Sunday, November 15, 2009

Unusual names for boys may actually be better after all

Back in August I wrote this blog post about some who think that giving a boy an unusual name may be a detriment to him. I found another article here that says that a distinctive name may actually be a benefit to a man.

I think the thing to remember is that an unusual but legit name is not what causes the problems mentioned in the study cited in the August blog post linked to here, but rather names that tend to be indicative of "lower class" status (as I've mentioned before).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

U.S./U.K. on longer names vs. nicknames as full names

Someone over at Nameberry brought up a point on how it is currently fashionable in Britain to use nickname-type names as full names while Americans are going the other way and tending to longer names. Interestingly enough, about 40 years ago (which happens to be one-half of a Strauss and Howe saeculum*) it was the opposite - Americans were the ones going for nicknamey names and the British going for more formality.

*Maybe it's then a generational thing and that the U.S. and U.K. are running on opposite points of the cycle on this name issue?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The 12-year "J-culum"

In being a fan of the game show Jeopardy! (which I will shorten to J! throughout this blog post) and being familiar with William Strauss and Neil Howe's works, I noticed that the show appears to follow a cycle of about 12 years with each turning being about 3 years long similar to how our society follows an approximately 80 year cycle with 4 turnings each about 20 years long. I haved named this cycle the "J-culum" (a spinoff on S&H's use of the term "saeculum").

First-turning J!: After all the major workings changes and record-setting contestant runs and tournaments of the 4T, the show returns to a more balanced state with fewer record-conquering contestants and the basic "answers and questions" that the show is known for. Towards the end of a 1T, the show experiences a staleness with regards to its "quirks" which have remained largely unchanged since the last 2T and starts a new one. The most recent High on J! was from right after the Ultimate Tournament of Champions in 2005 until sometime in the mid-late part of the 2007-08 season (sometime between when Dan Pawson broke the streak of no 6+ game winners and the changes to the theme and think music at the start of the 2008-09 season). The previous High was between sometime in the 1992-93 season and about midway through the 1995-96 season (more on that cutoff in the 2T description below).

Second-turning J!: The show experiences a "bells and whistles" overhaul during this time, and the material reaches its most "dumbed down" point. The show is in a 2T at this time, and was likewise in one from sometime in the 1995-96 season (the first International Tournament and the discontinuation of the Seniors Tournament kicked off that 2T) until partway through the 1998-99 season. Unlike 4T special tournaments, ones during a 2T are more oriented towards showing past contestants rather than playing for big prizes (e.g. the Kid's Reunion Tournament in September 2008 and the Teen Reunion Tournament in November 1998). Celebrity Jeopardy! tends to be a common feature of J! Awakenings, such as the tournament going on this season and the CJ! games peppered throughout the season during the 1997-98 and 1998-99 ones. This is the least contestant-friendly and most hands-off contestant rearing time of the J-culum: witness how Jeff Kirby snuck back on after previously appearing about 10 years earlier (the rules say that you're not allowed to try out again after appearing on the Trebek version), the inconvienience put on the contestants with the very late-in-the-day tapings at the 2009 Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas, and the emphasis on pop culture material during the last 2T. During this Awakening and the last one there was a change in the theme and Think! music, a set change, and other traditions of the show being shunned (such as when the "pop in" sound was eliminated at the start of the 2008-09 season).

Third-turning J!: Eventually the producers want the show to return to being more contestant-friendly, less dumbed-down material, and like at the start of a 1T a more "normal" feel. However, during a J! Unraveling the perception of the show is opposite that of a High: the quirks are fresh but the strengths of the contestants aren't (few records and the like set since the last 4T). The last Unraveling started probably sometime in the latter half of the 1998-99 season and ended when the clue values were doubled in November 2001. The show is due to start another 3T sometime in the 2010-11 season.

Fourth-turning J!: This is when the show sees overhauls that enable the contestants to perform bigger than before, and when the contestant selection process is most geared to selecting the best ones. The last 4T has been described above: it began with the doubling of the clue values (a 4T reform) in November 2001 and ended with the Ultimate Tournament of Champions (a 4T-style "big bucks" and "best of the best" tournament) in February-May 2005. The doubling of the clue values enabled contestants to win more money than previously (and set a few new "records"), as did the removal of the 5-game limit at the start of the 2003-04 season). In addition to the UToC, the Million Dollar Masters tournament in May 2002 was another 4T-style one. Before that 4T the previous one began sometime in the 1989-90 season (likely with Bob Blake's record-setting for the time appearance) and ended sometime in the 1992-93 season. This appears to be when the J-culum really began to start evolving. Like the most recent 4T this one featured some other record-setting contestants (such as Frank Spangenberg and Jerome Vered) as well as a big tournament (Super Jeopardy!). Unlike the "Crisis" of the social 4T, J! fans actually may somewhat look forward to 4Ts on the show. The next one will likely come around about the time the show is celebrating its 30th anniversary (and the 50th anniversary since the original introduction of the Art Fleming version); maybe that's when we'll have the next Ken Jennings or UToC2. Like during a 2T, there is usually a set change during a 4T.

