Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A hypothesis on why the U.S. did not go metric

In spite of an attempt to convert the United States to the metric system of measurements in the 1970s and 1980s, the nation is one of the few in the world that still have not adopted metric into everyday use. Many of the other English-speaking countries did a conversion around the same time or a few years earlier (e.g. Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, etc.) and in most cases have been more successful. Some say that the U.S. culture is stubborn to change, but I have another possible reason: the generational constellation in place at the time of the conversion attempt.

As Strauss and Howe have observed, the generations in the U.S. run a few years ahead of most of the other countries mentioned (except for maybe Canada), and the American attempt at conversion was a few years behind. What significance does that have? In the U.S., if you find someone who is strongly anti-metric there's a good chance they're a Boomer. For some reason Idealist/Prophet generations (of which the Boomers are one) appear to me to be the most resistant for learning new ways. You may think it is simply a function of age, but when the initial push to convert the U.S. to metric in the mid-1970s was made most of the legislators and others in power were members of the G.I. and Silent generations. By that time there were many Boomers well into young adulthood, who probably contributed to the stalling of the metric conversion effort.

In the other countries I mentioned, the push to metric was made a few years earlier. That along with most of them being a little behind the Americans on their generations meant that a change-resistant (in this arena; they are certainly change-inducing culturally though) Prophet generation had not yet exerted as a major force which enabled metric conversion to progress further.

So when can we expect a realistic chance at the U.S. going metric? A good guess is once the Boomers lose their majority in government control and we have less change-resistant Xers, Millennials, and Homelanders to help push us in the metric direction.

Here is the Wikipedia article on metrication (and the source for the metrication facts mentioned).

Friday, December 17, 2010

Is Rory the new Adrian?

What do the names Adrian and Rory have in common? Both are boy's names that for a period of time had a feminine pop-culture influence (for Adrian it was Rocky, for Rory it was Gilmore Girls) but remained predominately masculine according to the statistics.

For some people of the generation that grew up when the Rocky movies were popular that made Adrian sound a bit feminine for a boy, but now that those doing the naming are mostly those that grew up after those movies came out Adrian is now comfortably masculine according to the SSA stats (and ranked higher last year for boys than it ever has before). Even during the Rocky years, the boys still had the majority with the name Adrian (for the most part even so when figuring in the sound-alike feminine form Adrienne).

A generation later another name that sounds feminine from a pop-culture influence to some but is still more common for boys is Rory. The TV show Gilmore Girls had a female character with the (nick)name Rory, and thus made the name more visible for a girl (although there were female Rorys previously such as Rory Kennedy and Pamela Redmond Satran's daughter). Although the aforementioned show made Rory crack into the top 1,000 for girls, it still ranks lower than it does for boys; now that Gilmore Girls is off the air it looks like barring another influential female Rory the name will come out ahead for boys in the long term.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

About teenage "name nerds" and generations

Recently Nameberry had a blog post on teenagers (past and present) and their opinions on names. If you look around on many name forums you will see that quite a few of the frequent posters are teenagers (especially teenage girls; guys of any age like me are usually in the minority by a large margin). The teenagers' opinions also provide a clue at what kinds of names might be popular 10-20 years or so from now when they are having kids of their own.

These teenage name enthusiasts also provide a clue at generational changes with name styles. Since they are younger than most of the actual parents or expecting parents their seeking names, at certain times their style may clash some with the older members. Right now not as much, since today's teenagers are later Millennials with most of the twenty-somethings being earlier Millennials (expecting parents mostly being divided between Millennials and Gen-Xers). When I was a teenager myself (about a decade or so ago) it was different on the forums of the time; the division was between early Millennial teenagers and (mostly) Xers of child-bearing age. However, that also clued those who are "name nerds" at the upcoming trends. It may get interesting again in a few years when the oldest Homelanders (Strauss and Howe's tentative name for the new Adaptive/Artist generation) start joining the forums and giving their opinions.

