All of us are products of the world around us. The opinions we hold, the beliefs we cherish are all in some way informed by the culture that surrounds us. One author has called this the “darkness that comes before” – cause and effect.
Never has this bizarre phenomenon been more apparent to me than in the last two weeks. My wife has been pouring over baby name books looking for names that she likes for our little baby Baran (or Cliff, as Brett has taken to calling him/her). One book in particular I find very interesting because it lists over 100,000 names and offers a graph representing that names popularity and the era that it was popular.
So, my name is Shawn and I was born in the early 1980’s. Guess which name saw a huge spike in popularity in 70’s and 80’s?
The thing is, my parents named me “Shawn” because they liked the name and they didn’t know any “Shawn’s” – they thought it a fairly unique name. Well, apparently so did roughly 3% of the population. “Shawn” was the 56th most popular name in the 80’s.
How does that happen? How does such a large chunk of the population all get the same “unique” idea for a name?
The other day I had a friend suggest the name “Chaim” for our little one. Yeah, “Chaim”, what a cool, unique Jewish name. What a nice shout out to my Jewish roots. What? “Chaim” peaked in 2008 and continues to gain in popularity?
How does that happen?
A few days ago I had another friend suggest the name “Jacob”. It’s a great sounding name with Biblical roots, and not too common, right? Wrong. “Jacob” is currently the most popular name for boys in the United States.
If we are all subject to the culture around us and the mysterious forces of cause and effect, then what is it that moves us to collectively gravitate to the same names for our children; names that at the time we think are unique? ‘Cause I bet that everyone who named their kid “Madison” back in 2004 thought that they were picking a cool, unique name.
It’s just kinda interesting, don’t you think?
If you are reading this as a note on facebook, may I recommend you visit shawnbaran.wordpress.com for the full service version? It’s shinier…