January 14, 2013

When else did everybody's names rhyme?

Imagine you're at a party, or hosting one for your kids, and a group of guys introduce themselves as Tyler, Kyler, and Skyler. "Omigosh, that is seriously kind of amazing -- we're Elsie, Kelsey, and Chelsea! You guys just missed Kennedy and Serenity, but I'm sure they'll be back soon..."

I don't know about you, but when there are so many made-up names that rhyme with each other, it doesn't create an it-just-happened-that-way kind of delightfulness. It sounds hamfisted, like forcing a rhyme between "mobster" and "lobster". The evident self-consciousness just makes the whole thing seem phony and off-putting. It's campy, not charming. (By the way, those are all real names in the top 1000 for babies born in 2011.)

I've been looking through how similar the popular names sound over time, and once it's all collected and analyzed, I'll hopefully write something up here. But to show how wildly these things can cycle, let's take a quick look at four years that began four iconic decades -- 1920, 1950, 1980 and 2010. Below are the names in the top 100 for girls that rhyme.

1920 -- 19 rhyme

Ellen, Hellen
Clara, Sarah
Ella, Stella
Bessie, Jessie
Willie, Lillie
Rita, Juanita
Jean, Irene, Eileen, Pauline, Maxine, Kathleen, Geraldine

1950 -- 37 rhyme

Gloria, Victoria
Bonnie, Connie
Anna, Diana
Mary, Sherry
Carol, Sheryl
Carolyn, Marilyn
Ellen, Hellen
Sharon, Karen
Brenda, Glenda
Jane, Elaine
Rita, Anita
Ann(e), Dian(n)e, Joann(e), Suzanne
Jean(ne), Irene, Eileen, Kathleen, Christine, Darlene, Maureen

1980 -- 30 rhyme

Monica, Veronica
Sara(h), Tara
Erin, Karen
Mary, Carrie
Michelle, Danielle
Amy, Jamie
Misty, Christy (Kristy)
Lisa, Teresa
Christine, Kathleen
Leah, Maria
Tina, Gina, Katrina, Christina (Kristina)

2010 -- 36 rhyme

Chloe (Khloe), Zoe(y)
Riley, Kylie
Maya, Mariah
Brianna, Gianna, Arian(n)a
Madison, Addison
Hannah, Anna, Savannah
Isabella, Ella, Gabriella, Bella, Stella
Hailey, Kaylee, Bailey
Layla, Kayla, Makayla
Mia, Leah, Maria, Aaliyah, Amelia, Valeria, Sophia (Sofia)

When you weight the names not only by whether or not they have a rhyming partner, but by how many such partners they have (i.e. just twins or octuplets), the picture is even clearer that 1950 and 2010 were high points in mindless conformity, while 1920 and 1980 were low points. I qualify "conformity" with "mindless" to distinguish it from a meaningful, heart-felt kind. Meeting the neighbor's kids who are named Huey, Dewey, and Louie doesn't fill me up with fellow-feeling -- it just sounds goofy. If anything it's alienating, making me wonder what planet I've landed on.

It's a cheap display of willingness to play on the same team. Actively keeping an eye on each other's kids, hosting them at sleepovers, and sending them around to trick-or-treat would be costly and honest displays of team-mindedness. When people want to cocoon, they have to at least hold up a fig leaf of community spirit, so we get these overly eager, almost caricatured forms of togetherness.

Treat this as news you can use, and hold off having kids until this index starts to fall for awhile. Then you'll know that the rest of society is backing away from hive-like social behavior and returning to neighborly trust, making way for communities worth raising children in.


  1. I don't mean to be Aspergy, but wouldn't the children born now be a "rising-crime" generation? For instance, the Baby Boomers, the most developed generation, started to be born 15 years before the New Wave crime rise.


  2. Yeah, those being born now are probably going to face a crime wave during adolescence like the earliest Boomers did.

    The most well-adjusted seem to be the later Boomers, born in the late '50s and early '60s. They spent their entire lives in rising-crime times, from infancy through their early 30s, when personality more or less stays put.

  3. I agree. That being said, I expect that everyone, regardless of what generation they are, will become more normal once the culture begins to become outgoing. That includes the Millenials.


  4. off-topic, but have you ever done anything on finger ratio and different people having different "types"? I'd be interested what your perspective on this is, but forget about it if its too much trouble


  5. Amelia doesn't rhyme with Mia/Leah/Maria.


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