May 9th, 2009


Why Your Baby Name Will Sounds Like Everyone Else's

Interesting article from Wired Science: Why Your Baby Name Will Sounds Like Everyone Else's.
In aggregate, the popularity of baby names are merely driven by the rules of fashion. By a process known as the “ratchet effect,” the names change slowly, as millions of individuals just happen to like names that sound kind of, but not too much, like ones they know....

Now that everyone relentlessly Googles baby names, parents have no excuse if they saddle their kids with the most popular names. But Wattenberg says they still want names that sound popular, so they end up choosing endless variations on phonetic schemes that happen to be popular: Ava, Emma, Ella, Bella.

“What’s hard for parents is that what feels like your own personal taste, it’s everybody’s taste,” Wattenberg says. “It’s a no win situation - if you pick a name you like, probably everybody else will like it too.”
For me, this hits a little too close to home. After weeks of deliberation, Liska and I had finally agreed on a name. It was pretty, not too ordinary sounding, and we were generally OK with it. Then, this being the internet age, we googled it.

Turns out the name we picked is one of the most popular baby names being chosen today. Like, SUPER popular. Picking this name would be the generational equivalent of naming our daughter "Jennifer." Goddammit!!! (No offense, Jenny)

In the end, perhaps it doesn't matter. I'm starting to think the whole name thing is more about us than our daughter. Most people have ordinary names, and it doesn't seem to affect their lives one way or the other. I'm sure whatever we decide on will be fine, so long as it's pleasant-sounding, easy to pronounce, and not an obvious pun.

This last bit is somewhat more difficult when your last name is Pai. For a while, we were trying to think of names that were personally meaningful. I really liked "Ada," in honor of Countess Ada Lovelace, the first programmer. It has a nice ring to it. But Ada Pai?