Five-Name Friday – The Return of Suggestion Posts!

The people have spoken! Well, not all the people. Only those people who voted in the poll that was sitting in my sidebar for about a month.

In any case, those specific people spoke. That is, they voted. And what they voted for was a weekly baby name suggestion post.

But here’s the thing: I’m not going to do in-depth suggestion posts this time around. What I’ll do instead is focus on simplified baby name requests (up to 2 sentences each) and limited baby name suggestions (up to 5 from me, and up to 5 from every commenter). My hope is that these constraints will make participation easy and fun, like a game.

Ready to play? Here are the details…

Request Baby Names

Send me requests via the contact page or via social media. Here are some examples of requests you could send:

  • “I like the names Abigail, Rebecca and Catherine, but my spouse likes Allie, Ellie and Missy. What are girl names we’d both like?”
  • “What are some boy names that pay tribute to Dallas, Texas? They can’t start with the letter W please.”
  • “I want a girl name that makes people smile. Must sound good with the surname Jacobsen.”
  • “I love circuses! Please give me boy names associated with the circus.”
  • “I’m looking for a nature name for a baby boy that’s unlikely to be used for baby girls. Definitely cannot end in -a or -y.”
  • “What are some traditional but unexpected boy names that start with F, G, and H? His sisters are named Sarah and Tamar.”

You don’t have to be pregnant, or even planning to get pregnant, to place a request. And you can send as many requests as you like — either separately or all in the same email.

But I’ll only accept requests for first names that make note of gender in some way. And, as I said, no more than 2 sentences per request.

After you’ve sent a request (or several), subscribe to the blog. That way you can keep tabs on all future Five-Name Friday posts and see which requests get featured. Will one of them be yours?

Suggest Baby Names

We can’t start suggesting names until next Friday, so I’ll hold off on these guidelines for now.

But I will say that those who try to sneak extra names into their comments should expect to see said comments “fixed” in some embarrassing way by yours truly. (I’m very much looking forward to this…)

*

So what are you waiting for? Request away! (Or, send requests via Twitter or Facebook.)


Bali’s Four Baby Names – Wayan, Made, Nyoman, Ketut

Bali, IndonesiaThe island of Bali in Indonesia is home to more than four million people and a very simple baby name tradition mainly associated with families of the Sudra caste, Bali’s lowest and largest (93% of the population).

These families name their children according to birth order. Regardless of gender, the first-born child is named Wayan [why-ann], the second-born is named Made [mah-day], the third-born is named Nyoman, and the fourth-born is named Ketut.

And what if there are more than four children? The pattern is repeated: Wayan, Made, Nyoman, and Ketut. Though the second set may be named Wayan Balik, Made Balik, Nyoman Balik, and Ketut Balik — the word balik meaning “again.”

The first three names are derived from terms that refer to the oldest, middle, and last child in a family. This reflects a traditional belief that Balinese families should include no more than three children. Ketut, in contrast, comes from the term kitut, which means “little banana on the outer edge of a bunch of bananas” (adorably).

Though some families do use alternative forms of the names — such as “Putu” for Wayan, “Kadek” for Made, and “Komang” for Nyoman — most stick with Wayan, Made, Nyoman, and Ketut.

So how long will Bali’s birth-order names be around? They’re very common on the island right now, but The Bali Times noted in 2013 that “many modern families name their children as they wish,” so they may not be as common in future generations.

Sources: Do You Know the Meaning Behind Balinese Names?, Keeping Names Straight in Bali, and Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (for the pronunciations)

Finesse, Another Shampoo Baby Name

Ad for Stopette and Finesse from Life Magazine, 1953
© LIFE
The baby name Finesse debuted on the U.S. baby name charts in 1953, then disappeared again (until the 1980s).

  • 1954: unlisted
  • 1953: 7 baby girls named Finesse [debut]
  • 1952: unlisted

What inspired the debut?

Finesse, the “flowing cream shampoo” that was introduced to American consumers in late 1952.

It was the creation of cosmetic chemist Jules Montenier, whose first product had been the best-selling spray deodorant Stopette, introduced in the late 1940s.

Advertisements for both Stopette and Finesse ran in major magazines and also on television, which was still relatively new in the early ’50s. The print ad to the right appeared in LIFE magazine in early 1953, and here’s a Finesse commercial that aired as part of the game show What’s My Line? in late 1952. (For most of the 1950s, Montenier was the main sponsor of What’s My Line?)

Both products were notable because of their innovative polyethylene packaging. Stopette’s squeeze-bottle allowed the product to be sprayed upward (as opposed to being dabbed on manually, like most deodorants of the era) and Finesse’s “accordion” bottle and flip-cap were much safer in the shower than typical glass shampoo bottles.

