Sunday, December 30, 2012

Boy's Names Inspired By Their Feminine Forms

At Nameberry, Pamela Redmond Satran has commented on a sign that there is more upcoming "gender equality" in naming: a popular girl's name inspiring the use of its masculine form(s), such as the example she gave of Emma for girls lending the way to Emmett for boys. She also commented on how she thought a generation or two ago that a boy's name being similar to a girl's name would be a minus for its usage on the boy's side. Actually, as I will demonstrate in this blog, that has not always been true. Indeed, many of the classic "unisex nicknames" get started first by the feminine form(s) being popular, and then following along or trailing are the masculine form(s).

The first one I'll take a look at is one that is still fairly popular and fashionable: Sam (Samantha, Samuel). Samantha's entrance into the mainstream name pool can be pinpointed to the TV series Bewitched, which premiered in 1964. Over the next quarter-century the name climbed the charts, and ended up being the fourth most popular name for girls in the 1990s. Although now given to less than a third of the number of babies as at its peak and slowly falling in popularity, Samantha still ranked at #17 in 2011 (which not qualifying as a true classic can certainly qualify as a "modern classic"). The masculine for, Samuel, does qualify as a true classic though (never being out of the Top 100 and a popularity spread ratio of less than 1-4 from its least to most popular years). Samuel's re-ascent in popularity happened almost right along with Samantha's (although less steeply), which goes to show that parents debating on Samuel for a boy did not let the prospect of also knowing girl Sams deter them. In fact, Samuel's peak was after Samantha's and while the feminine form is dropping the masculine form has remained fairly steady.

The next one is a name prefix that many parents-to-be grew up with a lot of: Chris (Christine/Christina/etc., Christopher/Christian/etc.). Christine was the leader of the pack, peaking in the 1960s. Christina and Christopher were the 70s/80s hits (thus being another case where the feminine forms led before the masculine ones). The Chris- names are largely in fashion limbo for girls (with all forms now well out of the Top 100), but Christopher for boys dropped more slowly (still ranked at #21 last year) and the other common masculine form, Christian, saw its heyday during the 90s and 2000's decade (starting to fall but came in at #30 in 2011). Although probably not the best example of feminine-to-masculine inspiration, it's still another example that boys and girls have not minded sharing nicknames even in the past.

The last one I'm examining is Pat (Patricia, Patrick). Patricia saw a huge rise from being semi-obscure at the start of the SSA list to one of the most popular names at the time of the post-war baby boom, and afterwards slowly but surely fell to become uncommon again among modern baby girls. It took a bit longer for the masculine form, Patrick, to see its peak (which was nowhere near the feminine form's) in the 1960s and remained fairly steady through the 1980s. This makes Patricia-Patrick a good example of feminine-to-masculine inspiration (and a case where the females that a typical boy Pat shared a nickname with were not his female classmates but his friend's mothers, teachers, aunts, etc., also considering that a Generation X/Y Patricia would be more likely to use one of the "back-end" Tricia-type nicknames than one of the Pat-type ones). (This might be good news for unisex names like Kelly, Robin, and Shannon now that they sound dated for girls and thus a modern boy with a name like one of those would have a low chance of sharing it with a female classmate, although he may well share it with an adult woman that he knows.)

(I apologize to Pam if she doesn't like that I used a tool from a competing name site to show the stats, but since that tool makes it easy to make the cross-gender comparisons on a single graph like I did I thought it was the best equipped for this job. I use ideas from both parties' name sites to build upon my ideas.)

Addendum: Although this one isn't nickname-based like the others, I thought of another (currently in-style) name in which the masculine form is climbing in the shadow of the feminine one (Olivia, Oliver). Olivia's been near the top of the charts for several years now, while (in the U.S.) Oliver is just starting to catch up (although at a pretty fast rate).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Margaret: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (September 27)

For the final name in this series we're covering another more-or-less classic: Margaret. In recent decades she's been in fashion limbo though, but some hipster namers are reconsidering her. Here's some of the many nicknames (some of which relate to Margaret's international forms): Mag(gie), Marge, Margo(t), Meg, Rita, and Daisy (derived from the French form Marguerite, which is my favorite version). This is also another name where sometimes the initial consonant changed, which gives us nicknames like Peggy and the like. What are your favorites (both among the aforementioned nicknames and any others you can think of)? As for Margaret herself, do you think it's time to revive her or should we wait a little longer?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Henry: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (September 20)

For the second "added" name here's another name found throughout history that's seen a recent revival: Henry. Although he's very nice on his own, it has spun off nicknames like Hank (currently in limbo) and Harry (now the #1 boy's name in England/Wales but handicapped on this side of the pond probably due to sounding like "hairy" in an American accent). Any others I didn't think of, and what do you think of Henry and his nicknames?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Melissa: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (September 13)

Note: Today's post was originally going to be another name and the last one, but since my original plan for this series I've come up with two more names to cover. The other name (a boy's name) that was added will be next week, and the end of the series will be two weeks from today.

