Sure-Fire Baby Names

Abby Haglage reports in The Daily Beast of an apparent uptick in firearm-inspired baby names.

In 2002, only 194 babies were named Colt, while in 2012 there were 955. Just 185 babies were given the name Remington in 2002, but by 2012 the number had jumped to 666. Perhaps the most surprising of all, however, is a jump in the name Ruger (America’s leading firearm manufacturer) from just 23 in 2002 to 118 in 2012. “This name [Ruger] is more evidence of parents’ increasing interest in naming children after firearms,” Wattenberg writes. “Colt, Remington, and Gauge have all soared, and Gunner is much more common than the traditional name Gunnar.”

Okay, that's all well and good, but if parents really want to show their gun bona fides, how about going all-out and naming your kid Colt .45?

(HT: Marginal Revolution)

A Baby Name That Really Tells You Something About the Parents

The underlying point of everything we've ever written about baby names is that the name is essentially the parents' signal to the world of what they think of their kid -- whether it's a signal of tradition, religion, aspiration, affiliation, or whatnot.

Here is a very pure example of that principle: a baby named Colt .45 Stratemeyer. It's via Jim Romenesko, from a birth announcement in the Tillamook (Oregon) Headlight-Herald:

Colt .45 Stratemeyer was born Nov. 26, 2013 at Tillamook Regional Medical Center. He weighed seven pounds, two ounces. He joins his older brother, Hunter Allen Stratemeyer, 3. Baby Colt’s parents are Joshua and Rebekah Stratemeyer of Toledo.

I assume the announcement is legitimate, though I can't say for certain. I am guessing there are fiction writers out there who could write a short story or maybe even a novel with no more inspiration than this birth announcement.

Judge to Mom: "Thou Shalt Not Name Thy Child 'Messiah'"

Just another false messiah, it seems. From the Associated Press:

A judge in Tennessee changed a 7-month-old boy's name to Martin from Messiah, saying the religious name was earned by one person and "that one person is Jesus Christ." ...

"It could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is," [Magristrate Lu Ann] Ballew said.

It was the first time she ordered a first name change, the judge said.

Messiah was No. 4 among the fastest-rising baby names in 2012, according to the Social Security Administration's annual list of popular baby names. ...

The boy's mother, Jaleesa Martin, of Newport, said she will appeal. She says Messiah is unique and she liked how it sounded alongside the boy's two siblings — Micah and Mason.

I am eager to read your comments on this one.

A Story About Names Never Fails to Get Our Attention

Our recent podcast "How Much Does Your Name Really Matter?" generated a lot of response. Here are a few interesting ones. First, from F.D. Stein of Tennessee:

Loved this podcast; sorry you guys did not find the developer my company worked with in the 1980's. He was from Oklahoma; his name was Never Fail. His brother was named Will Fail. Never (and his son Never Fail Jr.) were quite successful, and dashing examples of real estate developers at the time. 

I feared this one was too good to be true, but Mr. Google backs up Mr. Stein here, here, and here. Stein later wrote in with a further bit of comment:

They were the developer of Waterford Place Apartments in Chattanooga. Bill Severins was their project manager, former Kansas City Royals baseball player. Never Fail looked like Peter Grant of Mission Impossible; striking, tall, white hair perfectly groomed. The 1986 tax law killed them as real estate developers.

We also heard from Tim Harling, who shared his parental naming criteria:

An App for Names

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called "How Much Does Your Name Matter?" A listener named Mark Edmond wrote in to tell us about Nametrix, a names app he created:

I'm a new dad who was researching baby names and whipped up an app in spare moments over the last year that tells you stuff like this:

It turns out that Ellen is a disproportionately common name for:

  1. psychotherapists
  2. librarians
  3. activists

Ellens also overwhelmingly lean toward the Democrat party and have tended to be most popular in the northeastern part of the U.S.

You can also see names ranked within professions, e.g., these are the top three names for guitarists:

  1. Trey
  2. Rusty
  3. Sonny

I have no idea how good Nametrix works on these dimensions. Having seen a lot of bogus names "data," I am always a bit leery -- especially because it is easy to mistake certain naming patterns for destiny while ignoring the more basic indicators like age, income, education, race, etc. I asked Mark how he assembled his data; here's his reply:

A Freakonomics Radio Bleg: What's Your Name?

Want to be part of an episode of Freakonomics Radio? We’re working on a podcast about names and we want to hear from readers and listeners about their own names -- common ones, unusual ones, everything in between. So we’ve set up a voicemail line at 646-829-4478. Give us a call and tell us your full name, and then tell us a little bit about your first name – how you got it and what it means. Thanks!

Addendum: Thank you for all your emails and messages! Our line is now closed. Our names podcast will be out on 4/8/2013. 

American Baby Names Are Somehow Getting Even Worse

This piece on baby names by Drew Magary made me laugh out loud.  I sent it to my wife, and she laughed so hard she cried.

Bad News for People With Hard-to-Pronounce Names

If you have one of those names that people are always struggling to pronounce, we have some bad news for you. 

A new paper (ungated version here) by Simon M. Laham, Peter Koval, and Adam L. Alter finds that an easy name may confer advantages. The authors conducted five studies comparing easy- and hard-to-pronounce names (like Vougiouklakis or Leszczynska, for example): "Studies 1–3 demonstrate that people form more positive impressions of easy-to-pronounce names than of difficult-to-pronounce names." While the first three studies focused on surnames, a fifth study analyzed both the first and last names of lawyers within law firms and found that "lawyers with more easily pronounceable names occupied superior positions within their firm hierarchy ... The effect was independent of firm size, firm ranking, or mean associate salary."

Where Have All the Bobs Gone?

Jon Bois at SB Nation writes about the disappearance of Bobs in sports:

Across the histories of Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, and NCAA football and basketball, there have been a total of 1,884 athletes who primarily went by the name Bob. Not Robert, or Bobby, but Bob. 

Of those 1,884 Bobs, Sanders [of the San Diego Chargers] is the only one still playing.

We've written regularly about names and how some just go out of fashion. The fact is that "Robert" is still holding its own.

Is It Time to Start a Strange Name Hall of Fame?

We should probably start a Strange Name Hall of Fame at some point to chronicle all the weird, wonderful, terrible names that readers have passed along to us since we first wrote about names in Freakonomics. This one, from Joyce Wilson, would probably make the cut:

I thought of Freakonomics when I was at a St. Louis area grocery store and saw cut-out paper snowflakes taped to the window with the makers' names on them. The name I particularly noticed? Demonica.

Levitt's reply when he saw this e-mail: "Perhaps the little girl’s mother is just a heavy metal fan."