Monday, January 23, 2012

You Want to Name a Baby? Have a Baby. – Part II

Naming a baby. If there is a secret formula for this I'd love to know it. As best as I can tell baby names are about the taste/opinions of the parents and little else.

Wallpaper might not match the pattern on your couch. Those shoes might not go with that dress. Transformers might be the worst movie ever made, or it could be Kazaam. And maybe Neil Young isn't the greatest solo artist of all time (he's close). We know these things because critics, interior decorators, fashionistas, record sales and, ultimately, the history of what endures tell us so.

"Tom? Why yes, it's a perfect name! Wait a minute."
All this said, what goes well with Elmer? Is there a personality that matches well with Sienna? And what about Agnes? Is it legal for a woman not collecting Social Security to have this name?

The answers to these questions are opinion and nothing else. And there are no "name critics" of repute that prospective parents can turn to for guidance. As I mentioned in 'Part I,' research shows certain names can set a child up for success, or a fitting for an orange jumpsuit.

Popularity is by no means a measure of what makes for a strong name. In 1912, Ruth and Mildred were ranked the sixth and seventh most popular female baby names in the United States. By 2010, Ruth was 348 and Mildred wasn't in the top 1,000.  

The U.S. Social Security web site shows Mary to be one of the most durable female names in history.  Mary was the most popular female name from 1900 straight through the 1960s. That's when Lisa came along and ruined it for her by bumping her to second place. From there it was a quick slide out of the top ten. By the 80s Mary was the 35th most popular name and by 2010, the most recent year for which numbers are available, she was ranked 109.  

But Mary isn't alone; other names that once seemed to be perennial safety picks are taking a hit in recent years. In 1880, the most popular male baby name was? (I'll let you guess.) Yes, you're correct; it was John. And, it was John straight on through the 20th century. But this run of popularity is slowing. Sure, John is still a popular name but it's been sliding and was the 26th most popular name in 2010. 

To me, John's tumble in popularity is proof that there are no safety picks. All you can really do when naming your baby is resolve to trust your gut. However, if your gut tells you the baby is "Pilot Inspektor" you might want to double check.

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