Category: name and identity
By Pamela Redmond Satran
Many couples are shocked to find that, while they agree about so many more seemingly important things, they’re locked in an enormous battle over baby names. Why do arguments rear up about an issue that should be fun and pleasurable? And how can you solve these Baby Name Battles?
RECOGNIZE YOU’RE NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT NAMES. Name discussions often tap into deeper issues like religion, family, people’s experiences from their pasts that they may not have discussed openly or even be aware of themselves. It may take more time, patience, and care to thoroughly discuss name tastes and their implications than you anticipate.
DON’T COMPROMISE. Finding a compromise name — one that may not be either of your favorites but that you both like okay — might not actually be the best solution. It can provide a quicker, easier fix to the name problem, but may cover up the deeper issues still lurking.
DIG DEEPER. It’s worth uncovering the reasons BEHIND the names you and your partner like. Let’s say your partner is campaigning for a name from their family — which may be more about pleasing their parents than loving that particular name. That can help you both look for other names that might fit the bill in a way that’s meaningful to the other person but that you also like.
A few days ago, I was introduced to Fred Gooltz, COO of the hot new obsession site itsasickness.com. Wow, I thought, Fred, one of my favorite cool retro names. But it soon became evident that Fred didn’t share my enthusiasm, expressing his negative feelings about growing up with a name that seemed to be out of step with his time. To delve a little deeper, we had the following e-conversation:
FRED: There are always certain kinds of people who try to call you Freddy. Some people like to put “ie” on the end of any name, usually because they’re playing at childish schoolyard politics, infantilizing others with nicknames to feel stronger. It’s like assuming that you’ve got the right to call somebody ‘slugger’ or ‘kiddo’ or ‘champ.’ I rage against Freddie. I always picture the ‘I’ dotted with a heart.
Very few nicknames were attempted on me – I had one teacher who called me “Dauntless” for a while, but thankfully it didn’t stick when I changed schools. It’s entertaining and a little sad when a person with a clunky wig of a name like Fred goes by “Thunder” or “The Hammer.” It’s the McLovin joke from the movie Superbad. Nobody wants to be that guy. Naming your son Fred, Poindexter, Egbert, or Sheldon nearly guarantees that they have to deal with a moment like that eventually.
Do you know why your parents picked the name? Does it have any family connections? Did it affect your feelings towards your parents?
FRED: There are Alfreds and Fredericks all over my family history. My family is full of old timey names. But my mom – whose name is Estelle, by the way – insists that she really liked the name. She actually loved the name Friedrich, from a character in Little Women.” The book probably made Friedrich a popular name in the 1870s, but a century later… not so much. I should probably be grateful–another option was apparently the name Zepherin.
If you have aspirations that your kiddo will someday grow up and earn his Juris Doctorate, the time to start planning may be now – with the right name. Through nameberry, you now have access to the most comprehensive analysis on lawyer names ever completed.
I run marketing for an online legal directory called Avvo where we help people make an informed decision when hiring an attorney by rating and profiling over 90% of the lawyers in the country. As such, I have access to the most comprehensive data on lawyer first names ever assembled – data culled from state bar records from across the country and reaching back as far as 1808. That’s about 1.5 million lawyers overall.
I grouped the names for each decade going back through the 1950’s. Because our data gets more sparse with age, I built two more groups, one from the first half of last century and one for the 1800’s. I then compiled lists of the top 20 names for each time period. The date associated with each name is when the attorney was accepted by the state bar – which in general is about 25 years after the baby-cum-lawyer was named (so you need to really be thinking ahead).
Obviously, these lists correlate with popularity of names over time, but the actual results are amazingly consistent and defy many overall name trends. Eight of the top twenty names show up in all the groups: every decade starting in the 1950s, the 1901-1950 group and even the Top 20 list from the 1800s. These are, in order of overall frequency:
Boy names have undergone a radical shift over the past few decades, with the old stalwart names like James and Robert making room for a whole army of new choices that break the traditional masculine mold.
The trendiest boy names are not exactly feminine, or even androgynous, but are decidedly male names that nevertheless don’t hail from conventional masculine roots. We mean the two-syllable, surname-sounding names like Caden and Brody, Logan and Landon.
Then there are the more traditional names, but with softer sounds — vowel endings, the sibilant s or sh — usually associated with girls’ names. The most popular of these include Joshua and Noah, Asher and Isaiah.
What we’re interested in is your view of masculinity as evidenced by these changing boys’ names.
Do you think the change in names is evidence of a deeper change in the way we think of boys, of masculinity, of what we want for our sons growing up?
How did your own views of masculinity play into the name you chose for your son, or a name you might pick in the future?
Would you give your son a name that was also used for girls — why or why not? Would you want a traditional boys’ name or look for one that broke the masculine mold — again, why and why not?
I’d always hated my name. When I was fourteen, I found a book in the library called “The History of Names.” I looked up my given name, Margaret, and was stunned by its derivations. Pages and pages of them, well over 100 versions, often three variations of it for a single country including nicknames like the one I got stuck with…Peggy.
I ran my finger down the endless list until one of them, Greta, stopped me cold. It was a perfect switch: it’s used in England, Sweden, and Germany (a nod to Dad); it was a natural nickname for Margaret (especially if spelled Margret); it ended in “a,” making it feel exotic; with my last name, Goss, it was alliteration and, as for personal stationery, this was a name with graphic sex appeal!
Cradling the book in my hands, leaning back in contentment, my attention strayed to the cover of the book at the top of that day’s heap: a smoldering photograph of Greta Garbo. That did it. I’d found the right answer to my name game. I’d tapped utopia.
Walking home, I thought about how I was going to tell my mother. We’re talking a woman who went wild over every Margaret or Peggy she’d ever met. We’re talking a woman with roots in Massachusetts, a state where they sing “Peg ‘O My Heart” by their first birthday. We’re talking a woman who graduated from college with a class composed entirely of Margarets nicknamed Peggy. This meant I grew up surrounded by a legion of women I called “Aunt Peggy” – which didn’t even include numerous blood relations named Margaret (also called Peggy). Not a Megan, Marge, Maggie or Margo in the bunch. The walk home was uphill. A steep one. I grew less confident with every step.