She's probably very familiar to today's parents, being very popular during the 1970s and 1980s, and was (and still is) one of my favorites for a girl. The name is Melissa; although now a bit dated it would still fit in with today's other frilly girl's name picks. If the frills are a drawback, some shortened forms are Mel (if you want the tomboy-nickname effect), Mia (a more current nickname if you want to offset the "mom name" feel of Melissa), and Missy (which is even more dated than the parent name). What do you think of Melissa and those and other possible nicknames? Do you find Melissa too dated, or is it still good for a contemporary girl?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Initial Letters and Name Fashions

There is a game on The Baby Name Wizard's forums going on where a list of names featuring the most popular one from each of the letters of the alphabet is given, and you guess which birthyear it's from based on the SSA list. I decided to compose a list myself from the year I was born; on the girl's list many of them are what you'd expect, such as the perennial favorite Elizabeth and names that were in style at the time such as Heather and Nicole. On the other hand there are some surprises, such as the O and P tops: Olivia (ahead of its prime) and Patricia (behind its prime). The names like the latter two got my attention and led me to do some NameVoyager experiments to observe the general trends of each of the initial letters from the alphabet. As with individual names, many of the letters exhibit style peaks and troughs.

A - Shows an "antique revival" pattern - popular in the early years of the SSA list, had its low point around the mid-20th century, and has come back stronger than ever before in recorded history.
B - No strong trends, although Barbara and Betty spiked the letter around the 1930s.
C - Once again no strong generational trends.
D - The opposite of "A": A mid-century favorite letter, less popular before and after that time.
E - Similar trajectory to "A" but more popular at its original peak as opposed to its second one.
F - A letter that was more common at the commencement of the SSA-list era but hasn't come back into vogue.
G - More common among Boomers and earlier generations than after; had its low around the time most of today's new parents were born, and is showing signs of coming back.
H - Another "older" letter, with its low point in the 1960s and a lesser return since.
I - Notice how the vowels are showing the classic "100-year revival" pattern, similar to how "A" and "E" have followed.
J - Despite the plethora of Jasons, Jennifers, and Jessicas among today's parents, this letter has been pretty perennial but is now showing signs of falling.
K - A "modern" letter, much more popular from the second half of the 20th century forward than before (although starting to decline).
L - Gradually declined through the 1990s, but is now returning fairly strongly.
M - Another perennial letter, although a little less common now than in the past.
N - Fairly perennial, but more common in recent years (Nancy did most of the mid-century propping for the letter).
O - Same pattern as the other vowels (hence Olivia sneaking in a generation earlier as I described when not many "O" names were popular).
P - Like "D" a letter that peaked mid-century (once again allowing Patricia to show up a generation later when the letter was going out of style).
Q - You'll start to notice that many of the "high Scrabble value" letters were pretty uncommon until recently, and have spiked in the past decade or two.
R - Another "mid-century consonant" now in more of a fashion limbo than at its height.
S - More common among today's living adults than in earlier or later years, but only modestly lower now.
T - A Gen-X favorite letter, at its highest in the 1960s and '70s.
U - Follows the same "vowel pattern" as the more common vowels, apart from the "Unknown" placeholder.
V - Most common in the early years of the 20th century, but on name forums is showing growing approval (and thus a potential for coming back in style in a few years).
W - Like "F" a letter more common with the early years of the stats than later, although William itself did most of that contribution.
X - Same path I cued you in on with Q's entry.
Y - Uncommon at the start of the chart, but among the living generations has had its ups and downs (with a limited set of names though).
Z - Similar to "Q" and "X" but did show some use earlier on the charts.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nicholas: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (September 6)

For the last boy's name (there will be one more girl's name next week) in this series I'm covering one that had his U.S. peak in the 1990s, but is classic enough to work on a boy or man of any age: Nicholas. Many Nicholases shorten their name to Nick, but I've also heard of Cole as a possible nickname. Any other ideas you can think of? Is Nicholas himself starting to get a bit dated, or is it still a strong choice for a boy?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Charlotte: An example of an early comeback name?

In the name-enthusiast community, it's often been said that for a name to come back in style it has to wait until the prior cohort group it was popular with has died out. On the other hand, there are some counter-examples of that. Another one that is certainly experiencing an earlier-than-expected comeback is Charlotte. As you can see, its prior peak was in the 1940s which originally put the name in the same time period as for example Barbara or Patricia, both of which have yet to show any sign of returning. As recently as the 1990s Charlotte was clearly locked in fashion limbo along with those other at-the-time middle-aged names, but then in recent years the name has really spiked back up, and there's a good chance when the 2012 stats come out next May we'll see Charlotte at the highest the name's ever been on record. So what's behind the revival? I'm not sure, but it may have to do with the fashionable (for both genders) nickname Charlie. What do you think?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Isabella: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (August 30)

Here's another name that is much more likely (at least in English-speaking countries) to be seen on a child than an adult, yet has plenty of history: Isabella (and other related forms such as Isabel, Isabelle, etc.). Like Sebastian some may find it a bit long for everyday use, but many families manage Isabella in full without problems. If you do find the name to be a bit too much, there's Izzy and Belle/Bella among others (feel free to mention any others that you like). So, what's your general opinion on Isabella (too popular or still nice despite being one of the most common girl's names of the present era)? Although these names are related to Elizabeth, they're different enough in my opinion in terms of their nicknames to get another entry in this series.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Charles: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (August 23)

This week's name is another English classic that's been on the downhill slope for a few decades, but is now leveling off and may soon be due for a comeback: Charles. The most fashionable nickname (for both boys and girls!) at the moment is Charlie. In the past we've also seen Chuck as well as a few others. Feel free to share any more unusual nickname ideas or your thoughts on Charles.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Analogy for those who don't "fit" their generation

There is a discussion going on at The Fourth Turning forums about a Millennial who doesn't seem to "fit" into the generation. Of course not everyone follows along with their archetype, but a good way to think of each generation is a block of cohorts in which one of the S&H archetypes (Prophet, Nomad, Hero, or Artist) largely follows at least a plurality of its members. Sometimes (as with for example the 1961 or 1981 cohorts) it's almost evenly divided between two archetypes and generations, while others (such as the 1971 or 1991 cohorts) one archetype has a significant majority and the cohort clearly belongs to a particular generation.

