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American Baby Naming

(24 Posts)
tjtheminx Mon 02-Nov-09 16:04:47

I have been living in the US for 18 months and have a 2 1/2 yr old DS who has a normal, classic English name that suits him really well.

Oh go on... his name is Tom.

My first gripe is that the locals insist on calling him Thomas or Tommy ( to the point where he now calls himself Tommy)--- in fact he's quite funny when someone calls him Thomas as he waits till later and asks
" where Thomas?? I no Thomas! I no a train! Choo Choo!"

Anyway to the point of my post. Where do the Yanks get the names from? In his nursery class of 6 theres 1. Addison 2. Jade 3. Ty'ion 4. D'aire 5. Jared

Where do they get these names and what makes em think they are nice names. There are also loads of Logans/Peytons/Ja'shon/Jaxyn/Madison/Tyler

There isn't a single John, Mary,James, Joseph, Catherine among them...

Just wondering what you think it is... is it because it's such a big country you need to have a unusual name to stand out?

BTW we are not living in a trailer park but in a large east coast university city.

sarah293 Mon 02-Nov-09 16:10:42

Message withdrawn

caughtintheact Mon 02-Nov-09 16:12:00

I think in Black American culture it is common to avoid names that are typical/traditional 'white christian' names as a rejection of the association with being given these names during slavery times.

As Black Amercan culture is fashionable the trend for new names/ new spellings of names has extended to white people too.

peanutbutterkid Mon 02-Nov-09 16:14:17

It puzzles me, too. BUT on the plus side, Americans are open-minded, they don't type-cast names into designated social backgrounds the moment they hear them (the way English people typecast you the moment they hear you speak).

Americans are less discerning open-minded towards other cultures.
We have our chav trailer-trash, but we're proud of 'em.

mathanxiety Mon 02-Nov-09 16:24:25

If you went to a parochial Catholic or Lutheran school, especially in a middle class area, you would find a lot of more traditional names, hardly any Jaxyns or Ja'shons, Mo'niques, Addisons or Peytons. The only students who stood out from the Maggie-Katie-Michael-Jack-Jacob-Megan-Caitlyn-Matthew-Luke herd, name-wise, in my oldest DD's class were Cantrise, Tia and Amari.

AtheneNoctua Mon 02-Nov-09 16:47:27

I am American but I'm afraid I can't help. I am a traditional name kind of girl. But I do have a friend who named her daughter Claire, and got some (rude) comments about what an old fashioned name it is.

Using a surname as a first name is traditionally a very Southern thing, but it was a family thing as well. For example, your mother's maiden name.

tjtheminx Mon 02-Nov-09 17:36:48


You are definitely right , it seems to be that the social background has no bearing on the naming of the child. At least I can't see any predictability in it. ( which in a way is a pity cos I can't condescend as muchblush)

I can understand the African American practise of unusual names --- but don't know where they come from ( are these names originally African?) There is a beautiful girl in the room next door to my DS called Nzinga ( pronounced Zinga) - I think it's a gorgeous name! ( er but wouldn't go with our Irish surname!)

Names that have chavvy connotations in Ireland and UK though are fair game for the white kids though! ( my son's nursery is in an Ivy League university so I suppose very middle class, if there is such a thing in the US)

I just find it really interesting.

Also I think it hilarious when I get pitying looks when people find out my DS' name. Poor child, we should have called him after one of the Jonas Brothers.

My name is unusual in these parts so I don't have that problem!

lockets Mon 02-Nov-09 17:37:50

Message withdrawn

peanutbutterkid Mon 02-Nov-09 18:00:07

Among my American cousins' kids names: 12 modern/non-conventional forenames (like Brett, Dawson, Taylor -- none with an apostrophe in it, though!) and 26 quite traditional names like Emily, Jessica, Luke ,etc.

So... ordinary names totally in the lead.

megonthemoon Mon 02-Nov-09 18:05:22

I have an American colleague whose new baby boy has been named Derek, to go with his older brother (aged 2) called Trevor... I can't imagine those names being used very often in the UK, even though they are more 'traditional' than Jaxyn etc.

My cousin has a Parker (boy) and Reagan (girl) - neither are surnames in her or her DH's families, just surname names they liked.

It's funny how the naming conventions seem so different to here. Or maybe they are just a bit ahead of us - there are plenty of little Jacksons and Harrisons and Baileys running around in the UK, so maybe the surname name is catching on here.

mathanxiety Mon 02-Nov-09 18:05:41

Class is alive and unmentionable in the US.

tjtheminx Mon 02-Nov-09 19:09:05


Of course you are right. But you are judged on your car preference ( Prius v's Hummer)and the food you eat (Organic v's Taco Bell).

