Friday, September 14, 2012

You have got to be kidding me

It seems it's not just the Chinese who have risible taste in choosing names.

Yahoo News the other day ran an article on the Top 20 Most Popular Baby Names for boys and girls in the United States last year, comparing them with the equivalent data from 100 years earlier. This was based on stats published by the Social Security Administration, whose website includes some diverting search options: as well as scanning the most common choices year by year, you can check out how popular your own name was in any given year from 1880 onwards. Oddly, I find that my name, long a Top 20 choice, plummeted out of the Top 100 at the end of the 1990s, and has continued to fall steadily each year since - making it likely to disappear from the Top 200 this year. I am hurt.

However, the detail of this story I wanted to call attention to was this: there are some VERY STRANGE things going on with girls' names in the States at the moment. 

Abigail is riding high at No. 7, which is surely a bit of a 'granny name' (though not so much as Ethel, Edna, Mildred, and Gladys, which were all Top 20 choices back in 1911, but have now mercifully fallen into disuse - other than among Chinese girls, who think it's cute to pick their  'English names' from 19th century novels). The similarly slightly old-fashioned sounding Lily and Grace are at 15 and 16, and Ava is at No. 5! (Does anyone now remember Ava Gardner, the only famous Ava eva... I mean, ever??) Madison is at No. 10; OK, I know that's the name of a well-regarded President and of one of New York's most fashionable streets, and I believe it has a pedigree as a girl's name going back at least to the mid-20th century, but.... Top 10??

Using surnames as first names can just about work for a boy - but for a girl?! Well, evidently, it is a powerful trend: Aubrey, Avery, and Addison all feature in the Top 20 names for girls last year. WTF?????? It is incomprehensible to me that even one family would choose such an odd, clunky, unfeminine, ugly name for their daughter - let alone the tens of thousands presumably required to secure such a high place in the rankings.

What is going on with our American cousins? Is somebody poisoning the water?

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