A good analogy to what I described is how certain states lean liberal, while others lean conservative, while still others are almost evenly divided on the political spectrum. Of course in any place you go in the U.S. you'll find some liberals (even in the heart of a bible-belt small town) and you'll find some conservatives (even in the middle of San Francisco). However, in those places one ideology clearly has support from the majority of the people. Even in the "swing" areas where many people are on the fence with regards to political issues, in winner-take-all political races (such as electors for President or Senators) whichever side has the majority of support will influence how these states are seen politically, and on a national level whichever side has the most cumulative support will affect how the federal government will vote.

What happens if your personal ideology doesn't follow the majority in your area? Well, you'd fall under the political equivalent of what is referred to in the S&H books as being a "suppressed" member. If you're not in politics, you have some options like to move somewhere else that is more like your beliefs, to accept that you're eccentric for your area and live as such, or find some way to compromise between your individual and the masses. If you're in politics and want to win elections, the latter is probably how you'll have to go if you want to have any influence in your locale. A perfect example is Mitt Romney, who was a Republican governor in one of the most Democrat-leaning states (Massachusetts) in the country. Many are accusing him of his "flip-flops" when in reality during his term a governor he had to act a bit more liberal than his heart; otherwise he wouldn't get anywhere in liberal MA. For example, many claim he invented the basis for Obamacare by enacting a similar law there; in reality he vetoed several sections of the "Romneycare" bill that all got overridden. Learning to compromise with the masses is what you have to do when you're the executive over a legislature with a veto-proof majority against you. Now that Romney is running for a nationwide office - the Presidency - he can act a bit closer to his actual beliefs because the United States as a whole is more conservative than the single state of Massachusetts, and positions like being pro-life and anti-health-care-reform appeal to a good part of the general USA.

In the case of a generational maverick, you can't "move" to another generation like you can geographically; thus your options are limited to the other two in this case. As with being a "suppressed" individual politically, how much of an outsider you feel or are perceived to be depends on the scale of the particular social interaction. A Prophet-identifying Millennial, for example, probably felt like somewhat of an outsider throughout the schooling years (when most of the socialization is with others close to you in age) but when he/she started working it probably now matters less (since in the workplace you interact with those in other generations too and have someone you can look up to).

Monday, August 20, 2012

Saecular Seasons and Generations' Career/Economic Prospects

For those who follow generational theory, it's been said that (among today's living generations) that Silents have had the best when it comes to careers and economics, while Xers have had it worse (and to some extent Millennials, but I'm predicting their future will improve as I'll discuss). Some attribute it to the low birthrate during the Silents' birthyears (and not offset by immigration like it was for Xers); while that may be one of the forces another one I've observed is the different saecular seasons that each archetype of generations enters the workforce, has its career peak, and retires in. A summary of this is:

Prophet archetype (e.g. Boomers) - enters workforce during an Awakening (summer), has its career peak during an Unraveling (autumn), and retires during a Crisis (winter).
Nomad archetype (e.g. Xers, and previously Losts) - enters workforce during an Unraveling (autumn), has its career peak during a Crisis (winter), and retires during a High (spring).
Hero archetype (e.g. Millennials, and previously GIs) - enters workforce during a Crisis (winter), has its career peak during a High (spring), and retires during an Awakening (summer).
Artist archetype (e.g. Silents, and in the future Homelanders) - enters workforce during a High (spring), has its career peak during an Awakening (summer), and retires during an Unraveling (autumn).

As you may have guessed, the most optimal saecular constellation for lifetime career success is like the one that the Silents experienced - starting your career during the growth season and retiring when society is starting to decay (but before the trials of winter start). That's why unlike for today's younger generations it was not uncommon for Silents to have worked for one company from start to finish of their careers, and throughout life they've been more affluent compared to other generations.

The generations that follow, like the Boomers, have a bit rougher time in the job marketplace. They come of age when society has already grown, and must take into account the likely rough times in their late career years. Because of that, and the individualistic nature of these types of generations, they tend to show themselves off by demonstrating career dedication hoping they won't be one of the unlucky ones later on. That's why Boomers got their "workaholic" reputation that many younger folks now abhor, and also why they became quite obsessed with retirement savings (not knowing what the future would hold).

By the time generations like the Xers come along, society is in its decaying season and a time of peril is likely to hit right in the peak of their working years. What that leads is to them seeking more financial and career risks, taking advantage of the short periods of success and hoping out during the bad times (hence many entrepreneurial-minded people in those generations, unlike those a bit older who still go with the system and try to hope it works out). Although they'll see the improving conditions of saecular spring, it will once again be a short-term window for these generations (so they'll continue the binge-job work ethic).

