What’s in a name?

blocksIt happened again. One of my friend’s children named their new baby something I can’t spell…or remember. I had her repeat it three times.

Names tell a lot about people. If you were named something truly odd, like Moon Unit, there is a good chance that one of your parents was a musician, a druggie or both.

If your name is “natural” like Serenity or Peace, you were born in the late 1960s to early 1970s. Your mother wore her hair long, parted in the middle. She burned her bra. You have some of her jewelry. It has peace signs on it. Your father’s hair was almost as long as your mother’s and they reminisce about Woodstock. I may be your godmother but that’s another story.

You can tell someone’s age by their name. Names go in and out of vogue. When I was a young child, my mother’s aunt was Aunt Emma and she was old — really old. If you see an Emma today, she is most likely under 10.

Mom had an Aunt Mealey too. Her real name was Amelia — very old person especially to a six-year-old. That name was popular again in the 1990s but it’s hard for me to look at a young child named Amelia and not picture that wrinkly old lady in the long black dresses with big clunky oxford shoes.

If your name is Linda, Barbara, Sandra, Nancy, Patricia, Betty, Joyce, Joan, Helen, Ruth, Phyllis or Dorothy, you are in or close to your sixth decade of life or maybe even older (but I’m not telling).

Do you know anyone under age 10 with those names? I don’t.

Jennifer reigned supreme in the 70s. Every family had one. It was just like Lisa in the 60s and Mary and Linda in the 40s and 50s.

Boys don’t get off easy either. One of my local baristas named her son Rivers Joseph. Somehow it doesn’t roll off of my tongue right and I want to call him the River Jordan. I like that. It has a biblical sound to it.

When I was a kid, boys were named James, Robert, John, William and Richard with a few oddballs thrown in. In fact there were multiples of several names so we kids would work hard to make sure everyone had a “unique” tag.

We had “Legs” Webber. He was really good at basketball. Charles turned into Chucker and I don’t know why. We only had one Charles. There was a Booper too and I can’t remember his real name.

Sometimes we had to resort to corrupting their last name, like Yostie for Yost. I am amazed we made it through school without long-term psychological scars. Hmmm…maybe we didn’t….

Michael became a very popular name. In fact it was number 1 from 1960 through 1998 when Jacob took over the top spot. Oddly enough that was the year I named my cat Jake. I must be a trend setter.

My advice to pregnant women – if you are looking for a name that is truly unique, don’t listen to your friends. If it’s a boy call him Robert or James. Be sure to stay away from George because I have this feeling.

If you use Wyatt, Xavier, Jeremiah or Avery, he won’t be the only one in class.

If it’s a girl, stay away from Sophia, Emma, Isabella, Olivia and Ava. Those are the current top five. Name her Matilda or Joyce. I can guarantee your child will be the only child in the class with that name.

Clipart courtesy of openclipart.org

40 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. I have one of those unique names, the kind that people make repeat me three times. If I google my name pictures of obituaries come up. Sigh. I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up with a bunch of kids named the same thing.

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  2. I thought naming a girl Melva (female version of Melvin, the Dad) was a great idea until I realized my niece hated it and legally changed her name to Melanie. 😦 What’s in a name – – great post Kate!

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  3. I was one of the 13 girls named Lisa in my sophomore geometry class, but I always remember thinking “why are there no adults named Lisa?”
    At my daughter’s college orientation, the president announced that there were 27 Katlyns, spelled 8 different ways in her graduating class. Her room mate Caitlyn. Her best friend Katee yes 2 e’s). Across the hall Katelyn, Kate & Catherine…I can’t keep it straight when she tells a story! Needless to say I enjoyed this post …. Kate!

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    • In my small grade school class, there were 8 girls, two of us were variations of the same name — me at Kathleen and another Katherine. I can’t imagine 27! In our area in the last 60s/early 70s there were a ton of Kimberly’s too but it was a short lived fad. Too bad we can’t pick our own when we reach puberty!

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  4. My daughter checked the social security statistics before Sophia was born and it didn’t even register as one of the more popular names. Then after she was born the name really took off! Funny how that happens. When I was in school, the Debbie Reynolds era, there were always at least “two of us” in each class. Sometimes more! I haven’t heard of a Debra in probably close to half a century! LOL!

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    • Same thing happened to someone I worked with. I hadn’t heard the name Sophia since I read Sophie’s Choice. He named his daughter and wham! it took off. I am sure that in the next decade the Linda-Carol-Debra names will come back too. Maybe your great granddaughter will be named that.

