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?