Name's "Odonna?" Must be from Utahby Brooke Adams (Deseret News Staff Writer)
("Today" section, The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah - 30 September 1996)
It all started with "Odonna."
That was the name of the spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C., grocery store commercial that Cari and Wesley Clark had just seen on television.
Hmmm; they said. Sounds like a Utah name. They'd heard plenty of names just like it while they were students at Brigham Young University.
So began their quest to catalog as many unusual Utah names as possible, which has culminated in the clever Web site "The Utah Baby Namer" (http:/www.wesclark.com/ubn).
Cari and Wesley spent about a decade in Utah, while she worked on a degree in broadcast journalism and he finished studies in electrical engineering.
But it wasn't until they moved to Washington that they recognized the uniqueness of some Utah names they'd heard - as well as how the names came about.
"It was more remarkable when we weren't immersed in the culture," Cari Clark said.
"Earldene" is a good example. The typical story is that Grandpa Earl had nine children, each of whom wanted to honor him by bestowing his name on one of his grandchildren. So begin the permutations:
EarlDawn, DeEarl, BeEarl and so on.
"Usually a Utah name is one someone made up, usually by combining a couple names or more," Cari Clark said. She had a friend, for instance, who named a daughter "TruAnn" for parents named Truman and Ann.
A lot of Utahns seek a distinctive firrst name to go with an ordinary last name - like Clark, Smith or Johnson. "They compensate for that," she said.
Though some Utahns have contacted them to object, most have joined in the fun by contributing names. The site now has about1,500 names, many sent to the Clarks by Utahns with a sense of humor.
The criteria: the name must be real and can't be common elsewhere. They rejected the name "Velda" recently for that reason.
The names they've compiled are a hoot: Acel, Burtis, Cree-L, DuWeine, DeLaun and so on. So is their de-construction of the Utahn naming process.
Cari Clark said the site also serves as a warning about the dangers of getting too creative with names.
"You condemn a child to a lifetime of spelling his or her name and explaining why it isn't something else," she said. Not to mention explaining where the name comes from.
Her own name, which her mother invented, is problematic enough, Cari said. People often mistake it for "Carl" and think she is a man.
Chances are, LaVon and LaVerne are LDSBy Lynn Arave (Deseret News Staff Writer)
(Tuesday, August 13, 2002)
It's obvious that Book of Mormon names, such as Mormon, Moroni, Lehi, Nephi, are unique to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, a considerable number of modern-day given first names — Chyleen, Janell, Ladoyle for girls and Legene, Rondell and LaMar for boys - are also examples of a pattern almost exclusive to LDS families.
Don Norton, assistant professor of the English language faculty at Brigham Young University, has conducted extensive research into this unusual naming phenomenon among church members, which he refers to as "composite names."
"It's a genuinely Mormon phenomenon," he said. "These are very standard prefixes and suffixes."
The trend has not been easy to research, partly because it started about 1890.
"It's a lot like doing genealogy," he said of the tedious work.
Norton said the names proliferated throughout LDS communities until the early 20th century, when they began to disappear in urban areas such as Provo, Ogden and Salt Lake City.
Names like LaVon and LaVerne just weren't proper in big cities.
Meanwhile, names like Brigham and Parley, after former LDS Church leaders, also became a trend of their own in the 1920s and 1930s.
"The question in all this is, why?" Norton said. "It appears it's simply an effort to distinguish the child — to give the child a unique identity."
In some rural areas, composite names are still popular today.
Some variations came from taking a part of both the father's and the mother's first names. For example, "LaWynn" comes from parents Louise and Winfield. "Donanyn" is from Don and Evelyn, but "Denan' is from Denny and Ann.
"It's still very persistent today . It just becomes a tradition, a cultural thing" he said.
He said another trend today is to give traditional names a different spelling, like "Betti" and "Katlyn."
"People do strange things with names, as an impulse to be innovative and be different," Norton said.
African-Americans also do a similar thing in that some make up new names, like "Shaquille" and "Kisha."
Since blacks and Mormons are conspicuous minorities in the world, he believes having different names makes sense.
All Norton had to do is check the BYU directory to see many Mormon composite names.
He stressed his is just a preliminary study and though his research has been done over a 31-year period, it would require a year of solid research - not on-and-off study - to do it justice. He presented his report on composite names at the Deseret Language and Linguistics Society Symposium last year at BYU.
"I'd like to do a more formal study on this subject," he said. "Some people are embarrassed by the composite Mormon names, but I have no problem with the phenomenon."
Here are some examples of other Mormon composite names: Cardell, DeAnna, Delynne, DeMoyne, Devere, Devern, Donlu, Gaylen, Janalee, Janielle, JoMae, LaNae, Lanyle, LaRue, LaRita, LeGrande, LuDene, MaraDee, Marjean, Marjo, Marlae, MarLiane, Meldon, Meshelle, Monelynn, Pennilee, Philroy and Vernetta.
There's also a Web site, unconnected to Norton, that contains many of these names: www.wesclark.com/ubn is "The Utah Baby Namer" site. It is billed as an online help for parents looking for that distinctive name that says, "I'm a Utah Mormon."
Naming Practices Peculiar
by Don Norton
("WordWise" Column, The Daily Herald, Provo, Utah - 28 July 1996)
A linguistic boon has just come my way: others interested in Mormon naming practices. KUER, Utah's National Public Broadcasting station from the University of Utah (or Utah State University, has been featuring, as part of our centennial celebration, a series of specials on uniquely Utah language. One was on Utah's three main dialects (more on that later), one on Sanpete County nicknames (my colleague Woodruff Thomson was the specialist), and one on peculiar Mormon naming patterns.
Four major naming practices exist: 1) combination of parents' or grandparents' names (LaWynn from Louise and Winfield; Sherald from Shelley and Gerald); 2) surnames as given names (Thatcher, Tanner, Kimball, Cannon, etc.), a general American practice for middle names, but not so common as the main name; 3) combination names -- any one of several prefixes plus any one of a number of suffixes (see below); 4) concocted names (Strelsa, Ryatt, Nello). We night add to this list a common American (and especially Mormon) practice of spelling traditional names in unusual ways (Loid, Danial, Kady, Kellee, and on and on).
Names are very personal things. Readers are on their own in judging the propriety of Mormon naming practices. Today's WordWise is simply a report. An earlier WordWise column cited H. L. Mencken's 1921 observation on the Mormon phenomenon: "Indeed it is possible that this murrain of made-up names was launched upon the country by the Saints, for as long ago as the 1836-1844 era their prophet and martyr, Joseph Smith, had wives named Presindia, Zina, Delcena and Almera."
A student of mine, in some research on Mormon names, found the practice really taking hold just before the turn of the century. A number of reasons for the practice have been offered: large (often polygamous) families with the same surname (Sanpete County, for example: Jensen, Thomson, Petersen, Nielsen). I welcome other theories, but I have come to conclude, in talking with people who actually bear "Mormon names," that the practice was an effort simply to lend distinctiveness to one's precious and numerous offspring. Names of ancestors, or invented or unusual names, create such an effect.
