Name Trends

Searching for a name for a person is a little different from deciding a name for a character. I suppose many of the principles are the same, but it still feels different.

A baby give the challenge of being an infant through an adult with the name chosen by the parents. Adding to the difficulty, they both have to agree. [I suppose there are ways around this, but we’re pretending to live in a world where we’d like peace among both parents.]

In a book, it’s nice to pick different names. Some stories have requirements – like historical fiction – where it’s better to choose a name that might have been heard of during that era. Example: A novel set in the 1940’s would not feature a Braeden. The name has become popular for many boys since 1995, however, so a contemporary children’s book could easily have a character with that name.

An author also might choose a name she didn’t like for a character she didn’t like, or to show how it didn’t suit the character if she did like the guy. The beauty of names is that the possibilities are infinite, and the importance behind choosing the correct one for the character depends entirely on what the author wants to say. Would Isabella Marie “Bella” Swan be the same person to us if we knew her as “Izzy” instead of “Bella”? What about “Marie”? How about if we changed her name entirely to Meredith Sue Peregrine?

Then would Meredith be the #1 name on the list for the Social Security Administration’s most popular baby names of 2010¬†instead of Isabella? Would Jacob be the top boy’s name? If you’re curious, one series of books – no matter how popular – can do all of this on its own. [Twilight was released in 2005, and the name Isabella had already inched into the top 10 in 2004.]

One thing that makes books so much easier to give the characters a name is that I usually don’t have to worry about a childhood nickname and a grown-up profession and all the time in between. An author can write in the cruel naming twists that kids in school somehow figure out that are much worse than the ones found in Don’t Name Your Baby. I’m not knocking the book; I own it. It’s really much more about humor than what to seriously not name your child. My husband often jokes about Harry Potter by calling him Harry Potty. Somehow these kinds of insults never come up at Hogwarts or the public schools he attended before that.

The other reason it’s so much easier to name a character in a book is that the last name can change if you want. If you find the name Parker and love it, you can find a last name to put with it. You can bend the rules of what to name boys or girls. Remember A Boy Named Beverly?

There are a lot of names on this unisex name list. There are trends where some go more toward female and or more toward male, more popular or less popular in general. Some names seem to morph from one category to another.

What do you name the children, then? Something you can stand to shout at the top of your lungs several times a day for years on end, something you think the kids won’t twist into a bad word, and something you hope the person your child grows into will fit and appreciate. Yeah, that’s easy. And it’s a bonus if every other kid in the class doesn’t have the same name, too.

Why is all this on the top of my head? If you noticed yesterday’s Silent Sunday post, you’ll notice my daughter is checking out a secret in the ultrasound.

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Character Naming

See information about The Art of Science and an interview with me here.

If a story has a historical setting, or perhaps the writer wanted to know the name of a character would have been used or even common for a particular age group, the social security administration has kept some records since the 1890s.

Since 2000, they have detailed records of the top 1000 names for both male and female babies born in the US and some data about popularity by state. Data includes ranking with some statistical information about how probable the name is to find. If nothing else, it’s interesting to play with just to see how things change (like the fall of Emily from the number one slot this year to Emma – my, how similar they sound).