Earlier today, I drove five hours to take my daughter to camp. As she slept, I read the names of towns on exit signs and marveled. To me, they sound so random. Who names a place Hometown? Is it optimistic and ambitious? Or unimaginative and dull?
The thing about place names is that they’re stable. Sure, some designations fade from the map. Exits are renamed to reflect changing circumstances. But plenty of places have appeared on maps – and highway signs – for well over a century at this point.
By comparison, personal names are fleeting. A century ago, Gladys and Earl were Top 100 names. Bertha and Chester, too. Now they’re date-stamped, names we’ve nearly forgotten.
We don’t do that, though, with place names. No matter how awkward they are, we tend to keep the place names unchanged. (Maybe we even embrace them as a means to sell novelty tee shirts and postcards.)
It makes sense, I suppose. Many people are involved in maintaining the name of a place, only some of whom live there.
But why do we stop using given names entirely? Obviously we do – and always have – but why do we tire of Ashley and Jessica and Jason, swapping them for Everly and Olivia and Mateo?
Theories welcome, because I’m stumped!
On Threads (I’m @appmtn), someone asked Jeremiah or Conrad? And for a second, I thought it was a straight-up name question. But it’s a reference to the two main male characters in The Summer I Turned Pretty. And now I’m a little obsessed: could Conrad follow Henry/Miles/Theodore/August up the popularity charts? It had potential even before the popular YA series hit Netflix.
Speaking of character names, this one is for all you Disney junkies: The Haunted Mansion’s tightrope walker, from the Stretching Room, has TWO names. Sometimes she’s Sally Slater. Sometimes she’s Daisy de la Cruz.
When it comes to influential celebrity baby names, Ruth reigns. And if you’re wondering when a Hollywood A-lister named their kiddo Ruth, well … you’ll have to go pretty far back in history, and leave Los Angeles for Washington DC, to get this story.
Surely we can give this otter a better name than 841. You’ve probably heard of her by now. She’s stealing surfboards off the California coast. Actually, it turns out that wild otters get numbers, but otters in captivity are named. And 841 – once apprehended – is headed for an aquarium, where she won’t be able to cause such mayhem. My suggestions for names: Bonnie (as in the gangster), Margie (for early female surfer Marge Calhoun), or Mamala (after a legendary Polynesian demigoddess known for surfing).
What do you think of the name Smokie-Marie? It was bashed online – but then, what isn’t? I’m torn. Personally, the idea of being named Smokie-Marie bothers me. In large part because hyphen names are so not my thing. But would I really react negatively if someone introduced herself as Smokie? I’m not sure it’s all that out there …