Combination female names, prefixes: a-, al-, alta-, amber-, ana-, anne-, ar-, arha-, bar-, be-, ber-, brand-, bre- (or bre'-), bri-, bryn-, bur-, ca-, cal-, car-, caro-, cel-, chad-, chan-, char-, chay-, cher-, chy-, clo-, and coy-.
For the rest of the alphabet, let's list just some common prefixes: da-, dawn-, de-, del-, don/r-, du-, el-, gay/gae-, ja-, jan-, jer-, jo-, ka(y)-, kar-, la/e/o/u/y-, (the most productive), ma/e/yr- na-, or-, ra(y)/e/o/u/y-, sha(w)-, shawn-, sha/e/ir-, tru-, u-, val-, va-, ve(e)-, ver-, von-.
Now for female suffixes: -donna, -launa, -let(l)a, -lyn(n), -ana, -na, -lisa/e, -dra, -dee, -alda, -dean/dene/deen/dawn, -dell(a), -villa, -neen, -kay, -rae, -lee, -a, -ra, -tel, -ette, -veda, -ina, -nae, -tha, -mina, -preal/prele/priel, -quita, -verda, -vora, -vonda, -voy, -gene/jean, and many, many others. Put nearly any prefix with nearly any suffix, and voila, you have a name.
I owe much of my column to other Mormon name fans, who contribute to WWW at the following address: http://www.wesclark.com/ubn/females.html. There's an address for "males" also.
Lest males feel slighted, we'll focus on them next week. We do have some celebrities among us with such names: Lavell, LaDell, LaVon.
Naming can be risky among the unsophisticated. How else could a girl be named "Latrina"? A friend asks what happens when Ferdinand and Eliza Spreader name a daughter: Ferdeliza Spreader, of course.
If you have a comment of question about usage, write WordWise, The Daily Herald, P.O. Box 717, Provo, Utah, 84603-0717.
MadisonnessFrom Below the Beltway (Washington Post Magazine)
By Gene Weingarten
September 21, 2003
Signs of a troubled society:
1. The quagmire of Iraq.
2. A lackluster economy.
3. "Madison" has become the second most popular name for baby girls in America.
I risk insulting huge numbers of new parents here, so I want to tread delicately: I know you love your sweet little baby daughter, and want only the best for her, and I am sure you had your reasons for giving her an idiot name.
Thanks to a new federal baby name database that goes back past 1900, it is actually possible to track the provenance and popularity of the name Madison. From this source, one can see that Madison has historical roots, as do many popular names. Mary, for example, was the name of the mother of the Christian deity; David was a wise and compassionate king. Madison was the name of a mermaid played by Daryl Hannah in the 1984 movie "Splash." Her real name was an ear-piercing squeal, so she selected a new name from a street sign in midtown Manhattan.
That's it. The numbers make it clear there is no other derivation. Before the 1980s, the name Madison was not among the thousand most popular names in America. Since then it has quickly risen, like a gas bubble in a septic tank, until it is now number two, right after Emily. (Interestingly, Hannah is now the third most common girl's name.) What's wrong with Madison? If you don't already know, then I'm not sure that what follows will make any sense to you, but I'll try.
Madison is symptomatic of something I call the "Elantra" phenomenon, after the appalling marketing driven trend among automakers to name their cars pleasing sounds that have no meaning. Increasingly, people are no longer naming children for their ancestors or heroes or even favorite actors or athletes’ names with some sense of history or reverence or accomplishment and are choosing trendy names that to them seem hip or creative. No one real ever had a first name of Madison. The naming process has become not a celebration of love for another, or of good lives well lived but a celebration of . . . oneself.
And so it is that in the last 10 years, cutesy misspellings have become highly popular. Today, Skylar is the 144th most popular female name, waaaay more common than, say, Susan (475th), Barbara (560th) or Katharine (821st). Also more popular than Katharine are Shyanne (586th) and Destinee (495th) and my favorite, coming in at number 618, Nyah. (There is no indication of how many people chose this as both first and middle name.) Among boys, Alexzander, spelled that way, is more popular than Fred.
When you do this, your victim is your own child. I know of a kid, born in the mid-1960s, who used to introduce himself thus: "Hi, my name is Caribou, but you can call me Mike." Little 3 year-old Madison is someday going to be 60. ("Hi, sweetie, I am your Grandma Madison, but you can call me Mom.") It is hard to overstate the creepiness of some of this recent naming. Among the 1,000 most popular girls' names in America today are Essence, Precious, Journey, Heaven, Unique, Cadence and, of course, Lexus. (Elantra hasn't made it, yet.) All of those names are more popular than Betty, which has fallen off the list altogether.
For as long as humans have been responsible for naming their offspring, there have been bad names. The 1910 list of names shows many Clarabelles. Ova was somewhat popular, as was Fanny. And a bunch of boys regularly got saddled with Elmer and Thurston. But these are mostly names that have slid into disfavor over the years in association with tushies and Fudds and Howells and seltzer-spraying clowns. Adolph, for example, was a reasonably popular name that plummeted in popularity after about 1930.
Interestingly, one of the quickest nose dives in recent years was Monica, which was number 77 in 1997, but for some darned reason fell 100 percent to number 150 the following year, and has continued to go down.
Editors have warned me that this is a dangerous column - that names are a personal thing about which people feel strongly, and parents should be free to name their children what they want without fear of public ridicule.
I know, I know, but I don't care. The Madisonness must end.
(The baby name Web site is www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames)
Snide Remarks #342
"The Nayme Gaimme"
by Eric D. Snider
Published in The (Provo, Utah) Daily Herald on January 19, 2003
If you're like me, you think it's funny that a lot of people have goofy names. If you're not like me, you're one of the people coming up with the goofy names. One of us needs to change his ways, and I think it's you, JuDee.
I write this with the knowledge that I am in danger of offending people I know and like. I have friends with absurd names, and some who have given their children absurd names. The extraordinarily snobbish diatribe that is about to follow should in no way be construed as evidence that I have less than warm feelings for these people, or for the children whose lives they have ruined with cruel names like "JayceSun."
Now, I like fun as much as the next guy -- unless the next guy is Pete Townshend, because hoo-boy, I can't keep up with him! -- but I draw the line at making child-naming time wacky creative fun time. Certain activities are meant to be boring. It means you're doing them right. These include school plays, service projects and naming your children. If fun should break out during any of these undertakings, you should stop immediately and start again.
You see, one of the goals of parenthood -- I am generalizing here -- is that your children will live into adulthood. And if that should happen, and you've saddled him or her with an absurd name -- one that you made up or intentionally misspelled -- then what have you done to his or her chances of being taken seriously? Would you trust a doctor named Kaytelynne? Or a lawyer named M'Kaee? Or a senator named Orrin? (Seriously: "Orrin"?)
The two best places to find ridiculous names are Utah and the National Football League. I don't know why this is. Those two groups have little else in common.
In Utah, there are names like these, all of which I got from the single best silly-name source, the obituary pages: Vonda, Julaine, Luray, Ferral, Ardath, Shyrel, Artell, Gerial, Zelma, and Elna. (Utahns 90 years ago were apparently still a little punch-drunk from the trek west.)
