Friday, September 28, 2007

What's in a name?

For some reason, I am very interested in names. Especially baby names. A few years ago, I found a blog written by a lady who is even more interested in them than I am: Laura Wattenberg. She writes the fantastic Baby Name Wizard Blog.

But even more amazing than her blog is the NameVoyager, an entertaining time-occupier (I refuse to use the word "waster") that is also informative of national baby-naming trends over the last century.

For example, here is the NameVoyager chart for my name:

Bridget has never been a very popular name, hitting its peak in the 1980s at #166. And that's just fine with me. I never had to go through what poor Jen did. Come to think of it, I have never met another person with my name who is even close to my age, although two of my direct neighbors (moms with kids) while I was growing up were named Bridget. One of them was German.

Of course, I say I like my name now, but there were periods during the 80s that if you had asked, I would have told you I wanted to be named Diamond (I think I had watched one too many episodes of American Gladiators).

Like any parents, Jeremy and I thought long and hard about what to name our daughter. And I'll be perfectly honest and admit that NameVoyager had a part in the process (the last thing I wanted was to name my child "the next big trend" without realizing it).

Eventually, we narrowed it down to two names: Miriam:

(whose peak levels of popularity are strikingly similar to my own name's, albeit in different decades) (also, you can see why everyone who hears her name says they have a grandma, great-aunt, or other elderly friend named Miriam);

and Veronica:

NameVoyager couldn't have warned me at the time, but in retrospect, I am very glad we did not name her Veronica. I had never heard of it (we were living in Syria at the time), but shortly after Miriam was born, I found out there was a popular new TV show named "Veronica Mars." A close call, to be sure.

I'll leave you with a peek at what my next choice was to name a girl: Cora.

You have to admit, it is a very appealing candidate for a classy, beautiful, yet not at all overused name. I've loved it since my little sister and I spent our Saturday afternoons re-enacting the cliff scene from Last of the Mohicans (though admittedly, we used to argue over who got to be Alice, not Cora).

Why am I sharing this, when I never share my personal baby name favorites ahead of time? And why do I say "was"? Because, dear readers, it has been used, and by none other than Miriam's new cousin. It's hard to believe, but the 384th-most-popular girl's name in America was secretly (at least on my part) shared as a favorite by two sisters-in-law, and the secret was not revealed until shortly before the baby's birth. So now I'm living in some kind of alternate reality where there is a baby girl named Cora Palmer, but she's not mine!

So where do you fall on NameVoyager? Is your name a reflection of that decade's trend, or do you come a few decades too early or too late? What about your children's names?


Nancy said...

Jeremy's in Turkey?

Bridget said...

He was. He got back on Tuesday. He was invited to present a paper at a conference at a university in Ankara.

But how did you divine that from reading this post??

Nancy said...

Nancy peaked in the 1940s...and Rachel is in a downward spiral.

Did I tell you we considered Miriam?

Bridget said...

I think I do remember you considering it. Why didn't you choose it??

It's a great name and I couldn't be happier with it.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Even though Suzanne itself has never been overly popular, Susan has (#4 in the 50s), and because most of us with any variation of those names went by Sue at some point, my classes were routinely full of Sues. I eventually rebelled and went back to Suzanne, which is also my Eastern European Grandmother's name, and love it. Did anyone know that ZsaZsa is a Hungarian pet name for Suzanne? My Grandmother called me ZsaZsa once in a while.

Nancy said...

I, uh...was trying to find out how big your niece was when she was born because she looked tiny. I saw Jeremy in a picture, read what it said and was like, "Wow."

(I guess I blog-stalked Jen...oops).

And I am not sure why we didn't go with Miriam...I like it a lot, too. Perhaps for the next girl. Who knows?

Nancy said...

But you must have changed that link because what I see now is not what I saw before. :)

Nancy said...

BTW--Way to go, Jeremy! That's cool.

sarah said...

That's fun to look at and I dont think it's a waste of time :) My name was popular around mid 80s(when i was born) and early 90s and then also in like the 1880s, which must be why janice keeps finding sarahs in our geneology. my name was pretty similar to katie's popularity. i looked up the name of my friend, dantzel, and her name did'nt even come up! she never had the problem of getting another dantzel in the class but no one could say it correctly either. and she often answered when someone said 'pencil' loudly. :)

Liz Johnson said...

Elizabeth? Yeah, it's been Top 15 the whole time. Luckily the percentage of people named that has gone down, but I think that's because people keep making up more names.

I'd be curious to see how common first name/last name combinations are. Because I swear to you, being Elizabeth Johnson... let's just say I usually need something besides my name to identify myself.

We used this website to pick Connor and still love it. Thanks!

Nancy said...

Hey, Liz:

This might be of interest to you. (I totally stole it from Crystal).

Suzanne Bubnash said...

During a recent conversation with a friend about given names, she pointed out a few overused names, and a few that have an unfortunate connotation (no need to mention any here, but think w.t.). She had a great idea--what if the Baby Name Voyager graphed names by zip code--wouldn't that be interesting? I think so, because around here the proliferation of certain given names is astounding, yet friends in other places have hardly heard of them.

Crissy Bear said...

Bridget I love name voyager and I'm so thankful you showed it to me. Of course Crystal was extremely popular in the 80's when my parents named me (I blame Crystal Gale and girls that are really named things like Jessica who pick it out as their "dancer" name...ick) As for Grace oh so popular. I know you are thinking how could we do it. Well of course we just couldn't agree on a name. I was all set on Alianna but Jason just wasn't that into it and there was no way I was letting him name her Keilah (and yes that is the spelling he wanted). Oh well. I have another girl name picked that is slightly obscure but who knows. Also thanks so much for the Painted Veil suggestion. We watched it last night. Best movie we've seen in nine months. I'm going to blog about it!

Bridget said...

Crystal, I love the name Aliana! That was the real name of Lulu, Miriam's little friend in Jordan.

Also, I'm glad you liked The Painted Veil. I hesitated writing about it because there's no accounting for taste, but it makes me feel good that at least one other person enjoyed it.

Nancy, I was going to recommend the same site to Liz! I also stole it from Crystal.

Sarah, I think we can safely say Dantzel will never meet another one.


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