Monday, October 17, 2011

The Name Game

Our names brand us throughout our lives, though we had no say in choosing them. In the year I was born, 1933--and yes, there was a 1933, long, long ago--the top five boys' names were a solid, no-nonsense, feet-on-the-ground Robert, James, John, William, and Richard. (My own name, Roger, was #48 of the top 100 names. Roger means "Renowned Spearman," though modesty prevents me from assuming its meaning had any bearing on my being gay.) Girls, too, were given solid, practical names, the top five being Mary, Betty, Barbara, Dorothy, and Joan.

In an attempt to be unique, parents often give their children names that are trendy at the time. Like so many other things, names rise and fall in popularity, and the astute can often fairly well guess when someone was born simply by the name they were given, though the fashion in girls names come and go faster than with boys. In 1990, the most popular boy's names were Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Joshua, and Daniel. For girls, the most popular were the more fashionable Jessica, Ashley, Brittany, Amanda, and Samantha.

Based on Social Security Administration statistics, the most popular names for boys in the United States in 2011 are Jacob, Ethan, Michael, Jayden, and William. I don't think I'd ever heard the name Jayden, though I like it. For girls the top names are Isabella, Sophia, Emma, Olivia, and Ava.

Some names, for some reason, carry a subtle stigma: dated, elitist, racist. Percival, Reuben, Jebediah (though I like it), Hymie, Rastus. It is unfortunate but true that names too strongly reflecting national or racial minority heritage can put the child at a certain disadvantage in the real world. There seems to be a trend among African American parents to give their children lyrical names...Keneesha, Latasha, Leeshandra..but which may tend, however unfairly, to be a detriment when the child becomes an adult and enters the business world.

When I worked for an insurance company, many years ago, I made a collection of names which stood out; three I still distinctly remember: Peachy Poff, Mitzpah Frau, and Quo Vadis Cone. I can't imagine that a child with such unusual names can escape being teased and tormented by other children. There are enough battles each child must fight; being targeted for their name should not be one of them.

Oh, and a word of advice for all prospective parents: never give a child a first name he/she is not going to use. My full birth name is "Franklyn Roger Margason." I was given my dad's first name, Franklin (with an "i") and the middle name of my cousin, Cork, whose birth name was Donald Roger Fearn. To avoid confusion with my dad, I have always gone by the name Roger, which has created endless frustration. To every bureaucracy, to every imaginable place where I am not personally known and which requires a full name, I am "Franklyn." I wait in line at the DMV, or visit a new doctor, or...

"Franklin Margason," they inevitably call when my turn come.

"My name is Roger," I respond.

They look from me to the paper with my name. "This says your name is Franklyn."

"It is, officially, but I never use Franklyn. Ever. Never. I'm Roger."

"All right, Franklyn. If you'll come this way...."

Since I've begun writing professionally, I've used the name Dorien Grey. Google tells me there are 252 people with the first name Dorien in the United States. I've just spent half an hour going through literally a dozen sites giving the origin and meaning of names trying to find the meaning of the name "Dorien." Finally went to a site called "Behind the Name: the etymology and history of first names." There are 26 variations given on the name "Dorian." "Dorien" is not one of them.

Why does that delight me?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).


Kage Alan said...

Intriguing about the names and how they've changed in popularity over the years. It makes me wonder what they'll be like in another 50 years.

Incidentally, I looked up Kage for its meaning and found "big marbles" and "twisted sense of humor". I think they go rather well together.

Dorien/Roger said...

The "twisted sense of humor" is evident. The "big marbles" I'll have to take your word for.

C. Zampa said...

Interesting, Dorien!
And it's really fascinating to see how the names HAVE changed over the years.

My name means 'song of joy' and I SO love that. Doesn't always FIT, but it sounds nice. LOL...

Dorien/Roger said...

Carol, I love the meaning of your name, and I'd certainly say, from what I know of you, that it does indeed fit.