From elsewhere in the paper, I find these actual names of non-elderly Utahns: Jefra, Eunhi, Chanthy, Shurron, Chaulyn and Lyndell.
In the NFL, there are these names, all of which belong to men who were born on Earth: Edgerton, Adalius, Peerless, JoJuan, Canute, Artrell, Ligarius, KaRon, Jashon, Earthwind and Plexico. (How does someone come to be named "Plexico"? Did his parents follow the Utah practice of name compromising, where Dad want to name him Plate, while Mom wanted to call him Mexico, and they combined the two?)
Do you notice that the names of the mostly white Utahns are very similar to those of the mostly African-American NFL players? Perhaps there is common ground between our cultures after all.
I present these rules in naming your children:
1. Don't make up a name. You have to give your child a name that already exists and is a commonly accepted name. That may sound restrictive, but there are literally thousands of perfectly good names to choose from. We don't need any new ones. Civilization is more than 6,000 years old; the brainstorming session is over. I'm sorry you didn't live 200 years ago, when exciting new names were still being forged. But now, in 2002, or whatever, WE'RE DONE. No new names.
2. Don't misspell your kid's name on purpose. Seriously, what are you trying to pull? Violation of Rule No. 2 is usually an effort to circumvent Rule No. 1: We can't make up new names, so we'll misspell an existing name, thus, in a way, making a new name!
No. You can't do this. It's not clever; it just looks like you can’t spell. It also does not distinguish your child from the other children with the same name. When the teacher calls on Michael, it will sound the same as if she is calling on Mikkal, MyKle or Mighkull. She should not have to differentiate between traditional-spelling Michael and all the train-wreck-spelling Michaels in the class.
3. You are entitled to one capital letter per name. Do not deplete our nation’s supply of capital letters by wedging two or more of them into one name.
4. No one takes women seriously whose first names end with two e's. I'm sorry, but it's true.
5. You have a friend who says he or she once encountered two people named Lemonjello and Oranjello. But your friend is lying. Those people exist only in urban legend. Stop saying you've heard of them, because you haven’t.
COMMENTS & REACTION: I really do look at the obituary pages every morning to see what funny-named people have died. The Vondas, in particular, seem to be dropping like flies. I predict that within five years, there will be no more living Vondas.
After this column appeared, I received three e-mails from people claiming to have known someone named S***head (pronounced "Sha-THAYD"). This is untrue, of course; S***head is another urban legend, and if I had been allowed to say S***head in the newspaper, I would have mentioned it in the column. Anyway, I wrote back to these people and let them know they were lying about knowing S***head, and none of them wrote back to insist they were telling the truth. So I'm glad we settled that.
Unusual names declare, "I’m a Utah Mormon"
by Kirsten Sorenson
(Culture Column, The Herald Journal, Logan, Utah - 30 June 1997)
OGDEN (AP) Do you have a name like DaNeen or Arverd or Jonette or Merlin?
If you live anywhere else in the United States, you might get some funny looks and major mispronunciations. But in Utah, it's a name like any other.
Still, the rest of the world is getting a peek at just how peculiar some of those names can be, thanks to a computer web page developed by a Virginia couple - transplanted from Utah, of course.
Cari and Wesley Clark, who met and married while going to school at Brigham Young University [Wrong! We met while working in Los Angeles - Wes] and now live in Springfield, Va., were watching television one day when they saw a commercial narrated by a spokeswoman named Odonna.
Has to be a Utah name, they joked.
That led the Clarks to reason that Utah residents have some strange names. So they started a list.
One friend who worked at a bank in Utah had access to hundreds of names and sent in some. Other friends living in the Beehive State would send them names of people they met.
The couple subscribe to a few Utah publications and collect obituaries, which show that bizarre names are not a recent fad, Cari Clark said.
Now, a few years later, they have hundreds of names, both male and female, on their website "The Utah Baby Namer." (www.geocities.com/Heartland). [It's actually now http://www.wesclark.com/ubn - Wes]
"An online help for parents looking for that distinctive name that says "I'm a Utah Mormon!" the web page warns, er, informs.
The most obvious Utah names come from the church’s volume of scriptures, the Book of Mormon: Nephi, Mahonri, Liahona and Alma.
Many others have a French sounding prefix, Cari Clark said, such as La, Le, Ne and Va: LaPriel, LaVerd, LeMoyn and Latrina - to name a few.
Common are combinations of parent names. Blend John and Janet to get Jonette. Combine Merle and Lynn to get Merlin. Or combine any two names of either gender to get such monikers as Brandilynn and Caroldean.
Some handles are so idiosyncratic they have to be Utah Mormon: Welcome Exile, Justa Cowgirl and Tabernacle. Another child was named after an obscure fantasy movie character: Alura Dannen.
One popular practice is to feminize the father's name: change Bob into Bobette, Rex into Rexanne, or Maurice into Mauricette.
A few parents take a surname and transform it into a first name: Bartell, Burns, Gren, Houser and Slaughter.
Many names have apostrophes, and Cari Clark wonders how these people fill out test or government forms: D'Elise, D'Bora, M'Lu and J'net.
While naming a child after a state is common, Dakota, Arizona, Nevada, and even Utah, more fascinating are the deviations: Idahana, Utahna and Wyoma.
Utah may also corner the mar-ket on odd names for towns. Just look at this top 10 list of town names that could be mistaken for breakfast cereals: Kanosh, Genola, Neola, Aneth, Clover, Goshen, Koosharem, Manila, Scipio and Tabiona.
Oh, and remember Odonna, whose name inspired the list?
Later the Clarks found out where she was from. You guessed it - Utah.
What's in a Name?
Baby names may reflect Grace; nothing ordinary Will do.
By Karen Goldberg Goff
(Washington Times, 11 May 2003)
From the moment expectant parents find out there is a baby on the way, they have myriad choices to make. Cloth or disposable? Breast or bottle? Work or stay home?
Among the most important on the list: What are you going to name the baby? Unlike any of the above decisions, this one sticks with the child for life. Do you go with an old standby such as Katherine or Matthew? Should you look to your cultural heritage? Or go with a trendy name, a unisex name, even a made-up name?
In many cases, it is not an easy choice, says Pamela Redmond Satran, co-author of eight baby name books, including "Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana." Parents have more choices than ever and also are putting more thought than ever into what moniker to place on their child.
"Since the baby boomlet of the 1980s, there has been a whole culture of the fashionable child," Ms. Satran says. "We have the Baby Gap, Pottery Barn for Kids and a lot of fashion-conscious, consumer-conscious parents who are putting a lot of thought into what to name their kids."
Parents are poring over books and even turning to the Internet, where they might ask total strangers what they think of the combination "Crystal Michelle." Jennifer Moss, a founder of the Web site Babynames.com, says her site has more than 1 million visitors per month. Parents can study the meaning of names and, for a fee, give the Babynames.com staff the task of corning up with a half-dozen ($14.95) or a dozen ($21.95) names.
"They give us criteria, such as if they want a biblical name or a creative name," Ms. Moss says. "About 3,000 people have used our service."
Cindy Belsky didn't turn to experts to help her pick names for her four children, but that does not mean the names came easily to her and her husband, Charlie.