In 1956, Montenier sold his brands to Helene Curtis. Stopette was eventually taken off the shelves, but Finesse is still available today. (The brand is currently owned by Lornamead.)

Curiously, Finesse wasn’t the first shampoo-inspired name on the baby name charts. The earliest was Drene, which debuted in 1946, and next came Shasta, which was given a boost in 1948.

The word finesse has several definitions, including “refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture.” It can be traced back to the Old French word fin, meaning “subtle, delicate.”

Sources:

Image: Ad from LIFE 9 Feb. 1953: 32.

Popular Baby Names in New Jersey, 2015

According to New Jersey’s Department of Health, the most popular baby names in the state in 2015 were Isabella and Liam.

Here are New Jersey’s top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2015:

Girl Names Boy Names
1. Isabella
2. Olivia
3. Sophia
4. Emma
5. Mia
6. Ava
7. Abigail
8. Emily
9. Madison
10. Charlotte
1. Liam
2. Michael
3. Jacob
4. Noah
5. Mason
6. Matthew
7. Dylan
8. Joseph
9. Benjamin
10. Alexander

(The SSA data agrees about Liam being New Jersey’s top boy name, but says the top girl name is actually Emma.)

In the girls’ top 10, Charlotte replaces Sofia. In the boys’ top 10, Mason, Dylan, and Benjamin replace Daniel, Ethan, and Anthony.

Here are NJ’s 2014 rankings. For more sets of U.S. rankings, check out the U.S. name rankings subcategory.

Source: Take a look at the top N.J. baby names of 2015

Will the Baby Name Bison Get a Boost?

Bison in Yellowstone National Park
Bison in Yellowstone, 2012 © Nancy’s anonymous husband

Early last month, the North American bison — which was brought back from the brink of extinction in the late 1800s — was given a special honor: it was declared the national mammal of the United States via the newly enacted National Bison Legacy Act.

Though the baby name Bison is rare, it’s been used often enough to appear on the national baby name list twice: once in 2011, and again in 2013. Do you think this recent national focus on the bison could give the name boost in 2016?

(BTW, slightly more common than Bison on the baby name charts is Eagle.)

Sources: 15 Facts About Our National Mammal: The American Bison, Frequently Asked Questions: Bison

Name Quotes for the Weekend #40

Sting quote: Your parents name you, but they haven’t a clue who you are. Your friends nickname you because they know exactly who you are.

From a list of quotes by the musician Sting (a.k.a. Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner):

Your parents name you, but they haven’t a clue who you are. Your friends nickname you because they know exactly who you are.

From a post about black names vs. white names at the blog Baby Making Machine:

My name is Jennifer. My siblings: Heather, Michael, Lauren, Kimberly. None of them are stereotypical names you’d hear on the Top 60 Ghetto Black Names list. They are, however, found in the most popular names of the year list. I didn’t want my daughter’s name on either. My mother’s reasoning for her decision was different than mine. She would say “do you want to get a job?” Which sounds harsh but some research shows “black-sounding” names on resumes don’t do as well next to the same resume holding a “white-sounding” names.

From a post called “Save Our Susans and Protect The Peter: The Ridiculous World of “Endangered” Names” at the blog Waltzing More Than Matilda:

If a name isn’t used much any more, no great calamity will result. Brangien and Althalos have been rarely used since the Middle Ages, but nobody has suffered as a result of Brangien deficiency, and no awful disaster has ensued from the loss of Althalos.

Furthermore, if we decided we’d like to see more of a particular name which has gone out of use, it costs no money or effort to bring it back. You simply slap the name onto your child’s birth certificate, and hey presto – you’ve got yourself a rare and beautiful specimen of an Althalos.

As long as we still know of a name’s existence from books and records, it is a potential baby name, no matter how many centuries or even millennia since it was last used.

From an article about Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) in NYC newspaper The Villager:

There is hardly an account of Greenwich Village in the ’20s in which she does not prominently figure. Yet her roots in the neighborhood preceded even her fame. The poet’s unusual middle name came from St. Vincent’s Hospital on 12th St. Millay’s uncle was nursed back to health there after a sailing accident, and her mother wished to show her gratitude by naming her first-born child after the place.

From an article called “Baby Names Can’t Be Stolen–but It’s Not Surprising That Some Parents Think They Can” in Slate:

This belief [in baby-name stealing] is ridiculous–after all, liking a name doesn’t give you ownership over it, and sharing a name with a friend or relative is, at worst, a mild nuisance. But the idea that names shouldn’t be stolen is not surprising. Over the past hundred years, naming has increasingly become an act of self-expression for parents, a way to assert their individuality rather than a sense of belonging in their community. With our names and selves so thoroughly intertwined, it stands to reason that parents would become increasingly protective of their children’s names.

