had thought about it on the way to the hospital, I’d have named my boy after a man of the cloth and called him Amos Moses.

    “About 45 minute southeast of Thibodaux, Louisiana …”

    .

    * Check out the “T’s for me, will ya?

    • Replies: @Audacious Epigone
    T starts spike in the middle of the 20th century, peaking in the sixties, and then drop way off. In 1900, they were 20k in 1M babies. In 1960, they pushed 70k in 1M, and now they're back down to a little under 20k in 1M babies.
  5. A couple of more comments:

    The “X” graph definitely shows the huge Hispanic contingent among the anchor babies. All those Isabellas (used to be just Isabel) are a factor there too. How about the “V”s – for Vivian and Viviana?

    This contrasts with the “E” graphs from the main names you show labelled. Emily, Elizabeth, and Edward are all old English names, so hearken back to the founding of this country. That’s mostly gone. I will say that Etta, Emma, and Ellie are coming back with a vengeance though.

    Lastly, this letter-frequency stuff is the basis for all the old-fashioned cryptography and maybe still the very basis of it today. I highly recommend an easily-readable book on this history of cryptography and cyphers, called The Code Book, by Simon Singh.

    • Thanks: Audacious Epigone
    • Replies: @songbird

    The “X” graph definitely shows the huge Hispanic contingent among the anchor babies. All those Isabellas (used to be just Isabel) are a factor there too. How about the “V”s – for Vivian and Viviana?
     
    I was thinking how names aren't a closed system. There have been lots of immigrants into the US in the last 50 years or so, and that may have even affected the names of heritage Americans. For instance, some non-whites who want to integrate might choose common heritage names. Due to the scale of immigration, and the political process of alienation, I suspect that some whites have now fled from these names, as they have come to see them as globalist names - when every part of the rainbow uses them - and no longer traditional, so they might seek older names - names from Europe in the Middle Ages.

    At the same time, the idea of America having a common culture and mythology has really been destroyed, IMO, so I suspect that the name "George" which often hearkened to George Washington would be less common now, among non-English ethnics.
  6. The “A” depression is clearly due to Adolf.

    On “F” I take the Fifth.

  7. We went to China for vagina and caught coronavirus. The market crashed, our jobs were trashed, and now no one will hire us.

    • LOL: Achmed E. Newman
  8. There were less than 200 new Richards in England last year.

    When I was a kid any classroom or football team was likely to have a Richard. The idea of it now being an uncommon name is bizarre.

    • Agree: RadicalCenter
    • Replies: @A123
    I do not find it surprise that Richard is much more rare than it used to be.

    Richard Nixon generated some negative impact on the name. Worse yet, common nicknames for Richard include:

    -- "Dick", which has negative connotations.
    -- "Rich", which repels the SJW crowd like a vampire flees from Holy Water.

    ______

    Some of the diminishing use of "F" names is probably relates to the A (best) to F (*FAILURE*) grading system now common in the English speaking world.

    Although, this does not work as the entire explanation.

    PEACE 😷

  9. A123 says:
    @jimmyriddle
    There were less than 200 new Richards in England last year.

    When I was a kid any classroom or football team was likely to have a Richard. The idea of it now being an uncommon name is bizarre.

    I do not find it surprise that Richard is much more rare than it used to be.

    Richard Nixon generated some negative impact on the name. Worse yet, common nicknames for Richard include:

    — “Dick”, which has negative connotations.
    — “Rich”, which repels the SJW crowd like a vampire flees from Holy Water.

    ______

    Some of the diminishing use of “F” names is probably relates to the A (best) to F (*FAILURE*) grading system now common in the English speaking world.

    Although, this does not work as the entire explanation.

    PEACE 😷

  10. A123 says:

    If you want to see modern trends, how about Game of Thrones? (1)

    Khaleesi was the 549th most popular name for newborn girls in 2018, while Arya was the 119th most popular name.

    I am not sure what tool is being used to generate the graphs in the article.

    PEACE 😷
    _______

    https://www.businessinsider.com/game-of-thrones-arya-khaleesi-popular-names-for-baby-girls-2019-5

    • Replies: @songbird
    I think a lot of "new" names come from prolefeed.

    This is something of a shame, as sometimes it adds negative connotation to names which would otherwise be respectable, or in the case of Game of Thrones interesting names from the medieval era. The ones that are most easily written and pronounced - those that are the most desirable - get chosen first by writers, who attach them to poorly-written characters like the omniscient and inhuman Bran or killing-machine Arya.

