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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why parents no longer give their daughters these names.

Just stumbled across a mildly interesting article, 10 Vintage Girls' Names: Unique Names You Don't Hear Anymoreon the site

What made it more interesting was to think about why these names have declined in popularity. I think it's generally a function of the most famous people with that name, an association that is often hard to shake.  For instance, in the last sixty years, few parents have named their sons "Adolf."

In some of the cases I couldn't come up with an explanation, but in others, it seemed glaringly obvious.

"Joyce" has gone from a top 20's name back in the 40's to #969 in popularity now. The most famous Joyces are Kilmer (who was actually a man) and James Joyce, whose surname it was. There haven't been any recent Joyce's to inspire.

"Roseanne" is now ranked at #14,265. This one seemed a little easier to explain. Who is the most famous Roseanne you can think of? Barr, right? How many parents do you think look at their sweet little bundle of joy and hope she turns out to be like THE Roseanne?

Or, for that matter Rosie (Roseann) O'Donnell?

"Hattie," now at #993. (Who knew it was still that high?)

"Dorothy" was popular in the first half of the 20th century, but now ranks at #937. Who's the first person to come to mind when you hear that name? The one who went to Oz? Well, that movie was made in 1939, and has long since peaked. And the most famous real person? Dorothy Lamour? Dorothy Parker? Both long gone. Even Dorothy Hamill is no longer known to people of child-bearing age. So the name languishes.

"Madeline" was popular in the early 1990's but has since lost its popularity. Those popular Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans may have lost some of their influence since the start of the internet era in the late 90's.

"Willow" was popular in the early 1900's but has pretty much disappeared since the 1960's. (Is that name too pliable-sounding for current feminist sensibilities?)

"Pamela" was a top 30 name from 1937 to 1971, but is no longer. The most prominent Pamela of recent years has been Anderson. But she didn't achieve Baywatch fame until 1992, so her I-don't-want-my-daughter-to-grow-up-like-that effect doesn't explain the decline of the name starting in 1971.

"Ann" was a top 100 name from 1899 to 1973, but now ranks at #996. Not sure why.

"Leona," formerly a popular name, is now ranked #929. This one is real easy: the existence of that sociopath Leona Helmsley, "The Queen of Mean," was enough to dissuade any parent from choosing that name for their daughter.

"Janet," now #951. Again, fairly easy. The two most prominent Janets of recent years have been Janet Reno, Bill Clinton's Attorney General:

And Janet Napolitano, the current director of Homeland Security:

While both women have had undeniably successful careers, neither quite matches the feminine appeal of Janet Leigh, whose career peaked in 1960, with Psycho:

It does seem parents are more moved by pulchritude than power.

Predictions for the near future: we'll see more Keira's [Knightley] and Angelina's [Jolie], and fewer Amanda's [Knox] and Casey's [Anthony].


Paavo said...

a lecturer of clinical psychology mentioned that a lot of daughters coincidentally share the name of the father's boyhood crush or sweetheart. It was a lighthearted comment, but somehow I find the hypothesis cynically pleasing. I do recognize that my highschool sweetheart's name does sound like a good name for a daughter.

Social psychology of names is fascinating. I hope to read more posts about the subject.

I'm disappointed how germans don't have german names anymore. They are all alex, max or thomas. You can't find a Wolfgang, Jurgen, Helmut oder Dieter under the age of 60 anymore.

John Craig said...

Paavo --
That's an interesting theory, I'm sure it has some merit. Now that I think of it, my daughter has the name of the girl who was probably my most intense high school crush (though my wife picked her name).

I wasn't aware of that about the Germans. Interesting.

W O D said...

Names which are popular here are shortened versions of traditional names such as abby, evie. Just saw savannah is pretty high on the list Ha Ha.

We have a friend who named her kids after a designer label and a motorbike manufacturer.

Also mispelt traditional names are popular too.

I also agree with Paavo.

John Craig said...

W O D --
A designer label and a motorbike manufacturer?! I'm guessing that's not your smartest friend. Although, when it comes down to it, names don't really make that much difference -- though they do say something about the parents.

bluffcreek1967 said...

Good Lord, lesbians are ugly! The photos of Rosie O'Donnell, Janet Reno, and Janet Napolitano, are hideous. Special mention should also go to Leona Helmsley (although she was not a lesbian from what I can recall). The more a woman strives to be as plain in her appearance, masculine and less feminine as possible, the more will men be repelled by them. Healthy heterosexual men don't want a mate who looks like just another dude.

It also proves, as most of us already know, that having lots of money is no guarantee that one will look pretty or have good cosmetic and fashion sense.

Interestingly, each of the ugly woman pictured in this post could do things to improve their looks if they did some relatively simple things, such as lose weight, apply a little make-up in the right places, get rid of the short hair, and stop their damn man-hating. Well, maybe that's a little too much to expect from the likes of Rosie and other lesbians?

John Craig said...

Ambrose --
I actually wrote a post on that subject a while back:

It's my impression that women have a more pliant sexuality (Freud actually described women's sexuality as being "polymorphously perverse," one of the few instances in which he was right) and a lot of them become lesbians by default, i.e., because men aren't interested in them. Some have no interest in men to begin with, but I get the sense tat a fair number of them are in the "by default" category.

As a libertarian, I have noting against lesbians -- I've honestly liked a lot of the ones I've met -- but I also seem to have met a fair number who dislike men just for being men, and those I despise.

Gilbert Ratchet said...

Slideshows suck. Websites that have speaking advertisements that you can't turn off suck harder. So thanks for reprinting them.

This is the reason why no one is named "Joyce" (#9):

Gilbert Ratchet said...

I'm surprised that Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn't lead to a (brief) resurgence of "Willow."

John Craig said...

Gilbert --
Ha! Not sure I would trace the decline of "Joyce" to that album cover, but I agree about its lack of appeal.

BTW, if I could make money with slideshows or ads I would, but no respectable corporation would ever advertise on a blog which is so blunt.

John Craig said...

Gilbert --
Was that her name on the show? Well, that series didn't lead to a resurgence of "Buffy," either.

(BTW, I admire your courage in confessing to being a viewer of that show.)

Gilbert Ratchet said...

The character was named Willow Rosenberg, and was played by Alyson Hannigan. My wife was a huge Buffy fan - and from what I saw of it the show wasn't all that bad! :-)

John Craig said...

Gilbert --
Well, I guess I have to admit I've seen it for a few minutes from time to time while channel surfing. Can't say it ever grabbed me. Then again, if it had, I probably wouldn't admit it.