Category: name and identity
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.
Were you teased in Elementary School? High School? College?
FRED: In spite of the name Fred, to be honest, I wasn’t teased too badly about my name. I was teased because of my behavior. If anything, my name probably encouraged me to be able to fit in with different tribes of kids in school.
Ever think of changing your name?
FRED: Yes. I’ve met some very wonderful Freds who are passionate about spreading the name. and I’ve met some very nice people who are comforted by the Lawrence Welk Show- era simplicity of the name, but I’m not a Fred-evangelist. It took a long time for me to come to terms with my name. About thirty years. The first time I tried to change my name I was probably seven years old. For about a month I insisted that my family call me Rick – shortened from Frederick. I was adamant, I wouldn’t respond to my family unless I was addressed as Rick. But this distaste for the name Fred made my mother sad, so I dropped it. I’m sorry to say, but Fred never completely clicked with me. The sound of the name itself can sometimes clang like a jeer – even from friends. Frederick is probably better, I think.
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.
Guest blogger JILL BARNETT ponders the reinvented names that work magic on our lives….or do they?
I stood in front of the mirror backstage, proudly inspecting my makeup and blue and white gingham costume. Granted, I was in the midst of the most unfortunate awkward phase in the history of adolescence (my parents truly should have kept me indoors as a public service), but on that night, opening night of our middle school musical, The Wizard of Oz, I was too excited about my debut as Dorothy to notice that my skinny body and giant hair made me resemble a human Q-Tip. As I saw my gangly13-year-old reflection staring back at me, only one thing entered my mind: stardom!
I couldn’t deny that dress rehearsals hadn’t been pretty–the Stryofoam rainbow prop had a habit of crashing to the ground as I sang about troubles melting like lemon drops, and then there was that pesky issue of my ruby slippers shedding chunks of red glitter with every step I took, but in my mind, this elite middle school production of The Wizard of Oz (complete with an orchestra consisting of a pianist, a flatulent flautist, and a drummer who smelled like Velveeta cheese) was my launching pad to certain fame. Who cared that many of the Munchkins were taller than I was, that our Toto was missing in action, or that the stage crew had never gotten around to actually building a set? Not I! I was too busy daydreaming about seeing my name in lights.
WAIT! My name in lights? Jill Barnett in lights? I didn’t even like my given name for everyday use, and certainly had no desire to see it on the marquis of the Gershwin Theatre or to hear it read aloud upon the win of my first Tony Award. Nope, Jill Barnett simply wouldn’t do, and in my opinion, it had even less star quality than a name like Frances Ethel Gumm, who happened to be my favorite actress and singer.