Your Name Enthusiasm: In the Closet or Out and Proud?

So, who knows you are a Name Enthusiast? I find myself explicitly mentioning my status rather than just giving obscure name information.


June 30, 2015 1:36 AM

I have had occation to mention it to a few friends recently, in a kind-of embarassed tone: "So you're pregnant, I have this hobby..."

June 30, 2015 9:15 AM

Exactly. I had one friend respond enthusiastically and we had private consultations to help her choose her fourth son's name. But an acquaintance to whom I offered our services when she was stuck figuring out he fourth child's name ("I'm a name enthusiast, and the people I talk with would love to help you!") just replied with silence. :-/ ;-)

July 2, 2015 1:26 AM

I've reached the point of, "So you got livestock, I have this hobby!" -- there are sadly few good pig-related name meanings!

June 30, 2015 6:05 AM

i wouldn't say I hide my little hobby, but it's my little retreat from the world so I don't go about launching it on the school mums or casual acquaintances. I do discuss names, and my enthusiasm for them, with friends when it's pertinent to the conversation.

June 30, 2015 6:09 AM

Though I will say it took me a long time to start discussing it. Mostly because my husband mocked me for it. Of course, he's  a massive nerd, so I ignored him soon enough! 

June 30, 2015 9:08 AM

I guess it's a question of how stringent is that "pertinent" criterion. ;-) I definitely find name-related talking points in lots of things. Like watching "Lego Friends," where they all have Top 10 names except the Ambiguously Brown (TM) girl and the villain mean girl, who gets an early 80s name.

July 2, 2015 1:16 AM

YES, AJwith3Boys. My children have recently discovered the Early Readers shelf of the library, and until recently when I issued a moratorium on parent reading aloud the easy-reader books, I've been trapped in a loop of insipid Lego Friends stories. The names definitely bothered me! (Also, Andrea seems jarring not only in that company of top ten hits, but in my experience it seems like a particularly white name for a girl, akin to Fiona or Molly... or an Italian name for a boy.)

Names in the Barbie books are generally more frivolously amusing ... but probably enhanced by the fact that the child who is most into Barbie insists on gendering Barbie as "he", so the entire thing now reads as a universe populated by Very Fierce Drag Queens. (Which is probably pretty accurate because the people my children encounter who wear quite that much makeup and sequins and over-the-top sparkles ARE draq queens.)

I'm pretty out of the closet as a name-enthusiast - I talk about names a lot and describe it as a hobby. People around me know that the SSA data release is a Big Exciting Annual Thing, for example.

July 2, 2015 10:35 AM

Oh, my. Barbie as a boy just totally re-writes the whole universe, doesn't it? So what's his real name, and what made him choose Barbie for his drag persona?

Somehow I don't think my totally-earnest almost-5-year-old daughter would appreciate the humor of it, though.

July 2, 2015 11:18 AM

My 5.5 year old grandson would love it.  Somehow he has understood for years that gender is a cultural construct (an idea which all too many of my university students never grasped) and is very happy to re-gender things according to his own lights.  He went through his own drag queen phase (yes, they make little black cocktail dresses and 2.5 inch bedazzled heels to fit five year olds) helped along by Project Runway and how to apply makeup YouTube videos, and now he is into robots and skateboards and ever beloved motorcycles (he has been obsessed by motorcycles since he was 18 months old), no longer particularly interested in his Barbies and Monster High dolls (mostly he liked dressing their hair as well as the hair of any humans who would let him exercise his pro-level braiding skills).

July 3, 2015 1:01 AM

Some days all it takes is for anyone's name to be mentioned ;)

But it isn't a shared interest with any of my friends and, for all my enthusiasm, the more I read on here, the more I am aware I don't know, so I'm reluctant to assume any authority on the topic.

June 30, 2015 6:59 AM

I admit to it freely enough, but given that I'm in my early 30s and currently have no children, people always look at me with their "ulterior motive" face. So it's usually followed with a disclaimer "I've loved names since I was eight years old."

June 30, 2015 9:12 AM

Oh, my, I can imagine the faces! ;-) Yes, I've been interested in names since I was a child, too.

June 30, 2015 9:42 AM

It's not something I announce, but I don't hide it, either. My husband and kids know, but otherwise I think it doesn't usually register with folks as more than a minor interest. I always WANT to ask all about people's naming process and stories and do research for them and make suggestions, but I can't usually find a graceful way to poke my nose in ;-).

