08 August 2011

What's in a Name?

Names are handy. Instead of snapping your fingers at acquaintances or yelling loudly until the right person turns around, you can just call out their name. When you do, your lady friend "Toni" or your pal "Tony" might then turn to you and say, "Why are you yelling?"

No one has a friend named Tone.    

Names are also clues to gender in conversation. "John" is a dude. So is "Tim".

"Kandi" is a lady (stripper).

Thanks again, Google Images!

We know this because we know what genders names have been assigned. We even know it for those weird, English names like Geoffrey (dude; douche) or Isolde (lady). There's no system here, it's a cloud of names that simply exists. In other languages it's even easier. If you speak Spanish, you can usually just rest on adding an "a" to the end of a name. Para exemplar, Juan is married to Juana and their daughter's name is Juanita. If they wanted to nickname their little boy, they could call him Juanito. Also maybe they should buy a book of baby names or something because they're displaying a George Foreman-level lack of creativity.

"A grill -- wonderful! But what shall I George Foreman, father to innumerable Georges and Georginas, call it?"

Mario and Luigi are plumbers brothers (dude names) and I have to assume that if they have a sister, her name is Maria.

Also if you live here, your sister's name is Maria.

That's fine and ultimately kind of uninteresting. But it gets tricky.

What about Stacy? Or Kim? Those are pretty common names that can go either way. I'm having a hard time not assigning genders just typing them.

If "Kim" was short for "Kimbo Slice", you'd know because you just swallowed your teeth.

We soon start to see that we don't have to leave the English language to wonder whether or not the date you just set up with Ashley will not end awkwardly and immediately. But certainly the e-mails you've been exchanging with Sam and Jesse are on the level.



Things are getting tricky and I can't keep setting up scenarios for a gender-indeterminate audience. Let's finish this "names sounds like" game and go straight for Sanskrit. That's probably one of those languages that makes it easy to figure out.

Hitting the internet quickly I find Aadi, Aadideva and Aaditya.

Clearly we we are only at the beginning of the phone book.

Those all sound like great names for this lady right here:

But they're not. They're dude names. And your flight to India to visit your pen pal Aatmadeva (also a dude name) now seems interminably long.

And so it goes. There's nothing innate about a name. They're just more mouth-sounds with meaning (sometimes) associated with them and then another layer that says "girl or boy". And I guess there's another layer on top of that indicating how much of a douche you are (Prescott).

It's a Girl (or Boy)!

Incidentally, I defy you to do any research on names on the internet and not come across a minimum of one dozen baby name sites. I certainly did. And among the oddly hypnotic banner ads for stretch mark creams I found a trending tool.

According to this unattributed chart from thinkbabynames.com, the name "Maximilian" has taken a big hit after what looked like a steady rise to Number One.

It hurt my eyes too. Go buy some glasses.

This is confusing, because the last guy I know named Maximilian had a suit of armor invented for him.

My curiosity further piqued I arrogantly threw Google Trends at this problem, as I do all problems.

The results?


But, there was a spike in late 2007 - and more in 2009. What was the cause? Taking the maxim "Correlation does not imply causation" and soundly telling it to fuck right on off, I've made the following leap of opposite-of-logic:

Maximilian Hecker.

I don't know who this guy is. Beyond the fact that he's a German musician who blah blah blah Wikipedia, I have no idea.

Only this: his major album releases roughly correlate with the spikes on the chart.

It may just be a coincidence; the chart may not mean anything, there may not be anything inherent to names and maybe I should stop spending so much time trying to analyze things that don't merit analysis.

In conclusion:

Randi with an "i". 
Randy with a "y".

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