Early in her first pregnancy seven years ago, Mrs. Belsky, who lives in Chantilly, decided if she had a girl, she would name the baby Cadence. The name was unique, had a good flow with their last name and reflected Mrs, Belsky's interest in music and singing, as Cadence means rhythm in music-speak. However, the first Belsky child was a boy, and he stayed nameless for two days until his parents came up with a name, Daniel Frederick. The second child was a girl, so the Belskys got their Cadence, whom everyone calls Cady.
The third child, Evan, was named after a recently deceased friend. The fourth child they named Jared after making lists and lists of names, crossing them out and negotiating with one another. The Belskys are expecting a fifth child this fall.
"I have a book with 30,000 baby names in it," Mrs. Belsky says. "I start flipping through it and write down ones I like or whether they are a possibility. Then I give it to my husband and leave the room. I tell him to cross out what he can't handle, then rank the rest 1, 2, 3, 4. Right now I like Olivia Page if it is a girl. But Charlie and I are still very far apart on names."
YOU'RE GOING TO NAME HIM… THAT?
Names go in and out of fashion, just like nursery wallpaper and Snoopy crib bumpers. For generations, names were basic, usually stemming from the Bible or family traditions, Ms. Satran says.
More recently, names have moved up and down the popularity scale more frequently. Joshua, for instance, was No. 25 in the 1970s but has hovered around No.4 since the 1980s, according to Social Security Administration data. Emily was No. 10 in 1991 but has been No.1 since 1996.
"We have never really been able to identify what makes a name popular," Ms. Satran says. "But it is interesting to see the evolution. The name Mary, for instance, from 1900 to the 1950s was the No.1 or No.2 name. It is religious, straightforward. It was unseated at the top spot by Linda in 1950."
Linda later made way for the Debbies, Marcys and Melissas who are the parents of today's Jordyns, Caitlyns and Calistas.
The 1950s marked the turn in popular culture in America, Ms. Satran says. As television and music took on more significance, people looked to those avenues as sources for names. With the increase in migration out of cities and into the suburbs - even across the country from other family members - people felt more free to pull up the roots of family names as well.
America also became a more multicultural society in the last few decades of the 20th century, Ms. Satran says. The solid English names of the past (William, Anne) melded into Americanized classics (Amy, Steven, Susan) and then a return to ethnic roots (Gabriel, Aidan, Malik, Leah).
Ron and Sonya Kulik, who have four daughters, used a combination of pop culture and just what sounded pretty when picking out names.
Carly, 10, was named after Carly Simon, and the name for Grace, 5, was inspired by the beauty of the late actress Grace Kelly, Mr. Kulik says. The name for Maddie, 7, was inspired by Maddie Hayes, the character on the old TV show "Moonlighting." She could go by the more formal Madeline later in life. Corrine, who is 1, got a name "we just liked, and it sounded good with Kulik."
"Saddling a child with a name is a big thing," says Mr. Kulik, a Reston chiropractor. "But you can get more creative with girl's names. We used names that are not the most popular. The younger three don't have middle names, though, because we didn't want to use a middle name we liked in case we had another child."
In 2003, a few trends stand out, Ms. Satran says:
- Using last names as first names began in the 1980s, Ms. Satran says. Look into any elementary school classroom today, and there will no doubt be a few Parkers, Hunters or Porters.
- Similar to this trend is the use of unisex names, which mirrors the rise of the women's movement, Ms. Moss says. "Names like Jordan, Lindsey and Taylor have leveled the playing field for women when they are out there in the world," she says.
- Place names - such as Cheyenne, Dakota, even a Tennessee or two - are popping up everywhere. And Madison (unisex, last name and the capital of Wisconsin) was the No.2 girls' name in 200l.
- Unique names also stand out. Ms. Satran has a forthcoming book about "cool" baby names. "To be cool these days, it has to be really cool," she says. "Parents want to be individual, and they want meaning. Names that combine those two are going to be very popular in the next 20 years."
Future trends also will include "word names" (such as Destiny, Gardener, Trinity, Autumn) and further popularity of ethnic names, Ms. Satran says.
RULES TO FOLLOW
Want to raise a jock? A nerd? An assertive woman? Pay attention to what name you choose. Names make an impression before a person does, says Albert Mehrabian, a professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA who has studied name connotations for decades.
"Many people do not think about the quality of names," he says. "They think they are being creative or clever, but sometimes they are doing their child an injustice."
Mr. Mehrabian has done several studies asking people to rank names by these characteristics: ethical/caring, popular/fun, successful and masculine/feminine. Names were then ranked by overall attractiveness. High scorers include Alan, Anthony, Benjamin and Elizabeth. Scoring low were Chaz, Butch, Gia and Gertrude.
Similarly, author Bruce Lansky surveyed 75,000 parents for "The Baby Name Survey Book." Among his findings: Nancy, Kathy and Wendy are friendly; Elliott is brainy; David, John and Samuel are intelligent; and Kirby, Kevin, Chuck and Jim are athletic.
Though the choice of names is very personal and individual, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- Think about the future. Do you want Kelleigh to have to spell her name or correct her teacher every time it is mispronounced? Also, Mistee might be cute for a toddler, but will the jury take her seriously should she become a lawyer someday? "People are not thinking about 25 years from now," Mr. Mehrabian says.
- Check out who else has the same name. Look in books and online to see what the most popular names of the last couple years are, Ms. Moss says. For instance, you might love the name Ashley, but because it's No.4 on the 2001 list, there very well may four Ashleys in the classroom in a few years. Fairfax couple Julia and Greg Malakoff named their first son Benjamin when he was born four years ago. They liked that it was a traditional name, that they were honoring the Jewish custom of naming him after a relative and that they didn't know anyone else with that name. Turns out Benjamin was a hot name in 1999. There are three Benjamins in their son's age group at preschool. "Of course, none of them are shortened to 'Ben: so they are all called Benjamin, along with their last names," Mrs. Malakoff says. "The kids in the class think his first name is Benjaminmalakoff."
- Think about what is important to you. Are you honoring a family member or friend? There are ways to do that and still give the baby an individual identity, Ms. Moss says. You can use a family name as a middle name, for instance.
- Spell it, say it, write it and write the initials. A name that is too long is going to be tough for young children to say. The general rule is that long last names go better with short first names, and vice versa. Checking what the initials will spell will ensure you don't give the child initials such as "UG.H." or "H.A.G," Ms. Moss says. Also, in dealing with multicultural families, investigate the meaning of the name in several languages. A name that says "beloved" in one tongue may say "angry" in another, for instance.
- Learn to compromise with the extended family. Just as everyone will give advice on how to get baby to sleep through the night, relatives will chime in on what to name, or not name, the baby. You can break tradition if you want to, and many siblings have fought over names for which they previously called dibs. Ms. Moss says there is a way to work it out. "It is not worth it to fight over a name," she says. "There are so many names out there."
- Finally, feel free to change your mind once you get a look at your baby's face. "I am a strong believer in not naming a child before he is born," Mrs. Belsky says. "Jared was going to be named Nathan Austin. But he was born and just did not look like a Nathan."
Names reflect cultural origins
By Karen Goldberg Goff
Many cultures have traditions that are unique, ancient, even mystical ways of bestowing names upon children.
