Real world name perceptions

A few recent name anecdotes.

In conversation with an older woman in a café, who learned my daughter's name and then said: "My three daughters all have unusual names too" (false, where we are). "Oh?" I asked. "Yes. Laia is the Catalan form of Eulalia." (Laia is a monster runaway hit and is the nickname for Eulàlia, which is the name in both languages). Then "And Mireia, the Catalan form of Maria." I said I believed they were different names, but she was having none of it. "And Tania, the Catalan form of Antonia." At which point I just gave up on talking names with her.


In Canada meanwhile, I met an old woman who gushed over my two daughters because she had, she said: "four sons, nine grandsons and seven great-grandsons." And one great-grand-daughter whose name was Aubrey. "I finally got my Aubrey," she said. "I had my eye on a guy called Aubrey in high school, but it didn't work out and I married an Arnold instead. Sixty years later..." I thought this was a nice demonstration of the changing name landscape in the last 80 years!


September 25, 2018 1:16 PM

"I finally got my Aubrey," is somehow a great punchline to this woman's prolific family. I literally laughed; what a delightful attitude! 

September 25, 2018 2:50 PM

I loved this response too! So adorable!

September 25, 2018 3:19 PM

Too funny about Aubrey! I wonder what Arnold would have said about a great-granddaughter named after his rival...

I feel for both of you in that conversation about names! Depending on when the older woman named her daughters, that could be a big factor in her perception of popularity. My mother always had "ahead of her time" taste in names; when my now-twelve-year-old was in kindergarten, he had classmates with all three of my brothers' names (none of which were in the top hundred in the respective brother's birth year). And she gave me a Megan variant just a few years before The Thornbirds was published; when I was little, people would ask if she'd made up the name, and then when I was ten the miniseries came out and suddenly there were little Megans everywhere. So I could easily imagine her having a similar conversation c. 1985 about how her daughter had a "rare" name, even though it was then the #10 name in the US.

My mom also chose the name partially because her name book (the best she could find at the time) said it meant "strong", and picked the spelling variant because the book said it was the "Welsh" version of the name--it's easy to laugh at both beliefs now, but there really wasn't any readily available source of better info back then. Now there's better info available, but for a lot of people I think it's lost in a sea of misinformation. If the first fifteen name sites you check all say your favorite name means "beautiful dreamer" and then you run across Behind the Name telling you it's from a family place name meaning "[dweller by the] potato field", which one are you going to believe?

September 25, 2018 5:26 PM

I definitely agree that lack of easy information was behind some of the overuse of the big names of the past. And it's definitely why I give my parents a pass for a) naming me Emily in the early 80s and b) mispronouncing both mine and my sister's Irish middle names. Some of the names I thought I might use on my own children were quickly nixed by popularity -- but this was because in a few clicks I could see how they ranked all over the English-speaking world.

The woman at breakfast was definitely steamrollering me, but it was actually great to have an insight into how the average person sees these names. :-)

I've always thought it must be very aggravating to have a name that legitimately was rare and then suddenly takes off. Adult Islas must feel that way now.

September 26, 2018 1:19 PM

If my dad were someone to give a lot of thought to names, he'd definitely feel that way! Growing up, when I told anyone his name, they almost always got it wrong ("Did you say Roman?"). In his day, he'd use Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In as a reference and in my day I'd use Rowan Atkinson. But now? Everybody knows the name! He's quite shocked whenever he hears a parent calling a kid with his name and honestly isn't too fond of the fact that it's being used on girls. (To be honest, I don't think I'll ever be able to accept it on a girl because to me, it's a man's name and I don't personally care for unisex names.) But talk about being ahead of the curve, eh? It didn't even make the top 1000 in the US until 50 or so years after he was born. He also has a cousin-in-law named Kayla who is in her early 70s. I assume that she feels similarly.

And my parents unknowingly gave both my sister and me names that peaked in the decade in which they were born. They didn't personally know many (if any) girls with our names, so they didn't feel dated to them -- though they both had positive feelings for my name because of the Mouseketeer. My mom actively avoided trendy names (and the initial J, that dominated around the time I was born) but couldn't have foreseen that we would be in a Karen/Karyn/Karin/Caryn/Carin pocket. My name never felt dated to me because I was surounded by others my age with it and didn't know any Boomers with it, but statistically, my experience wasn't the norm.