When we were preparing the article “Bizarre Baby Names: A Growing Trend?” for the July issue of Reader’s Digest magazine that’s just hit the stands, we put together a lonnnnnng timeline of the key markers in American name history–much longer than they could possibly use with the story. So here we offer you some of the dates and events that you won’t find in the magazine.
1845. The Irish famine sends masses of Bridgets and Patricks to America.
1946. Publication of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care encourages parents to be more relaxed, confident and collaborative: husbands participate more in child care–and baby naming.
1974. The first issue of People magazine accelerates fascination with celebrity culture, parents start to be increasingly influenced by names stars give their babies.
2000. The Internet inspires parents to search genealogy sites for old family names.
In one of my extra-curricular, non-name lives, I write about the field of collectibles and in doing so, I’ve amassed several shelves full of books on the subject of dolls. I’ve always been intrigued (surprise, surprise) by the names these kiddie playthings have been given by their makers during various periods, making them kind of time capsules of trends and popularity during different eras. Of course, the manufacturers tried to pick names that they thought would be especially appealing and attractive to little girls.
Unfortunately, few of the gorgeous early French, German and other bebe dolls were given names–they would more likely be identified as “Baby Open-Mouth, Glass Eyes” or “Molded Blonde Hair Child,” leaving the actual bestowing of a name up to the child playing with it. But those with an official ID had names that were typical of their time:
The Patsy series introduced the double names that would soon become prevalent in the population of dollyland. Most of the other names were relatively formal and conventional, some a little on the fancy side.