If you look at some of the old articles on S&H's site from the late 90s/early 00s, you will see how they try to separate the reality in teenage culture (the early Millennials) from what those a bit older (the late Xers) often protrayed it. Right now that "clash" is not as big since it is between waves of the same generation rather than those on different sides of a generational boundary. A decade or so from now it will once again be between those a few years apart but in different generations (Homelander teenagers vs. later Millennial twenty-somethings). As I said in the above paragraph, a similar pattern appears in the teenager vs. young adult name discussions.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Boy Named Sue" and disruption study: Flaws I found

I'm back again critiquing another name-related study I suspect may be biased and/or flawed. The study at this link supposedly finds that boys with "feminine" names are more likely to be disruptive or perform worse academically once they hit a certain grade. Here's some issues I found with how it was done:

1. The study was limited to one school district (the district wasn't specified). Why weren't multiple school districts across the country with varying racial and socioeconomic compositions studied?

2. Only students in grades 3, 4, 5, and 6 were studied. What would the results at higher grades be (such as once these kids reach high school)?

3. The grade organization between levels of schools varies between school districts. What would the results be for a district where middle school or junior high starts with grade 7? What about a school district in which elementary school goes through grade 8?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Boy playing for a field hockey team?

At the link below is a story about a boy who is playing on a field hockey team whose other members are all girls. Some people claim that it makes the team unfair, while others (like me) think that if girls can play on boy's teams, that boys should be allowed to play on girl's teams. Read my comment on the page shown below (#1,929) to learn about how (in general) I think there's a generation gap going on between Boomers and Millennials over the former's double standards and the latter's quest for true equality:

Circumcision rates and the changing practices in raising boys

A few weeks ago I posted about how the maximum "generation gap" between parents and their parents (the child in question's grandparents) varies by gender and across the saeculum. The maximum gap when it comes to raising boys usually comes during a Fourth Turning (e.g. the current era); for girls it's at the opposite point of the saeculum, during a Second Turning (e.g. the late 1960s and 1970s).

I found another piece of evidence that demonstrates my theory on Fourth Turnings being the era when raising boys is most called into question: the circumcision rate. Before I go any further, I want to point out a couple of things. First, some of the links in the rest of this blog post may lead to a page or site with pictures of penises. However, those pictures are there for educational purposes only. Second, I'll mention my own viewpoint on the issue: I am strongly against RIC (routine infant circumcision) for medical reasons. On the issue of religious circumcision (done mostly by Jews and Muslims), I'll remain silent on that for now. If you'd like to learn more about what I think with regards to circumcision, this site pretty much sums it up: Luckily, my mother is strongly against it too; mainly because when she had her first-born (a girl) she heard another baby screaming real loudly and the doctor said that he was being circumcised. At that point, she decided that she would never inflict that on any sons she had; thus I am proudly intact myself. (I prefer to use the term "intact" rather than "uncircumcised" since the latter term describes the unaltered penis in terms of the altered one.)

As shown with the graphs at this page, the rate began to increase sharply in the 1930s (i.e. the last Fourth Turning) to a peak during the Generation X birth years. Since then it has gone back down, to a rate of a bit over 50% a few years ago and now with some sources saying that less than 1 out of 3 new boys are being cut. (All these statistics are for the U.S., which has been one of the world's champions in non-religious circumcisions; in fact over 75% of the world's men are intact.) Since the steepest part of both the rise (when medical professionals began to encourage it) and the fall (when more people are learning about the benefits of having a foreskin) occur/occurred during Fourth Turning eras this further shows that those eras are the most likely to have boy-raising practices called into question.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Third post about how unusual boy's names (don't really) lead to criminals

Last year I made two blog posts on a "study" that claimed that unusual names for boys lead to them growing up to be criminals. Here is a better discussion I found on the research.

Three more points from me that show that their study doesn't really hold water, especially for a parent in the present times making a naming decision:

1. Continuing the generational points, today's most popular names - for both boys and girls - comprise a much smaller percentage of births than when most of those criminals in that study were born. This means that having an unusual name is more "normal" than back then, and thus how the study claimed that they made such children feel less accepted really doesn't apply for today's babies and children (if anything the opposite is probably true).

