Red and Blue Baby Naming: Inauguration 2009 Edition

Jan 20th 2009

Hey, anybody remember the 2004 presidential election? I'll refresh your memory, it looked something like this:



The stark red-blue segregation became a national obsession, with stereotypes flying on both sides. The division between the "two Americas" ran deep.  We could all feel it, and we could feel it widening: a vast culturo-political fissure with total mistrust and misunderstanding on both sides.  A map redividing the country into "United States of Canada" and "Jesusland" was one of the hottest jokes of the year.  There was no hope of bridging the gap...until there was. As soon as Barack Obama started redrawing that electoral map, the red-blue meme passed.  But is it really gone? Or was it ever real to begin with? On this inauguration day, I'd like to revisit the red-blue faceoff through the lens of baby names.

A few years back, I started a project to track down the red-blue divide in name terms. Did blue (liberal) and red (conservative) America actually name their children differently? Yes, they surely did. But how they did was a stunner.  The "bluest" names were traditional, Christian, and single-sex; the "reddest" were newly invented, non-religious and androgynous.  (Try it on the NameMapper: select 2004 and type in Henry, then Rylee.)  In other words, our choices of names -- one of the most candid, heartfelt expressions of our values and dreams -- ran precisely opposite to our supposed values divide.

What did it mean? I went down a long path, reading stats and research on red and blue America.  Along the way, I discovered some surprising facts.  For instance, while Americans felt certain their opinions were diverging, actual opinion surveys showed the country's views converging into an age of uncommon consensus.  The division we saw on the maps and felt in our guts was hard to pin down in the real world.  So maybe the peculiar baby name data could point toward some answers.

If you have some time on your hands, you can check out the full article I wrote on the subject back in 2006. But here's the condensed version of where the names led me.

Let's say you have two groups of women making fashion choices. One opts for timeless classics, simple and a little formal; the other chooses the newest, trendiest, most eye-catching styles that make old fogeys squirm.  What drives the difference? If you had to predict just one variable, the obvious choice is age.  Was it possible that blue state parents were more conservative namers simply because they were older?

Sure enough, in 18 of the 19 states that voted for John Kerry in 2004, first-time mothers were older than the national average.  And the more Democratic the community, the stronger the effect.

Waiting to start a family is part of a self-reinforcing class cycle.  Girls from educated, middle-and upper-class backgrounds are more likely to pursue higher education.  To make the most of their investment in schooling, they'll put off having children until they've gotten their careers under way. When they finally do start families they're more financially secure and can provide good educational opportunities for their own children, starting the cycle anew.

You can see how political factors play into this maternal age cycle.  Higher education, for instance, is a classic predictor of liberalism.  A strict cultural conservatism, meanwhile—rejecting abortion, embracing traditional gender roles—would tend to lead you toward younger parenthood.  A conservative community ends up with young moms and thus young-mom style, a liberal community with old-mom style.

So age-based style is entwined with the old standbys of income and values.  But remember that in the red/blue baby name choices, style and values were in direct opposition.  Going head to head in a decision that parents take very seriously, style beat values by a mile. So perhaps the style-making variable of maternal age plays a bigger role in the cultural divide than we realize.

In fact, if you start with nothing but a maternal age gap, you end up predicting a lot of the behaviors that divide red and blue America -- even seemingly value-driven behaviors.  For instance, red-state residents are more likely to report that they attend worship services weekly.  But when do people go to church most?  When it's time to introduce their children to the faith.  Americans who are married with children are twice as likely to attend church weekly as their single, childless counterparts.  The earlier you have kids, therefore, the more the church becomes part of the fabric of your life.  In a community of young moms, the church naturally becomes central to the community's life.

You can follow this same thread to countless other aspects of personal and community life.  What it adds up to is that the age when you have children isn't just one more variable in the cultural spreadsheet.  It's your life story, and the life story of your community.  A "life story gap" is a recipe for mutual incomprehension.