I don't know what makes this 12-year cycle work (maybe the show is ruled by the life cycle of dogs, maybe it follows a cycle like the Chinese Year one, maybe it's the average turnaround of people in charge of the show, maybe it's the length of the time for viewers to tire of the show going one way and tiring the other way and going back again). This post mentioned my observations and theory on this cycle.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Follow up on previous blog post about unusual names for boys

Back in August 2009 I posted this blog with my comments on some stories (countering what they say) I found which say that unusual names affect boys in a negative way. I was looking again at the story at the first link in that blog and found that it's mathematically skewed. Here's a quote from a post I made on that at Nameberry (also quoted at the bottom is a line about confusing black or unfavorably-ethnic names with those that are merely uncommon):

If I recall correctly the most popular name got a 100 and a name with half as many bearers got a 50, a quarter of the most popular name was a 25, and so on. What that does is overweigh the results of just the few most popular names (whether that be good or bad) and underweighs the result of the less common names (which in this case gives the author a false or at least skewed conclusion). The mathematically correct way to conduct this experiment is instead of the aforementioned scale use the actual percentages to compute the results (if that is a bit unwidely taking the reciprocal of the precentages will yield the same results, this time with a higher value corresponding to a more unusual name).

Also, those who are doing such studies need to separate the concept of black or other unfavorably-ethnic names from those that are merely unusual (with the former there have been valid studies about resume response with such names, etc.).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Generations and Jeopardy! wagering tendencies

After several name and gender related blog posts, I'm finally going to move onto another subject (the S&H theory will still be involved though). One of my favorite game shows is Jeopardy!, and I've done some studying on wagering theory in that game. I'm posting this blog discussing how general wagering habits of the contestants have changed over time.

Jeopardy! fans who remember watching the show during the Art Fleming era may remember that back then all three contestants won whatever money they had (but like now only the winner got to return to play again). When the Trebek version started in 1984 the rules changed so that only the winner got to keep his/her winnings, mainly because back in the Fleming days contestants would often give up any chance at winning so that he/she could keep whatever had been won at that point. The rule changed helped make the game more competitive since the score would now effectively be only points until the game was won. I have a good explanation why Fleming-era contestants tended to be more cautious with their winnings, and why some people think the game should return to the original format of everyone keeping what they have. The secret is in the generational archetype of the contestants. Of course what I'm about to say is a very broad generalization and you will very likely find contestants who don't fit the general description, but in terms of general tendencies it's a good description.

According to William Strauss and Neil Howe there are four different "archetypes" of generations with a different one succeeding each other in a fixed order and repeating every four generations, with each generation (in modern times) lasting about 20 years or so (an exception was around the time of the Civil War in which one of the archetypes was skipped, for reasons I won't get into here). Each archetype varies in several attributes, such as whether they're individually or collectively focused, or whether they're risk-adverse or risk-takers. The particular attributes I gave examples to are the ones that give some clues to how one would wager on Jeopardy!.

In Jeopardy!-fan speak, "Venusian" refers to one who likes to wager small, i.e. risk-adverse and "Martian" refers to the opposite, i.e. one who likes to wager big. In terms of generational archetypes, there is one that tends to be risk-adverse (the Adaptives or Artists) and one on the opposite side of the saeculum (the 80-year or so cycle of generations and types of eras) that tends to be risk-takers (the Reactives or Nomads). Examples of the former include the Silent Generation (which S&H define as those born from 1925-1942) and the current crop of children being born (since the early to mid years of this decade). Examples of the latter are Generation X (born 1961-1981) and before them the Lost Generation (born 1883-1900). The generations in between (which I'll get into more detail on later in this blog) will tend to be somewhere between these two extremes. During the orignal Fleming era (1964-1975) Silent contestants probably made up a plurality of the total players of the time. As I mentioned Silents come from a risk-adverse generation, and as you might expect that would apply to Jeopardy! as well (hence the large number of contestants from that era who would rather "keep what they had" then to try and go for the win if they could). The opposite types of generations were largely out of the picture at the time (there were probably at least a few Lost contestants but probably not a significant number, and unless they had a Kids or [at the very end of the era] Teen version Xers would've all been too young to try out).

