Tuesday, September 2, 2014

25th International Congress of Onomastic Sciences: an overview


When the premier conference in the field of name studies has just finished, there seems no blog post more fitting than a recap of some of the highlights. On Friday, the 25th International Congress of Onomastic Sciences (the conference of the International Council of Onomastic Sciences) finished after five days packed full of fascinating papers and discussion. Held this year in Glasgow, the 2014 Congress was organised by outgoing ICOS President, Carole Hough, and her team, with special mention to Daria Izdebska. With 176 papers and around 250 delegates from 42 countries, organisation was no small feat, yet the entire week ran smoothly from start to finish.
Carole Hough speaking at the Glasgow City Chambers reception on Tuesday evening
Papers, based upon the conference theme ‘Names and their environment’, were extremely varied, ranging from ‘Names and references in Midsummer Night’s Dream‘ (Grant Smith) to ‘Marketing software: environmental complications to predicting ethnicity with onomastics’ (Lisa Radding) to ‘The diverse naming patterns of contemporary India’ (Sheila Embleton). With 6 parallel sessions and personal names, place-names, commercial naming, online naming, and theory/methodology all being strongly represented, there was a great array of papers and some difficult decisions as to which to attend! Some personal favourites included Line Sandst’s paper on ‘The onomastic landscape of Copenhagen – organization and disorganization’, Jennifer Scherr and Gwyneth Nair’s ‘What were women really called?: pet forms of female names in English parish registers, 1540-1850′ and Alison Grant’s ‘Occupational surnames in the Older Scots language in their lexicographical environment’.
Thought-provoking keynote lectures were provided by: Simon Taylor (University of Glasgow), discussing the intricacies of studying Scottish place-names, and also giving an overview of Scottish onomastic studies; Richard Coates (University of the West of England), who spoke on the FaNUK (Family Names of the United Kingdom) project, particularly referring to the resolution of methodological issues; and Peder Gammeltoft (University of Copenhagen), who argued that more names-research should embrace technology, with one aim being to raise the profile of onomastics.
Besides the wide selection of papers and the three keynotes, several scholars brought along posters of their research. These were displayed in the foyer throughout the week, inspiring plenty of discussion, and were also automatically entered into a competition for ‘Best Poster’. Congratulations are due to Birna Lárusdóttir, whose poster ‘Risking One’s Life for a Place-Name: The Case of Surtsey Island’ was voted the best by delegates.
With receptions on Sunday evening in the Hunterian Art Gallery and Tuesday evening in Glasgow City Chambers, there was no shortage of time for socialising and networking. The conference dinner on Thursday night, held in the Glasgow University Union, was particularly well-attended. For those who wished to see a few famous Scottish sights, excursions were held on Wednesday, with coaches heading to destinations including the Glengoyne distillery, the Antonine Wall, Stirling Castle, the Burns museum, and Loch Lomond to name but a few.
Several delegates were tweeting throughout the Congress, most using the #ICOS2014 hashtag, and a few tweets are included below to give you a flavour of the week. The triennial Congress will next be held in Debrecen (Hungary) in August 2017, with Valéria Tóth being the main organiser. To learn more about the International Council of Onomastic Sciences and their future Congresses, please check out their website, or connect with them on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.
to read more, please follow the link above. 



I am so very excited to finally announce the release of my eBook!

Name-alytics: An In-Depth Analysis of the Top 100 Names in the United States Since 1880 is a project I have been working on for over a year now. I had the idea and started the research last summer. It took a while to figure out how I wanted to organize it, and then when I realized I wanted to be a control freak about it all, I was tremendously blessed to have a husband who helped with creating the database after I collected the raw information from the Social Security Administration. Once the data was put together, I retrieved the information for all the names that have been in the Top 100 since 1880 and formulated several Excel spreadsheets from which to work. Then I started writing the book by going back and forth between Excel and Word. Then I realized all the awesome lists I could create from what I had gathered. Then I got the bright idea to research the possible pop culture effects on name popularity. After that was completed, it dawned on me that a graphic would be really eye-opening in terms of what I wanted the results to present, so I spent quite a while generating graphs. By that time, I realized I had to update all of the information with the 2013 numbers. All of that plus the day-to-day, school events, trips, holidays, and a kid's broken elbow that required four surgeries make the year go by fairly quickly. ;) In any case, the outcome of all this work is something that I am extremely proud of and thrilled to share with you!

So what exactly does Name-alytics present to you? Well, just how popular is popular when it comes to the top names of the country? Name-alytics takes a look at every Top 100 name in the United States since 1880 and presents an entirely new perspective on name popularity. From Mary to Sophia, John to Noah, Beulah to Brittany, Edgar to Ethan... Name-alytics' full analysis of how each name performs throughout time serves as a great resource for soon-to-be-parents, repeat parents, name enthusiasts and even history lovers.