Finally, generations like the Millennials now coming of age start their working years right during society's worse time. Since these generations have a rough time even getting their foot in the door, their collectivist mindset results in their entitlement-thinking (since the only way they may have to start is by force upon the marketplace). Unlike those a bit older, they do have the light on the other end of the tunnel and have a shot at good success later on; however their collective fighting mindset continues (which resulted in the GIs heavy unionization for example, which Silents and Boomers later broke up).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dorothy: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (August 16)

Quite popular during the first half of the 20th Century, she now has "old lady name" status, though she did re-appear in the U.S. SSA Top 1,000 after being out for several years: Dorothy. Since at her height the name was given to more than 3% of girls it's logical that numerous nicknames formed. Among those off the top of my head are Dot(tie), Dolly, and Dora. There are probably others I haven't thought off, which you can fill me in on if you like, as well as your opinions of Dorothy herself (which is probably my favorite way to use it) and the aforementioned nicknames.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sullivan: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (August 9)

Although most of the names I'm covering in this series are more classic, since Sullivan is one of the surname-as-first-name names that I like for a boy (and is rising on the charts) I thought I'd mention it. Some may shorten it to Sully or Van, but I like it well enough on its own. What do you think of Sullivan in general (too "surnamey" or usable as a first name)? Any other possibilities for nicknames?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Is Nancy the new Emma?

As most name enthusiasts know, Emma is currently (and has for at least the past decade) been one of the hottest names for girls in the US, hovering near the top in that time-frame. The name is also a perfect example of an "antique revival"; it was very popular in the late 19th century, fell off for much of the 20th, and is now back in full force. What some American NEs may not immediately be aware of is the name was revived on the other side of the pond a generation earlier - while the 1970s marked Emma's low point on the US charts that decade marked the revival of the name in England; thus the name is also an example of a British-to-American transition in name fashion (an example of a revival that went the other way between today's parents' and children's generations is Amy, which was the #2 name in the States during the '70s and is now in "mom name" territory there but higher on the UK charts).

Now I'm going to discuss a name that I'm predicting may follow a trajectory similar to Emma's but about 50 years or so later: Nancy. In the US Nancy is currently a typical "grandma name" for today's children and falls into the fashion nadir of being a name from their parents' generation for many contemporary namers. On the other hand the most enterprising of name enthusiasts (me included) are seeing Nancy's retro charm and have put it on the list for consideration (right now from when I've seen this name being discussed it tends to be one of those that is either really liked or really disliked). Contemporary children may start to like it even more thanks to the Fancy Nancy series. The UK is a different story for Nancy though, as there are signs of it climbing back up the charts over there (maybe the fashion of nicknames as official names is also helping, as some consider Nancy a nickname). Since the name is already in style again on the other side of the Atlantic, as with Emma a few decades earlier that likely means a brightening future for Nancy over here as well (and although unfashionable for many parents if you bestow it on a girl in the present times it will likely lead to having a fashionable name for babies when she's a mom, rather than feeling dated like a name from the preceding generation would).

What do you think? Thumbs up or down for Nancy?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Veronica: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (August 2)

She's recognizable but has never been overly popular in the U.S., but has plenty of history and is semi-common among Catholics: Veronica. Being a bit long though some may want to shorten it: I like Vera and Vero as nickname ideas, while although not my style I know of some Veronicas who go by Ronnie. Nica or something similar might also be an idea, although if you like Veronica on its own I think it's perfectly doable. What do you think of Veronica and her nicknames?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Richard: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (July 26)

Like Robert which I covered a fortnight ago, Richard is another name that has historically been common, had its modern peak among the Silents and Boomers, and is now in somewhat of a fashion limbo. A lot of that decline in recent decades is probably a desire to stay away from a nickname that now has a less-than-desirable connotation that is still seen on older Richards: Dick. As with Robert the younger Richards are more likely to use a matching-consonant nickname (evolving from the Rick-type to the Rich-type as well). Any other nickname ideas you can think of? Do you think that eventually Richard will see a comeback or do you think the undesirable nickname will continue to keep him down?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Career-Based Name Archetypes

A few weeks ago I posted about how I observed four "archetypes" of baby naming that is linked to the general cultural attitude of the various U.S. regions. I observed another quartet of various name styles, but this time I observed a correlation with career choices (not saying that everyone who works in the respective fields will have the name style, but rather a way to visualize the different styles). A good way to picture these name styles is how those in each of the career archetypes dress: Individualist vs. Conformist, Fashionable vs. Practical, and gender differences. The four types are Professional, Laborer, Creative, and Academic.

As you might guess, those with the Professional archetype are the stodgiest of the namers. Those with this style tend to stick to the tried-and-true classics, especially for boys. (Picture a typical professional setting; the men are typically dressed in the very standard suit-and-tie, while there is more variation among the women.) Because of that, although this archetype shows the highest "conformity curve" for both genders, the gender differences are greater than with the other types (with the boys being especially conformist). As you might guess, that also carries over to their unisex name philosophy: Good for boys, bad for girls.