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  5. My boys have old-fashioned names that they grow into when they are men. I am not very fond of the unusual name for a child. It is something they will have to live with for the rest of their life.

    My Mother prayed for a boy and picked out only boy names. I was named after a hockey player…

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  6. This really made me laugh…a bevy of great lines….love the River Jordan…You should hear some of the Upper East Side’s monikers complete with numerals at the end. And the little darlings are called by their whole name as if a retinue of armored knights should be galloped up beside them. Lowell Jameson IV, would like another almond brioche with aged peccorino? You get my point. You’re a great writer Kate 🙂

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  7. My folks named me Judith. That never quite caught on. I was always called by my nickname, Judy (Unless Mom was mad … then, it was JUDITH ANN!) I’m not sure who I was named after? Judy Garland? Doubt it.. Maybe Judy Holliday. I’m searching my memory bank for any one – my age – named Judy. It must be old age. I can’t think of one.

    In my 7th grade classes, Jasmine and Kaitlyn are very popular names. But I also have quite a few really unique names.

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    • There was one Judy in my class of 110 kids. Seventh grade is about right for Kaitlyn. Everyone I knew (that means the children of friends) was naming their daughters Kaitlyn or Katelyn or some version of it. When one of my friends was choosing a name for her unborn child, she said it had to be 2 syllables because that was more effective when yelling.

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  8. The year I was born Patricia was the most popular girls name. There were always 3 or 4 of us in a class. Strangely none of us were called Patricia. I was Pat and there was a Patty, Patsy, and Trish , I was Pat up until my mid 40’s. Then I had a mid-life thingie and decided I would from then on be Patricia. I can date my friends by what they call me.

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  9. Astute and funny as ever.

    In the 1960’s my mom had 4 children to which she gave “unique” names. I, as Tracy Lee, had the most “normal” name. I didn’t know another child by that name, except for one boy, until I was 15. All my friends were named, Susan, Nancy, Lori or Chris. My poor brothers had really weird names. We stuck out (just like my mother hoped we would) but we kids hated sticking out. And honestly, I think it was really hard on my brothers. They’re slightly oddball.

    I gave my children completely normal names. Now that they’re adults, they have frequently thanked me for my wisdom.

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  10. And then there are those of us who get tagged with family names. I was named after an Aunt and Great-Aunt. Loved them but not necessarily their monikers. They saw it as an honor while I was always being compared to their greatness of which I never lived up to. Also, being the only Ellen in school if someone said, “Ellen did it” …all eyes shifted to me. I had NO mistaken identity plea available.

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    • I like Ellen. There weren’t any in my class (which is good!). It’s fluid, like Ann. No breaks to cross T-s or dot I’s. I wasn’t named after anyone. My Mom wanted to name me Veronica but she ended up working for one before I was born and DID NOT LIKE HER AT ALL. I was spared that! I am ok with my name now. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Linda! That was so popular.

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  11. I’ve never been too terribly fond of the name Nancy, but after fifty-four years, I guess I’ve finally accepted that since it is the name that was given to me, like it or not, it’s mine for life. I suppose I could change it to “Tiger Lilly Yousef” or “Jasmine Helena Dockity”, but really, at this point, does it matter? Although I can say that as a writer, I do occasionally get to try on different pseudonyms, depending on my mood and the weather, or the story being told, so at least I get to pretend to be someone else, every now and again.

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    • We had a bunch of Nancy’s in my neighborhood. I agree with you. Better to just get on with life although if my name was Moon Unit (what do they call her for short? Moonie?) I would change it legally.

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  12. I’m a Nancy. A few years ago I was speaker to a business associate at a party. This young man that I had only just met saw my name tag, and said, “We are expecting a baby, and we are going to name her Nancy.” I was flabbergasted (an old term for an old broad). I remarked how no one named girls Nancy anymore, and he said, “We’re naming her after my wife’s GRANDMA!” ouch.

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  13. It’s interesting how names go in and out. There must have been 25 Jennifer’s in my high school graduation class. In my line of work, I’m exposed to a wide variety of unusual names. One mother had named her kids, “Baby One”, “Baby Two” and “Baby Three.” I would venture to guess she’s on “Baby Ten” by now.

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  14. I found your blog through http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/, and am enjoying it. I was named Jessica. I was the only one until some years ago (Jesse James!) when every mom in WalMart was yelling ‘Jessica’. I liked it better when I was the only one. Now I’m jes. I’ll be checking out your other posts, as is my habit when I find a new blog.

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