Kindergarteners. College freshman. Those two classes of entering students are at very different phases of their lives, yet their educational "generations" are only 13 years apart.
How much changes over the course of one cycle of schooling? To get a sense of cultural time passing, let's take a look at the names of this fall's two matriculating classes: the college students, born circa 1995, and the kindergarteners, vintage 2008.
• Entering college students are most likely to be named Jessica, Ashley, Michael, and Matthew. For the kindergarten students, fast-forward to Jacob and Emma.
• Brittany is a top-10 name in the college class. Just 13 years later, the Brittany rate had plummeted by 95% -- as did the rates of Brittney, Brandy and Brandi.
• Ava is a top-5 girl's name in kindergarten. In college it ranks #734, lower than Gladys.
• Some popular college names that are virtually unhead of among kindergarten students:
• Some popular kindergarten names that are virtually unheard of among college students:
• The biggest generational eye-opener: the "Age of Aidens" hasn't reached college yet. The total number of college freshmen named Aiden or Jayden is 379. The number of kindergarteners: 32,673. Use your imagination for Ayden, Kayden and beyond to get a sense of how different the two classes sound.
It isn't much of a stretch to say that the names of the kindergarteners and college students sound a full generation apart. That's a big leap for 13 years. If you look at names from a century earlier, comparing 1895 vs. 1908, the changes are much less dramatic. But fashion moves fast today, and name lifespans are shrinking. By the time this kindergarten class graduates, we'll be talking about a new set of popular names that we can't yet imagine.
How's this for a literary murderers' row?
The root "mor" is English literature's surest marker of dread. The classic examples above have rooted themselves so deeply in our culture that storytellers can tap into their sound for ready-made villainy. Videogames and comics are rife with diabolical Mordacks and Mordos.
The mor names also tap even deeper veins in our language. The names' individual origins vary. For instance, the mor in Moriarty comes from the Gaelic muir ("sea"), the mor in Moreau from Mauritania, and the mor in Morrigan probably from the same ancient root meaning "terror" as in the word nightmare.
But critically, all of these mors coincide with the Latin mors, meaning death. That root is ubiquitous in modern language, including English words like mortal, murder, moribund, and mortify.
On the face of it, then, the murderous mors seem like simply a part of our language of death. That would make them a rare example of names' cultural meanings arising directly from their linguistic derivations. But I think there's another piece to the puzzle. Consider these alternate lists of English mor words:
These positive terms, too, derive from powerful Latin sources. Amor is love, familiar from French amour, Italian amore, and more and more amor. Mores means conduct and morals. Yet neither of these admirable words has had much impact on English names, real or fictional. Amanda (via the Latin for "lovable") and actress Dorothy Lamour are as close as it gets.
In the world of names, then, death has triumphed over love and morality. And the path from linguistic origins to names seems to be paved with names themselves. Every Mordred and Voldemort strengthens the link between mor and mortality.
Do you any of these boys' names appeal to you?
Emmett, Wyatt, Beckett, Elliott, Garrett, Bennett, Everett
I'll take a wager that at least one of them strikes your fancy. And even if the name Scarlett isn't quite your style for girls, you can understand its allure, too.
Multisyllable names ending in -tt are one of the hottest trends in America. The names I listed above are all in the top 1000 and rising, along with Barrett, Emmitt and Jarrett. And take a look at the total trend in -tt names, common and uncommon, since the year 2000:
This is a notable development in an era when strong consonant sounds are generally out of fashion. It's particularly intriguing since names ending in a single -t have been in the doldrums for a generation, and don't seem likely to wake up soon. The same is true of most names ending in -tte (Annette, Bernadette, etc). That would seem to pinpoint the double-t craze as a purely visual trend: a spelling phenomenon that separates written vs. spoken names. But if you look deeper, sound and spelling turn out to be more in sync than they appear.
First, conisder that a double-t ending is almost always preceded by a vowel. (Compare to single-t names like Herbert, Ernest, Robert, etc.) Then consider that the French ending -tte is typically stressed. If you look for names ending in an unstressed vowel +t sound, they turn out to be hot in any spelling. Take a look at the past decade's popularity of the classic names Charlotte, Juliet, Elliot and Violet:
If you're drawn to the sound of these names but fear that your favorites are becoming too popular, here are some rarities to consider:
...or, if you're feeling more adventurous: