I recommend you read a provocative Daily Beast article about the rise in gun-related names in the U.S. and what it might mean. Abby Haglage contacted baby name expert, Laura Wattenberg to get the facts and her perspective. I found the subject of the article to be of great interest, but some of Wattenberg’s comments raised more questions than they answered.
First the facts; between 2002 and 2012, the popularity of gun-related names have risen explosively:
Names: 2002 2012 %Increase
Colt 194 955 +492%
Remington 185 666 +360%
Ruger 23 118 +513%
“This name [Ruger] is more evidence of parents’ increasing interest in naming children after firearms. Colt, Remington, and Gauge have all soared, and Gunner is much more common than the traditional name Gunnar… I think of names as a fossil record of our culture. You can look back over generations and get a sense of what people were talking about.”
Haglage gave Wattenberg a chance to comment about names in the context of a recent news item that Sonora, a state in Northwestern Mexico, recently banned 61 names including Terminator, Virgin, Burger King, Twitter and Hitler. Wattenberg’s comment:
“Whatever the inspiration for a baby’s name, parents shouldn’t be excessively worried about names contributing to bullying. Today’s kids have no sense of what a normal name is.”
Wattenberg is a statistician, not a sociologist. I’d like to see some data to back her claims that:
“Today’s kids have no sense of what a normal name is.”
Compare the 955 boys who were named Remington in 2012 with the 22158 boys who were named Jacob. Which do you think is more normal? Do you know the difference between “normal names” and “weird names”? Do you think children don’t know the difference between “normal names” and weird names”? If that’s true, then why do kids with weird names complain about them like this: “I hate my weird name. I wish I had a normal name.”
“… parents shouldn’t be excessively worried about names contributing to bullying.”
You probably noticed that in an article full of data, Wattenberg provided no data to support that statement. We know that bullying is a huge problem in schools from coast to coast. A recent ABC study reported these major findings:
-30% of all students identified themselves as either bullies or victims of bullying.
-Every day 160,000 students stay home from school due to a fear of being bullied.
And, a study in Britain found that half the suicides among young people are related bullying.
Recent high-profile cases of bullying, cyber-bullying and sexting explain how verbal abuse accompanies physical abuse to cause teen-age suicides. In an article about bullying, Dr. Michele Borba writes, “Most bullying starts verbally THEN escalates to a more intense level.”
In a school environment where teasing and bullying are everyday events for hundreds of thousands of children, I’d love to see Wattenberg’s evidence to support her claim that kids aren’t teased about their names.