Now here's the kicker. Remember how America's political and moral judgments turn out to be closer today than ever before, and how the widening divide we perceive is hard to pin down?  Well, the maternal age gap -- the life story gap -- is widening.  In 1970, Arkansas and Mississippi had the youngest first-time mothers in America with an average age of 20.  Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York were oldest with an average of 22, a difference of just two years.  By 2000 those numbers stood at 22 and 27, a difference of five years.  The difference is even bigger at the political and lifestyle extremes.  The percentage of Democratic voters in a state correlates closely with the percentage of all births to mothers over 40, which is growing fast.  The red-blue life story gap grows with it.

So that's what I concluded after tallying up the baby names back in 2006.  Does it still have any relevance in the new political world of 2009?  Here's a little sign that it may.  Barack Obama won all or part of 10 states that John Kerry lost.  Suppose you tried to predict which 10 based on the percentage of the vote Kerry took in each state. You'd get 7 of 10 right.  If instead you predicted based on the average age of first-time mothers in each state...8 out of 10.

I'm a baby namer, not a politician.  I don't have to try to bridge policy divides (thank heavens), but I do encounter plenty of hostility on both sides of the baby-naming divide.  Perhaps thinking about the life story gap can help bring us all a little understanding of one another's choices.  As we look across the chasm, let's all take a moment to envision our own lives as they might have been.  Henry and Margaret's mom, you may be just a simple life circumstance away from Colton and Ashlyn's mom.  Be we red and blue or purple, this nation could use a lot of mutual understanding in the years ahead.

Comments

51
By Elaine (not verified)
January 21, 2009 3:07 PM

Sorry if I missed it, but is Carter a boy or girl? I know equal numbers of both.

52
January 21, 2009 3:11 PM

Jessica-I had to laugh at your 2nd post. OH is definitely NOT midwest to me. Most of the names I suggested are now off the list too. Oh well, back to the drawing board. I also had to smile when you stated how they found the name Carter. My dh and I did almost the same thing. Our ds was supposed to be Zachary but then right before he was to be born we decided it was too long and didnt quite fit. The name we had been most recently talking about that we both liked was Eric. So that he was.
Our dd is Natalie-I like it because its both classic and flowery at the same time. Although it is popular on the SSA charts, I only hear it occasionally on the playgrounds and in malls. There are no others in my immediate circles. I will know better this fall when she starts K if there are any others her age in the district. Oh and btw, she was supposed to be a Samantha before we changed our minds about that too. And for those of you keeping track-had them late in my 30's and live in PA though grew up in CT.

53
By hyz
January 21, 2009 3:14 PM

Jessica--that's a funny description, about liking common names but not liking knowing people with them. What about Hudson, Landon, Gavin, or Galen for a boy to go with Carter? I think Blake is a good choice, too. What about Blaine or Blaise? For girls, what about Amelia, Anna, Julia/Juliet, Lila, Nora, Samantha, Sarah, or Hannah?

54
January 21, 2009 3:13 PM

Awesome story about picking your own name in the Boston Globe (it's a few weeks old but I just found it). http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2009/01/11/maiden_voyage/
This woman was in a Catholic orphanage (I think) and named Mary Rita. When she was adopted her family played around with her name and her sisters called her Rea or Bea (from Rita). When she got married she took the opportunity to change her name. Now she's divorced and deciding again. A neat and cheerful naming discussion!

55
By Aybee (not verified)
January 21, 2009 3:23 PM

Jessica-
Thanks for the criteria. I'm glad she liked Blake!I'll have to think about the list some more. For what its worth, I've never met a dog named Max.--

Some of the girl names I suggested already ended in a-- Lily could be amended to Lila.

As for boy names ending in N, the much-discussed popularity of these makes it difficult to select one that she wouldn't already know from another child. Ethan, Aiden and Logan are the first to spring to mind, all are very popular.

Some lesser-used choices that I think might work, Arden and Harlan, might be too ar-sound heavy paired with Carter.

There's also: Tobin (as long as she doesn't live near the bridge in Boston), Austin, Dylan, Darren, Nolan, Mason, and Landon.