2. The sample size of a prison where the researchers would have obtained their stats on criminals' names is typically much smaller than a typical official popularity list based on births over a year's time. What this does is make an uncommon name that a single criminal (or two) happens to bear appear artificially high on the prison's name popularity list compared to where it would appear with a larger pool of individuals, and ignores the many more uncommon names that do not show up on any criminals in the sample.

3. The guys who performed the study are named David and Daniel; since they have very common names they probably introduced some bias into that study (since they would probably want to make themselves feel better by saying that common names are best). I don't know if this is actually true or not, but I strongly suspect it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Different Thanksgivings in 1939, Different Easters in 2019?

In 1939 due to the Great Depression and trying to boost Christmas sales Thanksgiving was moved from its (at the time) usual date of the last Thursday of November to a week earlier (that year the holiday would’ve fell as late as it could on November 30 and the change made by FDR moved it up a week to the 23rd). The move encountered opposition, leading to some parts of the country observing Thanksgiving a week apart from others (and the coining of the term “Franksgiving”).

A saeculum later in 2019 another holiday may end up being observed on different dates not just throughout the country but even within a town or neighborhood. This time the holiday in question is Easter, and it would be due to action on the various denominations of Christianity rather than the government as was the case for Thanksgiving 80 years earlier. Actually, it already frequently happens that most Western churches (Catholic and Protestant) calculate Easter with a different set of rules than most Orthodox ones do (the latter uses the old method from the Julian calendar while the former ones use the more astronomically accurate Gregorian calendar rules). However, the Orthodox in the U.S. are but a small minority so there isn’t much confusion (no more so than those from other minority religions). There is a movement between the various branches of Christianity to unify the celebration of Easter though, and the most common proposal is to abandon the formulas currently in use and determine the date astronomically (using the actual full moon rather than the approximated ones currently in use and the actual vernal equinox rather than the fixed one of March 21). More specifically, under the proposal Easter would be the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox using Jerusalem meridian time for all calculations. Since the Gregorian formula is very close to astronomical reality variances for the Western churches would come only occasionally (as opposed to the Julian formula which frequently puts Easter for Orthodox churches a week later due to lunar inaccuracy and sometimes four or five weeks later due to solar inaccuracy). The next year that Western churches would see a difference with the change would be 2019, with the Easter under the current rules coming on April 21 but astronomically coming on March 24 (the difference due to the actual full moon in March coming after the equinox but the full moon under the church formula coming before March 21).

Each denomination will have to decide if and when to adopt the changes, and since there are so many Protestant denominations in the U.S. it could very well turn out in 2019 that some might have Easter on the “traditional” April 21 date while others might celebrate it on the revised date of March 24. Furthermore, jurisdictions where public holidays are scheduled around Easter (such as Good Friday and/or Easter Monday) might have some debate over which date they’re scheduled around (just like in 1939 jurisdictions had to decide whether to celebrate Thanksgiving on the “traditional” November 30 or FDR’s November 23).

Unlike the Franksgiving controversy which continued on until 1941 when the date was statutorily fixed on the fourth Thursday of November, after the spring of 2019 the Easter controversy would be moot until 2038 when there is another similar diversion due to the “full moons” coming on different sides of the (real and fixed) equinoxes (that year the current formula puts it on April 25 while astronomy puts it on March 28).

Here's some links/sources on the Thanksgiving date controversy:

Here's some on the Easter date controversy:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Generation gap and parenting: Depends on gender

You may have noticed on my baby name discussions, there is a debate going on in the baby name community on how masculine a name given to a boy should be. Some think that a boy should be given only a masculine-sounding name that is used virtually only on boys, some think that softer-sounding names are okay as long as their masculine identity is clear, while others (like me) think that androgynous names should remain in consideration for boys. There is less debate on girl's names, as a wide range is already accepted (from very frilly to "no-frills" but clearly female to varying degrees of androgynous names). This is the situation today: half a saeculum as defined by Strauss and Howe (40 years) or so ago it was the opposite: With the feminist movement of the time parents of the day brought the trend of co-opting boy's names into a larger scale, but not much was going on to rock the boat with what they were naming their sons.

