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Occupational Surnames: Far from a fad

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occupational surnames

By Nick Turner

Back in 2012, I heard about parents naming their babies Draper in honor of Mad Men. I remember thinking the idea was daring but a little silly. These people were taking the last-name-as-first-name trend to an absurd conclusion, I griped.

It had been a few years since occupational surnames like Cooper and Mason had become popular, and I worried that pretty soon every kid would be a Fletcher, Tanner or Jagger. Traditional names were a dying species.

Then I made a startling discovery.

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car names--NT

By Nick Turner

If you’re like me, your favorite baby names are ones that peaked at least 100 years ago. But I always seem to have an easier time finding great “century names” for girls than boys. (When we named our kids, my female list was much longer than my male one.)

So I was excited to discover a rich source of vintage boys’ names: the early auto industry.

Automobile pioneers were active in the late 1800s and early 1900s, which means they have fabulous names. (There’s not much in the way of girls’ choices here, but we can all take solace in the fact that the auto industry is less sexist than it used to be. America‘s largest automaker, General Motors, is currently run by a woman.)

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hazelx

By Nick Turner

In 1970, the novel Love Story captured America‘s imagination with the tale of a wealthy Harvard jock who meets a girl from the other side of the tracks. It was soon followed by a movie of the same name — a tear-jerker that became the top box-office draw of the year. The American Film Institute has named Love Story one of the ten most romantic movies of all time, but its biggest legacy may be solidifying Jennifer‘s status as the top girl’s name of the 1970s and early-’80s.

The heroine of the book and movie (played by Ali McGraw) was named JenniferJenny” Cavalleri. And in addition to being a wisecracking beauty, she had terminal leukemia. (I’m not spoiling anything here. The very first line of the movie is: “What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died?”) .

Apparently America‘s response to watching a tragic girl fall in love and die was, “Hey, cool name.” Jennifer supplanted Lisa as the most popular name in the United States in 1970 and didn’t relinquish its grip until 1985.

Forty-four years later, America is obsessed with another cancer-stricken girl: Hazel from the novel The Fault in Our Stars.

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stockmarket

By Nick Turner

Investors often rely on charts and technical analysis to decide whether to buy or sell a stock. That means they focus less on the fundamental qualities of the company (say, whether sales are growing or it has a good CEO), and instead concentrate on the movements of its share price. If the chart is displaying a certain pattern — one that has been historically shown to foreshadow a rise in value — the investor will buy the stock.

Having spent my career deciphering stock charts as a financial journalist, I suppose it seemed natural to apply the same techniques when coming up with baby names. After all, the popularity of names tends to move in hundred-year cycles, and the same patterns repeat over and over again. That means you can spot a good name based on its chart alone.

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