Monday, February 20, 2006

Where'd You Get That Name?

I always knew there was a good reason that the world (from my American perspective) is overcrowded with Jens, Jenns, Jennys, Jennies and Jennifers. Jennifer (with all of its diminutive forms) was only the most popular baby girls' name for childbearing humans in this country for several years back in the 1970s. It was a fad name, and has accordingly dropped in popularity in recent years. An article in the Trib from this weekend looks at the latest trends in naming babies.

The article divides names into two categories: "Traditional" and "Unique". I'm not sure how this applies in my family. My wife and I disagreed on how to name our kids. She wanted to name them after living relatives, which smacked to me of ass-kissing; and I wanted to name them after long-dead ancestors. I have a very "ethnic" surname, which I thought would go nicely with ethnically appropriate given names. We reached a compromise: She got to name a girl and a boy, and I got to name a boy and a girl. As a result, two of our kids have what Archie Bunker would call "regular American" names, and the other two have what Archie Bunker would call "Kraut" names. I'm rather proud of the latter.

Now here are my questions: Are the names that I gave to two kids "traditional", because they were used in the family over 150 years ago in the old country? Or are they "unique", because they are not commonly used names today? As for the others, are the names given by my wife "traditional" because they were borne by living relatives? Or are they "unique", because they are English congnates of German names that would have been "ethnically correct"? I would venture to say "both", in each case, for the reasons that I have just given.

Am I right about this?

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