The "generation gaps" based on the child's gender which I mentioned above are reflected in other areas besides names as well. At the present, their is more debate on how boys should be raised (how much "gender leeway" they should be given, etc.) but the ideas on raising girls that were up for debate a generation or two ago (when not much was controversial with raising boys) have mostly been settled. This reflects an alternating "generation gap" between the new parent and his/her parents (the child's grandparents): Its strength is somewhat dependent on whether the child in question is a boy or a girl. Right now it's stronger for boys but not as great for girls; 40 years ago it was the opposite. Think about it: if a boy wants a doll, do ballet, etc. you are more likely to get resistance from his grandparents and members of their generation (especially men) than people of the child's or his parent's generation. A generation or two ago girls who wished to pursue "masculine" interests faced similar resistance by the older adults of the time.

The explanation for this is simply because a generation raised in a time when women were expected to stay at home and be housewives (like the Baby Boomers) will have a different outlook than one raised in a time when girls were outpacing boys in school, etc. (like the Millennials). The former types of generations are more likely to react in defining what is acceptable behavior for females but is not as likely to do the same for males (not having many controversies there); the latter are more likely to do the opposite.

As with most of what I post, this is based on my observations and is a generalization of the general population.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Jeopardy! going from 2T to 3T

Last year I posted on my observations of the TV game show Jeopardy! following a cycle that lasts about 12 years which mimics the approximately 80-year Strauss and Howe cycle of generations and history. At the time of that blog post I observed the show being in the part of the cycle that is like a 2nd Turning, or Awakening. Now with the show's 27th season starting, there are signs that during this season it will transition into an Unraveling-like (3rd Turning) period. In the past new long-term tournament and special ideas have come about during these times (a "J-culum" ago it was Kid's Week and the one-time Armed Forces Week in 1999; another one before that it was the Teen Tournament, the now-defunct Seniors Tournament, and the College Championship). This season they're going to have their first-ever Teachers Tournament.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Him taking her last name?

I have had several blog posts dealing with gender and names; one of the things I have talked about is how today's younger folks are in general more comfortable with a "softer" or "unisex" name for a boy than their parents were. There is another name-related sign that the male youth these days are becoming more comfortable with venturing outside of traditional gender norms (but this time it deals with last names): The number of husbands electing to take their wife's last name (rather than the tradition of the other way around) appears to be on the rise. Although still very much a minority group, that further shows signs of progress. Many states still require a groom who wants to go down this route to go through court as with a non-marriage-related name change, but a few allow husbands to take their wive's last names just as easily as she can take his. I couldn't find any official data on how many grooms are taking their bride's last name, but if you want to learn more you can search the Internet on this subject (here's the Google results for "take the wife's last name"). Here's an article from January 2007 about a California man who sued arguing that the law there at the time about changing last names upon marriage was sexist; here's a May 2008 follow-up from another source on the outcome.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

More on name-taboo releases

Last February I did a short blog on this subject. Below is a more thorough version on how every 40 years or so I've observed a class of names once not as desirable become more so.

What do the names Deborah and Jordan have in common? What common experiences would a Kathleen born in the 19-aughts, a Joshua born in the 1940s, and a (male) Kelly born in the 1980s (like me) have?

This blog is about three classes of names that once had taboos in the United States, but are now (or are becoming) mainstream (in some cases again). They are (in chronological order of their grip on the name pool): Irish names, Biblical names, and unisex names for boys.

