Swift: Today, blame it on the name
When I was in second grade, my pregnant mom brought home a little blue book of baby names. It contained nothing more than lists and lists of popular monikers for newborns, circa 1973. (Oddly, Mannix, Columbo or Barnabas were not among them.)
The family paged through the book many times in search for the ideal handle for this unborn Swift of unknown gender. Naturally, we considered only masculine names, as you couldn’t swing a dead possum in our house without hitting a female. We spent hours discussing whether the next sibling would be a Michael, a Gary or – in honor of my paternal grandfather – a Raymond.
Upon his birth, my parents looked at his head of dark hair and scrunched-up little face and decided he looked like a Gary. “Ray” became his middle name. (They’re lucky he was indeed a boy, as a little girl might have wound up as a “Garyetta.”)
I don’t think even that much thought was put into naming the rest of us. My sisters – whose real names are NOT Verbena, Mabel and Bertha – seemed to have been named after characters from “Beach Blanket Bingo.” I was named after a Debbie Reynolds movie.
Today, potential parents have so many more name-finding resources at their disposal. One of these is Nameberry, a website dedicated exclusively to the art of naming your offspring. A week or so ago, the website released a list of the top 100 boys’ and girls’ names for 2014.
The top five girls’ names, starting at the most popular, are Imogen, Charlotte, Isla, Cora and Penelope. Other feminine names in the top-100 list include Hazel, Elodie, Rowan, Poppy, Piper, Luna, Harlow and – as a nod to the wildly popular “Hunger Games” – Katniss.
The trendiest boys’ names are Asher, Declan, Atticus, Finn and Oliver. (I get the noble Atticus, but Declan happens to be a meth distributor on “Breaking Bad.”) Additional hot names include Ryker, Jude, Ezra, Beckett, Callum, Axel and – you heard it right – Django. (That last one actually isn’t a tribute to a Quentin Tarantino film, but to several gifted musicians throughout history. It means “I awake.”)
It’s interesting to see how today’s name pool reflects the whole information overload of our society. It consists of a jumbled stew of inanimate objects, biblical names, “Friends” actors, movie stars, literary heroes, rock stars and – in the case of Sebastian – my cat. No. 71 on the list was Merida, which is a lovely name even if it reminds me a little of an antidepressant.
I was especially surprised by the number of names that used to be associated with front parlors, the Charleston and Calvin Coolidge. In the ’80s, you didn’t find many kids named Pearl, Cordelia, Beatrice or Clementine. And if you did, you immediately assumed they had parents who didn’t own a TV and made them wash their hair with Lava soap.
Likewise, the only time you heard of boys called Silas or Ezekial was when watching “Gunsmoke.”
Overall, I was a little disappointed to see that – after the Melissa McCarthy film of this summer – we weren’t going to see the renaissance of “Tammy.”
I guess new parents don’t want to associate their newborns with an unemployed, divorced goofball whose life is a train wreck.
Blame it on the name.