[…]

As with so much of contemporary parenting, the drama surrounding name-stealing is ultimately more about the threat it poses to parent’s identities than their children’s. In practical terms, no child will be harmed by having the same name as a classmate or cousin. … Far more punishing than having the same name as another child is growing up in an environment where names are considered personal property and friendships end when someone “steals” one.

Jimmy Wales, in response to the Quora question: Is the name “Jimmy” unsuitable for an adult?

Interestingly, my actual name is Jimmy. Not James. I used to wonder the same thing, but decided – hey, I’m from Alabama, so people can get over themselves.

It has not seemed to hurt my career in any way, and may have helped as it (correctly, as it turns out) signals to people that I’m not stuffy.

From an article called “How baby names got so weird” in The Spectator:

Naming your child was once simple: you picked from the same handful of options everyone else used. But modern parents want exclusivity. And so boys are called Rollo, Emilio, Rafferty and Grey. Their sisters answer to Aurelia, Bartolomea, Ptarmigan or Plum. Throw in a few middle names and the average birth certificate looks like an earthquake under a Scrabble board.

[…]

They’ve forgotten about ‘eccentric sheep’ syndrome.

This is the process, identified by social anthropologist Kate Fox in her book Watching the English, whereby something meant as ‘evidence of our eccentricity and originality’ ends up as ‘conformist, conservative rule-following’. Fox applied it to clothes, but the same thing is happening with names. In an attempt to make their children stand out, parents are only helping them to blend in. When everyone’s a Marni or an Autumn or a Sky, the rebellion has nothing to register against.

(Incidentally, here’s a Ptarmigan.)

From an article about Medieval Pet Names at Medievalists.net:

In England we find dogs that were named Sturdy, Whitefoot, Hardy, Jakke, Bo and Terri. Anne Boleyn, one of the wives of King Henry VIII, had a dog named Purkoy, who got its name from the French ‘pourquoi’ because it was very inquisitive.

Have you spotted any good name-related quotes/articles/blog posts lately? Let me know!

Should We Name Hurricanes to Maximize Donations?

hurricaneIn 2008, psychologists Jesse Chandler, Tiffany M. Griffin, and Nicholas Sorensen published a study showing that people who shared an initial with a hurricane name were over-represented among hurricane relief donors. So, for instance, people with R-names donated significantly more than other people to Hurricane Rita relief efforts. (This is an offshoot of the name-letter effect.)

A few years later, marketing professor Adam Alter came up with an interesting idea: Why not use this knowledge to try to maximize donations to hurricane relief efforts? He explained:

In the United States, for example, more than 10% of all males have names that begin with the letter J-names like James and John (the two most common male names), Joseph and Jose, Jason, and Jeffrey. Instead of beginning just one hurricane name with the letter J each year (in 2013, that name will be Jerry), the World Meteorological Organization could introduce several J names each year. Similarly, more American female names begin with M than any other letter–most of them Marys, Marias, Margarets, Michelles, and Melissas–so the Organization could introduce several more M names to each list.

I think his idea is a good one overall. It wouldn’t cost much to implement, but could potentially benefit many hurricane victims.

I would go about choosing the names differently, though.

Repeating initials multiple times within a single hurricane season would be unwise, for instance. It would cause confusion, which would undermine the reason we started naming hurricanes in the first place (“for people easily to understand and remember” them, according to the WMO).

But optimizing the name lists using data on real-life usage? That would be smart.

I might even try optimizing based on demographics. Baby boomers are particularly generous donors, so maybe we should choose letters (or even names) with that generation in mind?

The baby boomers were born from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s, so here are the top initials for babies born in 1956 (60 years ago):

Top first letters of baby names, 1956, U.S.

Here are two possible lists of hurricane names using the above letters. I stuck with the WMO’s conventions: 21 names total, alternating genders, and no retired names.

Mid-century style Modern style
Janice
Danny
Rebecca
Martin
Cindy
Scott
Lori
Kenneth
Brenda
Patrick
Theresa
Gerald
Angela
Eugene
Wanda
Vincent
Nancy
Howard
Francine
Ira
Olga
Jasmine
Dominic
Rylee
Matthew
Charlotte
Sebastian
Lucy
Kingston
Bella
Preston
Trinity
Grayson
Ava
Eli
Willow
Victor
Nora
Hunter
Fiona
Isaac
Olivia

And here’s another point: we wouldn’t want to assign these names in order. While the official hurricane season lasts a full six months — June to November — most hurricane activity happens in August, September and October:

Number of Tropical Cyclones per 100 Years (NOAA)

To really optimize, we’d want to reserve the top initials/names for the stronger mid-season hurricanes, which tend to do the most damage. So we could start the season using mid-list names, then jump to the top of the list when August comes around and go in order from that point forward (skipping over any mid-list names that had already been used).

