Hey there, Remington

As I’ve blogged about before, one of the sucky things about being called “Clive” is that it’s such a rare name in North America that a) everyone always misspells it, b) everyone always mispronounces it, and, perhaps worst, c) when you’re a kid you can never get one of those little license plates with your name BECAUSE THEY NEVER EVER MAKE ONE WITH “CLIVE” ON IT. I remain bitter to this day. Two years ago I was slightly redeemed when I discovered the existence of Clive Bags, the hipster/skatepunk/snowboarding company that makes incredibly cool bags customized for Xtreme sports.

Anyway, I was intrigued to happen upon NameVoyager, a little web that lets you type in a name and create a chart showing how, over the last 100 years, it has waxed or waned in popularity amongst the most common 1,000. It’s unbelievably fascinating! Type in an old-fashioned name like “Mabel”, and you can watch it start at the top-most part of the chart in 1900, then rapidly drop to the bottom and vanish by the 1970s. “Pamela” began rising from nothing in the 1930s, hit the top in 1950, then declined just as steeply. Isabel was minorly popular in the early 20th century, faded low in the 70s, then in the last ten years suddenly rocketed to the top. Perhaps most frightening is that “Remington” was, justly, a completely unused name until the early 80s … when Remington Steele went on the air, and the name began climbing upwards.

I’m like, Remington?? What sort of crack addict names their kid after a freaking TV show? Actually, the sad fact is that pretty much any celeb who makes the charts will inspire a frighteningly large number of idiot parents to stick their child with said name. “What should we name our precious little boy?” “Well, I don’t know, honey. What’s on TV tonight?” Christ almighty. Forty years from now the CEO of General Motors will probably be named Kid Rock Johnson or something.

One of the things that particularly horrifies my wife, Emily, is that her name is not only popular — it has been the single-most popular name for female babies for the last eight years’ running. So I generated the chart for “Emily” and, sure enough, that’s it above — the appelative giant that bestrides all American girls like a colossus.

I typed in “Clive”, but since it’s never penetrated the top 1,000 names, it didn’t even generate a chart. Sigh.

(Thanks to Andrew for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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