Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I Name Thee...Bertha!

For years, I closely coddled one little baby name in my head, intended for my long-awaited daughter when she would someday arrive: Chloe. I loved the name and all the carefree kookiness it evoked for me. Chloe was a free-spirited flapper, a patchouli-scented earth mama, a paint-splattered poet, a wild-haired, bespeckled reflection of myself. I treasured the name and my little plan, as I said, for years. of my close childhood friends and his wide-eyed, manic-depressive wife (think runaway bride) named their third child, and first daughter, Zoe. CRASH BOOM. Chloe was ruined for me. Too close a relation and too connected to someone I considered seriously mental.

Plan B: I bought baby name books and searched the Internet for ethnic origins and hidden meanings until I compiled a whole list, separated by gender and listed in order of preference. For some reason, the key criteria for a name making my list was that it be out of the ordinary without being strange or inaccessible, and also that it have some meaning (in whatever language) that I could feel good about.

I had the list ready by the time Mr. Yaye and I took our vows in April 2002 (yes, he helped compile it). And then, as we settled into suburban domestic tranquility and I took a new job in a small town, I was suddenly surrounded by truckloads of women giving birth. One by one, as the newbies arrived, I was confronted with the eerie fact that pretty much each and every name that my husband and I had painstakingly chosen for our unique, eclectic future-daughter was being hijacked.

How could this be? Mr. Yaye and I are weird people who normally make weird choices. We're so not in-step with our generation in any other way - why in this one way?

Well, take a look at the Social Security Administration's record of baby names gathered since 1880, available at You can search by year, by name or by popularity. For whatever reason -- cultural touchstones or the names of celebrated persons of the day, maybe -- we Americans follow definite patterns in naming our children.

From 1880-1924, John was the #1 male baby name and has never fallen from the Top 20 to this day; just as impressively, Mary was the #1 female name from 1880-1946, and #1 or #2 from 1947-1961, though the name is currently hovering around #63.

Okay, so here's my new plan -- DON'T STEAL IT! -- I will force my husband to sit down with me and we will peruse the lists from 125 years ago and pick a name from there! Maybe then we can find one that meets our criteria. So I figure our choices are going to be down to Cora, Bertha or Nellie......mmmmmh, yeah....Plan C rocks!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should read the last chapter of Freakonomics. It'll even give you a list of up-and-coming names and names intelligent parents should like.

Actually, you should read the whole book, but that's another story.

11:57 PM  
Anonymous yaye said...

Very intriguing, anonymous! I took a look at the Freakonomics website, and it's a book I will definitely read. Thank you for your suggestion!

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Tallulah said...

Books, you don't need no stinkin' books you will name her Tallulah

9:46 AM  

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