The first group that I'll discuss is Irish names. In the mid-19th century Ireland had a major potato famine, resulting in large numbers of Irish people moving to other lands in hope of having enough food. When the U.S. started having all these Irish people coming over, an "anti-Irish" sentiment crept in among a lot of other Americans. It got so bad that there were Irish people trying to hide their heritage (e.g. one of Nameberry's founders, Pamela Redmond Satran, had a grandmother Bridget who changed her name to Bertha). About 80 years or so after the mass Irish migration (aka a "saeculum" in terms of generational authors William Strauss and Neil Howe; their sites are at these links), the American population finally accepted the Irish and their names started to come back in vogue. As time went on, being Irish even became fashionable (e.g. St. Patrick's Day became a popular holiday, in 1960 we elected a President [Kennedy] of Irish decent who probably wouldn't have had a chance a generation earlier, and even non-Irish people became interested in using their names).

About 40 years or so (or if you prefer, half a saeculum) after the mass Irish immigration to America (and other places), another group started coming onto American shores in large numbers: Jews. Up until this point Biblical names had exhibited a fashion in America, but when the Jews (who were strong users of such names themselves) came along those names become passé to many Americans. Like the anti-Irish sentiment that was establised when they immigrated, an anti-Jewish one was formed as well. As with many Irish who tried to hide their roots, many Jews took steps themselves to do the same (resulting in names like Irving which do not have Hebrew origins themselves acquiring a "Jewish" connotation when used in large numbers by Jews). Although a few Biblical names remained in common use, such as Ruth in the early 20th century and Deborah in the mid-20th century as well as names like James and Elizabeth which no longer seemed "Biblical" to the masses despite their origins, this was the time when such names were generally unfashionable or even taboo. The renaissance for Biblical names, as with the rise of Irish names in America, came about in the 1970s or so (once again about 80 years after the tightening of the use of such names began) with names like Matthew and Rachel becoming mainstream. Today parents are going even more out with Biblical names with choices like Ezekiel and Ezra (which would've been downright eccentric a lifetime ago) on the rise.

Fast forward another half-saeculum from the time of large Jewish immigration and you have another event beginning to affect American naming trends. This time it's not a group immigrating in large numbers, but rather one of the events of the move to liberate women. Around the time the 20th century was a quarter over people started giving their daughters traditionally masculine names like Beverly and Shirley in large numbers. When these names started becoming popular on females in large numbers, people became afraid to bestow them on boys and some males who already had these names tried to "hide" them by going by a middle name or even changing their name. For the next 80 years or so there were many names that fell fate to this trend: Leslie, Kim, Jody, Shannon, Ashley, Madison, Taylor, and many others like these rose in popularity for girls but became passe for boys. Like Ruth and Deborah from the Biblical picks that hung on through the Jewish storm, a few like Casey and Jordan hung on through the unisex name on girls one. Now that a full saeculum has passed since boys-names-on-girls first became fashionable there are many people who are expressing interested in reviving these kinds of names for boys in spite of them also being used for girls. We're already seeing this with more "newer" unisex names like Hayden and Riley hanging on for both genders, recently fashionable androgynous picks like Morgan at worst falling in roughly the same proportions for both genders, and even a growing interest in reviving names like Kelly and Shannon for boys.

Back to my introduction statement for my blog: Deborah (in the 1950s) and Jordan (in the 1990s) share the fact that they both showed signs of the tide about to turn a generation or so before it did (the former with Biblical names and the latter with androgynous names for boys). The statement about these people born in these respective eras: Kathleen (in the 19-aughts), Joshua (in the 1940s), and Kelly (male, in the 1980s) demonstrate those who may have had a bit of a rough time with their name growing up, but by their adulthood the taboo on names like theirs began to be lifted and to younger generations their names would (or will likely) be considered ahead of the curve at worst.