That includes making up names. In America, two cultures in particular - the black and Mormon communities - are well-known for inventing names, says Pamela Redmond Satran, author of eight books on baby naming. Both cultures began the practice to create their own identities, Ms. Satran says.
"When slaves were first brought here, slave owners typically gave blacks biblical names that were not used by whites," she says. "Then the tradition moved into being known by the slave owners as one thing and by the family as another."
After the Civil War, naming records began to include women's names with -inda (such as Clara becoming Clarinda) as blacks began to forge an identity that was separate and unique. That segued into the practice of suffixes such as -on, -won, -quon and -el for boys (Juwon and Ronel, for example), and prefixes such as Shan-, Ka-, and La- and suffixes such as -isha and -el for girls. Examples: LaKeisha, Monisha, Danell.
"African Americans were the first in this country to start inventing names," Ms. Satran says. "In a way, whites have imitated that as they tried to find out-of-the-ordinary names."
Mormons also have given children invented names - or at least names with inventive spellings - for years, says Cari Clark, a Springfield woman who founded a Web site devoted to creative Utah baby names.
"Many times people will blend two names together to use some really wild spellings or the prefixes La- or Da-," says Mrs. Clark, who lists thousands of names on her site. "A lot of families are large, so they want each child to have a unique name. Also, many families in Utah have common names such as Clark, Smith or Young, so they try for an extraordinary given name to offset the ordinariness."
Some of the names listed by Mrs. Clark: Alinda, AndiOdette, Breawn, DeVaughn, Dwendle and Claron.
"I once had a friend named M'Lou," she says, "and I know of a Cliphane (rhymes with Tiffany)."
Other distinctive cultural practices:
- Jews with roots in Eastern Europe commonly name their child after a deceased relative. The custom is based on a superstition from the Middle Ages that the Angel of Death may mistakenly take the child away if his namesake should die. Sephardic Jews (those hailing from the Mediterranean) name their child after a living relative in order to give the youngster a role model.
- Catholic tradition is to name a child after a saint. That can be found in the United States, but also in many countries, such as Italy and throughout Latin America, where there are large numbers of Catholics.
- Many Muslim children are named after the prophet Mohammed or members of his immediate family, This is why the name Mohammed, along with its variants, is one of the most popular names in the world, says Sonia Weiss, author or "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names."
In many Eastern cultures, such as in China and India, families choose names that have great symbolical meaning. Pam Jah, a Reston woman who is originally from India, chose the names Rohit ("red") and Ankit ("conquered") for her sons. "I wanted to give them traditional Indian names;' says Mrs. Jab, whose given Indian name is Padmja ("lotus"). "A lot of times, children will be given two names, one for at school and another for at home."
Different Is Good for Utah Names
By Christy Karras (October 29, 2002 The Salt Lake Tribune)
If you live in Utah, it's likely that you know one of them -- or are one of them.
Walking the streets of Utah towns, it's likely you have at least brushed up against a BeVan, Alverta, Ra Vae or VaLoy -- or maybe you know toddlers with names like Celsey or Kadon.
For years, many Utah residents, especially Mormons, have known that naming practices here are, well, different.
For many parents, being different is precisely the point.
"A lot of people are inventive in terms of blending one parent's name with the other's, or they're inventive with prefixes. But they're also inventive with spelling. There are all sorts of spellings going on," said Bill Eggington, one of two BYU linguistics professors compiling a volume on naming practices in Mormon culture. "It's something we're really proud of."
Cleveland Kent Evans, a professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska who studies naming practices nationwide, says weird Utah names don't happen as much as the stereotype suggests. Evans did a study comparing names in Utah and Colorado (which has few Mormons) from 1980 to 1998. "The huge majority of people, of course, have names which work in either culture completely," he said. "There were some differences, but most of them were minor."
Evans was struck, though, by the increase in differences over time, a trend that suggests Utah parents are increasingly willing to give their children unique names. It may be, he says, that the stereotype becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. He compares the change with what happened in the black community during the 1960s.
”At first, whites and blacks had very similar names. But there was a stereotype that black people had different names. The black community took that idea over and made it positive: we're creative," Evans said. "The same thing may just be starting a bit with the LDS church."
Cari Clark, a Mormon and former Utahn now living in Virginia, has been collecting unusual Utah names on a Web site for years and loaned her list to KUER for the basis of a book, Raising LaVaughn, which the station is using as a thank-you gift to donors.
“It used to be kind of a parlor game we played with our friends," she said of the name collecting. "We have close to 5,000 names now. It's not meant to criticize anyone or anything; it's just a lighthearted look at a quirk in the culture."
The phenomenon may have a lot to do with the pride Mormons take in being different from the rest of the world.
"African Americans are very inventive and probably because they see themselves as a unique subculture of American culture," Eggington said. " We [Mormons] see ourselves also as a distinctive subculture of American culture, and we want to distinguish ourselves by distinctive naming practices."
Eggington and Evans say inventing names, which used to be much more common in rural areas, is gaining popularity with upper-class urbanites.
"It was once a stigmatized social practice. It seems that in the last decade or so, we've become more inventive," Eggington said. "It's no longer something the hicks do 'out there' that we don't do in the city."
Another reason for uncommon Utah names is the historical phenomenon of big families, with many relatives living in close proximity. In small Mormon communities, often founded by groups of relatives or polygamous families, it wouldn't be uncommon to have a hundred children with the same last name, Eggington said. Parents had to find ways to distinguish children from their multitude of cousins and siblings. Families who want to name kids after their forbears have limited names to choose from -- names they have to share with siblings and cousins. Thus, Grandpa Earl may spawn names like Earlette, Clark said.
From Abimelech to Zerubbabel, Biblical names pop up in Utah, dredged from the depths of those books most of us don't get to. (Ever notice how more common names come from Genesis, the first book?) This phenomenon is not unusual in places where fundamentalist Christian churches thrive, especially in the rural South.
Indeed, Utah is unusual but not unique. "The unusual names in Utah are not that different from what conservative Protestants have come up with. Mormons take over the role the Baptists and Pentecostals have in other parts of the country," Evans said. "In general, Episcopalians, the old families of Virginia, do not name their daughters JoLene, but people who go to Jerry Falwell's church are more likely."
Of course, it is likely that no one outside the LDS church is naming kids after characters in the Book of Mormon -- a practice that also appears to be on the rise, Evans said.
People may be giving their kids names they think are new but which are actually trendy. The name Madison, for example, was unheard-of, especially for girls, until the mid-1980s, when it was popularized by Daryl Hannah's mermaid in the movie "Splash." Indeed, hardly a Madison is listed in the phone books, but the name is popping up on babies and toddlers everywhere.
In fact, Madison is an excellent example of how names become popular, Evans said.
"The most popular names get that way because they fit into several popular trends at once," he said. Madison is an example of geographic names, of using last names as first names and taking names from movies and television. And its popularity is partly due to the fact that parents "still don't know anybody their own age with it," Evans said. It has the added advantage of being different, but not too different, sounding a bit like such traditional names as Allison and Megan.
