F. Scott Fitzgerald Plays the Name Game

The final chapter of Freakonomics is about first names — whether they have an impact on a person’s life and how they travel through the different strata of society. While it’s true that most popular names start out among the middle and upper classes and then travel downward, it’s also true that some old-fashioned names (we cite Max and Sophie as examples) are recycled from obscurity and attain a newly hip status.

Well, Erica Grieder of the Economist‘s Washington bureau has written to tell us that F. Scott Fitzgerald had this figured out a long time ago. She sent in this passage from The Beautiful and Damned (1922):

“Everybody in the next generation,” suggested Dick, “will be named Peter or Barbara — because at present all the piquant literary characters are named Peter or Barbara.”

Anthony continued the prophecy:

“Of course Gladys and Eleanor, having graced the last generation of heroines and being at present in their social prime, will be passed on to the next generation of shop-girls — ”

“Displacing Ella and Stella,” interrupted Dick.

“And Pearl and Jewel,” Gloria added cordially, “and Earl and Elmer and Minnie.”

“And then I’ll come along,” remarked Dick, “and picking up the obsolete name, Jewel, I’ll attach it to some quaint and attractive character and it’ll start its career all over again.”

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  1. prosa says:

    There’s a site called Name Voyager which allows you to track the popularity of given names over the past 100+ years.

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  2. prosa says:

    There’s a site called Name Voyager which allows you to track the popularity of given names over the past 100+ years.

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  3. wdevries says:

    WOW! F. Scott forsaw the coming of America’s favorite Alaskan/poet/yodeler/pop star! Eat your heart out, Nostradamus!

    “Quaint and attractive,” indeed.

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  4. wdevries says:

    WOW! F. Scott forsaw the coming of America’s favorite Alaskan/poet/yodeler/pop star! Eat your heart out, Nostradamus!

    “Quaint and attractive,” indeed.

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  5. wdevries says:

    Oops — link is here.

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  6. wdevries says:

    Oops — link is here.

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  7. writertmiller says:

    I just finished reading Freakonomics and as a mother of three enjoyed the chapter on what makes a perfect parent. It is somewhat relieving to know that my choices in parenting style, having both been a working mom and a stay-at-home mom, may not make too much of a difference. However, I wonder how far the data went into distinguishing between the reasons behind the decision parents make to stay home with their children or send them to daycare; such as the personality type of their kids and whether or not parenting style makes a difference in final out comes for each type.

    For example, I have a child that has a very hard time dealing with transitions and formal daycare settings, hence my decision to stay home while that child was young. Now I also have a child who is very routine oriented and prefers a very structured environment. She flourishes in school and daycare and so I believe she will benefit more from daycare than if I stay home with her. I assume here that the data took into account and held constant whether or not the parents were parents of special needs children. But, personality, learning style and general reaction to different environments, seem to me harder variables to quantify.

    As the authors mentioned whether or not parents matter is a terribly complicated question, but I’m probably not the only one who is left wondering. Have there been studies done in relation to my questions?

    And, yes I know I’m somewhat of an obsessive parent, snicker away.

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  8. writertmiller says:

    I just finished reading Freakonomics and as a mother of three enjoyed the chapter on what makes a perfect parent. It is somewhat relieving to know that my choices in parenting style, having both been a working mom and a stay-at-home mom, may not make too much of a difference. However, I wonder how far the data went into distinguishing between the reasons behind the decision parents make to stay home with their children or send them to daycare; such as the personality type of their kids and whether or not parenting style makes a difference in final out comes for each type.

    For example, I have a child that has a very hard time dealing with transitions and formal daycare settings, hence my decision to stay home while that child was young. Now I also have a child who is very routine oriented and prefers a very structured environment. She flourishes in school and daycare and so I believe she will benefit more from daycare than if I stay home with her. I assume here that the data took into account and held constant whether or not the parents were parents of special needs children. But, personality, learning style and general reaction to different environments, seem to me harder variables to quantify.

    As the authors mentioned whether or not parents matter is a terribly complicated question, but I’m probably not the only one who is left wondering. Have there been studies done in relation to my questions?

    And, yes I know I’m somewhat of an obsessive parent, snicker away.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0