Category: nameberry guest bloggers
Guest blogger Skye Pifer, of Sarasota, Florida, co-authored “The New Grandparent Name Book; a lighthearted guide to picking the perfect grandparent name,” with her mother, Lin Wellford, who lives in the Arkansas Ozarks.
I guess you could say my mom is something of a name fanatic. She picked out my name when she was still a little girl, after seeing it in one of her aunt’s movie magazines. Soon after that, she modified her own name, one she points out, that is shared by at least a million other girls born in the late 1940’s through the mid-1960’s; Linda. She tried to get people to call her Lynn but public school teachers seemed determined to use the name on her records. Only after the fresh start of college did she try again, spelling it ‘Lin,’ and that time it took.
So when she learned I was expecting, it didn’t take my mother long to began wondering what her grandchild-to-be should call her. In our family, grandparenting names are pretty personal. My maternal great-grandparents called themselves “Gramma and Gran.” Another set were “Mamaw and Pampaw.” My own grandmother (the person who stuck my mom with ‘Linda’) was certainly old enough to be a grandmother when I came along. But she rejected all the more standard grandmother names and elected to be called “Mutti” (a German version of ‘Mom.’ She’s now in her late 80’s and is known as Mutti not just to her eight grandchildren, but also to our spouses, friends, and now several great-grands as well.
Because she was aware that the name she picked was likely to stay with her for the rest of her life, my mom was determined to choose one that made her happy. It needed to suit her personality, not be super-common, and sound good coming not just from a toddler but also from a teenager. We both began paying attention to what other grandparents were calling themselves, jotting down various options to try them out. I discovered how inventive people in my parent’s generation are when it comes to their grandparenting names.
I’ll admit that I hoped Mom wouldn’t come up with anything too off-the-wall. I kind of cringed at the thought of her being a Bubbles, or Glamma. There are so many options for variations along more traditional lines, like Nanna, Gram or MeMo. Or she could have picked a name from another culture, like Oma, which is German, or Abbi, short for Abuelita, Spanish for grandmother. Noni, Peaches, Sonoma, G-Ma, MoMo, and Grindi, are just a few of the more unusual names we ended up collecting. My mom’s cousin is a professional nanny caring for a set of twins whose grandparents call themselves Rocky and Kitty. My cousin’s in-laws go by Bubba and Bama. One of Mom’s friends confessed that she hoped that if she ever had grandchildren, she’d ask them to call her Granzilla! Luckily, in the end, Mom decided upon using Mimi as her grandmother name. My dad was not that picky, so when I suggested he be ‘Popi’, he was happy to go along with that.
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:
We are honored to have as today’s guest bloggers Don and Alleen Nilsen, recent co-chairmen of the prestigious American Name Society, writing about the clever use of literary allusions in the thirteen Lemony Snicket books.
As long-distance grandparents, we are constantly on the lookout for books that we can enjoy listening to on CDs while we commute to work and can then forward to our children to enjoy with their children while they make their own commutes. Daniel Handler’s thirteen Lemony Snicket books have been the all-time winners in this category, and one of the reasons is Handler’s skill in recycling the names of literary or pop culture figures to make playful allusions.
Humor scholars use the term Wabbit literacy (from “that wascally wabbit” in the Bugs Bunny cartoons) to describe the flip-flop process in which children become acquainted with the names of classical figures through pop culture allusions prior to meeting the same names in “the original.” The Lemony Snicket books are a superb illustration of this process as children meet Dr. Georgina Orwell, an eye doctor who hangs an ever-watchful eye over her door; Uncle Monty, who as a herpetologist cares for a huge python; a villainous couple named Esmé and Jerome Squalor who live at 667 Dark Avenue, c.f. J. D. Salinger‘s short story “To Esmé with Love and Squalor,” and Mr. Poe, who has a son named Edgar and is the appointed guardian of the children’s inheritance which is placed in the Mulctuary Money Management Bank.
As a style-conscious four-year-old who knew that lime green bellbottoms and patchwork Holly Hobby skirts were cutting edge chic, I had recently grown tired of my boring shoulder-length locks. Unable to think of any glamorous looks aside from a pageboy, life took a seemingly fortuitous turn one day when my mom took me to Friendly’s for a five-star grilled cheese sandwich and fries. Our server’s name was Claire, and in addition to having a name I absolutely loved, she sported my dream hairstyle at the time: a ponytail in the back with feathered chunks of hair resembling earmuffs on the sides, likely held in place with a jug or so of glistening Aqua Net.
After returning home from lunch, I did what any logical preschooler in need of a classy coiffure would have done: I found a pair of scissors, crawled up onto my bathroom counter so I could be closer to the mirror, and tried my best to recreate the glory of Claire’s ravishing 70’s hairdo. Becoming a hairstylist clearly wasn’t in my future, however, because I somehow managed to give myself a raging reverse mullet, complete with a multitude of stray vertical tufts.
In a panic, my mom quickly took me to the hairdresser, who was thankfully able to even out the ends, but for a good three months, my hair resembled a cross between Austin Powers and Friar Tuck. To this day, while I love the name Claire, I sadly know I can’t bestow it upon a future daughter because it’s too connected to my childhood hair trauma, and because I’ve long since referred to my unfortunate bowl cut as “The Claire.”
And while Claire was the first gorgeous name I realized I could no longer use due to a negative association, it unfortunately wasn’t the last. Please join me in paying tribute to some of my favorite names that have committed the dreaded crime of guilt by association:
ALICE: As I was paying my bill at a diner, a customer approached the woman named Alice who was working behind the cash register, politely saying, “Exuse me, ma’am. My turkey sandwich doesn’t taste right. I think it’s spoiled.” Not missing a beat, the woman, who had used self-tanner to the point of resembling an Oompa Loompa, grabbed the man’s sandwich from his plate, took a huge bite out of it, and said with a snarl and a mouth filled with food, “It tastes fine to me!” Clearly hoping to be named Employee of the Month, the woman returned the sandwich to the customer as he stood in disbelief, and then promptly shooed him on his way.
Since finding out that our third and final child – due this fall – is a girl, I have become afflicted with something I like to call “Baby Name Fever.” I’ve been hit with The Fever before, but never quite this hard. Because this will be our last baby, I feel an urgency, a great pressure, to find the right name for her.
It’s made me a little crazy.
I’ve started carrying baby name books around with me wherever I go so that I can look up names whenever they pop into my head.
“But officer, I wasn’t talking on my cell phone. I was looking up “Keturah” in this baby name book.”
“Step out of the car, ma’am.”
“But I need to know what it means!”
I spend hours trolling the Internet, reading all the name blogs and boards, obsessively digging through the Social Security website and the London Telegraph baby announcements.
“Mommy, when are you going to get off the computer? I’m hungry.”
“I’ll be right there.”
“You said that 3 hours ago!”
I’ve begged my friends to please release their reserved baby names back into the general population so that I can use them.
“I know Frances was your dead grandmother’s name, but do you mind if I use it?”