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.