Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Get this: old-fashioned baby names are beginning to make a comeback.
That was the finding of BabyCenter, a digital resource for parenting and pregnancy, which released the top 100 baby names for 2013.
Some of the names at the top of the list are oldies but goodies, such as Sophia, Isabella and Olivia for girls. And once we get past Liam, Lucas and Mason, Jack, Ben and Bill are increasing in popularity for boys.
Naming conventions are surely cyclical in nature, and I hope it is just a matter of time before the common names of my childhood make a comeback: Tom, John, Jeff, Bill, Bob, Rich and Tim. We had one Clint and he had a brother named Reid, but that was as daring as things got in those days.
You were never referred to by your full name - Thomas, Jonathan, Jeffrey, William and so on - the way parents demand nowadays.
My sisters had common names, too: Kathy, Krissy, Lisa, Mary and Jennifer. So did the girls I went to school with: Terri, Laura, Donna, Colleen, Karen, Susan, Janine, Holly, Sandy, Sherri and so on.
The girls’ names were much less flowery than they were in our grandparents’ generation. My grandmother on my father’s side, born in 1903, was named Beatrice - family members called her Beady.
She came of age at a time when it was common to name girls Gertrude, Mildred, Dorothy, Lilian, Josephine, Mabel and other wonderful names.
I surely prefer old-fashioned names over the newfangled ones - and don’t care much for the way modern parents determine names for their kids.
A few years back, The Wall Street Journal did a report on parents who hired naming experts, applied mathematical formulas and software programs and even consulted with nutty spiritualists.
One couple hired a pair of consultants to draw up a list of suggestions based on “phonetic elements, popularity and ethnic and linguistic origins.”
One woman paid a “nameologist” $350 for three half-hour phone calls and a personalized manual describing each name’s history and personality traits.
Another spent $475 on a numerologist to see if her favorite name had positive associations, whatever the heck that means.
One married couple really took the cake in coming up with the name Beckett for their son. The name sounds reliable and stable, according to the proud dad, who said the “ck” sound is very well regarded in corporate circles. The “hard stop” forces one to accentuate that syllable, which draws attention to it, he droned on.
What a dweeb.
Needless to say, parents didn’t obsess over baby names this way in prior generations. Children were named after people their parents admired - family members or someone they were close to.
I was named after my father and his father, Thomas James Purcell. I am the fourth Thomas James Purcell to hold that honor.
My name also carries with it a spiritual meaning. There are many Christian saints and Biblical heroes named Thomas. By assigning me this name, my parents also hoped to bestow on me Christian blessings and guidance. That’s why the kids I knew at St. Germaine Catholic School all had simple Biblical names.
In any event, isn’t it better to name children after saints and admired people than to hire a high-priced consultant to define the right phonetics?
Even though “Tom” is only 59th on the BabyCenter list, I love my old-fashioned name. It is practical. I know immediately, for instance, when I’ve done something to anger a woman; angry women refer to me as “Thomas.”
A kid with a newfangled name - such as Nevaeh, which is “heaven” spelled backward - will never enjoy a simple benefit like that.
‑ Tom Purcell is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. His columns are syndicated nationally by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.