If you're already familiar with the aforementioned Strauss & Howe cycle, you will notice that each of these "taboos" began around the start of an Awakening or Crisis era and ended a saeculum later around the start of the next era of the same type. Examples of Crisis eras are the Civil War era, the Great Depression/World War II era, and the current era (there is still debate over when the current Crisis era began; some say 9/11, some say when Hurricane Katrina struck, and some say when the economy fell in 2008). Examples of Awakening eras are the "Consciousness Revolution" of the 1960s and 70s, and before that the "Missionary Awakening" of the 1880s that lasted into the 19-aughts. Both the Irish and androgynous-boy taboos started around the beginning of a Crisis era and ended (or are ending) at the start of the next one, and the Biblical/Jewish taboo ran from the start of one Awakening to the next. If you get more into S&H's works you will learn that Awakenings are generally spiritual/religious in nature and Crises are generally secular in nature, which for the "name taboos" makes since since the one that ran from Awakening-Awakening was about a religious group (Jews) and the ones that ran from Crisis-Crisis were not (Irish, "feminine males").

After I initially prepared this blog, I thought what might be the current religion-based name taboo that would be due to break at the circa 2050 Awakening: Muslim/Arabic names. Right now in the years after 9/11 such names overall are less than desirable for many Americans, but by then the new Prophet generation may not think so.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More on nicknames vs. formal names

Recently on Nameberry there was a discussion on the U.K. vs. U.S. nickname/full name trends (which I also mentioned in a short blog post last November). However, I noticed a pattern with regards to nicknames and the S&H saeculum; in April 2009 Laura Wattenberg posted on how (particularly with boy's names) during the last Depression turned from more formal to more nicknamey/boyish. Looking at some of the U.S. stats between now and then led me to notice the pattern described in the next paragraph (these are just my projections from a U.S. perspective, and is primarily applicable for that location).

The desire for formal names peaks during Third Turnings (Unravelings), when people want to be the best they can individually (notice how there's also an obsession with "early resume building" for children during these times, following with that discussion on the Nameberry thread linked to above). We recently left such an era, which we had been in since the mid-1980s or so. During Foruth Turnings (Crises), such as the current time and (before) the Depression/World War II the obsession with formality in names drops. The desire for shorter names peaks during First Turnings (Highs) (e.g. the 1950s, and the era we'll probably be in within 15-20 years or so) and turns back to longer ones during Second Turnings (Awakenings) (e.g. the 1960s-1970s era, and we'll probably be in one circa 2050).

What does this mean? Over the next few years to decade or so, we'll likely see the obsession over names being "formal enough" fall and the number of birth certificates with nicknames on them will increase some.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Generation gap over quotation marks

There appears to be a subtle sign of a generation gap between what older and younger Americans believe is the proper way to use periods and commas with quotations.

As mentioned at this site, in the U.S. the standard is to put end-of-sentence periods and quotation marks inside the sentence (even if they’re not part of the quote). For instance, “I think this is an outdated rule.” This rule was put in place (this may be a myth as the linked blog mentions) because of the fragility of the period and comma pieces for typesetting many years ago. However, today’s youth have probably never used or maybe even seen a typewriter (other than using one as a toy like I did when I was younger), and that’s why more young people out there see the illogicalness of this rule.

The U.K. follows the more logical rule of putting any punctuation that is not part of the quote outside of the quote marks. In places such as Canada (the linked blog in the previous paragraph is from a Canadian) the standard varies. (See the paragraph below for an example of the use of this style.)

Here in the U.S. I have heard older folks complain about how those younger often prefer the more logical style. I agree with them, and thus henceforth on my blog I will be putting them outside of the quotes using the “logical style”. (Up until now I’ve avoided writing sentences with quotes at the end on my blog to dodge this issue). By the way, I composed this blog post in Microsoft Word (and then did a cut/paste) and Word recognizes both styles (no green line either way). One of my favorite game shows (Jeopardy!) has adopted the logical style themselves (as discussed in this thread from January 2007 on the show’s message board).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Millennial namers: "Selfish" or not?

Continuing my analysis of baby name trends and how Strauss and Howe’s generational theory relates to them, I discovered that there is an idea on how each archetype tends to name their children (and this might extend to other areas of parenting as well).