What are your thoughts on assigning hurricane names with disaster relief in mind? Do you think it could work? What strategy/formula would you use to select relief-optimized hurricane names?

Sources: In the “I” of the storm: Shared initials increase disaster donations, Smart Hurricane Names: A Policy Intervention that Costs Almost Nothing but Should Attract Billions of Dollars in Aid, Tropical Cyclone Programme – WMO
Image: Tropical Cyclone Climatology – National Hurricane Center – NOAA

P.S. While J, D and R were the top initials 60 years ago, today’s top initials are A, J and M.

The Sad Story of Sherianne

On February 22, 1944, Spencer and Easter Hutto of rural Alabama welcomed quadruplets: Dianne, Yvonne, Spencer and Sherianne.

The quads were born about 30 days premature, and though they were said to be in “good condition” at first, none of them lived very long. Dianne, the first-born, was the only one that lived longer than 24 hours.

For the short time they were alive, their story was front-page news. And that was enough for expectant parents to pick up on the baby name Sherianne (and the variant spelling Sheriann) in 1944:

  • 1945: unlisted
  • 1944: 23 baby girls named Sherianne [debut]; 8 baby girls named Sheriann [debut]
  • 1943: unlisted

The other three names saw decreased usage that year, ironically.

The Huttos, who had already lost a baby named Daphne prior to having the quads, did go on to have three babies that lived to adulthood: Gloria, Felton, and Cornelia.

Sources:

[Etan, Roni Sue and Rainelle are three more baby names linked to sad news stories.]

100 Years Ago, Were Black Names Beneficial?

© Cook, Logan, and Parman
© Cook, Logan, and Parman

In generations past, was it advantageous for a black man to have a distinctively black name?

Yes, according to a study published recently in the journal Explorations in Economic History.

Researchers Lisa D. Cook, Trevon D. Logan, and John M. Parmanc analyzed over 3 million death certificates from Alabama, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina from 1802 to 1970. They looked specifically at the life expectancy of men with the following distinctively black names:

  • Abe, Abraham
  • Alonzo
  • Ambrose
  • Booker
  • Elijah
  • Freeman
  • Isaac
  • Isaiah
  • Israel
  • King
  • Master
  • Moses
  • Percy
  • Perlie, Purlie, Pearlie
  • Presley, Presly
  • Prince
  • Titus

What did they find?

That black men with these names lived more than a full year longer (on average) than other black men. In fact, according to the abstract, “[a]s much as 10% of the historical between-race mortality gap would have been closed if every black man was given a black name.”

So what’s behind this beneficial effect?

It’s hard to say, but Lisa D. Cook believes that the black men with Biblical names specifically could have been “held to a higher standard in academic and other activities […] and had stronger family, church or community ties,” and that this could have played a part in their relative longevity.

Studies of modern black names, in contrast, regularly find that such names are a hindrance in the workplace, in academia, etc. My most recent post about this is: Men with “Black” Names Seen as Aggressive, Low Status.

Sources: What’s in a name? In some cases, longer life, The mortality consequences of distinctively black names (abstract)

The Oranges of Orangeville

In the late 1880s, locomotives in snowy regions of North America began making use of the newly invented rotary snowplow. One of the co-inventors of the rotary snowplow was Orange Jull (1845-1920) of Orangeville, Ontario.

Wait…Orange from Orangeville? There has to be a connection there, right?

Yup: Orange Jull was part of a large extended family that included multiple men named Orange. All were descendants of businessman Orange Lawrence (1786-1861), originally from Connecticut, who relocated in the 1840s to the spot that would later be called Orangeville in his honor. Here’s the story:

Orange Lawrence was just the type of settler this developing community needed – an entrepreneur! On his arrival he bought 300 acres. He laid out the southeast part of town, bought Grigg’s Mill, opened a general store and a tavern, and built a second mill. He also founded the first school in Orangeville, and it was he who became the village’s first postmaster in 1847. So strong was the mark he left on this community that everyone agreed Orangeville was a most appropriate name.

I’m not sure how Orange Lawrence came to be named “Orange,” but his name may have been inspired by the surname Orange, which could have originally referred to a location in France (such as Orange, Vaucluse).

Sources: History of Orangeville – Town of Orangeville