Occupations and Aspirations

Jun 2nd 2005

What job titles convey power, status, and stature? How about this list:

Judge, Bishop, General, King, Boss.

Every one of those top dogs was a top-1000 name for American boys back in the late 1800s. Could there be any clearer statement of a country's dreams? In short, ambition was in.

It was the Gilded Age, when great fortunes were born. New parents of the time had grown up with Horatio Alger books...or, just as likely, had grown up across the ocean and come to America in search of opportunity. Why not pass on those big dreams to your kids in the most direct possible way? Thousands of boys were named with titles of leadership. Military officers, nobility, exalted professions -- any name that suggested that this boy can be something BIG. Take a look at the popularity history of military-rank names:

That's Admiral, General, Marshal, Commodore, Colonel, Major. Not Ensign or Corporal.

Perhaps you prefer the civil professions? In the contemporary comic strip Jump Start, there's a running gag about a boy who was named Doctor by a mom who dreamed big. It wasn't always a joke:

The nobility and aristocracy, meanwhile, were represented by King, Prince, Duke, Earl, and Squire -- Earl reaching its all-time peak at #21 in the 1890s.

There's a new wave of exalted names today. Heaven, Angel, Diamond and Destiny are all hits. Most of today's lofty names, though, envision the child reaching spiritual rather than professional heights. (Perhaps a sign of a shift away from material values, or perhaps just a loftier level of hubris.) It's al sonotable that the contemporary hits are girls' names. While we're naming more girls Princess and Miracle, "meaning" names for boys have taken a very different turn, which I'll talk about next time.

On to part 2!


By Allison (not verified)
June 3, 2005 8:44 PM

I'm a cynic. I think it's a loftier level of hubris rather than any yearning for spirituality. Interesting post!

By Anonymous (not verified)
June 4, 2005 12:51 AM

What economic class do these names represent? Do American names fall into distinct class catagories?

By Anonymous (not verified)
June 7, 2005 1:03 PM

Have you ever thought about the popularity of the presidents' names? I haven't noticed any Van Burens lately, but it does seem that there are a lot of Tylers, Madisons, Jacksons, and Grants running around. I know a family with two young daughters, Taylor and Reagan, and wonder if they thought about the fact that they both have presidential names.

By Anonymous (not verified)
June 8, 2005 1:40 AM

How about entertainer Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) naming his new daughter Moxie CrimeFighter?!

By Anonymous (not verified)
August 24, 2005 4:07 PM

These girl's names actually represent a lower socioeconomic class. The more education a mother has, the less likely she is to name her daughter Diamond or Destiny. Parents with the most education go for more classic and less flashy- Emma, Hannah, Rachel, Natalie, Lauren- your basic "Pottery Barn Kids" names.

By no one (not verified)
March 9, 2007 12:47 AM

No, I don't think Education has to do with name Choice at all, why are you so naive? There is no such thing is a low class name,just because you don't like the name, doesn't mean it's bad. I am sick of people Judging people.oh well it's hopeless to explain something to people who don't want to learn.and only concern is grammar and Education and not the message itself. All names are important, and it's better to pick a name you love than to follow the herd, for you have to say the name over and over.We give people names because we have bonded with them, not because we are trying to impress the Jones! sorry if I offended you but it's my truth.

By Look in the mirror (not verified)
June 8, 2007 1:24 AM

You are the naive one.

February 28, 2019 7:19 AM

What an interesting way to look at this topic.

Reading this made me wonder do you buy in-game currency for your little ones? My kids are constantly pursuing me to buy them <a href="https://medium.com/@topeleven.site/top-eleven-hack-tokens-and-cash-android-ios-and-pc-196479466a59">tokens and cash for Top Eleven</a>. Since they have good grades I do buy them but I'm wondering if your kids are asking you the same?

Lucy from Anhorage.

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