I was working on a regular old post last night when I glanced at the sidebar. The site stats were up. I shrugged and went back to work, but the next time I clicked through, the bar for September 28, 2011 had shot THROUGH THE ROOF.
And then a Google alert tipped me off to the reason: Appellation Mountain was being mocked on Gawker. Traffic stopped just short of the day Lisa Belkin wrote a (super flattering, still hanging in my office) piece about the site for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog.
A few notes for those who are visiting for the first time as a result:
- Brian Moylan – the author of the Gawker piece – is right. He challenged the idea of referring to baby names – “It’s not like baby names are like baby teeth and they eventually fall off and are replaced with something more mature and robust. It is just a name—no qualifier necessary. This is what an adult human will one day be called.” I agree.
- Except that there’s no such thing as a normal name. I’m going out on a limb and assuming that Brian and I are of an age – his name peaked in the 1970s, and I know plenty. Brian probably answered to Brian M. at some point in his life, or corrected someone who spelled his name Bryan. If he’d been born in the 1920s? Brian would be downright strange. Harold and Doris would’ve been the cool kids.
- I quarrel with the idea that our names are our destinies. Our names do reflect our parents’ histories and choices, and those have a tremendous impact. But Nevaeh can grow up to be an agnostic, and Misty can grow up to be a successful district attorney. Sure, they might answer to Neve and M. Marie by then, working with the raw material of their name to find something that fits their new identities. But plenty of us object to receiving common names, too. (Though it is worth noting that Nevaeh ranked #25 last year, and Misty peaked at #40 in 1977. They’re both Normal Names.) Oh, and so are Aiden and Jayden. Some day my dentist or the mechanic for my zero-emission flying car will introduce herself as Kaydence, and I hope I will have the grace to smile.
- There are hazards to choosing an unusual name. I don’t discount them. But neither do I think that an unusual name is the ticket to a lifetime of misery. We don’t suggest that parents ditch their surnames if they happen to contain a mock-worthy syllable. (I went to college with a nice guy surnamed Butkovic, who gamely insisted that the “t” was silent.) Even giving your kid a Top Ten name doesn’t guarantee that it will be trouble free. (Think Brian/Bryan.) The pool of given names is deeper than ever before, and that’s not a fleeting trend. Even the absent dad in “A Boy Named Sue” had his reasons. No parent thinks, “What will set my precious new child up for a lifetime of unhappiness? Floyd? Okay, I’ll call him that.”
- I don’t do snark. I’m no saint, but I’m really not comfortable with a certain dismissive tone that assumes I’m right. The world is vast, and my experience can only ever be my own experience. You can choose a name that makes my toenails curl up in my All Stars, and you can still be a perfectly decent person.
Back to the article that started all the kerfuffle: do I think you should name your daughter Florida? Not especially. I think there was a moment when Florida glittered with all sorts of attractive qualities, just like Georgia and Carolina do today. But I do think that dismissing it is equally foolish. It’s a real name, worn by real people – for perfectly valid reasons, the same reasons that put names like Brooklyn and Savannah in the Top 100.
So thanks for the traffic, Gawker. And if you’re really into names – either because you’re naming a kiddo/fictional character/ficus of your own, or because you have an irrational obsession with all things onomastic, stick around.