I’ve been going through old photo albums and, as a result, thinking about family and family names.
When I was a little girl, I used to imagine what I would name a future daughter. For a long time my choice was Elizabeth, but then I saw the movie “Portrait of Jennie” starring Jennifer Jones and that clinched it. My daughter was going to be called Jennifer. And when I did give my new baby girl that name in 1974, I thought it was so original and unusual. Cue the laughter.
It turned out I gave Jen the most popular girl’s name of the 70s. “27 Jennifers” indeed!
Here’s a fun link to see the popularity of names over the decades. I popped over to the 1950s and scrolling down the list of names, I see most of my girlfriends and both of my sisters. Yup, there’s Carol, Diane, Mary, Suzanne, Dorothy, Jean, Patricia. We can strive to keep current with fashion and hairstyles, but there’s nothing like an out-of-date first name to plop us right down into the decade of our birth.
It’s a pretty safe bet there aren’t too many Carols and Pats being enrolled in kindergarten nowadays. Emily, Madison, and Hannah are more like it.
This WordItOut app creates word clouds and this one shows the names most commonly given in my family. Here are the first and middle names of three generations of my family (mine and my siblings, our parents, and maternal/paternal grandparents.)
I am Barbara Helen, named after each of my grandmothers. My sister, Suzanne, has a middle name of Martina after my mother’s maiden name of Martin, but her first name was a new one to the family. And little sister, Mary Christine, is named for an aunt and our mother respectively. Is there any rhyme or reason to your name? Did your parents get creative and introduce a new name or are you named for an ancestor?
My husband is a “third.” If he were a Southern boy, he’d be called “Trey” for sure. Instead he was always called “little Roger” which is funny when you consider all 6’3″ of him.
How about your family? Are there names which run through the generations? Did you give your children family names?
The new baby boy who has just been born in my neighbor’s family has a big name for such a little guy: Rollyson James. It’s an old family name and I think it’s nice those names from far back on the family tree are being resurrected.
Going back three generations to my Grandmother Helen’s family is a good example of how some names fade into obscurity. Here she is with her eight sisters (side note: finally a boy was born after all those girls….good grief, would they just have kept going?)
And their names are as vintage as the photograph:
Rear (L-R) Gladys, Mable, Ethel, Alice, Blanche, Doris
Front (L-R) Laura, Stanley, Myrtle (the mother), Shirley, Stansfield, Helen
Names carry such association, don’t they? I remember years ago when I was selling real estate in Massachusetts, my broker slamming the phone down after getting yet another phone call from the school about her son. And she exclaimed “Why did I ever name him Kevin? Every Kevin I’ve ever known was a brat!” She was a retired schoolteacher and had opinions about names. I have to say that I’ve found myself not exactly warming up to someone at first because their name was that of an arch-nemesis and the opposite holds true, too. Every Dorothy I’ve ever known is nice! Of course I am sure I am completely alone in carrying name associations this far!
There is the theory of “nominative determinism.”In other words, Dr. Hart, the cardiologist, was never going to be a optometrist. And the Romans had the expression nomen est omen, or “name is destiny.” My name derives from the Greek “barbaros” meaning “foreigner” or “barbarian.” Hmmmm, I was always the new girl in school but I’m not that foreign.
How about you? Tell me about your name.
And as always, thanks for reading,
The Barbaric Foreigner