While browsing through a recent issue of The New Yorker magazine, I came across an article about the current generation of picture books and their bratty protagonists. It was illustrated by an image from a book called Finn Throws a Fit. Aha, I thought, so juvenile authors are on top of current naming trends. This impelled me to go running (figuratively) to my local Borders to seek further evidence.
One difference I noticed immediately was that there were more little human protagonists and fewer of the porcine (excluding Olivia), feline, canine, bovine, etc persuasion than there were in the past, and there were, as the article pointed out, a lot more angry children populating the pages, and a lot more preoccupation with poop and farts.
In terms of names, I was surprised to see that there was a book title containing almost every currently popular choice—almost as many as there are on the personalized pencils in the airport—a big upswing from the past. Here are some titles all released since the turn of the century–and they’re just the tip of the iceberg!:
CONSTANCE and the Great Escape
ELIZA and the Dragonfly
My Name is Not ISABELLA
IVY and Bean
JUNIE B., First Grader
Let’s Find LUCY
RUBY’S FALLING LEAVES
When SOPHIE Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry
TALLULAH in the Kitchen
Goodnight, my sweet VIOLET
DEXTER Gets Dressed
KYLE’s First Crush
LIAM Goes Poo in the Toilet
OLIVER Who Would Not Sleep
PHINEAS & Ferb series
WALTER the Farting Dog series
It’s always interesting–and fun–to compare the popularity lists of different states because there are inevitably a few unexpected surprises. Some name will pop up at #3 in one state when it’s 30 or 40 across the country. And often a sort of state personality profile will emerge–be it trendy, traditional, or stuck in the past–and regional similarities as well. In the current roster, one thing that’s noteworthy is that most of the names to step out from the crowd are in the boys’ column–with the girls there is a remarkable uniformity of choices across the country.
Regionally, the Northeast presents the most conservative picture, with Michael–long displaced in most other areas–still tops in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. But move north to New England and the picture changes, with names like Logan and Ethan making their way to the top. In the South–and nowhere else–William rules, at the head of the list in seven states, with Anthony in first place in Florida.
The Midwest is split between Jacob and Ethan, but shares one oddity: the name Gavin is in the Top 20 in just about every state–as high as #3 in Wyoming–whereas it’s #32 nationally. So why Gavin in the heartland? I wish I knew. The West is more idiosyncratic, with a large spattering of Hispanic names (3 of the Top 10 in California and Arizona), and a state like Wyoming that presents a laid-back, cowboyish image via top-ranked Ethan, Logan, Wyatt, Brayden, and Hunter.
But what I find especially intriguing are the names that pop in one particular place. Here are some examples of such male and female names, with their national ratings in parenthesis:
GIANNA (90) #10 in Rhode Island
ISAAC (41) #4 in Idaho
NEVAEH (31) #4 in New Mexico
OWEN (56) #6 in Wisconsin
WYATT (69) #7 in Wyoming
Whether or not to reveal the baby’s name before arrival has become a more and more pressing question for parents.
And it seems that people are increasingly opting for keeping it a secret, for not exposing their ideas to public–make that family–scrutiny, judgment and criticism. Because let’s face it, most relatives of an older generation–parents, in-laws, grandparents, uncles and aunts, who didn’t give much thought to the process when they were naming their kids Steven or Susan–are apt to have a very different perspective on both individual names and contemporary naming concepts and trends.
So why risk a shudder when they hear Sadie or a blank stare at the suggestion of Brayden? No matter what name you propose, some family member or friend is bound to not like it, and may well introduce negative factors that can start to sour you on your favorites.
A recent forum on one of our favorite sites, celebrity-babies.com, came down pretty much on the side of keeping the name a secret. The interesting comments there included horror stories of relationship-straining name-napping by neighbors and in-laws, a number of parents who wanted to keep their options open for making a change if the name didn’t seem to fit the baby once she made her appearance, one couple who would only reveal the middle name choice publicly–and several people who had revealed the name of their first child only to receive such toxic comments that they resolved not to do it the next time around.
People on the “Tell” side tended to feel that being able to address their unborn child by name gave it (no longer an it!) a real identity and was a strong pre-birth bonding experience. Probably not surprisingly, parents were more willing to share a classic choice like Elizabeth, than a more unusual one that they wanted to lay claim to and protect.
In the end though, with all these pros and cons, the decision, like all the others concerning your child, is ultimately yours. After all, you know your sister-in-law better than we do.