Category: “Beyond Jennifer & JAson”
One of my most vivid memories of writing our very first book, Beyond Jennifer & Jason, is of Linda and me cracking up as we read aloud from our list of what we called Intellectual Power Names. Frances, Ruth, Howard, Norman…
We couldn’t help laughing. We might as well have been making a list of nerd names.
When we reinvented the book as Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana, we abandoned the Intellectual Power names in the book’s Image section to talk more about classic names and unusual names and how those qualities influenced the world’s perception.
And I suppose we felt a bit squeamish about pegging names too closely with qualities like intelligence and attractiveness that have more to do with the person than with his or her name. A Ruby or a Rylee, after all, may easily be every bit as smart as a Ruth.
But sometimes, I see a name and instantly think it sounds intelligent. Makes me expect, if I met that person, that they would be smart — and not just smart, but studious, serious, cultured, intellectual.
So I decided it would be fun to update the Intellectual Power names, Nameberry-style, with a contemporary twist and sensibility.
For those of you who don’t check the Birth Announcements forum on our Message Boards or aren’t yet our friends on Facebook (tsk, tsk!), we thought we’d gather up the names of the newest babyberries here for all to see. These are all baby names of 2011—and the year isn’t even half over yet!
When Pam and I wrote our first name book back in the Era of Jennifer & Jason, it was filled with names we loved, many of which seemed quite outré to many people at that time. Milo? Felix? Lulu? Clementine? Araminta? Out of the question, we heard!
And so for us to look at a list like the one below is like a dream come true—a whole mini-universe populated by Barnabys and Beatrices, supported by such a strong community of wise and savvy advice-sharers—it all makes us feel like a pair of proud virtual godmamas.
Here they are, together with sibs and nicknames, when available:
On this 98 degree day, I’m doing the only chore that makes sense: cleaning the basement. That’s how, deep in a dusty box, between my now adult daughter’s kindergarten drawings and my ancient college essays, I found a draft of the proposal for our very first baby-naming book.
What struck me most about our early work was a list of rules for choosing the perfect name, as relevant today as they’ve ever been — and will continue to be. Whether your taste in names tends toward the traditional or the trendy, whether you’re picking between a few finalists or still playing the vast field, these guidelines should help:
1. Start Thinking of Names Early — Make some tentative decisions, and live with them for a while. If you’re tired of a name after two months, imagine how you’ll feel after 20 years.
In the mid-1980s, when we were beginning to conceptualize our first book, Beyond Jennifer & Jason, the most popular names were, well, Jennifer (42,637 of them born in 1985 alone) and Jason, as well as Jessica, Michael (a whopping 64,852 of them—no wonder we run into so many 25-year-old Mikes) and Matthews, Ashleys and Amandas, Megans and Melissas.
Over the entire decade of those ancient eighties– the era of Cabbage Patch Dolls and Punky Brewster, the moonwalk and the Material Girl—the top three girls’ names were Jessica (469,000). Jennifer (440,000) and Amanda (369,000), while for the boys it was Michael (663,000— that’s over half a million, in case you hadn’t noticed), Christopher (555,000) and Matthew (458,000)—rounding them off to the nearest hundred.
In the quarter century (!) that has passed since 1985, we’ve seen some very different naming patterns emerge. At that time, there were very few vowel-starting names, except for those A-girls mentioned above, the perennial Elizabeth and the emerging Emily. Hardly a flower name in the bunch, minimal celebrity impact, Mary still in the Top 35, the boys’ list showing little signs of new life, sticking with Old and New Testament favorites and English classics. Not an aden-ending name in the Top 500—though Braden had already popped up at 583, just below Benny.
What’s particularly interesting to look at from today’s perspective is not so much the new names that were emerging or those that are still with us, but the older ones that were still hanging on in the 1985 Top 1000, and have now completely dropped off.
Unusual baby names are more, well, common these days than ever before, according to a new study.
This is not really news, and you don’t need to be a name researcher or statistician to realize it. Anyone who’s spent any time around children in the last few decades knows that you hear unusual names from Tatum to Trenton, from Delilah to D’Shawn around a lot more than you used to.
What’s surprising is the reason the San Diego State author of the latest study gives for the rise of unusual baby names since the 1940s, with the biggest rise in the 1990s. The theory: Higher narcissism among Baby Boom parents inspired the increase in unusual names. We’re not so sure.
Jean Tweng, the author of the unusual names study, is also the author of two books on narcissism, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (Free Press, 2009) and Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled and –More Miserable Than Ever Before (Free Press, 2007).
We hate to be too, well, narcissistic about this, but we think the rise in unusual names is mostly because of us.
Our first book, Beyond Jennifer & Jason, came out in 1988. We called it Beyond Jennifer & Jason because its whole point was to encourage parents to move beyond the expected names — Jennifer and Jason, Jessica and John — that were epidemic at the time and choose something more distinctive and, yes, unusual.
That book changed the way a new generation of parents thought about baby names. It was our book, we maintain, that propelled the shift in naming trends, not the new generation of parents.
And we have proof.