taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

One night when I was newly pregnant with my youngest daughter, my husband and I headed over to the neigbhbors for some dinner. We brought the baby name book with us, because it's always entertaining to figure out what to name a baby. Reading through the A's, I got stuck on "Ava."

"What about Ava?" I asked Joanne. "Oh, that's nice!" she said. The husbands agreed. I'd never heard of anyone named Ava besides Ava Gardner, and it just sounded so beautiful to me. Besides which, it was a palindrome, and I liked the letterforms. I imagined that a little girl named Ava could have a wonderful time writing her name with multicolored markers.

So Ava it was. How unusual! I thought. She'll be the only Ava in the class! After all, my older daughter didn't know any Avas. In her world it was all Chloes and Zoes and Sophies and Emmas.

Six months after Ava was born, I found out the truth: Ava is now in the top fifty most popular names. How could I have known? I didn't mean to name her the 21st century equivalent of Megan!

There's no explanation for how I tapped into the cultural zeitgeist in this way (besides my theory that we're all actually part of a hive-mind), but this article from Slate does a pretty good job of explaining how names propagate through the culture. Evidently, names, like television commercials, are aspirational. People in lower socioeconomic classes tend to emulate the naming trends of their richer neighbors. So a name that's popular among the high-income, highly educated set now will become very popular among their poorer freinds within ten years. (Only this phenomenon can explain the explosive and inexplicable popularity of Madison, the most horrifying name on earth.)

Right now, the most popular names among the highly educated are:


It was somewhat disheartening to find out that I'm really not all that creative and original, since Ava's on the list. Which means in twenty years, after the name loses cachet from overexposure, half the strippers in the world are going to have her name! (And, I might add, I don't EVEN know what to say about the name Waverly. It's a WALLPAPER, for god's sake. Waverly? You've got to be kidding me.)

Luckily we have a fallback position. Since Ava was not much more than a zygote, we took to calling her "Bee." It started as a joke--our first daughter was A, so our second daughter was B. (You have to call 'em SOMETHING when they're nothing but a little ball of cells.) But the nickname stuck. So although her official name is Ava Lily, she's more often called Bee than anything else. It's the name she responds too most readily, too. And Bee is NOT on the list! While it may not be the most dignified name (Dr. Bee? Judge Bee?) it will certainly distinguish her from the pack of Avivas and Quinns.

I hope.


At 6:06 PM, Blogger sweetney said...

if i'd had my way, mina would've been beatrice (so i could call her "bee").

hive mind indeed.

ps: THANK GOD the name mina is safe.

At 9:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's easier to name your kids 'normal' names like Joe, Fred, Bill, Nancy, Jill, etc. Kids with normal names tend to succeed later in life and don't have the stigme of having a weird name in school.

At 11:23 AM, Blogger dogfaceboy said...

Stigma, schmigma. That theory is only true of boys. Girls with interesting names do just fine with them.

Serena is not a common name, but there's a doctor named Serena on Belair Road, and there's a Serena who used to be on MTV, and there's Serena Williams.

But I named my daughter after Samantha's wicked cousin, and that's the truth.

I know kids named Avery, Clementine, Grace, Isabel, Maeve, Maya, Phoebe, Quinn, and Sophie. I have a pen pal named Ava, and I was always told I looked like Ava Gardener. I know several adult Kates and an adult Lara.

At 7:02 PM, Blogger The Cybrarian said...

I know, WAVERLY! FYI here in my town the neighborhood called Waverly is pretty slummy. Linden? Isn't that some kind of wood?
Flannery? Not just for ailing southern writers, but also a linguistic mix of Fanny and Flattery.
And Maya... I want a daughter who will grow up to be 4' 11" and who'll play soccer with a human head, please...

Right now I like "Frank" for a boy.

At 7:04 PM, Blogger The Cybrarian said...

I got beaten up by a girl named Serena in grade school!


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