As I read yet another headline about British bookies taking bets for the new royal baby’s name, I wonder: why is this news here? Anyone else find it odd that Americans (or American editors) seem a little obsessed with the monarchy? Didn’t we fight not to have a king (among other things) all those years ago? It’s as if the United States has a mass case of Stockholm Syndrome.
But this whole “Guess Her Princessly Name” got me thinking about kids’ names. At the end of the last century, when my daughter Lizzie was born, parents seemed to favor names from end of previous century.
I’d take my toddler to our local playground in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and, if I closed my eyes while I sat on the concrete edge the sandbox, (and pretended not to hear the roar of traffic and airplanes), it was almost as if I’d traveled back to Victorian times, as I listened to parents and sitters call out to their charges: Rose, William, Emma, Owen, Prudence. My child fit into that era, too — she’s an Elizabeth.
Then a parent would say, “Grace, do want yummy organic strawberries or Veggy Bootie?” and I would be whisked back to 2001.
When we moved from Brooklyn to the rural Hudson Valley, trading our Park Slope city street for a gravel one, I noticed a difference in many of Lizzie’s peers’ names. In that gorgeous part of the world many parents had obviously been inspired by nature’s majestic beauty.
We still met lots of Victorian children — Katherines and Charleses — but we were introduced to quite a few Nature children. Lizzie danced with an Ember. She had playdates with a Sequoia. She went to school with a River, a Hudson and a Skye.
I went to high school in the South. When I read posts from Facebook friends and admire photos of their children, it seems that when choosing names for their kids, many of my classmates were influenced by places they visited. Towns were popular, but instead of, say, Brooklyn, it’s as if parents gazed at a map of Texas or Florida before deciding on Austin, Tyler or Destin. There are also quite a few Makaylas, Treys, Trevors and Briannas.
This is NOT a value judgment of different names. And it’s a generalization so broad that it’s practically the tundra of sweeping observations, but it’s fascinating that there seems to be a geographical component to what parents decide to name their children. Maybe one day there won’t be a Red America and a Blue America — instead just a vast divide of names. But, I’m sure it’s a divide we’ll be able to cross easily.
Years ago, when Lizzie was in preschool summer camp, the mom of one of her friends came over to introduce herself. She was a few years younger than me and her name was a product of Woodstock-era parenting.
“Hi, I’m Sunshine,” she said, extending her hand and giving me a smile.
She was an investment banker.