What Baby Names Say About the Parents

Filed under: Baby Names

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A baby's name says a lot about the parents' values and tastes. Credit: Getty Images

The name parents give to their newborn baby says more about them than it does about their child. A name communicates a wealth of social information, including the parents' tastes and background.

"We're in the middle of a naming revolution," Laura Wattenberg, author of the popular book "The Baby Name Wizard" told LiveScience.com. "Parents are putting a much higher premium on distinctiveness."

Half the babies born in the 1950s were given one of the top 25 most common boys' names or one of the top 50 most common girls' names. Fast forward to today, and you would have to list the 134 most popular boys' names and top 320 girls' names to cover half the babies born in a year.



"If you have 10 guesses to get somebody's name today, there's almost no chance you'll get it," Wattenberg told LiveScience. "But 100 years ago, if you guessed the top 10 names, you'd have a really good chance" of guessing correctly.

These stark changes in naming conventions have come with social implications. "The more diverse naming styles become, the more we are going to read into somebody's name," Wattenberg told LiveScience.com, adding that a baby girl who is born today and is named Mary says a lot more about that child's parents than such a name would have said 50 years ago. And that is true for all other names, too.

A baby's name tells others the parents' values and tastes and often their dreams and ambitions for their child. "Sociologists love names," Wattenberg told LiveScience.com. "They're practically the only case of a choice with broad fashion patterns that there's no commercial influence on. There's no company out there spending millions to convince you Brayden is a perfect name for your son."

What is most different today than 50 years ago? Parents today tend to believe their baby's name should be a unique signifier that separates them from everyone else. "Names never had to be unique. But today, your name is often the first way and sometimes the only way people know you," Wattenberg said, referring to social networking and easy online communication worldwide. It used to be enough to have a unique name in your neighborhood, such as, being the only one named Mary. Now the neighborhood is much bigger, spanning the globe.

But humans still want to fit in with others. "We all want to be different from each other, but our tastes are still as much alike as they ever were," Wattenberg told LiveScience.com. "So the result is we have a thousand tiny variations on a theme. You get Kayden, Brayden, Hayden, Jayden."

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