Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Rose by Any Other Name

Naming a child is a funny thing. We try our best to come up with a name that both parents like -- meaning neither of us has ever known anyone annoying who happens to have that name. I'm glad I had both my children before I started teaching. I hear from the younger teachers it's almost impossible to come up with a name that doesn't grate like fingernails on a chalkboard. When both parents teach...well, it's not pretty.

We also want a name that's unique and sets our child apart. When I named Alyssa, I had never heard the name. I found it in a baby name book and thought it was pretty. It reminded me of sweet alyssum, one of my favorite flowers. Also, my dad's name was Al. He introduced his first granddaughter to everyone as "Al-lyssa, heavy on the Al."

Sweet Alyssum
 Shortly after Alyssa was born, Alyssa Milano hit the scene on TV, and suddenly every fourth baby girl was named Alyssa. I understand how all those girls came to be named Alyssa, but as a teacher I see names come and go with the years. It's like watching waves on the beach. First Chelsea comes in, then it rolls back out to make way for Jennifer.

Apparently fourteen years ago, every mom had a burning desire to name her daughter Samantha. I've got three of them in the same class period.

I've also got two boys named Chris and one Christian spread out over three class periods.

I've got two Alejandros and an Alex, two Brandon's and a Brendan, a Jerod and a Jarod, two Jonathans and a Juan.

I've also got  Hailey and Hailee, and Kira and Kiara.

There are two Rickys, two Hunters, two Roberts, two Jessicas, two Michelles, and two Laurens.

Now, understand that I teach a total of 98 students, so 3% of my total population is named Samantha. I also don't have a single Chelsea. That just strikes me as odd. What do you suppose causes these trends in naming? Perhaps when a particular name gets too popular people no longer use it. It goes back to that thing about making our baby's name stand out from the rest. So that explains why names go out of style, but not why a particular name becomes popular in the first place.

I think I understand why certain types of names become popular. For example, one celebrity couple names their baby Ivy, and now everyone wants their baby to have a plant name. Next thing you know, every other baby girl is named Rose or Daisy or Daffodil or Hydrangea or Thistle or Milkweed. Boys are being named Hawthorne or Mulberry or Pine or Dogwood or Snakebrush (Yeah, that's a real plant. I looked it up.).

Snakebrush: Clarence A. Rechenthin @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

By the way, I have an Aunt Violet and and Aunt Fern, both born in the 1920s, so plant names for girls may have been popular long ago. Either that or my grandmother was very crazy eccentric, which is a distinct possiblity. You had to know her.

Anyway, celebrity endorsement may explain why a type of name becomes popular, but why one certain name, like Samantha? What's your explanation? Why three Samanthas in one room?