It's actually come up in most detail when I'm disavowing pregnancy. I had a name dictionary (NOT a baby name book!) on my gift wishlist when I was first married and we were both in grad school, and had to explain to panicky parents that I had name fever, not baby fever. And a colleague saw the blog open on my work computer, and wanted to know if she should expect me to be taking leave sometime soon.

June 30, 2015 11:39 AM

I just had a similar experience at work: I took a screenshot of something and almost sent it to the IT department... without noticing that there was a little "baby name" tab open in the corner. My office mate caught it en route luckily! :P

June 30, 2015 6:15 PM

I find that names come up frequently in conversation, but that's probably because I steer the conversations that way whenever an interesting name gets mentioned. I don't think anyone outside of my family knows that I read this site obsessively, however.

One of the first books I bought with my own money was a baby name book, so my obsession began early. I put a check mark beside the names that I particularly liked or that friends and acquaintances had. Hmm, I need to find that book!

June 30, 2015 10:40 AM

I'm a philologist by education and trade, and so I am interested in all words, not just names.  No one is surprised if I pop up with little onomastic (or generally philological) tidbits, although they may be bored.  However, I grew up in a time when intruding into other people's business was very much frowned upon, so I wouldn't offer any advice or make any comments uninvited.  I was invited when it came time to pick my grandson's name which turned out to be a family consensus.  I did say that I wished that he had been given a middle name because I didn't get one and always missed it.  But my daughter-in-law also doesn't have a middle name, and she thought a middle name would be surplus to requirements.

June 30, 2015 5:47 PM

I'm trying to to downplay/hide my interest more, actually. It's incredibly frustrating and disheartening when I try to have a nuanced conversation and it either turns into a "let's bash names we don't like" conversation (which I despise) or someone tries to "educate" me with very rudimentary or nonexistent name knowledge. I'm not taken seriously at all, and no one trusts that I know what I'm talking about. I really dislike it. Many people are very unwilling to accept names as being subject to trends and have a greater sociological meaning, or at the very least separate entities from the people that have them.

I can talk to my boyfriend about it, and that's really great. I've taught him a lot about names, and he's been very open and interested in learning and discussing them with me. At this point I'm done with talking about them with anyone but him and the wonderful community here.

July 2, 2015 1:24 AM

I usually feel very comfortable Shutting Down the misinformation/name bashing on the rare occasions that people try it, but one of the most hilariously-bad examples was when I was about to undergo sedation for a medical procedure and they started talking about Urban Legend Names as though they were TRUE STORIES and it irked me so greatly that I didn't have time to thoroughly debunk them because was in the process of going unconscious... and leaving my body in the care of people who really believe the "A-s-s-h-o-l-e pronounced Ah-SHOW-lay" and Le-a/Ledasha garbage. Argh.

July 3, 2015 1:13 AM

I have seen a newspaper photograph of primary school students where one was captioned as La-a. I wish I could have kept it, but it was needed for our work media clippings that were sent up the line to various govt directors. No word whether this was her official name though. My colleagues and I were all gobsmacked as we thought the name was pure urban myth. But there you go!

By Fly
July 3, 2015 2:06 AM

Err closetted.

I remember writing stories when I was a little kid and not being sure what to name a character. I remember having a Goldie and a Sylvia as talking animals... Which would've been an odd choice 20 years ago.  Then I wanted to know what my own name meant (Simone)... 'harkening' always seemed to be an odd meaning to me. Was it the same as 'listening'?  It wasn't a word anyone used anymore, except in 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing'.  Eventually I started studing linguistics at school, and I understood it all a bit better.  Between genealogy, etymology, story writing and linguistics, name enthusiasm was a natural home for me.

I don't get much chance to exercise my real life naming muscles.  Most of my friends aren't ready to have kids yet, and the only one that has was quite secretive about her naming choices... the few choices I heard of before hand were very unusual sorts of names (I wasn't asked for an opinion, however), and the one she went with is now one of the most common names for children under five.  I like to name my future pets though- I like Engelbert for a dog.  And story writing... most characters are frequently renamed - with me asking "what were this characters parents thinking when they named this person? What were there requirements?"

I did have an awkward moment when my mother caught me on this forum the other day and with BTN also open... 'Who's pregnant?' =| No one? =| Does someone have to be? =|

July 14, 2015 12:59 PM

No one, I am in the closet.