Prophet: Do what is best for me.
Nomad: Do what is best for the child.
Hero: Do what is best for society (at large).
Artist: Do what is best for the family (ancestors).

Of course these are very broad generalizations, but if you analyze the data you can see some general trends. Another thing that supports this theory is it has been mentioned at S&H's forums (I don't have the specific post(s) immediately available to link to) that Nomads overall tend to have better intergenerational relationships with those younger rather than older than them, while for Artists it's the opposite.

Today’s older parents (members of Generation X, the most recent Nomad generation) grew up in an era when children were often neglected and left to do on their own, so they are trying to do the opposite to their children (protecting them, sometimes too much). Therefore their general attitude towards naming has been centered on the child him/herself (rather than the parent, society in general, or the family).

Today’s younger parents (Millennials, members of the most recent Hero generation) are more civic-minded than their predecessors (or any generation since the G.I.s for that matter), and thus they think more in terms of what is best for society at large. This can be witnessed in the change of attitude towards unisex names for boys; older parents often say that you shouldn’t use such names because they’ll cause problems for him, but more younger ones are saying that you should go ahead and use them so they will not become “feminized” forever (as what has happened to numerous “unisex” names already). Xers often think that the parents are being “selfish” when doing that, but they are really anything but selfish because they’re trying to stop the depleting of the male name pool. The ones who tend to be the most selfish about naming would probably be the Prophets, who tend to be the most self-centered of all the generations (the last Prophet generation [the Boomers] are pretty much beyond the age of giving birth).

In addition, the more outer-focused attitude of Millennials is also helping to slow down the abandonment of boy’s names to the girls. Think about it: Compared to young Xers 20 years ago today’s youth are more likely to be conscious about protecting the environment rather that “me” coming first. Millennials also understand the power of voting; one of the reasons why young Xers often stayed away from the polls is that they did not think that “their” vote mattered, but Millennials understand the power of their collective vote. Back on the subject of naming, the same philosophy applies to the unisex name issue; 20 years ago parents thinking of just their kids and themselves would often turn away from a “girlified” name for a boy to avoid “problems” for him. Today’s parents are starting to change, understanding that abandoning such names makes it worse by shrinking the male name pool and (collectively) thus are starting to not let that be as much of a factor and help keep said names in circulation for boys.

My prediction of how Artist generations would name (such as 20-40 years from now when the Homelanders [the Artist generation currently being born] become the predominant generation of parents of babies) is that being conformist during their youth they would tend more towards pleasing their ancestors’ wishes in naming (as opposed to Nomads who would look down the family tree towards the children). This might result in a stronger trend of keeping “family names” alive. A piece of advice for Xers and Millennials naming Homelanders: Don’t be afraid to use something a bit unusual but still on the “normal” side (and for fathers that want to break a Junior, III, etc. tradition this is the time to do it); that way the pressure on them to continue the name on won’t be quite as strong (this advice especially applies to boys as the pressure to keep family names going is typically stronger for them).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Generations J, K, and L?

Following the terming of the generation following the Boomers “Generation X” some extended the “letter names” to call the following generation after that Generation Y and the next one after that Generation Z. Strauss and Howe seem to dislike those kinds of names though because it makes the Millennials (what they call X’s successor generation instead of Generation Y) like an extension of Generation X (like they mentioned in Millennials Rising).

How about Generations J, K, and L instead? Those names derive from “fashionable initial letters” for baby names during the respective period. Generation J encompasses roughly the late Xers and early Millennials when names beginning with J were fashionable such as Jennifer, Jessica, and Jason (the first and the last of those inspiring the title of Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz’s original name book Beyond Jennifer and Jason).

K was the fashionable letter during the time that the late Millennials and the early Homelanders were born (especially with spelling names that normally begin with a “C” with a “K” instead).

L now seems to be the new fashionable letter as we are nearing the midway point of the Homeland Generation, as S&R and Laura Wattenberg have posted on their blogs. If the pattern with J and K continues, L will continue its run on being the new fashionable letter until the early-mid part of the “New Prophet” generation (calling this unnamed future generation by using the Strauss and Howe archetypes). Will the pattern continue and M become the fashionable letter 20 years or so from now?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Name-taboo releases: Irish, then OT, what's next?

