Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Baby Name Madness

Five weeks from The Event, and we've settled on the little one's name; but it's still fun to look around at the baby name blogs and software. For a long time, the best naming tool on the web was the Baby Name Voyager (whipped up by Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard), which lets you consult the Social Security Database for the last 100-odd years to see just how popular your name choice has been. You can reach back into another era for unexpected names capable of rehabilitation, or just find out in time if your name choice was uber-trendy five years ago and is now sooooo 2002.

Wattenberg now has a new tool, just as cool and useful: the Nymbler. Based on Wattenberg's database of names linked by cultural attribution, you just plug in some names you like (or names you would like except there's something not quite perfect about them), click, and you get a menu of other names you might like. Plug in your children's names and see what your naming style says about your preferences. Add names you like from the list, click again, and get a refined list of name choices.

It was impressive to see what names Eudoxus and I had showing up on the list when we entered our top choices. Though it was a little disturbing to find out that we were also likely to favor Nimrod, Napoleon, and Gottlieb for a boy (having entered Balthazar and Linus--the software wouldn't take Bede), it was nice to see Willa, Ursula, and Ada (two names we'd considered for a girl, and one we wished we had) suggested. Confirmation at least of the consistency of our naming preferences, if not of our pragmatic wisdom in name choices.

Go, play with it.


Anonymous amy said...

Well, I gave Nymbler a try and got some interesting results. I typed in the names of our four children plus the the two girl names we have in reserve and got a list of names I would never consider, plus a few I had never heard. Zilla was their first recommendation for a gril, which sounds too reptilian for my tastes. Homer and Cameron were on the top of the list for the boys. My conclusion is that our tastes are just too eclectic to peg, which I rather like.

9:33 AM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Sometimes you have to click a couple of times to get a set of reasonable names (I'm pretty sure they're not ranked in any way--there seems to be a lot of randomness). I put in your kids' names and got Magdalen, Ezra, and Mary, (among others) which seemed not too terrible; I think your first and third are skewing the results pretty heavily toward a certain trend. Plug them into the Baby Name Voyager popularity tracker to see what I mean.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous amy said...

Magdalen is a pretty name, though one with strong associations. It would take some nerve to call a child Nimrod, but I'm a little sad the name has fallen out of circulation. I've always loved that little epitaph in Genesis -"a mightly hunter before the Lord." Maybe someday we'll have another cat....

7:14 PM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

The big problem with "Nimrod" is that it somehow has come to mean "dolt" or "fool," I'm not quite sure how. On the other hand, it wasn't that long ago that "Jonah" to English-speakers meant someone who brings catastrophe on his friends, and yet I hear it on the playground much lately.

And what with Sapphira, Delilah, and Jezebel picking up popularity, well....

6:32 AM  
Anonymous Eudoxus said...

The OED lists "a stupid or contemptible person" as a North American slang meaning for "nimrod", with the first citation dating to 1933 in the play "The Great Magoo", with the line being "He's in love with her. That makes about the tenth. The same old Nimrod. Won't let her alone for a second.". It looks like a somewhat dubious instance to me, but I haven't looked at the full context. The next OED citation is a Newsweek article from 1963, which uses "nimrod" (a) uncapitalised, and (b) unambiguously in the desired sense.

None of that really helps on the "how" question, of course.

12:27 PM  
Blogger mrsdarwin said...

I love the baby name voyager; it's good for hours of fun. Now I'm off to play with Nymbler.

Hope you're feeling well. Time slooows to a crawl when you're almost nine months pregnant.

8:32 AM  
Blogger sophia said...

Hey! I love the Nymbler site and had lots of fun playing with it! I linked it on my blog.

Please keep me posted when offspring #3 arrives!!!

6:23 AM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Further "Nimrod" research by Eudoxus strongly suggests that the change in meaning resulted from old Bugs Bunny cartoons, in which Bugs refers to Elmer Fudd as a "Nimrod," which in its original cartoonish context was presumably an ironic reference to his hunting incompetence, but got picked up by generations thereafter as meaning, roughly, Doofus.

Isn't linguistics a great field?

Feeling great, at least so my doctor tells me. The only medical condition where you can tell your doctor you can't sleep, can barely eat, get winded walking across the room, have terrible heartburn, an aching back, and you're starting to feel itchy all the time ... and she tells you you're in perfect health, congratulations.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The part I always enjoyed about pregnancy was the license to eat combo burritos at Taco Bell without reproach.

As for baby names, I just tried to avoid the ten most popular in the most recent three years.

Christopher is astonishingly popular. And Olivia is enjoying a comeback.

9:00 AM  

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