    , @Audacious Epigone
    Ha, it checks out with the BNW I'm using here.
  11. What happened in the middle of the 20th century that caused a turning away from names beginning in vowels?

    Guess (women): A tacit desire for a return to femininity after the triumph of women’s liberation? The vowel issue is an artifact of a larger trend?

    Many of the female names that went out of fashion began harshly (Edna, Olga), ended harshly (Inez), included a harsh middle segment (Ida / Irene), or some combination (Francis); or maybe a better explanation lies in the fact that many of these names had male equivalents (Ed / Edna) – or at least sounded masculine. The past preference for boys over girls, along with female disenfranchisement in a man’s world, may have played a role in this kind of naming convention, although I’m certainly not an expert on the subject. Perhaps fathers who had wanted boys sometimes named their female children with vaguely masculine-sounding names; perhaps mothers who wanted their female children to project a confident manner in a male-dominated political order wanted to give their girls more imposing, vaguely masculine-sounding, names?

    You’ll notice that many of the underutilized consonants now popular in female names — Z and X, for example — have no obvious male equivalent for most of the public. They usually end in a soft vowel or in some other way that’s discernibly feminine: Zoe / Zoey, etc. The last I checked, there is now a preference for girl over boy children. Isaiah and Uriah may represent a reversal of the trend – parents wishing they had a girl instead of a boy in what is increasingly a female-privileged world (majority of college graduates, noticeably longer lifespans, hiring preferences, legal protections, social protections, media attention, inclusion demands in traditionally male spaces, etc.).

    Examples of female names that came back into fashion after the 1950s include Isabella and Olivia, both soft feminine-sounding names employing prominent vowel sounds. Softer feminine names with no obvious or more obscure male equivalents — Ashley and Amanda — saw a resurgence in the 1980s; Angela and Amy in the 1970s.

    A couple of counter examples: Anna and Annie, both of which were popular in the late 1800s but went out fashion. Although, I wonder if class played a role in those names declining in frequency around the turn of the century (transition from the philistine frontier to the urbane city life?); Annie was stereotypically associated with the rural life (Annie Oakley).

    Also, as female children began monopolizing feminine names with prominent vowel sounds, some parents may have reacted by naming their male children in such a way as to deemphasize the feminine-sounding vowels or letter combinations, which are most noticeable at the beginning and ending of a name, by front loading or rear loading an accompanying ~harsh sound. Example: Quincey / Zachary / Anthony (“y” is probably not technically a vowel here, but it’s close enough to sound feminine to the modern ear, so it’s covered with a harsher tone elsewhere). Oliver and Owen are other examples of vowel names being masked with something harsh and vaguely masculine. Same with Andrew and Eric, which were both popular into the 1980s.

    Other popular male names of late neither begin with nor end with feminine-sounding vowels, especially a, e, or i. Examples: Quinn, Quentin.

    Another explanation may just include over familiarity. Just as people treat their clothes as a fashion statement, so do they treat their children. It is (or it was until recently) taboo for women to wear the same dress as another woman to the same function. And most men don’t work hard on something that can be easily replicated by other, lesser, men. The same psychology may apply to naming conventions.

    • Thanks: Audacious Epigone
    • Replies: @Audacious Epigone
    There is some signalling in naming choices, I imagine. This is most obvious with many black Americans, but I suspect it's also detectable among others. Middle class suburbanite conservatives are probably the most likely to give names to their children that are among the common names given at the time. Upper classes pick names that show off the unique tastes of millions. The lower classes are where the popular culture names mostly come from.
  12. @Achmed E. Newman
    A couple of more comments:

    The "X" graph definitely shows the huge Hispanic contingent among the anchor babies. All those Isabellas (used to be just Isabel) are a factor there too. How about the "V"s - for Vivian and Viviana?

    This contrasts with the "E" graphs from the main names you show labelled. Emily, Elizabeth, and Edward are all old English names, so hearken back to the founding of this country. That's mostly gone. I will say that Etta, Emma, and Ellie are coming back with a vengeance though.

    Lastly, this letter-frequency stuff is the basis for all the old-fashioned cryptography and maybe still the very basis of it today. I highly recommend an easily-readable book on this history of cryptography and cyphers, called The Code Book, by Simon Singh.

    The “X” graph definitely shows the huge Hispanic contingent among the anchor babies. All those Isabellas (used to be just Isabel) are a factor there too. How about the “V”s – for Vivian and Viviana?