I make an argument that percentage of use is the best way to measure popularity over time. Rankings show how popular a name is in comparison to other names, but doesn't present an accurate picture of exactly how many babies were given that name. And raw numbers tell you exactly how many babies were given that name, but because of the increase in birth rates over the years, they don't show if the name is more popular now or 100 years ago.

Besides giving you a thorough list of all 825 names that have ever been in the Top 100 since 1880, I also include when it was at its peak as well as its highest ranking (and comparing the two can be quite interesting). Here is an example from the book...

Alice (1880-1956)
Highest Percentage: 1.4487% (1880) <-- about 15 girls out of every 1,000 were named Alice in 1880
Highest Rank: 8 (1880, 1882, 1906)
Decade: 1880s (1.2431%)
Variants: Alicia, Alyssa

Additional lists include which names have been in the Top 100 every year since 1880, which names fell out of the Top 100 and returned later, and which names appeared on both the boy side and the girl side. As I said before, the graphs are a visual way of showing a new way of looking at popularity. An example of something I discovered while doing this research is best presented in a graph. Did you know that Bertha was more popular at its height than Catherine ever was? Just take a look at one the graphs included in the book...

This graph shows the highest percentage of use for each Top 100 girl name beginning with the letters A-D and how it lies in comparison to the percentage of use for the #1 girl name (the line). As you can see, Bertha was at its height in popularity in 1883, when Mary was safe at secure at #1. Then you see classic Catherine at its height in 1914, well below Bertha's peak. I'm not sure any of us would have guessed that Bertha was a more coveted name than Catherine. When you see where these Top 100 names actually lie at the apex of their popularity, you will view the acclaim of each of these names in a different light.

There have been several posts concerning "then and now" on this blog. These posts are what got me interested in doing this research in the first place, so I decided to include them in the book. I also include a section discussing the coincidences between certain pop culture/historical names/events and the popularity of Top 100 names. While there is no way to determine for sure why parents used a certain name on their baby, it is fascinating to see possible correlations.

As you can see above, the graphs are pretty detailed and would probably be hard to view on a Kindle or iPhone. Because of this and the fact that I only want to release the best I have to offer, the book is currently available as a PDF file.

That is all I have to say about this tremendous project of mine! I hope you all find it as interesting as I did. To purchase Name-alytics, please click on the button below. I thank you for your consideration and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the book.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Occupational Surnames: Far from a fad


occupational surnames

By Nick Turner

Back in 2012, I heard about parents naming their babies Draper in honor of Mad Men. I remember thinking the idea was daring but a little silly. These people were taking the last-name-as-first-name trend to an absurd conclusion, I griped.

It had been a few years since occupational surnames like Cooper and Mason had become popular, and I worried that pretty soon every kid would be a FletcherTanner or Jagger. Traditional names were a dying species.

Then I made a startling discovery.

We had a book of our family’s history, which mostly contained long lists of ancestors’ names (going back centuries). I remember combing through the text for hours when I was choosing the names of our three children. That’s when I came across it.

One of my ancestors from the 1800s had named his son Draper. That’s right, our family had a Draper nearly 200 years ago. What made it even weirder was this poor boy’s last name was Shoemaker. So he had two conflicting occupations: Draper means cloth merchant, and Shoemaker means…well, you can probably figure that one out. Based on his name, I guess he could sell you the complete outfit.

I did a little more digging and it made me rethink the whole concept of occupational names. We may think of this as a craze among modern parents, but people in the 1800s were much more liberal with these kinds of names than we are today.

I measured the number of occupational names in the Top 1000 over three different years: 1880, 1946 and 2013. In tallying the numbers, I tried to only include names that are best known as last names and describe a person’s job. Fletcher, for instance, refers to an arrow maker. Parker is a park keeper, and Tyler is a maker of tiles.

In crunching the data, I relied on a nameberry list of occupational names and also included military titles such as Major. I excluded royal titles such as KingEarl and Duke. (Those are hardly real jobs anyway.) I also concentrated on boys’ names because occupational choices were mostly nonexistent for girls until recent years.

I initially figured there would be far more occupational names in the Top 1000 today than in the 1800s, but I was wrong. In 1880, there were 39 such names in the list. That compares with 17 in 1946 and 26 in 2013.