"Americans in general for the last 40 years have said, 'We don't want to have a name that's too common,' " Evans said. Americans think of themselves as individualists; as we find our world becoming more homogenous, we search for ways to differentiate ourselves, he said.
Eggington cautions parents to think of all the ramifications of a unique name. Growing up in Australia, he said, "We used to think someone with a weird name was, well, weird," he said. "Here in Utah that stigma doesn't exist. It sort of lowers the barrier to being distinctive. But parents have to be careful, because everyone's going to get a weird nickname."
Clark says she knows from experience just how troublesome a different name can be and advises parents to stick with traditional names. "Be careful. You can't really predict how people are going to react to it."
Her mother "thought she was simplifying things" by shortening the traditional Carrie. But Cari Clark could never find trinkets in the store with her name on them, and she constantly met people who could not spell or pronounce her name, or who even thought she was a Carl.
"It's a bit of a burden . . . I would legally change it except that it would hurt my mother's feelings," said Clark, whose sister is named Dona, after their father, Don.
The Africa-Utah Connection
By Kurt Kragthorpe
The Salt Lake Tribune
Cedar City's telephone directory lists a DeLynn, a LaVand, a Verdell, a LaPriel, a LaWayne and a LaVoy.
Utah college football rosters include an Abu, a Nakia, a Nikia, an Aminifu, a Fareed, a Johndale and a Teneil.
Utah and African-American cultures have this in common: home-made names.
``It's quite obvious that finding a unique name for a child has become more and more of an African-American thing to do and that making up something is for a lot of African-American parents the appropriate way to name a child,'' said Cleveland Evans, a psychology professor at Nebraska's Bellevue University. ``That has become much more important in the last 30 years.''
The state's football programs offer evidence of that trend, in addition to having several Pacific Islanders with their own unique names, Weber State's top wide receivers are Taurus McGhee and Kyhaunn Woods, whose name is pronounced ``KEY-on.''
``I guess my mom just gave it to me, trying to be different,'' says Woods.
``There really isn't any story behind it, but I tend to act bullish in my ways,'' said McGhee, whose May 19 birthdate makes him an astrological Taurus, symbolized by a bull.
Utah State's leading receiver, Nakia Jenkins, says his name is not only unique to Utah but unusual for a male. ``My aunt named me, and she thought it was cute,'' Jenkins noted. ``Some people think it's cute; other people think it should be a girl's name.'' BYU, meanwhile, has a defensive back named Nikia McKinney.
Evans speaks to names like that of USU defensive back Johndale Carty by noting, ``Black Americans make up new names all the time by putting together syllables.''
Ironically, that's the classic Utah method, creating names such as LaVell and LaVern.
USU's all-time leading rusher's name has African roots: Officially, it's Abu-Bakr Latif Ezekial Wilson.
The Aggie roster also includes Aminifu Johnson, Fareed Rashada and Demario Brown. Utah cornerback Teneil Ethridge is redshirting this season.
Nationally, some of the more intriguing names include San Jose State's La Tef Grim and Ghalee Wadood, Florida State's Lavaurnes Coles, Pitt's Chiffon Allen and Lafann Williams, New Mexico's Z Hodges and Ja'Mine Rozelle, LSU's Nemesis Bates and Mississippi State's Armegis Spearman.
A Book of Mormon Names Movement?
by Cari Clark
One of our especially helpful Utah names contacts is Dr. Cleveland Evans, an associate professor of psychology at Bellevue University in Nebraska. He makes the following observations from scanning the public records for names (both national and in Utah):
"I am comparing the years 1982, 1990, and 1998, and I am personally amazed that 1998 was the one of those years with by far the most boys named after characters in the Book of Mormon.
In 1982 there were 17 Ammons, 8 Jaroms, 3 Almas, 1 Corianton, and 1 Moroni. In 1990 there were 9 Ammons, 10 Jaroms, 2 Almas, 2 Nephis, 1 Moroni, and 1 Mormon. In 1998, there were 29 Ammons, 14 Jaroms, 8 Moronis, 7 Nephis, 7 Almas, 2 Mosiahs, and 1 each Kumen, Lamoni, and Teancum.
Is there some sort of "Back to the Book of Mormon" movement going on among new parents in Utah right now?
As for girls --- in 1982, 3 Sariahs; in 1990, 5 Sariahs; and in 1998, 29 Sariahs. Of course Sariah is also somewhat of a special case; with the present great popularity of both Sarah and Mariah, Sariah would be bound to occur just because it contains fashionable sounds. [From the pop singer Mariah Carey, in case you haven't figured it out. - Wes]
And I have quite a few examples now of Sariahs being born all over the country. In most cases I think these are probably girls whose parents have independently invented the name by combining the sounds of Sarah and Mariah and have no idea that they've recreated a name from the Book of Mormon."
Oddest Utah Name? Panguitch Beats The Odds for Honor
by Phil Miller
(The Salt Lake Tribune - 14 March, 1997)
Lobbying for La Verkin or campaigning for Koosharem won't do any good. The decision is in, the envelope opened: Panguitch owns Utah's oddest name. So says Neil Swanson, though he acknowledges he never has visited the Garfield County hamlet.
And why should you take the word of a 78-year-old retired minister from Nevada, Mo., someone who wouldn't know a Lynndyl from a Levan or a Bicknell from a Blanding? Good question. Even Swanson says so. ''If someone else had done the picking, probably most of the names would be different from mine,'' he concedes. But someone else did not spend two years of his spare time picking through U.S. atlases, making lists of peculiar city names and researching their histories. Swanson did, and the result is Odd & Peculiar, in more ways than one. It's the title of his new book, which traces origins of the nation's strangest city names, one for each state (two in the four states where he could not make up his mind).
Oh, the Places He Went: He searched for communities with unusual names that had good stories to go with them. He found plenty of unique places, from Ninety Six, S.C., and What Cheer, Iowa, to Uz, Ky., and Zap, N.D. In fact, the book gets its name from two of those places -- Odd, W.Va., and Peculiar, Mo. As Swanson says, that's better than naming a book for Nameless, Tenn.
Swanson made an exception to his informal criteria when it came to Utah. He tried not to choose cities with American Indian names, figuring they wouldn't be odd to the people who named them. But he chose Panguitch, anyway. The name is derived from the Paiute words for ''water'' and ''fish,'' which Swanson decided was unusual in naming a town in any language. ''The fishing must be awfully good in that lake,'' he said. OK, he's the expert. Panguitch is a distinctive name. And not many towns are named for fish. Who can quibble?
''It doesn't seem peculiar at all to us,'' said Karen Swanger as she minded the Panguitch post office. ''I've lived here 20 years, and it doesn't strike me as strange. I'd say Kanarraville seems stranger.'' Clearly, peculiarity is difficult to quantify. For instance, a place named La Verkin, named for a Spanish pronunciation of the nearby Virgin River, may seem goofy to one person, but not to La Verkins. ''Familiarity makes a difference,'' said La Verkin Postmaster Steve Wilcock. ''It's home. It's not strange. Toquerville seems a lot stranger. And Paragonah is stranger than that.''
