I love names. I'm a name geek. I love studying the meanings of names, their origins, their trends, whatever. When I was in 4th grade, I talked my mom into getting me a baby name book so that I could read it. Bringing this home caused my aunt to cast a wary eye on my mother, wondering if perhaps there was another little Mead on the way. That's the problem with this hobby. You start talking names, and people get suspicious. Nope. I just think the science of names is cool, and I can't ever start writing a new book until I have all the characters named. And the main characters have to be named just right. The name has to feel good or the character won't become real to me.
Anyway, I'm not sure where this love of name science came from. Maybe it's inevitable when you're named Richelle and spend your life answering to Michelle and Rachel. Maybe it comes from listening to my mom saying that all names must be evaluated on whether they could belong to a president or a prostitute. (Sound advice). Regardless, I'm addicted, and I know all the trends of what's in and out right now and what name comes from what Greek root. And for years, I have been alone with this hobby, a freak in my love of etymology.
Not any longer.
It turns out there are tons of people out there just like me. Where are they? Why, the only place with more varied interests than college: the internet. There are blogs out there filled with individuals who, like me, are intrigued by the popularity of names rhyming with -aden, who get excited when Social Security publishes last year's naming data, and how movies (hmm...Trinity became popular in 2000) inspire trends.
Finally, I have a place I belong, and here's what really gets people like us excited.
This Java masterpiece with a fun interface creates graphs that show you the rise and fall of assorted names since the 1880s. It gives you a visual aid as well as numbers on millions of babies named. Seeing that gives you a big understanding not only of the trends but what causes them. 'Britney' was doing very well for a while. But not so much in recent years. 'Ava' shot off the charts right after Reese Witherspoon named her daughter that in 1999. You can also tell if your name is fading or on the cutting edge...or if, um, it's just not on the charts. This site is addictive, and once you look at it, you'll want to enter your own name and that of everyone you know.
Nymbler uses its data to generate lists of names it thinks you'll like, based on names you already like. You get to enter up to six, and then it starts making the lists. I've found its accuracy with me to be about 50/50. As you can see from above, I'm apparently destined to have a character named 'Deon' at some point. I'm already picturing a sullen blond Strigoi...
Anyway, there you have it, a little-known interest of mine. These two sites each have blogs affiliated with them, chock-full of articles with awesome and bizarre naming topics. These sites mostly deal with trends and sounds, but if you're into meanings or other data, there's the aptly named BabyNamer, which lists meanings and origins, as well as drawbacks (fact: Daisy rhymes with crazy). Name Nerds keeps lists with bizarre themes, like names invented by the Soviet Union and names perfect for Goth babies.
For any prospective parents out there, though, I want to remind you that no matter what these websites say, my mom's test will always prove the most accurate: president or prostitute? Ask yourself that before you sign the birth certificate.
Got names stories? Cautionary tales? Love or hate yours? Post 'em 'cos I want to hear 'em!