Those with the Laborer archetype tend to be practical in their naming. (Unlike Professionals, Laborer attire is usually designed to be functional and practical for the worker, with minimal variation between the genders.) Thus those with this type don't gravitate as much toward popular names as Professionals, but for different reasons than Creatives or Academics (namely because as anyone with a top name for their birthyear can attest to it's not fun being Jennifer S. or Jason T., which reduces the functionality of one's name). Generally Laborers like not-too-fussy names that are straightforward to spell and pronounce, and are indifferent (but not gender-inequal, unlike Professionals) towards unisex names. This type is also the most likely to consider dated names that have declined in popularity.

The Creative archetype is in many ways the polar opposite of the Professional one, with individualism being emphasized. (Picture workers in most artistic fields; individuals are given more leeway in dressing than the standard-business-attire Professionals or the functional-uniform Laborers, and often gender-bending is allowed or even encouraged.) As you might guess, this archetype is the most novel in its naming (with many invented/coined names starting with them) and is okay with within-reason gender-bending both ways. Like the Laborers they prefer less popular names, but the Creative's focus is more on ensuring everyone has their own individual image (and are the least likely to consider the stalwart classics).

Last but not least is the Academic archetype, which tends to be the antidote to the Laborer's pragmatism. Those with this archetype tend to be the most comfortable with using non-mainstream historic or ethnic names, and thus they're often at the forefront at using "antique revival" names (in contrast to the Laborers who lag behind in fashion) and more likely not to be afraid of "elaborate" names. Unlike the Creatives, Academics usually prefer to stick with names already "in the system" rather than inventing new ones though. This type also represents many of those who lament names "going to the girls" and are the ones who encourage traditionally-male-unisex names on their original gender the most. Academics are probably disproportionately represented on many name blogs and boards. (As far as the attire analogy, there isn't really one except possibly more willing to wear "ethnic" or "historic" garb than others.)

What do you think? Which "career-name archetype" represents your style the most?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Amelia: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (July 19)

Here's another name that you are probably more likely to find on a child than a living adult, but would not be too weird on one (never dropping out of the U.S. Top 500): Amelia. This name has skyrocketed in recent years (#30 last year, and even higher in some other countries) after being last popular in the late 19th century (which was the era that a famous namesake of this name, Amelia Earhart, was born). Despite being easily usable on her own, there are several nicknames you can get out of Amelia:
Amy - Although now in the "mom name" territory it's not too much of a stretch even these days, and will probably have a bit of a retro feel to a modern girl.
Mia - Another name that's climbing the charts on its own, Mia is also a not-too-stretchy nickname for Amelia if you want something longer to go on the birth certificate.
Millie - A nickname with a similar antique charm as Amelia herself.
What do you think of Amelia, both without and with these (or any other(s) you can think of) nicknames that you like?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Robert: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (July 12)

Continuing with the English classics, but this time on the boy's side, I'm featuring Robert this week. You probably know at least one if not numerous Roberts, as it was one of the most popular boy's names of the 20th Century (and several other centuries before that), especially during the Silent and Boomer generations when in some years it was given to upwards of 5% of boys (by comparison the most popular names of the present times barely crack 1% of births for their respective gender). Among the living Roberts the nicknames tend to evolve from the Bob-type to the ones with the matching initial consonant such as Rob(bie) as they get younger. If Bob seems illogical, other forms such as Hob and Dob were used historically (that's how ubiquitous Robert has been throughout the ages!).

If you were to nickname a contemporary Robert (if at all) what would you use? As for the name in general, do you see it as a classic that's not as common on contemporary boys, a bit boring, or even a bit dated?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Catherine vs. Katherine vs. Kathryn

Last week's Nickname-Rich Name of the Week was Catherine and her various spellings. I took a look at the U.S. stats to see how the various spellings have fared throughout the years. In addition to the three spellings in the search I performed, other spellings like Katharine appear, but I did not include them since they occur in much smaller numbers.

Kathryn, the least "traditional" spelling of the trio, has never been the top spelling but has gone up and down with the flow of the other two spellings. Catherine was the most common spelling until the early 1970s, when Katherine took the spotlight. What is interesting is that while overall all three spellings tend to follow each other in popularity, Catherine became unfavorable in the 1980s (when it started to bring in less than half of the number of Katherines) when the other spellings saw an increase. I personally think that's a plus for the Catherine spelling, as it makes this version the less expected and more old-fashioned-feeling one.

If you have any thoughts on this subject feel free to post a comment.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gary Johnson, Part 2

In my last blog post I introduced you to Gary Johnson, a small but growing alternative to Obama or Romney for U.S. President. Many talk about how minor-party candidates like him are very unlikely to win, but here's a way he could give the major-party candidates a run for their money which takes advantage that to win outright you need a majority (270) of votes in the Electoral College (and if there is no such winner the election goes to the House of Representatives, where each state has one vote). In other words, while outright winning the election for Johnson is a snowball's chance, if he can prevent both Obama and Romney from obtaining 270 electoral votes (a more realistic outcome) it might get interesting in the House (and remember having a plurality of either popular or electoral votes without a majority of the latter means nothing). Essentially this is how I think Johnson could at least steal some electoral votes from the other candidates:

Focus on the states that are "safe" for the major parties, especially the Republican-leaning ones. The reason I suggest for focusing on "safe" states rather than "swing" ones is because voters in the latter might be more hesitant of casting an avant-garde vote fearing that since the race is close there they might inadvertently help the disliked candidate. On the other hand those in states where one major candidate has a decided advantage over the other there will be less fear of voting for a third candidate, since the other major candidate is unlikely to win anyway (and if Johnson does win a few states the EC "spoiling" an election is less of an issue since an absolute majority of electoral votes is needed or else it goes to the House). The reason I think the Republican-leaning states might be good vote boosters for Johnson is twofold: With Obamacare now a hotbed issue once again and Romney being shaky on the issue getting Johnson as President will almost for sure give a thumbs up to a repeal if it goes through Congress, and since the Republicans are likely to hold onto the House, if the election gets thrown there it is unlikely that Obama would eke through.

