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Interesting bit of trivia about the increase in weird baby names

May 14, 2012 By Abraham 51

According to baby name blogger Laura Wattenberg

Historically, names in the English-speaking world were a relatively constrained set, with a small collection of classic names dominating. In England in 1800, the top six names for boys and girls accounted for more than half of all babies born….

By 1950 in the United States, you needed 79 names…to get the same population coverage that those six names achieved in England in 1800. Today, it would take 546 different names…

(via Live Science, TYWKIWDBI)

51 Comments

  1. Frank Patriot says:

    Yep. I think some parents just want their kids to ‘stand out’, so they give them names so unique, they sound ridiculous. Putting apostrophes in your kid’s name doesnt necessarily make them stand out in a good way. Studies have shown that the more unique the name, the worse a child performs in school.

    1. Terra says:

      I’ve never even heard of another Terra. (the superhero doesn’t count). I’m at the top of my class right now and I passed the SAT in the ninetieth percentile in seventh grade. I think that qualifies as good performance in school. So ha.

      1. Ha says:

        I knew a Terra in school 20 years ago. The exception does not prove the rule, except in internet comments sections. And the point stands, which is that using a name to make a person unique is a shortcut that often does not work.

        1. Paperchaser says:

          No, evidence proves a rule, which you’re not providing. A preceding comment promising “studies have shown” does not count as evidence. If you want to argue like a grownup, argue like a grownup.

        2. Terra says:

          I didn’t disagree. I’m just saying, what Frank said isn’t always true. Not ALWAYS. My little ‘so ha’ at the end of that comment was to draw attention to the fact that there are ALWAYS exceptions. A lot of people don’t realize that.

    2. Beth says:

      It’s true. Names do contribute to how well someone does academically and professionally. Of course, there are exceptions, but in job interviews, class settings, etc., most people tend to take a classic name such as John or David more seriously than someone with a unique name, or someone with an odd or awkward spelling of a classic name.

    3. Kim says:

      I think the main idea behind children with wild names performing worse in school stems back to when they are first learning to spell their names and they have to struggle more, causing their minds to associate school work with negative emotions such as frustration and feeling like a failure.

  2. Alex says:

    i’m pretty sure the exceptions to that rule are the awesome names like Blaine, or Xander, which, now that i think of it, could totally be what i go by…

  3. Megan says:

    The reason why kids with weird names tend to do worse in school is because teachers assume those children are lazy, stupid, or have other negative attributes. Also, teachers are less likely to call on a child whose name is difficult to pronounce. Your name can give others a negative impression before they even meet you. I’ve heard that since certain racial groups tend to use unique names more often, there might be some racism involved in the tendency for teachers not to call on them in the classroom, too.

    Stereotypes work both ways. My name was in the top 10 the year I was born. People tend to think of “Megan” as a cheerleader, airhead, boy-crazy person. I’m actually none of those things.

    1. Kim says:

      Teachers do not take all the blame for students failing. It’s not necessarily racism or having anything to do with names. Nine times out of ten, teachers don’t call on students because they’re not paying attention or they don’t raise their hand ( and when they get called on anyway, they don’t have any kind of guess or relevant answer).

  4. trevorh says:

    A few observations:

    1) I’m going to be frank. I’m willing to guess many of those uniquely named children in those statistics come from homes whose environment isn’t a exactly breeding ground for academic prosperity.

    2) Cultural diversity and mass media = more weird names.

  5. el duderino says:

    Nonsense. A name does not cause academic performance. I would wager that the correlation is caused by the underclass giving their kids bizarre handles in the hope that…. I have no frickin’ idea why someone would name their kid Shaniqua, Dude, Duder or El Duderino if they’re not into the whole brevity thing. Freakonomics covered this topic I believe.

  6. Marci says:

    Even ignoring academic performance (because there are too many variables there) there was some big study that showed that people people with more “unique” names were less likely to be hired for jobs regardless of their qualifications. Employers were send applications for males and females and they had the same qualifications all the way down the only difference was the name.

  7. Jed says:

    I have a classic name, but I’m balanced in reputation. I have a reputation of being wierd and at the same time, really serious. I’d rather have people be named uniquely but not too abnormal.

  8. Chad says:

    I knew a kid once whos name could not be written down without swearing. Mom would angrily tell you of course that it was pronounced “theed” even though it was spelled “head” with a four letter scatological word in front that started with sh

    Personally I think it’s usually narcissistic parents wanting attention.

  9. Jessica says:

    Yeah.. I named my daughter Vivien. When I say, “With an E,” I get that derisive sniff or eye roll, as if I had done it just to make it stand out. But, I found that spelling when researching the name and found that it was used for the Lady of the Lake by Alfred Tennyson in his Idylls of the King. Mid 1800s. I liked it better, and didn’t realize people would get in a snit about it.

    1. Kim says:

      I don’t think switching an a for an e is really that big of a deal. That’s one of those “it could go either way” situations. I knew several people in high school who had apostrophes replacing one or more letters in their names. It was ridiculous. I could only imagine the struggle they must’ve gone through when trying to learn how to spell their own names in grade school.

    2. KA says:

      Using an E is a lifetime of spelling errors. I named my daughter Vivian. With an a. Keep it simple.

  10. Carol Reimondo says:

    I love that the old names are coming back. They are unique now not then. I do not like made up names. Someday these childresn will have to try to explain “what were they thinking” to someone.

  11. zachl says:

    my first born is named dutch. after arnold schwarznegger’s character in predator. we now live in belgium where there is a population of dutch speaking individuals. it makes for a great conversation starter. i am sure he will get me back in my years of senility.

