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June 07, 2013

What's in a Name?

A lot, apparently:

Quick, make a guess: Are Liam's parents Obama voters, or did they pull for John McCain? How about Kurt's mom and dad?

If your gut suggested that Kurt's parents might swing conservative while Liam's are liberal, congratulations. A new study of baby names does, indeed, show that parents in liberal neighborhoods are more likely to choose softer, more feminine sounds, such as "L," for their babies' names, while conservative parents go for macho-sounding K's, B's and D's.

The same research finds that liberal, well-educated parents are more likely to pick obscure names for their children, while conservative, well-educated parents take a more conventional naming path. Both methods seem to be a way of signaling status, said study researcher Eric Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago — though it's unlikely parents realize what they're doing.

...The results revealed that overall, the less educated the parent, the more likely they were to give their child either an uncommon name (meaning fewer than 20 children got the same name that year in California), or a unique name (meaning only one child got that name in 2004 in California). When parents had less than a college education, there were no major ideological differences in naming choice.

However, among college-educated whites, politics made a difference. College-educated moms and dads in the most liberal neighborhoods were twice as likely as college-educated parents in the most conservative neighborhoods to give their kids an uncommon name. Educated conservatives were more likely to favor popular names, which were defined as names in the top 100 in California that year.

For boys, 46 percent got a popular name in conservative areas, compared with 37 percent in liberal areas. For girls, 38 percent were given a popular name in conservative neighborhoods, compared with 30 percent in liberal neighborhoods.

Notably, the kinds of uncommon names chosen by upper-class liberals differed from the unusual names picked by people of lower socioeconomic status, Oliver said. Lower-status moms tend to invent names or pick unusual spellings of common names (Andruw instead of Andrew, for example). [10 Scientific Tips for Raising Happy Kids]

"Educated liberal mothers are not making names up," Oliver said. "They're choosing more culturally obscure names, like Archimedes or Finnegan — or, in our case, we named our daughter Esme."

That seems almost cruel.

Posted by Cassandra at June 7, 2013 05:07 AM

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This liberal approach can backfire if taken too far. I've heard of this boy named Sue, for example...

Posted by: Grim at June 7, 2013 09:44 AM

I read a book on the psychological connotation of various names...while waiting at an airport on a business trip, I was telling a colleague about it:

"Yeah, they found that the *absolute worst* name in the whole set was 'Bertha'..."

Elderly lady sitting near us:

"I quite agree. That is my name, and it's been a burden to me for my entire life."

Tactful Dave strikes again!

Posted by: david foster at June 7, 2013 10:02 AM

One of my female relatives' given name was "Ethel." She changed it as part of getting married, and was deeply relieved to be rid of it -- but, of course, it's a name whose roots could not be more noble.

Posted by: Grim at June 7, 2013 10:08 AM

When my son and his wife were expecting their first child they (well, she mostly) were trying out a whole string of truly weird names for the kid. I finally took my son aside and reminded him that the child would have to live with the name the rest of her life; and that naming her after relatives could bear fruit in increased affection etc. That worked, and has done so with the other three.

It is not, IMO, surprising that lefties tend to pick strange names for their children. It is yet another way of inflicting their overweening ego on other people.

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at June 7, 2013 10:08 AM

With the wedding just 50 days away, the fiance and I have had conversations about what we might name any children we may have. He has a name he'd like to give any daughter we are blessed with, and it is one I think it pretty (Laura Marie). Since he has one he want to use for a daughter, he said I could come up with one for a son. I'm not sure what I'd go with. Nothing weird (no "Apple" or "Moonunit" for me, thankyouverymuch). Do I pick a family name (from either side?), do I select one with a nod to ethic heritage (his surname is Scots, mine is German, and I know I also have Irish & Norwegian ancestry, as well)? I guess I'll just wait until the situation arises where I really need one :-P

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 7, 2013 10:46 AM

I have always been rather fond of "Hepzibah", or "Ezekial" or "Jedidiah" if it's a boy :p

Seriously, I'm with Capt. Mongo. I was greatly enamored of "Fiona" for a girl, but the spouse and I could not agree on a girl's name. Probably just as well as we ended up with two boys (who have very traditional names). You can always have a bit of fun with the middle name, though that has its drawbacks too.

My middle name was Wallace (family name). The spousal unit used to enjoy sending me letters at school addressed to "Wally". It's a good thing he's bigger than I am :p

Posted by: Cass at June 7, 2013 11:03 AM

Tactful Dave strikes again!