Now here's what would happen if none of the three candidates get 270 electoral votes (and all of them got at least one): The newly-elected (not the lame-duck) House of Representatives would pick the President with a special procedure where they vote among the top three candidates. How it would work is each state has one vote with each state's representatives voting as to who the state's vote would go to (presumably the candidate with the majority support among the state's delegation), and a majority (26) of the states throwing their hats to a particular candidate needed to win the Presidency. How this might get interesting (and allowing Johnson to win by "default") is if some states are evenly divided among their representatives and/or a 25-25 split among states between those with majority-Democratic and majority-Republican delegations. In that case neither Obama nor Romney would likely to be able to garner support right away to win, but since Johnson has some positions that are supported on both sides of the aisle some representatives might vote for him instead to help get someone the win without showing support for the opposite major party (whereas a Democrat would be hesitant to vote for Romney or a Republican for Obama).

Essentially, while plurality voting tends to be unfavorable for non-major-party candidates, the fact that a plurality does not suffice once electoral votes come into play, and that he is not a "clone" (or a more extreme version of) one of the major candidates, gives Gary Johnson a possible chance of becoming a non-insignificant factor in the election.

Gary Johnson, Part 1

For those Americans who don't know who Gary Johnson is, he's the 2012 nominee for President of the Libertarian party. Although from a minor party, his stardom is on the rise, and as he successfully gets on the ballot in most if not all of the states he may play a decisive role in the election. Especially since the recent Obamacare ruling, and Obama's major opponent, Mitt Romney, in a questionable position on the healthcare issue himself (being the one who enacted a similar bill in Massachusetts), Johnson is garnering more support from the anti-Obamacare crowd.

One advantage that Gary Johnson has over the last minor-party candidate to have a significant role in an election, Ralph Nader in 2000, is that unlike Nader who was essentially a more extreme version of a major-party candidate (Al Gore) and thus often accused of "spoiling" the election to Bush (since most people who voted for Nader would've voted for Gore if Nader weren't on the ballot), Johnson this year being a libertarian can draw in voters from both sides (namely giving those who are socially liberal but fiscally conservative, a rising group, an alternative that more closely resembles their ideology). Thus if Johnson starts to show stronger support, it could turn the 2012 election into a true three-way race; I'll discuss more in an upcoming post on a good way for him to get closer to a win with minimal fear from voters on their vote backfiring (and how the Electoral College, which many say hampers third parties, could give Johnson a better chance than if we had a straight plurality popular vote).

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The archetypes of American naming

With name data for the various states available, I've observed some different regional patterns when it comes to baby naming. There are five general groups, four of which produce the different milieu of Anglo-American naming. Here they are:

Hispanic Archetype - I'll go ahead and get this one out of the way since it's from a cultural group distinct from the other four, but with the rising Hispanic population in the U.S. names we have this group which consists of names common in the Spanish-speaking world but not the English-speaking one. Here we have names like Jose and Angel (for boys) that are not common among anglophones.

Yankee Archetype - Here we have the group represented by the most densely populated area of the country: the Northeast (this is why within the U.S. the term "Yankee" refers to someone from that region, while outside it is often applied to Americans in general). Namers here tend to be more conformist than under the other types, with babies being more likely to get a top name than elsewhere in America. The double standard between the genders is also more pronounced with this archetype, with the differences in the number of boys vs. girls given a top name often being greater (often the first several boy's names each boast a larger number than the #1 girl's name) and a greater reluctance to using unisex names for boys (the Northeast tends to have gender ratios more tilted toward the girls than elsewhere for a particular name). Yankee-namers tend to draw from names etched in cultural traditions (and this region has more Catholics and Jews than the others) with names like Anthony and Joseph being more common than in other regions.

Dixie Archetype - This is the archetype that represents the names common in the "Southern" states. As with the Yankee archetype a bit of conformity floats in the air, but here it's family rather than cultural traditions (and is more evenly shared between the genders than up north). Juniors and the like are more common here than elsewhere, and we see quite a few English classics that are less common in other regions of the country (for example William is #1 in some Southern states). On the other hand family is honored in other ways sometimes, one of which is the use of family surnames (leading to the general American trend of surname-names). This adherence also results in families being more likely to use a name independent of gender associations, resulting in both boys and girls with unisex names (and also means more nickname-names being used to differentiate and people going by their middle name). As compared to the Yankee archetype the Dixies are more insular, with international names (i.e. those without American or British Isle origins) not boating as well.