October 21, 2015 4:02 PM

I'm definitely in the closet! As others have said, I've been an enthusiast since childhood, and everyone seemed to think it was very weird. When I was about 7 I started to 'collect' names in lists, because none of the books I found had enough names/enough variety. After a few awkward moments when people found these lists, I learned how to make a spreadsheet, and transferred them all into one which I still have today!

October 27, 2015 12:06 AM

I find this so interesting. How neat you still have that spreadsheet today. I would love to see the names you put on it.

October 24, 2015 4:58 PM

I have occasionally talked with my mother about names, but I don't think she's interested so much as listening politely. When I found out my friend was pregnant I couldn't wait to ask about The Name, but held off for a little bit as I didn't want to appear too enthusiastic about the naming part of it. There's a little shame attached to it, isn't there? I wonder if that's something people will actually care about or if I'm just making it up. 

October 24, 2015 7:47 PM

Well, if the subject comes up, just tell people you have an interest in onomastics, and that ought to take care of any problems.

October 26, 2015 7:05 AM

This thread is fantastic! I've really enjoyed reading all your posts, and have agreed with so many points.

It has only been in the past two years that I became name obsessed, and on finding this site, you all helped me put a name to what I was feeling! :-)

I am out and proud! It's not like I have a rubber fetish!

I tried involving my family in my hobby, but they have all told me in no uncertain terms how boring they find it, and that I think too much and overcomplicate the naming process, overthinking it and taking the fun out of it. Which is strange because the overthinking of it is what I find so fun! I don't want to just see a name I like the look and sound of and name my child it, without checking out how popular it is, the meaning, variations, origins. It can be a lengthy process, especially if you are relatively new to these sites, and didn't even know that there was such a thing as onomastics.

You are my name people, whereas my family immediately switch off if I mention names, and my husband can only talk about it for 5-10 minutes before getting frustrated.

None of them get it, that names are not just names, but gateways to history, linguistics and so many other connections. People look at me funny, yet I suppose maybe that's how people who collect insects, or have rare hobbies feel. Not many people get it.

As for my friends, I have casually mentioned that I am into onomastics, the study of names, to which I got blank faces and silence, so I quickly changed the subject. And currently I have 3 pregnant friends and they are annoyingly secretive about their name considerations, and they each have another child under 2 - so I could help, and you could really help - except for the small problem that so many people just want to keep it as insular as possible. I wonder if they are worried other people will criticize their choices, or steal them!?

I just really want to know.

There was an awkward moment recently where my father in law asked me what his daughter's child's name (my nephew) meant. She looked at me with such a look! How could I know more about her child's name than she could..? so I said "you'll have to ask her" she shrugged, "I don't know", and then everybody looked at me again. "Well", I said modestly, because in no way am I an expert, "the etymology of a name can be subjective and is often widely debated, but, I think that this one means roughly 'gift of God'"... That was a great moment for me, despite my sister in law giving me stink-eye.

October 27, 2015 5:36 PM

I have always been very open about it with my family because we all at least like to talk about names. Most of my family tries to come up with clever yet unusable names for other relatives babies. 

   I didn't extend it to my friends until we all started having babies. Now I am known as the expert and get asked all of the questions. I am often the only one they tell because they trust me to give honest and respectful feedback, so I am happy I found this site. Now I have other people to ask when I am unsure.

October 27, 2015 10:38 PM

I come at the name enthusiasm from the back end, so to speak: I started with the history of names, as part of a medieval and renaissance re-creationist group. One tool we use is the concept of a "persona": a fictional person who could've lived somewhere in pre-17th-century Europe. Such personae need names, of course... Back in the pre-Internet Dark Ages, the person in a local chapter who owned a copy of the "good" name dictionary became the de facto local name researcher, and some of that mindset still persists. I not only own a copy of the Hungarian surname tome, but I can also _read_ it, so it was inevitable that I got sucked into medieval onomastics.

Within the organization, everyone knows I'm a name geek, and it's a well-tolerated and known hobby. (The editor of the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources got her start in onomastics as part of the same group.) My immediate family knows about my name obsession; extended family tends to group it all under the "weird hobbies" umbrella, and I try not to tax their tolerance. :-) Neighbors and fellow parents at preschool mostly haven't a clue about my hobbies, so most of my conversations with such acquaintances revolve around children's clothing sizes and other parental nonsense.

I tend to apply a sort of "Starbucks test" when the subject of names comes up: if I've never met these people before, and am unlikely to meet them again (like at a busy playground), I feel somewhat freer to "show off" than I would with people I'm likely to see regularly. And of course if a child's name makes me cringe, then I comment on the weather or something.