At the start of the Trebek era Silents probably no longer made up the plurality of contestants (that honor went to the next generation, the Boomers) but still a singnificant number, hence the implementation of the "winner take all" rule. Also at the time Xers were just starting to age into the young contestant range, and later on likely took the "plurality of contestants" honor. This means that now, unlike during the Fleming era, there are more contestants from a risk-taking generation (Xers) than a risk-adverse one (although still a few Silents not as many as before, and any members of the Homeland generation [the tentative name for the generation which is being born into right now] are too young even for Kid's Week). If the rules were to revert to the keep-what-you-have setup of the Fleming era, I think that the number of Venusian contestants would be lower than back then.

Now on to the other two types of generations. An attribute of Idealist or Prophet generations (e.g. Boomers, born between 1943-1960) is that they tend to be individualistic (hence phrases like the "Me Generation"). In terms of Jeopardy! wagering that means that they are less likely to wager for a tie for "generosity" reasons, with the opposite applying to the collectivist Civic or Hero generations (e.g. the Millennials born between 1982 and sometime in the early to middle years of the current decade, and before them the G.I.s born 1901-1924). Alternate terms that are more widely known to Jeopardy! fans that may be used to describe these various behaviors include "debunkitive" and "cooperative". This logic may also be used (although with no certainty) to predict whether or not players in a Prisoner's Dilemma (where the leaders are tied and the third contestant if there is one is too distant to catch up to them if they wager nothing) will "cooperate" by betting nothing and ensuring a co-win as long as they both follow through with the wagering or "debunk" by betting everything to ensure a win (or co-win) as long as the contestant in question gets Final Jeopardy! right (note that $0 is never considered a winning score on Jeopardy!, so it is impossible to win if you bet everything and respond to Final Jeopardy! wrong). With the Millennials being the fastst growing group of contestants, I predict that there may be more contestants betting for the tie in the coming years (incidentally restoring the old Fleming-era setup mentioned earlier may reduce this, since there won't be an incentive to tie so that The Powers That Be end up paying out more to the contestants).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Another name-related article that is probably Boomer-centric

Here is a recent article that mentions how women with masculine names are likely to be paid better in certain fields (this article focuses on judges):

This has also been used as a justification for using unisex or masculine names on girls. Although I'm in the camp that women should not have to hide their feminity in order to bust the glass ceiling, the idea of using a more gender-neutral name to get ahead probably worked...back when the Boomers were the ones entering the workforce. Probably not so much of an effect for the Millennials (the generation now entering the workforce) though. In fact, in some ways Millennial females are better off than their male peers (in which case hiding one's feminity probably doesn't do much good and may even be counterproductive in some ways, and the idea of going by something unisex might actually be a good idea for young men wanting to get ahead in areas where women are now dominating). This article is another example of someone trying to extrapolate what was likely true 30 or 40 years ago and assuming that it would apply today when it doesn't so much.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More on names, gender, and generations

I was browsing around on the Internet and found this article which says that giving a boy an unusual name is a bad thing. I also found this blog in which a grandfather-to-be also suggests not naming a boy something unusual.

I'm not sure of the age of either of the persons who wrote the above, but I have a feeling that they're most likely Boomers (and if not then not more than a few years on either side from being one). Remember the last couple of my blog posts which mentioned how Boomers appear the biggest supporters of gender double-standards? The same thing applies here; if someone suggests using an unusual name for a girl but steering away from one for a boy chances are he/she is a Boomer (or possibly early Xer).

ETA: Although traditionally boys have overall been given more conventional and less creative names, it seems that Boomers and those around the same area in terms of cohort have been more blatantly divergent on how boys and girls are named then previously (e.g. how G.I.s named their children).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Follow up on gender role attitudes

In my last blog post (link below this paragraph) describing how Millennials are overall the ones who like the idea of unisex or softer names for boys the most, Boomers are the ones who most support the double standard of unisex names for girls but not for boys, Xers are somewhere in between the Boomers and the Millennials, Silents are the ones before the Millennials came along who were the closest to equality in unisex naming, and the G.I.s generally preferred gender-specific names both ways.

