Thursday, 6 November 2008

Naming and Necessity. And Lobsters.

Back in the days before facebook I didn't know the surnames of most people I knew. To specify a particular person you had their first name and, if there was more than one within your acquaintance, an appropriate modifier - I've known a Blond James, a Sweet James, more than one Tall James and an Irate James over the years - and then a roundabout description, "You know, Kate's friend, the one with the hat. No not Portsmouth Kate, other Kate who went to Spain....." etc. Of course sometimes, though, there are people whose first and last names dance together so happily that they are always referred to in full.

Quite why there is a glut of Jameses, Claires, Sarahs and Stephens in the mid to late 70s remains unclear, but the following sites demonstrate, among other things, 1) that there is, and 2) that there is a fertility trough at about that time. So there aren't many of us late Generation Xers ("the baby bust generation"), and we don't have many names between us. Oddness.

This is an American site, so if it tells you there's one or less people with your name then there probably aren't any at all in the US.

2. The Name Voyager
This is fantastic. Among other things, it tells me that my (male) cat's name is now much more popular for girls than it ever has been for boys. I haven't told him though. I found this through the excellent New York Times Freakanomics blog (written by the authors of the book of the same name).

3. British surnames
This site has a map of Britain which can show the concentration of people with your surname in 1998 and 1881. It also tells you exactly how many people with your surname there were at those times and some other demographic info.

4. Adopt a Lobster
Yes again. Because lobsters are great. Mine is called Alvin and this month he's going to be released into the sea somewhere off the Cornish coast, to bury himself in some sand until he grows into a bigger lobster. You can also see the strange and/or highly predictable names people call their lobster adoptees here.

5. UK Population
Not a pyramid, more a work in progress on a potter's wheel, all bulging and uneven. On the same site there are lists of the top 100 boys' and girls' names for the past five years. One thing's for sure, if you want your son to feel inconspicuous in life (and to always be tagged with a letter, description or surname for ease of reference) you should certainly call him Jack.

6. Pseudonym Generator
For when it all gets too much....

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