In Nomine Temporibus
I was reading someone’s bio last night and noticed she has a colleague named Hilda.
It’s a safe bet you don’t know anybody named Hilda. I don’t. Oh sure, one of you may say Hey, wait a minute, my great-aunt’s name is Hilda. Okay. But that Hilda is the only Hilda you know. And probably the only Hilda within a random sampling of the pop. totaling 50,000 people.
Hilda is a name that has long been out of vogue. Names come and go. Three decades ago, every other newborn girl in American was being named Heather or Ashley. Now, few are.
Levitt & Dubner talk about names in Freakonomics. They look at neologisms as names. It’s been a thing among certain corners of the African-American community for years, they claim. I recall being about 15 years old and hearing about some NFL player whose first name was Theotis. I found it incredibly odd at the time. There are the traditional names Theo and Otis but this fellow’s mom and dad scrunched the two together to come up with something entirely new, a portmanteau. Maybe LevDub are right — since then newly-coined African-American given names seem to be in endless supply.
I thumbed through some current NFL rosters as well as the record book and found the following fascinating first names:
I don’t know if they’re all African-Americans. I tried to research the names through Pro Football-Reference.com but the site has an abominable search widget so that’s that. I’m going to guess a good number of the above-named NFL-ers is African-American.
The names are refreshing and, really, rebellious. Parents seem to be saying, We’ll come up with our own names, thank you, and you can keep your Pauls (old school) and Connors (new).
Which brings me to an ABC News online article dated 2006: “Top 20 ‘Whitest’ and ‘Blackest’ Names.” Here’s what the ABC piece found:
Note there isn’t a single crossover between races for either gender. We already were a divided nation as far back as ten years ago.
It’s ironic I’m thinking about names in light of a little blurb I read in the May, 2016 issue of Sports Illustrated while sitting in the waiting room at the PET scan facility yesterday AM. The gist of the piece was three fellows burst upon the professional sports scene in the 1990s — Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning, and Shaquille O’Neal. None before them had ever lugged around those first names in pro sports. Now, scads of kids just entering their 20s bear those names. The three players were superstars, each arguably among the very best in history at his position, so it’d be a gimme to assume parents would name their kids after them. But the funny thing is, it turns out one ’90s NBA player who had a rather mediocre career apparently was responsible for a flood of kids coming after him, carrying his heretofore obscure moniker. Jalen Rose was by no means a superstar but, for unknown reasons, parents went gaga over his name. Acc’d’g to the SI article, “Jalen Mills, Jalen Ramsey and Jaylon Smith were all drafted into the NFL in April, while Jaylen Brown is projected to be a top 10 NBA pick in June. There are more where they came from. Forty-six of the 50 Jalens in Sports-Reference’s college basketball database debuted in 2012 or later.”
When I was a teenager, I got a big kick when, for a year or two, Michael supplanted John at the top of the most popular boys’ names. And I found it magical that the girl I had a huge crush on in eighth grade, Linda Binkowski, simultaneously stood atop the popular girls’ names list. (And, man, just saying Linda Binkowski’s name in my head as I typed it out gave me a little frisson.)
But back to names that have gone flat out of style. My family’s doctor when I was a little kid had a nurse named Gertie. The doc, being more intimate with her (the rumor was they shared more than the office’s supply of tongue depressors), called her Gert.
Both’d be short for Gertrude. I know no one named Gertrude, Gertie, or Gert today. A name contemporary to Gertie’s was Hazel. The only Hazel I ever heard of was the character in the very old eponymous sitcom until I met a Scottish woman with that name in 1981. That’s it. Yet, now Hazel is gaining popularity. Ten years ago Sophia was all the rage.
Next year, maybe Hilda.
Here’s the link to my Big Talk interview with Bloomington legend Carp Combs. It aired yesterday on WFHB. Big Talk is a regular Thursday feature on the Daily Local News. The Big Track, an unedited version of the original interview with Carp, will be up here as soon as I get around to it.
BTW: Limestone Post will be running an online article based on my interview with Carp sometime soon. I don’t know the precise date yet but I’ll let you know as soon as I do. It’ll be the first installment in the new marriage between The Post and Big Talk, woo-hoo!
My guest next week on Big Talk will be restoration architect Cindy Brubaker. That’ll be 5:45pm, Thursday, Dec. 15, on WFHB, 91.3.
Talk to you then