    I was thinking how names aren’t a closed system. There have been lots of immigrants into the US in the last 50 years or so, and that may have even affected the names of heritage Americans. For instance, some non-whites who want to integrate might choose common heritage names. Due to the scale of immigration, and the political process of alienation, I suspect that some whites have now fled from these names, as they have come to see them as globalist names – when every part of the rainbow uses them – and no longer traditional, so they might seek older names – names from Europe in the Middle Ages.

    At the same time, the idea of America having a common culture and mythology has really been destroyed, IMO, so I suspect that the name “George” which often hearkened to George Washington would be less common now, among non-English ethnics.

  13. @A123
    If you want to see modern trends, how about Game of Thrones? (1)

    Khaleesi was the 549th most popular name for newborn girls in 2018, while Arya was the 119th most popular name.
     
    I am not sure what tool is being used to generate the graphs in the article.

    PEACE 😷
    _______

    https://www.businessinsider.com/game-of-thrones-arya-khaleesi-popular-names-for-baby-girls-2019-5

    I think a lot of “new” names come from prolefeed.

    This is something of a shame, as sometimes it adds negative connotation to names which would otherwise be respectable, or in the case of Game of Thrones interesting names from the medieval era. The ones that are most easily written and pronounced – those that are the most desirable – get chosen first by writers, who attach them to poorly-written characters like the omniscient and inhuman Bran or killing-machine Arya.

    • Replies: @A123
    Cinco de Mayo was yesterday, so:


    https://heavyeditorial.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/rlrlvbs.jpg
  14. @songbird
    I think a lot of "new" names come from prolefeed.

    This is something of a shame, as sometimes it adds negative connotation to names which would otherwise be respectable, or in the case of Game of Thrones interesting names from the medieval era. The ones that are most easily written and pronounced - those that are the most desirable - get chosen first by writers, who attach them to poorly-written characters like the omniscient and inhuman Bran or killing-machine Arya.

    Cinco de Mayo was yesterday, so:

    • LOL: songbird
  15. Jack and Jill went up the hill,
    Each had a bob and thruppence;
    Jill came down with half-a-crown.
    Pregnance was her comeuppance.

  16. My sister’s (maiden – b 1964) initials are FFFF (the third F is an RC Confirmation name “suggested” by our Mum).

  17. Being born in the early 80’s, it makes sense I’d have a ‘J’ name.

    • Replies: @Audacious Epigone
    I recall the history of this handle and so I know that the point stands even if it is an internet handle!
  18. Anonymous[341] • Disclaimer says:

    Whatever happened to giving girls double first names? Was that merely a regional or ethnic practice? Lois Jean…Becky Sue…Ann Marie…. I have such a double first name, ‘though only family members use both when referring to me. Out in the wide world I’ve gradually come to only use the first of my first names, largely due to unpleasant experiences when I transferred to to a magnet high school and first encountered rootless cosmopolitans. As a strawberry blonde with a southern accent, I had two strikes on me already in their eyes. A double first name was the third strike.
    Well, I guess I’ve answered my own question, haven’t I?

    • Agree: Audacious Epigone
  19. @Achmed E. Newman
    Ahaa, I knew the J's had a big peak, as I would hear those names all the time for kids in the early 1990s and young adults in the late 90's and 00's! They aren't all labelled on your "J" graph, but Jeremy . (not Jerry, though), Jason, and Josh were ubiquitous.

    I see that the "O" graph includes Oliver. I have seen a toddler named Oliver just recently. I like that name. I know the Mom, but she never says he asks for more porridge, so, things are different now ...

    The big trend that does not show up directly in your graphs is the naming of kids, mostly boys, but plenty of girls too, with LAST NAMES for first names. This started with Tyler and Tanner* but has gone on to Benson, Carlin, Hays, Smith, just ANYTHING that should remain a last name. If I had thought about it on the way to the hospital, I'd have named my boy after a man of the cloth and called him Amos Moses.

    "About 45 minute southeast of Thibodaux, Louisiana ..."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7GyLr7Cz2g

    .


    * Check out the "T's for me, will ya?

    T starts spike in the middle of the 20th century, peaking in the sixties, and then drop way off. In 1900, they were 20k in 1M babies. In 1960, they pushed 70k in 1M, and now they’re back down to a little under 20k in 1M babies.

    • Thanks: Achmed E. Newman
    • Replies: @LondonBob
    Names go in and out of fashion, if there are a lot of old ladies with a name then people don't pick them for their baby girl so you get these cycles.

    Richard isn't great when the short versions are Dick or Rich, as mentioned. My father was called Richard and I wouldn't use it as a first name, middle name instead.
  20. @A123
    If you want to see modern trends, how about Game of Thrones? (1)

    Khaleesi was the 549th most popular name for newborn girls in 2018, while Arya was the 119th most popular name.
     
