I was walking down the street this afternoon when I spied something familiar in a newspaper machine. It was an infographic on the front page of USA Today, accompanying an article on popular baby names.
The graphic looked familiar as it was created by Wordle, an interesting tool I stumbled upon a while back that combines two utterly geeky fields– statistics and typography– to create informative works of art. Or at least artsy arrangements of words. You can feed it any text you like to see a frequency analysis. For example, here’s my RSS feed.
Now back to the topic of names for children. This topic was also being discussed on the radio this morning. As I listened, two sides to the story emerged. One one hand are trendy parents who now tend toward giving a child the most exotic name imaginable, in the hopes that the child will live up to the promise of the name. On the other hand is everyone else, who not only worry that children with bizarre names will suffer under them; but who also won’t be able to spell or pronounce the name. (I can sympathize with the latter. I have a nice easy name, but most people want to spell it wrong.) Unsurprisingly, the show concluded that it was the responsibility of the parent to choose a name with a balance of originality and familiarity, with a strong hint that historical names, such as those of one’s grandparents, would be suitable.
That’s a reasonable suggestion. But last I heard, this was America. Responsibility? Balance? Hints? Pfff! We’ll name our kids Pabst, 4Real or Tallulah Does The Hula if we want to. Okay, so those last two are actually from Australia or New Zealand or something. But speaking of foreign countries, a few of them publish lists of acceptable names to prevent this sort of thing. Well, that and to prevent cultural erosion. Of course, America doesn’t really have a base culture to erode, but rather a layer of sediment that has accreted into a somewhat firm mass, and also nobody here would ever stand for being told what was and wasn’t an acceptable name for their baby…. never mind if the name they liked happened to already be on the list.
So, why not make everybody happy? Some cultures have "child names" and "adult names." Why not let the parents name their kids whatever nutty thing they want, but also give the child the opportunity to choose a new name at some point?