56
By hyz
January 21, 2009 3:29 PM

Thanks, RobynT. :) Just curious--do you know if Jinah was the official name? Jin-ah can also be a Korean nickname for any name ending in -jin (like Su-jin, Young-jin, etc.). In any even, Korean does have some pretty decent "crossover names". This is off topic, but there are times I almost regret that we picked Minna for my daughter's Korean name, because it's such a GOOD crossover that I don't think we could find anything matchingly good for any future kids (keeping in mind that our girls' names will have to begin with min, and boys with young or soo). I totally love the name, but it might've been better to have all names that DON'T crossover, rather than one that does and others that don't. It would be so much easier if we weren't pinned down to min/young/soo. DH just says I worry too much, lol.

57
By Coll
January 21, 2009 3:30 PM

This conversation, and some of the discomfort others have expressed with Laura's post (which I found interesting and thoughtful, for what it's worth) reminds me a little of a conversation my husband and I had last week, after learning that some friends of ours will be naming their child Braeden (or Brayden) if a boy.

"I wish they weren't naming their kid Braeden," I said. When my husband asked why not, the only answer I could think of was, "Because I don't want them to be the kind of people who would name their kid Braeden."

Judgmental and uncharitable of me, certainly. Though I must say, I never would express my dislike of the name to them or to anyone other than my husband. I'm not rude about names and I don't give my unsolicited opinion to people on their personal decisions. Anyway, Laura's post has made me think about the value judgments I place on names I dislike, whether it's my niece's top-10 name or something I consider "made up." This post was a good reminder that I'm being an unkind snob.

And I'm not going to give the age, geographic location or educational attainments of our friends--because it doesn't really matter, does it? We'll all think what we want to think.

58
January 21, 2009 3:40 PM

Jenny L3igh-I enjoyed reading about Mary/Rea. Although I got a little teary for her. The article was interesting in that it seemed she was looking for more of an identity than a name. I think she came out with a great compromise in the end because part of her life she had been little adopted girl and then the other part mom/wife.

59
By Eo (not verified)
January 21, 2009 4:29 PM

zoerhenne, that's a great question about whether the "off-shoot" language (i.e. Manx) has the same pronunciation as mainstream Irish. I don't know-- my best guess is that they would at least be similar. Maybe one of our linguists can supply an answer?

By the way, thanks so much for the Irish name with pronunciation guide. It looks great. I can't wait to scope it out, once I finish overseeing Banks and his voluminous homework, sigh!

60
January 21, 2009 4:53 PM

Jessica-

I will second Hudson, Tobin and Gavin. Other boy options: Grayson, Edison, Paxton, Winston, Emerson.

For girls, I like already mentioned: Lila and Nora and will also add: Georgia, Gemma, Isla, Bella, and Fiona.

IF she wanted to put herself in a presidential box (just for fun)- Boys: Truman*, Washington, Mason*, Lincoln*, Jefferson, Martin, Harrison*, Franklin, Lyndon*, Wilson, and Warren or their sons: Easton*, Lachlan*, Lyon, Irvin, Marion, Quentin, Steven or Marvin

Girls: (Quincy, Reagan, Kennedy-which don't really fit with the requirements) and first ladies: Martha, Louisa*, Eliza*, Anna, Letitia, Julia, Lucretia, Ida, Alta, Lavina, Barbara, or Laura Or their Children: Malia* (if she likes Mia), Amelia*, Susanna, Maria, Octavia*, Patricia, Jenna*, or Natasha

*-My favorite presidential names.

Okay, I know that the father isn't too keen on old names, but I've got to say that some of the older names on this list sound "newer" to my ears than some of the more recent ones (like Marvin).

61
January 21, 2009 5:14 PM

@Coll - Great comment. I'm right there with you. I need to judge less.

62
January 21, 2009 5:28 PM

Ooh Bethany, I like Eliza with Carter! Great ideas.

I've got a question for all of you.
How do you make the mind get used to a name in a different light that is about 180 degrees from how you currently view it? For instance, the name Hollis makes me think of a little freckle faced farmer BOY. I now know a beautiful dark haired young GIRL that it just seems wrong on. Or if your grandmothers name is Virginia and you come across a stripper with that name. How does the mind change its views of things in general?