And sure, naming a city for a fish is unusual, but how about naming one for a potato? That's what they did in Koosharem, which comes from an Indian word for ''edible tuber.'' Talk of the Town: Utah has plenty of other good origin stories, too, like the town that was named by a 2-year-old child. When townspeople in the Kane County community couldn't agree on a suitable moniker in 1912, they decided to settle the question at a town social. Residents dropped their suggestions into a hat. A child reached in and drew the winner, and Alton, named after Alton Fjord in Norway, was created.
Or how about Bicknell and Blanding, towns that foretold the trend of selling naming rights to big donors? Once known as Thurber and Grayson, the towns changed their names in 1914 after Rhode Islander Thomas Bicknell donated 500-volume libraries to each. Blanding was the maiden name of Bicknell's wife.
Then there's Levan, which old-timers insist got its name because the Juab County town is in the center, or navel, of Utah. Levan is navel spelled backward. Is the story true? ''We don't really know for sure,'' said Mayor Connie Dubinsky. ''But that's what we tell people.''
There are more, too. Ephraim, Tooele and Annabella could challenge Panguitch for most peculiar. Swanson concedes the point. In fact, he embraces it. "People have suggested so many other names, I'm already working on a sequel."
Oh My Heck, Flippin' Fetch Isn't Really Swearing, Is It?By Bob Mims
The Salt Lake Tribune (Saturday, 29 April 2000)
You slam on the brakes, rattling both your car and nerves, when yet another rush-hour idiot cuts you off. And as the air-conditioner conks out and you roll down the window to choking exhaust from the bus in the next lane, you can feel it coming.
Irresistible, the rage rises from that hot knot in your stomach, accelerates through a growling throat and then explodes through your lips with volcanic fury. It is The Word, and it escapes in a rolling bellow at the Fates: "FUDGE!"
Welcome to Utah, where even profanity is done in moderation.
To be sure, more hard-core cussing is no stranger to Utahns' ears. Still, in a state that is 70 percent Mormon, a plethora of less-offensive colloquialisms have been crafted to satisfy the urge to verbally vent. Open your ears and it won't be long before you hear "Oh my heck" ("Oh my freaking heck," for especially notable occasions). "Oh Gash." "Oh my holy crap." "Dang it." "Judas Priest." "H-E-double hockey sticks (or toothpicks)." "Oh yeah? Well you're a horse's p'toot."
The rejoinder could be, "Am not, but you're just ignorant" (pronounced: "ignernt," and meaning not so much mentally vacuous as just plain rude).
"Ah, scrud . . . suds . . . sheesh," might be the appropriate counter-reply.
But the favorite substitutes flirt with the acknowledged Mother of All Swear Words, the utilitarian four-letter Anglo-Saxon standby that begins with the soft "f" sound and ends with an abrupt consonantal click. There is "Flip," and like its X-rated progenitor useful as noun, pronoun, adjective, verb, adverb or space-filling modifier. An example of the latter is Mapleton resident Roger Comstock's recent admonishment of his City Council: " . . . when it comes to replacing our Police Department, abso -- flippin' -- lutely you need our permission."
Don't forget the aforementioned "Freak" and its variations, or "Fetch." Gordon Allred, an English professor at Weber State University, offered yet another soft-core "f" word candidate. "One of my friends who returned from a mission to France . . . was addicted to the word 'funch' with such variations as 'funchy' and
'funchin'," he recalled. "He used the word so frequently, in all three forms, that I finally nicknamed him 'Funch.'"
Allred's own mission, some 50 years ago in Canada, found creative LDS Church missionaries fond of "Scrud," and for special emphasis, "Scrud Oh Dear!"
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked for comment on the Mormon euphemisms, skirted clear of direct condemnation. Spokesman Dale Bills would only say that the faith "teaches its members to use language that lifts and inspires others and that honors God's commandment to not take his name in vain. "Church members are encouraged to avoid the use of profanity and any foul language that shows a lack of respect for God, self and others." That being the case, Alexander Baugh, an assistant professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, defends "alternative words" as an acceptable means of expressing intense feelings.
"After all, 'heck' takes on a whole different feeling than 'hell.' I don't see that [heck] as profanity in itself," Baugh said. "No one would condemn me or gasp if I said some of those [substitute] words instead of the real four-letter variety."
However, the late J. Golden Kimball might smirk. Memorialized in Utah folklore, the Mormon general authority was called to the First Council of the Seventy in 1892 and spent the next five decades lacing his talks liberally with "hells" and "damns."
Among dozens of "J. Golden" stories is one in which LDS Church President Heber J. Grant tried to tame the former cowboy-turned-elder's tongue by writing a radio speech for Kimball and ordering him to read it. However, once on the air, Kimball struggled with Grant's handwriting and finally exclaimed, "Hell, Heber, I can't read this damn thing."
Baugh admits that had Kimball substituted "heck" and "darn," it just wouldn't be as funny. Still, the days of swearing Mormon churchmen has passed. "There is no way today that any type of that language would be acceptable," the professor said. Perhaps not, but that does not eliminate the desire indeed, the need to "express deep emotion by breaking the linguistic boundaries," said John McLaughlin, an assistant professor of English at Utah State University. "Within this community the main profanity words still carry a strong social taboo against them much stronger than other segments of society, or even other segments of the country," he said. "However, people here still need the emotional release of words that flirt with the boundaries."
Marianna Di Paolo, chairwoman of the University of Utah's linguistics department, agrees that local euphemisms may skirt the realm of the truly obscene. The intent, though, is the same as that behind the words that may have led to a bar soap snack in years past. "We all know that 'heck' means 'hell,' " she said. "When someone yells, 'Fudge!' we all know they don't mean, 'give me more chocolate.' But we tolerate it in this society because we feel that next to the other words, it's not that bad," Di Paolo said.
Still, there is a danger that someday even "fudge" through its repeated usage as a sort of PG-rated expletive will also be a word no longer uttered in polite society.
"In years to come, we might wonder how this word that means 'chocolate confection' came to have such a horribly profane meaning," Di Paolo said. "Well, we would find it was by sound identification [with the original F-word]."
Trendy Baby Names a Sign of Group Think?The Latest Trends in Baby Names May Annoy People in Adulthood
By LAUREN COX, ABCNews.com
Dec. 4, 2009
In the future, names like Dick, Jane and Mary may sound exotic to the ears of the little Emmas, Ethans and Madisons who are just starting kindergarten now.
Since the 1960s, whole sets of names seem to rise and then burst in popularity bubbles faster than the stock market. Many parents are surprised to find out that the seemingly unique name they picked for their child is shared by what seems like half the kindergarten class.
According to the Social Security Administration, differed in popularity, many of the new names were virtually unheard of 15 years ago -- many were not even in the top 1,000 baby names.
New York City just released its top 10 names of 2008 this week and they were, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene:
GIRLS: Sophia, Isabella, Emily, Olivia, Sarah, Madison, Ashley, Mia, Samantha and Emma.
BOYS: Jayden, Daniel, Michael, Matthew, David, Joshua, Justin, Anthony, Christopher, Ethan and Ryan (tie).
Names differed in popularity by ethnicity -- for example, among Asian Americans in New York, Sophia was the most popular name, among Hispanic parents, Ashley was number one, for black parents, it was Madison and white parents chose either Olivia or Esther.
