the name game…

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 for the full service version?  It’s shinier…


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Jessie says:

    Carl Jung + the collective unconscious…Also you 2 need look no further for names as I have copy-pasted the ultimate list: I'd go go for Battleship or Famous, but Earthaline might appeal to SaraKia •Espn •Polo •Cashmere •Denim •Del Monte •Pistol •Aheavy •Alphasigmaphi •Aquarius •Artist •Barefoot •Battleship •Beethoven •Birdie •Casino •Elevator •Famous •Gimme •Handsome •Hightower •Lasagna •Learned •Quarter •Stereo •Starsky •Sahara •Beauty •Bobcat •Car •Cellars •Cheers •Crayon •Dimple •Earthaline •Factory •Hum •Hurrah •Lemonia •Luncheon •Lullaby •Magazine •Poppin •Risque •Space •Thee •Trivia •Unique •Vodka

  2. Frake says:

    How about "Freek"? I suppose my name will never hit the charts 😦

  3. What about 'Elipsis' Baran? You could call the wee babe Elly (if it's a girl) or Eli (if it's a boy).Or epsilon.Sorry for not adding anything really truly constructive to the dialogue.Except for: how does one learn to predict wider trends? Is it even possible? I just imagine some impossibly powerful and small group of people who decide what is cool and when. Sort of Illuminati-esque.You know, even that wasn't all that meaningful.- Josh

  4. shawn says:

    Hey now! Josh, what you said was very somewhat kinda meaningful in a very Friday Night Telly sort of way… kidding. I can't help but share your imaginings of the impossibly powerful illuminati-esque group.Jessie: Thanks for the Carl Jung recommendation. I have had him on my "to read" list for sometime; I might just have to bump him up to the top. Also, I could see Sara liking Earthaline, but I find myself more drawn to Crayon (pun intended)… I don't know, it has a cool and colourful vibe to it. Plus, Crayon Baran is… umm… yeah, alright, it's pretty lame.

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