On names and their significance
0 comment Thursday, May 22, 2014 |
Or are they significant?
I hope nobody will mind a brief diversion into something less weighty -- the subject of names. If you've read this blog very long, you will know I am sort of a student of names, including the history of names, naming trends, names in the context of culture and ethnicity, and so on. To me, at least, it's a fascinating subject.
This article from LiveScience.com discusses 'The Most Hated Baby Names in America.' According to the writer, among the most hated of today's popular names are 'Jayden, Brayden, Addison and Madison.' Those certainly are popular in these parts; I can't count the number of young children I know of who have one of those names, under some spelling or another.
Other hated names:
The most commonly cited name that put people's teeth on edge was Nevaeh, or "heaven" spelled backward. That name didn't exist until the 1990s, but it took off in popularity in 2003, shooting from the 150th most common baby name in that year to the 31st most popular in 2007 (as of 2009, it stood at No. 34).
"Nevaeh in particular seems to stand as this symbol � for what people don't like in modern baby names," Laura Wattenberg, author of "The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby" (Three Rivers Press, 2005), told LiveScience.''
I've heard of several 'Nevaehs' too. It's a cringe-inducing name for me, mainly because it is so very affected and artificial. Actually my first thought was that it was the name of a skin cream.
The attitudes on names were collected from various sources, apparently internet forums and fan boards.
''Wattenberg is quick to point out that the survey isn't scientific, but it does have the advantage of capturing the names people spontaneously hate. A formal survey that gave people an option to rank names would likely bias people by putting ideas into their heads, Wattenberg said.
The survey also turned up a few interesting trends. The first is that people hate gender-bending names, particularly when a masculine name becomes feminine, as with Madison (which tied for second-most-hated for boys with 16 separate mentions) and Addison (which tied for sixth with eight mentions). They also hate names they can't spell, including Kaitlyn, which got eight mentions and tied for sixth. (People say "Caitlin" is fine because it's traditional, Wattenberg said, though the original Irish pronunciation of that spelling would be closer to "Kathleen.")
Wow, somebody who finally comprehends that the name 'Caitlin' was not originally pronounced as 'kate-lynn' but as something more similar to Kathleen. I don't think many people call their daughters Katelyn or any of its myriad variants nowadays; it's old hat, having appeared out of nowhere in the 80s. Granted it is a traditional Irish name, a form of Catherine, but it was unknown in this country until around the 1980s. I always wondered why it suddenly became so popular, especially since from its earliest usage in this country, it was mispronounced.
It appears that people must have encountered the name in print rather than hearing it spoken, hence the mispronunciation. Where were they suddenly reading the name? I would guess that some young parents, being fans of Dylan Thomas as many were then, read of his wife 'Caitlin'. They mistakenly thought the name Welsh because Thomas himself was Welsh, but Caitlin Thomas (nee MacNamara) was decidedly Irish, of an old Clare family. Still, if you read baby name books from the 80s onward, you will read that the name 'Caitlin' is a Welsh name. And thus it will always be considered in this country, or at least as long as the name is in use -- not long, probably, in such a trend-driven country as ours. It's already been displaced by names like the popular 'unisex' names, surnames which are suddenly the hottest thing for baby girls. The second paragraph in the quote above shows this: names like Addison (Addisyn, etc.) and Madison. Other, more overtly masculine-sounding surnames given as first names are the ones that irk me: names like Hunter, Tanner, Gunner, etc., being given to little girls are an abomination, in my opinion, and I blame it on feminism and the new ideal of women being 'able to do anything males can do.' And it isn't just avowed feminists who pick these 'cute' masculine names for their little girls; most women buy into feminism to some extent, whether they would label themselves feminists or not. It's just taken for granted now, the whole 'unisex' egalitarian thing. Notice in movies how many action or sci-fi movies have the 'tough chick' -- who is of course sexy, too.
And as the article points out, those originally masculine sounding surnames, at first given to boys, usually become feminine names over time, and then suddenly boys are carrying around names that are now considered 'cute' names for little budding feminist girls. Think of the guys (and there were many) given names like Tracy, Kelly, Stacy, Ashley, Brook, Kim, etc. back in mid-20th century. Now their names are considered women's names. I had an Uncle Aubrey, now passed on, but today Aubrey is seemingly becoming one of those now-feminine names.
As far as the '-son' surnames given as feminine names, our blogging compatriot Mostly Cajun in his 'Name Game' posts, often notes the absurdity of calling your little girl somebody's 'son.'
Giving males a family surname as a first name used to be fairly common among prestigious families; if you had a surname as a first name, it usually meant that you were a descendant of that family. Now it means nothing in particular, except that the parent liked the sound of the name or its association with some vapid celebrity.
There seems to be an upsurge in traditional names, often Biblical or otherwise archaic sounding names for babies, but those are still nowhere near as popular as they once were. Some more obscure Biblical names have found new popularity, names like Javan or Caleb. (Sadly, distant relatives of mine called their daughter 'Caleb'.)
But novelty seems to be the main factor in the trends these days; everybody wants to be unique and 'special' and yet in their desire to be original, the majority seem to be choosing names that other 'unique' families are choosing for their children.
I notice that black naming fashions seem to be carrying over into White society. Blacks have long had a tendency to make names up out of thin air, and to create affected and 'fancy' spellings. The latest trend is toward hyphens in the middle of first names, like Ra-Heem, and then there are the popular apostrophes, in names like D'Shelle and D'Shaun or Ty'quial. Invented names and invented spelling (and punctuation marks too) seem to have caught on among a certain group of White parents, too. Names which are misspelled or misunderstood (like 'Chastisy') are being given to White children too.
Names are a part of our ethnic/racial/national heritage, and I favor giving names that are names from your own blood lineage, from past generations, or at least a name that goes with your surname. Pairing up two very disparate names, from two different heritages, seems very awkward at best, and at times, even laughable, but it happens, in large part because parents pick names for very frivolous or arbitrary reason. Oftentimes they choose names that satisfy their own desire for attention or cachet, not thinking how the name will be perceived. And does anybody consider the original meaning of a name before bestowing it on their child? For instance, the people who named their daughter 'Caleb.' Caleb means 'dog.' Granted, most people probably wouldn't know that, but how about picking names with some thought for their meaning?
Is naming a trivial issue? To some, probably, but I think it's a serious business, as our names are part of our heritage. Each people has a store of names that are entwined with the history and the deeds and the soul of their people, and these are the names a healthy, proud group of people would favor, not ad-libbed, synthetic names or the name of today's celebrity who will be a has-been tomorrow.
We've talked before about how the most common surnames are changing in accordance with the demographic displacement of our folk, and soon, surnames like Martinez and Garcia will take the place of the Smiths and Joneses and the Andersons. I suppose unless things change, our given names will reflect the change too, as English-speaking people start to name their babies exotic names instead of the time-honored names of our past.
The name trends of today reflect the deracination of our people, and their rootlessness in many cases, their deculturation. It's not a happy thing to witness, much as we might joke about it or treat it frivolously.

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