63
By JillH (not verified)
January 21, 2009 5:37 PM

Coll: I can relate completely. I laughed when I read your answer to your husband because I can see myself saying the same thing. I think your comment gets at the heart of Laura's post, which was not, I don't think, meant to be some kind of political statement, but a call to understand and appreciate rather than judge other people's name choices.

64
By Aybee (not verified)
January 21, 2009 5:47 PM

Coll: Add me to the list of people who relate and agree.

Zoerhenne: I think it all depends on on how memorable/important/recent the interaction. I had a terrible association with the name Rachel, because of a little girl in my pre-school class who scared me when she gave me an unsollicited run-down of the birds and the bees, and later, hated the name because of a middle-school bully. I now count a Rachel among my close friends so now it is my primary association.

65
January 21, 2009 6:14 PM

Jessica: How about Devin, Damon, or Damien?

hyz: I *thought* it was you that had Minna! Here's where I saw Jinah: http://h-net.org/jobs/display_job.php?jobID=38068 (Scroll down to the contact info.) It seems like it is the name she uses professionally (and I did follow the links to confirm that she's a she) so I would assume it is her "proper" name--or whatever you want to call it.

Coll: I love your honesty! It cracks me up cuz I think that is how a lot of us feel... although we might not admit it!

zoerhenne: had to laugh at transitioning from Virginia being grandma to being a stripper. i feel like it just happens... repetition... although i wonder if Virginia will just get broader, so that the next time you meet a very different Virginia, it won't be as hard to adjust. Like I don't have very strong associations with the name Jennifer (besides age) because I've known so many.

Aybee: That is a hilarious story about your first run-in with a Rachel! This blog is just hilarious today.

66
By Trowbridge Chang (not verified)
January 21, 2009 6:35 PM

Carter with Noah or Abigail screams "ER Fan!" to me--but I do like the name Carter very much, and many of the suggestions would be lovely with it (I especially like Eliza with it). Lila and Sadie are getting very popular here--not quite in the two-per-classroom range, but two per grade in 2013? Possibly. And I'd avoid Blake if the father is nervous about androgynous names--think Blake Lively--it could happen.

Captcha this time: Caruso Confer. That'll be my next screen name!

67
By Melanie1 (not verified)
January 21, 2009 6:37 PM

I was a slightly older first time mom, particularly for my area. It wasn't by choice however. When I was 12 I once wrote down a list of what I thought my many children would be named. I certainly wouldn't use those names now. I do think that my taste has changed as I get older making my maternal age a factor in my naming choices. But since I know family members that were similar ages for their first children and chose very different kinds of names, it is obviously not easy to predict HOW your taste will change. What I would find very interesting is if there were a way to track whether men are more conservative than women in their naming choices. My general impressions from this blog and friends in general is that they are, but that may not be true. I do find that my naming choices are influenced by reading this blog and talking to others so I could see how my husband is more likely to have a narrower view of some names that start to sound familiar to me.

68
January 21, 2009 6:38 PM

Zoerhenne: I have this just for you. ;)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midwest Check it out.

Carter is a boy. She does not want Pres names.

69
By Bea Dee (not verified)
January 21, 2009 6:50 PM

I am such a stereotype.

I am 28, educated, and would classify myself as liberal (in a swing state.) I JUST found out I'm pregnant with my first, and tops on my list of names are Henry and Margaret.

I hate to turn the conversation towards even MORE controversial territory, but I was wondering what affect religion might have on naming choices? Laura's post rang very true for my personal experience, but I began thinking about how my extended family has named their kids, and it doesn't necessarily correlate.

My father and his siblings are all uneducated. They had their first children at a variety of ages, from 20 all the way up to 38. They still live within an hour or so of where they grew up. But we definitely seem to have a naming pattern in my family - names that are both classic(ish) and common for the generation to which they were born. So we have (in birth order, spanning about 20 years of procreation):

A@ron (girl)
Rebecc@
@ndrew
Kev1n Sh@wn
Steph@nie
Nic0le
Ryn3 (as in Sandburg)
Christ0pher
Z@chary
C@ley (pronounced "Callie")
M@tthew
Ad@m
Eth@n

The "mavericks" in the group would be the girl named A@ron, Ryn3, and perhaps C@ley. I thought maybe the common thread of having been raised Catholic might have steered them towards more traditional (biblical or saints') names, in spite of their circumstances.

