The 1982 movie Blade Runner featured a dark view of the future, with an urban landscape overwhelmed by advertising. The hallmark of the year 2019 was to be vast, omniprescent plugs for the likes of Pan Am airlines and the Bell telephone system. As it turned out, of course, neither company survived the 20th century.
Of all the cultural attitudes that define an era, one of the quickest to fall out of date is its vision of the future. Commonplace things we take for granted can disappear, while fantastical ideas become commonplace. (Right now I'm sitting in a cafe, typing on the powerful little computer I carry in my shoulder bag, beaming this message through the air so that it can be published instantly to the computers of people around the world as I sip my coffee. Not as cool as replicants, maybe, but pretty close.)
Selecting a new, contemporary-sounding name is stating your vision of the fashion future. It's a risky business, staying ahead of the curve. What sounds most new today can end up sounding most old in a few generations time. Take the young boys named Google and ESPN...will they sound like Pan Am a decade from now?
Rapid obsolesence most often hits names that pop up overnight in response to a cultural moment. Consider Farrah:
Farrah was a pure creation of the 1976-77 television season, when Farrah Fawcett made a splash on "Charlie's Angels." As soon as she left the show, the name plummeted. A modest rebound hit in the late '80s following Fawcett's comeback in more "serious" fare like Extremities...and the coming of age of all the young girls who idolized her a decade before. Yet overall, the impression this name gives is of a date stamp reading "Best if Born Before 1/1/78."
An example from another era, Hoover:
Hoover vacuum cleaners were already a household name when Herbert Hoover ran for president in 1928, but that didn't stop American parents from bestowing the name on their newborn sons. (Herbert had nothing to do with vacuums himself, that company was the work of one W.H. Hoover.)
The cultural associations of names like Hoover and Farrah help freeze them in time. While Farrah is a snapshot image of feathered hair and polyester, Hoover brings up a more poignant picture of the start of the Great Depression. That image is reiforced by another icon of the era, Herbert's namesake Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. The dam was built between 1931 and 1935. By 1933 Roosevelt was in office and tried to erase Hoover's name from the project, just as political change erased the name from America's nurseries.
There's something quite touching about these date-stamped names. They're living memorials to the time when a baby entered the world. In fact, many parents surely intend them as such -- the Neils born after Neil Armstrong's moon walk, the Dougs and McArthurs of the World War II years. So a date stamp isn't necessarily a cause for alarm...just don't expect to be able to lie about your age.