The Name Most Likely To...
Some names, like Elmo or Miley, are dominated by a single association. Others, like Robert or Michelle, have such a wide array of associations that none can dominate. But are there names with multiple associations that all point in the same direction?
I've had ample opportunity to consider that question over the past few months. For the next edition of my book, I'm adding a section to each Name Snapshot called "In the World." This is a brief rundown of the associations Americans are most likely to have with a name: prominent people, in most cases, but sometimes fictional characters, product names, or common phrases and sayings. I hope this will work as a kind of shorthand for the name's place in our culture.
To choose the "In the World" examples, I've strapped on my pith helmet and observed names out in the wild. I have multiple sources I consult to find the most common references, and actual humans I turn to for backup. (Yes, doing this for 1,700 names is a wee bit time consuming. And yes, that giant object you see hanging over my head is my publisher's deadline.)
So here's a starter list of name superlatives, based on real-life uses.
Funniest name: Seth
Have you laughed at Knocked up, Family Guy, "Weekend Update" or Robot Chicken? Thank a Seth. Specifically Seth Rogen, Seth MacFarlane, Seth Meyers, or Seth Green.
Most Unaccountably Invisible Name: Trudy
25,000 American women have been named Trudy, and thousands more around the world. Then there are the many Gertrudes who were called Trudy. So, name one. Not anybody you've personally met -- somebody famous. OK, there's that supporting character on Mad Men, but is that really the best we can do? (Runner up: Leah.)
Most Unexpectedly Tough Name: Bruce
Rocky? Tough. Jack? Giant-killing. But Bruce? Just ask Bruce Lee, Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Campbell, Bruce Willis, Bruce Smith, or Batman himself, Bruce Wayne.
Sexiest Name: Sha*a
A curious thing happened when I got to the Sh- section of the book. I was inundated with porn stars. Names like Shawna, Shayla, Shana, Shayna, Shyla, Shauna and friends turn out to be wildly overrepresented in stage names of "adult entertainers."
Let me make it clear, I'm not saying that's a typical line of work for a Shayla or Shawna. These popular names are borne by thousands of women in all walks of life. And besides, the porn stars aren't even "real" Shylas and Shaunas. But in a way, that's even more informative. It tells us that professionals in the business of selling sex appeal believe that the Sha*a names are hot 'n' steamy, and presumably they'd know.