70
By hyz
January 21, 2009 7:27 PM

Bea Dee--your post gets at a point I was thinking about, too--that is, I can think of lots of examples in my personal life where people with less education and/or who gave birth at a younger age still gave very "standard" or "traditional" names. But again, I don't think that is actually necessarily counter to the point Laura makes. If you look at those "standard" names, many of them are very high on the SSA popularity list--many from your list are actually top 10. To reach such a high level across the country, I think it is very likely that old/young and all levels of education alike are using these names at a fairly high rate. In fact, all of the top 10 names for both sexes in 2008 were basically very traditional, except Madison in the girls' column. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't think the assumption about Andrew or Elizabeth being born to an older mother is as robust as the assumption about Braeden (#325) or Ryleigh (#300) being born to a younger mother. Similarly, I would think that the somewhat "mustier" traditional names (like Silas and Alice, each #346) would be more strongly correlated with advanced maternal age than Andrew or Elizabeth.

71
By DRDS
January 21, 2009 9:45 PM

Laura,
I am curious if you have compared the SS top 100 names by state with only the age of the mother, excluding other factors?

Here is a link to the National Vital Statistics reports on average age of mothers at first birth:
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_07.pdf
Pages 8 and 9 of the pdf have the mean age of mother at first birth by state, if anyone is interested.

Now, I haven't had the time or the statistical means to do an exhaustive survey, but I did poke around a bit because I was curious if the maternal age theory really seemed to hold up.

For instance, in my completely unscientific perusal of a few states, I didn't see too much difference in the top 100 names of Utah, Colorado, and Montana (different ranges of mother age, but similar region). I was trying to find examples where the region was the same, but naming trends varied depending on age. For instance, the Mississippi and Connecticut names are different, but there are also a lot of other factors that are different between those 2 states beyond just age of the mother!

I recognize Laura's point about mother age being tied into other factors (religion, region, education, etc.), but how do we know if age is really the factor most at work?

Maybe statistics by state are just too broad to be able to capture this phenomenon? Maybe it requires more sensitive statistical analysis then my quick skim down a few top 100 name lists?

Anyone else take a look at this?

72
By DRDS
January 21, 2009 9:29 PM

Anyone else having issues with NameMapper? I haven't been able to get it to work for the last few weeks.

73
January 21, 2009 10:33 PM

Bea Dee: By "uneducated," do you mean no college degree? I think that Laura's post is about today; I don't think it would stand in older generations. I feel like class, politics, taste, etc. have changed way too much. I mean education level has changed so much too; or rather what a high school degree will get you has changed so much. Oh, plus I feel like some of those names on your list may have seemed kre8iv at the time although they turned out to be quite common for the generation.

74
January 21, 2009 10:54 PM

DRDS, You say "I recognize Laura's point about mother age being tied into other factors (religion, region, education, etc.), but how do we know if age is really the factor most at work?"

That is a good question. It may be that maternal age is the only factor that can really be studied, since I assume that the states don't really break down the statistics on factors that influence naming like religion or education. We can make assumptions about those things since certain regions of the country have higher concentrations of one group or another (Utah being the obvious example), but that's not good enough for the raw data.

75
By Amy3
January 21, 2009 10:59 PM

Coll -- I totally relate, too. I could hear myself saying the same thing to my husband and him not getting why it could possibly matter (and he'd be right). And while I'd never say anything to the parents it wouldn't change the fact that I'd been somehow disappointed in the name *they* chose for *their* kid.

^^someone said 'it's not good or bad, just different.' Sometimes that's easier to say than to truly internalize. Must work on being more purple!

Baby name alert: A co-worker just gave birth to a daughter, Lyla. I was struck since Carter's mom is looking for baby names that while contemporary aren't too popular. Maybe she wants to steer clear of Lila/Lyla.