    I am not sure what tool is being used to generate the graphs in the article.

    PEACE 😷
    _______

    https://www.businessinsider.com/game-of-thrones-arya-khaleesi-popular-names-for-baby-girls-2019-5

    Ha, it checks out with the BNW I’m using here.

  21. @Divine Right

    "What happened in the middle of the 20th century that caused a turning away from names beginning in vowels?"
     
    Guess (women): A tacit desire for a return to femininity after the triumph of women’s liberation? The vowel issue is an artifact of a larger trend?

    Many of the female names that went out of fashion began harshly (Edna, Olga), ended harshly (Inez), included a harsh middle segment (Ida / Irene), or some combination (Francis); or maybe a better explanation lies in the fact that many of these names had male equivalents (Ed / Edna) – or at least sounded masculine. The past preference for boys over girls, along with female disenfranchisement in a man’s world, may have played a role in this kind of naming convention, although I’m certainly not an expert on the subject. Perhaps fathers who had wanted boys sometimes named their female children with vaguely masculine-sounding names; perhaps mothers who wanted their female children to project a confident manner in a male-dominated political order wanted to give their girls more imposing, vaguely masculine-sounding, names?

    You’ll notice that many of the underutilized consonants now popular in female names -- Z and X, for example -- have no obvious male equivalent for most of the public. They usually end in a soft vowel or in some other way that’s discernibly feminine: Zoe / Zoey, etc. The last I checked, there is now a preference for girl over boy children. Isaiah and Uriah may represent a reversal of the trend – parents wishing they had a girl instead of a boy in what is increasingly a female-privileged world (majority of college graduates, noticeably longer lifespans, hiring preferences, legal protections, social protections, media attention, inclusion demands in traditionally male spaces, etc.).

    Examples of female names that came back into fashion after the 1950s include Isabella and Olivia, both soft feminine-sounding names employing prominent vowel sounds. Softer feminine names with no obvious or more obscure male equivalents -- Ashley and Amanda -- saw a resurgence in the 1980s; Angela and Amy in the 1970s.

    A couple of counter examples: Anna and Annie, both of which were popular in the late 1800s but went out fashion. Although, I wonder if class played a role in those names declining in frequency around the turn of the century (transition from the philistine frontier to the urbane city life?); Annie was stereotypically associated with the rural life (Annie Oakley).

    Also, as female children began monopolizing feminine names with prominent vowel sounds, some parents may have reacted by naming their male children in such a way as to deemphasize the feminine-sounding vowels or letter combinations, which are most noticeable at the beginning and ending of a name, by front loading or rear loading an accompanying ~harsh sound. Example: Quincey / Zachary / Anthony (“y” is probably not technically a vowel here, but it’s close enough to sound feminine to the modern ear, so it’s covered with a harsher tone elsewhere). Oliver and Owen are other examples of vowel names being masked with something harsh and vaguely masculine. Same with Andrew and Eric, which were both popular into the 1980s.

    Other popular male names of late neither begin with nor end with feminine-sounding vowels, especially a, e, or i. Examples: Quinn, Quentin.

    Another explanation may just include over familiarity. Just as people treat their clothes as a fashion statement, so do they treat their children. It is (or it was until recently) taboo for women to wear the same dress as another woman to the same function. And most men don’t work hard on something that can be easily replicated by other, lesser, men. The same psychology may apply to naming conventions.

    There is some signalling in naming choices, I imagine. This is most obvious with many black Americans, but I suspect it’s also detectable among others. Middle class suburbanite conservatives are probably the most likely to give names to their children that are among the common names given at the time. Upper classes pick names that show off the unique tastes of millions. The lower classes are where the popular culture names mostly come from.

  22. @Jokah Macpherson
    Being born in the early 80's, it makes sense I'd have a 'J' name.

    I recall the history of this handle and so I know that the point stands even if it is an internet handle!

  23. That could be an artifact of the entries for “Unknown” spiking in the 40s and 50s, which I assume has something to do with orphaned urchins rather than nutcases actually naming their babies Unknown.

    This might very well be, but I wonder if it could just be parents who hadn’t decided on a name yet. I’ve seen old genealogical records like that. I always thought it was kind of weird – these were typically records from days or weeks after the birth, and you’d think that they had had time to decide beforehand, especially when there weren’t that many names in the environment. But, I suppose they had their reasons.

    • Thanks: Audacious Epigone
    • Replies: @Saint Louis
    As to the Unknown thing. My wife and I didn't name our 5th child until about 6 hours after he was born. We actually had it down to 2 names a few weeks in advance, but couldn't decide which would be the first name and which one the middle.