For a list of the most popular names nationwide, visit the Social Security Administration Web site.
The trend makes for an interesting time in preschool, but psychologists, economists and authors who study names say parents should beware -- picking the wrong name can seriously hurt your child from teasing in childhood to hurting job prospects as adults.
"Really, it's been emerging over the last century, but in the past 50 and 60 years & there's been a shift& from names being a tradition or accustomed to, to being 'anything goes,'" said Todd M. Gureckis who co-authored a study "How You Named Your Child: Understanding the Relationship Between Individual Decision Making and Collective Outcomes" with professor Robert Goldstone in the journal Topics in Cognitive Science this October.
Gureckis researched how these trends in baby names develop. He found that in the early 1800s, the United States baby names fluctuated up and down year to year. The collection of names stayed relatively static, however, because names were considered traditional.
How Do Baby Name Trends Begin?
"Certain names were popular and certain names were less popular," said Gureckis. But, "they would pass their name down from their grandfathers."
By the 1960s, Gureckis found naming traditions slowly started to change, and by the 1980s, people were naming children according to which names had "momentum."
So, while Opal was popular in 1885, chances are that it would be less popular in 1886, and bounce back in 1887. But if Kimberly was popular in 1983, chances were that it was going to get more popular in 1984, and in 1985, in 1986 and so on.
Moreover, many parents who think they are being individualistic in their choice of a name are unaware of how they are influenced by society when they set out to pick a unique name, researchers say.
The difference, Gureckis theorizes, is that, without tradition, people start to take their naming cues from others around them -- even if it's an unconscious process.
"People may discount the degree to which there's a name environment that we live in everyday: You go around, you meet people, you hear names in the news, on the radio," said Gureckis. "Even if you go look at baby name books, that name environment is going to bias you."
So, if a couple somehow feels "Olivia" has a distinctive ring to it, Gureckis said it's likely their neighbors down the street felt the same way.
Names can die off, too, especially when a name gets too popular too fast. Gureckis said other researchers have shown that it will likely die out quickly. "For example, Nevaeh really grew dramatically and because of its rocket growth, it might disappear in the next couple of years," said Gureckis. Nevaeh is "heaven" spelled backwards.
In that way, Gureckis argues that baby names could be an easy marker for how many "motifs," artistic sensibilities or even ideas change in our culture and influence one another.
Jeff Bradley, author of the book "Hello, My Name Is& A Guide to Naming Your Baby," noticed these trendy names carry a stigma, too.
"It's a great way to show you what your parents were watching on TV," said Bradley. "I think it kind of dates people. If your name is Beyonce, then 20 years from now, 30 years from now, people are going to have you pegged."
Adapting Baby Names From TV
Parents of all of the newly named "Emmas" may have been influenced by an episode of the TV sitcom "Friends," where two characters name a baby Emma.
Similarly, parents of an "Aiden" may have been subconsciously influenced by the "Sex and the City" character Aidan Shaw. However, Aiden might have already been influencing the writers of "Sex and the City."
The show debuted in 1998, but the baby name Aiden shot up out of obscurity starting in 1994. It went from not being listed in 1993 to 935th most popular in 1994, 545th most popular in 1998 and 16th most popular name in 2008, according to the Social Security Administration.
Coincidentally, another Aiden Shaw, a popular British porn star and author, shot to stardom in his field in the early 1990s. ABC News asked readers whether they liked their names, and a number of people clamored to report that they felt "dated" by their once-trendy name.
"It's WAY too common," wrote in an Ashley from Jefferson City, Mo. "I was born in 1984 and my mom was really into "The Young and the Restless" soap opera. Needless to say, that's where she first heard of the name Ashley, and hence, I got my name. Little did she know thousands upon thousands would follow from that same year!"
Others suffered from creative spellings, another side effect from the anything-goes naming culture that Bradley noticed in his book.
Tabbitha from Cleveland, Ohio, wrote that she can't stand her name, in part, because of the spelling. "It's very rare for me to meet someone new without them asking me if I can wiggle my nose (Tabitha was the name of the nose-wiggling daughter on the TV show "Bewitched"). It gets really old after 20 years! Not to mention my mom decided to spell it differently, so no one ever gets it right," she wrote.
"I try to tell people, remember, you're not just naming a cuddly little baby. You're naming a high school student on the track team, you're naming an adult, a future professor, one day, you're naming an 80-year-old," said Bradley.
Bradley says the creative spellings have, for the large part, created big problems for children as they grew older. Creative spellings are perhaps even more common than the parents who make up their own names.
For regional differences, Bradley guesses Utah is the most unusual. While writing his book, he came across a Mormon couple who noted all the strange and unusual names among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in their area. A full listing can be found at their Web site, but a sampling from Bradley's book includes: Tchae, Xko, Corx, G'ni, Vvhs, Garn, Ka, Deauxti, Xymoya, Sha'Kira, Zy, Xela, Nivek, Zon'tl, Zagg, Xan, Judziah Datz (a female, named after a "Star Trek" character), K'lar (ditto), Jarna Nazhalena, Chod, Xarek, Grik, Stod, T'Shara, Tral, Sherik and Curg.
When You're Discriminated Against Because of Your Name
Besides strange looks and spelling questions, some research has shown that people with creative names from African American communities face discrimination as they grow up and enter the professional world.
In 2004, Roland Fryer, an economist and assistant professor at Harvard University, worked with ABC News' "20/20" to demonstrate the bias some people face with a "black-sounding" name.
The crew sent out 22 pairs of identical resumes, the only difference being the name. The "white-sounding" names were downloaded 17 percent more often by job recruiters than the resumes with names popular with African Americans.
A woman named Tinisha from Greensboro, N.C., wrote to ABCNews.com, saying she felt similar discrimination. "I hate my first name because it is uncommon. My name, I feel, identifies me before I can introduce myself and people can learn who I really am," she wrote.
"I have lost out on job interviews and internships, I feel, because they see my ethnic first name. I asked my mother why she gave me that name that would make it harder for me in the professional community, and her statement was that she thought it was beautiful and I should just get over it. Maybe..."
Others writing in to ABCNews.com to gripe had names that included: Tamela, Caryl (a man), Randal (a woman), Remarse, Keesha, Kate, Griffin, Tereve, ChaRee, Belva, Erich, Thelenna, Royann and Hedy.
Some people, however, still seem to relish the unusual names they were given. A "Diane Charlotte" from Houston, Texas, wrote that she loved her name.
Top Ten Baby Names in Utah for 2004From Theresa Husarik,
Your Guide to Salt Lake City, Utah, October 9 2005
If you are in a quandary for what to call your new baby, you might want to find out what other people in Utah are naming their babies. According to the Social Security Administration, these are the top ten names given to new tiny people in 2004. Of course, keep in mind that you can always take the common name and give it its own unique spelling to make the name truly individual.
Top Ten Baby Names in Utah for 2004
Rank Male Name Female Name
1 Ethan Emma
2 Jacob Madison
3 Joshua Emily
4 Samuel Olivia
5 Andrew Abigail
6 William Hannah
7 Isaac Samantha
8 Tyler Brooklyn
9 Benjamin Elizabeth
10 Nathan Sarah