76
By Bea Dee (not verified)
January 21, 2009 11:17 PM

RobynT: That's a good point that about what qualifies as "uneducated" now vs. 30 or so years ago. I only meant that the people in my family were never encouraged to pursue (nor would they have been able to afford) any schooling past high school. I forget that this would not make them so very different from many other people in their generation.

I hope I didn't give the impression that I was equating "uneducated" with "unintelligent."

77
By Melissa C (not verified)
January 22, 2009 12:37 AM

Jessica: Here's a few more suggestions that meet her criteria.

Boys:

Brandon, Brendan, Garrett, Mason, Nolan, Nathan, Dawson, Keegan, Brody, Tyson, Devin, Hayden, Ethan, Evan, Drew, Griffin, Sawyer.

I think Dawson would sound really nice with Carter.

Girls: Maya, Natalia, Arianna, Jenna, Layla, Anna, Brianna, Alyssa, Victoria

78
January 22, 2009 12:54 AM

Jessica-LOL! Thank you for that link. It was sincerely fascinating. I would suggest though that some of the other posters take a look at it. I can surely not be the only one who does not consider OH to be midwestern no matter what the census says :)

I guess what I should have said is Mountain states. More specifically, even though I know a few Carter's (there is one in school with my ds), it does not seem like a popular choice for someone living in the Northeast but rather in a more Western state such as Wyoming, Colorado, Montana or the surrounding area. I was not able to get Namemapper to work either so I checked the SSA distribution by state for 2007.
Wyoming:#41=16 boys named Carter
Colorado:#82=95 boys named Carter
Montana:#48=25 boys named Carter
New York:not in top 100
Connecticut:not in top 100
Maine:#49=40 boys named Carter

Wyatt has a similar pattern and maybe an option for your friend.

Bea Dee-Congrats!

79
January 22, 2009 1:15 AM

Oops forgot to add Ohio to the above list for comparison:
Carter#45 + Wyatt#55 so I guess I was wrong!

80
By Nicole2 (not verified)
January 22, 2009 2:10 AM

To Coll #57, out of curiousity

Do you think your judgement of the name Braeden is due to your own individual preferences? Or was it after you saw backlash on the net for the Aiden/Jayden/Brayden names in this past year? Can you remember what you thought of the name the FIRST time you heard it?

I know a 35 year old guy named Braeden. All of his life, he'd received a ton of compliments on his name. I know when I first met him 5 years ago, I thought his name was so stylish. I can imagine everyone thought his parents were very cool and hip when no one else had his name. I was shocked when I started researching baby names this year that the name is now considered low-rent on the net. I doubt the thousands of little Braydens born this century will receive such compliments on their name.

81
By NAR (not verified)
January 22, 2009 3:03 AM

hyz says "Similarly, I would think that the somewhat "mustier" traditional names (like Silas and Alice, each #346) would be more strongly correlated with advanced maternal age than Andrew or Elizabeth."

As my two-week-old daughter Laurel was thisclose to being Alice, I thought I'd lend validity to hyz's point: I'm 39. And my 45-year-old husband suggested Silas as an option for our son (who ended up being Isa@c) but I said nope. We're liberal northern Californians each with a graduate degree.

82
By Eo (not verified)
January 22, 2009 9:21 AM

Just to throw in a little historical perspective on the use of the name "Carter"--

Contrary to what one might think, the name USED to be almost the exclusive property of so-called East Coast patricians. The height of family surname-name chic, the same way "Montgomery" might have once been, or "Worth", except more so.

J. Carter Brown, who I'm guessing was born in the 1920's or 30's, (and died around 2002) was from just such a family, with an accent and manner to match. He was a director of the National Gallery (think that's the one he helmed) and was a huge champion of the arts in that sort of traditional, "noblesse oblige" way.

I used to love to watch the genial fellow being interviewed, the same way I was amused by the manner of George Plimpton or Bill Buckley...

Another example of a rarefied Carter: Carter Vanderbilt, Gloria's son and Anderson's brother, who died tragically a number of years ago.

It's interesting that such a name is now being viewed in a different light...