Frontier Archetype - This is the naming style common in the more sparsely populated "frontier" regions of the country. Unlike the Yankee and Dixie archetypes Frontier-namers think more out of the box, and this region has a lower percentage of babies with a top name than the others (and the gender differences are smaller or even reversed; in some of these states it's the girls who are more likely to get a more common name), making this archetype in many ways the polar opposite to the Yankee one. As in the Dixie region we see more non-traditional names like surnames and gender-bending names, but the story behind there use is different (personal rather than family reasons), and is also more recessive with internationally-flavored names.

Left Coast Archetype - The last of the American archetypes I'm touching on is the one dominated by the areas near the west coast. Since this is the most socially liberal area of the country, this archetype might be considered the polar opposite to the Dixie one. Like the Frontier-namers Left Coasters tend to be more out-of-the-box thinkers, but like the Yankees they have a more international outlook (and some of the "Continental European" style names now popular like Isabella and Sophia showed their first American revival popularity in the western states).

What do you think? Which archetype most closely resembles your style?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Catherine: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (June 28)

Another English classic that's been popular in her various forms throughout the ages, this week's name is Catherine (along with Katherine and other related names, although I personally like the C-spelling better). In the present era Cathy/Kathy is most likely to be seen on a middle-aged woman and Katie on someone of her child's generation. My personal favorite nickname is Kate, with Kitty being a quirkier one that I also like. Can you think of any other nickname possibilities that you like, and what do you think of Catherine by herself?

There will be no name in this series next week as I'm taking off for (U.S.) Independence Day, but I'll be back the week after that (on July 12).

ETA: Tomorrow (June 29) marks the 3rd anniversary of my blog!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Alexander: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (June 21)

He's another classic name that's familiar to most Americans: Alexander. A reliable if a bit ordinary choice for a boy, there are also several nickname options. Of course there's Alex, but if you want to be a bit more creative there's Alec, Xander, Zander, and the like. If androgyny is not a problem for you there's the Russian Sasha, as well as Aly (which Abby at Appellation Mountain calls her son) and its homophones. Do you like any of these nicknames, or any other ideas I haven't mentioned? What are your general thoughts on Alexander?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Patricia: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (June 14)

This week's name is one that may sound a bit dated since it was quite popular during the Baby Boomer years and over time had enough bearers to be the second most popular name for females of all ages on the 1990 U.S. Census, but could blend in with today's Irish and Latinate names and be wearable on a modern girl: Patricia. Many Boomers with this name go by one of the Pat- nicknames (Pat itself, Patsy, Patty, etc.) while Tricia/Trisha/etc. are more popular with the younger Patricias. Once again this is a name that I think I'd be more inclined to simply use in full (and in my opinion doesn't sound as dated that way). What do you think of Patricia, and if you were to shorten her what would you use?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sebastian: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (June 7)

As the first boy's name I'm covering in this series, I'll be starting off with a name that is fairly rare among adult Americans but is a hot choice for modern children: Sebastian. Since this name is far less ubiquitous in the general population than last week's name, this name is often nicknamed for purposes of making the name shorter and easier to handle rather than as a distinguishing aid (indeed some people dismiss using him because Sebastian is "too long" or "pretentious"). Personally except as a casual shortening I'd try to stick with the full name, but if you were to shorten Sebastian how would you do it? Seb, Bastian, or something else? What do you think of the name in general?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Elizabeth: Nickname-Rich Name of the Week (May 31)

Since I've never done a regular series on my blog before, I thought that over the course of this summer (or winter for the antipodal readers of this blog) on each Thursday I'd feature a name that lends itself to numerous nicknames and see which ones (or simply the full name itself) is preferred. Each week I'll be alternating between girl and boy names (except for the week of July 4th which would normally be a boy's week but I'm taking off in celebrating my country's Independence Day).

To start off with, what better than to feature what is probably the Queen of Nickname-Rich Names: Elizabeth. As with many of the more common names I will be featuring, a lot of her nicknames derived in order to distinguish the many bearers of the name. For centuries she's been one of the most popular girl's names throughout the English-speaking world (in the U.S. she's never ranked lower than #26 on the SSA list and was at #11 last year). As a result Elizabeth has too many spin-offs to mention here, but I'll mention some that strike my fancy:
Betsy - My "old favorite" among Elizabeth nicknames.
Betty - Mad Men is making many fashions of the era retro-chic again, and this name is one of them. You probably know some middle-aged-to-older Bettys, both as an independent name and a nickname for Elizabeth.
Eliza - Although I like this one better as a stand-alone name (and is not "unprofessional" like many other nicknames-as-full-names are), she's among the 19th Century antique revivals that are fashionable right now.
Libby - Probably the quirkiest of my favorites, she's been growing on me lately.

What nicknames for Elizabeth do you like (both among those I've mentioned and those I didn't)? Or do you simply like Elizabeth by herself in her classic glory?

Friday, May 18, 2012

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

I took another look at David Figlio's study on how he posits that boys with unisex names are more likely to be disruptive and/or misbehave. As I said in my first rebuttal to his study, I brought up the limited scope he conducted it under (one school district, only looking at one four-year age range) and how because of that you should take it with a grain of salt (since if other age ranges and/or school districts were to be studied we'd probably get different results).