I can sympathize :) Originally I had a wisecrack at the end of this post but I deleted it at the last minute. It would be just my luck to make fun of someone's name and end up offending a reader!

Posted by: Cass at June 7, 2013 11:05 AM

One of my female relatives' given name was "Ethel."

One of my grandmothers was named, "Ione". Now that's a name one doesn't hear often nowadays!

Posted by: Cass at June 7, 2013 11:07 AM

The oldest son used to joke around about naming their firstborn, "Justice" or "Law" :p

Posted by: Cass at June 7, 2013 11:08 AM

With the wedding just 50 days away,

Woo hoo, Miss Ladybug! :) Are you getting excited?

As far as boys' names, I don't know how common this is, but I had intuitions when I was pregnant. I had always assumed that I'd have roughly the same list of possible names for both pregnancies, but I actually had a sense of what both my boys would be like before they were born and the names I had picked out the first time around didn't seem suitable for our second, even though I still liked them.


Posted by: Cass at June 7, 2013 11:11 AM

My Pop managed to cause quite a stir when he suggested his sister name her first born son Jay.
Course, her last name was Byrd....

Posted by: DL Sly at June 7, 2013 11:43 AM

Well, he WOULD come out in a manner befitting his name, Sly.

Posted by: MikeD at June 7, 2013 12:51 PM

My parents were going to name me Jefferson Davis, when they still held out hope for a boy after two girls. They still gave me the middle name of "Lee," not "Leigh" or "Leah."

My mother's name was Myra Marcene, and my stepmother's was Ida Claudine. That's 1920s semi-rural names for you. Their contemporaries had names like Corene, Allene, and Lucille. My grandmother's name was Myrtle. The men got names that have better stood the test of time, like John, Charles, Joseph, and Robert.

But I have to put in a good word for Archimedes. He (she?) could go by "Archie" and still have a fine formal version.

I met a young woman at the polls a couple of years ago named Hephzibah. I think that's a fine name.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 7, 2013 12:59 PM

Yea, Mike, Pop was always a smarta$$ when it came to stuff like that. Believe me, Jay was the least of the snarkastic names he came up with.

The VES' first name was known to me years before I even met MH. It comes from a character in a favorite book. Her middle name, Desiree', took some experimentation to come up with, though.

And, Princess? The VES' fav toy as a baby was a stuffed alligator named.....

Posted by: DL Sly at June 7, 2013 02:03 PM

Wally is a proud and honorable name :p

My parents used to joke about naming me "Candy". This is a lot funnier if you know my real maiden name :p

Posted by: Cass at June 7, 2013 02:46 PM

"That seems almost cruel" - then there was the very famous Texas lady, Ms. Ima Hogg - parents had no sense of anything, but she was a d*** fine lady.

Posted by: Grumpy Curmudgeon at June 7, 2013 02:58 PM

"...if you know my real maiden name :p"

You mean it's not Cream Cheese Danish Bikini?
That does *work*, afterall.

Posted by: DL Sly at June 7, 2013 04:14 PM

I've heard of twins named Lemongelo and Orangelo.

Also Hedda Cabbage and Ophelia Butts.

Posted by: david foster at June 7, 2013 05:36 PM

Could have been worse - Ophelia could have been named Seymour.

Posted by: Princess Leia in a Cheese Danish Bikini at June 7, 2013 05:44 PM

Especially for Ophelia....
Course, maybe Grim coulda introduced her to the dude named Sue he mentioned.

Posted by: DL Sly at June 7, 2013 06:02 PM

I'm the eldest son, of an eldest son, of an eldest son . . . don't actually know how far back it goes. My Father's name was James Lewis H******, his Father's name was James Oscar H. Apparently Pop intended to name me James as well, but his sister had a son first and named him James.
Cousin Jim is a great guy btw, perhaps the finest man of my generation I've ever known.

My son's name is James Stanley (for FIL) H, and he is an eldest child . . . and a much nicer guy than I.

As one ages, it has been my experience that one's perspective on many issues changes, as one gains an appreciation of the longer view.

Best Regards,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at June 7, 2013 10:33 PM

My brother has a friend with the last name of Downs. He wanted to name his son "Upson". His wife wouldn't let him. But she allowed his second choice. "Ty".

Posted by: MikeD at June 10, 2013 09:32 AM