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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.”