    One thing I've noticed is that the most popular boy names don't change as quickly over time as the most popular girl names do. For example, both James and William are currently in the top 5. I doubt they've ever left the top 20 in the last 200 years.

    My best guess for explaining this is that boys are far more likely to be named after their fathers than girls are to be named after their mothers. This prevents (or at least reduces) the phenomenon of certain names being associated only with old people. While there may be lots of octogenarian Williams, there are also lots of 50-something Bills and 20-something Wills.
  24. It’d be pretty interesting to study international patterns of names, or patterns in different countries.

    I think Vietnam would be a fascinating country to look at, since the surname Nguyen is so common. Do they have a lot of different first names? How do they tell each other apart. Maybe, give each other nicknames? In Ireland, they employed like three different strategies for telling people apart who had surnames less than one-tenth as common.

    I’d also be curious to see where Jesus and Muhammad are the most common.

    And I’d be interested in whether names are as volatile in a country like Japan or China that employ different writing systems. I also wonder if more isolated countries might have less volatility. Or whether some countries might influence the names in other countries.

    In Germany, it is often remarked how the influence of English seems to be changing the German language. I wonder if it could be the same with names.

    I also wonder about the number of books published per country, maybe that would have a predictive effect.

    • Replies: @nebulafox
    Speaking of Vietnam...

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-cyber-vietnam/vietnam-says-accusations-it-hacked-china-for-virus-information-baseless-idUSKCN225169

    Uh huh. Sure. They just took China's word for it, of all people.

    The Vietnamese are nothing if not a race of realists...
    , @Audacious Epigone
    Forget the Bible Belt, check out the Jesus Belt!
  25. Please keep posting these name blogs! I love the information and the comments. And we could all use some distractions from the news.

    I have always been fascinated by name trends. The standard explanation has been that names first become popular with the upper classes, get taken up by the lower classes, explode in popularity until even the lower classes are sick of them, go way down in the trends, and then come back about 80 years later. Certainly true of many of the popular names of today, though some new ones always sneak in, too. I’m expecting Edith and May to come around again soon.

    If you look at the top 10 names today (per the Social Security Administration), they’re very traditional. Boys are (in order): Liam (that’s new, I never heard of it until 10 years ago), Noah, William, James, Oliver, Benjamin, Elijah, Lucas, Mason and Logan. The last two are based on popular culture, are used only by the lower/working classes, and are fading fast, I think.

    The top 10 for girls: Emma, Olivia, Ava, Isabella, Sophia, Charlotte, Mia, Amelia, Harper and Evelyn. There’s not one really new name in the bunch. Harper maybe, but Harper Lee who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, was a Southern girl from the early 20th century, so it’s been around.

    The traditionalism of these names gives me hope for American society, but maybe I’m naive.

    Anyway, please keep it up. Pretty please!

    • Agree: RadicalCenter
    • Thanks: Audacious Epigone
    • Replies: @Audacious Epigone
    Great point regarding how traditional the top of the charts are.

    Regarding Logan, aside from fading fast as a boy name, it could also become a girl name. Once that process starts, it seems to rarely ever reverse.
  26. @songbird
    It'd be pretty interesting to study international patterns of names, or patterns in different countries.

    I think Vietnam would be a fascinating country to look at, since the surname Nguyen is so common. Do they have a lot of different first names? How do they tell each other apart. Maybe, give each other nicknames? In Ireland, they employed like three different strategies for telling people apart who had surnames less than one-tenth as common.

    I'd also be curious to see where Jesus and Muhammad are the most common.

    And I'd be interested in whether names are as volatile in a country like Japan or China that employ different writing systems. I also wonder if more isolated countries might have less volatility. Or whether some countries might influence the names in other countries.

    In Germany, it is often remarked how the influence of English seems to be changing the German language. I wonder if it could be the same with names.

    I also wonder about the number of books published per country, maybe that would have a predictive effect.

    Speaking of Vietnam…

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-cyber-vietnam/vietnam-says-accusations-it-hacked-china-for-virus-information-baseless-idUSKCN225169

    Uh huh. Sure. They just took China’s word for it, of all people.

    The Vietnamese are nothing if not a race of realists…

    • Replies: @songbird
    Sometimes, I fall prey to the idea that Asian countries should abandon their petty squabbles and work more closely together - Korea and Japan being one example, where I think they would be pretty formidable if they worked together on things like space.