Laura Wattenberg at The Baby Name Wizard site recently did a post about how Old Testament names are becoming quite popular in the U.S. The post primarily focused on why they are more popular (in general, note the last paragraph in the post) in the U.S. than Europe. I thought of something else related to that, and it ties into the changing generations. Before I talk about the OT names, I'm going to first talk about another group of names that is quite popular in the U.S. right now: Irish names.

A century ago, being Irish in the U.S. was less than desirable. However, around the time of the last Fourth/First Turnings (1920s-1960s) the Irish became accepted (and as time went on it became "cool" to be "Irish" even if you weren't). This explains the rise in names of Irish origin since then, and before the Silent Generation or so it was much less common for a baby to be given an Irish name.

Fast forward half a saeculum to the last Second/Third Turnings (1960s-2000s decades), and another name taboo is released (and has likewise subsequently became more popular): Old Testament names. For the past several generations before that such names tended to have too strong of a Jewish connotation for a lot of people (even though as Wattenberg mentioned in her post there had been a strong history of their use prior to that era in the U.S.). However the taboo of being Jewish was lifted around the last 2T or so, and thus since Generation X or so OT names have been on the rise. Now there were a few exceptions here and there that were popular during the Jew-taboo era (such as Ruth in the early part of the 20th century and Deborah in the middle part of that century), but what I'm saying is of course a generalization.

If you're familiar with the S&H theory, you know that Fourth Turnings center around reshaping the secular world, and Second Turnings around reshaping the spiritual world. This may explain the half-saeculum difference in the release of the Irish and Jewish taboos: The former centers around an ethnic (i.e. secular) group while the latter centers around a religious (i.e. spiritual) group.

So, what can we expect to change in this regard in this 4T (and the next 1T)? According to my theory in the last paragraph, it will be something secular (and not religious). I have a hypothesis on what it will be (and I did some blog posts about it a few months ago): The taboo on "softer males" (and thus "softer" or unisex names on boys will not be as avoided as they were in recent decades).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Riley: Will it stay unisex or not?

Cleveland Kent Evans, who has written numerous name-related articles* claims that any name ending in the "-ley" sound is doomed to become feminine in the United States. While it is true that such names (or any name ending in the long "e" sound for that matter) which are traditionally masculine are more likely to become unisex, Evans is ignoring an important trend: The rising generation of new adults (the Millennials) are more likely than recent previous generations to not let a name's usage on girls deter them from giving it to their sons (which I've posted about before). *I previously mentioned Evans being president of the American Name Society, but he informed me that he no longer holds the position so I edited it out.

What got me to post this is that Evans has been predicting for several years (by posts he's made on sites such as and that the name Riley will follow a similar path to other past surnames that end in -ley that became popular as first names (such as Ashley and Shirley) and become almost exclusively female in the U.S. However, I think that Riley is much more likely to stay unisex (albeit more popular for girls) than those other names because Riley peaked for boys at a much higher rank and hasn't experienced a fairly sudden drop compared the other examples (probably in part to my theory based on the generations). Evans's prediction may have had some muster 10 years or so ago when Riley was beginning to level off for boys and increase for girls, but since the name hasn't fallen much for boys it appears that his prediction is only semi-right (the name did become more popular for girls, but not to the extent he thought it would).

In addition, if Jennifer Moss from is right, "crossover" names for girls in general are starting to level off in use (probably from the same Millennials that want to keep names on their original gender). Therefore, I think that unlike what Evans predicted I think there will still be plenty of male Rileys being born (although plenty of girls will be given that name too). Note that in my blog post from last July that I linked to earlier in this post I mentioned that Moss originally tended to be against unisex names for boys, but now her opinion appears to be changing some with the times (at least by predicting that the trend for girls will be falling).