My observation is that those name trends are also closely linked to each generation's view on acceptable gender behavior. Going forward this time, the G.I.s tended to have sharply defined gender roles but there was not much of a double standard (boys/men were expected to be masculine and girls/women expected to be feminine). The Silents brought in a little more androgyny but except in the arena of names they tended to be in between the G.I.'s crisp roles and the Boomer's double standard. With the Boomers they expanded acceptable gender roles greatly for females but not so much so for males, hence the double standard in gender expectations that we've seen over the past few decades. The Xers pretty much followed along with the Boomers until the Millennials came along, and now they're often torn between the two different expectations. Finally, the group that makes up today's youngest adults - the Millennials - is finally starting to help widen the acceptable range of behavior for males (as I mentioned the metrosexual movement became noticeable in the public eye around the time the oldest Millennials were coming of age).

Once again these are all generalizations and may not apply to every individual in each group.

Generations and attitude towards unisex names

Linking my knowledge on baby name trends and the Strauss & Howe generational cycle, here's my theory on the unisex name issue and how people from different generations perceive it. This is written from the perspective of the parents who are/were naming their children, not the recepients of the names themselves. For the most part a particular generation of kids is fed by parents from the previous two generations (for example the current crop of children being born, what has tentatively been named the Homeland generation, mostly has parents from Generation X and the Millennial generation). Warning: Descriptions of people in the various generations are generalizations; you may or may not fit the general pattern.

If you've been on a baby name forum recently you have probably noticed a group of people who like the idea of using names that are traditionally masculine but have since been co-opted by the girls on the original gender again. From my observations, the ones who support this idea the most are the youngest of the crowd currently doing the baby naming - members of the Millennial generation (those born from about 1982 to sometime in the early to mid point of the 2000s decade). This is why these days when a name becomes hot for both genders it is becoming more likely that it will stay truly unisex (such as Hayden and Riley) rather than become a mostly girl name. Although there are also quite a few Millennials who don't like unisex names, when they don't it's more likely to be for both genders rather than only for boys (as was the case for many Boomers and early Xers).

The predecessors to the Millennials, Generation X (those born from about 1961 to 1981) seem to have a fairly "objective" view on the unisex name issue. For example, in Laura Wattenberg's book The Baby Name Wizard (she is an Xer) she tells about how unisex names tend to become more feminine over time and suggests a few names that may cross over, but doesn't actively promote the trend like Boomer authors Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz have (more on that below). From the boy's perspective, she neither recommends using "unisexed" names on boys nor dissuades their use. The early Gen-Xers (like founder Jennifer Moss) often have a similar attitude as the Boomers (on her Q&A page she seems to like names like Hayden and Madison for girls but recommends against names like Shiloh for boys), while the later ones have an attitude reminiscent of the Millennials' but aren't quite as gutsy about "taking back" names (e.g. they might say "I love [insert unisex name] for a boy but I wouldn't want to give a name like that to my own son").

The Boomers (using the S&H dates of 1943-1960 rather than the fertility bulge dates of 1946-1964) tend to be the strongest promoters of the "double standard" of using unisex or even outright masculine names for girls but dissuading the use of the same names for boys. For example, in some of Satran (who has a daughter named Rory) and Rosenkrantz's earlier books they have a whole list of traditionally masculine names that they think would be cool for girls but elsewhere in the book they have a section on why you shouldn't use a name that is likely to also be used for a girl on a boy. Recently they have become more balanced on the issue (probably so as to not scare off the Millennial audience), but even in their newest book Beyond Ava and Aiden there are still signs that they prefer the use of such names for girls (on their list of "Unisex Names" they include names like Connor and Elliot which have very rarely been used on girls but are still seen by the general public as male names) but not "older" unisex names like Kelly and Shannon (which if you asked a member of the general public if they're unisex or not you'd be more likely to get a "yes" response with those than the previously mentioned Connor and Elliot).

Before the Boomers was the Silent Generation (born from about 1925 to 1942). Unlike the Boomers this generation was more open to using unisex names both ways (for example Bruce Lansky, who has written several baby name books, is a Silent). Although they probably had a slight preference for using them on girls (e.g. Lansky's daughter Dana), they weren't as turned away from them on boys as what was the case for Boomers (for instance names like Jody and Kelly were more widely used both ways during the late '50s and '60s when the Silents still made up the lion's share of parents as opposed to later during the '70s when Boomer parents took over and those names became mostly used for girls).