83
By Eo (not verified)
January 22, 2009 9:27 AM

I wonder if "Carter" derived its original cachet in America due to the legendary 18th century Carters-- weren't they based in tidewater Virginia?

84
By Eo (not verified)
January 22, 2009 10:08 AM

New Baby Alert: Was listening to Bill Bennett's radio show just now-- he was congratulating an associate named Lloyd Lyles, who was on the way to the hospital to see his newborn: "Spencer Orion".

Brother for "Morgan Oceana".

Isn't the "symmetry" of that neat? Both Spencer and Morgan are compatible sibling names, and their middle names Orion and Oceana go together too!

For those interested in demographics, Lloyd Lyles is African-American, and his wife, nicknamed "The Major", is in the military...

85
January 22, 2009 10:56 AM

hyz, comment #70, just want to say well said.

Zoerhenne, so glad you enjoyed the article! Your comment on her looking for an identity got me thinking about how we sometimes are doing that here (or helping people) so I wonder if she is an NE? Maybe she doesn't even know it!

86
By Anne with an E (not verified)
January 22, 2009 11:23 AM

On a complete sidenote, I read an article yesterday that included a quote from White House Counsel Greg Craig. I think Greg Craig might possibly be the most rhyming name I've ever heard.

87
By Anne with an E (not verified)
January 22, 2009 11:27 AM

Oh and @Eo--according to the web Anderson Cooper's brother was Carter Vanderbilt Cooper. In full it's a very distinguished sort of name, I agree that Carter sounds very patrician there. But Carter Cooper just sounds funny to me, and suddenly less distinguished...so I think it's the Vanderbilt that's lending the distinction. :)

88
January 22, 2009 12:23 PM

I sent Carter's Mom here to read. Told her to just comment and help us out. Then I got a text "bc she is too shy". Whatever. If your reading this, you know who you are!! :)
Anyway, She has put a stamp of approval on
Grace,
Brooke,
Ava,
Max,
Landon, and
Grayson.
Now her real problem will be the dh. ha.

89
January 22, 2009 12:28 PM

Carter is indeed an old Virginia name. I knew two girls growing up who were both named Sara Carter (first and middle names). One went by Carter while the other used both names. Both were from well-heeled old southern families.

90
January 22, 2009 12:33 PM

Zoerhenne: Glad you enjoyed it. :)
Geographically, OH is not "mid" country. But demographically and politically it is considered to be "the heart of it all". Truly, for something like the last 10 elections, "what OH does the Nation does". When an actor/actress needs to learn a neutral "accent" (not specifically any certain region of the USA, they are sent to OH (Columbus especially) to assimilate the "local brogue".

91
January 22, 2009 12:44 PM

2 unusual names I came across at work today, both on adults:
Bettina and Luetta. The only Bettina I've ever heard of is in Chicken Run the movie (great movie). Luetta is unfamiliar to me, but similar to other names so I certainly see the appeal.

92
January 22, 2009 12:57 PM

Eo: I LOVE Spencer Orion and Morgan Oceana. Not at all a fan of Bill Bennett though! Orion was on my list several years ago (when I was ~20) but it's fallen off due to considering my partner's side of things. I mean it was a name that I loved by myself but when it comes to actually thinking of other family members, other names (and categories of names) rose to the top. Spencer and Morgan are both names of classmates I had (out west); I think they are in that great category of known, but not common.

93
By Patricia/Nana (not verified)
January 22, 2009 1:28 PM

Some of you may remember my post of last Sept. asking for sibling name suggestions for my son and DIL who were expecting their third baby boy and had asked for my help in coming up with a name: I'd like to hear other NEs' impressions of Maximus (a name liked by my son, but not so much by his wife). Also, do you think Maximus is a good sibling match with Christopher and Alexander? What other possible sibling names come to mind?

My son and DIL appreciated the input and suggestions from this blog and after much consideration decided on Nicholas.

Nicholas Alberto (mn the same as his maternal grandfather's mn) was born on MLK Day. He's a beautiful boy, just like his older brothers Christopher and Alexander.

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By GirlRandolph (not verified)
January 22, 2009 2:00 PM

Jane: Perhaps, since studies show that conservatives are significantly happier than liberals... we can simply assume that happier, more generous people name their babies less traditional names?

