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TV’s Out-of-Synch Name Syndrome

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TV names

By Nick Turner

Walk into any kindergarten in America and you shouldn’t be surprised to find kids named Olivia, Quinn or Harrison. Maybe you’ll come across an Owen, Jackson or Callie too.

The names are popular picks for parents in the 21st century, which is why you’re much more likely to encounter a toddler Owen than one who’s middle-aged.

But all those names are actually characters from Scandal and Grey‘s Anatomy, two shows from the prolific Hollywood producer Shonda Rhimes. And they’re portrayed by actors in their 30s and 40s.

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The Super Bowl of Football Names

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Super bowl baby names

By Nick Turner

Back before the World Series in October, I did a post on the elements of a classic baseball name. The upshot: The sport favors colorful nicknames (Scooter, Bullet, Coco Crisp), and players frequently go by their initials (there were eight AJs on active Major League rosters last year). Casey also was disproportionately popular.

With the Super Bowl coming in a few days, it seems fitting that I now turn my attention to football.

What makes for a quintessential NFL name?

To start, that playfulness you see in baseball doesn’t exist as much in football. It’s a tough sport and perhaps that requires a serious moniker. Players rarely go by cute nicknames. And though initials aren’t unusual, they’re not nearly as prevalent as in baseball.

That said, the names still have swagger — just with more of a straight face.

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Christmas baby names

By Nick Turner

It’s the holiday season, which means eggnog, carols, twinkling lights and — for millions of American parents — remembering to move that damn elf around the house every night.

Yes, I’m talking about Elf on the Shelf, the Christmas tradition that feels like it’s been going on forever but is less than ten years old. If you’re unacquainted, the idea is to plant an elf doll in your home that serves as a sentry for Santa. It watches your children and reports on their evil deeds. (Somehow this delights kids rather than terrifying them.)

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Lynn and lee names

By Nick Turner

In my last post, I wrote about how baby names are getting longer — with choices like Isabella and Olivia (four syllables each) trumping old-fashioned picks such as Mary and Anne.

While I was sifting through the data for that piece, I noticed something interesting. Some of the short names that were common in the past (Lynn, Lee, Leigh) haven’t really gone away. They’re just hiding within longer names.

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names getting longer

By Nick Turner

Baby-name fads have come and gone over the decades, but one trend has held true: Names are getting longer.

A hundred years ago, boys’ names were typically less than two syllables. John, James, George and Frank were all popular picks, and there were no three-syllable names anywhere in the top 20.

In recent decades, that changed. Three- and four-syllable choices like Alexander, Nicholas, Joshua and Christopher surged in popularity, turning America‘s baby names into more of a mouthful.

By the 2000s, the average syllable count for a top 20 boys’ name had climbed to 2.25 — up from 1.8 in the 1880s.

Girls’ names, meanwhile, have gotten even longer. A Top 20 female name had an average syllable count of 2.75 last year. That compares with 2.05 in the 1880s.

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