Just when you were getting all comfortable with the idea of 2009, it's time to look back at the year that was. What names broke through in 2008 in movies, music, world events? Where were styles heading? What were the baby names that defined the times -- and the names the times left behind?
The annual Baby Name Pool is your chance to test your baby name acumen against hundreds of your name-loving peers. Just pick three names you think rose in popularity in 2008, and three you think fell. When the U.S. government releases its official name stats in May, I'll tally the results and present the top scorers to the world for fawning acclaim! Or at least a quiet round of internet applause.
If you haven't played before, you can read more details and check out some of the past names that made for winning entries (2007, 2006, 2005) to get a sense of how name fashions operate. Then convince your friends and coworkers to enter with you, to secure local bragging rights. This is an equal-opportunity contest, by the way; we've had male and female winners.
All entries must be received by April 15. Think of it as a fun antidote to tax filing.
Once upon a time in a career far, far away, I designed employee benefit enrollment software.
Are you yawning yet? The job was actually a lot of fun, but I know the score: understanding the difference between an HMO, PPO and POS isn't hot cocktail party material. Sure, every November at open enrollment time a few friends might call up to ask whether they should take the optional long-term disability upgrade. (Yes, they should.) But most of the time, the expertise I gleaned stayed in its own little box. It was work to leave at the office.
Today, I don't have an office. It's just as well, though, because my work would never stay there. That's the nature of names: they're everywhere, on everyone, part of everything. And I can't ignore them.
It's my own pathetic superpower -- I can hear names talking. Oh, do they talk. Turn on the radio, open the newspaper, and the names just chatter away, distracting me from the real subject matter. A while back, I tried to record a typical morning in Baby Name Wizard land:
News story says: Barack Obama nominates New York housing commissioner Shaun Donovan to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Laura hears: Shaun? We have a cabinet secretary named Shaun? OK, it's official, my generation is full-scale grownups. Maybe I should do something responsible to mark the occasion. No seriously, Shaun??
Jokey Hanukah song on the radio says: "Melvin and Martha are coming over to say Happy Hanukah."
Laura hears: Martha is supposed to sound like a stereotypical Jewish lady? This song stinks.
Theater review says: In one of the multiple interlocking story lines, a young man names Billy enlists in the Army and heads to Iraq to escape his disapproving father Austin.
Laura hears: Hold on...the kid is named Billy and the father is named Austin? What world does this play take place in again?
Did I say pathetic superpower? Make that a low-level curse, like always having to stir your coffee with a fork. But I suspect you understand. As a Baby Name Wizard reader, you probably hear names whisper at you from time to time too, when you're supposed to be paying attention to, say, your doctor's medical advice rather than her name tag.
So for those of you who hear names talking, what are they saying?
Thank you to everybody who has submitted questions to the new Ask the Name Lady column. The Name Lady's first response is up now over at ParentDish, give it a read! New columns will appear every morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time.
EDIT: Holy smokes, did I ever make a typo! That's supposed to read every MONDAY, not morning. Sorry to raise the hopes of any voracious name enthusiasts out there!