Going back yet another generation to the G.I.s (born c. 1901-1924), they were not a fan of crossovers in general and preferred gender-specific names for both boys and girls. Although a few formerly masculine names like Beverly and Shirley were popular during their peak naming era, they actually crossovered from predominately masculine to predominately feminine during the prime naming period of the two generations that came before them (the Missionary and Lost generations).

In essence the Millennials have formed a "generation gap" in naming attitudes (and attitudes towards acceptable masculine behavior in general, which I'll get to in a later blog post) between them and the Boomers, much like the generation gap with society in general between the G.I.s and the Boomers in the 1960s. Like the Boomers back then who didn't like the way things were in general, today Millennials don't like how females have a wider range of acceptable names (or behavior) than males and are "rebelling" against their elder Boomers in that respect (note that the term "metrosexual" came into the vocabulary of the general public at about the time that the oldest Millennials were coming of age). For the generation in between (in this case of gender issues the Xers, in the case 40 years ago the Silents) they tend to follow their elders at first (albeit sometimes unenthusiastically) but some may "switch positions" when their different-thinking juniors come along. Like a G.I. politician 40 or so years ago who had to adjust how he/she voted in order to not be defeated by young Boomer voters, Boomer authors of baby-name books (like Satran and Rosenkrantz) have to adjust their ideas on name ideas for boys in order to not scare off the young Millennial audience. In both cases the older person might not be enthusiastic about adjusting, but realizes that he/she must in order to win at least some approval from the younger ones.

Here's the post on Satran & Rosenkrantz's Nameberry blog about this subject that inspired me to go ahead and make this post:

For more links on these subjects, look at the bottom of my previous blog post:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Names and generations

If you've familiarized yourself with the Strauss & Howe cycle, you know that there are four different archetypes of generations that repeat every 80 years or so (with an exception around the time of the Civil War in which there was no Civic/Hero generation). For those who study trends in baby names you probably notice that when a name gets really popular and is not a classic (this applies more often to girl's names than boy's names since boys are more likely to be named after their fathers than girls after their mothers but can still apply with some of the more trendy boy's names), it usually does not come back in popularity for at least 100 years or so. Both are "four-generation" cycles, but the reason that the archetype cycle is shorter than the name cycle is probably because of a number of factors.

One is what governs the length of generations in each cycle. With the archetype cycle the length is determined by the approximate length of each phase of life (i.e. Childhood, Early Adulthood, Mid-life, Elderhood, Late Elderhood) which in modern times is roughly 20 years. The name cycle is likely based on the average age of reproduction, which in the current times is a little over 25 years. The name cycle thus runs at 100 years (or a little more than that) compared to the S&H cycle (which a person's parents [in most cases] can come from either the preceding generation to the child's or the one before that).

Another factor is that the S&H cycle is largely dependent on how much power a person has on society; his/her influence is smaller during childhood and once one gets so old that he/she must be dependent on others as compared to the other three phases of life. Whereas a name is (usually) with a person from birth until death (and thus 80 years may be long enough for a fresh start on generational attitudes, but a name will still have an "old person" feel to it).

There are a few exceptions to names coming back early, like Audrey (which has recently become more popular but last peaked in the 1920s) and Laura (which ranked high in the 1880s but was up high again by the 1960s, mentioned in a past blog post on The Baby Name Wizard [links are at the bottom of this blog post]); on the other hand these names never became exceptionally dated which might have helped them return sooner. At the other extreme sometimes names do not come back for even longer than this cycle predicts, such as Mabel (which was most popular in the 1880s and 1890s but has yet to return to even the top 1,000).

Links about Strauss and Howe's information:

The Social Security Administration's name popularity site (has the top 1,000 names for each year and decade back to 1880):

Laura Wattenberg's The Baby Name Wizard site (her NameVoyager program is especially useful for visualizing the popularity of names over time and is based on the SSA stats):

Nameberry (the site run by Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz, co-authors of numerous baby naming books):

Behind the Name (great side for finding out the etymologies on names):

Monday, June 29, 2009

About me

Since I just created my blog, I'll start by telling a little about myself. I am a guy named Kelly (yes, that's right; in fact name-related subjects is one that you'll be seeing regularly on here). You'll notice that the URL and my signing name is "Millennialkelly"; the "millennial" part comes from my generational classification based on the works by William Strauss and Neil Howe; to learn more you can check out for more information (these generational issues is something else that I'll be posting about in the near future). Finally, one of my favorite TV shows is the game show Jeopardy!; that's something else that I'll probably be posting about as time goes on (especially when it comes to wagering strategy).