    Other times, without any antipathy, I admire their national consciousness.
    , @Audacious Epigone
    Not everybody thinks it better to be dead than 'racist'!
  27. @songbird

    That could be an artifact of the entries for “Unknown” spiking in the 40s and 50s, which I assume has something to do with orphaned urchins rather than nutcases actually naming their babies Unknown.
     
    This might very well be, but I wonder if it could just be parents who hadn't decided on a name yet. I've seen old genealogical records like that. I always thought it was kind of weird - these were typically records from days or weeks after the birth, and you'd think that they had had time to decide beforehand, especially when there weren't that many names in the environment. But, I suppose they had their reasons.

    As to the Unknown thing. My wife and I didn’t name our 5th child until about 6 hours after he was born. We actually had it down to 2 names a few weeks in advance, but couldn’t decide which would be the first name and which one the middle.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that the most popular boy names don’t change as quickly over time as the most popular girl names do. For example, both James and William are currently in the top 5. I doubt they’ve ever left the top 20 in the last 200 years.

    My best guess for explaining this is that boys are far more likely to be named after their fathers than girls are to be named after their mothers. This prevents (or at least reduces) the phenomenon of certain names being associated only with old people. While there may be lots of octogenarian Williams, there are also lots of 50-something Bills and 20-something Wills.

    • Agree: RadicalCenter
    • Thanks: Audacious Epigone
    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
    Theories for "Unknown":

    1) 1940s suggests children begat on young women by soldiers on "last night before I ship out" given up for adoption without names.*

    2) The then relatively new Social Security name database undergoes integration teething problems.

    3) The then larger portion of the population who were traditional/farm people were in less of a hurry to get the kid named. I know a farm family who, as recently as the 1960s didn't bother naming some kids for a week or more after birth. In one instance (perhaps they were unsure of the small infant's survival chances) the midwife finally registered a name from her religious calendar during her next visit to town. That infant, now grown, still has that name, and her own kids, which she didn't hurry to name.

    *Reminds me of a story from the late great 20th century blue collar columnist Mike Royko. He said that during WWII he had a buddy who joined the Coast Guard, so technically every night was his "last night before I ship out", which was that era's go-to line for bypassing last-minute resistance, as a later generation's pick-up artists would call it.
    , @songbird

    our 5th child
     
    Good on you!
  28. What happened in the middle of the 20th century that caused a turning away from names beginning in vowels?

    There was a point in the ’80s when it looked like everyone in white America was going to be named Mark or Lisa.

    What about D names, like D’shawn?

    • Replies: @Audacious Epigone
    Yes, D'Shawn is the first D name that came to my mind, not David! Ds peaked in the 50s and 60s. The pattern is the inverse of the mid-century vowel evacuation.

    The first time I recall becoming aware of the increasingly distinctive black naming conventions was when I heard D'Brickshaw Ferguson being read off as part of an offensive lineup.
  29. Names with X?

    Well, Xochitl (I don’t know how it is spelled or pronounced) was a name that did not exist in the US before the Aztec invasion.

    Also maybe Xavier because of X-Men.

    • Replies: @Ancient Briton
    Or St. Francis...
  30. @Saint Louis
    As to the Unknown thing. My wife and I didn't name our 5th child until about 6 hours after he was born. We actually had it down to 2 names a few weeks in advance, but couldn't decide which would be the first name and which one the middle.

    One thing I've noticed is that the most popular boy names don't change as quickly over time as the most popular girl names do. For example, both James and William are currently in the top 5. I doubt they've ever left the top 20 in the last 200 years.

    My best guess for explaining this is that boys are far more likely to be named after their fathers than girls are to be named after their mothers. This prevents (or at least reduces) the phenomenon of certain names being associated only with old people. While there may be lots of octogenarian Williams, there are also lots of 50-something Bills and 20-something Wills.

    Theories for “Unknown”:

    1) 1940s suggests children begat on young women by soldiers on “last night before I ship out” given up for adoption without names.*

    2) The then relatively new Social Security name database undergoes integration teething problems.

    3) The then larger portion of the population who were traditional/farm people were in less of a hurry to get the kid named. I know a farm family who, as recently as the 1960s didn’t bother naming some kids for a week or more after birth. In one instance (perhaps they were unsure of the small infant’s survival chances) the midwife finally registered a name from her religious calendar during her next visit to town. That infant, now grown, still has that name, and her own kids, which she didn’t hurry to name.

    *Reminds me of a story from the late great 20th century blue collar columnist Mike Royko. He said that during WWII he had a buddy who joined the Coast Guard, so technically every night was his “last night before I ship out”, which was that era’s go-to line for bypassing last-minute resistance, as a later generation’s pick-up artists would call it.