It’s worth noting that none of the occupational names in 1880 was a breakaway success (not like Mason or Cooper today), but there was a dazzling array of options.
Here’s a sampling of baby names from the 1880 list, along with the jobs that the names represent:
Butler (household servant)
Chalmers (servant of the chambers)
Commodore (naval officer)
Foster (forester)
General (army commander)
Smith (blacksmith)
Squire (knight’s companion)
Sumner (legal official who serves summons)
Warner (army guard)
Weaver (weaver of fabrics)
Wheeler (wheel maker)

There also were Doctors and Lawyers (but no Business Executives). The truncated Doc even registered, coming in at 646th that year.Author was 825th.
By 1946, when the baby boomers arrived, occupational names had fallen out of favor. The ones that survived were less literal:Doctor and Lawyer were gone in favor of picks like Marshall (a caretaker of horses), Spencer (a dispenser of provisions) and Booker(a scribe).

In 2013, parents were more willing to dabble in occupational names again — but still not with the playfulness of their 19th century forebears.

Mason, which means stoneworker, has become the most popular occupational name of all time, rising to fourth place last year (behind NoahLiam and Jacob). Mason may feel trendy, but it appeared in all three lists (1880, 1946 and 2013). The same is true ofFletcherFosterHunterMajorMarshallParkerPorterSpencerTaylorTyler and Walker. (A walker was traditionally a person who walked on damp cloth to thicken it — not a zombie.)

These 12 names are the evergreens of occupational monikers.

Jagger (a variation on carter, or a person who carries things in a cart) has only recently climbed into the top 1,000 — inspired by the Rolling Stones frontman, no doubt, rather than the name’s noble association with hauling things.

Cooper also is a relatively recent addition to the occupational pantheon. The name, which means barrel maker, began to catch on in the 1980s and now ranks 84th.

My own surname, Turner, ranked 596th in 1880 and then reappeared in the 2013 list at 886th. (It was nowhere to be seen in 1946.) It means a person who works on a lathe — typically to make furniture — and it might serve as a welcome alternative to people who feel Taylor and Tyler have run their course.

Draper, meanwhile, appears to be losing steam. Fewer than five babies were named it last year, which means it no longer registers in Social Security data. There were five baby Drapers in 2012 and six in 2011. Mad Men and its hero Don Draper end their run next year, which may not help the name recover.

Still, consider this: Eight kids were named Draper in 2001 — well before the AMC drama came on the air. That shows you that some parents liked the name before Don added any smoke-swirled sophistication to it.

It’s also one more reminder that occupational names are neither new nor a fad.

Popular Baby Names in Switzerland, 2013


Switzerland’s (many) top baby names of 2013 were announced recently.
According to data from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, the country’s most popular baby names last year were:
  • Emma and Gabriel for French-speakers,
  • Mia and Noah for German-speakers,
  • Sofia and Gabriel for Italian-speakers, and
  • Chiara and Jonas for Romansh-speakers.
Here are Switzerland’s top girl names and top boy names of 2013 within each language group.
Girl NamesBoy Names
1. Emma (125 baby girls)
2. Chloé (98)
3. Léa (93)
4. Eva (90)
5. Alice (86)
6. Zoé (84)
7. Sofia (76)
8. Camille (75)
1. Gabriel (142 baby boys)
2. Liam (120)
3. Théo (112)
4. Noah (109)
5. Luca (104)
6. Nathan (104)
7. Léo (100)
8. Thomas (97)
The fastest risers from 2012 to 2013 were Liam (11th to 2nd) and Camille (16th to 8th).
Girl NamesBoy Names
1. Mia (313 baby girls)
2. Alina (281)
3. Sara (248)
4. Laura (247)
5. Lea (244)
6. Sophia (241)
7. Leonie (238)
8. Emma (227)
1. Noah (307 baby boys)
2. Leon (281)
3. Luca (271)
4. Julian (243)
5. Levin (241)
6. David (234)
7. Nico (229)
8. Gian (219)
The fastest risers from 2012 to 2013 were Sara (13th to 3rd) and Sophia (16th to 6th).
Girl NamesBoy Names
1. Sofia (33 baby girls)
2. Emma (28)
3. Emily (26)
3. Giulia (26)
5. Alice (23)
5. Melissa (23)
7. Mia (21)
8. Noemi (19)
1. Gabriel (35 baby boys)
2. Leonardo (34)
3. Mattia (29)
4. Matteo (27)
5. Alessandro (26)
6. Nathan (24)
7. Samuele (21)
8. Federico (20)
The fastest risers from 2012 to 2013 were Emily (32nd to 3rd) and Noemi (19th to 8th).
Girl NamesBoy Names
1. Chiara (4 baby girls)1. Jonas (3 baby boys)
Last year, when I posted about the 2012 names, I mentioned Switzerland’s small Romansh-speaking population. What were their top names? Cool to see some data being released this year!

ICOS 1984 vs. ICOS 2014

Below some photos from the ICOS 1984 in Leipzig (DDR). The title was: "Name in language and society". You may compare subjects, topics, ambiance and conclude if there are any differences between 1984 and 2014.