  12. Denise says:

    I don’t care what people name there kids, but I work in a school and people name their kids after cars and I don’t just mean Mercedes.We have had kids named Corolla and Bently and Miata- what I don’t like are names that are spelled phonetically or how the parent pronounces it!-”Leesa”- Lisa-”Isaya” -instead of Isiah. Or names that are words. We had a boy one year names “little Mister”(yes it was on his birth certificate) or Junior not a nickname it was his 1st name. We have Summer and Autumn-they are sisters.Or twins with rhyming names even if one isn’t real-Rhiannon and Rhi-Shannon
    My husband arrested a lady named f-e-m-a-l-e, she said the hospital named her she pronounced it fe-maly!

  13. Jasmine says:

    The conversation of these comments (how a unique name [or any name] may impact a person’s life) has already been researched and discussed in the book Freakonomics, and it’s really interesting. You guys should definitely check it out if this topic interests you.

  14. Katie says:

    In the vein of what Jessica and Denise said, I wonder if this “546 names” takes into account all of the names that sound the same but are spelled differently? Kayley, Kayleigh, and Kaelee probably count as three names… but should they? And what about adding a “Mc” to the beginning of a name? Maybe McKayley should only count as half a new name, haha.

    Still, there’s definitely more diversity in names these days – I’d love to see a survey that analyses variations and other common components of names (like this “Mc” thing, or adding “Ann” or “Lee” to the end, or a dash in the middle).

  15. Calista says:

    My name is Calista, pronounced Ca-LEE-sta, which I can convince almost no one of ever since Ally McBeal aired on TV making Calista (Ca-LIST-a) Flockhart a household name… People will actually ARGUE with me about the “correct” pronunciation of MY name, lol. I find it interesting that I seem to be the first person to respond here who actually has a unique name. I don’t feel that my name has affected my performance in school or my standing in life, but if it had, I would say it would have been due to the inordinate amount of time I have had to spend over the years spelling my name or trying to convince people that I do in fact know what my own name is and how to “correctly” pronounce it. The fact is, in a country full of such cultural diversity as ours, we are bound to encounter many “strange” or “different” names, and I find it weird that people with “normal” names would complain about this. Would we really like to go back to when half of all babies were named one of 6 things? (How many more John Smith’s do we really need?)

    1. Carr says:

      According to James Cameron, at least one more.

      (I know the Avatar jokes are out… I’m a lonely tax preparer.)

  16. AnnaSJ says:

    I feel that parents who name their children weird names or variations or spellings are doing them no favours at all. Life is challenging enough without having to spell your name to others wherever you go for the rest of your life! My partner Frazer and his brother Cambell have this problem,which would personally drive me nuts. I’m not saying we should all stick to John or David, but come on, will ‘Taliyahh’ or ‘Jahvaya’ ever look anything but silly?

  17. Annoyed says:

    A) a name once determined what your career would be, if your last name was baker thats what you did.
    Do you guys really wanna go back to that?
    B)I have one nephew who has a unique name (im not posting names), and he is smart,creative, advanced, determined and no one treats him worse just because of his name. On the otherhand I have a nephew who has a perfectly normal name that a million kids have, he doesnt listen, he doesnt have any interest in anything education, he isnt determined and he took a year longer to potty train than my nephew with the unique name.
    There ya go folks, 2 nephews of the same age, one who has a unique name who excels in school, and one with a normal name who is behind in school.
    This just proves each child progresses at his or her own rate.
    C) who are any of you to judge what a parent names their child, if its not your kid you have no right to have any involvement in the name choosing.
    by the way I love ALL of my nieces and nephews no matter what they are named or how fast they excell.
    I have a normal name and by my own choices in school I did not excell any faster or do any better than anyone else in my class, in fact you could say I did a’lil worse than the rest of them. Names dont pre-determine how your development is going to go or how people will treat you.
    Sorry about the very long rant but I’m just tired of seeing so many posts of people judging other peoples parenting choices, or any choices for that matter. thanks for listening (if you did!) :)

  18. eydie says:

    i’m named after eydie gormet. other than the two of us, i’ve never seen eydie spelled like that before. my i.q. is 131. my mom was named dorrace, pronounced like doris. her mom had a friend named dorrace and simply named my mom after the friend. there are many reasons a child wouldn’t do well in school, but blaming a unique name is ridiculous.

  19. Rebs says:

    Hi, my name is Ptiounwuhfps.
    What, you can’t pronounce it?
    Just say it like “Bob” without the “s”.
    Duh.

  20. RM says:

    In the USA, as elsewhere, academic performance during the formative years is strongly correlated to socioeconomic factors such as income, and to ethnic factors such as race.

    African American and Mexican American kids with multiple siblings from different fathers, none of whom stick around whose mothers first became pregnant as a teenager or preteen, as a group do not do as well as kids from immigrant Hong Kong Chinese, even when income levels are taken into account.

    There are many first names that immediately suggest that someone is likely to be an African American who grew up on a housing project: LeRoy and Lemar; Shawnee (or Shawna) and Ja’Quaelah. The kid may be as bright as well, but his or her first name will help to stereotype them as a slum kid.

  21. KinguinFR says:

    It’s weird. In France it’s completely the opposite nowadays.

    Most immigrants share the same few names (Mohammed, Hassan, and for people from West Africa they often have old french names like Robert, Patrick…) while upper-elite class call their kids by wild names from all around the world, thinking they will be “exotic”.

  22. Loretta says:

    I have been named Loretta, but called Lori, Lorietta, Roletta, Yoletta, Yoey, Mo’betta a Mamabetta. I don’t names mean too much, because once you know someone, you see them for what they are.

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