Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's in a (baby) name?

Every year, the Social Security Administration releases lists of the most popular baby names for both genders. Every year I read these lists and immediately notice:

(1) My name is nowhere to be seen
(2) Neither are my kids' names

Well, I can't say our names are nowhere to be found. If you go far enough down the lists, you're likely to find almost any name. This year my daughter Chloe's name is #10 among girls, which is just about the highest I remember any of my kids ranking.

If Terry and I had a philosophy when it came to naming our kids, it was "nothing common but nothing weird, either." We don't have any Johns or Marys, nor do we have any Moon Units or Apples.

Speaking of John and Mary, they are now #'s 27 and 112 on their lists, respectively. Really? Wow. Growing up, I'm pretty sure I knew something like 13 different Johns and at least half as many Marys.

Anyway, we went with fairly-unique-but-not-freaky names for our kids:

  • "Elissa" is a common name, but the spelling we chose isn't.
  • "Chloe" is more popular now than when my 15-year-old daughter was born (and it should be noted that I still know of more pets named Chloe than humans).
  • "Jared" is solid and respectable, though I wanted to go with "Jaret" after Cleveland Indians pitcher Jaret Wright. Terry quashed that idea that in a hurry.
  • There aren't a lot of kids named "Melanie" these days, but we've got one of them.
  • And as for "Jack," it's kind of a classic American name, but there aren't nearly as many Jacks as there are Jacobs, for example.

Speaking of Jacob, it was #1 on the boys list for the 13th year in a row. Sophia is tops on the girls list. The article I read said that while the boys list tends to be pretty stable, the girls list changes constantly. I wonder why that is. Maybe parents strive to give girls unique and flowery names while thinking boys are better served by solid, timeless names.

I have always liked my name for the same reason I like my kids' names: It's common without being too common. I'm too lazy to look this up, but I think "Scott" has only appeared on the list of most popular boys names once or twice, that coming back in the late 60s/early 70s. And even then it came in around #10.

I never considered naming either of my boys after me, though Scott is Jared's middle name. I figured it was a good thing for the oldest boy to carry at least a little piece of his father around with him (whether he likes it or not).

As for the actual naming process, Terry and I always took a pretty collaborative approach. If one of us liked a name and the other one didn't, it would fall out of consideration. We preferred a united front when it came to baby names, though in case of a tie I do think the woman should get 51% veto power. This is only fair given the relative distribution of work when it comes to pregnancy and birth. Thankfully, Terry never chose to exercise her veto power, though I would not have begrudged her that right had she chosen to invoke it.

In the end, a name should be something both parents agree upon, while also having at least a small chance of being something the child himself or herself will like when they get older. Too many parents follow the first part of that rule while ignoring the second, which is why every kindergarten class ends up with at least one "Clementine Forsythia Stankowski," or some such hippie-inspired moniker.

Haven't these people ever heard of John or Mary?

1 comment:

  1. Did you write this for James and I?
    " Scott Scott Ross" = veto.