Me:
Jane, that’s entirely possible. Happier people might be less worried about how others would judge their children and more inclined to see that child as a part of a community that already cherishes it (no matter what his or her name is). Happier parents, might be more creative with names and more inclined to branch out.

Stressed out, less charitable and more unhappy parents might be inclined to worry about others judging their children and feel unsupported in the world. Established or traditional names could be seen as a good jumping off point because they think they are the only ones who is truly going to love their child. Perhaps a traditional name is a way of communicating to the world that your child is ‘normal’, whatever that might be...

Somehow I don't think a mother of Ryezlyn is going to worry as much about someone making fun of her son (or daughter?). And I could see a happier person worrying less.

Also,Conservatives may already get enough tradition through their daily lives. Naming may be a time to be fun and fancy. Their liberal or older counterparts might need to link themselves and their child to something traditional....

And all this could also have something to do with when you have children. I thought Ms. Wattenburg's point about church attendence was very insightful.

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January 22, 2009 2:32 PM

Patricia/Nana- so glad your son and DIL found the input helpful and congrats on your new grandson. I think Nicholas harmonizes perfectly with Christopher and Alexander and they are all lovely, classy names....

Ooh, now I'm thinking I've betrayed my political leanings! ;)

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By jennifer h (not verified)
January 22, 2009 2:44 PM

Jessica - I have a Carter and from the midwest, natch, and though I am many years from providing him a sibling (he's only 8 mos old), I am still thinking about names, particularly girls as I am hopeful the next one will be.

One of my favorites is Elizabeth. For an ending in a, I love the name Lyra (pronounced lie-rah...I'm not good with technical pronunciation this is how I would say it). Also, I know she said no C but I adore the name Charlotte. It has the same feel as Carter to me, although I don't like the repeating R sound...makes them too matchy. Others I've considered: Ainsley, Georgia. This might be too trendy for her but what about Brooklyn since DH likes Brooke so much. Since she's stuck on the Presidential aspect of Carter, I looked at the First Ladies names. Of those:

Julia
Eliza (FAVORITE)
Claudia (silly C, this one is great)
Jacqueline
Hannah
Sarah

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By jennifer h (not verified)
January 22, 2009 2:51 PM

Sorry, I thought I had read to the end of the comments. Woops.

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By Coll
January 22, 2009 3:17 PM

Nicole2, I had not heard the name Braeden until I heard of it along with a wave of Jaydens and Haydens. Aidan I liked quite a lot until it became oversaturated (in that way, for me, it's like Sophia, Isabella, or Madeline--perfectly lovely names in themselves that are far too overused).

The Hayden/Jayden/Braeden names don't appeal to me because, to my tastes, they sound like vain attempts to spice up a familiar name with subtle variations that ultimately condemn the name as one of a herd. I know, that's very harsh. I'm just trying to explain my reaction to them.

I really don't know what I would have thought of the name Braeden if I'd heard it 20 years ago. Just like I can't imagine living in a time when Jennifer was a quaint, original choice or Linda was exotic and interesting. Similarly, Agnes and Martha sound sweetly old fashioned to me likely because I know very few people with those names.

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By Aybee (not verified)
January 22, 2009 3:50 PM

Nicole2-
I liked Braden at one point, when I was 12 and thought I made it up, ha. I also remembered by first thought on Jaden-- Will Smith's son-- because I thought it was a nice tribute to Will's wife/Jaden's mother Jada. I thought it was cool to see a baby boy named after his mother.

By the time Jayden was a Federline, I didn't like it anymore.

But it could be about evolving name tastes as much as oversaturation. When I was little, all my dolls were named Chelsea (and I didn't know any Chelseas in real life). I don't feel one way or the other about the name now.

100
January 22, 2009 4:52 PM

I used to like Aiden/Jayden/Brayden before they got too popular also. I still like them as names but would probably not use them if I were expecting. The same goes for Emma, Sophia, and Isabella for girls.

Jessica-Looks like you are getting a lot of votes for Eliza. What does Carter's mom think of this one?