Friday, November 1, 2013

Baby Names - Choosing Trendy or Traditional

Lists of baby names are always fun to look at, whether
you're seeking a name for your soon-to-be-born baby boy or
baby girl, wondering about the popularity of your own first
name, or just curious about what baby names are currently
hot.What I find particularly interesting is tracking the popularity
of baby names over the decades. In looking through U.S.
government baby name lists from 1880 to the present,
some amusing patterns emerge, particularly in regards to
baby names for girls.For example, in Victorian times Biblical names, such as
Mary, Sarah and Ruth were very popular for baby girls. There
were also many baby names that sounded very
old-fashioned to me, as a kid growing up in the 1960s,
including names like Martha, Alice, Bertha and Minnie.From the 1920s to the 1950s certain baby names rose in
popularity. For example, I went to school with many Susans,
Debbies, Patricias, and Lindas. All of these baby names
have since waned, to be replaced, by the 1980s, with fancier
names such as Jennifer, Jessica and Nicole. When I was a
children's librarian in the 1980s my preschool storyhours
were populated with little girls named Lauren and Jenny,
and little boys named Alex and Matthew.More recently there's been a lot of renewed interest in
more "old-fashioned" baby names like Hannah, Abigail and
Ethan, plus many Biblical names such as Sarah, Rachel,
Joshua, Jacob, and Samuel. There's also been a surge in
nontraditional baby names including Madison, Ashley and
Brianna for baby girls, and Brandon and Logan for baby
boys.It's interesting to consider the whys and wherefores of
such developments. Sometimes, I suspect, the popularity of
a specific actor or fictional character might result in many
babies with a particular name. For example, were some of
the Lauras born in the 1970s and 1980s given a name
suggested by older brothers and sisters who were growing
up watching "Little House on the Prairie ?" Were some
attributable to the super popular Laura of "General Hospital"
fame ?Today Madison is a very highly ranked baby name for girls
(ranking number 3 in 2003) but, when the film "Splash"
came out in 1984, Tom Hanks' character told Daryl
Hannah's character that Madison was not a bona fide first
name.While baby girls' names seem quite subject to the whims
of fashion and the top ten lists can change radically over
time, I've noticed that, in general, the top baby names for
boys remain far more stable. Names like John, William and
James are perennials, perhaps because baby boys are
often named for their fathers, perpetuating the popularity of
certain baby names from generation to generation. The
"Junior" factor aside, baby boys are also less apt to be given
fanciful names.A comparison of the changing fortunes of my own first
name, Barbara, with those of my husband's name, Robert,
gives a good illustration of the difference in stability between
baby girl names and baby boy names over time.My name grew in popularity in the 1930s, '40s and '50s,
peaking at the number 2 position in baby name popularity,
which it tenaciously held from 1937 to 1944. When I
attended grad school, of a class of approximately forty
students, there were no less than three baby boomers
named Barbara. Should I thank the actress Barbara
Stanwyck for this? Alas, my first name later suffered a slow,
steady decline and placed at a pitiful number 628 position
on the baby names popularity list for the U.S. in 2003.Robert, on the other hand, has survived the vicissitudes of
baby name popularity. It held a coveted spot on the top ten
most popular baby names list every year from 1896 to the
late 1980s, often peaking at number 1 between the 1920s
and the 1950s. It has gradually slipped since the 1990s, but
still managed to hold the respectable slot of number 35 in
2003.When naming a baby there are, of course, many other
points to consider besides how popular or unique a name
is. Here are some helpful tips that you can use with your
other children to get them involved in choosing a name for
the new baby and to make the process fun:1. Baby names need to go nicely with the sound of your last
name. Also, pick a first name and a middle name that go
together well. (So maybe not something like Erasmus
Beelzebub Smith!)2. When your family finds a name you all like, look at the
initials to be sure that you don't give the new baby a name
with initials that will make people laugh. (So maybe not
Pamela Iris Green, which equals P.I.G.!)3. You might not want a baby name that is so unusual that
the other kids will make fun of your little brother or sister as
he or she grows up. (So maybe not Rosebud or Molasses!)4. You also might not want a baby name that is so trendy
that it will sound funny by the time the baby is ten years old.
(So maybe not Sunshine!)5. You probably shouldn't pick a name that's really cute for
an adorable little baby but will sound silly when the baby
grows up. (So maybe not Dimples!)6. Avoid baby names that might produce insulting
nicknames when people shorten them. (So maybe not
Smellonius, or Smelly for short!)7. You and your family might not want a name that is so hard
to spell or to pronounce that people will always get it wrong
and your poor little brother or sister will have to go through
life correcting people. (So maybe not something like
Incandescence, or is it Incandessints? )8. You and your family might want to pick baby names in
honor of favorite relatives or ancestors, or special names
that show your family's ethnic roots. You might even find a
special name from a book or movie that you love. (Like
Harry?)9. You might want to look through books of baby names and
pick one that has a special meaning that you like - maybe
something that means "sweet" or "kind" or "brave." (So
maybe not wimp!)10. You might want to think about names that will go nicely
with your name and your other brothers' and sisters' names,
so that if mom or dad are calling you all for dinner or signing
a birthday card to grandma it won't sound too crazy.
(So maybe not "Happy Birthday, Grandma! Love, Joey,
Cindy and Dweevo!")There are hundreds of names waiting for you out there, so
good luck on your search for the perfect name!

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