A couple weeks ago, my co-blogger Ryan O’Hanlon wrote about what a man’s name can mean. After hearing someone call his name, only to find that it was addressing a female Ryan, he wrote,
It made me pause for a few seconds, and that was it. … but I’m glad this is the extent of my gender confusion. For a guy named Leslie, middle school would be torture.
The thing about one’s own name, though, is that we don’t have much control over it. We can nickname and shorten and hyphenate all we want, but ultimately, what’s on our birth certificate is what we’re stuck with.
That, however, is not the case when it comes to naming your child.
The Daily Beast featured a fascinating analysis of the top 10 boys’ names of 2010—a list filled with names that (as author Pamela Redmond Satran wrote) would make “Don (a.k.a. Dick) Draper choke on his Old-Fashioned.”
Fully half of the names on the most recent boys’ top 100 list are choices that break with masculine naming tradition, compared with less than 20 percent of the names on the 1960 boys’ list.
Here’s the list for you to chew on:
The piece goes on to dissect the trends in baby boy names, some of which embody the much buzzed about “new masculinity.” Because a sensitive man’s emotional quotient is reflected in the number of vowels and soft consonants in his name. Take, for instance, this mother talking about naming her son Paxton:
“With the new masculinity, wanting men to be involved fathers, to have close friendships, to really be compassionate, are all things my husband and I thought about when we gave our son his name,” said Katherine Woods-Morse, who works for a foundation in Portland, Oregon.
Paxton, incidentally, was the 12th-fastest-rising boy name in 2009. This year, the up-and-coming names include Cullen, Jax, and King.
Then there are the manly-men names that can be split into one of two categories: the traditionalists who cling to the names our grandfathers would have approved of, and then the über masculinists who name their sons Ryker or Jett.
Naming your kid Hunter or Breaker is like saying fuck you to the world that invented feminism … It’s a desperate cry to hold onto an archaic and useless form of masculinity, whereas naming your kid Robert III after your grandfather who invented the flyswatter and bought the house in Newport is a very different kind of holding onto an outmoded form of masculinity.
And finally, there’s the minority demographic of parents who name their sons truly gender-ambiguous names like Taylor, Peyton, or Cameron.
But here’s the thing: we can pontificate about naming trends all day, but at the end of it all, a kid named Emmett or Braylen or Kason is still just a kid. John is just as likely as Breaker to shatter your dishes and scribble Sharpie marker all over your furniture. (Although one might be a little more ironic.)
Naming your child is perhaps the first acceptable step toward living vicariously through him. You want your child to be the sensitive partner you never were? Well, you could name him Elliot. Is he the next NFL star quarterback? As Ryan points out in his piece, naming him Colt could be appropriate.
One dad from the Chicago suburbs says it all:
Around here, all the kids’ names are weird, but aside from the names, the kids themselves are very similar to the kids I went to school with.