Friday, February 10, 2006

some half-assed empirical research

It's hard, you know, this baby-naming business. Long before we were even actually pregnant, back when we were just thinking about it, Brent and I bought the new version of Beyond Jennifer and Jason (now with the updated title, Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana). Having grown up with a name that at least one other person in every classroom I have ever been in has also possessed--and I mean this quite literally, I have never been the only Jennifer in any school setting; even now, I am one of a pair!--I am determined to find a name for this kid that she can consider to be all hers, so that if she should happen to run into someone of the same name it's kind of exciting and unusual instead of routine and very, very annoying...and sometimes just plain depressing. It's hard to feel so unique and yet have the same name as every other female child born in 1976.

(Sorry, MOM. I know you tried. You just tapped into the Zeitgeist and it didn't let you go, or something.)

So Brent and I have looked on the US Census Bureau website at name statistics and trends over like the last 20 years. And that was somewhat reassuring. The name we like for the kid has made it only so far as the top 100 names. But lately we've been hearing it a lot on TV: random characters on prime-time TV series like CSI have this name, or minor characters in a movie, or main characters in really bad movies. But it's there. And it's worrisome.

So I decided to put my Harding alum magazine to use this morning while I sipped my tea--a poor substitute for coffee, alas, but hell, I'm drinking decaf these days anyway so what does it even matter--and looked through the birth announcements solely for the purposes of discovering what I should definitely NOT be naming this baby.

First, the prize for the only really different-sounding and yet not totally freakish name out of the whole bunch goes to "Stella Allison." I'm proud to say, too, that this was the only couple I actually knew out of the list of those who've recently procreated. Yay!

Other names I kinda liked were "Sarah Nell" and "Nora Mae" although I'm a little less keen on the second. (Liked Nora, not so much the Mae with-an-e.)

But here's the breakdown: out of 27 names, there were,

2 Avery's
2 Rose's
3 Anne's and one Anniston
2 Emma's
3 Grace's
4 Caroline's (one spelled with a 'K')
4 Elizabeth's
2 Sarah's
2 Lee's and 1 Lily
and the usual run of made-up or unisexish names: Ashton, Ashlyn, Ayden, Campbell, Murphy, Mackinley

Abby, Alexis, Katelyn, Kaylie, Lindsay, Emily, Laura and Jane also made an appearance but were not (surpisingly, for some of these) duplicated. Oh, and there was one "Aria Tuscany," so I suppose those alums definitely went to HUF at some point.

So, and this is a relief, our name didn't appear on the list. But now that I'm all paranoid about it I'm keeping this to myself, so family types: quit referring to the kid as "Baby _______" at least on the blogs, okay? There's probably some other desperate Jennifers out there looking for the perfect as-yet-unrediscovered moniker for their precious unique little girl bundle of joy (Joy! That's it! Go for "Joy"!) and I'm not giving this one away.

And one last unrelated and somewhat strident point: are these the names good Harding alumni are giving to the next generation of women we expect to remain silent in our churches? Somehow "Murphy" in particular strikes me as a name with the potential to encourage the expression of personal opinion and thoughts...why might that be?... Perhaps Dr. Burks should work on providing procreating alums with a list of acceptably feminine names that don't challenge the status quo, ahem, I mean, the "core beliefs" of our churches.

Update: Thanks to mph's tip I found a whole 'nother page of birth announcements, upping the "Ann family" total to 4 Annes, 1 Anniston, 2 Hannahs and 1 Savannah; there are 4 Graces, 1 Joy & 1 Faith (apparently this generation is Hopeless); 3 Ashlyns; and the peerless Vail Blue. Added to unisex names: Emmerson, Sidney, & Madison, Briley and Riley.


priscilla said...

Ah, yes, we remember the name debate well.

With Trinity, there was no problem, as we had decided years ago, while watching 'The Matrix' that our first girl would be named Trinity.

With Mila, it was a bit more difficult, but we got there in the end. She was going to be Torrance, but we decided against it because a)the new president was Ian Torrance, and
b)the head cheerleader from a movie I can't remember was named Torrance.

If it is any help, I have always thought of you as a Agapanthus,
rather than a Jennifer!

MPH said...

I can't believe you didn't mention "Vail Blue" from the Harding mag. Did it slip by you?

TKP said...

Jen, I miss you. Did I tell you the shockingly pastoral message Fred said to me before I left the States? Guess you'll have to email me to find out. ;)

pat said...

In my defense, I didn't know that Jennifer was the popular name that it was...I just liked it. Isn't that what you do? Pick a name that you like? I didn't have time to do "some half-assed emipirical research", but even if I had, I would have gone with it anyway because it goes really well with Jeannine. I really like Guinevere (sp?) of which Jennifer is a derivative, but it sounded a bit haughty to me. If I had watched the Miss Marple episode of "Sleeping Murder", then we could have named you that and called you Gwinnie. But, Dad was a bit fussy about you girls' names. We were talking about Emily's name just the other day, and I didn't know this, but he named her for a song, "For Emily, wherever I may find her". I never knew that. Maybe he named you?? I'll have to ask. In which case, you can fuss at him! But, you'll always be Jenny to me because when I say that, I see you in that little dress with your school bag on your first day of kindergarten...and I like that image.

pat said...

P.S. I think DB needs some spiritual pilates...needs to improve his core.....

JTB said...

Yeah, I was cute back then wasn't I? Not to worry Ma, apparently my agapanthus personality triumphs o'er my garden variety name. :) I'm not terribly bitter or anything. Besides, at least I got a proper middle name which is more than some people can say...

mph, I totally missed "Vail Blue"--I didn't realize there was another page! I'll have to update my stats, I guess.