    • Thanks: Audacious Epigone
    • Replies: @LondonBob
    We don't name our cats, they are simply the cat, or as currently we have two, the girl and the boy.
  31. @Saint Louis
    As to the Unknown thing. My wife and I didn't name our 5th child until about 6 hours after he was born. We actually had it down to 2 names a few weeks in advance, but couldn't decide which would be the first name and which one the middle.

    One thing I've noticed is that the most popular boy names don't change as quickly over time as the most popular girl names do. For example, both James and William are currently in the top 5. I doubt they've ever left the top 20 in the last 200 years.

    My best guess for explaining this is that boys are far more likely to be named after their fathers than girls are to be named after their mothers. This prevents (or at least reduces) the phenomenon of certain names being associated only with old people. While there may be lots of octogenarian Williams, there are also lots of 50-something Bills and 20-something Wills.

    our 5th child

    Good on you!

    • Agree: Audacious Epigone
    • Replies: @Saint Louis
    Thanks. We've had 6 in all.
  32. @nebulafox
    Speaking of Vietnam...

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-cyber-vietnam/vietnam-says-accusations-it-hacked-china-for-virus-information-baseless-idUSKCN225169

    Uh huh. Sure. They just took China's word for it, of all people.

    The Vietnamese are nothing if not a race of realists...

    Sometimes, I fall prey to the idea that Asian countries should abandon their petty squabbles and work more closely together – Korea and Japan being one example, where I think they would be pretty formidable if they worked together on things like space.

    Other times, without any antipathy, I admire their national consciousness.

  33. Late naming: my youngest sister back in the 60’s wasn’t named until she was 10 months old, because my parents were fighting so badly between two names. We called her Boo-boo, which sounds mean, but nobody thought like that back then. (Sometimes we called her Boobaloo.) Then my middle sister suggested a third name, which both parents agreed they could live with, so they put it on the birth certificate and sent it in, and she was officially named by her first birthday.

  34. Z isn’t a really expendable letter tho

    • Replies: @Audacious Epigone
    It's the least used letter in the English language. X--the third least used letter in the language--could sub in for Z where S is unable to (as it does in the word "xylophone").
  35. The trend of starting names with X continues with X Æ A-12, the future synthpop overlord of Mars. Musk x Grimes are amazing content generators. Can’t wait to see what stuff he says on Rogan about corona.

  36. @songbird

    our 5th child
     
    Good on you!

    Thanks. We’ve had 6 in all.

  37. @songbird
    It'd be pretty interesting to study international patterns of names, or patterns in different countries.

    I think Vietnam would be a fascinating country to look at, since the surname Nguyen is so common. Do they have a lot of different first names? How do they tell each other apart. Maybe, give each other nicknames? In Ireland, they employed like three different strategies for telling people apart who had surnames less than one-tenth as common.

    I'd also be curious to see where Jesus and Muhammad are the most common.

    And I'd be interested in whether names are as volatile in a country like Japan or China that employ different writing systems. I also wonder if more isolated countries might have less volatility. Or whether some countries might influence the names in other countries.

    In Germany, it is often remarked how the influence of English seems to be changing the German language. I wonder if it could be the same with names.

    I also wonder about the number of books published per country, maybe that would have a predictive effect.

    Forget the Bible Belt, check out the Jesus Belt!

    • Thanks: songbird
    • Replies: @songbird
    "A hard name to live up to" as my old Spanish teacher once said.
  38. @Dumbo
    Names with X?

    Well, Xochitl (I don't know how it is spelled or pronounced) was a name that did not exist in the US before the Aztec invasion.

    Also maybe Xavier because of X-Men.

    Or St. Francis…

  39. @Amused Observer
    Please keep posting these name blogs! I love the information and the comments. And we could all use some distractions from the news.

    I have always been fascinated by name trends. The standard explanation has been that names first become popular with the upper classes, get taken up by the lower classes, explode in popularity until even the lower classes are sick of them, go way down in the trends, and then come back about 80 years later. Certainly true of many of the popular names of today, though some new ones always sneak in, too. I'm expecting Edith and May to come around again soon.

    If you look at the top 10 names today (per the Social Security Administration), they're very traditional. Boys are (in order): Liam (that's new, I never heard of it until 10 years ago), Noah, William, James, Oliver, Benjamin, Elijah, Lucas, Mason and Logan. The last two are based on popular culture, are used only by the lower/working classes, and are fading fast, I think.