I found two more ways this study may well not be as applicable as many (such as Nancy from Nancy's Baby Names, who has censored some comments I've made on her blog trying to disprove the applicability/validity of the study) make it out to be:

  • If you look at the graph on the fifth-from-last page on the study's page, you'll see that the effect he describes (misbehaving more come sixth grade) is a much smaller effect than the other variables, such as race and gender. Therefore this is a classic case where someone finds a small effect and makes it sound much bigger than it really is.
  • In the paper it mentions the studies were done during school years 1996-1997 and 1999-2000. That means the subjects in the study were born between the mid-1980s and the early-1990s (given he looked at students in grades 3-6 during those school years). A lot has changed in the baby naming scene since those students were born; for example, we've seen a large decline in the percentage of babies given a "common" name* (a larger drop than between any other two previous generations for as far back as the SSA list goes). Likewise there are many more unisex names in popular circulation than a generation ago (think about all the Averys, Haydens, Rileys, etc. of both genders among today's kids), and unlike with the Ashleys and Leslies of yesteryear many of today's unisex names are still popular on boys even with their usage on girls (and both genders are wearing them quite peacefully). What this means is a 2012-born unisex-named boy probably won't have the same "outcast" feel as a boy among the cohorts the study looked at, and that renders the study questionable at best when it comes to what you should or shouldn't choose for a baby name. *Because of that the same (studies done on those who would now be adults that would be of debatable applicability to naming modern babies) would also apply to any study that says that those with more "common" names are more likely to be successful; after all there are now no names as common percentage-wise as Jennifer, Jason, Linda, Robert, Mary, or John were back in their prime eras.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The name anachronism that bothers me the most...

...has nothing to do with peoples' first names. Take a look at a globe or world map, and notice the lines of latitude a bit more than 23 degrees north and south of the equator. "Tropic of Cancer" and "Tropic of Capricorn" are what you'll almost certainly see. If you want to learn more about why those are anachronisms, search the Internet for "precession" and you'll probably find something among the first few hits that explains why. Hint: Unlike character names being off by decades or even centuries, the naming of the aforementioned parallels are outdated on the scale of millennia.

Just as the Mid-20th Century has become an "idyllic" period for childhood, the "astronomical idyllic" period is around the time of Christ and the century or two before. This also explains why the astrological "sun signs" largely do not match the actual constellations anymore.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Name Anachronism Scale (NAS)

I've come up with a 1-5 scale that can be used to "grade" character names, etc. on how well a name fits the character's generation and/or time period. Since on several name sites I've heard comments on how sometimes characters have names that are unlikely based on the chronological setting, ranging from the totally unrealistic to the plausible but less likely, I thought I'd create a scale to rate the various degrees of anachronism.

1 = The most egregious anachronisms, those with characters named something that usually wouldn't have even been in the first name lexicon of the time. Examples would be medieval females named Shannon or Taylor, or in modern times even a Gen-X or older Jayden or (female) Madison. By their nature these kinds of anachronisms usually happen in one direction only (named something ahead of the setting's time rather than behind).

2 = Characters named something that, although in the name lexicon, would be very unlikely for someone of the character's generation. Examples would be a modern girl named Agnes, or the Samantha mentioned in this post on Laura Wattenberg's blog. In general at a minimum the name would have to be out of the Top 1,000 for the character's cohort (and if the name was never very popular to begin with it would have to be even lower).

3 = Characters with a name that is unlikely but not totally out of the woods. For a name that reached the point it was/is an "everyday" name for a particular generation, this would typically represent the time it was below about the #100-200 mark but still in the Top 1,000. An example would be a Baby Boomer named Jacob, or Verizon's "Susie's Lemonade" commercials.

4 = Characters with a name that would be less likely for his/her generation (as compared to another one) but still perfectly plausible. An example is baby Amy on Up All Night (Reagan and Ava's names are borderline between a 2 and 3). Amelia on Private Practice also gets a 4 (though if the name keeps climbing the charts that might have to get downgraded to a 3 as Amelia becomes a "2010s name"; on the other hand Addison gets a 1!). For names that became very popular at a particular time, this would typically be when it is/was less popular but still in the Top 100-200 or so.

5 = Name fits the character's generation just about right. Although some name-nerdy authors might try to give all the characters "5" names, that might actually be "over-realistic" (especially if the story is intended to remain popular throughout time, rather than marketed mainly for a particular era). With stories that are destined to become classics, as well as those set in the distant future, it would be best to avoid too many names from any one era.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Is Amy the new Audrey?

Over the past few months I watched some of the movies from the (National Lampoon's) Vacation series, in which the (probably 1970s-born) daughter was named Audrey. If you look at that name's popularity graph, you'll see that the 1970s was Audrey's low point between its 1920s-30s peak and its current revival. Although using the name outside its prime generation(s) caught my attention, it doesn't seem too out of place (like Shirley from the 1930s or Isabella from the present would) on a Gen-Xer.

Last fall when the TV series Up All Night premiered they named the baby in the show Amy. Once again, a name used outside its peak generation that catches the attention of some name enthusiasts but is not too far-fetched (although having her mother named Reagan and another character around the same age named Ava makes it seem a bit like they reversed the names).

After comparing the two mild name anachronisms I described above, I think that Amy and Audrey are following two similar but opposite in phase cycles: falling like the other names of the era, but eventually leveling off rather than continuing to fall steeply. Maybe these are signs that Amy will not fall off the radar completely and has a chance of being revived comparatively sooner than many of the other '70s-era names?