Not whether you name your child Tarquin or Trig.

Am I right?

mathanxiety Mon 02-Nov-09 20:00:53

Yes, cars are considered much more an extension of your personality in the US than in Europe. Car advertising underlines the link between your self-identity, your personal freedom and the different brands. Some cars are not advertised on tv much at all (Prius) whereas others are (all Cadillacs).

I think in the US it's more a matter of self-identity than other people labelling you. A lot of people who were brought up on white sliced bread wouldn't dream of feeding it to their children and don't think they're abandoning their roots by doing so. And no-one would laugh or point if they went shopping at an organic market.

But I think names come with a certain amount of 'branding' potential all the same. It's just not going to be the big scarlet letter for you that a name can be in the UK. I recall a bit of a smirk at the names of the Palin children at the time of the election. a site where you can find regional and cultural analysis of names used in the US.

mathanxiety Mon 02-Nov-09 20:03:29

Sorry, must learn to post links properly. blush Trying again.

PoppyIsApain Mon 02-Nov-09 20:06:52

I quite like Jade though.

tjtheminx Mon 02-Nov-09 22:16:03

Poppy... Jade just reminds me of Jade Goody and all that she stood for. RIP.

Math - that's why I included Trig. The Palin's names are... er lovely and haven't infuenced how the family is perceived wink

AKMD Tue 03-Nov-09 13:56:44

Check if Jared's parents are Mormons - that's a fairly typical LDS name.

Teapot13 Tue 03-Nov-09 15:08:47

I disagree with the premise of the original post. Here are the most popular baby names in the United States for 2008, according to the Social Security Administration. (Getting a social security number is like getting an NHS number -- you need it for everything, from babyhood on.)



Now, not all of these names are true classics but none (with the exception of Madison) are what I would call non-traditional. I think the sample size in the child's nursery class described in the original post may be too small -- I agree that some of those names are strange.

Also, there has been some discussion of the name Jared. This is not an unusual name. It's a biblical name that was commonly used by the Puritans and has remained relatively popular in America. To me it sounds very old-fashioned and traditional, and evokes a pioneer image. I think it is true that biblical names are more popular in America than in Britain, probably because of the Puritan roots. Most of the trends are similar in both places, from what I can tell -- I think there's a lot of overlap in the top names for both countries -- but once in a while there's a name like Jared that seems exotic to the British, or a name like Oliver, which would be very unique in the US.

I had to laugh about the discussion of class. As an American who has lived in London for 5 years, I find the baby name threads on Mumsnet to be really interesting, partly because when there's a discussion of names that sound "chavvy" or "poncy" (whatever that means!) I just can't identify. Believe me, though, any American reading the names you've mentioned will have a very definite opinion, and it is very much tied to class. The cultural markers are just different.

MrsVik Tue 03-Nov-09 15:13:37

I guess the 'Yanks' get their names from the same place as the Brits do - a combination of popular culture, tradition, history, fashion etc. Of COURSE these things are going to be different to the UK - it's a different country after all! What sounds weird to you would sound perfectly fine to an American, and vice versa. It doesn't make either party right or wrong in their tastes!

mathanxiety Tue 03-Nov-09 17:58:50

There are some British names, maybe something like Minty or Jonty or Jolyon (and probably more) that would be met with a giggle in the US.

MaggieMonday Tue 03-Nov-09 18:02:49

So what are the cultural markers?

I remember making erroneous assumptions about a woman whose children were called Bailey and McKenzie

Disenchanted3 Tue 03-Nov-09 18:05:10

We have 2 of the 'American' names in our family that are mentioned in the OP, I didn't chose our sons name for its 'Americaness' but for its meaning and I love his name1

mathanxiety Tue 03-Nov-09 19:12:04

The cultural markers in the US can be regional, racial, ethnic origin, religious affiliation, and class in many different expressions. Middle class Irish American is different from middle class African American or Phillipino American in many ways, for instance. Middle class white Atlanta is different from middle class white San Francisco in a lot of respects. Mormons, evangelicals and Catholics have their similarities, but there are significant differences. You would take a huge number of factors into account if you were trying to categorise someone in the US, and you would probably not be doing it out of any overt sense of superiority if you were American (unless you were my exMIL). Although the Palin names were possibly an exception to that observation, especially if you lived in a Blue State. grin

MaggieMonday Tue 03-Nov-09 19:59:37

Wow! it's complicated. It's very simple at the moment in Ireladn. If you're not called Sophie, you're called Aoife. That's a slight exaggeration obviously! but there's definitely not so much going on behind the scenes.

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