    The top 10 for girls: Emma, Olivia, Ava, Isabella, Sophia, Charlotte, Mia, Amelia, Harper and Evelyn. There's not one really new name in the bunch. Harper maybe, but Harper Lee who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, was a Southern girl from the early 20th century, so it's been around.

    The traditionalism of these names gives me hope for American society, but maybe I'm naive.

    Anyway, please keep it up. Pretty please!

    Great point regarding how traditional the top of the charts are.

    Regarding Logan, aside from fading fast as a boy name, it could also become a girl name. Once that process starts, it seems to rarely ever reverse.

  40. @nebulafox
    Speaking of Vietnam...

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-cyber-vietnam/vietnam-says-accusations-it-hacked-china-for-virus-information-baseless-idUSKCN225169

    Uh huh. Sure. They just took China's word for it, of all people.

    The Vietnamese are nothing if not a race of realists...

    Not everybody thinks it better to be dead than ‘racist’!

  41. @The Alarmist

    What happened in the middle of the 20th century that caused a turning away from names beginning in vowels?
     
    There was a point in the '80s when it looked like everyone in white America was going to be named Mark or Lisa.

    What about D names, like D'shawn?

    Yes, D’Shawn is the first D name that came to my mind, not David! Ds peaked in the 50s and 60s. The pattern is the inverse of the mid-century vowel evacuation.

    The first time I recall becoming aware of the increasingly distinctive black naming conventions was when I heard D’Brickshaw Ferguson being read off as part of an offensive lineup.

    • Replies: @A123
    The first male "D" name I think of is Daniel. It is one of the commonly used Biblical names.

    Denise rarely shows up as a girls name. Not sure what killed it.
    _____

    One other name has a gender flip to male.

    Angel

    Partially driven by Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be my guess. Angel outpaces Angela for girls.

    https://www.babynamewizard.com/voyager#prefix=angel&sw=both&exact=false

    PEACE 😷

  42. @Svevlad
    Z isn't a really expendable letter tho

    It’s the least used letter in the English language. X–the third least used letter in the language–could sub in for Z where S is unable to (as it does in the word “xylophone”).

  43. A123 says:
    @Audacious Epigone
    Yes, D'Shawn is the first D name that came to my mind, not David! Ds peaked in the 50s and 60s. The pattern is the inverse of the mid-century vowel evacuation.

    The first time I recall becoming aware of the increasingly distinctive black naming conventions was when I heard D'Brickshaw Ferguson being read off as part of an offensive lineup.

    The first male “D” name I think of is Daniel. It is one of the commonly used Biblical names.

    Denise rarely shows up as a girls name. Not sure what killed it.
    _____

    One other name has a gender flip to male.

    Angel

    Partially driven by Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be my guess. Angel outpaces Angela for girls.

    https://www.babynamewizard.com/voyager#prefix=angel&sw=both&exact=false

    PEACE 😷

    • Thanks: Audacious Epigone
  44. @Audacious Epigone
    Forget the Bible Belt, check out the Jesus Belt!

    “A hard name to live up to” as my old Spanish teacher once said.

  45. @Audacious Epigone
    T starts spike in the middle of the 20th century, peaking in the sixties, and then drop way off. In 1900, they were 20k in 1M babies. In 1960, they pushed 70k in 1M, and now they're back down to a little under 20k in 1M babies.

    Names go in and out of fashion, if there are a lot of old ladies with a name then people don’t pick them for their baby girl so you get these cycles.

    Richard isn’t great when the short versions are Dick or Rich, as mentioned. My father was called Richard and I wouldn’t use it as a first name, middle name instead.

  46. @Almost Missouri
    Theories for "Unknown":

    1) 1940s suggests children begat on young women by soldiers on "last night before I ship out" given up for adoption without names.*

    2) The then relatively new Social Security name database undergoes integration teething problems.

    3) The then larger portion of the population who were traditional/farm people were in less of a hurry to get the kid named. I know a farm family who, as recently as the 1960s didn't bother naming some kids for a week or more after birth. In one instance (perhaps they were unsure of the small infant's survival chances) the midwife finally registered a name from her religious calendar during her next visit to town. That infant, now grown, still has that name, and her own kids, which she didn't hurry to name.

    *Reminds me of a story from the late great 20th century blue collar columnist Mike Royko. He said that during WWII he had a buddy who joined the Coast Guard, so technically every night was his "last night before I ship out", which was that era's go-to line for bypassing last-minute resistance, as a later generation's pick-up artists would call it.

    We don’t name our cats, they are simply the cat, or as currently we have two, the girl and the boy.

  47. very interesting

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